What is 'The Unslut Project'?

NEED TO KNOW
  • Emily Lindin is the founder of 'The Unslut Project'
  • Website encourages women to think differently about sexuality
What is 'The Unslut Project'?

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"That girl looks like a slut."

It's sad that this phrase is common in school hallways, but Emily Lindin is all too familiar with it. As an 11-year-old, she was tortured by her peers and called a "slut" by classmates and her boyfriend. 

As an adult, she decided to start The Unslut Project, a blog that has grown and evolved into a documentary film about sexual bullying and "slut-shaming" in schools. HLN spoke to Lindin about her hopes of raising awareness, women's role in their own sexual identities, and more.

HLN: What gave you the idea for the project?
Emily Lindin: I visited my parents about a year ago and found some of my old diaries during the visit. It really upset me to look back and remember what it felt like to be thought of as "the school slut," even though she was only 11 years old. When Rehteah Parsons was allegedly gang raped and then took her own life because of the backlash, it made me realize that could have been me. And that I wanted to do this project. So I took those journals and published them online so people could read what happened to me.
 
HLN: What does the word "slut" mean to you? Do you think it means something different to everyone?
Lindin: As a kid, I thought the word meant a girl who "hooked up." A woman that enjoyed attention from men was a slut, and a woman who shut down was not. At the time, I knew that I had sexual power, but I didn't know what that meant or how to use it. Now, I think the word, "slut," has become vague, it can be slapped on anything. It can even be used to talk about women who won't have sex. 
 
HLN: Do you have an opinion on why the word “slut” has become vague (for example why men use it when a woman won’t have sex)?
Lindin: The word "slut" is vague because it is a catch-all for disparaging women. Its widespread use implies that we, as a society, accept that there is something wrong about female sexuality, or at least something that needs to be controlled.
 
HLN: Is there a difference between the way women use the word "slut" and the way men do?
Lindin: I do think that men and women use the word "slut" differently. Obviously, making this kind of assessment requires huge generalizations, but in my experience, men seem to use the word in a way that implies a sense of ownership over a woman's body. It points to a belief that a woman's body only matters in terms of how it relates to men. She is a "slut" if she is dressing in a way that makes them feel desire, or if they feel entitled to sleep with her and she rejects them. They can also use the word to distinguish between women they see as deserving to be treated with respect and "sluts," who do not deserve the same treatment in their minds.

Women, on the other hand, often use the term as a way to police another woman's behavior or to distinguish themselves as upstanding as opposed to that other "type of girl," who dares to dress or act as if she might enjoy sex.
 
HLN: Why do people slut-shame? Is it learned?
Lindin: It all stems from the idea that women aren't really intended to enjoy sex. The Guttmacher Institute's research on abstinence programs tell us that they are ineffective. These programs promote certain types of ideas, for instance -- like the concept that your worth as a woman is defined by whether or not you're a virgin. They learn it from society, parents, friends ... everywhere. Why do people feel a need to police women's sexuality?
 
HLN: What do you want to accomplish with The Unslut Project and the upcoming documentary?
Lindin: I want to provide hope for kids that are going through this. I hope, by publishing my old diary entries, young women that suffer slut-shaming can see that you can survive it. I hope they look at me now and see that I'm a happy adult and that it wasn't the end of the world. And I also hope adults see it too, so they can understand better what may be happening to their children, and to consider how they can help.

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