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A Reality Check for Sexuality Shaming

09/22/2015 05:34 EDT | Updated 09/22/2016 05:12 EDT
Shutterstock / marekuliasz

2015-09-22-1442882491-673116-hiv.jpg

This advertisement is catching serious flack for the alleged "slut-shaming" in the image. Really?

This woman looks calm, relaxed, and comfortable. She appears in control and feeling fine about her 20 partners. Why is it slut-shaming?

The ad itself isn't implying that lying naked on a bed makes you a dirty whore. Nor is it implying that sleeping with twenty folks is something to be ashamed of. If the ad campaign was based around a bunch of guys talking about their sexual experience with the same girl, then indeed that has the potential to hold an unfair position about women and sex. The difference between that and this advertisement is that the woman is owning this information about herself and her past.

She offers it up for the safety of herself and what we assume is a new potential partner behind the camera. It's her information, her choice, her power, and her smile as she offers it up like the unashamed modern sexual being she is.

The ad isn't judging the woman based on that number. In fact, it's not offering any additional information. It's only a neutral conduit for conveying information that happens to draw on another currently relevant cultural staple: Facebook. In other words, it's just being cute. So relax.

It's unfair to assume that the ad is suggesting that a public listing of your bedpost roster is necessary for safe sexual health. That's not the case. All it seems to imply is that you should simply be real about sexuality in this modern age -- you're probably not Christopher Columbus landing upon virgin banks. I see zero implication that this is a fact worthy of judgement. The ad is saying "don't be an idiot." You never know because you have no control over someone else or where they've been, or whom they've been with. So wrap your junk up, get tested, fall in love, and be happy. Or don't fall in love, and then go be safe with someone else, have fun, live your life, don't get AIDS. You get the idea.

We should have a much bigger problem with people's fired-up response to ads like this. We as a society say we want honest campaigns that promote education, sexual health and the candid addressing of relevant social issues.Unfortunately, the instant one of these campaigns attempts a blunt approach (which, in our over-stimulated information age seems to be the only effective way to reach people) our delicate sensibilities tell us to be offended. We're way too quick to cry slut-shaming, racism, sexism, and fattism in advertising, even when there are clearly the best of intentions at play. We need to calm down and be as careful in our attacks as we ask them to be in theirs.

These hurtful forms of judgment do exist and they do plenty of damage to people. Women (and men, to be fair) get hated on for their sexual behaviour -- especially if they are open about it. The more honestly and brazenly an individual presents it, the harsher they are criticized. By now, we all know that is wrong, do we not? Let's not punish a public health ad for communicating its message with the same clarity and gusto that we encourage in each other personally.

HIV is completely real, it's scary as hell. It exists. But so do beautiful, sexual, in-control, well-lit vixens who wear lingerie and have sex with multiple partners, like the woman in this photo. And when both of you are celebrating this fact with multiple orgasms, just be safe.

Oh, and about the somewhat-naked woman on the poster? Good Lord, people, let's not freak out. The line-drawing we do immediately between nudity and exploitation (or indecency) is demonstrative of the hang-ups of you, the viewer, not the advertisers. Your brain had a negative connotation for this ad, not the art director. This woman's attitude is so clearly empowered and light-hearted that it's absurd to consider it offensive to women. She's chilling in her underwear, twenty guys have been inside her, and she's saying "Whatever, I'm the agent of my choices." Where's the slut shame? Lighten up.

Familiarize yourself with the concept of respecting a woman's sexuality.

Photo is from http://hivtukikeskus.fi/

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