Shame transfigured: Slut-shaming from Rome to cyberspace


  • Lewis Mark Webb University of Adelaide (Australia) and UmeÃ¥ University (Sweden)



Slut-shaming, Internet, Rome, cultural suppression, female sexuality, sexual behavior, female complicity


Slut-shaming, the public exposure and shaming of individuals for their (perceived or actual) sexual behavior, is rife on the Internet; it primarily affects women, and it too often has tragic outcomes. Slut-shaming is not new, but a form of cultural suppression of female sexuality that has been practiced since antiquity. In this paper, I historicize this phenomenon, by comparing and contrasting cases of slut-shaming from the Roman Republic with recent cases on the Internet, and I maintain that the focus of this slut-shaming, namely sexual virtue, has remained the same over time, but that the unregulated nature of the Internet has increased its scope and impact. A central contention of this paper is that women have been complicit in this slut-shaming; they have shamed other women for their sexual behavior, and have done so because it conferred social benefits on them. We will see that men and women have used the Internet to perpetuate and maintain the cultural suppression of female sexuality, and expose women to increased scrutiny over their sexual behavior.

Author Biography

Lewis Mark Webb, University of Adelaide (Australia) and Umeå University (Sweden)

Mr. Lewis Webb is a PhD candidate at HUMlab and the Department of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies at Umeå University (Sweden). In his PhD thesis, he is investigating female status competition in the Roman Republic. He has a Bachelor of Medical Science from Flinders University (Australia), a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) and a Master of Philosophy (Classics) from the University of Adelaide (Australia). His research interests include: Roman history, gender history, and digital humanities. 




How to Cite

Webb, L. M. (2015). Shame transfigured: Slut-shaming from Rome to cyberspace. First Monday, 20(4).