INDIANA, Pa., Nov. 28 (UPI) -- Calling a girl a slut often has nothing to do with sexual behavior -- it is a weapon used by girls in adolescence to hurt other girls, U.S. researchers said.
Dr. Maureen McHugh, professor of psychology at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, said girls have begun by eighth grade to monitor the sexual conduct of other girls, and 70 percent of students have experienced some kind of non-physical sexual harassment, including sexual rumor spreading -- known as "slut bashing."
However, girls and women who are labeled sluts may not even be sexually active, McHugh said.
"Many claim there is no sexual double standard anymore but levels of slut bashing suggest double standards still operate. Slut bashing is a common social practice," McHugh said in a statement. "However, it becomes apparent immediately that the label slut is not really about objecting to the sexual behavior of a girl, but is used as a weapon to hurt girls and women. It is frequently not about the sexual behavior of the target. It is a form of relational aggression."
McHugh said negative attitudes toward female sexuality give the label "slut" power.
"According to students, the label is applied to someone of whom they are jealous, someone they don't like or are angry with," McHugh said.
Slut bashing may have long-term consequences, including decreased self-esteem, increased promiscuity, increase in sexual risk-taking behaviors, depression, self-harm or suicide, McHugh said.