MTV's True Life: It captures slut-shaming in action.

MTV’s True Life Shows Slut-Shaming in Action, and It’s Nauseating 

MTV’s True Life Shows Slut-Shaming in Action, and It’s Nauseating 

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
April 1 2015 12:32 PM

MTV’s True Life Shows Slut-Shaming in Action, and It’s Nauseating

So are we.


Only one of MTV’s best three shows remains on the air. Daria left us long ago, and the gem Rich Girls lasted just one season. But True Life soldiers on. True Life launched in 1998 and its format hasn’t changed: Each hourlong episode addresses a theme in young people’s lives, from the trivial (“I Have a Summer Share”) to the serious (“I’m Placing My Baby for Adoption”). It’s voiceover-free, letting the shows’ subjects carry the narrative weight. New episodes air only sporadically, but Monday night’s installment—True Life: I’m Being Slut-Shamed—demonstrated that the trusty old show remains strong.

The title pretty much sums it up: The episode examined three young women who were facing social or familial pressure to change the way they dress and behave. The conclusion, that slut-shaming is bad, seems obvious, but the show demonstrates just how cruel people can be to a woman they have deemed loose. Case in point: Della.


In the clip below, Della, a beautiful 23-year-old who spends most of her segments with her eyes cast down, is meeting with her two “best friends,” Clint and Jason. She slept with one of them three years ago, another a few months ago—and since that fling, the two men appear to have treated her in a disgusting manner. They take every opportunity to stake the moral high ground. “I did not spend 12 months in Afghanistan for you to dress like that,” one scolds her after pulling her aside at a party.

But it’s worse when they gang up on her. “They say a man can have sex with a hundred woman and he’s a legend. Now, a woman has sex with a hundred men, and she’s a slut.” Normally that statement comes from one pointing out the hypocrisy. Nope. Not here. “That’s not even a saying. It’s a scientific fact,” his friend chimes in.

It’s truly amazing that not one but two people thought that it would be a good idea to act this way on television. The most likely explanation: They believe that they are wholly in the right, and the audience will sympathize with them about the burden of having a slatternly slut as a friend. Jon Ronson might disagree, but it seems that they deserve the shame that should be coming their way right about now.   

Torie Bosch is the editor of Future Tense, a project of Slate, New America, and Arizona State that looks at the implications of new technologies.