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Shaming is a phenomenon in human social interaction where a person is publicly humiliated for their behavior and/or appearance, in an attempt to alter it. It is a subset of abusive power and control, similar to bullying (the adult form of this being harrassment), and is typically done in an unethical way with disregard for the autonomy of the affected individual in favour of gaining a position of domination over them. Coercion directly undermines the freedom of others. Whereas an overtly physically abusive parent can be seen hitting their child in an attempt to get them to do what they want them to do, a shaming parent uses an emotional bludgeon that is pernicious and invisible instead.[1]

Similar to the physically abusive parent, a person who defaults to aggression and personal attacks often lacks the competence necessary to solve their problems in a more productive way and is almost certainly desperate.


Research suggests that feelings of shame make people lose empathy that would be necessary to behave better towards someone they have harmed emotionally.[2][3] Some researchers regard shame as inferior to shameless-guilt in changing behavior in that shame turns a person inward to the point that they focus on ego-building rather than behaviour-"correction".[4] One study found that children who felt shame more than others behaved less socially acceptably,[5] including a propensity to illegal behavior.[6] Adults who experience high levels of shame engage in higher substance abuse than the general population.[7][8][9]


"Slut-shaming" occurs with women who are open about their sexuality, with various slurs such as "slut" or "whore" directed at them (in contrast with men, who are labeled positively with "pimp" or "stud").[10] Slut shaming can be done to pressure a woman to be chaste or at least to pretend she is chaste. More ominously, slut shaming is used to deter victims of sexual harassment or assault from complaining. Even if harassment was forced onto her, her involvement with something sleazy and sexual is used against her – there are assumptions that she encouraged it regardless of evidence.[11] Slut shaming has become harder to get away with in the #MeToo era.

There is a double standard in society where women are often shamed for being sexually successful, whereas men are seen as 'studs' or heroic, depending on the culture they are in. In any case, there is a lack of empathy or care for the autonomy of one's partner in these cases.[12]

See also[edit]


  3. Tangney JP, Marschall DE, Rosenberg K, Barlow DH, Wagner PE. "Children's and Adults' Autobiographical Accounts of Shame, Guilt and Pride Experiences: An Analysis of Situational Determinants and Interpersonal Concerns". Fairfax, VA: George Mason Univ; 1994. Unpubl. manuscr.
  4. "Moral Emotions and Moral Behavior", Annu Rev Psychol. - "[...] proneness to 'shame-free' guilt is positively correlated with constructive intentions in the wake of wrongdoing and consequent constructive behaviors (e.g., nonhostile discussion, direct corrective action)".
  6. Tibbetts SG. Shame and rational choice in offending decisions. Crim. Justice Behav. 1997;24:234–255.
  10. "Slut! Tramp! Whore!", ZOMGitsCriss' YouTube Channel
  11. I’m Sick of Talking about Sexual Harassment