Revenge of the Sluts: on slut shaming, double standards and patriarchy

Thank you so much to Holley Corfield at Wattpad for sending me a copy of REVENGE OF THE SLUTS by Natalie Walton! This does not affect my review, nor rating of the book.

Double standards are about to get singled out.

In this stunning debut, author Natalie Walton tackles privacy and relationships in the digital age.

As a lead reporter for The Warrior Weekly, Eden has covered her fair share of stories at St. Joseph’s High School. And when intimate pictures of seven female students are anonymously emailed to the entire school, Eden is determined to get to the bottom of it.

In tracking down leads, Eden is shocked to discover not everyone agrees the students are victims. Some people feel the girls “brought it on themselves.” Even worse, the school’s administration seems more concerned about protecting its reputation than its students.

With the anonymous sender threatening more emails, Eden finds an unlikely ally: the seven young women themselves. Banding together to find the perpetrator, the tables are about to be turned. The Slut Squad is fighting back!


When I first read this book on Wattpad, I simply loved it.

So the moment that preorder link came out, I ordered a copy (and I can’t wait for the final version to be in my hands!) I was also super happy to receive an ARC from Holley, who graciously sent it to me all the way from Canada, which is so so appreciated.

Now, about this book — it’s amazing. Our main girl, Eden, is on the high school newspaper and when an email blast to the entire school body has a threatening message with nudes attached to it, without their consent, and from an unknown source, it rocks the entire community. Fingers are pointed, and the girls are blamed.

This, unfortunately, isn’t all that surprising. Since whenever a girl or woman’s nudes are leaked, she is always the one blamed. Never the one who leaked it in the first place, or the fact that her privacy was taken away in a horrific way. Much like I wrote about in my discussion piece for The Undoing of Ryder Burke, this book touches on the same themes of consent, rape culture, toxic masculinity and the patriarchy.

Instead of questioning why someone would do something so damaging and abhorrent, the community, students and parents alike, put the blame on the victims — the girls — and disregarded their feelings when it came down to it. It’s a heartbreakingly real, authentic book, filled with the repercussions of such actions and the detrimental effect it has, not just in the moment, but after. The shock of it never wears off, the fear of anyone knowing never fades.

As someone who’s been threatened and in a similar situation, this book really touched home and made me pause. Every time on social media, whenever I read Tweets about girls who’ve had their nudes leaked or threatened, it made my heart ache for them. Remember when Chris Evans accidentally posted a nude?

Social media was quick to jump to his defense and shift the focus. Whereas if it were a woman, it would be an entirely different story.

There is always a double standard at play and I adore how Walton explored it in REVENGE OF THE SLUTS.

Do you really get it? Do you understand what it does to reputations when it comes out that you sent photos? The gossip? You guys sit around sharing photos and talking about the girls you’ve been with like it’s no big deal because it’s not to you. It doesn’t even cross your mind that maybe we don’t want other people to know we’ve had sex. You’re all using photos and sex as some sort of social currency.

Natalie Walton

Rape culture is when exploiting a girl, a woman, is normalised due to social attitudes about gender and sexuality — it’s things like ‘locker room talk’ and not saying anything when a ‘bro’ demeans the woman he slept with, when he makes a joke about rape, when the blame is on the woman and never the man. It’s the alcohol being his defense and the alcohol being her fault. It’s the pictures he begged for in the first place becoming “she never should’ve sent them” and “what a slut”. It’s the men saying “this is why I don’t want a daughter” instead of correcting their boys, it’s saying “women should learn self-defense”, but not saying “hey maybe we should teach our men to not rape. Maybe we should teach our men what no means.”

Walton not only brilliantly captures the raw, tangibility of what having one’s nudes exposed does to a person, or in this case, a group of them and the bonds of sisterhood in the face of this turmoil, but she explores Eden’s cultural heritage through food. I loved that. (Honestly, reading about the aroma of japchae made me super hungry — I definitely plan on making it ASAP.) The emotional connection I had to all of these characters had me engrossed, and the allure of wanting to find out ‘whodunnit’ made me read to the very last page.

The fact that, even to this day, people still leak nudes, destroying that trust formed, is terrible. I’m an avid supporter of you doing you, and I’ve always stood by my belief of staying safe whilst sending nudes, and irrespective of whether your face is in them or not, why would anyone have the audacity to exploit in the first place? What is gained from it? Everyone thinking “hey they’re a dickhead”, because people will think that.

A question to the guys who do this bs: Why break someone’s trust, reputation and confidence, for a few minutes of glory by a bunch of guys who don’t, I guarantee, give one single fuck about you? They’re not your mates. They couldn’t care less whether you live or die. So what do you get from it?

The double standards, especially when it comes to sex, is something we need to have a wider conversation on, so I’m glad Walton approached this in her debut novel. It’s beyond despicable how a girl is deemed a “hoe” if she engages in sex, whereas a guy is applauded. How does this make any sense? Why is there such a vast difference in the treatment of both genders, who consensually have sex, yet only one gender is villified and demonised?

This is what Walton looks at in the book: the ramifications of sending nudes, the ‘what could happen’ in the age of digital sex, in a seemingly objective way.

“It goes a lot further than intent. If it’s hurt people, it means something.”

If a girl has sex with a number of guys, and a guy settles down with her, he’s “wife’d a slut”, yet there’s no such term for a girl who’s in a committed relationship with a guy of the same past. There’s no word for a guy who’s had loads of sex, but there is for a girl. For a woman. There always is. She’s a whore. slut. hoe. slag. easy. So the fact this very thing is explored in REVENGE OF THE SLUTS, about what a girl did to deserve to have her name and reputation tarnished in the eyes of society, and about girls blaming girls for the dickhead boyfriend’s behaviours and this locker room talk culture, was phenomenal, sparking a much needed discussion.

It’s so impeccably written, looked at through the eyes of a journalist with such a sweet and empathetic nature, who stayed true to herself with the belief of women empowerment, in a way that felt more real than most other books I’ve read. It was reality, of the lengths some people would go to because of their jealousy or to please others. It spoke volumes about the stance our society takes when it comes to victim blaming and protecting men.

The feature of the values held by men and women in a seemingly ‘progressive’ world, of slut shaming and double standards in a very patriarchal society, is extremely realistic. It forces you to face the brutal discomfort of revenge porn, and the very nature of the double standards everyone holds, their inner prejudices, because still having these values goes against morality. It only leads to trauma, a range of negative emotion and the decline of mental health.

I did find it to be wrapped up easily, tied in a neat little bow at the end, because in real life, it’s never that easy, and sometimes there aren’t any real consequences for the perpetrator. There, of course, was a cliché element attached to the novel, but I found I enjoyed it more as a result, and I loved that it wasn’t focused on romance, but on the strength and survival of the girls who’d been done wrong and their demand for justice.

Whilst the target audience of the book is young adults, I believe it should be read by everyone. It’s too important; it’s a book with a vital message.

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Sumaiya Ahmed is a freelance journalist and writer, aiming to break down the boundaries of cultural stigma and shame attached to mental health and sexuality within the South Asian culture, and bringing marginalised topics to light.

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