Thoughts on Slut Shaming and ‘Nina is Not OK,’ Shappi Khorsandi, Book Review

I was sent an ARC of Nina is Not OK (British comedienne, Shappi Khorsandi’s novel) in exchange for an honest review. Thank you, Random House UK Ebury Publishing!

Nina is Not OK is a new adult novel about a college student, Nina, who comes to the realisation (eventually) that she has a drinking problem. Nina is a mother’s worst nightmare at times: she drinks, she is irresponsible, she is often sexually promiscuous, and she does not see how destructive it all is for her.

The novel begins with a drunk Nina performing inappropriate sexual acts in a nightclub and promptly being thrown out, her memories of the night hazy at best. It is a very well-written novel that is gripping from the very start, right through the the close. It is incredibly sad, though also very funny at times. The juxtaposition of the humour just adds to the sadness and devastation of Nina’s life.

I really enjoyed the character development, and especially the relationships between our main character and alcohol, Alan (the step-father) and Jamie (the ex-boyfriend). Khorsandi explores a lot of relationships and she does it wonderfully.

Throughout, it explores the use of drink as a disguise and a means of escape. Nina is drawn to drink when life gets hard. It also looks at mother-daughter relationships, balancing friendly relationships and romantic relationships, escapism, the destructive use of technology, and, above all, slut shaming and victim blaming.

Slut shaming means to criticise a woman for her sexual activity and often her presumed sexual activity. One famous example of slut shaming was the media’s reaction to Monica Lewinsky and President Bill Clinton’s (as he put it) ‘inappropriate relationship.’ Amongst other derorgitary comments, she was referred to in national newspapers as ‘a little tart.’ There was very little of this criticism directed at the President himself. It takes two to tango.

Popular culture recognises sexual promiscuity in women as slutty, but as something to be congratulated on in men. It is once again another example of the far-reaching double standard: boys will be boys, girls will be sluts. Women are encouraged to present themselves as sexy, particularly in a nightclub setting like Nina, but the continuously shifting boundary between sexy and slutty causes confusion amongst many young women who feel an awful lot of pressure to be sexy and not slutty.

This idea of slut shaming is not a new one but it is becoming increasingly and worryingly normalised in today’s culture. Though many women have tried to take control of the term, and have called themselves ‘sluts’ in order to make the term less offensive, this continuation of old-fashioned sexism still prevails.

Shappi Khorsandi does a wonderful job of bringing this issue to light.

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