The great myth of sluttiness
I really don’t like the word slut, but I seem to have been hearing it everywhere lately.
It started when a friend got a bit tipsy and very flirtatious with an ex of hers during a night out. He was flirting back, too. Then his girlfriend showed up. My friend later danced with another guy in order to feel empowered again. The next day however, and even that night, she lamented how “slutty” she’d been. “When I get angry, I get slutty,” she told me.
Then a day or two later, I was at an event and one girl was really going all out with some dancing. Bear in mind, there were no guys at the event. This girl wasn’t trying to impress anyone; she was simply having a good time. That didn’t stop some other girls from calling her a slut, making assumptions about her based solely on her dance style. I heard about their comments through the grapevine, and they went something along the lines of: “We don’t really know her, so we can’t say for sure, but we think she’s a slut. Look at the way she’s dancing.”
Irritated, I turned to Google in search of some cathartic feminist denouncements of the word “slut.” Instead, I found another story that irritated me even further. Back in September at some MTV awards night over in the US, a comedian made fun of the Jonas Brothers (a boy band connected with the Disney Channel; a modern day Hanson if you will) for wearing purity rings. This is when host Jordin Sparks (who also happened to wear a purity ring) decided to defend the brothers. Her rebuttal, however, ended up insulting even more people. Her exact statement was, “It’s not bad to wear a promise ring because not everybody – guy or girl – wants to be a slut.”
Excuse me? So everybody who has ever had sex outside of marriage is a slut? Even if they’ve only ever slept with one person? Even if they’re engaged to the person at the time? Even if they’re de facto partners and have been for many years?
What also irritates me about this speech is that it also equates purity rings with waiting until marriage. I also know some people who intend on waiting until marriage and they don’t wear purity rings. Does this make their decision any less valid? No. Does the fact that they don’t wear a so called “purity ring” mean that they’re any less likely to stick to their decision? No.
But I digress. The point is the word slut is being used more and more frequently and in ridiculous scenarios. I hate the word in any context, but what really bothers me is its often blatantly inaccurate and irrelevant uses. The word “slut” implies promiscuity. Therefore, the word should not be used in regards to a person’s style of dress or how they dance. These things do not equal promiscuity. And when it comes down to it, what defines promiscuity? Each person has a different definition. What some may consider promiscuous, others find perfectly normal.
Interestingly there is no male equivalent of the word “slut”. It’s exclusively female territory. I know some women want to reclaim the word, rebrand it and make it empowering. They want to use it to assert our female right to sexuality. I don’t want to “reclaim” the word. I don’t think it’s possible to make it positive- it has already been too derogatory. By bandying the word about, we’re only reaffirming that female sexuality can be pigeon-holed into archaic stereotypes. Sluts, prudes, skanky, frigid… notice how there’s no in between territory here.
Ultimately the important thing is to find a way to make sure that no girl feels like a pariah because of her choices. If you want to abstain, you should not be ridiculed for that. At the same time, no girl should be branded as promiscuous just because she has slept with somebody. After all, we have a right to choose what is right for ourselves, as individuals.