Slut: A Myth

This article will be featured in Wom*news 9: Myths

Trigger warning for discussion of sexual assault.

You are fifteen and dislike your crush’s girlfriend. You call her a slut. You are eighteen and about to go out clubbing for the first time. Your mother looks you up and down and says she didn’t raise a slut. You are twenty and the boy you are fucking calls you a slut the one night you refuse to have sex.

Everyone knows that the word “slut” has power, whether we agree with it or not.
It is used to shame and degrade women and, more importantly, to put them in a box with a label that says “you’re not human here” and to make sure they stay there. Whilst there are many different variables in the slut-shaming game, the objective remains the same: to ensure women’s behaviour is deemed “acceptable” by societal terms, and to make sex a source of shame and not power. In a culture that is so concerned with labels and definitions, one has to pose the question: what is a slut? After years of being called a slut, of hearing my friends being called sluts I can only assume that a slut is a woman who doesn’t adhere to every societal expectation heaped upon her.

Because being called a “slut” runs a lot deeper than enjoying sex, than talking about sex and exercising male-like sexual freedom. It is a term that turns breathing, talking women into commodities. It perpetuates the age-old double standard that if you are a man who enjoys sex, you are desirable/attractive/worthy and ultimately someone with power. Alternatively, if you are woman who enjoys sex you are demonized as an undesirable/dirty/worthless and ultimately someone who is powerless. Girl-on-girl slut-shaming further perpetuates the ideal that if you, as a woman, follows all the rules in the Being a Good Woman Handbook, a non-existent text made up of contradictory insurmountable ideals and rules, you will be respected and worthy. When women slut-shame other women I don’t believe it is because they buy into the idea of a “slut” but because they want to distance themselves from women who are seen as dangerous, unruly creatures.

Thinking patterns such as these simply forces more dichotomies into play that women are expected to choose from: virgins versus whores, good girls versus bad girls, and prudes versus sluts. These dichotomies are far more dangerous than getting your

feelings hurt, they support rape culture in suggesting that if you do exactly as you are told by every man in your life, you won’t be sexually abused/sexually assaulted/raped because again, you’ll be following the rules in that unwritten handbook all women know exist. I’m not saying that a desire to feel safe from the near-constant threat of rape is a bad thing; I am simply saying that when you shame other women the results can be dire. When the role of the “good girl” is encouraged, the theory that “only sluts are raped” and that victims of unwanted sexual contact solicit their own attacks is supported.

Although noting the power-dynamics in slut shaming is a worthy one and very interesting, it is also equally important to conclude that there is no such thing a slut. A slut is a myth created by men to hurt women who exercise the freedom of choice. That’s it. If there is anything I’ve learnt from being slut-shamed and seeing slut-shaming in action, everywhere, it is this: no woman escapes being called a slut. Why? Because you can be called a slut when you’re a virgin, thus disproving that a slut is a woman has lots of casual sex. You can be called a slut whilst wearing a pair of jeans, debunking the myth sluts only wearing short skirts. You can be called a slut for refusing to have sex with someone, proving that a slut is a contradictory term used to pigeonhole women. You can be called a slut for speaking your mind, verifying that being a slut also has nothing to do with your sexuality. Women are at risk of being called a slut/whore/skank/“prossie”/tramp at any time for literally any reason on earth.

Although it is going to be a long time before stop start referring to women as, uh, women instead of sluts, the negative connotation that being a slut is a bad thing is slowly diminishing with the introduction of protests such as Slut-Walks – igniting worldwide debate at the terminology and usage of the label “slut” as well as asking ourselves, what is a slut? Well, it’s a myth. You’re not a demonized “slut” with no worth; you are a woman and there is nothing wrong with you.

~ Katie Larissa

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