Slut shaming outdated, overrated

September 23, 2014 Opinion, Sexperts

sexperts

Call me a slut. That’s right.  Say it to my face, say it behind my back, say it about how many partners I choose, say it about how short my shorts are. I hear this word bandied about Rollins College more than is even comprehensible. Men and women alike use the term with the intention to degrade others, and to police women’s sexuality, but the “bros” on campus seem to particularly enjoy this word. I was previously horrified and offended by the use of this word, as are socially conscious people everywhere. I wondered how they dared to denigrate women for choices they make, and how they viewed their own sex lives as somehow impervious to such judgment. The conversation around ending the use of this word continues to be relevant and unfortunately not understood or acknowledged by all. “Slut shaming” outrages me, and it should enrage anyone who has any attachment to the notion of equality and freedom of choice. However, this outrage is affecting me, and not affecting the people who use this word at all. I can try to explain why it is offensive, even talk about the power of language, and microagressions, all to no avail. So it seems to me that maybe it would be useful to reinterpret the word rather than reside in despair and struggle to make others understand its problematic nature.  So while it’s used as an insult, from here on out I’ve decided I’m taking it as compliment.

I’ve asked people to define “slut” when I hear it used in conversation many times. Once they recover from being remotely challenged on their callous usage, they usually stutter something about it meaning sexually promiscuous, having a large number of partners, or choosing partners indiscriminately. Some use it a designation that a woman is somehow “dirty”, or “nasty”, or carries STDs, or simply dresses provocatively. Here’s the rub though, none of those things offend me. If you think girls who have a lot of sex with multiple partners all carry STDs did you ever stop to think about STD passage? People using “slut” to define a woman probably never considered that often men pressure or coerce women not to use condoms, which could easily lead to the passage of STDs. They also probably don’t consider that you could easily contract one from a long term partner who steps out of the relationship, or who doesn’t know they carry a disease. Number of partners isn’t an indication of the likelihood of any person’s infection with diseases. So they’re actually implying that there is something “unclean” or impure, about having multiple partners. This stems from ridiculous norms about women and the idea that they should have sex only in relationships, or when they’re married, or however conservative the standard is that’s being unfairly imposed on others.

I’m not embarrassed about choosing sex partners as I see fit, no matter how others view my decisions. This process is subject only to my scrutiny, and outside opinions should be irrelevant. I have, and will continue, to express my sexuality despite any social rules people try to impose. I wear what I like and what makes me feel good and that’s all there is to it. Judging the way I dress as an indication of my sexual availability just shows your ignorance. Taking offense at this kind of ignorance has turned out to be counterproductive. It might be better for all of us to analyze what the term actually reduces to.  I have no qualms about saying that everyone should pursue consensual sexual activities that they enjoy despite what some “bros” or anyone else has to say. Their objection is to something I have no problem with, am not ashamed of, and would never judge anyone else for. So go for it bro, call me a slut, call me dirty, and I’ll continue to call you hypocritical, ignorant, and ridiculously antiquated.

Even people I respect in other ways have used this word, in front of groups of women, and in vastly inappropriate situations. It’s pervasive not just among bros, but also among many groups of men, and even groups of women. Calling a woman a slut doesn’t make me judge the person you’re referring to. I take it as information about what an ignorant and irrational person you must be. Every which way anyone could use that word against me or any other woman, or other person is not at the root, an insult. Using this word is an indication that you realize a woman is sexually independent and expressing discomfort with that. I make a point of dismissing other people’s opinions about my sexuality, and greatly value the freedom I am afforded in sexual choices. So why would I be insulted that you’re aware of my autonomy in sexual choices? The kind of person who critiques other’s sexual choices on anything but getting consent isn’t someone whose approval I’d want anyways, and neither should anyone else. We focus a lot on men pressuring women to have sex, but I don’t want anyone to pressure women into not having sex either. The stigma attached to being considered a slut may inhibit choice, and is therefore problematic. While I abhor the mentality behind this word, I will cease to be offended, and hope that other women can also ignore the insult intended and take the acknowledgement of sexual independence as an accolade. Ignoring the pressure to have sex, or to not have sex, or adhere to sexist rules is an accomplishment. So congratulations sluts, we’re defying antiquated norms dictated by bros, and we should be proud we don’t fit into a damn tiny box of correct sexual behavior.

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