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Source: CT Latino News. Would you call it sexy? The word slut is a common slur in our modern day vernacular. No doubt, it still carries weight if said with malicious intent. But in recent years, the word has become deeply ingrained into our culture to the point where people say it too easily and too casually.
As innocuous as using pejorative terms may seem when used in reference to clothing or the activities of others, they undoubtedly still imply negativity surrounding female sexuality. And using them just validates the societal standard of a perfect, virginal-until-marriage, demure woman as an ideal. Many of us have been called a slut at some point in our lives — or have thrown the epithet at someone else. But what does it really mean? Because of this, it was frequently used as a term for kitchen maids and servant girls. Think about it: Have you ever called someone a slut, whether in jest or seriously?
What did it mean to you? And what do you think it meant to the person it was directed toward? It happens all the time. We condemn our sexual thoughts as slutty instead of explorative. Did you even consider using an alternative word? Or was slut the first thing — almost the natural thing — that came to mind? Take Rehtaeh Parsons of Canada, who was allegedly raped by four boys who distributed photos of the attack online.
She was afterwards bullied and slut-shamed mercilessly by her peers to the point where she decided to take her own life at 17 years of age. She had to leave the community. Her friends turned against her. People harassed her.
It just never stopped. This story is a modern tragedy, fueled by cyber-bullying and slut-shaming. The girls and boys who taunted Rehtaeh so cruelly probably had no idea how deep their words cut until it was too late. Why did so many of her peers turn on her? Why did other girls — some of whom conceivably had endured similar experiences because hell, they live in this messed-up society, too — call her a slut and disown her as a friend?
Tragically, this type of cyber-slut-shaming is not uncommon among the younger generations. Imagine how it would feel to be that teenage girl who everyone is whispering about in the halls. To be judged harshly and without caution for engaging in sexual activity, as most curious teens do. These young women were intensely slut-shamed, and had their very traumatic experiences invalidated by judgment from their peers.
Their very worth was brought into question because people chose to side with the rapists instead of the victims. Slut-shaming is rape culture, plain and simple. And for some people, it is utterly life-destroying. Whether in the dating world, the professional arena, education , or in friendships , adult females are not immune to slut-shaming either.
Women are not only the favored targets of slut-shaming, but very often the perpetrators as well. Due to generations of internalized sexism, women often reject their sexually promiscuous peers as worthy companions or friends — even as adults. A Cornell University study puts this theory to the test, revealing that college-aged women are much less likely to form deep friendships with promiscuous women.
When most of us have spent our childhoods being taught that gaining male validation is the route to power, and even happiness , it is not surprising that many women will view their sexually explorative peers as threats. This may cause women to lash out against other women in an attempt to rise above the competition.
But men are held to a very different standard. As a society, what are we teaching our children? We may not be able to change the way that others talk to each other right away, but we can start by presenting an example with our own behavior. I have spent the last few years working on this: if I catch myself about to describe myself, one if my choices, or even my outfit, as slutty or skanky, I make a concerted effort to replace that language with something more empowering.
For example: The other night, my friends and I were talking about one of our favorite TV shows and discussing how the characters have changed over the seasons. One of my friends mentioned a female character who started out as a virgin, and has embraced her sexual side throughout the show by having various partners and experiences.
I refuse to accept that ideology, even in casual conversation. There are so many sex-positive alternatives that we can use. I stand by my next statement: No harm can come from being more sex-positive and less chauvinistic in our speech patterns. I dare each and every one of you to give it a try. Next time you want to call a girl a slut, rethink your choice and start chipping away at the double standard by using positive descriptive language. Try to remember that everyone has a personal choice.
While you may not lead a similar life to someone else, it is unfair and unjust to ascribe your values to their character. Some women wear sexy dresses and choose to have multiple partners. Others wait until marriage and dress demurely. And some are in the middle. All choices are both fabulous and individual. Danica Johnson is a Contributing Writer at Everyday Feminism and the Communications Manager at the Coalition on Human Needs , an alliance of national organizations working together to promote public policies addressing the needs of low-income and other vulnerable populations.
Living in Washington, DC, this West Coast native uses her free time to write for her blog Duckyfem , practice yoga and spend as much time with animals and in nature as possible. Follow her on Twitter duckyfem and read her articles here. Used by hundreds of universities, non-profits, and businesses. Click to learn more. Our online racial justice training Used by hundreds of universities, non-profits, and businesses.
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