I'm Not a "Slut". I Just Love Having Sex.

BlogHer Original Post

I am not a “slut”.

I make this clear, upfront, but not for the reasons you may think. I’m not a slut, because sluts don’t exist. Though labels like “slut”, “ho”, and “whore” exist to vilify women who are deemed sexually “promiscuous”, I don’t abide by them just because someone else says I should think of women in this way. Aside from these labels being inherently descriptive of women, regardless of the fact that men have sex too, they are merely words used to marginalize those who don’t feel compelled to live according to other people’s demands for sexual propriety.

I completely reject these words and I want to take it a bit further and call for an end to the use of the phrase “Slut-Shaming”. This phrase is definitively wrong, contextually wrong, and, at this point, so overly used that people aren’t even aware that their use of it upholds the very thing they hope to dismantle: the shaming of women for enjoying sex. People simply aren’t using it in the way they believe they are and I’m calling for a moratorium on the phrase itself.

Defining Negative Sexual Labels

 

slut

 

By definition, a “slut” is a woman, described as slovenly and promiscuous. Slovenly is by no means a compliment and promiscuous certainly has negative connotations. Think of what comes to mind when you think of that particular adjective. Be honest—isn’t your first thought about a woman? How often are men described as promiscuous?

 

promiscuous

 

Promiscuous is defined having “too many” sexual partners and one has to wonder if there was ever a universally accepted limit on the number of sexual partners a person can have in one’s lifetime? I’ll offer that one partner was the limit and marriage was expected, but that standard was applied primarily to women whose virginity was used as currency in their father’s wealth-building efforts.

We’re far beyond times when the average person (or woman, really) only had 1, maybe 2 partners at most. But what is the current limit? Can anyone even attempt to answer that with an actual number that applies to everyone without coming off as completely ridiculous? Still, there are so many who continue to come up with whatever standards make them feel good and then wrongly judge others accordingly.

When I use the word, I do so extremely rarely and when clinically referring to people who, likely due to trauma of some sort, engage in sexual activity that is not mentally, physically, or emotionally healthy; they seem to be using sex is self-destructive ways as a response to previous mistreatment. This does not shame or blame them for this behavior, but rather looks at sexual activity as a symptom of a larger issue.

Notice the part of the definition that says “indiscriminate” and “cheapened”. Apparently, having “too many” sexual partners cheapens a woman and makes her a “slut”. Why is it the focus on the number of partners she has but not the number of times she has sex? Is a woman who has sex with three people in a year, one time each, somehow a bigger slut than a woman who has sex 265 times in a year with one person? According to the definitions of these words, she would be, but I doubt any of understands why we generally accept this way of thinking, co-sign it, and continue to uphold these sexual standards.

 

whore

 

The first definition of “whore” is that of a woman, of course, who engages in sex for money. Not so bad, at least to those who support sex workers and their rights to earn a living by providing sexual services. Whore is then defined as an immoral, promiscuous woman; if a woman receives money for sexual activity, then, she is immoral. If we revisit the definition of promiscuous and the idea that having multiple sexual partners “cheapens” women and isn’t “proper”, this definition of whore suggests that exchanging sex for money also cheapens women and/or the act of sex itself.

My disagreement with this is because I don’t believe anyone can assign any quantifiable (universal) value to sex.  No one can determine what increases its value or “cheapens” it. It is worth noting that men are actually included in this definition, secondarily, but we know that men are not regarded in the same ways that women are when it comes to this particular term. In fact, when we hear it used, it is qualified as “manwhore”, the addition of “man” as a prefix suggests that “whore” is automatically a woman. Language matters and we need to consider the implications of how we use these words.

 

prostitute

 

This might be the most interesting definition, as it establishes a standard by which we are expected to think about sex and sexual behavior. We’re told that to prostitute is to use something valuable in an inappropriate way, suggesting that sex is valuable (albeit subjectively) and should only be used in ways we’re supposed to all agree are “appropriate”. There was a time when having sex outside of wedlock was considered highly inappropriate and doing so could lead to social castigation, for women at least. Today, however, 93% of Americans report having sex before marriage by age 30. Further, this definition goes on to establish “respectable” behavior and says that using these valuable (sexual) talents for money is inappropriate.

It is important to present these definitions so that we understand how many words are used to make women feel bad about enjoying sex with more than one person or receiving some type of compensation for engaging in sex. To be clear, these terms are abusive and should not be used to insult women lest we consider ourselves some type of moral authority when it comes to sex.

Do you consider yourself a moral authority on sex?

I didn’t think so.

s.l.u.t.
Image: Dirk Loop via Flickr
 

Slut Shaming is the Wrong Phrase

When we think of the idea of “victim blaming”, we imagine someone who has experienced some type of trauma and is being blamed for having experienced it. This is often used in the context of sexual assault survivors who are sometimes blamed for their own assaults (i.e. “Well, you were drunk, what did you think would happen?” or “You shouldn’t have been dressed like that. You were asking to be raped”). This person is a victim and the blame is being placed on that person for being a victim.

When we think of “fat shaming”, we imagine a person, whose physical stature is considered “fat” by society’s standards, being insulted, shamed, and harassed for being that size. This is often used in the context of making larger people feel bad for being large and blaming them for being fat (i.e. “If you would just exercise, you would lose the weight” or “Why is she wearing that bikini when she is so fat? Ugh it’s gross!”). This person is fat and the shaming is based on that person’s size being socially unacceptable.

So why do we use “slut-shaming” in the same way? Following the usage of “victim blaming” and “fat shaming”, are we not basically calling women sluts when we talk about them being “slut shamed”? Are we not calling upon the prevalence and relevance of abusive terms and labeling women accordingly, while attempting to empathize with the shame they experience?

We are not “sluts”. We are WOMEN and we are being shamed because we are women (who have sex). It is important to keep this at the forefront of the discussion and not rely on catchy buzzwords to make points that, quite honestly, are counterproductive. If we uphold this idea of “slut shaming”, we agree that the word for a woman who enjoys sex is a slut. We become complicit with upholding the standards of sexual morality that generated these words. We are actively accepting and sustaining the limitations placed on sexual enjoyment. We are operating within the parameters of respectability when it comes to sexual pleasure and expression and we’re essentially agreeing that it’s OK to call women sluts. It is never OK to call a woman a slut, even if you’re fighting against so-called “slut shaming”.

This current anti-“slut shaming” movement rallies against shaming women for being… sluts.

Anyone else see the problem here?

 

Feminista Jones is the Love & Sex section editor at BlogHer. She also blogs at FeministaJones.com

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