Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo

Not A Slut

One word.  Four letters. A lot of meaning.  Nope, I’m not talking about love.  I’m talking about something much more finicky.  Starts with an S…sounds like…. never mind let me spell it out: S-L-U-T.

Leora Tanenbaum, author of I Am Not a Slut: Slut-Shaming in the Age of the Internet offers a very telling, brief history of the word.  “Slut” was first used in 1386 in The Canterbury Tales as a reference to an untidily dressed man. In 1402, Thomas Hoccleve used the term in a similar way, but this time in regard to a woman. Following this use, the noun became one, which exclusively referred to women. 

According to Urban Dictionary, our go-to source for all of modernity’s most tantalizing terms, a modern day slut is defined as “a girl that’s fucked so many guys she can’t close her legs anymore.” (Thanks for that eloquent phrasing, Erik.)  What about the boy with an equal list of bedfellows?  What is that man called?  There really is no male equivalent for slut.  “Man whore,” the sometimes-comparable term, has to add “man” as a prefix to a word that inherently describes women.  The standard is that men are expected to innately do what women are shamed for doing.

The etymology of the word, though ever-shifting as words do, has always clung to a similar meaning.  When it comes down to it, “slut” is a reference to someone who has stepped outside of the very narrow path that “good girls” are expected to stay within. Sluts are vulgar. Sluts are untidy. Sluts don’t behave like they’re supposed to.

On Bucknell’s campus, and other college campuses around the country, slut is a term that perpetuates our patriarchal culture’s tendency to condemn women for embracing their sexuality. Why should girls on this campus feel embarrassed about grabbing a guy they are interested in dancing with?  If the guy initiated this encounter, no one would think twice about it.  But suddenly, when a girl has similar desires, they’re “thirsty,” or worse, a slut.

Why does a girl trekking across campus in last night’s outfit encounter the judgmental glares of onlookers while a boy making the same walk doesn’t garner a second look?  “Slut” tears women down and polices those who deviate from normative femininity.

Are we living in turn-of-the-century England?  Calling someone a slut for embracing their sexuality is almost as backwards as expecting women to wear a corset.  We should feel empowered by our sexuality.  We should want to feel hot.  What makes us dirty to pursue men?  It takes two people to have sex, but usually it is only the woman who gets the names thrown her way.

Slut can be used in a non-offensive way, as the whole “reclaim the word” movement has proven.  But its original, and perpetual, intention is to keep women in line. Words are representations of socially constructed ideals.  And “slut” is a word, which represents the misogynistic attitude that expects women to be neat, agreeable and available (but not aggressive.)  In 2015, it seems backwards to link sexuality to morality.  Yet we almost always conflate the two.  Slut insinuates that sex is shameful, particularly for women.

Sure, we could “reclaim the word.”  Or we could bury it, and any other arbitrary term intended to diminish someone’s self worth.  Hundreds of years after “slut’s” first use, those of us who color outside the lines of standard femininity still get called the derogatory term.  Uttering the word, even if it is for the sake of “reclamation,” maintains the harmful culture that helped it come into existence.

When it comes down to it, the problem with “slut” is that it still means, at its core, that a woman as a sexual being is somehow wrong and it’s not.  Why should Halloween be “the one night a year when a girl can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it?”  How about we leave people’s morals up to their hot selves and have every night, be a night where no one can say anything about it.

Sources: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/leora-tanenbaum/what-does-slut-mean anyway_b_6594124.html?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000063

 

Similar Reads👯‍♀️