"Slut" is Still Shaming

A new movement has begun that calls for women to define their sexuality on their own terms. Globally, people have taken to social media, the news, and even the streets to demand the end of victim blaming in cases of sexual assault and the general overriding of shame as it pertains to female sexuality. In the midst of this fight for sexual liberation, a new term has been coined. “Slut shaming,” has been the term used with increasing frequency to describe the phenomenon of making a young woman feel badly for being/appearing to be“sexually promiscuous,” or stating that a young woman is at fault when she is sexually assaulted. This is not the only place that uses the term slut as a method of empowerment.  SlutWalk, the annual protest event that began in Toronto in 2011 also uses the word as a way of reclaiming it and thus asserting the power of women everywhere.

 

The intent is there, and the intent is good. But the increasingly casual use of the term seems to turn the very movement it intends to promote right on its head.

 

To clarify, the term slut in its most literal definition refers to a woman who is sexually promiscuous or a prostitute. Its more archaic definition, which dates back to the 15th century, was a woman who was slovenly or had low standards of cleanliness. Even Urban Dictionary defines a slut as “A Woman with the morals of a man,” who  “sleeps with everyone, even the guy that has no shot at getting laid and everyone knows it.” The few attempts that have been made to give the word a more positive connotation have thus far fallen flat, as the word continues to by and large be used as a derogatory term.

The use of a derogatory term, to discourage derogatory behavior seems a bit contradictory, because it is. In short, the use of the term "slut shaming," is, in fact, a form of shaming. This choice of words raises several questions about what people think of the girls who are subjected to this, mainly:

If a girl has questionable sexual morals/standards, why is slut the go-to descriptive word of choice?

In the same way, why is a victim of a sexual attack, also being referred to as a slut?

And finally, and possibly most importantly, with the increased casuality/attempted positivty of the use of the word slut, what does the word slut now mean? What exactly makes someone a slut?

Until these questions can be answered with a reasonable amount of certainty, the word should be used sparingly, if at all, and with an extreme amount of caution. One careless slip of the word, regardless of intention could be distressing or even harmful. At the end of the day, a sexually promiscuous individual is still an individual, a person who dresses provocatively is still a person and a victim of sexual assault is a victim but also first and foremost a human being.

 

Besides, aren't we a little old for name calling of any sort anyway?