Slut

Quite a bit has been said about the use of the word, and what it means, and what it doesn’t mean, both literally and sociologically. Whether they’re aware of it or not it means something different to different people. And that’s entirely separate from the people who use the word as a weapon. There are interwoven issues of misogyny, and religion, and group dynamics that also come into play. So I just want to lay it all out there – mostly for the express purpose of explaining how stupid the whole thing is.

slut-leg

I have called people a slut (of both genders). And there will be people in the future that I call a slut. Some of them will even deserve it. I love words, and I think everyone should use as many of them as possible, but they should be used properly. To me, a slut (in it’s modern iteration) is someone who has no respect for themselves or the people they surround themselves with, who chooses to express these sentiments in an offensively sexual way (Offensive, in this case, meaning inappropriate to the given circumstance, i.e. no panties under your mid-thigh length dress at your cousin’s wedding. Your grandma is there. You are being a slut.) I am not the underwear police, wear whatever the hell you like, but there are times and places where other people’s feelings do matter more than your right to assert your preferences. Otherwise we wouldn’t have relationships, or be humans…

In the common vernacular ‘slut’ gets thrown around quite a bit. In sincerity, it seems to be a reaction to frequency or quantity of sexual activity (real or perceived)engaged in by someone of either gender or to how women dress. Now, the etymology of the word can be traced back to our good friend Chaucer, but no matter which language you slice it with ‘slut’ used to refer to someone literally dirty, like with dirt, from outside. There is no arguing that the meaning has changed and developed in the intervening six hundred years. At the first ‘slut’ was synonymous with ‘kitchen maid,” but it only took a hundred years or so for the word to mean ‘prostitute’. It’s not for me to say what kitchen maids got up to in the 15th century that contributed to this change.

German schlutt “slovenly woman,” schlampe “a slattern”

Dialectal Swedish slata “idle woman, slut”

Dutch slodde or slomp “slut,” slodder “a careless man”

Middle Dutch slore “a sluttish woman” (sorry, Kardashians)

*Strangely, just like that old standby ‘bitch,’ ‘slut’ also referred to a female dog for a while there.

So the reference to promiscuity is not entirely out of nowhere. The reaction to what women choose to wear is significantly ridiculous, even if the case is made that she is wearing “clothes that a prostitute would wear” (what about male prostitutes? No slutty gigolo uniform? I digress). In an age where E!’s Fashion Police have a segment titled Starlet or Streetwalker, it is just not a definitive way to categorize anyone. If you weren’t listening to #YesAllWomen, or the very real statistics that most rape victims were wearing sweats, jeans, or pajamas when they were attacked, or the common decency to realize that there is never an excuse for rape, then let me just plainly state the fact that nothing that anyone is or isn’t wearing is inviting, suggesting, or asking you to rape them. Ever. For this and many other reasons, calling someone a slut because of their clothes is stupid. Saying “You look cold” is at least honest, if not entirely complimentary.

nun

Now, as far as sexual promiscuity is concerned, the label tends to be attributed as a snap judgement regardless of whether in response to a rumor, a direct confession, or a vague imagining. You had sex? Slut. You gave two different people your phone number? Slut. You spoke to people you were attracted to? Slut.

What is that?? Jealousy? Why do we have to, even in jest, imply that pursuance of intimate relationships, in whatever way we choose, is shameful? Or that there is a right way and a wrong way? No one knows the right way. It’s bad enough trying to navigate the judgments and preferences of the person you’re attracted to, much less everyone in the vicinity, everyone you speak to, and, possibly, invisible deities. There should be just as much support for the search for love as there is for the finding of it.

I’ll leave you to your own opinions regarding the incorporation of misogynistic and patriarchal values of purity and social hierarchy into our interpersonal relations that means a ‘slutty’ woman is so much worse than a ‘slutty’ man. To value women only as sexual entities and then punish them for being successfully sexual, neither of which is minutely acceptable. The only thing I’m going to say about religion (other than my blanket policy that everyone should be free to believe and practice what they want to, or not, and to respect that freedom for others) is that it’s an insult to the construct of modern society, and men in particular, that some religions impose dress and conduct codes specifically to combat uncontrollable sexual urges, temptation, and the seduction of beauty, by hiding women. We can cure diseases and create space shuttles and snowboard. Yet, we can’t expect men to behave as rational human beings when confronted with long hair, knees, or, god forbid, cleavage? Get a grip. That is not a tradition worth perpetuating. Unlike pie. Pie forever.

Careful who you’re calling a slut.

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