What do you feel when you hear the word “slut”?
I get angry. I sat down writing an essay at Tarble, Swarthmore’s snack bar, just minding my own business, but kind of becoming intrigued when a couple was talking to a friend of theirs about what would happen if they broke up. The discussion was along the lines of: she would be able to hook up with more guys than he would be able to hook up with girls. Why? Because she would be able to be a “slut,” and guys like that. I had to leave. I could not listen to such an extensive conversation about this subject. What was horrible was that he was in a frat and fulfilling a stereotype, and she was not upset that he used such insulting terminology to describe his girlfriend!
On the other hand, I have told my partner (who is also in a frat) various times that if he ever uses that word in front of me, he would suffer the consequences. Ever since my mother caught me using that horrible word in 10th grade, I have stopped using it. Part of the reason is because I respect my mother, part of it is because I respect women, and the last part is because I respect myself. On a personal note, it feels horrible to be called a “slut,” especially in 8th grade when you barely know what it means to have sex. Thinking about it, how come I knew what being a “slut” was before I had sexual relations?? The s-word is so easily thrown around.
How can a woman accept that term? Along with “hoe,” “bitch,” “whore,” etc, it is a word to specifically outcast women as lesser beings and downplay women’s sexuality. There is no comparable word to identify a man. And if you say “manwhore,” it’s just adding the word “man” to a word that describes women. There’s no such thing as “womanwhore” because it’s inherently a female term. And how come it is not an issue that is highly addressed? It’s wonderful that events like slutwalks exist, but I think that schools and workplaces need to have serious discussions about the implications of using the s-word. And that will help people understand why using the word “slut” in “slutwalk” is empowering towards women.
It’s not okay to call anyone a “slut.” And it’s frightening how powerful this word is, even leading some young girls to depression or suicide, such as in the case of Megan Meier when it was used so frequently by an adult neighbor pretending to be a young boy. And it’s poignant that young girls who don’t understand the meaning of slut or the connotations of what a slut is are being called or using the word. Or both. As in my case.
I really think that people need to be educated and understand why it cannot be used, whether for personal or rational reasons. Come on, Swarthmore. You can do better.