“she’s a slut” – so what?

This is something I wrote for my portfolio for the Ryerson Journalism program – which, as of recently, I WAS ACCEPTED INTO! Sorry, quick intermission for an awkward happy dance.

And continue.

I feel very strongly about the topic of slut-shaming and the idea that society seeks to control women, forcing them to submit to specific roles through harmful language. This piece came out of me so easily because I already had the thoughts and all it took was for me to put them together. In the end, I came up with something I’m really proud of and that I think communicates everything I wanted to say in a concise and simple way.

Enjoy!

– – –

Have you slept with more than twenty people? You are a slut. Have you slept with one person? Sorry, you are a slut. You haven’t slept with anyone? You like to wear things to show off your body? You even said no to sex? Well, you are still a slut.

The word “slut” has lost any meaning it once had within today’s society. Being a slut once meant being dirty, in a completely non-sexual way. However, the word is now thrown at any woman who dares express her sexuality, and is even extended to include women who remain silent in their sexual endeavours, who do not participate in any, who dress how they want, or who speak their minds. The word “slut” has become so normalized within our culture we no longer notice the harmful and sexist beliefs and behaviours it perpetuates.

The ideas of virginity and purity are so heavily ingrained within Western society and go hand in hand with the word “slut”. The mere thought of a woman tainting herself with the act of intercourse is baffling to most. Women who choose not to abstain are deemed tarnished, and in turn, receive shaming from those around them in the form of hateful words. Slut, whore, and hoe are variations of words shouted at these women to belittle them based on their sexual promiscuity. As if the more people a woman sleeps with, the less valuable she is as a person. As if a woman’s value lies in her sexual “cleanliness”. We, as a culture, hold this idea of virginity so near and dear to our hearts, but it is nothing more than an imaginary concept created to hold women to specific standards of purity. Virginity, scientifically, does not exist. Nothing changes within her body after a woman’s first sexual experience and any time thereafter. The hymen is used to argue that fact, but the hymen can be broken in many non-sexual ways, such as bike riding and dancing. Virginity is a false notion, but it manages to guilt many women into feeling like they are less deserving of respect because of how they express their sexuality.

The slut-shaming that is deep-seated within our society is not only reserved for those with sexual histories. As mentioned, even women who do abstain or who dress in ways not defined as modest receive the same or similar comments. Women can be dubbed sluts simply for rejecting a male’s advances. Basically, you are a slut whether or not you choose to have sex.

There is no escaping the breadth of this term. Not only do any and all women suffer on a daily basis at the hand of the word slut and its many synonyms, but women who are victims of sexual assault face invalidation of their stories due to the ideas these words support. Women with sexual histories who report rapes are told they were asking for it or that it shouldn’t bother them to have had another partner. This kind of thinking completely disregards the concept of consent which is always required in any sexual act. Women, and any rape victim with rich sexual histories are not consenting to future intercourse solely because they have experience. Consent is mandatory – each and every time.

Obviously, the rape-excusing behaviour the word “slut” allows is troubling. Nevertheless, the ugly term also presents the issue of gender inequality within our society. While women who have sex are called sluts and are frowned upon, men who also have sex are seen as studs and alpha males. While women try to avoid the label, some men are actually paying for lessons on how achieve it. This presents a perplexing double standard: women and men can act the same, yet only women are demonized.

The word “slut” exists to shame women into conforming to society’s views that women should be pure, virginal, and modest. However, even when girls fit those molds, they are still at risk of being defined a slut. The definition of the word is so loose, anyone can be a slut for any reason. Women are in fear of the classification, when in reality they have no way to prevent it. Women who abstain from sex are called sluts just as women who enjoy and participate in sex are called sluts. Women who dress how they’d like, who reject men, who voice their opinions, and who are raped are called sluts. It seems all women, regardless of what they do, say, or how hard they try, are sluts. We are sluts, whores, and hoes if we do, but on the opposite side of the same coin, we are sluts, whores, and hoes no matter what we do.

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