Sex-Positivity – Self-Love – Starting the Revolution
We have a language problem. It’s a word faced by women everywhere. It’s a word that denies happily promiscuous women any satisfaction, and it can be used to degrade anyone who derives pleasure from sexual activity. It can even just be used as a gendered insult when a more creative word can’t be found. And perhaps most strangely of all, many of us have adopted this word as a term of endearment for our friends.
What’s this dangerous word, you may ask? The word is SLUT.
In order to get a better handle on the definition, I consulted two of the most “reliable” sources of definitions in America today: Merriam-Webster and Urban Dictionary. According to the often slang-free M-W, a slut is a “promiscuous woman, especially a prostitute.” Urban D is more blunt, calling a slut “a girl who will fuck/suck anyone because she has no self-esteem” or “a girl who’s fucked so many guys she can’t close her legs anymore.” According to my always wise high-school brother, slut is an “insulting term for a female who uses her body and sex to get attention.”
Do any of these sound like positive definitions? I think not.
I want to talk about the problem with sluts, a problem that starts with the absence of a male equivalent and ends with issues of self-esteem and sexual self-realization.
Our first problem: there is no guy version of a slut. Sure, words like manwhore and gigolo are occasionally thrown around, and guys are also called sluts and skanks with some regularity. But what do these all really translate to for men? Most of the time, guys are called these things to recognize their sexual prowess and experience. That same brother of mine, when asked what manwhore meant, said that “it’s still insulting, you know, from a guy’s perspective, but it’s different. Unlike with slut, it doesn’t mean you’re a lower member of society, it just means you’re kind of a douchebag about it.” Guy who sleep around don’t get called out for being impure, unclean, or lacking self-respect. Guys who sleep around aren’t really sluts—they’re studs.
Our second problem: women who have sex outside of relationships aren’t necessarily doing it for attention or because of low self-esteem, but the “slut paradigm” makes this stereotype hard to escape. There is no positive word for a woman who enjoys casual sexual experiences. This is a massive problem. By criminalizing female sexuality, we’re creating a world in which men have a distinct, powerful advantage, and a world in which lowering a woman’s self-esteem by calling her a slut can be used as a power play to get sex.
What can we do? Let’s stop casually calling our friends sluts. Let’s stop judging women who are in charge of their sexuality. And let’s try to equalize the playing field. If you hear someone use the word slut, try to remember that even if they don’t necessarily mean to be insulting, they’re utilizing a term that, in its essence, is built to keep women down. After all, the problem with sluts can only be solved one word at a time.