Please stop calling each other ‘sluts’. And ‘whores’, and ‘hos’, and all the other words like that. You know what I mean.
By all means, ask me why I’m addressing this to women and not men. Men undoubtedly use these words just as much if not more than women, and cause immeasurable damage when they do. I know. And I could. But for now, I want to address this. I want to address the fact that the women around me, and women everywhere, are hellbent on dragging each other down, describing the choices and outfits that they themselves and others make and wear as ‘slutty’ in order to cause offence. I want to address the fact that this grants men an unbelievable amount of power over us, as we destroy ourselves so that they don’t have to. I want to address the harm that this is causing all women, everywhere.
The word ‘slut’, in its most basic definition, is used to describe a sexually promiscuous woman. So, it could be applied to women who have lots of sex with lots of people. It could be applied to women who wear short skirts, tight dresses, low cut tops, push up bras, high heels. It could be applied to women who go out dancing, drinking, and partying. It could be applied to women who, say, kiss several men in the same night.
More recently, it is also being applied to women who simply have sex at all. Women who wear anything at all. Women who do anything at all. The reason for this is simple: it is a word that is used to control. It is a word used by men and society to tell women that they are doing something that they shouldn’t be, regardless of the fact that it is up to neither men nor society to determine what it is acceptable for women to do with their lives. It is up to women to decide what they are comfortable with. When men call women ‘sluts’, they are telling them to get back in line. They are telling them that they are acting in a manner in which that man does not find appealing, with the assumption that women should be required to act as men find appealing in the first place.
So, why would women want to use such a word? Because women have internalised patriarchy. They agree too that men have the right to tell women how to act, that there is a way that they should act as women, and that appealing to men is the most important component to that. So, they use the same shaming techniques. They perform the man’s job for him. In doing so, they also internalise hatred and misogyny. Who exactly wins here?
There’s more to it than that, too. As I said, women know that it is their purpose to appeal to men. This is instilled from an early age, primarily through the media. What exactly does being appealing mean? It means being sexually available. It means being sexy. So, women are taught that they should have lots of sex, dress sexy, be sexy – and then are chastised when they do. Not only by the men that they are striving to please, but also their fellow women, and, indeed, themselves. Again, who wins?
Men do. Men get to watch you look sexy, maybe even have sex with you, and then tear you down for the exact things that were designed for them to enjoy. Why do you want to give them that luxury? Believe that you can have sex with whoever and however many people you like, believe that you can wear what you want, believe that you can do what you want. And do it. And let your fellow women do it, and don’t let anyone feel bad. It’s not going to stop men from using the words, but nothing will whilst they still hold all the cards. You don’t have to let them. By using the same words in the same derogatory fashion, that’s what you’re doing.
I don’t blame you for this. I know why you’re doing it – because, like I said, society teaches you that it’s what you should do, and how you should feel. But nobody should be shamed for these choices. It might make you feel good about yourself briefly for telling your friend, or a stranger, or an entire group of women that they are being ‘slutty’, but trust me, you are hurting yourself at the exact same time you’re hurting them. Because you are reinforcing the male-created ideas about what women should be. By all means, you don’t have to have sex with many people or even one person, and you don’t have to wear skirts or heels and you don’t have to do anything that you don’t want to. But you also don’t need to harm others because it’s what they want to do.
And one final thing: maybe it’s worth thinking about the effect that derogatory terms for sex workers, like ‘whore’, have on sex workers themselves. They are women, and they are people, and being a sex worker is not a bad thing. By using a word with negative connotations about their profession as an insult, you are implying that it is, and you are hurting them. You are legitimising the hatred and discrimination that they face, as well as encouraging more. So, I don’t know, maybe we could just stop?