How “Slut” Reveals Our Sexism

Yesterday, I celebrated my 26th birthday. My friends and I threw a wonderful party, and as we sat around discussing different topics, the conversation eventually moved to talking about women in “slutty” Halloween costumes.

There were six of us talking about this: four women, two men (myself included), all college-educated adults, all endowed with a decent sense of humor, and all Christians who usually shy away from casting judgment on others.

(For my non-Christian friends reading this, don’t worry; this is not about to launch into a Christian post.)

The gist of our discussion was how Halloween isn’t an excuse for women to dress like “sluts.” My five friends were in agreement on this, and I couldn’t disagree more, but that’s not the point of this post.

When I voiced my disagreement I said, “I don’t think dressing that way makes you ‘slutty.’”

As soon as the statement left my mouth, I immediately regretted it. I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. It wasn’t that I disagreed with the opinion I was trying to get across but that I had indirectly validated using the word “slut.”

“Slut” is not a term of universal characterization. On its own, it’s almost always used to describe women who sleep around or, at the very least, are perceived to sleep around.

The word represents a double standard that has gone dramatically unchecked by both men and women: that uncommitted men who sleep around face little societal backlash but uncommitted women who sleep around are seen as immoral and/or unclean and unworthy of respect.

In fact, men who sleep around are almost always publicly accepted and even admired by both sexes. It’s seen as a sign that the man in question is attractive and charming.

Case in point: Joey from “Friends” has a running gag on the show of having multiple sexual partners over time, and it’s nearly always portrayed as an admirable quality. Can you imagine the three main women in the show (Rachel, Monica, and Phoebe) getting the same response? Not likely.

Quick note: There’s a difference between “sleeping around” and “womanizing.” For simplicity’s sake, “sleeping around” is having multiple sexual partners in a short period of time but under equal expectations between the partners in terms of relationship status. “Womanizing” is sleeping with women and effectively using their emotional vulnerability for sexual purposes.

The conversation among my friends and I, as previously stated, was launched over our opinions on women dressing “slutty” for Halloween. My friends felt that women who dress provocatively or erotically for this holiday are in the wrong.

This made me take pause, though. If men dressed for Halloween in only a Speedo, it would certainly get attention and commentary, but it’s doubtful it would be seen as morally wrong. It would probably be mocked for revealing far too much but not because it expressed an inappropriate sexuality.

And more often than not, the response would be one of humor, not offense.

But a woman dressing in a short skirt and high heels for her costume is seen as “slutty,” even though that would be revealing far less skin than the man in the Speedo.

Some readers may point out that men can be called a “man slut” or “horndog.” Well, let’s look at those.

“Man slut” is a modified term, and it’s implications are just as hurtful to women’s sexuality as the word “slut.” When you say “man slut,” you’re saying the man in question is acting like a “slut,” or a woman that sleeps around. But much of the time, “man slut” is used in a humorous manner. It’s not often used to deride a man for their sexual habits. On the other hand, calling a woman a “slut” is almost always seen as derogatory.

“Horndog” is the same way. It’s used to describe a sexually promiscuous man but is, more often than not, meant to be humorous. It’s used to describe men who are less than suave.

James Bond would never be described as a “horn dog,” but a woman sleeping around as much as 007 would definitely be called a “slut.”

Why are we so afraid of women’s sexuality?

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6 thoughts on “How “Slut” Reveals Our Sexism

  1. sweetpollypurebred says:

    I love you!

    I have challenged the term “slut” for years.

    I read your essay via a link on facebook from my friend Patrick Rogers. I will also post a comment on his link.

    Anyway, thank you for being a young man who is willing to broach this topic!

    Polly

  2. Ike Mason says:

    Let me turn the table, why is it ok to be a daddies girl but not a mommies boy? If a man were to try to dress slutty the only people that would notice would be gay men.

    • Rebecca Halbig says:

      This might be one of the sexist posts I have ever read. By saying that if a man dressed like a “slut” I assume you mean that he is revealing much of his body. To say that only gay men would notice makes me think that you do not think women have sexual appetites or preferences. Do you think that women only have sex for the pleasure and conquest of men? What does this say about the equality of the sexes? Personally, I would notice if a man were showing some skin.

  3. Heidi says:

    I completely agree with you that there is a troubling double standard for appropriate sexuality for men and women. I think there is one point that’s being overlooked. The sexually explicit costumes that women wear set women up as mere objects of lust. Unfortunately our culture has developed very narrow roles for which women to place themselves within: the temptress (or slut by modern standards) or virgin (all too innocent prude). Take the most popular Hollywood films as examples of women being one or the other. Yet, in the end, women should fell free to wear what they wish without being called a slut for showing too much skin….

  4. $13Bill says:

    In the culture I live in, slut is a compliment. I’ve been living in this culture for nearly 25 years. Your failure to notice that the word AND the role of “slut” have been reclaimed as good and positive has nothing to do with my freedom.

  5. J says:

    Basically I think guys get jealous easier than women, that’s why they’re called sluts, whores and slags for sleeping around. Men either consciously, or sub-consciously, are injecting fear into women by calling them derogatory names if they ‘step out of line’. After all, No girl wants to be compared to being a ‘slut’

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