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It’s Time to Retire the Word “Slut”

Slut-Overnight-Kit-Broke-Ass-Stuart-NYC

I love language. I believe even the vilest of words and phrases can be employed rhetorically in a way that is both provocative and engaging. So when I say it’s time to retire the word slut it is not that I wish to censor the word or remove it from our lexicon. I just think that the word deserves to be put out to pasture with other ugly and hateful terms from the darker corners of our linguistic history; only to be called upon for historical analysis, artistic expression and comedic absurdity.

There is the obvious feminist critique of the use of slut. It is an extremely misogynistic way to refer to a woman who expresses her sexuality in a way that runs counter to traditional values. It is used to humiliate and degrade women as a means of coercing them into sexual submission. The term reflects the outdated yet persistent patriarchy of our culture.

I find this argument valid and irrefutable. I have understood it for some time. Yet, as an unrepentant asshole, it wasn’t enough to compel me to remove it from my vernacular. What inspired me to cease my use of the word, was how it sounds to me when others use it. No other word provokes in me such a visceral negative reaction. It’s akin to the proverbial nails on the chalk board. When I hear someone use it, I instinctively make negative assumptions about them and their insecurities.

When I hear a woman level the charge of “slut” against one of her sisters, several story lines about that woman’s life play out in my mind. She comes across as rejected and bitter. I imagine her as a scorned lover angry at her old flame’s indiscretions yet unable to place the blame where it belongs. Instead of accepting that she loved an unfaithful man, she blames the sluts whom she imagines relentlessly pursued him until the temptation was too great. Or I imagine her as woman who is sexually unfulfilled. Her frustration causing her to lash out at women whom she perceives to be enjoying their bodies and femininity. Whether either or neither of these assumptions is true, and she is simply a women who wishes to perpetuate misogyny, every word she says after slut becomes shrill and dull. My respect for this woman wanes and I begin to find her wholly unappealing as a person.

Though a woman’s derogatory use of the word slut reflects poorly on her, there are few things that that can reduce a man’s stature in my eyes, more than his casual use of the word in reference to women. It’s similar to when a fair skinned person uses the word nigger in the safety of a group of other like-minded fair skinned people. They have every right to say it, but serious thinking people ought to lose respect for them because of their unashamed ignorance.

When I hear a heterosexual man deride a woman by calling her a slut, I make one of three assumptions about them. When said out of anger, the man comes across jilted; either nursing his pride from a broken relationship or his inability to convince the sluts to allow him entry into their bodies. When said capriciously, I envisage this man as someone who enjoys the company of women but is unable to be cool about it. Women have chosen to share themselves with him but he still can’t find it within himself to respect them. When said with an air of superiority, I imagine this man as someone who clings to the rapidly eroding values of traditional patriarchy. This man sees his antiquated concepts of masculinity and femininity being abandoned en masse and he is scared of his own shadow. This man may be the most tragic. All of these men are uninteresting and annoying at best, and capable of true evil at worst.

The only casual use of slut that I find banal, possibly even a bit endearing is when gay men use the word playfully to refer to each other. This may be a case reverse standards but I think it’s simply a personal preference. It may be just as harmful as when directed at women, but for some reason, of the handful of times I have heard a gay man call another gay man a slut, it sounded friendly and even slightly funny.

I want to reaffirm the fact that I am no censor. I’m not advocating a stigma so great that it becomes an ominously labeled s-word. That is neither helpful nor preferable. What I am suggesting is that we take a hard look at the word, its history and its implications. That should be enough to motivate you to banish it to the land of racial slurs, homophobic taunts, and referring to things as swell. If not, then at least consider the fact that when you say it that you seem like an acrid prick or a miserable cunt.

Photo Credit: thefederalist.com

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Kaetan Mazza - The Broke-Joke-Who-Enjoys-a-Midnight-Toke

Kaetan Mazza - The Broke-Joke-Who-Enjoys-a-Midnight-Toke

Kaetan Mazza currently resides on the couches of his friends, family and, sometimes in the beds of some very altruistic strangers, around the NYC metro area. He is motivated by publicly mocking and ridiculing himself and others. His literary heroes are Christopher Hitchens and Chelsea Handler.

  • http://www.gardenartgroup.com Carrie Moon

    I hate to say it but I’ve even been guilty of saying things like this. It is not that we really think those girls are sluts. It is our own insecurity. It is a moment of wishing I had the balls to wear things like those other women do. I can say that it kind of makes me a hypocrite. Even reserved, quiet people like to dress up sometimes. Instead of thinking as these women as sluts, we should look at them as inspiration to be free to express ourselves artisticly through clothes. (or lack thereof) If that woman can say “you know what, I like this and I want to wear it. I will get criticized but I will also get complimented because this is pretty cute. In the wise words of Dr. Seus “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”