To Slut or Not to Slut? Beyond The Debate

In a new piece for The Guardian entitled “What makes a slut? The only rule, it seems, is being female,” Jessica Valenti succinctly outlines the causes (anything, really) and consequences (rape, suicide, bullying) of slut-shaming. She suggests that efforts to reclaim the word via Slutwalks or any other protest movement failed because they didn’t take into account women of color (true about some Slutwalks – more here), and then quotes Leora Tanenbaum who discounts any meaningful subversion of the term.

Author of Slut! Growing Up Female With A Bad Reputation and another forthcoming release I Am Not a Slut: Slut-Shaming in the Age of the Internet, Tanenbaum is an outspoken advocate of obliterating the word from our memory banks. She says that while some of the girls she interviewed for her books try to own the term as a “badge of honor,” they eventually end up “losing control of the label when their peers turned it against them.” This may be true in high school, but leaving this language entirely in the hands of the oppressors is a dangerous game once you reach adulthood. It’s not the word that’s actually the problem, it’s misogynistic, patriarchal culture, so whatever term is popular at the moment will be used to punish women who deviate from any socially prescribed standards of behavior (see: THOT right now).

Careful, purposeful recontextualization of the term SLUT will not cause more violence against women. How many other pejorative terms have been deflated by conscious efforts to change their connotations? We at Slutist feel it is our duty to never shy away from flipping the word as we see fit. Anytime we can show strong, smart, sex positive women of all backgrounds fucking shit up, we will. It is our right as a fringe, feminist site to get down and dirty with satire and linguistic whoring. But for the masses who need more educating on the subject and more time to come around, Valenti and Tanenbaum are on the front lines, revealing the root of the war on women and girls to thousands. In that sense, there is no contentious relationship between sex positive, pro-slut feminism and the mainstream forecasters who warn against this deadly word on a daily basis. We couldn’t do it without them.

*image from a 2011 Slutwalk in Delhi