“Hi, I’m a Slut”

By: Morgan Prenetta

“Hi, I’m a slut, but what does that mean? I’m unclean, I’m less pure, I sleep around sure but isn’t that what you were begging me for?” Savannah Brown, a YouTube blogger said this in her “Hi, I’m a slut” video. The word “Slut” is used far too often in a negative way towards women. Whether it be a man saying it to a woman, or a woman saying it to a woman, it is often viewed as an insult or a derogatory term.  The usage of the word “Slut” only works to enforce the double standard set between women and men, as well as creating a harmful competition between women.

The Encyclopedia of Sex and Gender states that sexuality is “understood in the twenty-first century to refer only to sexual behavior and not to gender or biological sex” (Hovey, 1377). In the seventeenth century, when the term sexuality first became a part of the English language, it was a scientific term that described the “male or female characteristics of plants and animals.” However, in the nineteenth century, it evolved into a term that described the “behaviors and identities of individuals” (Hovey, 1377). What sexuality is defined as has greatly changed since it first became a part of our vocabulary. Sigmund Freud theorized that our sexuality is one of the, if not the most important, human instincts and drive we have. It is what compels us to procreate, and continue the existence of our species. What is so puzzling and difficult about sexuality in modern day society is that, while it is necessary and natural for a man and women to engage in sexual acts, half of the party is shamed for partaking in said sexual activities. Urban dictionary defines a slut as a “woman with the morals of a man” and this is very telling to how society views the sexual acts of females.

When a woman engages in a sexual act, she is more often than not shamed and called names while, on the other hand, the man is praised. According to the article “The Sexual Double Standard and Adolescent Peer Acceptance,” “boys and men are thought to receive praise and positive attributions from others for nonmarital sexual contacts, while girls and women are believed to be derogated and stigmatized for similar behaviors” (Staff, 143). In our society, there is a belief that each gender, male and female, has expectations that they are supposed to live by. “Men are expected to desire and pursue sexual opportunities regardless of context while women are expected to take a more passive role as ‘sexual gatekeepers’” (Fjaer, 962). The issue with these roles however is that men are expected to have sex and are praised for it; however, the women they are sleeping with face ridicule and abuse for partaking in the act as well. Women who “initiate sexual actions [are] labeled ‘bitches’ and ‘sluts’” however, “boys tend to perceive girls as objects for sexual conquest as they compete with other boys for sexual achievement” (Staff, 145). The main issue is that women are the objects of male sexual desire and are crucial to their ability to rise in social status as a result of their sexual activities. While women’s bodies help men gain social status, we are then in turn ridiculed and belittled for it. It is a perfect example of the double standard that exists in today’s society.  Savannah Brown perfectly summed up this thought when she stated “Hi, I’m a slut but what does that mean? I’m unclean, I’m less pure, I sleep around sure but isn’t that what you were begging me for?” Women are begged and harassed for sex, and when they refuse to give in they are labeled as prude. However, when they do chose to explore their sexuality, they are shamed by both men and women while men receive praise. A woman’s sexuality is not something they are allowed to think about in any way according to society. Whatever a woman does, whether it be following societies rules or going against them, they are judged for it. If a woman makes the conscious decision to not have sex, she is labeled as a “prude” and is described as “uptight” and is told that she needs to “live a little”. Oppositely, if a woman does shoes to explore her sexuality and “live a little,” she is shunned for it. Women are unable to take control of their own bodies without facing some variations of criticism from both men and women. This backwards belief is mainly to blame due to the old-fashioned ideals of the past.

The old fashioned belief is that women are meant to remain pure and chaste until marriage; yet, our bodies are over sexualized. The old fashioned ideals of our society leave women perpetually trapped in the role of the “good girl.” Unfortunately, one parallel that can be drawn is how African Americans are trapped in their bodies because of their pasts. In the book Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates states that “racism is a visceral experience” and that he believes the history of what being black in America is, leaves him forever trapped as who he is and who all blacks are (10). The same argument can be made for women and the sexism in today’s society. Women have been placed in the role of the pure, and innocent caretakers of the home. For centuries, women have been denied the right to experience their own sexuality less they be shamed for it and that idea lives until today. Our past and the old ideals of our society are still affecting us today and continue to leave behind the mentality that is it not suitable or proper for women to engage in sexual activities. Coates also mentions that “Americans believe in the reality of ‘race’ as a defined, indubitable feature of the natural world” and the same thing applies to gender roles and sexuality (7). Coates is saying that it has become an accepted fact that race exists in America and that it is never going to change. Similar to gender roles, race has been a part of our culture for so long that the thought of it changing is nearly unthinkable. However, in order for a society to progress and grow, societal changes must occur. Gender roles and the rules for what is, and what is not allowed for men and women need to be changed. Women are no longer playing the role of the doting housewife that aims to please their husbands. Everyday, women are taking positions of power and this includes their bodies. The usage of the word “slut” is used to control women similarly to how “nigger” is used to control African Americans. When used in a derogatory way, the word Slut shames a woman for her right to yes. When a woman engages in a sexual act, she gains power over herself for being able to make the decision. To contrast this, when the word “slut” is thrown at her after the fact, its aim is to degrade and diminish the power she now embodies. The thought of women having power over something like their sexuality is something foreign to our society so both men, and women, work to take that power away.

As a result of slut shaming, women are turning against one another in an effort to differentiate themselves from the word “slut”. The double standards that exists in society today promotes the belief that women who do not engage in promiscuous activities are “better” or “classier” than the girls who do. The resulting affects of this ideology lead women to belittle and knock down their fellow women so that they themselves are not called “sluts” or “whores”. The “increase in female sexual insulting of other girls during adolescents might result from an increasing awareness of sexual double standards, jealousy, or lack of alternative discourses regarding adolescent female sexuality” which essentially means that women grow up enforcing the double standard because they have never known anything else (Staff, 147). They are aware that is exists and know what it can mean for their social status, so they use it to their advantage, intentionally or not. The major problem with this is that it only works to enforce the double standard and makes women unable to freely use their bodies as they please. The pop culture film “Easy A,” directed by Will Gluck, perfectly exemplifies the ostracism and criticism women face as a result of their sexual activities. The main character Olive, accidently starts a rumor about herself that she has lost her virginity to a college student. As soon as word gets out that she is sexual active, men begin approaching her and women begin shunning her. She continued to allow rumors to spread of her being with numerous men as a way to help them, and as those men’s reputation increased, and they gain a social status, Olive lost the “respect” of her peers and was cast out by society everyday.  She is told by fellow students that she will be “going to hell” and that she dressed like a prostitute. At one point in the movie, Olive states that “a lot of people hate [her] now” as a result of her actions and that it has lead to her hating herself as well. She lost her social status, confidence and the respect of her peers merely because people believed she was behaving he same way many men do. She was given the reputation of being worthless because of her actions. Savannah Brown powerfully responds to this type of thinking in her video by stating “Hi I’m a slut, and no, that doesn’t mean I am nothing”. A women taking control of her own sexuality is not considered “normal” and this leads to others criticizing her for it. When a woman calls another woman a “slut” she is only working to enforce double standards and make it more difficult for women to take control of their own bodies.

The popular film “Mean Girls,” directed by Mark Waters brings attention to the issue of women belittling other women. Ms. Norbury, a teacher in the movie, states that females “have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it ok for guys to call you sluts and whores.” This is an important point to bring to attention. In Brianna Panasiuk’s presentation, she mentions how when a woman calls another woman a “Bitch” in a derogatory way, it gives men the power to use it against woman and the same goes for the word “Slut.” When women compete with one another and shame each other for their actions, it only enforces the idea that men have the right to explore their sexuality but women do not. It also enforces the belief that women who engage in sexual activity are some how “lesser” than everyone else. Women’s use of the word slut in a derogatory way only contributes to our own imprisonment and keeps us trapped in old fashioned ideals and definitions of gender specific sexuality.

Double standards are something that is incredibly prevalent in modern day society. While men are being praised for their sexuality and receiving a “positive and monotonic effect on male peer acceptance,” women are facing social ostracism and criticism for behaving in the same way (Staff,155). The double standard allows men to explore their sexuality as they please and receive praise, but if a woman does it as well she is shamed. Women have been perpetually stuck into the societal ideals of the past because the refusal to see that women have as much of a right to explore their sexuality as men do. In order for this to change, women must stop degrading and ostracizing their fellow women for taking control of their own bodies. We must take back the word “slut” and use it as a term of empowerment and praise as opposed to the shameful definition it holds today. When a woman degrades another woman for her sexual acts, it makes it more acceptable for a man to do the same. Women have been told that their bodies are temples and that we must protect them, however, Savannah Brown has the perfect response to this idea, “You’re damn right my body is a temple. I am the god it was built for. I am the landlord and I can let whoever I want live inside it.”

 

Works Cited

Brown, Savannah. “Hi, I’m a Slut-A Slam Poem”. Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 10, Nov. 2015. Web. 26 Nov. 2015

Coates, Ta-Nehisi. Between the World and Me. New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2015.

Easy A. Dir. Will Gluck. Perf. Emma Stone, Amanda Bynes. Screen Gems, 2010. DVD.

Fjaer, E. G., W. Pedersen, and S. Sandberg. “”I’m Not One of Those Girls”: Boundary-Work and

the Sexual Double Standard in a Liberal Hookup Context.” Gender & Society 29.6

(2015): 960-81. SAGE Journals. Web. 23 Nov. 2015.

Hovey, Jaime. “Sexuality.” Encyclopedia of Sex and Gender. Ed. Fedwa Malti-Douglas. Vol. 4. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2007. 1377-1380. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 6 Dec. 2015.

Kaeager, Derek A. “The Sexual Double Standard and Adolescent Peer Acceptance.” Social Psychology Quarterly 72.2 (2009): 143-64. ProQuest. Web. 27 Nov. 2015.

Mean Girls. Dir. Mark Waters. By Tina Fey. Perf. Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams,Tina Fey. Paramount Pictures, 2004. DVD.

Sally. “Slut.” Urban Dictionary. Urban Dictionary, 11 May 2004. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.

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