I am a slut: A mighty reclamation of self

Humans and dolphins are the only creatures on earth that engage in sexual activity for pure amusement. Yet, I can’t seem to recall a single time when an aquatic creature has been condemned for the number of partners it’s been with. You’ve never heard of a slutty dolphin, but in your life either you or someone you know has been called a slut. Someone has claimed, “Wow, I bet she’s slutty” or “she looks like a slut” or “she is a slut.” A definition from 1966 claims a slut is a “woman who enjoys sex in a degree considered shamefully excessive.”  This might imply that a woman enjoying her sexuality, never mind if it’s in a safe and consensual manner, has the audacity to think to herself, “Hell yeah, I’d do that again.” This is clearly the epitome of womanly shame. Now of course, we can’t just blame 1966— women have been having sex for a lot longer than that.

It appears that the word “slut” dates back to the 1400’s in which its precise origins are not wholly understood, but are presumably linked to the German word schlutt, meaning “slovenly woman.” However in another case, Geoffrey Chaucer uses “sluttish” to describe an “untidy man.” It appears this term was once perhaps not entirely gendered, despite modern connotation. A general consensus decides this term was born out of desire to indicate a sense of messiness or dirtiness, as demonstrated in a diary by a man known as Pepys, dating nearly 400 years ago:

My wife called up the people to washing by four o’clock in the morning; and our little girl Susan is a most admirable slut, and pleases us mightily, doing more service than both the others, and deserves wages better. (Douglas)

Aside from the misogynistic reference to a grown woman as a “little girl,” there is no other label that might imply poor Susan “gets around.” We’re all guilty of half-assing chores, but nobody will ever exclaim “Hey! I bet you’re gross and promiscuous” because we forgot to vacuum under the couch. So where does the whole sex-shaming business come in?

The truth is, women being sexual creatures has never been fully accepted as compared to men. In fact, it was a long standing dogma that women didn’t enjoy sex at all. The female body was understood to be a vessel for reproduction and an object to satiate a man’s desires. The female sexuality is vilified and discouraged unless it serves a purpose to not just another person but specifically— a man.

Sluttiness in synonymous with a loss of ownership of self— it has always been a “You are” tagline. It’s a soul-sucking title passed on to a woman without any way of defying it’s presence. It’s a diagnosis. Now, if a woman were to declare an “I am,” she could retrieve that ownership of her body, mind and health. The real hang-up is no one really wants to add “slut” to their identity index. Being labeled a slut in a modern context is certainly a malicious jab, not a compliment. However, by the very idea that a woman enjoying sex is a slut, can we take it in its most literal sense and embrace natural human mechanisms?

So now that you know that women everywhere can enjoy sex, how can you be sure that you are looking at a “Slut”? We come in all shapes and forms. We’re chubby, skinny, we work at nightclubs and we work at elementary schools. We wear high heels and turtlenecks, lingerie and lab coats. Sometimes we scream our hearts out in punk bands. Kathleen Hanna, singer of Bikini Kill, famously emblazoned a lipstick “slut” across her stomach during her sets. We might be poets as well; Savannah Brown, released a video in 2015 of her slam poem, Hi, I’m a Slut. It went viral and ended up being shared thousands of times across all social platforms. There are women out there starting to take the female sexuality back as theirs, and theirs alone, and the feedback is amazing. Men, women, girls—young girls— are responding with hope, positivity and stories of their own. It’s powerful, it’s real and it’s raw.

However, there have been rather concerning comments as well. In response to Brown’s video, a YouTuber who goes by the username PeacePanda, commented, “I’m 12, even though I’m 12 haven’t even started my period yet I am still called a slut. Girls my age are called sluts.”

Now,  I’ve addressed that it’s okay to be what society has decided is a slut, in other words, it’s okay to enjoy sex. But, the fact that children can be branded as objects of sexual desire takes oh-god-this-is-so-messed-up to a whole new level. Not only has a woman’s sexuality been slandered in the name of patriarchal control, but kids? Come on. If you don’t believe that slut-shaming has gone out of control, perhaps reevaluate your child-targeted hate. There are other things to persecute kids for— bad personal hygiene, terrible taste in music, or how they know more about how to work an iPad than you do. What message do we want to send to our children?

I suppose the point of this whole tangent is to reaffirm that it’s totally okay, in fact, I encourage and applaud one taking ownership of their body. You are the one that is going to make the best decisions on how to take care of yourself. It’s your temple, your vessel and your prerogative. So next time you’re reminded of a dolphin, or if you’re like me, re-watching the opening credits forHitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, remember— if dolphins don’t have to put up with this shit, neither do you.

 

Editor: Amber McLinden, amber@vamp.media