The University of Vermont's Independent Voice Since 1883

The Vermont Cynic

Reclaiming the word “slut” to end shaming

Keely Lyons

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A Toronto police officer remarked in May 2011 “that women should try not to dress like ‘sluts’ to avoid being raped,” according to a report done by the BBC.

Women were reminded that with enough male anger and superiority, our sexuality and very personhood can be turned against us. The word slut is used every day to shame women and to police our bodies.

Who is a slut, though? The meaning of the word has evolved from a woman who is unclean to someone with many sexual partners.

The question of sluttiness plagues women as we get dressed for parties, as we walk down the street, as we get ready for work.

We don’t want to wear anything too revealing, in case we are chastised for the impropriety of a low-cut top or for the distracting nature of our bare shoulders. We are constantly checking with ourselves and others to make sure our outfit is not “too slutty.”

This constant need for women to be sure that they are not too confident or forward in their sexuality is imprisoning.

Women can not be free as sexually liberated people, or even as liberated people in general, until women can stop justifying their sexuality to each other and to the men in their lives.

We must make an effort to reclaim slut. If women take ownership of the word, we take away its derogatory and patriarchal power.

We should embrace slut—as a woman who is sexually liberated and confident. If we do that, we will all be moving one step closer to equality.

Activists have tried to reclaim slut through events like the slut walk and other sex positive marches.

However, it has yet to reach the same status that other reclaimed slurs have, such as queer, which has been widely accepted among its community.

Slut has not even been accepted among women—and that is the first problem.

If women begin to accept slut as a positive term, we may begin to dismantle the harm that it does.

The negative use of the word “slut” does more than offend. It allows us to discredit sexual assault survivors. It gives men the idea that they own a woman’s sexuality, and by extension, her body. It has allowed movie producers and presidents to assault women for years.

Ultimately, it stops women from possessing the bodily autonomy and confidence that should be a right for every human.

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The University of Vermont's Independent Voice Since 1883
Reclaiming the word “slut” to end shaming