Stop using the term “Slut Shaming”

…as if it were a progressive, productive thing to say.

I have heard this term a lot recently from people ages 18 to late 30’s. A google search yielded about 725,000 results and there is an urban dictionary and a wikipedia page for the term that defines it as follows:

“It is a neologism used to describe the act of making any person feel guilty or inferior for certain sexual behaviors or desires that deviate from traditional or orthodox gender expectations, or that which may be considered to be contrary to natural or religious law.”

The vast majority of people who use this term seem to be on the side of women, women’s rights and sexual liberation. I think they and whoever created the Wikipedia page are wrong.  Germain Greer is wrong. The people who march in “Slutwalks” are wrong too, or at the very least, misguided.*

Would you ever call a racist a “Nigger-hater?”

Would you tell someone who is antisemitic to “stop the kike-bashing?”

LGBT Activists don’t fight for “Dyke and Faggot Rights.” (In fact, smart LGBT Activists are very careful about the language they use because they are conscious of how much hate and fear of homosexual activity are engrained in everyday language.)

None of these terms are used in the fight AGAINST hate. The slurs I just mentioned are horrible terms invented to shame and degrade various groups. These are not legitimate names for categories of people. Neither is “slut.”

Words like slut, bitch, whore, shrew, cunt,” etc. were invented as weapons against women: to shame and subordinate them sexually (the consequences being political and economic and social subordination). I have been called a slut. I have heard many, many people call other people sluts. I have probably called someone a slut. I have certainly thought that I was one.

I was wrong. “Sluts” do not exist except in our own collective imagination. The word is a vestige of a time when women could not express and own their sexual desires. It is another way of saying “a woman with a lot of sexual partners.” It is a harmful word rooted in sexism, hate, and disdain. To combat these larger evils, we need to invent new words, not  appropriate old ones.

If you do not like it when a man is celebrated for his sexual exploits while a woman gets insulted, then change your language. Saying, “I think it’s great that Molly is a slut, she really owns it.” is not productive. Say your resent “The Double Standard.” Say you think that all human beings have the right to express sexual desire and enjoy consensual sex as much as they want.

You can even tell a man that shames a woman with hateful language that he is an “asshole.” But it will not hurt him very much. The category of man, unlike that of woman,  is not one traditionally associated with victimization. Better yet, throw a drink in his face and tell him to join us in the 21st century. If you hear a woman call another woman a “slut,” take a moment to talk to her and ask her why she uses ugly words that perpetuate her own subordination.

In any case, “Slut Shaming” is an ill-informed and counterproductive term that I hope drops out of the lexicon in 2014.

*The Huffington Post publishes articles in favor and against the term. Eliza Skinner is on the fence.

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