Skip to content

Reclaiming the Word ‘Slut’

the annual slutwalk in downtown Toronto

By Paige Gordon

The word ‘slut’ is at the center of one of the biggest debates among feminism.
The word is defined as “a woman who has many casual sexual partners” by Meriam-Websters dictonary.

Much like the words ‘bitch’ and ‘cunt’, ‘slut’ is a word that has caused a stir amongst feminists for years. Some feminists don’t see the need to reclaim a word that they say brings more pain than justice. Others see it as a chance to reclaim the term and start an open dialogue on issues that are taboo.

There are many reasons why feminists are opposed to the word. The biggest argument against re-claiming the word is that it could lead to slut-shaming. Slut-shaming is the act of stigmatizing a woman for behaving promiscuously.

Slut-shaming can take many forms, whether through direct name-calling or online. Social media has made it easier for women to be victims of slut-shaming.

Billie Elish revealed in her Calvin Klein ad the reason she wears baggy clothes.

“Nobody can have an opinion because they haven’t seen what’s underneath. Nobody can be like, ‘she’s slim-thick’, ‘she’s not slim-thick, ‘she’s got no ass’, ‘she’s got a flat ass’, ‘she’s got a fat ass,’” Eilish said. “No one can say any of that because they don’t know.”

Actress Arial Winter was slut-shamed for wearing short shorts which left little to the imagination, and actress Jenifer Lawrence was slut-shamed for staring in a movie with a married man.

On the other hand, some see the word ‘slut’ as an opportunity to reclaim power.

After female students from York University in Toronto were told by a police officer that “if women want to avoid rape, they shouldn’t dress like sluts”, a “slut walk” was organized. The walk was meant to take back the normally derogatory term and challenge the idea that a woman is responsible for sexual violence committed against them. Model Amber Rose held the largest walk to date in Los Angeles after years of being publicly slut-shamed in the media.

There have been many books written on the empowerment of the word, notably the book Slutver. Karley Sciortino wrote the book from the perspective of a modern woman navigating hookups, casual sex and sexual identity. When writing the book, Sciortino’s objective was to reclaim the word as “a person who seeks visceral experiences through sex and isn’t ashamed about it” and continued to have statements of positive reinforcement such as “sluts are special” and “sluts are radical”.

It seems the issue will not be coming to a resolution anytime soon. The negative side of ‘slut’ sets a sexual double standard, and many women feel the term has an impact on their identity that they must overcome.

The positive side of ‘slut’ can be used to encourage conversation about sexual identity, sexual violence, slut-shaming, and sexual positivity. The future for the word remains unclear.

Share this article:

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
Pinterest

Related Articles