What It Means to Be a Slut in 2013

The word is as slippery as a used condom. Everyone has a different conception of what constitutes a slut these days, which makes it really hard to know when to be offended. To save confusion, here’s a brief guide to what certain breeds of people mean...

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Oct 3 2013, 4:00pm


Photo by Holly Lucas

Tonight is Slut Night in London – follow the VICE live blog, hosted by Bertie Brandes, here.

Now that I’m feigning adulthood, I truly thought the word slut was behind me. If I wake up next to someone different than the person I remember making out with the night before in some bar's bathroom, I’m OK with it. It's my decision and I’ve managed to surround myself with people who happen to be OK with it, too, so that the remnant guilt doesn't make me feel hungover for days afterward. Yet, I find that the word slut is thrown around more carelessly than ever these days. Member of the European Parliament Godfrey Bloom called a room full of women "sluts" recently (earning him a booting from UK Independence Party), UK tabloids still think it's OK to use it in their headlines, and I'm pretty sure I overheard my neighbor call her dog a slut the other day.

It's 2013 and though some people are still using the term to shame one another, other, much better people, are attempting to address this, be it with hashtags, neologisms, or simply by running around London half naked.

Still, the word is as slippery as a used condom. Everyone has a different conception of what constitutes a slut these days, which makes it really hard to know when to be offended. To save confusion, here’s a brief guide to what certain breeds of people mean when they use the word slut in 2013.

WHEN ELDERLY RACISTS CALL YOU A SLUT
Etymologically, slut comes from the word slattern, meaning “untidy” or “unclean.” This is what old people usually in the UK mean when they call you a slut. To use it in a sentence: “I find cigarette butts in my dishwasher 'cause I live with a bunch of sluts,” or, “I have the detritus of a Domino's Pizza crust in my belly button because I’m a filthy slut.” This is basically what Godfrey Bloom says he meant when he called a bunch of women sluts at that UK Independence Party (UKIP) conference, after they admitted—in mocking reference to a previous speech he'd made about the slobs who pass for women these days—that they didn’t “clean behind the fridge.” So it's still misogynistic, but in a different way. Fair enough, Godfrey, but I’m keeping that pizza crust there just in case I get hungry later.

WHEN TEENAGER GIRLS CALL YOU A SLUT
If there’s one thing I learned by attending an all-girls’ school, it’s that everyone’s a slut, to the point where the word becomes virtually redundant. The head teacher's a slut. Your best friend's a slut. The school cat that belongs to the caretaker is a slut. Whether or not you actually gave a guy a blowjob on the ferry ride back from that tenth-grade trip to France, you will get called a slut by any teenage girl who is insecure about her appearance and ability to navigate another human body, which is, oh, all of them, ever. You will also probably call another girl a slut at some point, because she was allowed to wear Steve Madden heels and a Victoria's Secret thong and your mom wouldn’t let you have those, because she thought dressing you like that would make you look too slutty.

What this means is that, when one female calls another female a slut, it’s usually just because they’re feeling jealous. Still, words are powerful, and the amount of suicides among young people due to sexual bullying is nothing but a testament to this—just look at the cases of Gabrielle Molina in May and Rehtaeh Parsons in August. As a reaction, Emily Linden started the Unslut Project, a US campaign that just raised the best part of $20,000 on Kickstarter to expose and combat slut-shaming in schools with Slut: A Documentary Film. Great news for teenagers everywhere, but I still wouldn’t recommend the ferry… way too choppy.


Photo by Holly Lucas

WHEN THE INTERNET CALLS YOU A SLUT
It's not really a secret that celebs like Rihanna and Miley Cyrus deliberately play up to the role of slut, preempting the inevitability of getting slut-shamed on the web and riding the idea of that until it breaks. Whether it’s a feminist act or a marketing ploy, it’s hilariously telling. Miley and her terrifying tongue have been slammed for twerking by everyone and I'm just sitting and waiting for the day @badgalriri’s Instafeed makes it onto a media studies and gender course at some depressing regional university. But how far is too far? Remember when Liz Jones traded insults with Rihanna after calling her a bad role model? I will never, EVER say this again, but to some extent, Liz Jones may have been right. If Miley wants to fellate a sledgehammer that’s her prerogative, but it does also pressure 11-year-old girls to emulate her hypersexuality, if not to actually go into their dad's shed and get a mouthful of cold steel and cobwebs.

Ultimately, the internet has presented a whole new realm in which to be viewed as a slut. When the private truly goes public you’ll either earn the accolade of “#slut,” or if you’re really important, grace a Sidebar of Shame with no panties on. Everyone knew a girl at school whose early penchant for weird sex stuff was made known to half the town via picture message (let’s just say I’ll never be a politician).

And now there’s Twitter. When someone gets shamed for being a slut online, like the Irish lass who recently went viral as #slanegirl after getting caught on camera giving a guy head at a Eminem concert, the #slut comes to stand for so much more than this. The internet not only reflects society’s condemnation of female sexual autonomy, it condones and encourages it.

My advice? Only twerk in eyeshot of people who love you or in underground clubs with no 3G reception.


Photo by Jake Lewis

WHEN FEMINISTS CALL THEMSELVES SLUTS
According to Freud and Cosmo, all boys have this thing called a Madonna-whore complex, which basically means that they want to have sex with a “slut” but not go out with one. This is a crock of shit. Men aren’t all the same, and they don’t all want the same thing. It is also this kind of compartmentalization that idiots everywhere use to justify monstrosities like the notion that a girl deserves to get raped if she acts or dresses like a slut. Obviously there’s still a ton of work to be done to educate morons that sexual violence is never justified, but Slut Walk is a good start. The protest has been criticized for perpetuating the use of the word and reinforcing the concept by many, and for being plainly lame by this very website. But sometimes, you have to speak to people in their own language, and if that language is a bodycon dress teamed with crotchless pants, then so be it.

In my mind, the word “slut” is a long way from obscurity, which means that although I’m not about to tell you my number and wake up to a barrage of insults from inane people on the internet, I AM happy to hold an event called Slut Night, in which women like Sara Pascoe, Sophie Heawood, and Bryony Kimmings come and do jokes, stories, and performances. No one is organized enough to tell me what they’re going to talk about but so far I’ve been promised 360 vaginas, fake moustaches made of pubic hair, and sex with a dog. The goal of Slut Night isn’t to reclaim the word slut, it’s to completely undermine it.

Slut Night takes place tonight at The Other Club tonight from 7PM. VICE.com will be live blogging the event here.

Follow Amelia on Twitter: @MillyAbraham

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