Re-examining the Word "Slut"

I had two things annoy me on Sunday. One was my MIL who will get her very own post in a day or two.  Figure G and I should talk about our plan of attack with that one before I vent about it. The other was an article I read on an online technology magazine – one where it basically says women are the reason women are not in technology, so stop blaming men and/or the institutions. While I am open to that idea (as I do believe women can be our own worst enemy with things) the writer undermines his own premise with his “supporting” points.  It annoyed the hell out of me. But, I’ve decided I am not in the mood to write about those things….yet. I’d rather write about other things.

Like explaining to DJ what a slut was.

We were watching the latest episode of Project Runway on the Tivo when someone called an outfit “slutty”.

“What does slutty mean? The book I’m reading uses that word too, and I have no idea what it means. I don’t think the characters in the book do either.”

I often forget my daughter reads at a higher level than most kids her age. So she grabs books more geared for teenagers. In fact, this current book is about a bunch of teenage girls at camp. I should have realized sex would be part of the storyline.

When she asked the question, I admit that I almost gave the answer “it is someone who has sex with a lot of people”. But I paused just as I started saying it. What gave me pause was the fact it does not make clear that calling someone a “slut” is a judgment. It is one person judging another person negatively for their actions. Actions that alone are not necessarily good or bad – they just are.  But, this person by calling it a negative name is drawing negative attention to the person’s choices – and judging them as a bad person – a slut – making them feel bad for something they may not have felt bad about before.

So, I stopped myself and rethought what I was going to say.  I didn’t want her flinging that word around or have it flung at her.  I wanted her to understand because I know my daughter – if someone calls someone else a slut in front of her, she will ask if they understand what they just called that person. And will likely want an explanation as to why they think that person is doing something bad.

I told her it was a word people call other people who they think are having too much sex.  It could be because they are jealous of that person. It could be because there is something that person believes in that makes them believe kissing or holding hands or sex are bad things – and people who do them are bad people – or sluts.  I included non-sex activities because I remember being a teenager and having people draw conclusions based on those things, so I wanted her to be aware of that as well.  I told her it was a negative word.  It was word meant to make people feel bad just like calling someone fat or calling someone stupid. 

True to form, DJ gave me situations in her book where that word was tossed around.  We talked through why that person may have used that word. In one case, it was jealousy. In another, it was because they thought someone had too many boyfriends.  In some cases, it was a joke. In other cases, it was to make people feel bad.

“I don’t think it’s a word they should be throwing around like they do. It can make someone think the wrong thing who may not understand. I don’t think it’s a good thing to call anyone. Who cares if they are doing something you wouldn’t do? It just means they did something you wouldn’t do, right?”

Right.

8 Comments Add yours

  1. Daniel says:

    ‘Atta girl, DJ. 🙂

    -d.

  2. Good going mom. Now if you could get that point across to the rest of the population

  3. I really like that explanation, and that’s great that she thought to go through the scenarios in the book and look at how it was used.

  4. John and Ann says:

    Emmy,

    Great post and great conversation with DJ! Sometimes you should share a further exploration of “slut” with the constraints of the talk with DJ–that too would be great reading!

  5. Bella says:

    Go momma go!!! I really hope I’m able to explain things like this to my kiddo when the time comes.

  6. Ms Scarlett says:

    Awesome post! I’ve explained this concept, both to my own niece and to kids in classrooms, as:

    “Someone who is promiscuous (pause to define the big word….) in a negative way – without regard for anyone’s feelings or the possible consequences of their actions.” That always seemed to open up the discussion for several scenarios and lively debate.

    I have a little trouble with use of the word ‘slut’ nowadays. I feel like we should be past that. I know many aren’t, and I know it’s a word that will continue to be thrown around – it’s just one that gets under my skin.

    XO

  7. Just me... says:

    That DJ!! She’s a keeper!! 🙂
    You did a really good job with that one.. The kid and the response!!
    I’m going to try to remember exactly what you said for when I get these types of questions.. They’re coming sooner than I’d like, I’m sure!!! 🙂

  8. John and Ann says:

    Emmy,

    That should have read:

    Sometime you should share a further exploration of “slut” withOUT the constraints of the talk with DJ–that too would be great reading!

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