Stopping Stigma: Why Women Need to Reclaim the Word ‘Slut’

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Image: Instagram/@_sugarbear

As a child of the nineties, I grew up watching the media attack (former intern) Monica Lewinsky for being caught in a scandal of having sexual relations with former President Bill Clinton. The media was unkind, using words to shame her and hurt her for the relationship they carried out. I was 15 years old and while I didn’t think what she did was wrong, I didn’t understand or know what to call the awful thing the media was doing to her. Although, as I grew older, I understood and could put a name to it. It was slut-shaming.

All throughout history, women have faced judgment for what other folks perceive to be their sexual behavior, either in public or behind closed doors. Thanks to the internet, slut-shaming has gained a new voice with sexist and misogynistic viewpoints being shared in real time. With everything from revenge porn sites to Reddit channels dedicated to shaming women for just about anything; words, photos, and video now have the ability to circulate quickly and widely – taking on a life of their own. 

“Using the word ‘slut’ had no connection to sexual activity—it was a way to say ‘I don’t like that person,’ or, ‘You’re different from me.’

Each woman I spoke to for this piece said that they had been slut-shamed at some point in their lives, not once or twice but multiple times. At the brunt of the shaming were always friends, former partners or potential partners. According to this Psychology Today article, “Using the word ‘slut’ had no connection to sexual activity—it was a way to say ‘I don’t like that person,’ or, ‘You’re different from me.’” It’s sad to think that the word ‘slut’ is being used as almost a power trip, outside of the sexist and misogynistic learnings. 

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SlutWalk Toronto 2014 (Image: Instagram/@far__out)

But in recent years, there has been a lot of conversations to eradicate the stigma surrounding the word ‘slut’. Maria, age 24 of Toronto explained, “In a society that still values misogynist traditions such as weddings, women are always going to be seen as something delicate that is either untouched or tarnished. So far, 2017 has shown me that no one wants to hear the same stories about women being literally and figurative trampled by this outdated ideology anymore.”  With progressive movements like SlutWalk taking place (which originated in Toronto in 2011 and has since seen celebrities like Amber Rose throwing their support behind the event), movements sprouting up like Project Slut (an anti-bullying campaign aimed at youth) and The UnSlut Project (collaborative space to share space and promote anti-bullying), the conversation is slowly but surely changing.

“Taking back the power from the word is crucial: it was made to diminish and demonize women’s sexuality, which is a beautiful thing and literally the cradle of humanity.”

Sure, the internet has provided power to those trying to take us down, it has also given power to victims of slut-shaming to speak out. Sofia, age 34 of Toronto explained, “Taking back the power from the word is crucial: it was made to diminish and demonize women’s sexuality, which is a beautiful thing and literally the cradle of humanity. The word isn’t going to go away. To me, it’s more powerful to flip the script and call out the hypocrisy.” Women and non-binary folks have used the internet to participate in conversations and create a dialogue that was not previously happening. Elizabeth, age 37 of Toronto shared, “I personally feel liberated from the word ‘slut’ because it has been such a negative term. I use to find it belittling and demeaning – as if feminine folks don’t have a right to be horny!”

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While not everyone agrees with reclaiming the word ‘slut’, the fact remains that we can benefit a lot from recognizing that slut-shaming is far more insidious and complex, and far more difficult to deconstruct than we give it credit for but change IS being made. Katie, 24 of Toronto explains, “Personally, I like it (the word ‘slut’). I like that it’s being reclaimed. I totally understand the other viewpoint, the idea that it’s not a useful word and has no proper use in today’s society – that makes sense. But for me, I like the word reclamation movement.”  So let’s all work towards combatting slut-shaming, as calling a woman a ‘slut’ is about control. Let’s reclaim the word and break the stigma.

RELATED LINK: Bloggers Work to Remove Stigmas Around Mental Health

What do you think about the word ‘slut’? Let Vv Magazine know in the comment section or tweet us at @ViewtheVibe

Ama Scriver

Ama Scriver

Amanda (Ama) Scriver is a passionate storyteller, community builder and a loud and proud feminist and body image activist. She freelances for several publications including Foodism, Paste Magazine and BizBash. In her off time, she lives for coffee, trashy reality television, hip hop and all things drag. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram via @amascriver on at her website AmaScriver.com
Ama Scriver