Have you ever been called a slut? Have you ever used this term against someone else? If so you aren't alone. A lot of people use the word slut very casually. But as casual as it might seem, slut can actually be one of the most damaging four letter words!
The Impact on Healthy Sexuality
Throwing around the word slut can have a really negative impact by reinforcing really limited notions about what is and isn't acceptable behavior. For GLBT teens this can be particularly complicated since a lot of these limits are conceived of with straight sexuality in mind.
As one teen says, "Labels of "slut" or "prude" damage healthy sexuality. When, how, and how often to have sex does not necessarily reflect who a person is or how they should be thought of. It's pleasure, and it's great in the context of love, but how much someone has sex is no more revealing about that person than anything else."
Additionally, while both boys and girls can be called sluts, we still live in a world where girls and women are judged more harshly in regards to sexuality than are boys and men. As a result, the slut label can reinforce sexist, and even heterosexist assumptions about sex.
One of the most damaging things about the slut label is that it can ruin reputations. This can happen whether or not there is even a shred of truth to the origin of the slur. And really, sometimes it seems as if anything a teen does can get him or her branded. Sure, being sexually active can land you with this label, but so can telling someone you have a crush on him or her, wearing revealing clothes, being flirty, dating a kid someone else likes, or just about anything else can give slut-shamers an opening.
As one lesbian teen writes, "At the beginning of this year someone told me [another girl] was calling me a slut and saying my boobs were fake. So I stopped talking to everyone because it was just horrid."
Ultimately, whatever is behind it, getting labeled a slut is rarely fun and often long lasting.
Another problem is that the word slut is often used when someone is perpetuating the myth that the GLBT community is a promiscuous one. For one gay teen, that message even came from his mother. As he explained, after he came out to his mom, "She just listed, like, the one gay person she knows, and then said it was 'rare' to find a gay that wasn't a slut."
Despite what this mom thinks, while some gay people have sex with multiple partners, plenty of others don't. Just like in the straight community.
The Problem of Judging Others
But is it ever okay to call someone a slut or a whore? Though a lot of people seem to think it is, and though some teens may use the word playfully or personally embrace it, it's really not cool to use the work slut to describe other people.
One girl puts it well when she says, "Even if someone will sleep with anyone that asks, I fail to see why anyone considers it appropriate to refer to them as a slüt or a whoré. I think it's just common courtesy to not judge people by what they do with other consenting people in there private life. I don't think there's anything innately wrong with having a lot of sex with a lot of different people. Granted, in situations like that there are often problems, but the fact that "Jenny" sleeps with four guys a week, might imply something--but it says little--of her character." Well put!