Each week in The Female Gaze, Faith Newport engages the trends, events, and issues that affect women—and the men who care about them.
Whore. Hoe. Skank. Slag.
Ugly words. In light of Rush Limbaugh’s very public outburst, maybe it’s time to start a conversation about why these words still have so much power. After all, Mr. Limbaugh has made a career for himself out of being inflammatory–and, by extension, incredibly rude–so why all the outrage over this statement? Don’t we have him figured out by now? The extraordinary outcry over this insult is perhaps proof of something. Proof that all insults are not created equal, and we still think that “slut” and equivalent slurs are fairly high on the list.
As a woman, am I okay with that? As people, as Christians, should we be okay with that?
If we separate the word from any technical meaning, and focus on cultural context alone, a slut is a woman, and she’s into sex. She might have dated lots of people, she might be dating lots of people right now, she might have simply gotten the guy you wanted, or she could just like sex. She probably likes sex a lot. Or she could just look like someone who likes sex: She could be a slut just because she gained five pounds and so now that dress is an inch too tight or too low. And, yes, five pounds will sneak up and do that to a girl. At any rate, there’s a lot of vague, sketchy sex stuff going on here.
With all this muddled in together, it’s easy to point fingers.
For example, I could be a slut.
I’ve been called one before. The first time was in seventh grade, when a boy asked me out, and I said no. Politely. Apparently sometimes sluts are the ones who say no. I didn’t know what it meant, but I knew it was bad. I was scared enough by the whole thing to tell a teacher, who kindly explained as much as she could. I’ve been called a slut purely because of my genes–apparently sluts are also girls who have D cups. And, if being really thrilled that sex is a thing makes you a slut, I’m definitely one. Me and a bunch of other really smart, interesting, Christian women. I’m married to my high school sweetheart, but here I am, a slut.
Me and my bad self.
For me, that’s the biggest problem with all this slut-shaming going on. It doesn’t just sound ugly, it implies something really ugly. It implies that there’s something wrong with women liking sex. It’s scary. It’s ugly. It makes you a prostitute. It’s a little safer to just keep your head down and act like you are sort of neutral on whether or not you ever get any action. It can even feel righteous.
God didn’t just make sex; God made it steamy. Keep in mind that Genesis says God created gender after He finished making people, so sex was designed for us and not the other way around. Imagine sex is a new product on the market, targeted at you. It will potentially make you happy, physically refresh you, emotionally restore you, and uniquely bond you to that special someone in your life. Also, it’s fun. That product is inherently irresistible. So, why come down so hard on women who crave it? Why does that have to be ugly?
Obviously, most Christians agree that sexual activity needs a certain context. I’m one of them. But, let’s be honest, half of a candy bar is still delicious, and most of us would rather have half than none. Sex, like chocolate, is naturally scrumptious, and it is natural to want it–even more natural to try it, marriage or not. We need to rob words like “slut” of their power by admitting that we like sex too and that it doesn’t feel shameful. It’s time to start giving a little grace to those among us who have had one too many rolls in the hay, and stop putting giant red letters on everyone we suspect.
*Update: The author believes that sex is designed for marriage, and that sexual activity outside of that context is sinful despite its natural appeal. However, it is by the grace of God alone that we are able to resist those impulses and keep them from leading us into serious sin and heartache–but the desire itself is not sinful and is a part of our God-given nature. Insults like ‘slut’ overlook that aspect of our being and dehumanize our fellow sinners while creating an unChristlike attitude in ourselves.