A Conversation About Double Standards And How “Reformed Homosexual Man” = “Promiscuous Woman”

***A (somewhat) paraphrased summary of a conversation I had with a female friend last week***

“I read your “Slut” post”

“Congrats!”

“Shut up.”

“What did you think?”

“You’re a semantics ho.”

“You always give me the best compliments.”

“That wasn’t a compliment. More like an assessment of how annoying your awkward principles are”

“Thanks!”

“Anyway, I see the point you made, and I agree…kind of, sort of. But, there are certain words that’ll never be cool. Bitch. C*nt. Kappa, etc. Slut is one of them. There’s just too negative history behind it.”

“Why are you bringing this up now?”

“Something about that discussion just rubbed me the wrong way. It wasn’t really the discussion itself, either. It’s just…I don’t know. I know that promiscuous women are  frowned upon by men, but I have trouble understanding why y’all n*ggas even care. I get the whole male ego thing, but if a woman is sleeping with you, devoted to you, and monogamous, why should it even matter how many men she’s slept with before she met you?”

“You kind of answered your question right there. I doubt that most adult men would dead a relationship with a woman who’s sleeping with, devoted to, and in love with him just because he found out that she’s been around the block more times than a mailman with dementia. Thing is, if he found out that information beforehand, he’d probably be less likely to want to get into a relationship with her”

“Why?”

“Because, many men feel that a woman who has been promiscuous is less likely to be devoted to him, monogamous, and capable of staying in love with him. Basically, it’s not as much about “being with someone everyone else has been with” as much as it’s about “The more men she’s been with, the less likely she is to be completely fulfilled by what I’m bringing to the table.” You really don’t “get the male ego thing” because this is all about ego.”

“Yea, I’ve heard that before, and I still don’t get it.”

“Get what?”

“The visceral dislike many men have of promiscuous women. I guess I understand why it matters. What I don’t get is why it seems to matter to y’all so damn much. Are all of you really that damn insecure?”

“Hmm”

“Why are you making that face?”

“I know you hate my analogies, but I have no choice but to make another one now.”

“Give it to me.”

“That’s what she said.”

“Huh?”

“Nevermind. Anyway, remember the conversation we had about homosexual men, and how you wouldn’t be able to be with a dude who’d done even one non-straight thing in the past — even if you knew the guy was devoted to you and monogamous?”

“Of course. I’m not special, though. Most women feel that way.”

“Exactly.”

“Exactly what? Will you stop speaking in f*cking code for once?”

“How you (most women) feel about “hetero” men who might have done something gay before is exactly how many (if not most) men feel about promiscuous women.”

“Apples and oranges. How do those things even compare? It’s nowhere near the same thing.”

“Maybe not, but how that knowledge makes the opposite gender feel and react is the same. The same reasons why many woman wouldn’t want to be with a guy with a homosexual past — the doubts she’ll have if she’ll ever be enough for him, the fact that she might not be able to help picturing him f*cking or getting f*cked by another man, etc — are the same things going through many men’s heads when thinking of promiscuous women.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“That’s ok. You don’t have to.”

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

Why Is “Slut” Still A Bad Word?

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock or one of Eddy Curry’s areolas for the past week, you’ve undoubtedly heard about the controversy involving Rush Limbaugh and Georgetown University student Sandra Fluke.

(Abridged version: During an unofficial Congressional hearing about contraception last Thursday, Fluke argued that birth control should be covered by health insurance at religious institutions, testifying that students at Georgetown pay as much as $1,000 a year for contraception. Limbaugh spoke about this on his radio show the next day, and referred to Fluke as a “slut.” Predictably, the hundreds of thousands of different angles you can take on this news story has given everyone associated with media a never-ending hard on since it broke.)

Now, Limbaugh is an disgustingly wealthy man (seriously!!!) who’s amassed his fortune by being very good at being a syphilitic chickenhawk, so him saying nasty things about a young woman is about as “dog bites man”-ey as a story can get.

Yet, in the past couple days, as I read Limbaugh getting publicly pimp-slapped by President Obama and clicked on several different articles written by several very serious people accusing him of “slut shaming,” one question kept popping up in my head: Why is “slut” a bad word?

Now, this question is (obviously) rhetorical. I know exactly why slut is considered to be such a pejorative term. I also don’t mean in any way to suggest that Fluke shouldn’t have been offended, angered, hurt, and saddened by Limbaugh using a word like that to describe her.

Thing is, my question isn’t about Limbaugh or Fluke or the contraceptive controversy. (Please re-read that). It’s not even about the term itself as much as what it’s used to describe: a person (woman or man) who has (or had) many sexual partners.

If, as many progressive, open-minded and liberal people say they believe, having numerous sexual partners isn’t a thing that a person needs to be ashamed of, why is there still such a negative connotation attached to the words commonly used to describe people who fit that definition?

I know that words like slut and ho and skank are used to shame, but if the acts themselves aren’t shameful, how are those words still given that power, and why haven’t we thought of any replacements?

You can argue that the mere act of creating a word to describe a person’s sexual activity is judgmental in itself. That argument breaks down, though, when you realize that not only do we have words to describe all human activity, we have also have considerate (and occasionally condescending) euphemisms for any terms that may have any type of negative connotation. We all know that “seasoned” means “old” and “plus-sized” means “fat,” but we still regularly incorporate the code words because they just sound less derisive.

Promiscuity, though, has no such euphemism. There’s no generally accepted “kind” way of saying “slutty.” Perhaps someone reading this can, but I can’t think of a way a person can reference someone having a much larger than usual amount of sexual partners¹ and it not come across as potentially (and likely) incendiary. I’ve heard people ironically refer to themselves or their friends as “slut” or “ho,” but once you remove the irony and the tongue-in-cheekness, it always stings (or is meant to sting).²

I wonder if this is because, despite what we might publicly say, we — men, women, liberals, conservatives, feminists, womanists, and bigamists alike — all still kind of feel that there is something off with a person who sleeps around. I don’t know. I do know, though, that it looks like I have no answers to that rhetorical question.

Maybe one of you might. if promiscuity isn’t a bad thing, why do you think that every single term used to describe a promiscuous person has such an unquestionably negative connotation? Basically, if being a “slut” isn’t a bad thing, why is “slut” still such a bad word? And, since it’s still a shitty word, why haven’t we thought of a word or even just a euphemism to replace it?

¹”Much larger than usual amount of sexual partners” is definitely relative. 

²There’s an obvious parallel here between “slut/ho” and “nigger.” No further thoughts, just pointing that out

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)