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A Slut by Any Other Name

By on August 20, 2016

Slut

I almost can’t believe I need to write this article. Can I be candid? I’ve had a mental wall up about writing it for a while now. I pitched it, I clearly think it’s important, but it feels… redundant? Or maybe it’s that it should be redundant but sadly… Isn’t. It’s 2016, we have a female presidential nominee from a major party, and it feels like all the feminist points have been made already. Over and over again. And yet, here I am, feeling the need write a full article on one little word: SLUT. I’m not the first to do it, and sadly, I probably won’t be the last. So why do I feel the need to expound on such a tired subject? Because I have to. I was called a Slut.

This July, I was featured as Slutist Magazine’s “Slut of the Month”. It is a feminist publication that is  “tarting up the body politic in shameless fashions.” They feature Art Sluts, Dance Sluts, Fashion Sluts… you get the idea. They’re reclaimed the slur “slut” to mean something positive. A slut is someone sex positive, progressive and confident. She is not looking for your approval or needing the “good girl” label (something I wanted in my teens and early 20s). This trend of reclaiming the word “Slut” first became popular with SlutWalks.

<> on September 7, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois.

SlutWalk – September 7, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois.

The first SlutWalk was in 2011 in Toronto, and it took place after a police officer suggested that “women should avoid dressing like sluts” as a precaution against sexual assault. That was only 5 years ago. Now SlutWalks are a global movement, even Amber Rose has started her own “Amber Rose SlutWalk” rallies for the cause.

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Amber, a former stripper, makes a point to include “stripper shaming” in her anti-slut shaming campaign. I want to touch on this briefly, because the pole fitness community has been guilty of deliberate and blazingly oblivious stripper shaming. Bad Kitty® has done great work to stop the #NotAStripper hashtag and educate recreational pole dancers on why stripper shaming is unacceptable. But it’s worth noting (again) that stripper shaming is just another flavor of slut shaming. It’s just another way women are pitted against each other on a scale of how overt they are with their sexuality. Don’t do it.

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So now the word  “Slut” has been rebranded – sort of. It’s still used as a degrading term all the time. We have to look at the context to see what weight the word carries. I feel like “Bitch”, to a lesser degree, also falls into the grey area of “degraded or empowering?” Depends on the context. I know “Queer” has been reclaimed successfully by the LGBTQ Community, and some people of color have taken back racial slurs as a form of empowerment. Violence and hate doesn’t always get to win. Words only have the power that we assign them. It feels good to see women, oppressed minorities, and people of color defining our worlds with our own words and our own rules. Words are important.

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I remember seeing Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues, and being confused by her piece on “Reclaiming C*nt”. I was a sheltered Christian kid who had never heard that word before. That theatre piece was my first experience with it. Thus I had never had a problem with that word. However I don’t think the cultural rebranding of “Cunt”  caught on like she hoped it would. The word still feels socially taboo, deeply offensive and degrading. Ugly. Which is a shame. The most offensive word we have in modern English is a devaluing label for female genitalia. But, then again, what’s more threatening to toxic masculinity and patriarchy than a woman’s sexuality?

Which brings me back to Slut.

I was called a Slut. Slut of the Month, Miss July. I was honored and thrilled! And then I started receiving comments, tweets, and private messages… Weirdly enough, this isn’t going where you think it’s going. As much as the internet loves to slut shame women, I had the opposite. A lot of well meaning “white knights” came out of the woodworking to let me know that I wasn’t a slut at all! From what they could tell I was a confident woman, who was a sexy model and dancer. Moreover I was an articulate writer – not some dumb, dirty, slut. It was a strange feeling… that sort of felt like a backhanded compliment. As if their opinion of my slut status mattered to me. “Oh, men of the internet, you don’t think I’m a slut? Thank heavens!!!” Also, accepting that “compliment” puts me in a position to judge other women. You know, the “real sluts.” Which is crazy. I have news for you, ladies who think you aren’t sluts: you are. To someone, you’re a slut. Because a slut has no real definition. A slut is just a women who appears to display her sexuality more overtly than the finger pointer. For some people, having any pre-marital sex makes you a slut, for others it’s having your number of sexual partners in the double digits, and for others still wearing a short skirt and dancing in public makes you a slut. And for some simply being out past 9pm makes you a slut and therefore a target of rape and murder. I’m serious.

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For those that don’t remember, in 2015 a girl in Delhi went to see Life of Pi with a friend. The movie got out at 8:30pm. She then boarded a bus where she was gang raped. She did not survive. The horrifying details of the rape could lead you to assume the assailants were deranged monsters. Psychopaths. The truth was far more chilling. These men– like most rapists – were ordinary, apparently normal and certainly unremarkable men. When questioned, the bus driver showed no remorse and kept expressing bewilderment that such a fuss was being made about this rape, when everyone was at it. “A decent girl won’t roam around at nine o’clock at night. A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy,” he said.

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Are you starting to see? From the way we dress to the hours we keep, all someone has to do is toss out the subjective term of Slut, and it becomes acceptable in their minds to harm us. Forget your breasts and ass for a second – your hair, your knees, your wrists, your lips – at some point someone has thought you were a slut exposing these parts of your body, and therefore a target for abuse. Because, hey, you were “asking for it.”

So, yes, I am a Slut. A thousand times yes. By so many definitions. There are naked pictures of me on the internet, I dance for money, I go out whenever I want and wear whatever I want. But I’m also smart, kind, currently in a monogamous relationship, silly, sweet, and spiritual. I’m a human being, I have a vibrant and expressed sexuality but it is not the only part that defines me. Just like everyone else, I’m a slut. You can’t tell me I’m not. I don’t accept your well intended segregation of the
“good girls” from the “sluts.” I’m on team slut because you can’t control me there.  Even my boyfriend’s mom gave me the most adorable of compliments after seeing me dance for the first time. “You were the most fun to watch because you were embracing your inner SLUT!”  Yes, Mrs. Stone, yes I was. And you know what? She was so proud to hear I was Slut of the Month.

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Katie Johnson

is a Los Angeles based Fine Art Model, Actress, Writer -- and most importantly - Pole Fitness Devotee. She's been called everything from “magic” and “fearless” to “dependable, bendable” and even “the balliest f***ing model I’ve ever worked with!”

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