The Politics of the word Slut

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In all of the discussion and debate about Rush Limbaugh’s recent attack on and pseudo-apology to Sandra Fluke, there’s a piece that I want to call out: if you don’t respect sluts, you don’t respect women.

There have been other articles, like Yasmin Nair’s In Defense of Sluts, that touch on this. As she said,

The widespread support for Fluke is built entirely on the idea that she is not a slut and that she has been, as Andrea Mitchell put it, “victimised.” Fluke, we are constantly being assured, does not have promiscuous sex and Limbaugh is entirely wrong because his “slur” is based on a misrepresentation not only of her position but of her very character. Recently, Fluke has been reported to be toying with the idea of suing Limbaugh. But what would she sue him for? Being an asshole? That’s protected, rightly so, under all kinds of amendments. Slander is the only charge she could bring against him, something to the effect that Limbaugh’s calling her a slut caused some sort of great harm and, more importantly, that she is not a slut. I imagine that testimony will be collected from friends, family, and perhaps a long-standing significant other of some sort with whom she has monogamous sex with an aim to building a family in the future. She will never, of course, be proven to have sex for the sake of having sex.

Can we please remember that it’s also perfectly fine that women need access to birth control because they really do like having lots of sex and being, generally, you know, sluts? For fuck’s sake, we fought for the Pill and access to contraception because we once thought that boundless sex without consequences—whether with one person or with many, at the same time or sequentially, either way—is a pretty good thing.

I think there’s an important element here that’s worth unpacking. If you assess a person’s worth by how many people they have/have had sex with, you’re requiring them to purchase your respect. And in my view, that isn’t respect at all.

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Categories: Sex

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