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WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A SLUT IN 2013

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Now that I’m feigning adulthood, I truly thought the word slut was behind me. If I wake up next to someone different than the person I remember making out with the night before in some bar’s bathroom, I’m OK with it. It’s my decision and I’ve managed to surround myself with people who happen to be OK with it, too, so that the remnant guilt doesn’t make me feel hungover for days afterward. Yet, I find that the word slut is thrown around more carelessly than ever these days. Member of the European Parliament Godfrey Bloom called a room full of women “sluts” recently (earning him a booting from UK Independence Party), UK tabloids still think it’s OK to use it in their headlines, and I’m pretty sure I overheard my neighbor call her dog a slut the other day.

It’s 2013 and though some people are still using the term to shame one another, other, much better people, are attempting to address this, be it with hashtags, neologisms, or simply by running around London half naked.

Still, the word is as slippery as a used condom. Everyone has a different conception of what constitutes a slut these days, which makes it really hard to know when to be offended. To save confusion, here’s a brief guide to what certain breeds of people mean when they use the word slut in 2013.

WHEN ELDERLY RACISTS CALL YOU A SLUT
Etymologically, slut comes from the word slattern, meaning “untidy” or “unclean.” This is what old people usually in the UK mean when they call you a slut. To use it in a sentence: “I find cigarette butts in my dishwasher ’cause I live with a bunch of sluts,” or, “I have the detritus of a Domino’s Pizza crust in my belly button because I’m a filthy slut.” This is basically what Godfrey Bloom says he meant when he called a bunch of women sluts at that UK Independence Party (UKIP) conference, after they admitted—in mocking reference to a previous speech he’d made about the slobs who pass for women these days—that they didn’t “clean behind the fridge.” So it’s still misogynistic, but in a different way. Fair enough, Godfrey, but I’m keeping that pizza crust there just in case I get hungry later.

WHEN TEENAGER GIRLS CALL YOU A SLUT
If there’s one thing I learned by attending an all-girls’ school, it’s that everyone’s a slut, to the point where the word becomes virtually redundant. The head teacher’s a slut. Your best friend’s a slut. The school cat that belongs to the caretaker is a slut. Whether or not you actually gave a guy a blowjob on the ferry ride back from that tenth-grade trip to France, you will get called a slut by any teenage girl who is insecure about her appearance and ability to navigate another human body, which is, oh, all of them, ever. You will also probably call another girl a slut at some point, because she was allowed to wear Steve Madden heels and a Victoria’s Secret thong and your mom wouldn’t let you have those, because she thought dressing you like that would make you look too slutty.

What this means is that, when one female calls another female a slut, it’s usually just because they’re feeling jealous. Still, words are powerful, and the amount of suicides among young people due to sexual bullying is nothing but a testament to this—just look at the cases of Gabrielle Molina in May and Rehtaeh Parsons in August. As a reaction, Emily Linden started the Unslut Project, a US campaign that just raised the best part of $20,000 on Kickstarter to expose and combat slut-shaming in schools with Slut: A Documentary Film. Great news for teenagers everywhere, but I still wouldn’t recommend the ferry… way too choppy.

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