I was looking up baby names and came across a site that had people's opinions of the name. I was scrolling along when I saw that one user had referenced one of my favorite book characters, a character that had crossed my mind, but was not the reason or basis for picking the name. This "anonymous" person referred to the character as a huge slut. I was floored! I had never thought of the character that way.
The character is a well-to-do surgeon. Single, powerful, and self-made. At least that's how I thought of her and how I thought the author had written her. She didn't use sex as a weapon. She didn't use the men in any way. She enjoyed the male form and enjoyed having sex. It never crossed my mind that she could be labeled a slut. My husband asked me if the user was male or female and that stumped me. I had assumed it was a she, but then I wasn't so sure. Maybe it was just a butt hurt guy who knew a woman like the character wouldn't go for him and was bitter. Then I googled the character and "slut" and WHOA. Apparently, it was a popular opinion. It made me so sad and reminded me of my own relationship with the designation of "slut."
I'd always been jealous of my friends who could have sex without getting attached. The description of the pleasure they felt when in the throes always sounded beyond anything I'd ever experienced. These were women who could really let go and I envy anyone who can do that.
I figured the idea of a slut has been around for as long as a patriarchal society has even at a young age. When boyfriends and making out became a thing in junior high, labeling someone a slut came along with it. I didn't get it. They were doing what a lot of us were doing. Maybe they were doing more "stuff" or doing said "stuff" with more guys, but who cares. Since the line was never clear, it seemed stupid. Even at that age, I knew girls and women had sex drives ("needs"), so what was the problem?
I still remember those girls who were labeled slut and, looking back, I still don't see anything that made them so different from the rest of us. I went to a private school with a strict dress code, so no one could show extra skin or flaunt any assets even if they wanted. No excess makeup. They didn't seem to talk any differently. I don't remember any specific untoward interactions they had with the boys. Whenever I would hear a rumor or what I knew was a flat out fact about how far they'd gone and with whom, my thought bubble was, "Good for her." The only thing that stands out is that the girls tended to come from poorer families. So maybe it's not a patriarchal thing. Maybe it's a classist issue. Rich wives labeling poor women whom their husbands found attractive as sluts. Or rich men labeling their mistresses as such to dismiss them. To keep them low.
Sometimes sexual abuse leads to promiscuity (which, for me, always translated into someone who had lots of sex - no moral connotation), but it's also likely to lead total withdrawal from romantic and sexual experienced. There are women who are damaged who use sex to either feel loved or to feel worse about themselves (see Charlize Theron in The Burning Plain and Reese Witherspoon in Wild or Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook). When I was older and realized that promiscuity was sometimes a result of sexual abuse, I felt even more right in my view that there are no such things as sluts. Seriously, there aren't. Even if a woman is a cheater or has sex with one guy after another, I still don't think of her as a slut. Maybe she just has a high sex drive or there's some other issue at play. If she's mean to guys and uses them, she's a jerk, just like guys who do the same thing to girls. Now, if you come across any such woman, either mind your business or, if you're close to her, ask her about her behavior and be a sympathetic ear, because there's no such thing as a slut. Just a woman living her life.