Big brash bold statement: Our current sexual ethic in the American church does just as good of a job objectifying women as secular “porn” culture.
Now, let me explain. When we tie a woman’s goodness or badness into whether or not she is having “the sex,” we again reduce them to their vaginal activity or lack thereof. When we say that all a woman is worth is an unbroken hymen, we objectify the woman all over again. She ceases to be a real human being. It’s a pendulum swinging back to the other extreme – in an attempt to respond to a pornified culture, we end up creating this entirely sex negative world in which whether or not a woman has had sex becomes the only mark of good or bad morality, and turn her back into an object.
This is bad primarily for the reason I cited on Thursday – there are numerous ways in which women end up becoming sexually active, and when all we do is tell them “don’t do it or you’ll be a bad girl,” we end up with no conversation on consent – no dialogue about what it actually means to say yes. We end up, when we look at this sort of thing in public policy, laws that say once a woman has consented to sex, then she has consented to anything and everything that follows. It’s a damaging thing to teach young women – that no matter the circumstances surrounding her loss of virginity, if she has "lost" it, then there is no way back.*
The second is the problem of “slut-shaming.” For those of you not experienced in feminist terminology, you’re in luck.
“Slut” or “whore” is supposedly one of the worst thing you can call a woman. That’s why people reacted with such shock when a man called Elizabeth Warren a “socialist whore” at a town hall meeting this last week. It is a distinctly female insult, and mean to be an impugning of one’s honor.
But, as I’ve mentioned here, it’s a sliding standard. Perhaps the Warren example is a good place to start – there is absolutely no evidence that Warren is a “whore.” Indeed, Warren is a wife and former stay at home mom. But, none of the truth of it actually matters, because the insult is quite rarely actually linked to sexual activity. Rather, it is a way of silencing women, a way of cutting off the dialogue, a way of ending the debate. It is meant to remind women of their place in society; it serves to say that their only worth is between their legs and once labeled a slut, the label is very hard to shake. It is a label that, for some reason, is meant to impugn a person’s moral judgment in all other areas of life.
So, once again, I put out the call. Define “slut” for me. I’m serious about this – how many men does a woman have to sleep with before she’s a slut? 5? 10? Do the circumstances surrounding each partner matter? I have friends whose “number” is quite high, but each one of those was over the course of a serious relationship. Is she a slut? Or is slut more of an attitude – a “slutitude” if you will – even if the woman is a virgin? How do you identify a “slutitude,” then? And, why, even still, is that an insult?
You see the problem, I would hope. This analysis of slut shaming is by no means a promotion of wanton sexual activity, but rather a plea to understand "slut" is not and should not be an insult simply because it is so undefined. And it is a plea to be more creative with our insults. I mean, seriously, the worst thing you can call a woman is something implies she enjoys sex? Really?
But despite the lack of a real definition, the label of “slut” is one that can make a girl’s life hell. Even without ever experiencing sex, a teenage girl can be labeled a slut and teased all around the school. Women who get to the top of their respective fields frequently have to face insults about how she “slept her way to the top.” Again, society attempts to remind women that their only worth is in their unsullied sexuality – showing even a predilection toward sex can damage a girl’s reputation in many areas. Heck, when I started talking about sex more on the blog, I received some comments implying that I may no longer be Christian. Um, what? I thought that was for me to decide?
So, let’s make an agreement now: Since slut doesn’t really have a definition, and is such a gendered insult that perpetuates a negative view of female sexuality (calling a guy a slut doesn’t have the same impact at all), let’s be more creative, shall we? If we absolutely, totally need to insult someone – which, I would argue, is probably not a good idea, but say we’re just having a rage moment and need to vent – why not go with something gender neutral? Or something pertaining to that person’s actual nature and personality rather how s/he uses her sexuality? I mean, heck, if you need to, bookmark this website of Shakespearean insults. At least you’ll sound like you aren’t scraping the bottom of the barrel for insults.
Now, off to the comment section, thou qualling half-faced hedge-pigs! Have ye any personal experience with “slutitude”?
*As a side note, I hate the term "loss of virginity." It's not like it fell out of your pocket when you were running to catch the bus. But, as there is no good replacement - other than possibly "became sexually active" - I go with it for now.