The Dirty Slut Empowerment Factor

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(Author’s note: this is a re-post, one I published a few years ago. Upon re-examination, I’ve found it worth scrutiny.)

Words are an incredible thing. They have the power to conjure up images without our conscious intent. They have the capacity to utterly destroy or completely diffuse. I’m sure the reason I’m  an English major is because I’ve always had a deep respect for the power of language. Plus, you know, I can’t get a thought out in less than three times as many words are necessary. ;)

The way a word’s meaning changes over centuries is phenomenal; even more potent is the way that emotional attachments can imprint on language and evolve over the course of a single lifetime. A word that holds so much power over a two-year-old- “nap!”- can have such little sway over an adult. At the same time, words that have such little value to us as children- “money,” “work,” “career,” “responsibility”- grow to encompass such a wide array of personal meaning and worth that we couldn’t function without them.

It is with words that we are able to define ourselves in a way communicable to others. As children, we may have acrostic poems bearing our virtues in pretty frames on our walls. In school, we’re constantly encouraged to expand their vocabulary, and therefore our minds, and therefore our world views and credibility. In interviews, we’re asked to list our strengths and weaknesses.

The beauty of words is that they have common meaning, agreed-upon value based on common archetype. We can classify the world around us with reasonable certainty and faith that we’re sane. However, as in most aspects of life, the words available to us are limited in scope. Not only is there the fact that the people in power have some control over our common vernacular, but the images or ideas associated with the words are restricted as well. This goes back to the social archetype, and how it forms our thoughts and values. By employing certain words and language, our social hierarchy is able to influence people and ensure the subservient stay that way. This can be seen in the use of racial epithets, like nigger as thrown around by the likes of Dr. Laura; in hate crimes against homosexuals; or in gender-targeted attacks, such as Rick Santorum suggesting women keep an aspirin between their knees. Of course, the targets of such lingual abuse are of many more minorities. All of this discourse is intended to hurt and humiliate, and unfortunately, it’s very powerful. The more an idea is repeated to someone, the more potent the truth of it becomes. If someone is told they are worthless their entire life, they’re likely to be apologetic and neurotic about their existence. If someone is repeatedly told that they have the capability to succeed, it’s more likely they’ll do so, for the confidence imparted to them is strong magic.This is why certain groups have opted to re-define words, to empower them. “Bitch” and “nigger” are good examples of these. By adopting and owning a word, these groups have managed to gain some level of control over its definition.

For a long time, I’ve felt torn on the words used to describe women and their sexuality. The rigid sex stereotypes (the Madonna and the Whore) severely limit a women’s behavior. To be a good girl is to be a shining example of virtue: quiet, repressed, chaste. To be a bad girl is to be self-serving, loose, and slutty. It makes me angry that in order to explore myself in this society, I have to be a bad girl. Why is experiencing one’s self on all levels bad? Why must women who do so be called such degrading terms as whore or slut or ho? And furthermore, why is woman’s sexuality defined as their relationship to others? Everyone knows what sluts do: sleep around with a lot of men. There’s not a nice term for this, no truly empowering word to explain the process. This is, of course, not the same for men who are studs or players.

There’s also an underlying perception that a slut sleeps around for self-assurance, to cure low self-esteem, and as a way to control (or attempt to control, anyway) men. But a woman who sleeps around for her satisfaction is more than just a slut: she is a dirty slut. Dirty girls love it. Dirty girls beg for it. Women are spiteful to them and men are insensitive. It is inherently a degrading term: again, used to make women feel small and deviant. Yet it is one of the best ways available to us to describe such a creature. And so, it is a lovely word in ways.

I suppose I’m joining the likes of Sandra Fluke and the women she inspired. What in the world is so bad about a woman enjoying her sexuality? Men do it, and are excused for it because their need is greater or their self-control is less: boys will be boys, ya know? That seems implicitly stupid to me. And so, let’s embrace our dirty slut. If I’m a dirty slut for loving sex, so be it. If I’m a dirty slut for having my own opinions and ideas on how bedroom activities go, so be it. If I’m a dirty slut for the choices I make, so be it. I’d rather be a dirty slut than timorous and afraid. My definition of being a dirty slut isn’t really bad thing: it’s an aspect of who I am and I know it.

It’s a wicked web the world has woven, to define women and men, as well as socially acceptable behavior, so narrowly. The human experience is fluid, mutable. Affections and loves and sex and relationships have an entire realm of possibility opened to them, but our use of language restricts those possibilities greatly. This hardly works to the benefit of either sex: women miss out on an entire aspect of their existence, and men are frustrated by women’s lack of interest or adventurous side. It’s quite time to change our definition of sluts. It’s time to appreciate and respect a woman’s sensuality. Women need to take back their human experience and prescribe their own language for our gender, non-apologetic and proud in nature. And though there’s few empowering words and phrases to describe ourselves as, we can certainly turn it around until better solutions are found. Dirty sluts are powerful women. And so it should be.

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