Stop Slut Shaming Me, English Language!

Because I have a vagina, I am called a woman, but because I am a sexual woman, I am called a slut. Or worse. And when I say “I,” I speak for many women. Not all women, but all of the women who have been called sluts, whores and bitches.

Bitch has a different connotation, of course. We are called bitches for asserting ourselves. Assertive men are leaders. Assertive women are bitches, or at least called bossy. But when we’re in the full power of our womanhood and we’re not holding back for fear of being judged, aren’t we all really bitchy sluts at heart? Because wouldn’t we all like to assert ourselves and wouldn’t we all like to take as much pleasure in our sexuality as we can?

The English language is so sexist, it demeans us at every turn. Even the existence of certain words and nonexistence of others speaks to English’s inherent sexism. For example, the word “cuckold,” a man who is being cheated on by his wife. Why is there NO equivalent word in the English language for a woman being cheated on by her husband? And piggybacking on that lovely oversight, there is no male equivalent for the word “mistress.” A woman who a man is seeing outside his marriage is a mistress, with all that word connotes (and it’s not positive), but a man who is seeing a woman outside her marriage doesn’t get any special gendered name. He’s a lover, plain and simple, a positive and gender-neutral word.

We already know there is no male equivalent for the word “slut,” which although now sometimes applied to men, is a term made for women to shame us and keep us in our place. And not only is there no male word for slut, but instead the positive word “stud” is used to express admiration for a man with many sexual conquests. They’re studs; we’re sluts.

There is no female equivalent, for the word “stud,” yet there are words for “slut,” that I didn’t even know existed. Have you ever heard the word “slattern?” Neither had I, until I listened to the Dear Sugar podcast and heard author Mary Karr use the word. According to Merriam-Webster, it means “an untidy, dirty woman; a slovenly woman; also slut, prostitute.”

I’ve got a pretty good vocabulary, so I was surprised to learn there’s a word for slut that I had never heard in my life. What a great word, “slattern,” if we think about it just from an expression perspective and not from a gender-equality perspective. But it’s getting harder and harder not to think of everything from a gender-equality perspective when a man who bragged about sexually assaulting women is now in the White House. We need to create a word for men who brag about grabbing women by the pussy. And I don’t mean a word that already exists like “asshole.”

English needs to catch up with the times and give fair play to men’s harassment, their sluttiness, their role as the “male-stress” with married women (“mister” just doesn’t cut it). I don’t even believe in the validity of sluttiness as a concept, but as long as our culture does, let’s be able to call men out as sluts just as women are called sluts, whether or not we qualify. One word at a time, we can chip away at the sexism that is embedded in how we speak.

After that, we’ll work on coming up with a female equivalent for “cuckold.” It shouldn’t be “wife.” Not all men cheat, just as not all women who enjoy sex are sluts, and not all women who can take charge inside the bedroom and the boardroom are bitches.

And if you deign to call me a slut (though I’ve been doing a good job keeping my eyes and ears open and legs closed), I’d at least like you to use the least common and classiest word possible. I’m certainly not untidy, but if I’m going to be judged and insulted, call me a slattern.

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