So, 16 Yale students and alumni have filed a Title IX lawsuit against the university for their lack of disciplinary action against the people responsible for the following: DKE pledges publicly chanting “No means yes! Yes means anal!”, ZTE pledges surrounding the Women’s Center with “We Love Yale Sluts” signs, more frat members stealing shirts decorated with personal stories of sexual assault from a Clothesline Project anti-violence demonstration (better to crush someone’s spirit than drink a bunch of soy sauce and die), and the general bureaucratic hushing-up and shaming involved during the small percentage of sexual assaults that women on campus actually reported.
A reminder: 1 in 4 college women is sexually assaulted during her time in school and 80% of those assaults are committed by acquaintances. But of course, 2 in 5 college women dress like sluts when they go out (3 in 5 on Halloween or any sort of theme party, 5 in 5 at the good frats) so what are we even talking about here?
On the word “slut,” I have mixed feelings. One cop in Toronto gave some safety tips to women on how to avoid sexual assault; although the only valid nugget of advice on this issue is “don’t be a woman,” he suggested to the public that they don’t dress like sluts. And while that’s clearly ridiculous, there’s a massive undercurrent of thought about sexual assault that it’s connected in some way to how the girl looked and how she was dressed. Think about the Times gang rape piece, blaming the 11-year-old for wearing makeup, or the thousands of times you’ve heard someone say “She was asking for it.” Or the way people react to a man raping 200 elderly women primarily with surprise that he could get it up!
I don’t agree with the way that “slut” gets thrown around, and I don’t like the nasty hint of approval in both that word and the “she was asking for it” line, although it does get straight to Jezebel‘s point: that women are somehow supposed to be sexy from the moment they put on an Abercrombie padded bikini top at the age of 8 until the day that Botox and Pilates are finally not enough–but they’re not supposed to be sluts. Or, as Coop says in Wet Hot American Summer, they’ve gotta be the right kind of slut.
But I love that movie, and, more to the point, I think that there’s something to be gained by not dismissing the word “slut” as meaningless just because it’s mostly deployed by idiots. As it stands, “slut” is used for females of all kinds: girls who like sex, girls who don’t want to have sex but have the audacity to show off their bodies anyway, ugly or fat women who presumably do slutty things to make up for their less desirable qualities, pretty women who go just over the line in performing all the self-beautification acts that the beauty-industrial complex asks them to do, pretty much anyone who’s giving too much access or not enough access to their God-given T&A, which is pretty much everyone.
But I’m going to take a stand on this word. A slut is someone who bases the entirety of her (or his) self-worth on being as sexually attractive as possible and then acts accordingly: in other words, someone who’s been fooled by the machine!
Now of course, sluts are made, not born, and they’re not to be faulted. The gamut of consumer choices available to little girls runs from the apparently innocuous (princess gear, the consumption of which is a preview to the absurd $161 billion American wedding industry) to the obviously disgusting (nipple tassel baby T-shirts, or ones that say Future MILF and Future Trophy Wife). Snooki made a video for AOL giving an 11-year-old a Jersey-style makeover, with the tag line “You’re never too young to look bangin’.” Girls are socialized from birth to base their self-worth on men and looks and sex and slutty attributes. The winning-est women in America are those who appear on (as the 30 Rock joke goes) the Maxim “I’d Rape That” 100: women who are idolized for the very qualities that make them, according to police officers and male college students, worthy targets.
Take Katy Perry. She’s awesome, she shows her tits all the time, her tits are awesome, her music is catchy, she rocks! Sluts rock! That song she made with Kanye about aliens came on the radio today and I stayed on the station for long enough to hear the line “Take–me–t-t-take me, wanna be a victim”–and then I just got so sad. Not because of the line itself, but rather, because it isn’t shocking in the least. Even when taken out of its very insightful alien-metaphor context, “wanna be a victim” is so unremarkable, so run-of-the-mill as far as today’s aggressive, porny brand of objectification goes. Sometimes it seems to me that loosened standards for female sexual freedom are resulting in a blunt, dangerous creep factor on all other sides: that women said “I’m going to own this” and men replied, “Oh bitch I’ll show you who owns this.”
Back to Snooki for a second. Rutgers paid her $32,000 for a speaking engagement. They paid Toni Morrison $30,000. So, economically speaking, being a Snooki when you grow up is just as good if not better than being a genius and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist.
How to navigate this system? College girls will be called sluts anyway, so they’ll continue go out every Wednesday through Sunday aiming to look just as hot and rape-able as the girls at the very top of the either unspoken or brutally public list of frat’s most wanted–and then they’ll be blamed for it when assaulted, which (never forget) 1 in 4 of them will be. If I was a Yale student drawn to wealthy misogynists the same way that I’m drawn to jean shorts and cinnamon-sugar doughnuts, I’d have played the game too–maybe I’d have believed that my assets were all external and in existence primarily for male consumption, which is the primary tenet of sluthood.
I’m not arguing for the use of the word “slut” or for the right to put people in categories. You can’t judge a slut by her cover, either; a girl certainly has the right to throw her tits out there, get hammered and go home with a stranger just for the fun of it. And, you know, there are a lot of ways to be a terrible human being! It’s just that this one is just so obviously remediable. It can’t be that hard to refuse to buy into the mindset that the best a woman can be is a trophy at the top of the list.
Believing this, or acting like you do, is equivalent to becoming part of the Slut Creation Machine: an awful assembly line turning out young women who neglect to cultivate their personalities because of an accurate assessment that personalities don’t matter to the poon-seeking future leaders of America. We don’t need any more forces contributing to the sizable portion of girls who won’t report their sexual assaults because they believe that blacking out and getting anonymously plowed is the best they can do for a weeknight in college anyway.
So let’s all do our part by recognizing that this is a real problem. Next time you hear someone say “slut” or “slam piece”, suggest that they acquire a husky dog and train it to say “I love you” instead. Happy Friday everyone!