Let’s Talk About Sluts


Leave your ideas about birth control at the door. Let’s talk about the way we talk about women.

Remember when Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a ‘slut’ and a ‘prostitute’ for publicly speaking about birth control [1]? There was backlash. Advertisers pulled out [2], Obama called Fluke to apologize, and people were upset. Even Mitt Romney commented, saying it was “not the language” he would have used [3]. Hopefully, he didn’t share other aspects of Limbaugh’s sentiment either. Birth control doesn’t make a woman slutty, but it doesn’t make her ‘loose’ either. It doesn’t matter what the word is, name-calling is rude.

Despite this, the word ‘slut’ is alive and well in our culture. Students at a San Francisco high school avoided punishment for their ‘Fantasy Slut League.’ According to Principal Rich Kitchens, it was a ‘bonding’ activity for varsity athletes [4]. It looks like there isn’t anything wrong with labeling girls as sluts as long as it’s in the name of fun. Anyways, name calling never hurts anyone—sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.

You could try telling that to grieving family and friends of Felicia Garcia. The fifteen year old girl committed suicide on October 24th after enduring extensive bullying. While she had a troubled history, this new torment was the final straw. After allegedly having sex with four football players at a party, she was teased for days. In the end, she couldn’t cope. She jumped in front of a train, shocking her classmates and the surrounding community [5].

Was she truly a ‘slutty’ girl? Personally, I doubt she willingly and soberly had sex with four football players. Of course, even that doesn’t necessarily protect her. Consider Wisconsin state Representative Roger Rivard’s ‘some girls rape so easy’ comment [6]. Perhaps this is the ‘illegitimate rape’ to counter Todd Akin’s ‘legitimate rape’ [7].

Now is a good time to set the record straight. Rape is a crime. We don’t hear people talking about ‘legitimate homicide’ or ‘legitimate embezzlement,’ so let’s drop the idea of ‘legitimate rape.’ Furthermore, bullying and name calling hurt. The sexual assault victims and Sandra Flukes of the world shouldn’t be demonized through sexual putdowns. Politicians and media stars need to step up to the plate and become part of the solution.

It’s simple. Rape is a real problem, victims aren’t whores, and women aren’t sluts. No one on either side of the party divide should say differently.


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[1] http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/03/rush-limbaugh-sandra-fluke-a-slut-and-prostitute/

[2] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/06/rush-limbaugh-advertisers-leave-show-fluke_n_1323358.html

[3] http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-57389896-503544/romney-limbaugh-remarks-not-language-i-would-have-used/

[4] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/samantha-parent-walravens/fantasy-slut-league_b_2011378.html

[5] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/26/felicia-garcia-suicide_n_2023835.html

[6] http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1012/82886.html

[7] http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0812/79864.html



About author

Alison Shanahan

Alison is an economics and psychology major from Saint Paul, Minnesota. She spent last summer working on a local campaign and interning with an activist nonprofit. Her main political interests are the economic analysis of public policy, particularly when it relates to poverty, education, and the environment.

  • Anonymous Vanderbilt Student#1

    November 2, 2012

    It’s interesting how you ask “Was she truly a ‘slutty’ girl?” and then decide to answer, no, because she did not “willingly and soberly had sex with four football players.”

    Is the implication here not that she would be a slut if she did “willingly and soberly” consent to the football players? Perhaps the author ought to interrogate her own ideas about what it means to be a “slut” since she seems to think it is the appropriate response to claim that the girl did not consent to sex with the four football players.

    Even if she did consent, the girl still did not deserve to be called a slut. I have no doubt that the author of this column would agree, but the column’s text fails to make this point clear.


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