In last week’s column (see Ask Margo – What’s up with the word “slut”?: Part 1) I discussed the slut-word, what it means to people, and how some of my friends (who happily answered my probing questions) appear to have conflicting attitudes about it. Some revealed they had used the word recently, but then also claimed to not be influenced by it (they answered “no” when asked if they had “judged someone or changed the way they thought about someone because they were called a slut”.) Why use the word when it has no effect on you? The thing is most of my friends had a tough time giving a straightforward answer to my last question. It is likely we are not fully conscious of how it is we come to decide who is worthy of getting to know. If we are not aware of how the word affects us, how would we understand its powers?
But some friends answered a straight up “no,” sans effort, stating they don’t hear the word anymore and felt the word had become obsolete. These friends wondered why I wanted to write about it and thought that it was in response to the slut-movement (to reclaim the word). Why is it that some friends don’t hear the word used anymore but many of my other friends do? I suspect that the size of one’s city plays a role in the word’s prominence.
I think this because all six friends who answered “yes” (they have used the word recently to purposely be harsh or tarnish a person’s reputation) are residents of Lethbridge. That’s right, out of the 15 friends I talked to six answered yes to this question, and all six live here in “LA”. But before you Lethbridgians get all ashamed of yourselves (after all I only asked seven of you which is hardly representative of the population) I have to say that there is probably a good reason for this.
Please don’t assume all people from a small city like Lethbridge have ‘red-neck,’ closed minded views, because, as I said before, most of the friends I spoke to have fairly liberal attitudes about sex. It is probably that the term (or any kind of social monitoring, gossip, and name calling) is more effective in a place where many residents already know your name. If you call a girl a slut in a larger city, like say Vancouver, people might just shrug it off.
Calling someone a slut is a form of social policing. It is a way to put a person’s behaviour and/or intentions under the scrutiny and judgment of others. It is a way to ensure a person suffers some form of social repercussion for their supposed (or actual) actions or behaviour. It is a word I don’t think is necessary and a word I hope falls out of use.
I am not aiming to tip my hat to those that don’t use the word, nor am I saying ‘tsk-tsk’ to those that do.