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Ask Margo— What’s up with the word slut? Part 2: judgment

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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? from clipart.com


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.

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Ask Margo — What’s up with the word “slut?”: Part 1

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“A slut is person that has sex with multiple partners. Same meaning as promiscuous but with a nasty heart breaking overtone to it, as in “that stupid slut cheated on me and broke my heart”. The term generally applies exclusively to females and is obviously derogatory/insulting.”
-Male, age: 45, Musician.

(Lethbridge, AB)
 (Answered “yes” when asked “have you recently used the word to describe someone?”.)from clipart.com


A few weeks ago my friend was called a slut. Naturally, I defended her, but I also wanted to know why the person cared. The slut-word isn’t like other names, like say asshole.

To call someone a slut shows you’ve invested a little more personal interest in them. It implies you are, in some way, monitoring the person’s sexual activity.

So if you are going to be some kind of slut monitor, you’d think that it would have to be worth bothering to do. Is it though? As an advice columnist I usually do the regular Q&A, but this week I decided to talk to some of my friends to see what they think about the word slut.


I tried to get a variety of friends to participate. I chatted to eight women and seven men. Most of the people were between the ages of 20 and 35, though I did talk to one person under 20 and two over 40. Their occupations varied but regardless of their day jobs, most of the people I spoke to are artists of some kind.

A little less than half live in Lethbridge, with the remainder living in Vancouver, Victoria, Calgary, Toronto, as well as Los Angeles and Manchester, UK.
I started off the one-on-one discussions by asking my friends: “what does the word ‘slut’ mean to you?” I received a number of different responses; some sounded a little judgmental; some sounded like textbook definitions; some articulated how “damaging” the word can be; some mentioned ‘ye olde’ double standard; and some considered the word a positive thing.


As I asked my friends to define “slut”, I began to wonder, even though many of them acknowledged the abrasive nature of the word, how many of them actually use it? I was very interested in what each person had to say, especially because I know that I have used the word in the past, even after I decided  not to judge someone for being promiscuous. So, I expected at least a few conflicting responses, and this certainly proved to be the case.

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Ask Margo: Thinking about sex instead of sexual health? You ain’t alone sport

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Q- Hey Margo, Sex, sex, sex, sex, all I think about is sex. Is there something wrong with me?


A-
Dear Pervert, I dunno. Is there something wrong with you? You get to decide champ. If your thoughts are uncontrollable, ’cause you distress and interfere with many aspects of your life (work, friendships, partners…etc) then I would think you do have a problem.

Seek help from a professional therapist of your choosing. If it’s just a case of frequent horniness, then don’t worry your sex-filled head about it. Some people think about food all the time and they eat a lot of it too. How is that really any different?

Some people have higher sex drives than others, and individual sex drives fluctuate during the day, week, month, year and lifespan. Sex (even if it’s just with yourself) is a big part of our lives, our private lives. Keeping it private makes it seem like we all just don’t think about it, but we do. Some more than others.

Q: Margo, this is hard to write to you about but I am going to anyway. I got checked and found out I have an STD. I don’t know who it was from and I don’t know if I should say anything or what I should say to the guy I sometimes spend time with. The doctor said it was common and treatable. So I could tell this guy about it and if he gets checked and ends up having it too neither of us will know if I gave it to him or if he gave it to me. I’m really embarrassed so do I have to say something to him?

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Ask Margo — Psychos and ‘plan B’s’… tortoises and hares

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Q- Hey Margo!
Look, I got an issue with boys who keep their ladies in the dark about their friendships. What's so wrong with honesty these days? Seriously, this guy I know happens to be a super friend  … well, when he decides to talk to me. He's the kinda person who has to have secrets, I suppose.from clipart.com

But for real, drives me mad! See, here's the problem — we have been friends for four years, and he kinda had some intense feelings for me and vice versa, but things didn't work out.

The thing is, we really seem to get each other, and our friendship has been really great.

BUT he has this girlfriend who goes psycho whenever she hears my name, sees my face, etcetera... So, to appease her, he hides me.

As soon as this started, I began to get pretty hurt. At first I understood, but as the years pass it seems to prolong the problem. I don't want to perpetuate insecurity and I feel that by not being real it does this. ESPECIALLY since he calls me up out of the blue and I counsel him on how to help his relationship, and we share great conversations. But I can't do the same. Should people hide their feelings and friendships because their loved ones are jealous?
Thanks for your time,
In the DARK


A- I agree, “In the DARK”; it’s not good that your friendship is being kept a secret. It is not fair to you, or to her and it really only benefits him to have it this way. Her efforts to control the situation by interfering with your friendship has kinda backfired, and I doubt she is as appeased as you have let on.

If given the choice to either know about your sneaky friendship (but not possess any control over it) or have it continue on the DL (and only have a little bit of control  — via him having to hide it which limits his contact with you) she would probably still choose the former because who wants to be lied to? 


She is obviously threatened by you and gets all “psycho” ‘cause she picks up on something in her relationship not being quite right, and feels that that something involves you. 


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Ask Margo — Boundaries are a good thing (especially if someone has bad breath)

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Q- What is a polite way to tell your gf that she has really bad breath? Sometimes it can be hard to kiss her or even talk close to her. What do I do?

from clipart.com
A- I’m going to guess (and hope) that her problem isn’t from lack of brushing. She could have an infected tooth, bad diet, rank tongue, could be a side effect from meds, too much dope smokin’… the list goes on, either way you have to tell her. Without any further delay. She might feel stupid for a little bit but how stupid are you going to feel when she looks you in the eyes and says: “Oh no! “How long has this been a problem?” Then you have to pretend that she hasn’t been grossing you out all this time. The joke’s kinda on you, buddy. A polite way? “Honey, please don’t feel embarrassed but I’ve noticed that sometimes your breath is quite bad.” Say it pronto. No more thinking about it or you’ll probably chicken out.

Q- My girlfriend has a shopping problem. We live together and she makes more than me but then spends the extra money on herself or things for the house that I don’t care about or ever use. I tell her all the time that she is wasting her money but she just shrugs at me like she doesn’t care what I think about it at all. It would be nice if she could just relax on the weekend and do something that doesn’t cost anything instead of spending her money as soon as it comes in. How do I convince her that she is wasting her money?

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