Am I a Slut?

“Wait, Julia, I have a question for you…am I slut?”

I’m on the phone with one of my best friends and we are catching up on our weeks. My lively update consisted of school, papers, and what I ate for breakfast. Her update consisted of sleeping with two different men in the span of three days. The conversation bounced back and forth, a bubbly exchange of stereotypical “girl talk”. The details of her bedroom escapades were said without any indication of shame on either end of the telephone. Promiscuity was not out of the ordinary for this friend of mine, so the question she asked lingered for a moment while I formulated an answer.

What is a slut? This loaded word has an empty meaning to me. I have been called a slut, sure. I have heard other girls call each other sluts, and most times it is used in the context of promiscuity. But why was this a relevant question?

I had never heard this friend ask anyone else if she was a slut nor had I ever witnessed her exhibit any behavior that would indicate insecurity about her actions. Up until this very point in our friendship, I viewed her actions as a simple extension of her sexuality. She likes to have sex, ergo she has sex frequently. And, in this case, it happened to be twice in one week, with two different partners. Am I missing something here?

What is it that would drive me to think she is now a different or lesser version of the woman she is? And why would my opinion, of all people, matter?

At this point in the conversation, my pause had lingered into an uncomfortable silence, so I began to question her.

“Why would you think that?”

“Because I am talking about sex with two different men and you did not.”

“Did you want to have sex with these people?”

“…Well, yeah.”

“Did you and do you presently feel comfortable with that decision?”

Yet another pause came and I pictured her pondering this on the other side of the telephone. “Yes.”

“Then my opinion doesn’t matter. But no. I do not think you are a slut.”

Somehow my words still didn’t feel like enough. She breathed a sigh of relief and said, “Thanks. You always make me feel better.” But, I didn’t feel better or okay, even. I felt worse than I had when I picked up the phone. What if I had said,

Yes. Yes, I do think you are a slut. Yes, you should compare the number of sexual partners you have had to mine. And yes, you should feel guilty”?

Why is it that women need to check in with other women to gauge our “slutiness”? While our conversation moved on to other topics and the word “slut” hasn’t been brought up since, I still feel uneasy whenever I think about it. For a word that I thought I had erased for my vocabulary, I feel shocked to think that I was able to even answer such a question. Safe and consensual sexual activity is your business and no one else’s. The war on slut-shaming continues.

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