You know, I just had one of those satori moments that can be years in the making.

I was surfing a random tumbler when I saw a random bondage photo of a perfectly charming young lady in a rope harness, giving a big smile at the camera. Emblazoned on the photo was a watermark and URL that was something similar to, but not quite, sluts in rope dot com.

And it just hit me, the impatient and dismissive thought, as if this particular batch of pornographers were wasting my obviously-precious time: Bullshit!

She’s not a slut. She’s just a girl, a woman, a person.

I don’t even know what the fuck a slut is. I don’t have a category in my head for that.

Oh, I know two or three definitions, I just never once in my life have felt the need for that collective/descriptive noun. There’s never been a case where the woman I was trying to describe fit one of those definitions better than she fit some other handier or more descriptive word, like her name or “woman” or “girl”.

I’m not talking about biting back an epithet on the tip of my tongue, either. I know what that feels like. Take the word “bitch” if you will. I don’t believe it’s a word to be thrown around lightly, and I don’t; it escapes my lips rarely indeed, and only when I believe it to be richly and earnestly deserved. But it comes to the tip of my tongue perhaps a few times more often than that. I swallow it again, for reasons that seem good.

Not so with “slut”. It simply doesn’t occur to me. I don’t get what the big deal is. I don’t understand what it is about “sluts” that gets under so many men’s skins. Women who have a lot of sex? That’s good, right? We likes them our preciouses, yes we does? Women who enjoy sex? We want that to be the whole category, surely? Women who have sex easily and readily with anybody who asks? A mythical creature I’m sure, but you’d be as interested to see one as you would a unicorn, not full of contempt and disgust, right?

It’s not a new idea to me that I don’t need the word. But I guess I always figured there were sluts out there somewhere I just never met, or people whose relationships were so fluid and fragile they were threatened by “sluts” and needed a ready way to identify them. It took a completely-daft use of the label in an utterly-pointless context to finally ram the point home: there really is no such thing as a slut.

What “slut” is, is a label of convenience. People (male and female alike) slap it on women and girls they need power over — personal power, marketing power, sexual power, emotional power. If they can make it stick, they may get some of the power they seek. Of course, some women defuse the tactic by adopting the label first, making it their own; this may have costs, but it can be very effective too.

In general, though, when you hear the word slut, somebody is trying to pull a power play on a woman by labeling her. It’s not actually a real category. Sluts don’t exist.

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