Slut: The Play and the Word “Slut”

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Image credit: http://sluttheplay.com

Slut: The Play is about sixteen-year-old Joey Del Marco who has a life-altering Friday night out after having been raped by her high school friends.

Joey speaks up after being assaulted in the back of a cab on the way to a party. Since Joey is perceived by her school community as a “slut,” she is not the “perfect victim” and is therefore not believed or supported by many who learn about her rape.

Personally, I was able to relate to this character, Joey, in how we are both perceived by the world.  We are of the same race (white) and probably similar in socio-economic status (middle class).  The social situations that Joey is in throughout the play were also candidly depicted and reflected my particular reality as a white, middle class teenager in New York City. But I know it’s not the reality of all teens in New York.

Joey’s whole story was completely heartbreaking, especially because of the fact that the boys who attacked her she had once considered her friends.  This detail is really terrifying to me because I’d like to think that my guy friends would never be capable of doing such a thing to anyone, but clearly it does happen.

For me, I have always heard the word “slut” being used in really casual ways.  I can recall many times hanging out with my girlfriends where we joke around and call each other “sluts,” or the word is used as a defense, as in: “I was just being slutty.”  It has been extremely eye-opening for me to realize the serious attack this word has on female sexuality.  There has always been a clear distinction between a female and a male’s sexuality in my mind, in terms of the ways we are “allowed” to act, in public and in private.  These differences are taught to us at a very early age and have an impact on who we become later in life.

Now, I’ve begun to think of the word “slut” as a trap.  There’s really nothing else it can be.  Men are allowed, even encouraged, to be sexual beings but when a woman “acts like a man” she is labeled a “slut” because we are held to different standards than men are, which I find simply not fair.

In order to break down these specific gender expectations we, as women, have to stop attacking each other with these words, we have to all be on the same side, otherwise we’ll just go in circles.  I’ve become increasingly aware of girls’ incessant need to tear each other down, which I think is the first thing that needs to stop in order for us to gain confidence and actually be able to be viewed as equals.

Girls have been told to not dress or act like “sluts” because our society is constantly looking for ways to blame the victims. As a result, we are not having real conversations about girls’ sexuality. However, through protests and organizations such as SlutWalk and StopSlut: Girl Coalition, girls and young women are learning to find their voices and realizing that they do matter, and more importantly, learning that they are not alone.

The StopSlut Movement is a mainly youth led revolution that is being led by girls (and boys) standing up and voicing their anger.  I have learned that activism does not have an age requirement.  The earlier we teach girls to notice how they are oppressed and how it is wrong the earlier they can get involved in taking action towards a more equal future.

I attended my first conference with StopSlut on September 28, and found myself shocked at what some of these girls had been going through.  Listening to personal stories from these young girls really hit me and made me realize that the issue can be closer to home than hollers from random men on the street or sexual attacks from strangers. Gender-based violence can be done by the people that you know.

Rape and assault perpetuated by intimate partners and friends is a theme that emerges in Slut: The Play with Joey’s attack coming from three guys she clearly trusted.  It is so much worse to feel like you’ve been fooled and screwed over by people you once cared about.  It makes the situation a million times more sickening.

Recently, the majority of my high school feminism class had the honor to attend the second annual International Day of the Girl at the UN. It was said that 1 out of 3 girls experiences sexual violence at some point in her life.  This statistic is shocking and unacceptable.  It is apparent that the only action that has been taken to change this has been informing girls and women of these dangers and how we can take precautions, when in reality the people that need to be targeted and informed are boys and men to get involved in a solution.

17 thoughts on “Slut: The Play and the Word “Slut”

  1. I agree that activism should be taught earlier and enforced properly to young girls. The younger the better, only to then avoid the shock that comes at 16/17 when introduced to the things we have learned in our class. The further we go along within our class, it only empowers me more to empower other girls.

  2. I agree 100% with the idea that activism has no age benchmark. I also believe and agree that young girls need to be exposed to the ways they are oppression in the world, to be able to properly prepare themselves for the future. I think the younger the better, the more time young women have to put the pieces together to avoid the shock that happens around 16/17, which by that time I think it too late. Most girls at 16/17 unfortunately have too many stories of disrespect and oppression.

  3. While I cannot directly relate to Joey’s story, I still sympathize with her. Like you stated, the realism of the play really stuck with me. Everyday there are sexual assaults that are committed by friends, peers, and even family members. I think it is sad that there is even such thing as a “perfect victim.” If anyone is sexually assaulted, they should be able to receive fair treatment by law enforcement. Unfortunately, that is not the case. I agree that we need to “inform boys and men to get involved in a solution,” rather than tell girls not to get assaulted. Education for everyone is important, because as seen in the play, everyone is involved in one way or another, whether they are a victim, perpetrator, bystander, friend, teacher, counselor, peer, or family member.

  4. I too was very inspired by the slut the play and I like how much detail you put into talking about it. As you say, there are set ways in which girls are “allowed” to act and that we are taught the difference between a female and male’s sexuality when we are young. I like the use of the word “trap” because it is a double standard and it is definitely unfair. It is very true as well that gender-based violence can be done by the people around us, and that is a very hard thing to realize.

  5. I relate to your comment about using the word “slutty,” very casual among my friends. Though I knew it was an offensive word, claiming to use it in a friendly way among close friends made me believe that I wasn’t in the wrong. But as a member of StopSlut too, I realized the whole word should never be used and can never be justified. The word has a history and can be nothing more than a way to tear down females. Just like the word nigger, and prostitute, these words should never be used to describe anyone. I take to heart your statement: “It has been extremely eye-opening for me to realize the serious attack this word has on female sexuality.”

  6. I find the term “perfect victim” really interesting and so true because we live in a blame game society and if a victim does not fall into society’s standards then that person is not a victim at all. I also agree with your statement that the word “slut” is a trap because it gives us permission to condemn other girls who embrace their sexuality.

  7. I completely share your view on this argument. I have grown hearing the word “slut” used by peers as part of the routinely evolving slang and thus, in this environment, I became skeptical to the meaning of the word itself. I couldn’t fully understand the captivation the word was supposed to communicate; I felt that two opposite concept were forced within the same word – one, a curse for girls, something that needed to be avoided at all costs, the other, a playful and seducing attitude that was accepted and even praised. This combination is contributing to the attacks on female sexuality, as it enforces the double standard on boys and girls that you mentioned. Discovering the potential of eliminating this mentality is revealing and very rational, yet difficult to share with others, for a reason that I think you highlighted very well: “We, as women, have to stop attacking each other with these words, we have to all be on the same side, otherwise we’ll just go in circles.” Then, girls and women will need to find the courage to address important topics that keep being avoided, without fear of being judged, to educate their male audience against the objectification of women that they keep promoting.
    Great post!

  8. I really like your point on the “age limit” for activism mainly because it brings up the larger point about teaching children at a very early age about all of the issues we have discussed so far. As a teenage boy who was brought up in a fairly liberal household I was very well educated in these issues and so was my sister. Your point about how girls and boys are raised is so true and it can all be solved if we starting educating children about how this hypocrisy simply cannot exist anymore.

  9. I am glad that this play was an eye opener for you. Like you, I think that many of us see the word “slut” in a completely different way after watching the play. When you said that you see the world “slut” as a trap, I could not agree more. The double standard is a shame and I think that if more people are aware that the word is harmful, it will be used less frequently. I also feel that your use of statistics, particular the one about one in three girls being sexually abused, is very hurtful and shocking and I think that talking about it is a great way to spread awareness so that change can be made.

  10. My favorite line in you post is “I have learned that activism does not have an age requirement.” I agree with you 100%, if it was not for this class and attending Elisabeth Irwin, I would not be confident and aware of the issues girls are facing everyday until I attended college. Also, it is scary to know that the play slut was produced by actual experiences girl face. We walk in a corrupt society that has lots to change.

  11. When you connected yourself to one of the characters in the play, I realized that I have many similarities to other male characters in the play as well. During the play, there are many situations in which the boys can speak up, but they choose not too. I think we can all learn from the play, and use it to make positive changes in our decisions. Your dissection of the play is well written, and I love your take on the meaning of the word slut. It has different meanings to everyone, and has different weight on each of us.

  12. You are absolutely correct when you say we live in a victim blaming society. Through young, educated Feminist advocates like ourselves and events like SlutWalk we are raising awareness about society’s invisible oppressions. Conversations about sexuality should be held with women and men, to level the playing field. It is not fair to continue to limit women to that which society says “is not slutty”, and to encourage men to do things that are “only slutty when/if a woman does them.”

  13. I am so happy this play enlightened you because it also enlightened me. It truly opened my eyes. Her experience could have been mine and without even knowing it has probably happened to girls I know which is the most devastating part. I think it is true that activism and feminism should be taught at an early age. Girls need to know that they have rights and when to speak up. Especially because we live in a society where the victim is always blamed. I also liked how you spoke about your perspective about slut and how the word is used in your daily life.

  14. I agree 100% that there is a double standard between the way males and females are “allowed” to act in public and private. It’s sad that society has internalized women who express their sexuality and who are comfortable with it as, “nasty” or “sluts” when we don’t do the same for guys.

    Slut is a word that we should eliminate from our vocabulary. To call someone a slut is to devalue her self-worth. It’s not something she can easily throw away. It haunts her with no mercy.

    I love how you evaluated yourself and how the use of the word “slut” for you no longer holds such causality.

  15. Nora, I love how you called the word “slut” a trap. I think that is a perfect way to describe it. Its a trap for women and girls and its so hard to avoid. Like you said, it is said way too casually. It can be hard to remember not to joke around with the word because it is such a normal everyday word in our society.

  16. I completely agree with your statement that feminism and activism should be taught from an early age. I too have grown up with the word slut thrown around casually, I myself have done it and find myself after taking the feminism course, correcting myself. Now the word infuriates me because I feel as if I am constantly under pressure not to be “that” or “those” girls. And I now I have to question what does that even mean? That I should be branded with a Scarlet Letter because I embrace my sexuality, or because I was taken advantage of by people I trusted? I applaud you for taking a stand on saying 100% no to these societal ideals.

  17. I completely agree with everything you said about the word “slut,” and “the serious attack this word has on female sexuality.” Watching the play, I had a similar experience of realizing that Joey’s life is not very different from my own. It’s scary to realize that we live in a word where this kind of thing can, and does, happen to a large number of girls. We live in a victim blaming society, where women are held to different standards than men, and this fact, as you said, is “simply not fair.” I agree with you that “In order to break down these specific gender expectations we, as women, have to stop attacking each other with these words, we have to all be on the same side, otherwise we’ll just go in circles.” I think you are absolutely right that “Girls have been told to not dress or act like “sluts” because our society is constantly looking for ways to blame the victims,” and that “the only action that has been taken to change this has been informing girls and women of these dangers and how we can take precautions, when in reality the people that need to be targeted and informed are boys and men to get involved in a solution.” Our culture needs to stop telling girls how to dress and behave, and instead tell boys that rape and all other forms of gender-based violence are unacceptable, and altogether stop associating violence with masculinity.

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