Jezebel, catcher’s mitt, broad, easy, floozy, hussy, nympho, strumpet, tart, tramp, mattress-back, whore … there are so many negative words to describe a woman who is sexual.
Note that I didn’t say “sexually active.” That’s because society is quite generous in dishing out the “slut” label. It doesn’t require simply being on your back.
As many females will tell you, these are just some of the reasons they can be labeled "easy":
a.) Going through puberty at a young age;
b.) Dating several men at the same time;
c.) Wearing nice lingerie or suggestive clothing;
d.) Locking lips at a bar;
e.) Talking about sex.
After all, calling her a derogatory name is an effective way to silence or discourage almost any female. It is supposed to keep her in her place.
It used to be that being a “whore” wasn’t such a bad thing. Historically — and we’re talking pre-Christian times — women who were sexually active were seen as the earthly embodiment of Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty.
These women were once held in high regard by both men and women. They were oracles and healers who cared for the soul. Full of goddess energy, they offered wisdom and well-being via sexual healing power.
Known as “horae,” they spent days in temples as priestesses. Many became rich and were sought after as brides. Skilled in astrology, they were called “Watchers of the Stars” and “Keepers of Hours.” Those who spread love and healing as goddess ambassadors were called “pornai.” They were artists in the sacred act of using sexuality as a spiritual, healing force.
They also helped females who were virgins and were regarded as having no virtue. Brides-to-be would spend a week in a temple with a priestess and “sex adviser,” learning the art of making love. Sex was regarded as vital for a union to continually flourish and grow.
Then, Christianity came along, and these women were labeled villainous “whores” or “pornographers.” Such labels have stuck for many sexual females ever since, becoming an effective means of social control. The labels control women by shaming and humiliating them. It helps to keep a woman's sexual interest in check, supporting her ability to restrict sexual advances.
This has come at a price. Many women are uncomfortable asking for what they want. They wouldn’t dream of being open about their sexuality. Unless you’re Samantha from “Sex and the City,” you don’t want to be considered “loose.” (Promiscuous women are only cool if they’re fictional).
The consequences are too harsh. People will spread sexual rumors about you the second you dare to claim ownership of your sexuality or pursue sexual freedom. Suddenly, by being sexually empowered, your sex drive is “out of control.” While society rewards the not-so-subtle sexual quests of Paris Hilton and Pamela Anderson, the rest of us are often judged. (That’s not to say, however, that Hollywood doesn’t bear its fair share of the sexual crucifix).
Take, for example, a 1978 study in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology that found that female respondents judged the slides of women in nontraditional coital positions more harshly than slides of women in traditional positions. Those in the nontraditional position were rated as dirtier, having lower morals, less respectable, less desirable and not as good as a spouse and mother.
Adding insult to injury in this whole “slut” business is the fact that men are never called whores. When men are sexually active, they’re called players, studs, Casanovas, rakes or scoundrels. While “male whore” is occasionally thrown around, it doesn’t hold the same weight. And “an eye for an eye” doesn’t make the situation any better.
The good news is that it seems society is making some progress in this area. A 1989 study in the Journal of Sex Research involving college students found no difference in participants’ ratings of how acceptable it is for a man versus woman to engage in sexual behaviors — like heavy petting, sexual intercourse and oral sex — at various stages of a relationship.
Yet such findings feel like a drop in the ocean. There’s a lot of work to be done in challenging this dirty label, starting perhaps with females themselves.
A sad fact of the matter is that the “all-girls club” doesn’t always have your back. In dealing with their own sexuality, jealousy and personal issues, many gals will actually use such self-defeating name-calling. And it’s this hypocrisy that makes the ultimate backlash sting that much more. It’s part of what has kept age-old notions of female sexual empowerment in place.
So what’s your recourse? Call her, as well as him and whatever societal influence, out on it. Such condemnation has gone on long enough.
Dr. Yvonne K. Fulbright is a sex educator, relationship expert, columnist and founder of Sexuality Source Inc. She is the author of several books including, "Touch Me There! A Hands-On Guide to Your Orgasmic Hot Spots."