Double Standards & Language
When it comes to how and to whom sexual slurs are applied, there has been and continues to be a clear sexual double standard meaning “that there is one set of sexual rules for men and boys, and another,unequal one for women and girls” (Tanenbaum, p. xvii). Linguistically, the slut-shaming double standard can be seen in a variety of ways. One telling way is the frequency of sexual slurs aimed at women versus those aimed at men.
Terms for women who “sleep around” include: fast woman, hussy, doll, inamorata, siren, gypsy, minx, vamp, wench, trollop, coquette, floozy, scrubber, slag, groupie, nympho, whore, tart, loose woman, tramp, harlot and slut.
The relatively small number of terms devoted to male promiscuity reinforces the idea of the double standard referred to previously. The tone of the terms is also entirely different: Casanova, Romeo, and Don Juan, ladies’ man, lady-killer, gigolo, stud, and sugar daddy, womanizer, playboy, and player, obviously do not have the same disparaging overtones as most of the female terms. They instead embody notions of power and conquest.
"Jarvis and Barnett liken language to a virus and apply this
metaphor to slut-shaming, calling “slut” one of many“infected words” that have become contagious and are used to dehumanize”. (Hodge, 2012)
The truth is, words like “slut” are harmful and damaging to the person they are inflicted upon. The consequences of slut shaming can be long lasting and
significant, affecting how one is perceived by others, and how they perceive
“Slut shaming goes beyond that and into the realm of destructive gossip and innuendo and often has real consequences for the girls involved. It's often a girl's first real exposure to gender based double standards. It's illogical and confusing to a girl who's been told she can do anything a boy can do for her whole life until that point…we teach our kids to assume equality and then effectively turn on them as they become teenagers by enforcing repressive, damaging, antiquated and gendered rules like these. Rules that hurt both girls and boys”. (Chemaly, 2011)
We need to question ourselves when we feel the need to place judgement on others for their decisions…challenge the motives behind using the language.