SLUT

By Maureen Dempsey, RNC-OB

Just what exactly is a slut?  According to Rush Limbaugh, because Sandra Fluke thinks that all insurance providers – even those with a religious objection – should provide coverage for contraception, she is a slut.  “She wants us to pay her for having sex,” Mr. Limbaugh claimed, “what does that make her?  A slut, right?  A prostitute.”  To Mr. Limbaugh the word slut signifies a bad woman – a woman with no value.  And sexual activity is the criterion that Mr. Limbaugh is using to determine value.  Does she have sex? Yes?  Then she is bad.  No sex?  Then she is good.  

The word slut has always signified a woman of low value in the English language.  However, the definition has narrowed over the years.  The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is a massive etymological work that not only defines words, but also provides examples of early uses of words.  The OED defines slut in two distinct ways: “as a woman of dirty, slovenly, or untidy habits or appearance,” or “a woman of a low or loose character; a hussy.”Historically, a woman could be judged a slut by either her untidiness or her sexuality. Both definitions of the word slut – untidy woman or sexual woman – imply a system in which a woman’s worth is determined by her potential value (either as a housekeeper or as a wife) to a man.  

When a man uses the word slut, he is evoking a world in which women are not full citizens.  He is declaring his power. He is demarcating his territory.  He is asserting that he has the privilege to determine the worth of that woman.  Why is Mr. Limbaugh so threatened by Sandra Fluke that he must publicly disparage her?  Because prescription contraception shifts the power away from men by temporally moving the decision to use birth control away from the sex act.  This is important because when the use of birth control has to be negotiated at the moment just before the sex act, the likelihood that it will be used goes down. 

The use of a condom requires a man’s consent.  Women can use prescription contraception without a man’s consent.  This simple fact is at the heart of the current hullabaloo over contraception.  It is the real reason that no women were allowed to testify in the congressional hearing on birth control.  It also inspired the attempt to require a trans-vaginal ultrasound before abortion.  

In the last few weeks, the question of contraception coverage has been portrayed as a religious issue, a financial issue, and a moral issue.  But the real issues here are power and impotence.

Filed Under: FeaturedMaureen DempseyViews, News, & IssuesWomen

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