What Makes Someone A “Slut”?

We watched the Anna Faris movie What’s Your Number? last night. It’s a pretty hip movie in that it way more accurately depicts aspects of 20-somethingness than typical Hollywood. I’ve never seen a movie before wherein the main female acknowledges that she likes to have sex but feels societal pressure to maintain some semblance of virginal femininity.

The basic premise of the movie is that Anna reads an article about women who sleep around which claims that women with 20 or more partners can never get married. Because she’s enjoyed dating and sex, she’s already hit that number and therefore decides to hunt down her exes so she can date people and try to get married without adding to her number. In a “twist ending” her friends initially disapprove of her love interest because “he’s the kind of guy you sleep with, not marry.”

It got me thinking — and I’m really the last person to say this — but the stereotype is two-sided. For instance I can’t imagine not dissuading one of my friends from seriously dating a bartender or waiter because categorically, they’re really, really slutty. But aren’t we past that sex-shaming stuff? At what point is someone’s enthusiasm for sex and dating none of your business and when is it something you should take under consideration?

So when does sexual behavior give you valuable information about someone? Never? Surely that’s going too far. If someone tells you they’ve had sex with hundreds of people, there are things you can reasonably deduce. The question isn’t whether this says something about the person, it’s what it says and whether it makes them unworthy of dating. If someone has only slept with a few people, they’ve probably been in a bunch of two-year-long relationships that kept them from sleeping around.

I get worried about dating people who are serial monogamists because I feel kind of gross about how they need someone in their life and it could be me or it could be the next girl but it doesn’t matter so long as it’s a warm body. At its core this is a problem about worrying about someone’s emotional authenticity, not being concerned about their lasciviousness. By the same principle, if someone told me they’d slept with tons of people at the very beginning of a relationship I’d be concerned they were just into the chase and wanted to hit it and quit it. Neither of these things, if proven wrong through getting to know someone would affect how I feel about their value as a partner. So maybe it’s not the number, it’s the attitude. TC mark

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  • Courtney

    The word “slut” should be eradicated altogether.  Whatever a woman does or doesn’t do in the privacy of her own sex life is no one else’s business but her own.  There shouldn’t be a word out there to shame her for it.

    • guest

      least favorite word ever

    • Dananay

       Or we could just make the term non-gender specific and apply it equally to men…

      • Beea_73

         or just use the man whore term.

      • yknot

        “man whore” implies that “whore” is inherently female.  Having to qualify “whore” with “man” suggests that when a man is a whore, he’s a modified version/not the Norm, but when a woman is a whore, she just is–
        It’s not a male term, it’s just calling attention to the fact that all these words: slut, whore, etc. are primarily associated with women, which I think illustrates perfectly the fact that the stereotype is NOT two-sided.  So long as you’re calling that bartender a “man whore,” you’re continuing to use a word that will always be a shaming word for female sexuality.

    • Hey

      or we could keep it cuz it is never going to go away and put it in the category of the “n” word. those are POWERFUL words. we need to keep those forever!!!!! it says something about the history of humans. we cant forget out past! 

    • Anonymous

      “Whatever a woman does or doesn’t do in the privacy of her own sex life is no one else’s business but her own.”

      It absolutely is the business of others. Society has the prerogative to determine its ideals – sexual or otherwise. If an individual degrades his or herself, society has the right to deter such behavior in order enforce a collective morality (in the non-religious sense).

      However, it definitely should be applied to both genders. In anything, it should be applied more stringently to men in order to eliminate the notion that a man with many partners is somehow of greater value.

  • http://eugeneelder.blogspot.com/ Donald Eugene Elder

    I appreciate your candor, but your thinking has a long way to go. This is sort of “Friends”-era 1990s.

    • Guest

      then why didnt you elaborate? what happens if that was intentional? 

  • Anonymous

    Oh.  This had other places to go but ended so quickly. 

  • Anonymous

    I think it’s sad that monogamy has such a negative connotation. There is such a thing as being happy with the same person for 60 years. I’ve seen it happen. Our generation is so fickle and politically correct and distracted and shallow that now monogamy is like some rare genetic anomaly. 

    • jess

      it’s not so much about monogamy as it is about the fact that a serial monogamist–as in someone who’s been monogamous with multiple people–is more likely to settle. A serial monogamist merely wants someone to come home to as opposed to someone really special.

      • Guest

        Being a serial monogamist doesn’t mean “you merely want someone to come home to as opposed to someone really special.”  I feel like the author’s statement about monogamists just wanting any warm body is pretty unbased. There are plenty of non-monogamous people who sleep around because they just want a warm body to lie next to.  Being with one certain individual for an extended period of time doesn’t translate into or equate settling for less. A monogamist can find their one “special” person to be with just as someone sleeping with several people can find their one “special” person to be with. 

      • Beea_73

         i completely agree with you. and im sure there s many out there that think like you.  i always think about promiscuous people that they have a higher chance of cheating after they get married and after the honeymoon  bliss is over. and you know why?? because i ve seen it too many times. and yeah, this may be a generalization but i ve seen it happen too many times and i cant ignore it. this is the truth my friends. the ugly truth.

      • Anonymous

         I read an article recently that discussed how infidelity is a growing problem among the Millennial generation. The primary theory put forth was that a higher number number of sexual partners played a large role. It seems completely plausible: a promiscuous individual will tend to view sexual relations as “just sex,” thus lowering any inhibitions regarding infidelity. After all, why should my partner be all that upset if it is “just sex”? It will probably still be seen as a wrong against the relationship – just not as egregious as it was in previous generations. As such, with the reduced stigma of promiscuity, infidelity will rise.  

      • Anonymous

        but the negative thing about a ‘serial monogamist’ is not the monogamy part…it’s the serial part. no question that there are people who feel the need to be in relationships at all times – but I would certainly not call them monogamists (that would make no sense…by definition a monogamist stays in relationship with 1 person for the most part) — I would call them the more accurate and less polarizing term — codependent. 

        I just take issue with equating all monogamists with individuals who are poorly adjusted and codependent.

    • Anonymous

      how is our generation too “politically correct” and “fickle” by moving away from monogamy? as far as love goes, it doesn’t really get much more PC

  • http://thefirstchurchofmutterhals.blogspot.com/ mutterhals

    I feel like promiscuity is problematic when you’re behaving that way to get love or acceptance. If you’re doing it just because you like doing it then it’s really no big deal.

  • bex

    I’m a 22 year old girl and I’ve had sex with three people but been in relationships with none of them, so that’s possible too. But one of my friends has had sex with 12 people and been in relationships with 3 or 4 of those people. I don’t consider her a slut at all, I envy her for being comfortable enough to go for it every time! 

    Everybody/every situation is different and in most cases I don’t think sex number tells you anything useful, it just becomes a platform for people to judge you for either being “too slutty” or not slutty enough. Can’t win either way.

  • victoria

    Judging a person by their number is ignoring the fact that human beings can mature and change. Disregard the “maybe” and the last sentence is gold.

    • http://twitter.com/emilcDC Emil Caillaux

      Agree. In principle, I try to never judge people, but I’m always going to look more favorably on a person who has sex with someone because it means something to them over the person who just throws it around to try to compensate for some alleged shortcoming.

      • victoria

        I suppose I’m referring more to past actions. I believe that if a woman has slept with a lot of men, with feelings/relationships involved or not, but has since learned from that and sees more value in limiting her sexual encounters in the present and future, she should not be written off and labelled a slut. It is close-minded, not to mention completely unfair to those women who have actively chosen to change.

      • victoria

        And I mean women written off and labelled a slut based on their “number”. 

      • http://twitter.com/emilcDC Emil Caillaux

        I gotcha. I don’t think the number matters at all – it’s entirely the attitude they’ve had while that number was climbing (or not).

  • http://www.facebook.com/grc15r Gregory Costa

    Three questions that I’ve always pondered over:  1.   What Is the Biological Basis of Consciousness?  2.  Will Malthus Continue to Be Wrong?  3.  What Makes Someone a Slut?  Thank you for trimming down that list.  

    • SuzyMcL

      lol @ #2

  • Sex is awesome

    I like that you said “sex shaming” instead of “slut shaming”. Because it is really just making people feel ashamed about sex. Slut shaming also extends into women who dress provocatively, but often times these girls don’t even have a lot of sex. But somehow people think it does? Can we just stop being so sex-negative all the time? Like, omg, there was a boob on television. Or, omg, a woman was breast feeding in public. Why do things that make you think about sex have to be so terrible?

    • Anonymous

       It’s not about being sex negative. It’s about having a sense of propriety in public circumstances. It’s about good manners more than anything.

  • Nishant

    I wonder if political-correctness will one day be the world’s biggest censor of thoughts and realizations. Yes, this is a little off the topic.

    • beatrice

      Only a little. Being politically correct is a pipe dream, a farce covering opinions and the actual truth

  • Merrdujapon

    By FAR the worst thought catalog article I have ever read.

  • Camron

    nothing makes someone a slut

    yes we’re past that sex-shaming stuff

    how the fuck old are you that you’re just now starting to come to these realizations

    • wel,

      I don’t believe we really are past the sex-shaming to be honest..

  • guest

    why would you give away the ending?

    • http://twitter.com/xsssy xsssy

       It’s a formulaic romcom, it didn’t occur to me that someone would find the ending not immediately obvious from the beginning- but genuinely sorry about the spoiler!

  • Samuel Beckett

    But is it true love in the rectum? That’s what bothers me sometime.

  • AD

    I seem to be in the extreme minority here, but I honestly can say (as a 21 year old male) that I disagree with the general consensus of this article. That’s not to say I dislike people who’ve slept with more people than me or look down on people who agree with this article’s position, but I definitely would say I view large numbers of sex partners as a negative thing about someone. And yes, that includes not just female friends, but my male friends too–even some of my best friends. 

    Maybe holding this position on the matter makes me a weirdo in many TC readers’/contributors’ eyes, but it’s just a facet of my personality and what I’m comfortable with in my life.

    Oh and just a couple disclaimers here: I’m not at all religious, so that’s not why I feel this way and yes, I have tried the fool around carelessly thing twice and both times I can truthfully say I didn’t enjoy it.

    • Anonymous

      Ah, the good old “I tried it and didn’t like it.” That’s always firm ground to stand on when categorically denouncing other viewpoints/lifestyles.

  • Lo

    I’m not placing someone’s worth on their sexual activity when I call someone a slut. I am calling them a slut because they are placing their own worth on their sexual activity, and I think that is pathetic. There are two kinds of people I consider a slut, and if you do not fit this list, I do not care how promiscuous and sex-loving you are.

    1. People who use sex manipulatively. People who use their sex appeal to get what they want, people who rub up on someone their friend has expressed interest in just to prove they can “get anyone,” people who thrive off attention from the opposite sex and then act like they don’t like it.

    2. People who fuck with other peoples’ relationships.

    I reserve my right to think someone is a slut. The word is not meant to be nice. 

  • 1g5145kjh13lkg

    5 paragraphs and no mention of stretched out pussy

    SMH LOL

    y’all keep fuckin wit sluts LLS

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