There’s No Such Thing As Dressing ‘Slutty’


“I can’t wear this. It’s too slutty.”

We’re getting ready to go out for the night. My friend takes a long look at herself in the mirror as she nervously adjusts her dress.

* * *

“I can’t wear this. It’s too slutty.”

I’m pro-slut. Not to suggest that I’ve quite settled the issue of the word’s redeemability—I haven’t. But my hunch is that, if we’re to defuse tyrannical words like “slut,” the groups to which those words typically refer—in this case, women—should consider reappropriating them. At the risk of laboring a well-known point, “reappropriating,” here, is synonymous with “recycling”—recycling hateful, self-referential words to give them positive, empowering vibrations.

If, however, you—disregarding your sex—hatefully call a woman a “slut,” anticipate my discontent.

* * *

“I can’t wear this. It’s too slutty.”

I’m quietly furious. Because I’m over it—I’m over my friends’ flippant use of “slut(ty).” And at the risk of sounding like a self-congratulatory martyr, I’m over firing the same question every time one of my peers uses “slutty” as a (painfully Victorian) metric for clothing: How the hell does woman’s dress signal her status of sexual availability?

It doesn’t.

When I was in high school, a favorite teacher would impart the same piece of advice whenever he assigned an essay: “…And remember, ladies, a good paper will mimic a woman’s skirt—long enough to cover the subject, short enough to keep it interesting.” His counsel borrowed from the famed words of Churchill, who said, “A good speech should be like a woman’s skirt; long enough to cover the subject and short enough to create interest.” Whattaguy.

Neither my friend nor my History teacher is a bad person. And neither is glaringly “sexist.” They’re tolerant. They’re feminists. They’re outwardly progressive people. Both value and define Woman through a lens that captures more than Her biological processes. And still, neither grasps or takes responsibility for the stakes of describing a woman’s dress as “slutty” or equating a good essay to a good woman (a good woman, of course, dons a skirt that deftly negotiates respectability and sex appeal—a good woman dresses sexy, not slutty).

So here they are—the stakes. When you scan a woman’s outfit and mindlessly deem it “slutty,” you endorse every sexually aggressive, vile gesture directed toward that woman’s body in that outfit. You imply that because she’s dressed “slutty”—because her clothes broadcast her womanhood too loudly—she provokes that slap on the ass, that conspicuous up-down followed by that nauseating lick of the lips, that derisive catcall. She deserves it. She should’ve seen it coming. If she didn’t want to be objectified, she shouldn’t have fashioned herself as an object. If she didn’t want to be treated like a slut, she shouldn’t have dressed like one.

* * *

“I can’t wear this. It’s too slutty.”

I wore a uniform for the first 15 years of my education. That uniform evolved as I moved through lower, middle, and upper schools: a pinafore, a gray kilt, a green kilt. And since *school girls* are always sexy, the uniform was always sexy—it always showcased my legs. It always left me vulnerable to the pedophiliac aggressions of old men with raging hard-ons for *school girls.* And my classmates and I were always told how to wear it appropriately: it was never to fall more than “three fingers” from our knees. We were never to look “slutty” in it, even when we were far too young to be sluts.

It’s taken me years, see, to arrive at the conclusion I now live:

I may be a slut. Power to me if I am. But I am no more sexually available—I am no sluttier—in my shortest skirt than I am in my baggiest sweats.

So back the fuck off. TC mark


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