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Slut vs. Stud – the Double-Standard November 22, 2009

Posted by Jarrah H in feminism, Pop Culture, Random.
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So a couple weeks ago I’m watching one of my favourite shows, Law and Order. The case of a murdered witness is getting really interesting as ADA Connie Rubirosa realizes she might have some incriminating evidence against the defense attorney from the time she used to work with him when he was also a prosecutor.

It turns out that Connie and the defense attorney were more than just co-workers. When her current boss, ADA Cutter finds out, he has this discussion with DA Jack McCoy, aka the greatest womanizing attorney in the show’s history (sorry I couldn’t get video):

Yeah, basically Cutter says it’s worse for a woman to sleep with a coworker than a man because of how it “demeans” her and “calls into question everything she’s accomplished”.

Yeah, apparently when a woman has sex with a co-worker somewhere Santa Claus or God is looking down, frowning, and putting big red asterisks on her resume.

Although they don’t put it this way, Cutter’s view is in line with the belief that somehow women having sex in certain situations compromises their honour, giving them the label “slut.” By contrast, it’s not as bad when a man does it, which is why guys who sleep with lots of women are called “studs” and can wear it as a badge of pride.

As one particularly disgusting analysis I read of the situation put it, “The difference ultimately comes down to the knife and honey-pot metaphor – you can clean the knife…” The author of this quote argues that he believes men have to work harder to make a “conquest”, whereas women can easily find men to sleep with so if they avail themselves of the opportunity, that’s just gross. I have to say if the women he approaches are reading his website, I’m not confused about why he has to work so hard to get one to have sex with him.

Ok, that was a cheap shot. But this guy isn’t alone. I found quite a few other responses where guys agreed. In my experience there’s a lot of times where it doesn’t work that way, but even when it does, isn’t this whole idea that men have to  “conquer” women just part of the problem?

In addition to being a totally heterosexist categorization (lesbian or gay sex doesn’t factor in at all) the dichotomy between slut/stud makes no sense logically.  Having sex more often isn’t causative other type of negative or immoral behaviour in either gender.  There is no number of sexual partners that makes a woman automatically turn into some kind of evil demon seductress.

As Jessica Valenti, founder of the indispensible blog Feministing.com, points out in her book He’s a Stud, She’s a Slut and 49 Other Double-Standards Women Should Know the role of the slut/stud split is to exercise moral control over women and their bodies.

“Women’s bodies are always the ones that are being vied over for control — whether it’s rape, reproductive rights, or violence against women, it’s our bodies that are the battleground, not men’s,” Valenti points out. She looks at how the slut label is routinely used against women in rape trials to suggest they “asked for it.”

I remember the first time I was called a slut. I was in 8th grade French class and this guy sitting behind me whispered slurs in my ear all class. “Slut”, “whore”,  and “bitch” were some of his favourites. Now it’s never ok to call a girl those names, but I was mystified as much as hurt because Ihadn’t even danced with a guy at a school dance, much less slept with one.

But I didn’t speak up because I was afraid someone other than this guy would think there was some truth to it. At age 13 I had already learned how much stigma comes with the slut label.

So next time we think about calling someone a “slut” or a “stud” let’s think about the societal beliefs and behaviours behind the terms. And let’s question whether, in the realm of straight relationships, the dichotomy is really helping anyone.


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