Licentiate Column 16/08/12: Clothes Maketh Not The Slut

You can’t go out looking like that. Why not? Well, someone might get the wrong idea. Your dress is too short. Your breasts are heaved out on display. That’s far too tight. Someone might think you’re a slut.

Slut. It’s such a short word, but it’s loaded with centuries of baseless shame, guilt and contravention against pure, virtuous, womanhood (not something we ever asked for, by the way). I personally don’t hate the word, but I do hate the way that women use it against each other. We should be taking it back, using it as a term of endearment and introducing new friends to our parents with, “Mom, Dad, this is my slut Eadaoin”. Not an eyelid should be batted.

A few weeks ago, a man mistook me for a prostitute. I ended up writing a column about it. The Cliffs notes version is this: I was outside my local post office on a Wednesday afternoon, wearing my black jeans with the dried in salsa stains, when a man a man with the beefiest forearms I have ever seen pulled up in a white van and suggested that we go to a b’n’b for a bit of hardcore action. I declined, just in case you were curious.

I’m still perplexed as to why he thought I was a hooker. Was it the grotty trainers? The scraped back bun? The Specsavers granddad-style frames? One of my co-workers theorised that I must have looked like a I really needed the money (thanks a bunch for that vote of confidence, by the way). And here I was worrying if the stain on my trousers made me look a bit slatternly, which is the poor cousin to the slut.

For all my potential punter knew, I could have been a slut. I really could. Maybe he’s ahead of the White Van Man curve. Maybe this man knew what, in our hearts, everyone should really know – what you wear no longer has anything to do with your sex life.

Last week, while out at a themed club night in Cork City with a friend, I spotted a group of girls dressed in tiny tops, hot pants and all the trademarks of a Zoo Magazine Roadshow. One girl was wearing a micro-mini, strapless black dress, stockings and suspenders, a detachable shirt collar and a pair of Playboy bunny ears. She had matching tattoos on the backs of her thighs. All I could think about that outfit was, “Well, THAT’S not the most historically accurate costume for a 1960’s night. Good effort though”.

She was having good, clean fun with her friends. She wasn’t behaving like a slut – no screaming about how much she loves multiple, unsheathed penises, no soliciting men for money, no fervent hope expressed that a sex tape (or some bodily fluids) would soon be leaked. None of the group behaved like that.

She didn’t look like a nun – but why should we care? It’s none of our business. It’s hers and hers alone. Clothes will always be signifiers of self-expression. However, the word ‘slut’ will not always be a bad thing – so maybe we should stop using a person’s wardrobe choices to evaluate who is and isn’t one, ok?

 

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One thought on “Licentiate Column 16/08/12: Clothes Maketh Not The Slut

  1. I’m a bit late replying to this but I just had to comment and say how much I agree with what you’re saying. It amazes me how casually people describe each other as ‘sluts’ and ‘whores’ and how easily it has become a part of modern slang, especially when you think (as you mentioned above) how loaded these words are. I think people are too quick to label each other and that unfortunately a lot of those labels are derogatory. I think that this is a small part of a wider problem in society and that it feeds into a very sexualised culture with a very low view of women. It’s quite a topical issue now with the whole Slutwalk movement as well as the recent trial of Anthony Lyons here and the Assange saga in the UK.

    And also I’d just like to say that White Van Man was projecting his own views and opinions onto you and that you should remember that. It’s a sad fact that no matter how we present ourselves to others some people will only see us in a very narrow or in this case a completely opposing view to our personality and nothing we do can change that. For whatever reason he thought you were a prostitute it says a lot more about him than it does about you. Try not to take it to heart.

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