Q & A with MATT POSNER — HOW ARE GIRLS JUDGED?

WHEN IS A GIRL A SLUT?

I ‘m discussing the word “slut” in here (it doesn’t appear in my writing for Teen Guide) because it is one of the most common terms thrown around by teenagers these days.  The term slut is very old, going back at least as far as Shakespeare’s time, when it originally just meant “young girl.” Now it means “a girl who isn’t picky about sexual partners.” And it is a common insult word just used to make girls feel bad. In fact, it’s pretty common to claim a girl is sexually active when she isn’t, just to hurt her feelings. It’s so common, in fact, that you might as well apply the standard of the U.S. courts to any girl accused. Slut? Innocent until proven guilty.

I don’t think the issue in being picky about sexual partners is a moral issue. I think it’s a health issue. Physical health is endangered by multiple sexual partners for two reasons. One is the significant risk of sexually transmitted disease. The other is the significant risk of pregnancy, even with the pill (if you forget to take it) or condoms (they sometimes break).  Emotional health is endangered by worsening the feelings of low-self esteem or loneliness that usually cause a girl to seek out sex without love. I would recommend counseling or a doctor’s help for a girl in that situation.

So my answer to “when is a girl a slut?” is really — NEVER. It’s a nasty expression, and I would never apply it to a young person. I might apply it to an adult woman who used sex to destroy people’s lives, breaking up relationships or marriages to serve her own interests, but I don’t think the word should be used for girls. My reasons can be summarized as follows.

First — most girls to whom the term is applied have not done anything sexual.

Second — a girl who has sex in an unhealthy way is to be pitied, and helped, rather than treated cruelly.

IF A GIRL DRESSES SEXY, DOES THAT MEAN SHE IS LOOKING FOR SEX?

I can’t get into the minds of girls, but I’d have to say that varies. Girls like to wear the latest fashions, and often, the fashion industry encourages sexy looks for teenage girls, and even for tweens (horrifying most adults like me). Girls embrace the sexy clothes because they want to feel grown up, to  fit in, or to feel different from their parents. I would say that a girl who dresses in sexy clothes is probably not looking for sex most of the time. She is more likely trying to send a signal to other girls that she is fashionable, can afford sexy designer clothes, or is grown up. (She may also be dressing like her mother — at least, I see that in Brooklyn a lot.)  Whatever her intentions, boys are likely to think she is looking for sex, and they will tend to treat her differently because of it.  Boys, the girl who is best for you is the one you can talk to, whatever she is wearing.

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