Not sure if you are ready for this post, or if I am, but its been brewing….so here it is.
Over the past twenty years as a psychologist I have worked with and through so much. I have spent my career studying emotion regulation, trauma, eating disorders, and personality disorders (the overlap unmistakable) and I’ve had to sift through far too much stigma and cultural (mis)constructions of people and their behaviours that it gets pretty discouraging at times. The relational trauma and abuse I see over and over again in my clients is profound. One piece of that is the use of language that promotes shame, stigma, and frank misunderstanding.
I need you to know that (or at least think about), in my opinion, there is no such thing as a “slut”. I’ve never met one, known of one, or seen one. I have, however, heard people throw this word around liberally and primarily in reference to women. The term is a derogatory construction used primarily by abusive parties (both men and women) as a tool to shame, bully, harass, and control. The word implies intent or meaning to behaviour (e.g., that the person is amoral, dirty, manipulative, “easy”). But man, is that wrong.
There are maladaptive patterns of behaviour
There are people with very low self-worth
There are people with insecure or anxious or avoidant attachment styles
There are people struggling with emotion regulation
There are people who have histories of childhood sexual abuse
There are people trying to survive abusive relationships
There are people with substance abuse disorders
There are people who have been manipulated and taken advantage of
There are people who don’t have strong interpersonal skills
In my experience, those individuals who get called “sluts” tend to have significant histories of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse, and the tend to struggle with low self-esteem, self-hatred, dissociation, and an inability to regulate emotion.
If you are someone who tends to refer to people in such a manner, please consider how abusive this is, how misinformed it is, and how it prevents people from getting the help and support they need. I have observed people who work in mental health refer to others in this manner and it is utterly shocking.
The way forward for all of us is through non-judgment and to understand the behavioural and emotional underpinnings that drive behaviour. Shame and bullying gets us nowhere.