The XX Factor

Can Sluts Across America Reclaim a Dirty Word?

Will Sluts Across America be able to reclaim the word?

It’s no secret that culture skirmishes can begin and end on the battleground of language. At stake these days is the constellation of terms surrounding reproductive rights. To some, women who utilize birth control are taking responsibility for their health and for the experience of the children they bring into the world. To others, those women are “sluts,” i.e. loose, promiscuous wenches.   

Enlightened men and ladies have spilled a lot of ink trying to kill off the derogatory epithet. But the newborn Sluts Across America project is taking a different tack: Instead of fighting a term that shows few signs of going anywhere—and one that felicitously gives Rush Limbaugh and rap artists something in common—they’re reclaiming it.

The first thing you’ll see on the Sluts Across America website is a map of the world (ok, so the project title is a little misleading) studded with silhouettes of preening naked gals. Each figure represents a visitor to the site who has completed, in fewer than 200 characters, the prompt “I’m a slut because …” Together, the responses create a compelling picture of the myriad reasons people might want to use birth control. They range from the serious (“I am not financially ready to support a child”; “I need to regulate my menstrual cycle”; “I’m HPV positive and don’t want to infect my partner”) to the flip (“I hate kids”) to the sublimely defiant (“I love having sex. I have that right”). Zoom out and you’ll find testimonials from places as varied as Hawaii, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, China, New Zealand, and Argentina.

The project’s mission statement explains further:

“Sluts Across America is the collective voice of the women and men in this country who use or support birth control, and are sick of being judged because of our desire to be responsible and safe about our sexual health. If protecting ourselves makes us sluts, then it’s time to redefine what “slut” actually means.”

The website also provides links to Planned Parenthood, the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, and the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives contact forms.

What do you think? Is it time to retire the word slut once and for all, or is there any value in this effort to salvage it? Let us know in the comments.