When will the "slut" meme die?

// 9 December 2007

Girls are now more interested in appearing sexy than intelligent, argues a new book by Carol Platt Liebau.

As reported in the Observer today, the book sets out very sensibly that “popular culture is undermining girls’ sense of worth in their most vulnerable, formative years and glorifying destructive behaviour”.

Unfortunately, Platt Liebau then proves why her book is called ‘Prude’. Check out the evidence:

The new female imperative is that it is only through promiscuity and sexual aggression that girls can achieve admiration and recognition.

In a culture that celebrates Paris Hilton, thong underwear and songs like “My Humps” – where the female singer expounds the sexual magnetism of her breasts and buttocks – there’s scant recognition or respect for female modesty or achievement that isn’t coupled with sex appeal

Regular readers will already know that I’d happily excise the words “promiscuity” and “slut” from, if not the dictionary, at least general usage. This is not an either-or situation, with a return to ‘female modesty’ (AKA chastising women and girls for exhibiting sexual desire – note the lack of attention paid to male modesty) on the one side, and thinking being sexy is the be-all and end-all on the other.

The point, surely, is to be able to criticise how popular culture reduces women and girls to sexual objects, while simultaneously criticising them when they exhibit sexual agency.

Criticisms of the reductive trend in our culture which values women solely on the grounds of sexual attractiveness must be framed by an understanding that women should not be judged, or told they are being ‘aggressive’, when they show any signs of being sexual. Indeed, there is a strong argument that being sexually confident is a really good thing, because confident girls and women are more likely to be able to enter into sex and relationships on their own terms.

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