Slut vs. Stud – the Double-Standard

by | November 22, 2009
filed under Pop Culture

So a couple weeks ago I’m watching one of my favourite shows, Law and Order. The case of a murdered witness is getting really interesting as ADA Connie Rubirosa realizes she might have some incriminating evidence against the defense attorney from the time she used to work with him when he was also a prosecutor.

It turns out that Connie and the defense attorney were more than just co-workers. When her current boss, ADA Cutter finds out, he has this discussion with DA Jack McCoy, aka the greatest womanizing attorney in the show’s history (sorry I couldn’t get video):

Basically Cutter says it’s worse for a woman to sleep with a coworker than a man because of how it “demeans” her and “calls into question everything she’s accomplished”.

So apparently when a woman has sex with a co-worker somewhere Santa Claus or God is looking down, frowning, and putting big red asterisks on her resume.

Although they don’t put it this way, Cutter’s view is in line with the belief that somehow women having sex in certain situations compromises their honour, giving them the label “slut.” By contrast, it’s not as bad when a man does it, which is why guys who sleep with lots of women are called “studs” and can wear it as a badge of pride.

As one particularly disgusting analysis I read of the situation put it, “The difference ultimately comes down to the knife and honey-pot metaphor – you can clean the knife…” The author of this quote argues that he believes men have to work harder to make a “conquest”, whereas women can easily find men to sleep with so if they avail themselves of the opportunity, that’s just gross. If the women he approaches are reading his website I wouldn’t be surprised if some don’t find his views attractive.

This guy isn’t alone. I found quite a few other responses where guys agreed. In my experience there’s a lot of times where it doesn’t work that way, but even when it does, isn’t this whole idea that men have to  “conquer” women just part of the problem?

In addition to being a totally heterosexist categorization (lesbian or gay sex doesn’t factor in at all) the dichotomy between slut/stud makes no sense logically.  Having sex more often isn’t causative other type of negative or immoral behaviour in either gender.  There is no number of sexual partners that makes a woman turn into some kind of evil demon seductress.

As Jessica Valenti, founder of the indispensible blog Feministing.com, points out in her book He’s a Stud, She’s a Slut and 49 Other Double-Standards Women Should Know the role of the slut/stud split is to exercise moral control over women and their bodies.

“Women’s bodies are always the ones that are being vied over for control — whether it’s rape, reproductive rights, or violence against women, it’s our bodies that are the battleground, not men’s,” Valenti points out. She looks at how the slut label is routinely used against women in rape trials to suggest they “asked for it.”

I remember the first time I was called a slut. I was in 8th grade French class and this guy sitting behind me whispered slurs in my ear all class. “Slut”, “whore”,  and “bitch” were some of his favourites. Now it’s never ok to call a girl those names, but I was mystified as much as hurt because I hadn’t even danced with a guy at a school dance, much less slept with one.

But I didn’t speak up because I was afraid someone other than this guy would think there was some truth to it. At age 13 I had already learned how much stigma comes with the slut label.

So next time we think about calling someone a “slut” or a “stud” let’s think about the societal beliefs and behaviours behind the terms. And let’s question whether, in the realm of straight relationships, the dichotomy is really helping anyone.

-Jarrah


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  • mike

    On the surface it seems unfair; in fact I used to side with your view. However in real practice, men pursue women, not the other way around. If women pursued men equally you would have a point. I can guarantee the average women gets asked out far more than the average man. I understand women enjoy sex as much as men, but women hold all the cards, because she is the one who ultimately decides if there’s going to be intercourse. How often do you hear of a women raping a man; my point exactly. It’s considered virtuous for a women to abstain from sex because she can get it much easier than a man; sorry but she can. Also women are attracted to men who are able to sleep with lots of women, because this is difficult to do and it indicates how much they are in demand. Since women are the ones who are solicited more for sex, a man doesn’t look at it as virtuous to give it up to every guy who shows interest; for he could not do the same thing with the same ease. In fact one could argue that it’s as hard for a women to abstain from sex as it is for a man to be a stud and bed a random stranger. It’s hard to be a stud, but it’s easy to be a slut; it’s that simple.

  • jarrahpenguin

    Hi Mike,

    I appreciate the time you took to explain your opinion on the matter. However, I’d argue that casting men as pursuers and women as pursued isn’t inevitable – it’s a social construct and there’s no reason it can’t or shouldn’t change. I also don’t agree that all women find it easy to sleep with multiple men if they choose to do so, or that all women are attracted to men who are able to sleep with lots of women.

    Also, I didn’t talk about this in the article much, but the “slut” label can be used as a tool to shame women in a way that no label does for men. For example, rape victims are accused of being sluts when they’ve flirted with the attacker or been out late or worn skimpy clothing. For more on how the slut label impacts rape culture I recommend this article at Thought Catalog http://thoughtcatalog.com/2011/on-sluts-rape-and-fuckery/

    For more on how the slut label is used to bully girls, regardless of their behaviour or dress, I recommend the book Fast Girls:Teenage Tribes and the Myth of the Slut by Emily White. I was called a slut by kids at my school before I’d even held hands with or kissed another kid, when I was 11 and still wearing kitten sweaters.

    The label slut isn’t about behaviour – it’s about control. It’s about controlling women’s bodies and behaviour. By acting like women shouldn’t be sexual, it prevents women from getting proper sex education and from negotiating safe sex when they do have it.

  • Stinky

    1) How hard is it for an average guy to look like a stud?
    2) How hard is it for an average girl to look like a slut?
    3) Who is expected to pay the dinner bill, the slut or the stud?
    4) Let’s take a scantily clad woman of average or better looks and pretend she rubs up against a guy’s crotch. What will likely happen?
    5) Let’s take a scantily clad man of average or better looks and pretend he rubs up against a woman’s crotch. What will likely happen?
    6) Which sex generally has to pursue, and which sex generally decides who to sleep with?

    Here’s the double standard. The words are more symptomatic than they are the cause of this problem.

    If women want to make change, they have to pursue men as equally often as men pursue women. Then men would have the power of choice that women often have, and if men could merely choose who to sleep with then there would likely become derogatory terms for men of undiscriminating taste in sexual partners.

    At the moment, most men have to try really hard, pursue women, develop thick-skins, good jobs, charm, wit, good-looks, decent physiques, etc. just to get a chance of getting laid (and often not with the woman of their choice). Yet still the ultimate choice of whether to have sex lies with the woman.

    A man going to a club in a thong and flashing and rubbing up on women is more likely to get a lawsuit than a sexual partner. Want to change this so that I can go to a club wearing a thong and have a good chance of getting laid? Please do whatever it takes. I’d happily be called a slut any day.

    As for “slut” being used in a derogatory context and without justification, that’s just the nature of insults really. Guys get called all kinds of things in a purely insulting fashion without proper justification and often from women. That’s just the nature of human cruelty.

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  • booop

    It boils down there to the nature of both sexes.
    also women are envious and hateful of girls that all the guys sleep with so they have made the ‘slut’ label more disgusting. Guys are more respectful of each other.

  • Thomas Chung

    Yes, slut shaming is about control and females use it the most to degrade other competitions so she can get with the guy.

  • Someone

    There are lots of experiments even in youtube. Where 1 guy go to 100 random women and straight up ask for sex and get rejected at 100% success, then they did that with an average looking girl, well boy, the results.

    Thats why being a stud needs a skill and hard work, while any girl can be a slut.

    Secondly its my life my choice i dont care if you are a man or a woman if you had many partners you are disgusting to me, end of story its my choice, you can do w/e you want with your body and fuck 20 people per month, but dont expect me to be restricted of my own preferences, opinion and thoughts.
    Some people are okay with partners who had lots of different ones, while i am not its disgusting and i feel that the person is too easy/dirty to even consider serious relationships and this gives them a really negative score, its not the ending score, but i seriously reconsider if they are attractive to me, end of story.

  • Someone

    There is “faggot” which can be implied even in more disgusting ways than your example with “slut”. You dont go out much – faggot, you dont pursue girls a lot – faggot, you cant get a girl in a club – faggot, you dont have many female friends – faggot, which is the biggest insult to a man, because it directly attacks his masculinity. You are a big hypocrite.

    NOW. Go write in youtube social experiments “a guy asks 100 girls for sex” a guy comes to girl straight up asks for sex how many agreed from 100? 0 then the genders were switched, success rate was more than 90%. They could not keep the experiment going for 100 men, because how hard it was to explain them that they are not going to have sex afterwards.
    Both of them were decently looking.

    Of course if you are greasy extremely overweight woman it will be hard for you to be a slut, but with the same appearance a man does not have ANY CHANCES to get laid EVER, unless he pays prostitutes or magically finds a partner who is interested in him.

  • Thibeinn

    There is no such thing as a “rape culture”. That’s just a lie feminists use in their effort to demonize all men. If there truly was a male rape culture, all men would be raping women. That’s not the case. Also, many more men would be wanted by the authorities for having committed rape and many more men would be in jail/prison for it. That’s also not the case. Only a person totally lacking in intelligence could believe there’s such a thing as a gender-specific “rape culture mentality”.