He’s a Stud, She’s a slut.

Gender based prejudice is so socially ingrained into us, even the best of us don’t realise we are part of the problem. I learnt recently of a comment made by a friend, upon learning that I had slept with a co-worker, the third in a year.
I bet I’ve already baited some of you into proving my point. Three? In a year? Slut? Depends on your definition. To me, words like slut and slag are socially engineered (made up) words designed to hold women to different standards than men.
‘Wow, she’s working her way through’.
This comment, though no doubt made in passing, without realisation that I’d ever hear about it, is a perfect example.
And I suppose it’s fair enough. But how many women would a guy my age, or thereabouts, have to sleep with to earn the same comments, and the same judgement.
It infuriates me that people view sex as a characteristic of someone’s personality and not just a physical act. Previous comments include: ‘Wow, I didn’t realise you were that kind of girl…’
Didn’t realise what though? That I have a vagina or that I sometimes like to use it. Am I really a different person, in your eyes, because I like to have casual sex sometimes? Or worse ‘You’ve changed’. No. I haven’t changed. You made an assumption about me that proved incorrect, and now you’re punishing me because the truth doesn’t fit with your preconceived perception of me. I haven’t been deliberately hiding a secret side of my personality, I just don’t broadcast my private life. Because it is that, private.

I’ve realised that when I write for this blog, I often fall into the trap of hiding my emotions behind fancy vocabulary and contentious arguments. A method of self protection, probably. But the truth is, when I heard those comments about me, I felt really bad. I felt like I had failed. I felt dirty. I felt like a fuck-up that no one decent would ever want. I felt shit, basically.

I’m not ashamed of anything that I have done, sexually or otherwise. And shaving my head has definitely forced me to care less and less about what other people think of me. But I am a human being. I have feelings and emotions; I’m soft in the middle and my blood runs red. When you make that offhand remark I laugh along with you, because I’m one of the crew, she can take a joke that one, she knows it’s only banter. It’s true, I know you don’t say these things with malice. But it doesn’t stop them hurting.
If you’ve made a comment like that to me, or about me, chances are I’ve probably cried over it.

Make no mistake, this is not a ‘male problem’. Often, women are just as quick to judge other women. The trouble is, until you are on the receiving end, no one tells you how rotten it feels to be besmirched.

And I know I’m not the only affronted party. The last thing I want is to be non-inclusive, or to portray myself as the innocent martyr. I’m sure I have perpetrated comments of an equally harmful nature. I confess, as a teenager I used phrases such as ‘man up’ and ‘that’s so gay’, not realising what a harmful rhetoric this was. I understand that these thoughts and phrases are so latently interwoven into our vocabulary and our ideology, that they seem okay. But they’re not. Suicide is the single biggest killer in the UK of men under 45. In 2018, 84 men took their own lives per week. Considering how taboo the discussion of mental health is amongst males, imagine what the remark ‘man up’ could do to a bloke on the brink of mental collapse.

I accept to an extent that we are socially programmed to think the way we do. That decades –centuries– of double standards and unrealistic gender expectations are, in part, to blame. The sad truth is that this is the world and the society we live in. But we do have the power to change this. And we must.
I saw a glittering, shining light, at the end of the tunnel the other day. I was exchanging views with a friend at work, and he suddenly said to me: ‘Babe, I’ve no idea how many girls I’ve slept with, and do you think i ever ask a girl that question? It’s not important to me.’ I didn’t realise how much I needed to hear those words until he said them. But I did. I needed to know that people like him exist.
In my heart of hearts I know that it’s nobody’s business how many people I sleep with or don’t sleep with. But I want the world to know that too. I want to live a life where I am judged on the content of my character and not the intimate details of my private life. So, please, the next time you open your mouth to make a comment, or a joke pertaining to this: think about what you’re saying, think about the wider repercussions of your words. That is all I ask of you.

Love,

The BuzzGirl

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