Of slutty, loose and characterless women

Suddenly, everyone is going gaga about “SlutWalk”. What began in Toronto is having repercussions all over the world now. Back home, the Walk is soon to occur in New Delhi, somewhere in mid-July (most likely to be postponed further). There are talk shows on it that boast of some very popular celebrities as panelists, there are newspaper reports, analysis and fiercely opinionated articles trying to gauge the success and failure of such a concept in a culture-obsessive country like India. And there is a sudden need, urge and necessity to now know the exact definition of the word ‘slut.’

So, I began looking at all these in the past couple of days.

It would be unfair of me to comment on the talks shows as I haven’t watched one entirely yet. But from what I’ve gathered from friends, it seems to be a farce. More so, because the discussion/debate (if any) is being conducted among upper middle class and elite sections of society trying to figure out the “dress code” for this much-awaited melodrama, if I may take the liberty to call it the same.

I have read at least 6-7 articles and opinions published in various newspapers, magazines and websites written by experts, columnists, social workers and ‘feminists’ who, again, voice a similar concern, that foregrounds the complex case of India, riddled with the politics of caste, class and culture. Most voice the same thought: that the idea is commendable and that its success in the Indian context is based on the only-time-will-tell theory.

Let’s get back to the exact definition and meaning of the word ‘slut’. While the word has been categorized as too elite and sophisticated for Indian usage, options like ‘besharmi’ (Hindi word for shameless) are being suggested. So long as the irony comes out, it doesn’t really make a difference, I guess.

But, to think of it, how does the dictionary define the word slut? The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘slut’ as follows:

Slut noun disapproving* a woman who has many sexual partners, or who is untidy and lazy

*meant to convey a low opinion or to insult someone

In short, a woman who sleeps with more than one person (for whatever reasons) is a slut. I guess we could also possibly conclude that the only difference between a slut and a prostitute would be that the latter is paid, while a slut is not.

The other half of the definition says: “untidy and lazy.” That is akin to the usage of the word “bitch”, which means a female dog and is also used to refer to an annoying, irritating woman.

Thus, so far, it’s clear that I would be a slut if I’m sleeping with multiple partners and there is complete knowledge and awareness of the public about it. Fair enough. So, if my partner(s) and I are mutually consensual with it, what is the problem here, really? (as long as we use protection and don’t catch Human immunodefficiency Virus during intercourse?)

Curiosity got the better of me and I looked at the meaning as defined in the most checked, and sadly relied upon, source: Wikipedia.

Wikipedia describes how the usage dates back to Chaucer’s time (14th Century)—a period when women were entirely dependent on men for everything, their space was confined to the domestic sphere and they had no will, choice or voice. Tragically, such is the state of affairs even today in many parts of the world.

The online knowledge-hub states that the accepted denotative meaning of slut is as follows:

“A sexually promiscuous woman” or “a woman of a low or loose character; a bold or impudent girl; a hussy, jade.”[5] These definitions identify a slut as a person of low character — a person who lacks the ability or chooses not to exercise a power of discernment to order their affairs, such as a cad, rake, or womanizer.”

Herein begins the problem. Whatever may be the sexual history of the woman in question; if she is a slut, she has already been judged morally by society. Words like ‘loose’ ‘promiscuous’ and ‘impudent’ are adjectives that imply moral connotations. Thus, if I’m a slut, I am a woman sans common sense, basic demands of propriety and decorum and, possibly, characterless. It is to be noted that the argument of pleasure or satisfaction (if any) involved with the concept of sleeping with multiple partners runs nowhere, here. If I’m sleeping around with more than one partner, I’m already disregarded and dismissed as unfit for a society of ‘civilized’ people.

In the context of this learning and understanding of the word slut, let’s picture the SlutWalk in New Delhi, India.

Firstly, most agree that the “rape capital of India” is the most appropriate city for such a protest march. Having lived in the capital for three years, I have never really managed to convince myself of this definition. While there may be statistical evidence that prove that the number of cases of rape, sexual assault and molestation in Delhi are the highest in the country, it is essential to note that most of such cases often go unreported and, hence, do not have any record of them having even occurred in the first place. A Dalit girl may be raped in the afternoon sun on a Sunday in Muzaffarnagar and no one may even know about it. Do we have any evidence that this happened, except the girl probably screamed and cried recalling the trauma at a police station that didn’t give a damn to file the case? Then, what really is the basis of such a comparison?

Second, the “dress code” is widely being debated upon. Since it’s a slut walk, many upper class women are considering dressing up in a “slutty” manner (heaven knows what that means!). Ideally, a protest march that aims to hit back at the classic rapist defence of but-oh-she-was-dressed-provocatively should allow women to dress as freely as they can. That whatever you wear, you do not give any one to attack/molest/assault you is an argument that stands nullified when people discuss any sort of dress code.

Third, there is widespread talk about its limitations and the extent of its success.

I don’t know if the walk will be a success.

All I know is that I don’t stay in Delhi anymore and I still undergo the same trauma of being the victim of the male gaze when in public.

I endure roadside comments, irrespective of what I wear and how I dress up.

I hear whistles, regardless of the number of sexual partners I have.

Maybe I’m “loose.” Or even lack “character.” Frankly, I’d care more if the perpetrator is penalized accordingly, than people judging me on the number of partners I sleep with or the amount of cleavage I show while walking down the road.


14 thoughts on “Of slutty, loose and characterless women

  1. Well! To start off with, it’s really worth a read. (Especially the End) I don’t understand why are people giving so much importance to the name of the event and not the cause!

    In one of the articles, I read, “Many tribal women, by tradition and poverty, are bare breasted and generally under dressed. Do their men use that as an excuse to pounce on them?”

    These men, who don’t have a word called ‘Self – Control’ in their lives, want to fulfill their sexual urge and blame it all on women…

    It’s high time people realize it now.

    Awesome Blog…! Keep writing…!

      • Here i would like to make a point that yes one cant justify at all that if a women dresses provocatively then a man has the right to rape her but i still feel that it will be much better for us as a society that both men and women dress up sensibly and not evoke animal instincts in the opposite sex. Is there any harm dressing up sensibly. If men can cover their whole body then why women can’t? Is undressing oneself in public is the only criteria of women liberalization or modernization? I think its the reverse. Women are now more looked up as sexual objects than in previous times. Am not saying that this is all because of the way women have westernized their dressing sense or all the fault lies with them but yes it has been quiet a major influence on the sad state of affairs that we have today plus i also think that there is some westernized lobby which is sponsoring all this characterlessness in the Indian society. One should focus more on building one’s charater(both men and women) rather than debate on dressing sense.

  2. Thank you for a good read. You have very gracefully steered away from I-am-a-ranting-feminist and achieved a nicely proportioned opinion. At the risk of sounding politically correct I agree that ‘men’ need ‘self-control’.

    It was fun laughing with you at the irony of a hidebound-by-culture dress code forming a lovely paradox with an act singularly meant to rend culture’s hypocritical fabric.

    • That I have gracefully managed to steer clear of I-am-a-ranting-feminist inevitably appears to be yet another paradox in a desperate attempt to shun the oft assumed stereotypical image.
      Glad you enjoyed reading my post.
      Cheers! : )

  3. As always, I thoroughly enjoy reading anything you have to say.

    I follow the Facebook pages for SlutWalk Delhi quite regularly. In fact, my Google Alert for this subject churns out scores of pages everyday. I am amazed too that a ‘dressed code’ is being discussed. Probably, people there feel pressured to match up to the Western counterparts who wear bras and bustiers for these protests. Though women here did excitedly plan out their attire and their placards, there was no mandate saying women should appear for the march in “slutty” clothes. I fully support the purpose and intent of SlutWalks. But I am deeply concerned about the one planned in Delhi. Sadly, I think it’s a case of poor leadership on the part of the organizers. The FB pages are chaotic, filled with misogynistic and sleazy comments. Extensive debates are not moderated or guided. So much so that every person is confused about the whole march, its purpose and its probable outcome. Basically, it has been derailed and got out of hand. A controversial protest like this needs active involvement and constant communication to streamline discussions. I don’t see this happening and that’s pretty sad.

    Coming back to what you said: “Frankly, I’d care more if the perpetrator is penalized accordingly, than people judging me on the number of partners I sleep with or the amount of cleavage I showed while walking down the road.”

    It needs to be added that in the prevailing ‘rape culture’ of our society, the victim’s reputation has a direct link to whether the rape perpetrator will be punished or not. If she is a ‘slut’, it is highly likely that the rapist will walk away scot free. Regardless of her dress or reputation, no victim asks to be raped. This is the primary message of Slutwalks. But the conversation in Delhi has digressed too much with no one to rein back in the key points of the march. And I am so tired of defending it in every forum.

    • As always, you raise some very significant points, Gayathri.
      That the entire phenomenon is now gradually reducing to just a farce is shameful indeed.
      More than half of those who are “supporting” the cause do not have any understanding of the intent and cause behind it.
      One of my Delhi friends actually told me that she has to shop to get that right outfit to wear in the Walk. It’s ridiculous!

  4. It is a thought provoking article that you have here.

    I would say,slut-walk, suggests more than what you have mentioned. It is more like more a statement, a women would make as she walks to her office. It is a day to day bold reply to all the men out there. It is a kind of passive resistance. The idea as a whole, is to blow up the ” but-oh-she-was-dressed-provocatively “.

    I do not think the dress matters at all. It is a message that women globally are trying to convey. And it does not have to be only at Delhi ( the so called rape capital ) or Madhurai.

    And this is not a new thing. If you remember a group women protested naked against the rape committed by soldiers in the north east. It has the same logic of that of slut-walk.
    The idea of passive resistance is something that should be appreciated. But making it a cause and shopping for it makes it just another gimmick performed by the upper class “party for poverty” types.

  5. rather they could have taken marshal art classes !

    i bet it’d have been cheaper than one of those expensive designer dresses !

    *sheh hypocrisy*

  6. Expecting the world to be fair to you just because you are fair to everybody is like expecting the lion not to eat you just because you did not eat the lion.

    By and large, the ones who break the barrier visit the Internet for very different reasons, tht is if they do. Your continuos reference to multiple sleeping partners is disturbing. What kind of conscience should that be? What makes us different from the animals then? That is since nature intended it that way. I wonder the anarchy that will prevail if every individual follows the multiple partner syndrome. Then why stop there, let the kids also think. And you as a parent should be open and acceptable.

    Purely on a % basis the US is far higher than India in crimes against women. The jaats and other such perpetrators who have never seen a good thigh or cleavage showcased nicely just loose it. Their sole focus ALWAYS is on the rub-a-dub their organ wants right there and then. That’s exactly the time when the animal in them wakes up. How do you stop that? That very animalistic instinct in a very very large population who does not read such articles, blogs, books, or any other materials that can or may tame their thinking process.

    • @Ajay

      Let me answer your concerns individually.
      Your continuos reference to multiple sleeping partners is disturbing. What kind of conscience should that be? What makes us different from the animals then?
      The argument was that whether an individual has one, two or ten sexual partners, it is nobody’s business. I see the comparison to animal mating here completely irrelevant.

      The jaats and other such perpetrators who have never seen a good thigh or cleavage showcased nicely just loose it. Their sole focus ALWAYS is on the rub-a-dub their organ wants right there and then. That’s exactly the time when the animal in them wakes up. How do you stop that?
      First, singling out a particular community (jaats) is unwelcome. I don’t know if the GoI maintains statistical records of which communities do rapists and other perpetrators belong to. It would be great if they are caught first, whatever their community, caste or religion may be. The animal in them…how do you stop that? I don’t know, Ajay. I wish I knew. I can only rant and express my frustration on my blog. Perhaps sex and sexuality education is one way to go about it. The mindset needs to be changed and that certainly isn’t an overnight process.

      Thanks for stopping by Colours on my palatte : >


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