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The One Four-Letter Word You Won't Find in Obvious Child

The Huffington Post, June 5, 2014

The new romantic comedy Obvious Child is about Donna, a young bawdy comedian who has a one-night-stand and becomes pregnant. Unprepared for parenthood emotionally or financially, she has an abortion at Planned Parenthood. Although Donna and her friends live and breathe four-letter words, there's one they never mention.


Slut-shaming has permeated our milieu so deeply that its absence indeed is remarkable. In real life, girls and women are labeled sluts every day. We see sexual assault victims (like the girl who went to the Steubenville, Ohio party in 2012) pilloried as "loose drunk sluts"; girls who commit suicide (like Audrie Pott and Rehteah Parsons) after they are raped and naked photos of them documenting their supposed sluttiness appear in their classmates' phones; and the victims of the murder spree of Elliot Rodger, who vowed to "slaughter every blonde slut."

Despite these tragic outcomes, many people believe that slut-shaming is a necessary deterrent to keep young women's sexuality in check. When I researched my 1999 book Slut! Growing Up Female with a Bad Reputation, and when I conducted follow-up research recently for my forthcoming book on slut-shaming in the age of the Internet, repeatedly people said to me that if a girl looks like a slut and acts like a slut, what's the problem with calling her a "slut"? It hadn't occurred to them that this was sexist thinking, since boys are permitted and even encouraged to be sexual, and that besides, "slut" is a slippery word with no fixed meaning, so essentially "sluttiness" is in the eye of the beholder.

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