What’s Sex Got to Do With the Question: Does This Shirt Make Me Look Like a Slut?

Deborah L. Tolman discusses adolescent girls’ sexuality and the double standard surrounding it. Girls are expected to be sexy but not sexual, just as one of Hannah’s viewers commented that they wanted girls to sluts when with them but celibate elsewhere. The same binary is being reinforced in both statements. Tolman goes on to talk about “sexual socialization” which determines when it is appropriate to be sexual and to what extent.

In the video above Hannah Witton explores the idea of “dressing like a slut”. It’s a question she’s been asked time and time again, what type of clothes make a woman look like a slut? From here she then questions what does a slut even look like? In attempts to find an answer, Hannah begins by trying a whole variety of going out clothes. This led to Hannah raising a series of thought-provoking questions, about what defines a slut and how one could even tell who is a slut based on what they wear. She took to social media to determine what is a slut, asking people on Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook. Tumblr and Twitter users had fairly progressive definitions of what a “slut” is, acknowledging that it is a patriarchal concept and a derogatory term. Facebook users instead chose to describe a “slut” as a woman who has way too much sex or dresses like she does. Eventually she comes to the decision that there is no such thing as a slut, that every individual can decide for themselves how many people they sleep with. She furthers this statement, stating that the way a person dresses can in no way tell you how many people they sleep with.

This phenomena stating that the way a woman chooses to dress has anything to do with her sexual behavior is a very predominant ideal on college campus. While getting ready for a night out, I frequently have friends ask if the “shirt/shorts/skirt/dress” makes them look slutty; I’ve asked that question myself. As a female on a college campus, there often feels like there is a certain expectation to look attractive without looking too promiscuous. This creates a fine line between appropriate and inappropriate dress, with far different guidelines for the daytime and the nighttime. What often seems to hold the guidelines in place is the hook-up culture discussed by Bogle, females and males on college campuses seem to hold great value in who they hooked-up with (even if the definition of “hooking-up” varies greatly from person to person).

But why does what you wear have anything to do with your sexual history? For all you know, the girl in the teensy crop top and short shorts is a virgin and the girl in the turtleneck and jeans has slept with half the brothers in one fraternity. Does it even matter? Choice of dress and sexual history have no correlation or causation to connect each other, yet the impression that there is direct causation between the two seems to reign supreme. Is it that girls are told if they want to “get guys” they have to dress in skimpy, promiscuous-looking clothing, do girls who do want to have sex intentionally dress in those styles of clothing? Do you think the stereotypes reinforce the behavior or is there merit to the study?

 

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6 thoughts on “What’s Sex Got to Do With the Question: Does This Shirt Make Me Look Like a Slut?

  1. I really enjoy this post because I think before going out we all participate in asking our friends “do I look like a slut in this outfit” or “is this outfit too revealing”? This idea relates directly to Chapter 6 in Bogle’s novel about women desiring a relationship more than men do. Women tend to seek a relationship more than men do to avoid getting labeled a slut or other derogatory terms that come with the hookup scene. I believe that women check their outfits before going out for this exact same reason. Looking at each other’s outfits before going out, we all often tend to say (describing the outfit) “you won’t be the sluttiest dressed there, so there’s no need to worry”. We are all worried about gaining the social label “slut” and this is the whole reason we check our outfits before going out. Why do you think girls became labeled sluts in the first place, and how did this come into effect? Great post!

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  2. I thought this video was really interesting. Before college, I told my mom that I needed to buy a whole new wardrobe because my closet didn’t consist of what others girls did. Before college, I never wore tight dresses, which is what many girls wear on a night out. When I’m in less revealing clothing, I probably won’t be noticed. I don’t think the way someone dresses has anything to do with sexual history, but I definitely think boys pay more attention to those in more revealing clothing. I think that it is common for girls to dress provocatively because they think they look the hottest and girls want to look hot in order to attract guys.

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  3. I think Witton’s video accurately addresses the discourse surrounding the term “slut.” The questions that she poses really make you think about what this word means in our society. I agree with what she says about sexuality, regarding female sexuality specifically. It really is no one else’s business how many or how few sexual partners a person has had. Further, this information cannot be interpreted though what someone wears. There are so many hoops that women have to jump through in order to conform to society’s rules on sexuality, when really their sexuality should not be controlled by anyone but themselves.

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  4. I completely agree with the woman in the video you posted and I also agree with you. There is no correlation or causation between “sluttiness” and clothing choice; but as we have discussed in class, society’s moral codes often naturalize this implied (yet, non-existent) causation, leaving women stuck in a very precarious situation. We can’t dress like prudes because then we will come off as one, but we can’t dress like “sluts” because then we will also come off as one. That logic is convoluted and leaves women in a lose-lose situation. Intentionality is HUGE when it comes to women’s clothing choices, but as I have learned with several of my classes this semester, one can have a certain intent, but that intent is not always read how we want it to be by the interpreter.

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  5. From a woman’s perspective, I completely agree with Ms. Witton. I don’t like seeing my friends be judged for what they do or do not wear, and I don’t want to be judged for what I do or do not wear. However, I find that women can go out to bars and be picked up regardless of the kind of clothes that they’re wearing, and I honestly cannot tell if it is actually clothing which motivates men (who are seeking a heterosexual hookup) to flirt with a woman, or if it is her body language or reputation. You’re right, a woman wearing a turtleneck can be the most sexually experienced in the room– but if a man were to approach her looking for sex or a quick hookup, I feel like it would be motivated by social labels or the reputation of that woman. I’d like to hear from the opposite perspective: if you are a man looking for a woman to hook up with, what draws you to them? Is clothing a deciding factor in the person whom you choose to pursue?

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  6. Double standards and stereotypes are unfair and pretty annoying. I do believe that girls often dress promiscuously to signal sexual attraction. Nonetheless, dress has no significance with previous sexual encounters. This directly relates to the “male player”, “female slut” double standard and pushes its influence even further. Do some girls purposely dress “slutty” to fight this negative trend? Is it wrong to dress promiscuously in certain situations?

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