The Power of 'Slut': The Construction of 'Slut' and 'Slut-Shaming' in Contemporary Youth Culture
My thesis employs a feminist poststructural framework to understand the meaning and use of the term ‘slut’ and its connection to ‘slut-shaming’ in contemporary youth culture, specifically in relation to the Niagara region. I argue that the term slut is used as a way to police women’s sexuality, and its use and meaning vary depending on gender, ‘race’ and class. The importance of this study is in connection to sexual violence against women, and the complex ways that derogatory language shapes how people view women in relation to sexual violence. Women and men help maintain and perpetuate the term’s harmful meaning, however, the literature suggests the term may have empowering aspects for women and it may be resignified or changed to have more positive meaning. This resignification differs based on a person’s gender, ‘race’, class, etc. and the intersections between them, with women from different cultures noting that the term cannot always be reclaimed based on historical and cultural associations. Findings from my interviews suggest conflicting notions over what the definition of a slut is and its connection to ‘shame’. Most participants felt it was primarily young, white women who used the term against each other, and while some used the term in a playful manner, they did not believe it could be reclaimed as something empowering.