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WHAT IS A SLUT, ANYWAYS?

Euphoria proves that there’s more than meets the eye to women who society deems “slutty.” What is a slut, exactly? A woman people find sexually attractive? A woman who has sex with as much enjoyment as men? Or is a “slut” a woman who turns people down for sex, although society says her sexual capital is high?

Cassie Howard, the 17-year-old character on HBO’s Euphoria, illustrates how the world is a cruel place for women who embrace their sexuality without heavy regard to society’s rigid rules.

This world views femininity not as a divine gift to be celebrated, but as a commodity to be traded and exploited for other people’s gains. And a lot of times the last person to truly benefit is the woman herself. Ever since Cassie was a girl, men, including those blood-related, have licked their chops waiting to get into bed with her. Even in relationships with people where intimacy and care are reasonable expectations, Cassie’s boyfriends didn’t seem to love her, but hounded her for nude pictures and videos (Hi, McKay!).

Cassie is a conventionally attractive white woman living in the western world, and that alone carries a great deal of power. Power that makes less secure people envious, just as Rue narrated during McKay’s episode. McKay was dating one of the most sexually attractive girls in school and that gave him a certain level of social clout.

People are kinder to those they deem attractive and people have access to wealth and access when they “look the part.” However, with that power comes a hefty price. For one, Cassie’s paramours feel entitled to Cassie’s time and body. After Chris rejects Cassie’s sexual advances during a trip to his college campus, he begs her for nudes hours after dropping her back off home. For me, this was one of the first pieces of evidence that his relationship with Cassie was largely one-sided. He didn’t want her when she was right in front of him, but wants to get off only when it’s convenient for him.

When men can’t have access to the woman they want, they can get violent. Daniel is the personification for some men’s entitlement. Daniel only heard about Cassie’s sexual escapades, but never experienced it for himself. After flirting for a few weeks, Cassie declined to sleep with Daniel at the Halloween party. And Daniel showed his true feelings for her – telling her that if any man was interested in her, it was only because of her sexuality, not because she’s smart or interesting. See, Cassie being sexually alluring is only okay as long as there is a promise of sex for the man. No sex means that that entitled male gets to go nuclear on a woman he desires who refuses him sex.

I also read an account where one woman’s supervisor called another woman on LinkedIn a “slut.” When the woman asked her supervisor why this particular woman a “slut,” he couldn’t answer her question, until he finally admitted that he called her a “slut” simply because he wanted to sleep with her. A woman needs not sleep with a single person to be considered a slut. Don’t believe me? Let’s look into the history of the black woman in America.

Black women have given America so much and still have not reaped the benefits of our labor. Yet, we are thought of as sluts and whores who cannot be raped because we’re inheritantly sexually uninhibited. An argument rooted in the transatlantic slave trade. Pay attention to how people respond to a black woman who will not lay down with a man who doesn’t love, respect, protect and provide for her – sheer vitriol comes her way. People assume that because black women are devalued that they will take “any ole thing” a man gives them, and for an increasing number of us, that’s just not the case. When someone curses you out because you are not sexually available to them – especially when they don’t do anything for you – that says more about their entitlement than your lack of desirability. It seems to me that Daniel’s harsh response to Cassie mirrors how we treat women we desire, but don’t value.

Let social media tell it, “hoes” are winning, but that’s only an outside perception. For every rapper muse girlfriend turned social media / influencer and actress, there are hundreds of women with nothing to show for their carnal pursuits. Their names and faces forgotten, but the memory of all those lovers before them never goes away. And that’s if they’re lucky. Some have unwanted kids, STDs, and a ruined reputation that threatens their financial and emotional wellbeing.

Luckily for Cassie, she realized that making herself vulnerable to men who never saw her worth was a waste of time. By the season finale, Cassie considers a life where she can focus on herself and not walk into another relationship. Great idea. When people can’t appreciate what you have to offer, it’s perfectly acceptable to take back what they want until you can find someone to appreciate you as you are.

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