The Scarlet Letter “S”
by Melvyn_Fein
 Social Commentary
March 21, 2012 09:19 PM | 1360 views | 3 3 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

I am old enough to remember when members of the media could not say a woman was “pregnant.”  This was considered vulgar; hence newsreaders resorted to euphemisms such as ”in the family way.”

Today, this designation would be inaccurate forty percent of the time.  With two out of every five children born to unwed mothers, they are not received into anything resembling the traditional family.

Under such circumstances, our language regarding delicate matters has become not just direct, but vulgarly direct.  People are permitted to say just about anything — that is, unless there is a political need to suppress it.

We recently witnessed this dynamic with regard to Sandra Fluke.  After she testified before congress about her urgent desire for government-sponsored birth control, a firestorm broke out.  Rush Limbaugh, in describing her as a slut and a prostitute, brought the wrath of an outraged nation down on his head.

Now granted, labeling Ms Fluke a prostitute was unfair and unwarranted.  But what about describing her as a “slut.”  Is this word to be totally forbidden, even when the “f” word has made it into the mainstream media?

Let’s agree that the term "slut" refers to females of easy virtue.  This is certainly how it is used on the college campus where I am employed.  Here, as elsewhere, women who have large numbers of sexual liaisons are derisively dismissed as damaged goods.  They may make for good short-term entertainment, but are rejected as unsuitable for long-term relationships.

No, you say.  This cannot be true!  Haven’t feminists educated us to the fact that women should have the same rights as men?  Consequently, if men can have casual sex without destroying their reputations, why can’t women?  This being so, calling a female a “slut” is clearly evidence of a double standard.

Indeed, it cannot be denied that this is so.  But neither can it be said that this disparity has disappeared.

The reason a double standard persists is that the consequences of male and female sexuality differ.  To put the matter baldly: Women become pregnant, whereas men do not.  Everyone knows this, especially young women who are vulnerable to being seduced and abandoned.

Certainly, Fluke knows this.  If so, then to what status should this nearly 30-year-old woman be assigned?  To judge from the $3,000 she described as necessary to keep her safe, she must be engaging in a great deal of intimate contact.  The next question is, therefore, with whom?

If Ms. Fluke is bedding down with a steady partner, then why isn’t he helping to pay for their joint adventures?  If, however, she is indulging multiple partners, then isn’t the label “slut” fitting?  She may believe that as an adult woman promiscuous sex is her right — and perhaps it is.  But it is equally the right of others to regard her lifestyle as morally questionable.

Nearly two centuries ago, Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote of colonial women forced to wear a scarlet letter “A” if they committed adultery.  I submit that Ms. Fluke has symbolically done the same to herself.

In going blatantly pubic with her sex life and demanding government support for her profligate ways, she has in essence branded herself a “slut.”  She may resent this, as do her supporters, but she was the one who exposed her habits to communal scrutiny.

Not all may see it, but Ms. Fluke pinned a scarlet letter “S” on her chest.  She paraded her private life before us; hence she cannot complain if some do not judge her as she does herself.

Didn’t Monica Lewinsky learn a similar lesson a decade and a half ago?

Melvyn L. Fein. Ph.D.

Professor of Sociology

Kennesaw State University

Comments
(3)
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Kevin Foley
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March 23, 2012
I hate to educate Dr. Fein on what he would call "the birds and the bees," but he obviously doesn't understand how birth control pills work.

Doc, a woman must take the pills every day or they aren't effective. That's whether she has sex every day or once a year or never. Birth control pills are also used to treat certain female ailments (ask Mrs. Fein about this) or, better yet, do a little research. You remember what that is, right?

frogbreath
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March 22, 2012
gradygrad

"Neither Ms. Fluke, nor anyone else involved in this healthcare initiative, is asking for government sponsored/government payments for birth control. Ms. Fluke made her comments in response to the complete lack of female participation in a discussion before Congress on whether or not INSURANCE providers should be compelled to provide birth control coverage."

Your first sentence is false. She did stipulate how much the sex life --in that I learned a long time ago that it takes sex to generate pregnancy- and the sum of $3000 over a four year schedule of study was incurred to meet the copulation needs of the students under discussion.

The second part--the red flag of gender warfare--the fact that no women were on the panel- well I don't know about others, but it would be of little significance to me if a panel of female legislators were chosen to discuss the issuance of a male sexual medication. Now you can retort with the cheap shot---"Well they are doing it because of infection,menstrual problems, etc, when indeed those issue are covered and only used by the women who want to wage the gender war.

Lastly, it is old news, but Fluke is more of a crusader for perceived wrongs than a young law student. Whether she is paid or not, she is a professional activist.

If here is mud it is the slime of immoral habits at discussion here.

PS I asked my wife and my daughters. They do not agree with you.
gradygrad
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March 21, 2012
Once again, Professor Fein has deliberately cast the issue in an inaccurate light in order to make a ridiculous point. Neither Ms. Fluke, nor anyone else involved in this healthcare initiative, is asking for government sponsored/government payments for birth control. Ms. Fluke made her comments in response to the complete lack of female participation in a discussion before Congress on whether or not INSURANCE providers should be compelled to provide birth control coverage. Ms. Fluke did not display her sex life to anyone, simply the result of a decision between her and her doctor as to an appropriate form of medical treatment.

Those who will deliberately misconstrue the substance of the debate in order to score cheap points have no legitimacy in the political debate. Your purpose, Professor, was not to bring light to a social ill, but rather to jump on a broken down bandwagon, driven by a man with no morals or conscience. Congratulations on descending into the mud with Mr. Limbaugh.
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