Are you a woman? Do you have sex?

If you answered "yes" to these two questions, then someone, somewhere, thinks you are a slut.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a slut is "a slovenly or promiscuous woman." Of course, it’s a derogatory word. It's meant to be an insult: "You’re a woman who’s having lots of sex! You’re dirty and a terrible person!" But these days, the word is so liberally applied that any woman who dares to speak about being a sexual person can be slapped with that label almost automatically.

But, as much as we tend to react to that word, is it really such a bad thing? (Get empowered. Read Feminists Have More Fun: A Sex Manifesto.)

Dirty Slut

When we hear the word "slut", we often hear the word "dirty" behind it. A woman who has enjoyed more than one partner, and has done so for her own pleasure (rather than a sense of marital duty) is quickly labeled "a dirty slut." This might also apply to a woman who dresses or dances or walks or behaves a certain way, whether she's having sex or not.

A man who has sex with many women - who owns his sexuality - is a superstar; a woman who has sex with many men should be ashamed of herself and settle for a sad, single, sexless life, because no man would ever ever want to be with her.

Yes, sex is dirty. It’s full of fluids and things that stick and weird sucking noises. It makes you sweat and smell and forces you to wash your sheets more often than you normally would.

But sexuality - the human impulse to be physically intimate with another human being - is not dirty. And saying that women who indulge in this healthy, beneficial and absolutely natural activity more than they "should" (and really, who decides on this quota?) are dirty is, to me, one of the most harmful beliefs we still hold on to as a culture.

The label of slut, used negatively, reduces a woman to a single activity: sex. It ignores everything else about her: her friendliness, her involvement in her community, her knowledge, her personality. Once you are a slut, you are nothing, not a good friend, a loving daughter, a loyal sister, a doting mother. You’re just a slut, which goes to show you just how powerful - and damaging - that word can be.

Slut: You’re It

But here's the truth: Being called a slut - in that derogatory, insulting way that some people do when they judge you for what you do in the privacy of your own bedroom - is just another way to shame women into not enjoying themselves, their bodies and their sexuality. It’s a way to tell us that we don’t deserve to have fun on our own terms.

Maybe it’s time we rethink and take ownership of the word slut. After all, having sex, enjoying our sexuality, and even standing out for it isn't wrong. In fact, as a part of being human, I'd argue that they're exactly the opposite: they're right. So maybe it’s time we use the "s" word to empower women’s sexuality, rather than repress it. It's time to stop feeling ashamed of being a totally normal sexual person with desires and needs and the capacity to fulfill them.

Free US delivery on sex toys, lingerie, gifts & accessories I’m not saying you should talk about your sex life to everyone you meet on the street. But you should stop letting the word "slut" get to you. Rather than letting someone feel ashamed, wear your sexuality as a badge of honor. Being a slut is not a bad thing. (Read more about finding your sexual self-confidence in My 7 Steps to Sexual Self-Confidence)

Sluts, or women who have sex, are shamed and feared because they take control of their sexual lives. They can ask for what they want and they don’t subscribe to old, meaningless standards of female purity and behavior. Real sluts, those who know how to give pleasure and receive it, those who take ownership of their bodies and find no problem with sex as long as everyone wants it, are free.

Real sluts are sexy, confident, generous and full of vitality. Real sluts know what they want, with whom they want it and how they want it - and not just in bed. And honestly, I’d rather be a slut than not, because life as a "good girl" seems pretty boring. (And sex is good for you! Read more about it in The 6 Little-Known Health Benefits of Kinky Sex.)

How do you react to the word "slut"? Do you think it’s harmful or a legitimate label? Let’s chat in the comments!