10 Literary Ladies Who Refused To Be Slut-Shamed And DGAF

As a professional writer and a reader, there are are almost no words that I don't like (I'm not counting "moist," because that's not a word, it's an abomination). But when I hear the word "slut" I tense up, bare my teeth, and look more or less like a rabid feminist bulldog. I HATE the word "slut." I hate the way it's used (by men and, to my eternal horror, women) to damn a woman because of her sexuality. So, if you would prefer NOT to be treated to a feminist tirade, I would highly suggest not using it in my presence.

As you can imagine, those of us with a low tolerance for the term "slut" have a pretty tough time living in a world where "slut-shaming" is quickly becoming a national pastime. Men call out women, women call out other women, and Republicans call out everyone. If a woman dares to wear revealing clothing, puts on "too much" makeup, or speaks freely about her sex life, she's an insufferable whore who will get what's coming to her. (Men, of course, can wear whatever they want and do whatever they want with whomever they want and be considered a stud. BRB going to pound my head against a wall real quick.)

The fear of being labeled a slut is at the back of many women's minds when we choose to do anything even the least bit sexual, and it takes a lot of guts to push this thought aside and do what we want anyway. As a reader, I'm always looking to books for inspiration, and it would be great if there were some examples of women who just DGAF about those trying to slut-shame them. If only there were women from classic literature who we could look to as role models!

THERE TOTALLY ARE. There are a ton of badass literary ladies who didn't let society dictate how they expressed themselves sexually. I picked out my favorite 10, but books are full of women who break the rules and refuse to let themselves be slut-shamed for being sexual creatures.

Lady Brett Ashley, The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

Brett is my number one DGAF role model. She does what she damn well pleases with who she damn well pleases, and has no issue with carrying out multiple affairs at once. She loves Jake but is practical enough to know that they can't be together, and she sees no reason to mope about it and give up her sex drive. Plus, she's bitingly funny and men are constantly falling for her. #lifegoals

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Mrs. Warren, Mrs. Warren's Profession by George Bernard Shaw

No one gets slut-shamed more than prostitutes, and Mrs. Warren is having none of that. She gets into the profession to help give her daughter a better life, and then becomes such a savvy businesswoman that she now co-owns a chain of brothels all over Europe. Her daughter refuses to accept her, which I think is pretty small-minded of her, especially considering that Mrs. Warren's business paid her way through life. Forget the haters. Get that money, girl.

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Dewey Dell, As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

Dewey Dell decides that she wants control over her body, and does whatever she can to get the abortion that she needs rather than resigning herself to unwanted motherhood. Even though she knows she's being taken advantage of by the sleazy man in the pharmacy, she's determined (and desperate) enough to take her chances. Dewey Dell has a lot of courage to risk the judgement of others so that she can take contorl over her life.

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Sug, The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Sug is a lounge singer, a mistress, has three kids but no husband, and begins a sexual relationship with her close female friend. This is obviously not a woman who's worried about what others say about her sexuality. Sug's sexuality makes her strong, and brings strength to others. Call her a slut if you want, but I highly doubt Sug cares about your opinion.

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Afy Hallijohn, East Lynne by Elle Wood

While Elle Wood might not have wanted us to root for Afy, I thought she was the best character in the novel. She's loud and vain and has quite a temper, but she never apologizes for who she is. And she's a great deal tougher than the other women in the novel, most of whom spend their time moping about and slut shaming themselves or someone else. Afy isn't ashamed of her suitors or her desire to rise above her station, and I think that the fact that she isn't constantly obsessing over her morals (like the rest of the characters and the very judge-y narrating voice) is refreshing in Victorian lit.

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Lena Grove, Light in August by William Faulkner

Faulkner is pretty open-minded when he comes to his pregnant ladies. When Lena finds out that she's pregnant, she walks for days to find the man who knocked her up, and she doesn't let the stares or whispers of the townspeople deter her. In fact, Lena constantly seems totally oblivious to those who want to make her feel guilty. Whether she's actually ignorant or just doesn't care, Lena never seems too concerned about what others are saying about her.

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Edna Pontellier, The Awakening by Kate Chopin

As Edna slowly begins growing discontent with her domestic life, she challenges the status quo by sending her children off to stay with their grandparents, moving into a small house on her own, and taking the suave but irreputable Arobin as her lover. Edna's awakening is about more than her sexuality, but her friends are definitely more than a little concerned about her sudden sense of sexual freedom and try to talk some "sense" into her, which Edna promptly ignores. Love who and how you want, Edna!

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Lily Bart, House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

Lily has to deal with mean women and lecherous men for most of the book, and she's constantly getting slut shamed by her gossipy peers. Instead of slinking away to lick her wounds, however, she spends most of the novel trying to bounce back, and finally proves herself morally above "high class" society by refusing to blackmail her enemy in exchange for a marriage proposal. Her story may not end well, but she proved that sometimes the woman with the worst reputation has the best character.

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Jordan Baker, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald makes it clear that Jordan is a "fast woman," but that's what makes her so great. She's elegant and witty and doesn't need a man the way Daisy does (which is good, since Nick isn't exactly the most reliable date). Next to the airheaded Daisy, Jordan seems much more grounded and in control of her life. She obviously knows that fast women are the best women.

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Image: Charlotte Cooper/flickr