This is Berkeley. And Berkeley students are über smart and intellectual. So, of course we like to sit around (or fold laundry) and philosophize about topics such as the definitional distinction between “sluts” and “whores.” Really. A couple of years ago, a friend of mine and I had that discussion on a random afternoon while she was making the explosion of clothes in her room look slightly more orderly. The conversation arose because one of us pointed out that these words are often used interchangeably, yet are not actually synonyms.
First, I would like to say that we used the term “slut” in a more positive manner, mostly meaning that a girl is promiscuous (for lack of a better term). We did not use it as a synonym for prostitute. For further “back-up” on this definition, Urban Dictionary does define it as, amongst many other definitions: “A girl who likes sex, so she does it. She probably is not in a relationship, and she equalizes herself to guys by treating sex the same way they do.”
With that out of the way, here are the definitions we worked out:
Slut: A girl who has liberal views on sex and does not need to be in a relationship or monogamous situation to hookup (to whatever degree) with guys. She does what whatever she wants, whenever she wants, with whomever she wants. Most importantly, she does what she does purely for the enjoyment of it — no other goal. She owns her sexuality and sex life and does whatever she wants to do and whatever makes her happy. Her sexual behavior may seem excessive to conservative people, but what the hell! She does what she wants.
Whore: A girl who also has liberal views on sex. However, this girl may or may not really own her sex life (although most likely not really), and uses it as currency. She usually hooks up with a guy in order to get something out of it. For example, to be invited to something exclusive (not that it really works around here), for money/gifts/whatever, to be able to hang around him and his friends (because they are the coolest kids on the block), and so on. She is often also aware that she is being used too, but the prize at the end overshadows that.
So, as you probably figured out (because you’re a Cal smarty pants), the difference between these two seemingly similar words is in the motive. The slut does it purely because she loves sex, and wants to have sex with the hunky dude talking to her, while the whore does it in order to get something from him. Subtle, yet key difference between the two. Oh, and look: Urban Dictionary also agrees with us — “The difference between a slut and a whore is a whore wants something in return, a slut does it just because she likes it.“