Our contributor Jewely Hoxie studies Human Sexuality at the University of California Santa Cruz (read her blog here). She has this to stay about the slut stigma‚Ä¶
How many times have you heard people say, “If she wasn’t such a slut…” or, “She’s kind of a slut, but…” or, “I can’t believe she’s slept with [X number] of people”?
I always interject by pointing out that being a slut is not a bad thing — at least, not in the way I define it, i.e. enthusiastically enjoying your sexuality in ways that are always physically and emotionally safe. There is a big difference between sleeping with ten different guys in one month and taking ten Plan B pills in one month. The former is perfectly fine sluttiness (that I encourage!) while the other has nothing to do with sluttiness and everything to do with being careless and irresponsible. I’ll take the side of sluts any day.
How We Learn the Slut Stigma
At a young age we are often taught that women are somehow damaged if they do not “save themselves” sexually for their one true love. As we grow older, many of us find ourselves¬†– naturally — wanting to have sex before marriage or even true love, but the negative connotations attached to more casual sex can still linger, sometimes subconsciously. This can make women feel detached from their own sexual pleasure, turning sex into something that a women does for someone else rather than for herself. How many times a day do we hear the message that a man needs to work hard in order to convince or trick or pressure a woman to sleep with him in order satisfy his natural animalistic libido, while less lustful-women women resist and hold out until perhaps they eventually “give it up.” The conventional cultural wisdom tells us sex is something men do to women, not something people do together on an even playing field, and certainly not something women ever do to men. You hear that enough times, you start to believe it.
Why People Don’t Want the Slut Stigma to Go Away
We all know the tired old double standard of how awesome and studly men are when they sleep around, compared to how dirty, loose, and unlady-like women are when they have a few notches on the bedpost. Stigmatizing the word “slut” has become a way of controlling women’s sexual behavior. If a women thinks that having a lot of sexual partners makes her undesirable, then she might avoid that kind of behavior. She may end up staying in a relationship that is unhealthy, just to make sure she does not sleep with too many people. She may miss out on experiences that she might otherwise enjoy. And if she dares to follow her desires, the guilt and shame that may follow can be debilitating. Thanks to slut shaming, a woman’s sexual agency is seriously limited.
Why the Slut Stigma Is Dangerous
Using the term “slut” as a pejorative is, in part, responsible for the way in which rape victims often get blamed. A woman was raped because she was “scantily clad,” she was “asking for it,” she was “leading him on” — you know, acting like a “slut.” Retaliating against this way of thinking is what spurred the proliferation of the SlutWalks over the past few years. Organizers wanted to reclaim the word “slut” as something positive.
Why We Need to Embrace “Slut”
Expressing one’s sexuality is a good and healthy thing — duh, right? A thousand studies tell us that sex is good for us, but not everyone seems to have gotten the memo. We are told, over and over, that we need to have more sex and better sex and hotter sex — and yet we should also be careful not to explore too much or say too much.
You’d think we’d be over the whole madonna-whore thing by now (yawn), but just last year on¬†Bravo’s reality show “Miss Advised,” columnist Julia Allison described the perfect dress to wear on a first date as one that says to the man, “You can take me home to your mom and I might give you a blowjob on the way there.” Ludacris jumped on the bandwagon with his less-than-original lyric “a lady in the street and a freak in the bed.” Aside from the fact that women are more interesting and more complex then these media portrayals, in both of these examples the sexual part of the women must be hidden in order for her to be seen as respectable.
Women deserve respect. Women are sexual creatures. Ergo, women’s sexuality deserves respect.
What We Can Do to Help
If we could be more open about sex at a young age and actually call a vulva a vulva and not a “private part” or — I even cringe typing this — a”vay-jay-jay,” we might all be better off. We have vaginas just like we have elbows and legs. As much as society does not want to admit it, Freud had it right when he said infants are sexual creatures too. We masturbated as children because we were curious about our bodies. As sex negativity grew, we explored less. Whether you want to find your inner Anastasia Steele/Christian Grey relationship exclusively with your spouse, or you¬†want to enjoy some simple vanilla missionary with your whole block, I don’t think you should be judged any differently. Just keep it honest and safe.
A Slut Mission Statement
I love sluts, perverts, deviants, freaks, and geeks alike. As long as you are fucking in the name of pleasure (and consent), you are okay in my book. A pervert is someone who is not only conscious, but proud, of their sexual nature. That is already more than what a lot of people can say. If you find someone attractive and it just so happens you also like getting off, I say go for it.
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