The Lady Garden

Tea and Strumpets

Yet Another Fucking 101

“Ask ten adults to define a slut and you’ll hear things like: a woman who has sex with lots of men; a woman who sleeps around; a woman who has casual sex; a woman who flaunts her body. They’ll probably also use words like loose, easy, trashy, cheap, and desperate. Someone might say: a woman who has the sexual appetites of a man. No one will say: a mythical creature dreamt up by people who are jealous of or threatened by female sexual expression.”
— Emily Maguire- Princesses & Pornstars (via warrioroftheleft on Tumblr)

Happy New Year, darlings! I trust you are recovered from your NYE frivolities and raring to go for 2012. Or, that if you haven’t yet made it out of bed, that you’ve been sharing it with someone nice. Or at least chocolate.

Sadly, it has come to my attention that we have some remedial work to do. It turns out, that there are still some people in the world, in my extended social circle even, who haven’t grasped the concept of slut-shaming. Or rather, they’ve grasped the concept, but not the fact that it’s Not Fucking Okay.

So, my loves, let’s have a little lesson, shall we?

First, I’d like you to write me 100 words, on why you think anyone’s relationship or sexual history is any of your business. With the exception of ensuring that a potential suitor is disease-free, I fail to see how you can come up with a convincing argument for that. Secondly, I’d like you to think about whether discussing that history in public, even as a jokey aside, is an acceptable thing to do.

Because, you see, calling a woman a slut is about the worst thing you can call her. And you don’t even have to use that actual word. Perhaps you’d like to mention the length of her skirts, or indeed, her relationships. Perhaps you’d like to make snide comments about her “habits”. Or, just come out and call her a whore. G’wan.

Calling a woman a slut means she’s somehow less. As if embracing her body and her sexuality is a bad thing. We women, we hold our value between our legs, and everyone we let touch us there is lowering our price. For some reason, society deems chastity as a woman’s birthright. And the patriarchy tells us that it’s the opposite for men (they are meant to sow their proverbial oats), so I ask you – who are they meant to fuck? Calling a woman a slut reminds her that her body isn’t hers at all. It reminds her that she is not deserving of pleasure, that she is only a receptacle for her One True Husband’s sperm.

None of this is new, of course, but it appears some people need a gentle reminder. I can be gentle for once. (I won’t enjoy it, but for you, darlings, I forbear.)

And here’s the thing, and why I am writing this post. I am pretty sure the worst perpatrators of slut-shaming, certainly the iterations of it I’ve seen lately, are women. Not men. Women. Our bodies, ourselves, indeed. Maybe I am lucky that I have a circle of liberal and supportive male friends now. Certainly, I have known men in the past, who have been threatened by my lack of inhibitions, and decided that calling me a slut was a way to shut me up. And sometimes it worked. Now, my standard response to someone calling me a slut is to ask “Really? What makes you say that?” There is nothing like making people own their own prejedices.

But the girl-on-girl crime is more insidious. It’s nastier. It’s policing. It’s dangerous, because it plays directly into “she’s a slut, she deserved it” rape culture. It’s “I don’t feel comfortable behaving like that, and so you shouldn’t.” And it’s “If I call her a slut, maybe I’ll get extra patriarchy points, and be allowed to exchange them for sparkly gifts.” And yes, by sparkly, I mean engagement rings. Because sluts never get married, and that’s all we women want, right? And of course, sluts steal other women’s husbands. When we call each other it, we give men the right to call us it too. And to continue treating us as though our only value is our bodies. It’s pitting women against each other, to be the most pure, the most chaste. While, also, of course, secretly being a demon in the sack. Just don’t tell anyone that. It’s playing into the patriarchy’s hands.

You know what I think? Fuck the patriarchy. Sure, it’ll be dirty, hate-filled sex, but sometimes, that’s amazing. Because frankly, being a slut is fucking awesome. You don’t have to be one of you don’t want to be. I’m not saying every woman needs to start pole-dancing lessons forthwith. We all get to do what we’re comfortable with. That’s kind of the fucking point. Sex is nice. Everyone should get the amount and type of it they want.

Some while ago, I saw a post telling sex-positive feminists to shut up. I can’t for the life of me think where, or I’d link to it. But no, I will not fucking shut up. Because the only way for us to make this OK, for kinks and women who like casual sex, and asexual people, and anything that isn’t “missionary position between a husband and wife where they end up covered in a white sheet gazing lovingly at each other knowing they’ve conceived” to become closer to the norm is for us to talk about it. And talk loudly.  Our asking for the right to engage in those activities doesn’t impinge on your right not to engage in them. And if you think it does – then I would ask you, why is your right more important than mine?

What I am saying is that even if you don’t want to be a slut, it doesn’t give you licence to shame those of us who are. Whatever gender you are.

20 responses to “Yet Another Fucking 101

  1. Emma January 4, 2012 at 8:23 pm

    Yeah… so lately, ran across a conversation on Facebook, among a group of women some of whom I know well, in which my name was basically used as a benchmark for Slut. One of them was being all “hahaha, and then he said I was just like Emma, the bastard”. And it appeared the thing I’d done that was so dreadful was have a lot of males around me. Those males? Are my friends.

    And I think this might be why this happens to me so much. Most of my friends are straight males. So a lot of the women I socialise with are their partners. And some of them saw me, initially, as a threat, because I was close to their Man. And why would their Man be hanging out with me if he wasn’t sexually interested? It’s not like I could have any other value.

    What gets me, though, is not so much these women still behaving like they’re fourteen. It’s that when their partners, my friends, see the slut-shaming “jokes” have upset me, they tell me it doesn’t matter, that it’s not important. You don’t have to understand it, just accept it. It does matter: this is how women control each other socially. It’s bullying. (Also, dude, if your girlfriend is that insecure, why is that MY problem?)

    • tallulahspankhead January 4, 2012 at 8:40 pm

      it doesn’t matter, that it’s not important

      And also, it fucking does matter. It hurts. It doesn’t matter how comfortable you are with yourself, how sexually liberated, and how little you value their opinion, it hurts. Because being called a slut…it’s like saying “you’re worthless. Oh, and you’re letting the sisterhood down”.

      Fuckers.

  2. Isabel January 4, 2012 at 10:32 pm

    I’ve had several conversations recently that have really had me thinking about the ways talking about women’s sexuality is used by people wanting to gain (or regain) control.

    I’ve seen (mostly) men feeding their partner’s insecurities to keep them compliant – telling her she’s a slut or that she’s frigid (or both in alternation) or comparing her unfavourably to past girlfriends or to her friends.

    The ‘husband stealing’ thing is particularly nasty and, to me, hard to understand and yet it seems so common. I’ve seen, first hand, situations where someone will go to considerable lengths to keep her (formerly cheating but now forgiven) partner away from, not just the person he had an affair with but, often anyone he’s ever slept with and it’s usually those former lovers who have to bear the social cost.

    Something else that bugs me is the cry of “it’s about self respect”. I don’t quite get how denying myself the (consensual) pleasures I desire or dressing in ways I don’t wish to in order to satisfy someone else’s moral code is respecting myself.

    • Emma January 5, 2012 at 11:42 am

      it’s usually those former lovers who have to bear the social cost.

      I will not stand for this if there is anything I can possibly do about it. I mean, obviously I’m aware of the one glaring example, for which I was pretty powerless, but if I have any input into the organisation of a social event? Then the person who has the “problem” is the one who should have to avoid the event.

      Of course, that usually means that the male friend ends up having to miss out as well, which is shitty, but at least he has some choice in the matter.

      • Isabel January 5, 2012 at 1:12 pm

        I think, often, one of the worst things that come out this sort of situation (and, most relationship breakdowns) is the impact on the wider social circle when people are effectively asked to take sides in a situation that is really nothing to do with them. There’s not always anything that can be done about it but it’s pretty damn shitty for everyone.

    • Msconduct January 5, 2012 at 12:17 pm

      As a former psychologist who used to specialise in relationship counselling, I don’t find the “husband stealing” thing difficult to understand for people in monogamous relationships. This is not something that the happily involved tend to want to hear, but my experience has shown me that even the strongest relationship can break under the right circumstances, and propinquity counts for a great deal when it comes to being attracted to other people. This is not to say that you should lock your partner in a trunk every time someone they might possibily be attracted to crosses the horizon, just that a fear of said people is not entirely baseless and even less so when a partner has already been involved with someone else during the relationship.

      • Isabel January 5, 2012 at 1:04 pm

        I get the insecurity and am *well* aware that infidelity occurs even in seemingly “strong” relationships. What I don’t get is the uneven apportion of blame where the man (who has, presumably, promised to be faithful) is held less responsible than the temptress who led him astray.

        • tallulahspankhead January 5, 2012 at 1:24 pm

          Oh, fuck yes.

          I’ve been the ‘evil temptress’ on more than one occasion. Usually in situations where women had already ‘warned me off’ ‘their’ man.

          The problem is, women are fucked every which way. If we cheat, we’re a dirty whore who broke up a relationship. If we’re the other woman, we’re emblazoned with a scarlet A, and if we get cheated on, we obviously did something wrong, because we couldn’t keep hold of our man.

        • Msconduct January 5, 2012 at 2:09 pm

          (Again in my experience, not trying to speak for every person in this situation), it’s about cognitive dissonance. If your partner is unfaithful in what you agreed was a monogamous relationship and you choose to stay with them, it’s easier to see that as a reasonable course of action if you put all the blame on the evil predator, rather than framing your partner as a lying cheating scumbag. (Framing this with gender neutral words as I haven’t seen much difference in this attitude no matter what sort of relationship it is.)

          • Gossipy Moz January 5, 2012 at 2:49 pm

            Yes. I thought I’d been in a social group where the onus was explicitly on the people concerned. I’m interested to hear now that my view of that group may have been a bit rosy. Perhaps because it was a gendered situation – certain males definitely didn’t seem to suffer socially from leading what could be described as complex love lives. Hearing that women I thought were not suffering socially, were, is disconcerting.

            I’m also more grateful in retrospect for having (especially) Tess and Aimee around to supervise me when I needed it. a couple of times I needed to have situations explained in very simple terms because things were not the way I thought they were. It’s all in the questions you ask, sometimes. “is this ok” and “would you like me to stop” have different presumptions in them that can lead to different answers.

        • Msconduct January 5, 2012 at 2:53 pm

          and am *well* aware that infidelity occurs even in seemingly “strong” relationships.

          Gah, whenever I say something substantive on the internet it always comes out fucked up somehow. At the risk of digging myself in deeper:

          I didn’t mean to imply that you yourself are blissfully ignorant of this. Of course it doesn’t appply to everyone, which is why I said “tend” rather than issuing a blanket statement. However, I have seen many people in strong relationships who assume infidelity will never happen and who have been wrong. And those relationships haven’t been *seemingly* strong, they *have* been strong. (To me, “seemingly” implies that there was actually an unsuspected flaw that meant infidelity could happen, when in my experience that’s by no means always the case. ) Which is why I agree with Emma about it being more than possible to love two people at once. Apologies, Talluluh: this is OT to your post, but since it tied in with Emma’s I thought it was worth saying. And apologies, Isabel, for any offence caused, however unintentionally.

          • Isabel January 5, 2012 at 3:23 pm

            No offence taken. I think we may be using words differently and I probably ought to have been clearer. I do believe that it is possible to be attracted to, and even love, more than one person at once and I don’t think that has to be the death knell for a relationship (whether by renegotiating the terms of the relationship* or by weighing up ones options and choosing not to act upon said attraction). What I meant was that if one acts outside of the agreed terms of a relationship, especially if its done in a furtive manner, then even if the relationship was strong previously there are problems now.

            *I realise this makes romantic relationships sound like business deals but, in my experience, every relationship has a slightly different set of rules about which extra-relationship activities are and are not OK.

          • Msconduct January 5, 2012 at 3:32 pm

            Yes, totally agree.

          • tallulahspankhead January 7, 2012 at 1:52 pm

            Hey, since I can barely stay on topic within my own posts, I’m not too worried about the comments going off.

            What I would say is the point I already glibly made. When we talk about infidelity, women bear the brunt of the shaming. Of course, that’s partly because we’re taught to assume men will cheat – which is bad for men too. Ah, the patriarchy. Screwing us all.

      • Max Rose January 5, 2012 at 2:05 pm

        “I don’t find the “husband stealing” thing difficult to understand for people in monogamous relationships. This is not something that the happily involved tend to want to hear, but my experience has shown me that even the strongest relationship can break under the right circumstances, and propinquity counts for a great deal when it comes to being attracted to other people.”

        The interesting thing is the idea that a relationship can be very strong, but that the people in it could be seriously attracted to others. That suggests several possibilities:
        – That the relationship should end, since at least one of the partners wants to be with someone else. But if the relationship is worthwhile, why should it be lost?
        – That the relationship should continue, but with feelings of guilt and/or self-denial whenever someone feels attracted to anyone else, plus suspicion and fear from the other partner, and potentially distancing other good friends who might tempt one partner away. Again, not exactly an attractive way to live, but the default situation for many.
        – Or perhaps, just maybe, that monogamy was not the right choice?

        As always when I bring this up, I’ll need to add the proviso that monogamy is indeed a happy and healthy choice for many. But as your experience shows, cheating, suspicion and temptation are far from uncommon, and in fact so widespread that for a large proportion of nominally monogamous couples, monogamy was not a conscious and appropriate choice for at least one partner.

        • Msconduct January 5, 2012 at 2:20 pm

          I think this ties in well with what Emma has said in another post about being able to love more than one person at once. Maybe it doesn’t fit the romantic myth, as she says, but my own belief is that everyone is easily capable of it. Does that mean that monogamy is doomed? Not necessarily. I agree than in some cases it won’t turn out to be the best choice for the particular people involved, but in other cases, because it’s difficult (and it is) it doesn’t mean it’s not possible, or desirable for the people involved. As you say. Where I think I would disagree with you is in the proportion of people for whom it’s not the right choice, simply because I’ve seen so many people for whom it means a great deal. Of course, you could equally well argue that people who come to see a psychologist because of infidelity are a group self-selected for their valuing of monogamy.

  3. Dan January 4, 2012 at 10:33 pm

    Tentatively, and speaking from my own observations only, I would agree that other women seem to be the most vocal in slut shaming. It’s shameful to realise that I’ve helped perpetuate that culture. I really hate the term patriarchy, mainly because I’m a part of it and acknowledging it still stings, even as I take steps against it.

    Awesome post.

    • tallulahspankhead January 4, 2012 at 10:51 pm

      Why thank you. 🙂

      I generally use the term patriarchy ironically. I used it in this post purely to set up being able to say ‘fuck the patriarchy’. Because, obviously, the kyriarchy hurts everyone, on various levels.

      And as you say, we’re all guilty of it. I know I’ve done my share of slut shaming in my life. I try very hard not to do it now, but it’s deeply ingrained.

  4. Gossipy Moz January 5, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    Every time I see the doggy picture I laugh. Because I went to school with a girl who had a dog very like that one, and she had a lot of sex[1,2,3] And one day we were chatting and she was teasing me about being not-heterosexually-active and I said “oh, I want your body” and she was “oh? yeah?” and the punchline was “will you leave it to me when you die?” Which I still think is funny. So anyway, the answer is “Donna”.

    [1] The girl, that is, I don’t know about the dog.
    [2] She said she did, at least. But I don’t have first hand evidence.
    [3] Is an adult-looking 17 year old a girl or a woman, anyway?

  5. Cara January 6, 2012 at 6:34 am

    All “slut” really means is “woman who pisses me off”. The sexual undertone is just another sneaky way to hit below the belt (as it were). It leaves a woman arguing semantics instead of just saying, “What’s your real problem?”

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