Trigger warning: This blog discusses sex and sexuality, and today’s post includes discussion about micro- and macro-aggressions against people and reappropriation of derogatory language. Also to my trans and non-binary and genderqueer readers, this post is more gendered and binaried than I’d like, but then again the exact problem being discussed within it is a result of the gender binary and the patriarchy, so that kind of explains it.
To celebrate my reemergence into blogging land, I’m going to write about sluts!
Dearest friends, colleagues, lovers, vixens, aces, and everyone else: It’s been a long minute since I blogged. I think that discussing, analyzing, and pondering sexuality are SO important in our society, one that creates so many problematic expectations and pressures around sex and sexuality.
As I said, today’s post is about sluts! Luckily, many before me have written about this topic, but I personally believe that it can’t be said enough:
There is no such thing as a slut.
I’ll start with a few questions to whet your curiosity:
Did you know that “slut” is a made up word used to control people (traditionally women and girls)?
Did you know that language is powerful?
Have you ever noticed that defining certain words is difficult?
Define cheating, for example. Some people consider cheating to be having sex with another person when in a predetermined monogamous relationship. Alright, seems straightforward enough, but hold on…what is sex?
Define sex! Does sex mean penis-in-vagina penetration? Then lesbians can’t have sex, and lesbians definitely have lots of (great) sex. Does sex mean something involving the two people’s genitals? Or just one person’s genitals? Could cheating then be consensually showing someone your vulva and then neatly tucking it back in your pants?
Clearly, sex is hard to define, too. Bill Clinton famously used that fact in the nineties: “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” Stay tuned for another blog post about how to better define sex for yourself. Back to defining cheating…
Some people define cheating as even having an emotional connection/affair with another person when in a predetermined monogamous relationship. So, let’s hash out how to tell what’s emotional cheating and what’s not.
How to determine whether communication is emotional cheating, hmm. Can you quantify the number of feelings you have towards friends? Is it defined based on the number of text messages or smiles exchanged? Are there certain keywords to avoid when having a friendship when you’re involved in a monogamous relationship? For instance, friends don’t say “love,” “sexy,” or “special.” Well, if that’s the case, I cheat with everyone, throwing around those dangerous words willy nilly! Friendships sound pretty dangerous all of a sudden. When am I cheating and when am I friendly!?
I’m not saying cheating doesn’t exist. It definitely does. It’s just pretty impossible to universally define, ya see. Cheating’s definition changes relationship-to-relationship, context-to-context.
So there you have an example within an example of words that are pretty heckin’ hard to universally define.
We’ve strayed from sluts. Back to sluts! My next challenge to you: Define what a slut is.
“Well, a slut is someone who has a lot of sex,” you might say.
“Okay, what’s a lot of sex?” I would ask.
“Well, I guess sometimes she really only has to have sex once to be a slut,” you might say.
“I’m already confused. So all people who have had sex could be sluts?” I might ask, nonplussed.
“Well, it really depends. She probably had sex with the wrong person,” you might say.
“Okay…that sounds…confusing. You seem to be implying that sluts are usually females, is that true?” says I.
“Y-yeah. Sluts are women. It’s really just the way she carries herself, and the way she dresses. She asks for it. She’s slutty.” (Nothing like employing the same word you’re trying to define as an adjective.)
“Oh, so if I ask someone if they want to have sex with me, I’m a slut? Or is it the degrees of rotation of a set of hips on a woman when she walks? A certain, gyration-sais-quoi ?” I question.
You respond, exasperated, “You just know it when you see it!”
Truth is, you can’t clearly define the word “slut.” People use “slut” to police women, to shame women, to shut down flirtatious behavior if they feel threatened by her and by her incredible, powerful sexuality. “Stop being a slut!” works well if they’re feeling jealous, insecure, poorly about themselves or their own appearance.
Contrarily, if a woman isn’t being sexual enough according to someone, they call her a “prude,” “frigid,” or a “bitch.”
If those don’t work, they’ll call her fat. Anything to punish her unwanted behavior, whether that be expressing her sexuality or rebuffing unwanted advances. Women and femmes are classically called fat after they reject a man’s sexual advance. Well, she wasn’t “fat” 5 seconds ago when you wanted to do the dirty…
The societal double-bind. Damned if you’re sexual, damned if you’re not.
The male version of a slut? A stud. A desirous label. When we hear about a stud or a Casanova, we smile. When we hear about a slut, we look disgusted. Or a “man-slut,” instead of simply calling him a slut. Women who have sex when they want to and with whom they want are punished, while men who do the same are just “boys being boys.”
What’s so dangerous about calling women sluts? Well, if you want the women and girls being raised in this world to grow up and enjoy sex at all, you might not want to shame them for expressing sexuality or having sex. Internalized slut-shaming and internalized misogyny are real. Many women shut down their ability to relax, get aroused, and have an orgasm because of how ashamed they have been programmed to be of sex and their own sexuality. Or they don’t know how to ask for what they want. Because they don’t know what they want. Because what they want must be shameful and slutty.
Pejoratively using the word slut also encourages and reinforces violence against women and femme-presenting people.
It creates and widens the chasms of misunderstanding and judgment that separate us women from fellow women and femmes. When a woman judges another woman’s appearance as “slutty,” she is reinforcing the oppression of women. She is further oppressing herself.
Let me give you some examples of women whom you mustn’t call sluts (unless they ask you to...keep reading):
A woman who has sex with 100+ partners in her lifetime isn’t a slut.
A woman who has an affair isn’t a slut. She’s cheating, but she isn’t a “slut.”
An adolescent who has sex in their teenage years isn’t a slut.
A woman who has sex with someone once, and then decides not to have sex with them again, isn’t a slut.
A woman who shows more skin than the person standing next to her isn’t a slut.
Now that we’ve established that “slut” is an inherently meaningless pejorative used when convenient to control a person’s behavior, let’s talk about reclaiming the word as our own!
I’m a slut when I want to be a slut! Also, you can’t call me a slut (unless I ask you to). Similar to…
…black people reclaiming the N word to take back its power .
…gay people reclaiming the word “faggot” to take back its power.
…intellectual people reclaiming “nerd.”
…lesbians reclaiming “dyke.”
…women reclaiming “bitch.” (Madonna used it 44 times in Rebel Heart).
…queer people reclaiming “queer.”
…the list is endless.
Let’s keep on reclaiming words like “pussy” and “slut” to take back their power. To take our own power. To live equally. Also, watch Trevor Noah discuss how much he would love to be a pussy in his stand-up routine because of how badass strong they are. Thank you, Trevor Noah, for giving pussies some credit. Well done.
Here’s a radical idea: embrace your inner slut if you’d like, a part of you who is sexy, confident, and in charge! See what she wants and see where she takes you. She may only emerge for 1-2 hours out of every 24, or she might start showing up more consistently in your daily life. Or, she might be your inner goddess, nympho, dominatrix, submissive, asexual, queen, pillow princess, cuckhold, switch, hotwife, masochist, sadist, vanilla lover, whatever floats your unique, gorgeous boat!
No more slut-shaming. No more internalized slut-shaming. No more policing of female and femme bodies. Getting rid of slut as a negative and using it as a naughty, fun positive might do wonders for your sex life. ;-)
Reading recommendations/influences/sources for today’s post: The Ethical Slut by Easton and Hardy, Esther Perel’s books, podcasts, TED talks
Happy Hump Day and have a great rest of your week, fellow sluts! Do something slutty today if you want! Signing out with love,
Caitlin Myles, MS, LMFT
Psychotherapist and Sex Therapist