They Called Me A ‘Slut’

Some kids on the World Wide Web refer to the number of sexual partners a person has had as their “body count”. When I discovered this, I wanted to delete today’s blog and just publish this sentence instead: the only time a body count is relevant is if somebody has died. Then I could have logged off, sipped on a sweet Rubicon and spent the rest of my afternoon watching Frasier instead.

But it falls to me to talk about slut-shaming with more than a witty one-liner, which is almost certainly not my own. You voted over on Twitter dot com (@G4RL_blog, follow the account, take part in future polls and read tweets about my armpit hair), so here I am to make your dreams come true.

[Roz Doyle, Frasier’s much-needed female counterpoint]
We have to talk about gender today. For a blog called GIRL (c’mon, squint a bit), I haven’t written much about gender. So far, it’s been Much A-gender About Nothing. Sorry, I’ll show myself out. We have to talk about gender, because men aren’t sluts. “Now stop right there Mademoiselle. I am a man about town. I’ve been called a slut and other disrespectful things by those who disapprove of my sexual choices.” That’s interesting Ernie, but I’m going to need you to sit on my lap like I’m Santa and listen to me.

A man who sleeps with a lot of people is sometimes called a slut, but very rarely. It tends to be prefixed with ‘man’ so he can become the Marvel superhero: Man-Slut. Sometimes he’s called a ‘playboy’, or even a ‘lothario’, which sounds sexy, mysterious and also like a pasta dish. You too live in the world and must have paid some attention, so let’s save our precious word count here. When you hear the word ‘slut’, the image in your mind is female and you know it, Ernie. Now get off my lap.

[Hugh Hefner, well-known Man Slut]
For a start, this labelling of sexual activity is boringly hetero-normative. We must acknowledge the struggles that the LGBTQ+ community face in their sexual choices. Gay men are perceived as promiscuous; bi-sexual men and women are perceived as greedy; transgender men and women are not permitted to fully occupy either a male or female space, so become objects of voyeurism. It’s all sick and wrong.

Debates around gender and sex often ignore LGBTQ+ voices, where experiences of prejudice and labelling are all too prevalent. While the patriarchy continues as the Scooby Doo villain behind every sexual choice we make, everybody loses, okay? Men must be macho and women must be sluts or virgins. Nobody can express an identity that doesn’t neatly conform to one of the dominant gender stereotypes without facing judgement and at its worst, abuse of power and violence. It’s tiresome, it serves nobody (including straight men) and I’m so freakin’ bored of it.

As a heterosexual woman who talks openly about having and enjoying safe sex, I’ve been called a slut more times than Piers Morgan has felt his voice was relevant to a political debate. At university, this reached fever pitch. In a collegiate environment in the early 2010s, the status quo resembled a Bad American High School Movie. The jocks ruled all, nobody was challenged on sexist behaviour and Woody Allen was just a Cool Guy With Glasses. Nobody had heard of “consent workshops” and nobody cared to find out. It was so acceptable to shout the word ‘slut’ at a teenage girl across a bar, that nobody batted an eyelid when this happened on a weekly basis.

[Jocks in Heathers doing their jock thing]
The lad culture of heavy drinking and groping was so normalised, that I couldn’t have imagined a movement like #MeToo in my wildest dreams.  It became clear that there were two options: to take ownership of being a slut; or to be beaten down by the voices shouting across the bar and never have or enjoy sex again. At that time, in that culture, those felt like the only choices available to me.

Some progress has been made since then, but it’s slow and often feels like a case of one step forward, two steps back. I’ve settled into my identity as a ‘sex positive’ woman, meaning I’m comfortable talking about sex and don’t judge anybody for their sexual preferences. Being open about my sex life has never prevented me from having long-term, meaningful, monogamous relationships.

It doesn’t matter how many people I’ve slept with and it doesn’t matter how many people my partner has slept with, full stop. I feel grown, full of self-respect and strength. But women are still judged for their sexual choices more than men. So let’s talk about how to cope with facing judgement from others about your sex life and how to adopt a ‘sex positive’ approach:

  • Be a slut, do whatever you want.

I feel foolish for stating the obvious here, but you can have as much or as little sex as you like. You can tell people about it, you can write about it on the internet, you can keep it to yourself and just think about it and smile on the number 18 bus to Euston. Any and all of these choices are equally valid and do not change your worth, no matter what anybody says. People will always have different attitudes towards sex and the key is mutual respect. If you don’t believe in sex before marriage, that’s cool, but you must respect those who disagree with you. Similarly, being sex positive doesn’t mean pushing an agenda on others. It means respecting people’s differences and not judging those who don’t have sex too.

  • Know your worth.

We talked about this in I Slept With Somebody and They Haven’t Messaged Me Since, but it’s crucial to demonstrate self-respect in everything you do sexually. That means not accepting anything less than your worth. It means zero tolerance when it comes to any sexual encounter which makes you feel uncomfortable and following a rigid and informed model of consent. It also means working out what makes you feel shiny and bright when it comes to your sexual encounters and doing just that, whatever it may be.

I realised very recently I didn’t want to sleep with anybody I wasn’t in love or in a relationship with, because those are the types of sexual encounters which enable me to grow and bring me the greatest pleasure. That hasn’t always been my attitude; it’s just what works for me right now and enables me to feel the most confident, wholesome and sexy. Somebody alert the queue of suitors outside my house, thank you, please and goodnight.

  • Reframe the debate.

It’s important to have an identity outside of the bedroom (or park, or stairwell, or backseat of an Uber), as well as exploring your sexual self and knowing what pleases you. In order to counteract negativity when others judge you for how many people you have or haven’t slept with, you need to have a very firm idea of who you are. That means being sure of your positive attributes. If you know and actively cultivate the fact that you are a kind, generous and loving person then you can be assured that these traits remain unaffected by whomever’s genitals have been in your mouth.

The old adage “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is of course utter nonsense-talk because ohmygod people can be real mean. But, if somebody calls you a slut, that has nothing to do with your own value. If you are sure of your worth, then you can immediately dismiss this insult as irrelevant and go celebrate your sexual freedom with a delicious mango juice drink.


 

Next week will see the return of posting on a Monday. Our weekly schedule has got all out of sync due to me being a busy and unreliable little raccoon. But I’m back baby, so that means it’s only three days until your next slice of pie! See you on Monday my precious gems.


 

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