Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Other S Word

Well, here we are again.

Another month, another inch closer to the time of year when the sun actually shines and you don't have to melt your hands over a heater after a 5 minute walk to the corner store. Thank the proverbial gods, because my bike is lonely and my feet are tired of being wet and cold. I know I live in Canada and everyone is sick of hearing everyone else whine about how cold it is- but honestly, there are days when this shit is just plain unliveable. I am not a fan.

But that's not why I'm writing today. I want to talk about something that pervades society at large, from queer and lesbian settings to your atypical straight dorm room bro's to progressive communities: Slut shaming.

Wikipedia says: "Slut shaming (also hyphenated, as slut-shaming) is defined as the act of making someone, usually a woman, feel guilty or inferior, for engaging in certain sexual behaviors that violate traditional gender expectations. These include, depending on culture, having a large number of sex partners, having sexual relations outside marriage, having casual sexual relations, or acting or dressing in a way that is deemed excessively sexual. This is often done by name calling (often using the word "slut" itself) as well as covert shaming."

First I would like to state that there are many great ways to insult a person who is being rude/manipulative/unfriendly/backstabbing or any number of other things which would make you want to call that person out. If male-identified, some of the most common ones are: asshole, jerk, douchebag, prick etc. Now, think about what you would call someone who is displaying the same behaviours but happens to be female-indentified. Chances are what comes to mind are: bitch, slut, cunt or some version of all three.

'Slut' seems to be an acceptable insult even when the person being insulted has not engaged in promiscuous sexual activities. I'm not saying 'bitch' or 'cunt' (although it is one of my favourite words- see "Reclaiming Cunt- The Vagina Diaries") are any better or worse but for the purpose of this blog post we will save them for another day. Slut is considered to be one of the worst things you can call a female bodied person. It is meant in its essence to shame that person. There is no other purpose for this term, whereas 'bitch' can mean aggressive, mean, misleading etc. The purpose of the word 'slut' is to tell that person that they are to be judged solely on their sexual endeavours, and if you were raised as a female then you were likely taught that a sexual eagerness or appetite is shameful. Its the classic prude/whore or mother mary/ mary magdalene dynamic.

We are told to be sexual objects while never admitting or succumbing to our sexual desires. The media tells us we are supposed to be sexy to inspire both lust and jealousy from our peers while paradoxically being the humble virgins. Boys are taught that if a girl sleeps with you then she is not respectable, but if a girl makes you wait she is a tease.

So we are all taught to have a universal hatred of the woman who freely enjoys her own sexuality, whether this means experimenting with a primary partner or having multiple partners without the customary shame we are supposed to feel. The 'slut' is less hated when she feels remorse for her actions and her sexuality. Those of us are not repentant and feel no remorse for freely pursuing our desires are put into the 'slut' box and considered less than.

Now, noone says this right out. It manifests itself in a myriade of ways every single day, in different contexts. From referencing women who choose to wear revealing clothing to buying into the porn industry, to my straight male friends talking about how so and so is such a slut but she's so hot (at the same time), to my own acceptance and claim of the term. I've called myself a slut and challenged anyone to tell me it's a bad thing.

I have spent my whole life living with the shame of being female and the things I was taught. At some point, I decided that I was not going to shame myself for following my desires. I am a responsible, safe, adult woman who enjoys sex. I no longer feel shame over this. I am also without a primary partner so I suppose you could call me promiscuous, but as long as my actions are not harming myself or anyone else I choose to go with my gut feeling. If I feel safe, respected and I am attracted to the other person than I am not going to deny myself what could be a great experience with another human.

Some friends tell me this may be why I am still single- because I sometimes sleep with someone on the first date. Or because I sometimes have multiple lovers. According to most "dating experts" (as if there is such a thing), this is a huge no no. I disagree- I believe the reason I am still single is that I have not found someone I connect with strongly enough to make a commitment to. Regardless of whether I sleep with women, men or anyone in between, I haven't yet found someone I could see myself sharing my life with. I have though met many people whom I have shared intense nights/weekends/weeks/months with, to the satisfaction of both of us. Noone was harmed, precautions were taken, and in the end everyone walked away with a smile.

You want to call me a slut right now, don't you? Well, go ahead. But know that when you do so, you are harming yourself by pressuring me to deny my sexual nature. In my opinion, the more we all just accept our own sexuality and open the hell up from these retro 1950s religious ideals, the better the world will become. Of course, this is a very simplified blog post and the entire slut shaming contruct would take me hours to type- but I hope I've made my point.

Now, can we all just act like grown ups and stop calling women who love sex sluts?