On Sex, Shame And The Notion of Sluttiness

Let’s have a quick experiment everyone. It won’t take more than a moment of your time, I promise. Three quick questions, and then we’ll get on with the blog post.

1. Hands up if you’ve ever called someone a slut.

2. Raise your hand if you’ve ever called a man a slut.

3. And finally, please put your hand up if you believe being a slut is a bad thing.

Now, let’s review the results, shall we?

I imagine that the second question received quite a few less hands than the first and last question – would I be right?

Because that’s how I would answer those questions. That’s how I did answer them. I most definitely have called someone a slut, multiple times. Almost all of those times I called someone a slut, I had been talking about a woman. And every single time, I had been using the word in attempt to degrade the women I was talking about.

And I was wrong.

I am incredibly uneasy with women being called sluts. It enrages me when I hear someone still using such an archaic and oppressing word to describe women. Every time someone throws that word around, as if it means nothing, as if they have the right to draw a judgement on someone, it shocks me at how much further we still have to come.

Many people – most people, I would estimate – use the term ‘slut’ as a way to shame women for having sex. A slut is not someone you would want to associate with, much less be. A slut is the absolute opposite of class, purity and cleanliness – all things that make up a lady. A slut is not who you want for your girlfriend, who you want to bring home to your parents. A slut is usually a woman who has sex – mostly frequently – but when you get to the crux of it, the issue of it is a woman having sex.

Because there’s no such thing as a slut, is there? Not really. Let’s call it as it is: sluts are bad because they’re women who have sex freely and willingly.

This idea that a woman who has sex, as much and as often as she likes, should be subjugated to a judgement that ostracizes her from society is still prevalent today. The frequency with which people turn to the term as a valid way of judging and ranking someone only goes to show how women are still viewed closely and inextricably in terms of their sexuality. We cannot seem to separate the woman from the vagina. Just like we never have been able to do.

And I’m calling bullshit on that one.

Sexual women have always been singled out – and not for good reasons. They have been judged, neglected, used and, above all, feared. We were given corsets to restrict our movement while highlighting our figure; our sexual arousal and frustration were labelled medical conditions; we are forced to pay high prices for indulging ourselves sexually – both financially and socially.

Since when – apart from the odd STD or awkward moaning – is sex a bad thing? More specifically, since when has women having sex been a bad thing?

Well, since always. It’s always been a bad thing, ever since we discovered that vaginas could be used for happy times. As if that was our fault, as if we shouldn’t make use of what our body could do.

A tale as old as time, some might say. Frightened with tales of pregnancy and disease, sex is something that is both feared by and expected of women. Expected by those of society who constantly view women in sexual terms, who base their value on their sexuality, and feared by those being measured in these terms.

And that, my friends, is bullshit. Sex, seemingly like the disgust at women having it, is something natural. Something that people have been it for donkeys, and will continue to be at. The hypocrisy of years gone by where mistresses were a common, open secret, allowing married and committed men to betray their wives and allowing the women they do this with to be ostracized if found out. The key, simple fact that people fail to grasp is that women have sex. They have always had sex, and they will always sex, whether you like it or not.

We need to realign our way of viewing sexual women in society. That is to say, we need to remove all judgement altogether. Why isolate sex and women’s sexuality as a deciding factor in your opinion of someone, much less in your treatment of them, when what a woman does with her body and with whom is very much her own business?

I say we ban the word slut from our vocabularies. It really bears no meaning, which took me a long time to realise.

It took me far too long to come to the realisation that being sexual is not a bad thing, nor a shameful thing. The only shameful thing about that viewpoint is how common it remains today. I wonder will we ever let women be, and do, as they like. And more pertinently, will that be some day soon?

I doubt it, but here’s hoping.

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8 thoughts on “On Sex, Shame And The Notion of Sluttiness

  1. Thanks for this post, something to think about. I agree with you, sex isn’t something that should cause people disgrace. People should just mind their own goddamn business

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  2. I’ve actually never called a woman a slut, but yes it’s clear we don’t have a good term for men who like to have a lot of sex. So I agree with you on the difference in judgment. We know of course sex drive varies across all humans. There are some men who actually don’t want to have a lot of sex or at least sex without some sort of emotional facet to it, and especially when they are young this can lead to derision as well. I think that a realization of how much sex drive varies in our species is an important one to accept and realize that there is nothing wrong with people who want to have more sex than others. As long as it’s consensual of course.

    I will disagree slightly in that there might be a biological basis for different attitudes toward gender, however where we have been for the past who knows 500-2000 years has certainly got out of control and largely exacerbated by puritanical denominations of Judeo-Christian religions. The time before birth control had to be a frightening one and we can still see the consequences of lack of birth control in society today in terms of women having more children and populations spiraling beyond sustainability. Consider the following biological truths:

    1) Pregnancy is an extremely draining process on a woman as I’m sure you are aware. Before modern medicine, women had a 9/10 chance of surviving pregnancy. Not really great odds. You need more food both while pregnant and after. Mobility is reduced both at an individual level and also as a tribe if you were nomadic.

    2) Societies both as hunter-gatherers and “civilized” (after the discovery of farming) had strong reasons to try to control populations. Especially when resources were scarce.

    3) As populations grew and we were sedentary and mixing with other societies, the spread of disease was more rampant. All sorts of diseases but STDs as well.

    4) We also know from studying other primate species that men have a biological aversion to being cuckolded. They will take less interesting in parenting when they are unsure if the child carries their DNA.

    5) Abortion has been around for as long as we’ve been a species, except before methods of abortion were developed, many women had to practice infanticide a children that were unwanted because the population was getting too high were killed. This is not something that I am sure any woman wanted to emotionally go through, especially giving the risks of just becoming pregnant.

    Now I know you are probably saying I am making excuses for men or something at this point, but I hope you will bear with me.

    One of the consequences post farming was the development of class structure and marriage being used as a way of property transference. A man being cuckolded isn’t a big deal in hunter-gatherer societies because the raising of children was communal. But when we see the growth of the family unit post farming and the growth of the state, families were a lot of ways on their own. Taking care of extra children that weren’t your own was costly and this is when I believe that women began to be most unfairly punished for their behavior. As religion became more organized and you have religions which really treat women as sub-human things get worse. Women also have the problem of simply not being able to hide their sexual activity if they get pregnant. Men always do. Women were easy targets.

    I see where we are now as the initially unintended consequences of important practical problems that existed a long time ago. But certainly since that time women have been systematically oppressed and dehumanized in more ways than one. The terrible irony being that while reduced to their sexuality only they are not even given ownership of the one thing they are allowed to possess. It seems clear to me that between men and women, men are the far more fragile gender. Most importantly, the fact remains that men can also bear the responsibility for addressing those practical concerns. We have the capacity of course to love children that are not our own, and so many people demonstrate this everyday. And now that we have birth control many of those problems actually go away, and yet the attitudes towards women remains. Enough is enough. All of us bear the responsibility for having responsible sex. It never should have been any different.

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    1. Thanks for the comment. I appreciate that biology may have some part to play, but I don’t believe it’s the cause of it all. I think society has a bigger part to play than we may realize.

      I’m also not sure I agree with you in that men are the more fragile gender – I would probably need some thorough debating to see eye to eye on that one! It just seems to me that sex tends to have a more socially harmful outcome for women.

      But yes, sex should be the same for everyone – that is to say something enjoyable and safe for each individual, what ever that might mean for them.

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      1. Like I said, where we are now is certainly societal. I am simply saying that a greater focus on women might naturally develop for biological reasons, but how this became encoded in cultural values certainly is not. For instance there were likely some practical reasons for not eating pork such as lack of refrigeration, and that pigs use up a lot of water (not good when your religion starts in an arid climate), but clearly for that to translate later into saying your going to hell for eating pork would be an example where a practical issue becomes codified into society as something more extreme.
        In regards to fragility it is certainly an interesting topic, but I think there are both some biological and societal reasons for that. Male emotional fragility might be a result of hyper-masculine values which don’t allow men to be emotionally expressive and vulnerable which hurts them in the long run and leads to all sorts of behavioral issues.
        There is however evidence that men are also biologically more fragile as well. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/are-men-the-weaker-sex/

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      2. I would also say that just given the rigors of child birth and moving through 1000’s of years of gender oppression would lend some weight to my assertion. We have yet to see how men might bear that burden. 🙂

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