Saturday, May 20, 2006

Slut

Jill at Feministe has a great post up about being a slut. I figure now is a good a time as any to talk about my own experiences with being a slut (reposted from my personal blog.)

When I was a child, I used to get teased a lot. I'd say I didn't develop my (limited) social skills until about my freshman year of high school. There were a lot of insults thrown my way, but the one that puzzled me the most was "girl".

"You're such a girl" he would taunt. "No I'm not!" I'd rebutt indignantly. But, I'd know that, yes, I was a girl. I had girl-parts, long hair, seemingly posessed XX chromosonal arrangements...I was a girl. But being called "girl" WAS an insult, it wasn't a compliment. I knew that as a child, even if I couldn't explain to you why it was an insult.

Later, the insult de jour would be "nerd". Eventually, I went "fuck it, hell yes I'm a nerd". I like literature (especially sci fi and fantasy), video games, role-playing games, philosophical discussions and pop culture aspects. I am a nerd. That term I was able to co-opt for myself and my friends: occasionally we joke that somewhat just earned "prestige levels in nerd", a phrase in and of itself reveling the speaker to be of the less mainstream persuasion.

Now, the insult that gets lobbed at me the most frequently (although, less in the school-yard taunting setting and in the more subtle version) would be "slut". (Although "bitch" would probably be a close second).

Slut. It's really a good insult word, from an aethetic sense. The sl makes a nice hissing noise, and the t and the end really closes it. "You're a ssssslllluT". A word that's spoken much like someone would refer to something disgusting.

It's interesting to note that I feel unable to co-opt word like I did with "nerd", and it's not something I can really argue with on a semantic level, much like "girl". A quick jaunt over to dictionary.com says that slut is defined as:

A woman considered sexually promiscuous.
A woman prostitute.
A slovenly woman; a slattern.

Okay, then. The second definition is wrong, seeing as I don't get paid in momentary means when I have sex. A slovenly women...well, I'm pretty untidy, but seeing as I don't smell, and am not dirty, I don't think that one counts either. So, the first one is the only one which could apply to me.

"A woman considered sexually promiscuous". The fact that the word "considered" is in there at all, means that it's a matter of subjectivity right from the get-go, but what the fuck is considered "promiscuous" anyway? Back to dictionary.com

pro·mis·cu·ous adj.
Having casual sexual relations frequently with different partners; indiscriminate in the choice of sexual partners.
Lacking standards of selection; indiscriminate.

Kay, the first one doesn't apply to me: I'm so not indiscriminate in my choice of sexual partners. They have to meet my standards, and I'm unwilling to compromise on those standards. Most of them have met standards ABOVE my base standard, so I'm not indiscriminate. So, ergo, I'm not promiscuous.

If I'm not promiscuous, then I'm not a slut. QED.

But, seeing as slut is defined as "considered promiscuous" then I can't use MY definition of indiscriminate, whoever is judging me gets to consider that. And, since I'm female, the people who feel they have the right to judge me is, hmmm, everybody. Damn, back to being a dirty slut again. Just like being a "girl" I can't logically throw back "no, I'm not".

So, what's a girl to do? In the nice, denotative sense, slut's not really that bad. So I've slept with "a lot" of guys, bfd? Just like girl, why is that an insult, and not merely a statement of fact?

Because no one says slut as a positive thing. Ever. Wheras pimp is frequently considered a compliment, a women is to have no sex drive at all. Slut is on the "whore" side of the virgin/whore dicotomy: virgin is pure, unsullied, untouched, restrained virtuous. "Virgin" deserves protections, respect and care. Whore, therefore, is bad. "Whore" means dirty, used, sinful. "Whores" do not deserve protection, respect and care: whores are just public property to be used and dismissed. Like the village bicycle, everyone's had a turn. And what's worse, if the village bicycle suddenly gets a flat tire, fuck it: just throw it out and get a new one, it's not that big of a deal. (and I'm going to stop now, this analogy is getting really strained).

And if the slut denies someone the "right" to use it, watch out. Now she's an "uppity slut". She is someone who needs to be shoved back into her rightful place, a lesser on the hierchy.

If someone says "slut" you can be damned sure that this person has, to some degree, internalized sexism. The thing with the virgin/whore dicotomy is neither have status as a human: one is a pedestal ideal, the other is something that is okay to be drug through the mud. Neither one reflects the whole spectrum of human experience: neither being perfect nor being a demon. This false dicotomy is destructive to any women who falls on either end of it, because both are a denial of humanity.

My sexuality is not lessened by having sex with one guy, or a million (maybe a million, that'd hurt, but you get the hyperbole), or by masturbating, or by having lots of sex with one guy. I'm not a pie, there isn't a limit to my sexuality. I'm not "used" after sex, I'm not selfish to enjoy an experience with someone else, and it's no less "significant" when I have sex because I've had it before. But mostly, my sexuality is my own. It's not for someone else to decide, to insult, to tisk away because of some belief on how I should act.

So, while the insult is a total non sequitar, it's still very much supposed to be an insult. It is supposed to be warning me away from my sexuality, because then I don't "deserve" the protections befitting a good woman. It is a way to force me into a mold that I don't fit, and is contridictory to my nature, for the simple reasons of asserting power.

5 Comments:

At 5:24 PM, Blogger Hugo said...

A terrific penultimate paragraph, Cassandra -- powerful and eloquent. Not a pie indeed.

 
At 2:11 AM, Anonymous Lennart said...

The madonna / whore dichotomy is there for a reason.

The dynamics is set up by females being the limited ressource - reproductively.

The male that has already mated a female has a very strong evolutionary interest in her chastity - he wants her to be a chaste madonna.

The male that has not yet mated has the opposite interest - he wants her to be promiscuous - that is his evolutionary interest.

There is more to this than internalized sexism - much more.

The sexual behavoiur of females is simply much more important to evolution than male behaviour.

Females are the gatekeepers.

 
At 2:36 AM, Anonymous Lennart said...

but, my previous comment does not explain why other females would use the word slut.

Well, females have evolutionary interests too, thank you very much.

Since females are gate keepers they have power in sexual relationsships.

But if someone is a slut, she undermines this power for the rest of the females. So they will try to keep her in line by using the word slut to socially stigmatize her.

Please note, I am not morally defending the smearing of any person due to sexual behaviour. I am trying to explain the ultimate ( not just proximate ) causes.

 
At 9:36 PM, Blogger Goddess Cassandra said...

Wow, it really doesn't take long before the evolutionary psycho-babble starts up.

Reproductivity isn't a limited resource. And, if it was, we would be observing the same dynamic with women: with a promiscuous male being chastized for being a slut because he is giving up his genes and reproductive power.

And women being the sexual gatekeeper is NOT powerful: it's passive-agressive manipulation, and not all that fun either. Denying your sexual autonomy and sensuality isn't being powerful: it's trying to hold on to the last poker chip in a crappy hand. Nor is this evolutionary: the traditional model of human sexuality is that women were insatiable and men had to control them.

 
At 10:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, well, guess what lennart, we have these things called paternity tests now. In the animal world, k selected species' males need to "guard" "their" females and warn other males off her so he can ensure his paternity and not invest resources in offspring that's not biologically his, correct? Even if this psychobabble ever applied to much more motivationally complex humans, not anymore! Paternity tests can overcome this so called evolutionary interest. Even by your standards, women aren't the gatekeepers anymore! Hooray!

 

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