Have you ever been called a slut? There are a lot of words I could put in its place: ‘whore’ seems to have lost its sting since Mean Girls, ‘prostitute’ is an antiquated and ignorant term for sex workers, and ‘harlot’ is almost adorable. It’s slut that seems to bother me the most. It’s harsh and judgemental and just an awful monosyllabic four-letter-word. As far as I’m concerned, any term that looks down on any woman’s sexual behaviour has its place in Biblical evangelism and nowhere else. And since I rarely want to sit around and hear about the sins of the Whore of Babylon, I shouldn’t have to listen to such pronouncements at all.
It’s a cliché to ask where the judgement is for men (well… straight men). But that is the simple difference between the Walk Of Shame and the Stride Of Pride. Boys have to sow their seed, or whatever other analogy creeps you out less. We ladies have to be the pinnacle of correct and demure behaviour. Even though this hypocrisy usually refers to heterosexual couplings, this deep-seated societal belief isn’t about straight women or LGBTQ women, it’s about women. Full stop.
Historically, the gay community at large was perceived as overtly promiscuous, unable to commit to long-term relationships, and really just in it for the sexy times. We’ve made tremendous strides in terms of convincing society that we are in fact just like them in our relationships, the only difference being a same-sex partner. But traces of the old way of thinking remain.
Some people still have the fear that all lesbians and bisexual women are attracted to everyone with a vagina and therefore the queers must be avoided at all costs. They constantly have sex on the brain, right?! Trans* women can be accused of using trickery to get people into bed rather than, you know, expressing their right to free gender identity. Bisexuals are seen as incapable of maintaining a monogamous relationship because the urge to have sex with the gender you’re not with is too strong. So what have all these offensive little preconceptions have to do with slut shaming?
For one, we can be afraid to express our desires because of how the straight community will perceive us. I know that I am sometimes conscious of what I am doing in private with other people, because I am conscious that I am loud and verbal in dispelling myths about bisexuality and I don’t want to be seen as a hypocrite. Sometimes it can be the LGBTQ community itself who is placing the scarlet letter on your chest. Anyone can criticise what you wear, who you are with and who you go home with and this is all A-Okay. Eventually we end up with blame and self-shaming and all manner of unpleasant feelings that shouldn’t be associating with the very pleasant feelings which accompany sex.
Even if you don’t engage in “slutty” behaviour, you can get just as much shite for dressing the wrong way. I’m not one for tight belly tops and ripped jeans, but I am almost permanently wearing a short skirt. I don’t always agree that the extremely revealing ensemble a random girl is wearing is a wise choice (it gets cold in the winter), but who am I to judge her for it? Maybe this is what she feels confident in. Maybe she gets her kicks from dressing up and has already planned her lift home from Mammy at 2am. I don’t know and either do you. And because of what she is wearing, if anything happened to that girl during the night, if she was attacked or raped or something else horrendous, there are some who would say she was “asking for it”. That, my friends, is why slut shaming is dangerous.
What about the girls who carry around condoms and/or dental dams around in their bag just in case? They’re just protecting themselves against sexually-transmitted ickies like Chlamydia, herpes and HIV and fair play to them for empowering themselves and not depending on another person to keep them in good health, right? Nope. Those girls are sluts too. Safe-sex devices are just encouraging girls who would have otherwise stayed abstinent. And yes, this naivety comes from college students, not my parish priest.
My own morals when it comes to sex are this: if there is a lack of consent anywhere, don’t have sex;l if you might get infected with something and can’t protect against it, don’t have sex; if someone is going to get hurt from this encounter (including yourself), don’t have sex. Other than that, do as you will. Your body is your body and only you can know what is good for you. Explore your fantasies, ask for what you want, and enjoy it! If the above is wrong, then call me slut, whore and harlot, because I have no shame.