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“We Are All Sluts” Response: If, By Sluts, We Mean Women

June 12, 2013

So maybe Sassmouth wasn’t writing directly in response to my post about sluts and female friendship, but it seems like she has a valid point when she says “we are all sluts,” which I take to mean that by being female, we get assigned the slut role to varying degrees by society:

Though, I actually don’t give a fuck what women wear, or what gets them off, and I think you shouldn’t either. We think we have a right to an opinion on female sexuality and expression, because we hoard the bodies and sexualities of women, and mark them as property of the commons. This public licence over women is at the root of so much other shit, and it plays out differently in contexts that have not experienced a sexual revolution. But here, now, we are frothing at the mouth, watching young women try to negotiate a world were every television show has an obligatory woman-on-pole (look for it, I ain’t kidding), and we reduct every public woman (regardless of her role) to her constituent biological parts and how she decorates them. This is the world we have bequeathed them. Yet we are all, slllluuuuutttty slut slut, when in this cultural context, young women start playing around with their sexual selves.

What I am advocating, is that we all get the fuck off this merry-go-round, and hand the license over. It’s been since literally all of human history, and I reckon it’s about fucking time. Sisters are going to figure it out, especially if we actually you know, give them a bit of credit – so back the fuck off. That’s all I’m saying.

I am not writing some ground breaking thesis here. Simon de Beauvoir was going on about it in the 40s, and as it remains so thoroughly unresolved, grappling with the attempt to restore women’s ownership of their bodies and sexualities has given rise to new feminist movements such as SlutWalk and FEMEN, and plenty of new feminist thinkers who have some pretty sharp riffage on this very issue.

But even among feminists these movements are controversial, and this resistance speaks to their importance. As one of my favorite feminists, Cynthia Enloe has argued, a feminist must always ask – why?

Why it is that for every woman that subverts these agreed upon values, we designate her slut? For every woman that tries and fails to live up to these values, that she too is a slut? Single mothers? Sluts. Using contraception? S.L.U.T. Short-shorts – slut. Over thirty? Old slut. Dark skinned? Black slut. Queer? Trans? Sluts. Any woman, anywhere inhabiting a public space? SLUUUUUTS!

Sluts sluts sluts sluts sluts sluts sluts sluts sluts sluts sluts sluts sluts sluts sluts sluts sluts sluts sluts sluts SLUTS!!!

By the perverse logic so deeply embedded in our culture(s), every woman is a slut.

Sure, we might all be sluts, but what makes a woman a slut?  Multiple partners? Sexual acts? Clothing? And why the fascination?  How is it that we can define something that lacks any specific definition by word choice?  I am always surprised by the depth of curiosity about female sexuality, and the common element worldwide is that fear associated with human sexuality, and most likely female sexuality.  Even in cultures that condone rape, people don’t have large public health campaigns about how to define rapists, nor do they publicly speak about the type of men who rape women, define them, out them, discuss them, but it’s perfectly acceptable, even in a religious space, or especially in a religious space, to discuss “sluts.”  Oh the joy inherent in talking about sex in church, any kind of church, or religion, and notice how any discussion of sex in church, under the guise of defining these sluts so they may be appropriately ostracized still centers on female sexuality and the male beast stereotype.  Why is female sexuality, and the universal and pervasive fear that surrounds it so intriguing? Why do people obsess?  I just don’t get it.

I am just as interested in female sexuality, I think, as many people. For that matter, sex interests me, just like most people, but I still don’t understand the concept of sluts. Or, as in my previous post, why sluts are determined to have altered personality characteristics (link below: Sluts Make Better Friends and “Women are Horndogs,Too”).

Nonetheless, I am interested to find out why “sluts,” would make better or worse friends.  Who can fill me in? I had no idea that sexual mores indicated friendship compatibility. If we are all sluts, as Sassmouth advocates, then how can we separate women into potentially good friendship groups?  And if we are talking confessionals, then why not talk about guilt associated with sluttiness? Guilt that sluts are not good people, and do we have guilt for assigning women roles about their sexuality that determine our ability to befriend them? Personally, I love sluts. I don’t give a fuck how many partners a woman has had, what clothing she wears, how well she sucks dick or with whom, I just always want the woman to feel she has made the choice in those respects.  After that, well, I love sluts, no matter how we define them, because life is too damn short not to, for real…

English: "I love sluts" button issue...

English: “I love sluts” button issued at rally in Civic Center Park for Denver SlutWalk on 2 July 2011. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 13, 2013 7:59 am

    I agree – it is fascinating that we (as in the encompassing, nondescript societal “we”) are preoccupied- obsessed – with female sexuality and how it is outwardly expressed. As I argued in that post, I see it as being at the result of the naturalisation of the idea that women’s bodies and sexualities are public property. So everybody feels a right to comment/regulate/degrade and so on. Reducing a woman to her sexual functionality, and degrading her in ways that dig into this, are a means to reinforce this public ownership. I feel like having pressed that post, that I should have also made it more clear that it is not just sexually promiscuous/ open/ half dress/ liberated/ whatever women that are subjected to the slut label. It is thrown about like confetti. A muslim friend (who wears a scarf, an outward expression of her piety, and a kind of signifier of her humility before her god) is regularly asked to “take the scarf of you slut” (clear racist dimensions in this sort of shit too). A woman who turns down a come-on, or defends aggressive sexual harassment is a “frigid slut”. Yeah, we are all sluts, it doesn’t even have to make sense – it becomes almost an irrelevant term – except in it serving as kind of verbal branding- get back in your place, and don’t forget that it is you that is “other”, that is “object” and you do not exist for yourself. This existential “othering” of the female condition, and it’s relationship to sexuality is deeply interesting to me. But then, there are the self identified “sluts”, who reject type conservative type regulation of female sexuality and gender-binary sexuality more broadly; and are kind of claiming it back. For themselves and others. All this trash has been like an internal feminist battle ground for me – it is intangible – yet so material to my lived experience. I don’t know about the question you pose, what “sluts” even are- and how we can categorise them enough to write a witty post about them. Maybe it makes sense only when talking about the self identified sluts, because I suppose that is the only space in which the term makes any sense -and it only makes sense because it is the individual that is defining/ redefining it. In general, it is a

    Anyway, good reading. Making me think thoughts and such.


    • brokeharvardgrad permalink*
      June 13, 2013 1:46 pm

      I get it. Calling a woman a slut is a way of insulting her by assuming she is nothing more than a sexual object, and it’s assigned regardless of the rationale or logic. I think it’s simply a male ownership bit–some men assume they own all women. This was discussed in heated debates even in the 1800’s. I think the public ownership of the female body comes about from a patriarchal society. Have you ever read, When God Was A Woman? I have countless copies of this stashed around my house, because it offers a glimpse of the concept that we might not have always been ruled by a male-dominated society. We still live in a patriarchal society, and in a patriarchal society, ownership of women, particularly mating rights, are bandied about as though women are animals, dress codes, presentation, female form, willingness, etc. somehow reverts back to a sexual status rather than a human status. I think there is a space for women to just be people, but I don’t think it’s generally well accepted.

      On a side note, I didn’t realize that women who wore the head scarf were called sluts. Seems like men objectify women based on clothing when it’s too much, too little? Sheesh, I am not sure I can keep those rules straight either. I know that head scarves in local Wal-Marts result in nasty comments from others, but I didn’t realize “slut” terminology was a part of that. How to categorize that? Short-shorts, kind of get that, more public access, but head scarves with less access to the female form? Do the men who make those comments see women who wear head scarves as objects? Head scarves objectify women by some American male standards? Do head scarves cause the same “less than” response as short-shorts? Interesting. Obviously in some religious circles, head scarves signal piety, but have they signalled objectification to some men? I noticed the angry male response to head scarves, mainly because men feel that the woman wearing it has been abused, from what I have heard before, equating the wearing of a head scarf universally with an abused woman, i.e. that she is not free enough to uncover her head and that the vision of a god that believes women should be covered is not approved. I had not heard the slut interpretation. I will try to be more observant of this. Thank you for your post and your comment, your insight. Fascinating…

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