Won't Someone Please Think of the Sluts?


[Snark Warning]

I was bemused recently by the reaction when I mentioned on my Tumblr–in the context of a larger conversation–that I’m proud of the fact that I’m not, for lack of a better term, “promiscuous.”

I was promptly accused of “slut-shaming,” which, according to this blog, is constituted by the following:

the idea of shaming and/or attacking a woman or a girl for being sexual, having one or more sexual partners, acknowledging sexual feelings, and/or acting on sexual feelings.

The word “slut” has recently undergone a revival of sort, and was used for the infamous SlutWalks of this past spring and summer. Naive as I am, I’d assumed that the point of this new discourse on slut-shaming was to emphasize that everyone should be free to choose–and to take pride in–whatever sort of sexual life they desire. This would be an idea that I would support till my dying day.

Apparently, though, the hidden side of this message is that it’s no longer fashionable to be sexually abstinent or to reserve sex for serious, loving relationships, and that anyone who takes pride in their decision to do so is necessarily shaming sluts.

Well, needless to say, I don’t subscribe to that notion. Here’s why.

I love my major (psychology). I’m proud of the fact that I’m studying to be a psychologist and would not have it any other way. Does that mean I look down upon everyone who chooses a different major and think that everyone should study psychology? No.

Another example. I’m proud of being Jewish. Although I’m not observant, I take a lot out of the Jewish tradition and would not want to belong to any other faith. Does that mean I look down upon everyone who has another religion? No.

But for some reason, when we’re talking about sexual politics, everyone seriously loses their heads. This entire branch of the social justice movement is subject to the very same dichotomous thinking it despises (i.e. the virgin-whore dichotomy, and others). A bunch of people simply assumed that just because I’m proud of my own decisions about my sex life, I look down upon all other possible decisions and therefore am taking part in slut-shaming.

Sorry to complicate things for you, but no. As I’m constantly posting things on my Tumblr regarding sexual freedom and related topics, and as I’m a member of a campus organization dedicated to, among other things, promoting sex positivity, I think I can safely vouch for the fact that I don’t deplore anybody’s personal choices as long as they do not involve harming others.

But that simply does not mean that I don’t take pride in my own actions and decisions. I think people are assuming that “pride” implies a moral stance, but it doesn’t. I’m not proud of my abstinence from casual sex because I think I’m more moral than others. I’m proud of it for other reasons, such as:

  • it’s a rejection of college social norms, and I’m always happy to reject some social norms;
  • it’s a way of observing my beliefs about sexuality and spirituality–beliefs that are not necessarily religious in nature, but that I hold very strongly (for myself);
  • and, most importantly, it’s the healthiest choice for me, and in a culture where psychological health plays second fiddle (hell, last fiddle) to everything else, I’m proud of doing what’s healthiest for me.

You might have noticed that in the preceding list, I italicized “for myself” and “for me.” This is because I’m acknowledging that the choices I’ve made, and my pride regarding those choices, reflects the fact that this is what’s right for me as an individual, and not necessarily what I’d wish to impose on the rest of the general population.

I realize that this distinction may have been lost on some people–namely, the ones that accused me of “slut shaming”–in my original post, but that’s why I’ve dedicated this entire article to illuminating it.

The end result of all this is that I’m no longer quite so enthusiastic about participating in a movement that denies me the right to take pride in my lifestyle just because it’s not what the cool kids are doing these days. That’s not even considering the fact that, as difficult as “sluts” have it, my decision to abstain from casual sex hasn’t been entirely free of consequences either. Where’s the discourse on virgin-shaming? Or, in my case, people-who-hate-hooking-up-shaming?

(Just recently on Tumblr, I witnessed dozens of people ganging up on a girl who declared in a completely judgment-free way that she wishes to remain a virgin till marriage. To these sexually liberated but mentally stunted morons, I only have this to say–for shame.)

So I’ll end with this: to any self-described sluts who are reading this and feel shamed by my personal lifestyle choices, I offer my sincere apologies. However, I’ll also advise you to learn how to derive your self-esteem from internal pride rather than external approval. I’ll keep advocating for sex-positivity because it’s what I believe in, but I’m sure as hell going to live my life the way I want to and be proud of it, with or without your approval.

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Comments

    • says

      Indeed. I think there’s more of us than people realize sometimes. I recently saw some statistics showing that nearly half of the students at my school haven’t had sex in the past year. They’re just not the ones speaking up about their lifestyle choices.

  1. says

    *applause*, bravo! This is perfect, thank you for writing about this!

    I haven’t run into this attitude about sexuality (probably just because I don’t talk about my sexuality a whole lot) but I have run accross a similar attitude in the “choice vs. life” debate. I am absolutely pro-choice. I believe that women have the right to have an abortion if they feel that it is necessary for whatever reason. I will support those women to the best of my ability. However, that is not a choice I would make for myself unless my life (or the life of my child) was in danger.

    So I’ve had similar accusations flung at me (hypocrite is a big one) by those in the pro-choice community. This really bothers me. Just because you wouldn’t make a decision for yourself doesn’t mean that you’re going to judge and discriminate against others who choose a different path.

  2. says

    Oh Tumblr. I enjoy my Tumblr for pretty pictures and fun micro-blogging, but a lot of what passes for social justice or activism on it is just…

    Great post!

    • says

      Thank you! And yeah, I definitely have love-hate relationship with Tumblr. I’m pretty sure I’ve been labeled every possible kind of “-ist” on it.

  3. says

    Isn’t that kind of the same situation like a few years* back when people were promoting women to have higher goals than marriage and children and were respecting the shit out of women who were forgoing the classical housewife role for a career and suddenly people started to critize women for taking the choice of staying at home?

    *I have no feeling for time whatsoever. Might as well have been yesterday.

    • says

      It is in fact quite like that! It seems like some people believe that there’s a certain way to “be” a feminist, and if you’re not that way, you’re holding back the entire movement.

      In a more extreme example, I’ve met feminists online who actually believe that all women should be lesbians.

  4. Gough McAllister says

    I know this is an old blog post but I want to say Thank You.
    I think of the days when everyone was for the right to say “no” to sex and that sex shouldn’t be peer pressured. It feels flipped now.