I like sex.
This should not be a revolutionary or shocking statement for a woman to make in 2013 and yet, sadly, it very often is. It feels like it should be so elementary, so stupidly obvious. It’s like saying “I like eating food and breathing oxygen.”
It’s not easy being a sexually mature (and liberated) human female. We’re treated in equal amounts as either mythical or monstrous. We are the greatest, most sought-after trophy to male pride but we’re also responsible for the downfall of western civilization. Contraception! Abortion! Divorce! Equal pay! Ah! People are afraid of us. They don’t know what box to put us in. (Tee-hee. Box. It’s a euphemism. Get it?)
I am a woman. I have a vagina and I use it (‘have vagina, will travel’). I do other things, of course. I ride a bicycle, I eat steak and get haircuts, lots of things. But this vagina-having and using is a pretty big part of my life and I’m not supposed to talk about it. (It makes people embarrassed!). It is life’s worst kept secret. Everyone knows I have one but I’m supposed to only speak of it in cutesy baby terms, like ‘lady-bits’ (vomit). That, or I have to invite myself into the metaphorical locker-room and refer to it crudely, the way I’ve heard men do. There’s not much room in the middle. Myself, I usually choose crude over prude. In a world of Virgins and Whores, I guess that makes me a Whore.
The Virgin-Whore complex. If you’re not one, you must be the other. Better make your choice, girls.
I once read a great book called Misogyny: The World’s Oldest Prejudice. It examined the differing and complex attitudes towards the feminine throughout history. I learned many things, most importantly that women’s rights are human rights, pure and simple, and that the liberation of women has not been a linear journey from ignorant to enlightened. It is cyclical, rising and falling, improving and regressing. When we become complacent about our rights and the rights of others, that is the moment we begin to lose them.
I could go on, but there was one passage from that book that I found very striking. It was in the chapter on Christianity. The author pointed out that in the framework of Christianity, men only need to live up to the example of Jesus Christ. This, of course, is insanely difficult but, from a philosophical standpoint, is at least attainable. Women, on the other hand, are presented with a task that is not merely philosophically challenging but actually physically impossible. We must live up to the example of the Virgin Mary. The Virgin Mother. Think about it. The ideal woman in this framework is a chaste maiden and a devoted mother. How do you attain one ideal without sacrificing the other? Yeah, turning water into wine doesn’t seem so difficult now, does it?
As a confessed vagina-user, I’m not doing so well on the virgin front so, as previously agreed, that leaves me only one other option. I’ve always tended to be very self-deprecating. I’ve found that if you attack yourself before anyone else has a chance to, it takes the wind out of their sails. What are they going to do, agree with you? So as several of you may have noticed, I frequently refer to myself as a ‘slut’ or a ‘whore’. By those words I mean that I have sex, I have it with different partners and I am not ashamed.
Repeat. I am not ashamed.
A Virgin is not necessarily a virgin. In fact, after the age of 20 or 21 they no doubt very rarely are (barring religious considerations). A Virgin is someone who has sex but doesn’t discuss it in mixed company. They may reluctantly confess it if pressed but they will be embarrassed and flustered if the conversation continues. If you asked them if they think that their bodies are dirty or that sex is a sin, I am sure they would vehemently deny both notions. Consciously, they know that there is nothing wrong with what they’re doing. It’s 2013, they know that women are people and are allowed to have sex now without their father’s, uncle’s and the pope’s permission. And yet…they have internalized the contradictory, schizophrenic attitudes our society has towards female sexuality.
Be sexy! Have sex! Be good at it! But for the love of Baby Jesus, don’t tell anyone that you do!
Be on the pill, but don’t let people see you take it. If people ask you about it, say it’s to regulate your periods. When you tally up your sexual partners, fudge the numbers a bit (leave out one-night stands, blowjobs etc.)
After all, you don’t want people to think you’re a slut. Do you?
By the bye, what the fucking fuck does that word actually mean?
I use it all the time, on myself, but always jokingly. Humour is my defence mechanism. I use the word in a casual context in an attempt to convey how ridiculous and arbitrary it is. I also use it because, like all women, I’m terrified of it. I use it because it hurts me to my very core. It makes me feel like I’ve been doused in slime, on the inside and the outside. These words; slut, whore, bitch, cunt…they are meant to hold power over my whole gender. Girls and women live in fear of these words, and of any behaviour that might attract their attention, anything that might thrust them into our hearts. And though I pretend to be brave, though I rush at the words head on, I can’t deny it. I am afraid too.
Whenever I talked about my sexual experience I would often phrase it like this:
“Well, I may have done ____, but I’m not a slut.”
Then one day I realized, so what if I am? I don’t even know what the word means and when I try to find out it seems like the definition fluctuates from day to day and from person to person. Does it mean having sex before marriage? It used to. Does it mean flirting with more than one person? Sometimes it does. Does it mean dressing a certain way? According to the Toronto police it does.
It was starting to seem like anything I did could get me called a slut, depending on who I encountered. So I asked myself this question instead:
Would I ever judge someone else as a ‘slut’ or a ‘whore’? Would I ever demean their sexual expression or identity? Would I ever shout these words in the street? Whisper it in their ear? Would I ever publicly shame someone? Would I ever dehumanize them?
These words are rooted in hate. Their purpose is to strip someone of their worth, to make them less than human. Because if they are less than you, you can do as you please with them and they deserve what they get.
You are not a person. You are a nigger. You are a fag. You are a whore. You. Are. Less.
Now. Would you ever use these words on another human being?
Not if you have a fucking soul.
I live in a world where being a woman who is:
Self-assured = Snobby
Confident = Arrogant
Strong = Bitchy
Sexually Liberated = Whore
When (some) men find out that a woman likes sex they think it means that she is automatically available to them, but if she insists on having a choice when it comes to her partner or partners and doesn’t choose them, they become enraged. It is not that they might be in some way flawed, it is that she is a stuck-up whore.
New definition of Whore: A woman who likes having sex, but not having sex with you.
There’s the nuance. See how that works?
I’ve been called everything in my time, and I’ve learned something valuable. If they call you ‘baby’ or ‘princess’ one minute, they can and will easily call you ‘bitch’, ‘slut’ or ‘whore’ the next. If you refuse them. It’s just two edges of the same knife. Whether you’re ‘baby’ or ‘slut’, you’re no better off. Either way, they never saw you as their equal. They dehumanized (or infantilized) you from the beginning. There was no way to win. No way to be an autonomous adult female with desires and choices. Whether you’re their treasure or their trash, you’re still an object.
Like I said, I’ve heard it all. I’m a bitch, a slut, a snobby whore, you name it. These words don’t hurt me so much as infuriate me. I know that like all derogatory words, they reveal far more about the people who use them than the people they’re used on. If you throw dirt at me, all it shows me is what you’re really made of. These words make me angry, angry enough to claw at the world until my fingernails bleed. So I’m going to fight. I will not hide from words. If I’m a bitch or a whore, so be it. If I don’t fit into the neat little boxes, so much the better. If people try to tear you down, it means you’re standing above them. And if being a thorn in the side of misogynistic douchecanoes is wrong then I sure as Hell don’t want to be right.
I am a woman and I have sex. I have had sex with one-night stands, close friends and sometimes other people’s boy/girlfriends. I have had sex with people I’ve been madly in love with and with people I’ve kind of hated. I have had sex with both men and women. I have had oral, vaginal and anal sex. I have had sex with multiple partners (sometimes at the same time). I have waited months and months before having sex with a new partner and there have been times where I’ve jumped into bed with someone hours after meeting them. I have had mind-blowing, transcendental sex and I have had mediocre, massively disappointing sex (yeesh, haven’t we all?). The question is, do I regret any of this? No. These were all important and educational life experiences. Do I think of myself as a whore? No! Would I call anyone else a whore for doing the same as me? Hell no!
But let’s put it this way. If it is true that, as women, we really are either virgins or whores, if the world really is as small as the minds that use this false dichotomy, then fine. I choose whore. Because I would rather be defined by my actions, by what I was brave enough to try, by being courageous enough to love with everything I am, by being adventurous, daring and irrepressible. I would rather be active than passive.
I would rather be proud than ashamed.
[Contributed by Caitlin Corbett]