Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Slutadox.

When I was in high school, people made fun of me for being fat and awkward and unfashionable--I was never gonna get laid, haw haw.

When my little sister was in high school, people made fun of her for being pretty and outgoing and a fashion plate--she's such a slut, haw haw.

This is the Slutadox: if a woman isn't sexy and doesn't have sex, that's terrible. But if a woman is sexy and has sex, that's terrible. It's a Madonna/whore dichotomy where being a Madonna is no good either. If you wear a long skirt you're a prude and if you wear a short one you're a slut, and sometimes you find there just aren't any lengths in between.

I never understood the problem with being a slut, to be honest. It's very weird to get insulted with "you get laid a lot!" Um... thanks? But my secret theory is that this isn't the patriarchal possessiveness thing it appears to be. My secret theory is that men hate sluts because sluts are heartbreakers. You think you're really special and worthy for a girl to sleep with you, and then you find out that she sleeps with lots of people, and it diminishes your specialness. If sex is a meaningful thing for you, finding out that it was meaningless for your partner is painful--legitimately so, sometimes. But admitting that you wanted meaningful sex and that you're emotionally vulnerable is not manly, so instead guys just scream "SLUT!" like it's just intrinsically wrong for a woman to have an interesting sex life.

The temptation is to try and escape the Slutadox by appeasing it, by being extremely moderate. No makeup would make me ugly and too much makeup would make me slutty, so I'll perfect the art of subtle natural makeup. Not fucking dates until we have a relationship is prudish and fucking on the first date is whorish, so I'll fuck on the third date. But this appeasement always leaves you on a knife edge, always vulnerable to the people who think third-date sex is whorish, and completely shoves aside the question of how sexual you want to be. Not that there's one answer anyway. I've fucked guys the day I met them and I've fucked guys I'd been friends with for years, and I've had both go well because they were different people in different situations.

And the scariest thing about the Slutadox is that it crops up within feminism. Oh, I'm not one of those man-hating legs-not-shaving feminists! But I'm not one of those party-girl "sex-positive" fun-feminists either! Even within a movement of women's liberation, women are still expected to carefully calibrate their level of sexiness.

I don't know. Do I even have a sexiness level? I've had sex with approximately 26 people, I'm hyper-orgasmic and kinky and have a sex blog. And most days I don't wear any makeup and I shlump around the house watching "Mythbusters" while doing beadwork. I'm not sure I can stick a pin in one spot on a Madonna/whore continuum and go "yep, that's me."

At both ends, the Slutadox is really just about finding reasons to judge and hate people--well, women--for whatever they do. Don't participate in that crap. Whether a woman is sexy or unsexy or some of each or anywhere in between, going "god what a prude/slut" is pure cruelty and hypocrisy. And holding yourself to "mustn't be a prude, mustn't be a slut" standards--that's just self-hatred.

How sexual your behavior and self-expression are is your own business. It's all okay. End the Slutadox.


  1. If you wear a long skirt you're a prude and if you wear a short one you're a slut

    My crossdressing then-bf and I were going to go out on Hallowe'en two years ago with both of us crossdressed (but not otherwise costumed) and see how people reacted to us.

    He obviously already had the clothes for this venture, but I didn't, so off I went to the mall. Looking in the mirror while I tried on enormous, baggy, hip-hiding jeans and a huge hoodie, I had this huge epiphany: oh my god as a boy I can hide my body and not be judged for it. Until that moment I had never consciously realized the extent to which women are expected to display themselves for the pleasure and perusal of men: if I wore such baggy clothes as a woman, I'm sure most people would be puzzled and infuriated. "Was she sexually abused? Is she a dyke? Is she fat and trying to hide it? What's wrong with her that she doesn't want to be a sex object?!"

    ...Whereas men are exempt from all this bullshit and can wear clothes that absolutely swamp their bodies and there's little or no value judgment attached.

    'Course the flip side of this is that straight men rarely get to feel sexy and lusted after, and end up either getting irritatingly wistful over the daily harassment women endure or turning to crossdressing (or possibly a submissive BDSM role?) so that they, too, can feel like pretty shiny objects.

    Ridiculous gender double standards hurt everyone. This is why all of us, male and female, need to support feminism and start making changes...just make sure you leave me a lifetime supply of hot submissive crossdressers first so I don't run out. :D

  2. I think you hit the nail on the head, re: sluts being heartbreakers. At least for men who feel jilted as you describe.

    More generally, in the framework of sex being a prize that women award to men, it's more like if a woman gives out prizes too easily, her prizes are obviously worth less. Kinda like that old joke, "if she sleeps with everyone she's a party girl, if she sleeps with everyone except you, she's a slut." Except "party girls" are still sluts, really. They sell it too cheaply. And since women only have value as sexual objects (right?) lowering that value is worthy of derision.

    But if a guy actually feels hurt/denied by finding out after the fact that his partner didn't regard him as special, calling her a slut would be a pretty natural way of lashing out.

  3. "(or possibly a submissive BDSM role?) so that they, too, can feel like pretty shiny objects. "

    For what it's worth, I haven't found that to be the case at all; perhaps if I were a masochist (rather than submissive), or a ... I guess sissyboy would be the term people use? I would be the object of that, but as a male submissive, I've found absolutely no interest from anyone in the scene.

    Anyway, as for the OT: I've never seen the problem with being a slut, either, especially since men who have a lot of sex are themselves "Pimpin'" or somehow super-manly. Naw, really, we're just man-sluts, and I'm okay with that; slut is just a word that means "Has lots of sex". Mmmm, sex.

  4. as a male submissive, I've found absolutely no interest from anyone in the scene.

    I didn't mean that guys will automatically get more attention/sex/etc. if they declare themselves sub. I just meant that in certain types of dom/sub interaction there's a dynamic of "your hot ass belongs to ME now; get over here and pleasure me" that is likely missing in most vanilla relationships.

    ...And as for having nobody interested in you, well, if I were single.......... ;)

  5. *grins* I get what you mean, now that you describe it. And yes. And if you were single, I'd be interested right back. ;)

    It's not, however, that I have nobody interested in you; it's that I have nobody -in the community- interested in me. I have a girlfriend (with whom I have an open relationship) and several lovers/friends with benefits; I don't lack for company. But with my interest in kink being about power rather than pain, the scene around here (DC/Baltimore) isn't particularly helpful for making connections.

  6. It's very weird to get insulted with "you get laid a lot!"

    I always thought that too. It might be because in school I got the "you're never going to get laid!" variety of insult, so to me it seemed better to be called a slut than to be called a prude.


  7. You're awkward and pretty AND a slut, haw haw.

    Now please don't change any time soon.

  8. Aaron: from my observation as someone who has never seen the point in getting into "the community", "the community" kind of has to orbit around pain or at least doer/doneto dynamics, because that's something that can easily be described, done at gatherings, and clearly consented to.

  9. Dw3t: And this is why I went to precisely one gathering that wasn't a munch, and I don't intend to go to any more unless I develop a deep and abiding interest in pain.

  10. But with my interest in kink being about power rather than pain, the scene around here (DC/Baltimore) isn't particularly helpful for making connections.


    Have you tried one of the Mast (Masters and slaves together) orgs? There's in your area, and in early September Washington hosted the annual conference (

    While they certainly have pain aspects intimately involved, with their focus on the intellectual/emotional they might be a bit closer to what you're interested in.

  11. This post is so brilliant it forcibly de-lurked me. I've never looked at the Slutadox in quite this way before, but I've spent quite a bit of time and energy trying to use it, appease it, or if all else fails just get on the slut side already. I look younger than I am and have a slight build, so I get a lot of "aww you're cute (pats head)" and almost no "damn you're sexy (pats anywhere else)."

    Slutadox be damned! Today I wear what I want, and they can stick their "cute" right up their happy place.

  12. This is something I can never reconcile with my own experiences. It might be that I just don't give a shit what other people think of me and never have, of course, but it seems like nobody said much of anything about anybody who wasn't standing there. (Or perhaps guys just live in a different culture.)

    I didn't date in High School; hell, I didn't go on a date until I had graduated from college. I was caught on at least one occasion staring at another guy in a locker room. I lived in a friggin rural southern bible-thumping town, I should have been beaten up or called gay or -something-. And nobody ever bothered me at all. (Actually, they consistently tried to include me in activities I wasn't inclined to be a part of, like drinking on the weekends. Maybe the entire football team was bicurious?)

    But then, I never -expected- to be set upon, to be teased or humiliated, and it's possible they tried, I ignored them, and they moved on.

    My best friend spent middle school expecting to be teased and humiliated; she characterizes middle school as having been teasing and humiliating. By High School she stopped caring, and she doesn't remember it happening in High School, and was fairly sexually liberated.

    To what extent do our expectations characterize our experiences?

  13. Jack: I don't want to get into too much of a tangent on this, but the MAST stuff is on a different level from my kink. If anything, MAST in my area seems to have a weird nigh-aversion to sex, whereas my kink revolves around/is anchored in the sex.

    Maybe a couple years from now, when I'm looking to expand my kink out of the metaphorical bedroom. :)

    But don't get me wrong; I very much enjoy (most) of the munches I've been to. (Avoid TNG:Baltimore.) Kinky, geeky people are awesome.

  14. Orphan - That's some spectacular victim-blaming you've got going there.

  15. Orphan, maybe, um, you just happened to have a really great peer group - it certainly sounds that way when you describe them. Not everyone's that lucky.

  16. Holly -

    I was talking primarily about how expectations shape perceptions - that we read into what people say, take a single person's (angry) words as being a vindication of existing insecurities.

    They can shape reality, too, though, yes; imagine a world in which none of the victims accepted "slut" as a hurtful thing.

    "Slut" ceases to be a hurtful thing. Doesn't matter what the people throwing the word around want it to be, it's meaningless in the eyes of the only people who matter.

    The victims in this case aren't merely victims, they're passive participants, and more importantly, the only relevant participants; their acceptance of the insult as an insult grants that insult validity as an insult.

    You already said as much yourself, actually - that holding yourself to this standard is self-hatred, saying much more explicitly than I that buying into the teasing behavior buys into the hatred which (theoretically) generates it. If I'm guilty of victim-blaming, so are you.

    Which kind of begs the question, why are you accusing me of it?

  17. Orphan - It sounds to me like you're saying that verbal and emotional abuse don't really exist because--I'm paraphrasing here--if words meant nothing to you then words wouldn't hurt you, so it's your own damn fault for assigning meaning to words.

    It's not that simple. (Especially since this kind of bullying usually starts in childhood and peaks in adolescence; you can't ask children to practice perfect emotional detachment.) Caring what others think isn't a weakness, it's human. Just about everyone needs approval and fears disapproval. Being disapproved of is painful; feeling like a lot of people that you have to see every day disapprove of you all the time--and maybe no one at all approves--is agonizing.

    It's not victims' own fault if they aren't a fucking Vulcan at twelve years old.

  18. You stated exactly that solution to the "Slutadox," however; that women stop subscribing to it, and it will go away.

    Why does it become incorrect when applied more broadly? Because twelve year olds can't handle it?

    Well, they sure can't if you don't expect them to and never teach them; we're not talking about being a Vulcan, after all, we're talking about having a healthy attitude toward yourself and toward social pressures.

    People's feelings will always get hurt, no doubt about it; that's part of learning how to socialize, as is hurting other people's feelings. But as all things social, including sex, the time to impart healthy attitudes is, quite simply, as young as possible.

  19. Orphan - The solution to the Slutadox is that everyone stop subscribing to it. It's not just the victims' job.

    You seem to have a pretty poor understanding of what bullying is like. It's not like someone calmly says to you "I think you're a slut" once ever, shrugs, and walks away. It's more like being continually harassed, like fearing for your physical safety, like feeling that you can't trust your own friends, like feeling that even good people are driven away from you because your reputation is so bad. The shit that happens to targeted kids in high school--and to some extent out in the real world as well--is a lot more than just the label.

    You can't teach a kid to "just handle" that shit--they'd have to be totally emotionally numb. And anyway it isn't their fucking job. Why don't we teach kids to "just handle" not calling each other sluts, how bout that instead? I'd rather impart that healthy attitude.

  20. Holly -

    Only the victims matter. Whether or not the bullies subscribe to it is in fact irrelevant; it's the fact that the victims have that insecurity which allows that insecurity to be used against them, and bullies will use whatever material works. You take away the "slutadox," girls will still be bullied about their weight (a very similar narrow line girls are expected to walk down), or their appearance, or their schoolwork - whatever insecurity works.

    You're wishing away the bullies; not going to happen.

    We can't even wish away all the victims. Bullies and the worst-afflicted victims both frequently come from bad homes.

    But we CAN maybe get parents - the good parents, the parents who care - to teach their children healthy attitudes. Not to "just handle" that shit; it's not a matter of handling it, because if you're handling it, it means you're accepting its validity and are going on anyways.

    It's not about teaching kids not to care; it's about teaching them there's nothing there to care about, that if it weren't sluttiness, it would be ugliness, if it weren't ugliness, it would be weight, if it weren't weight, it'd just be something else - that the intent is to harm, and the person is saying what they think will hurt them.

    That can be a hard lesson to learn, and it's one people too frequently ignore.

  21. Okay, Orphan, thought experiment:

    I come to your house and slap you across the face. Several times. Pretty hard. I black your eye and bloody your nose.

    Are you really going to smile up at me and go "well, my face hurts for some reason, but I can handle pain, so it's all good and there are no problems with this situation"?

    Would you really advise your child to think that way if someone hit them?

  22. Holly -

    First, there's a world of difference between hitting somebody and saying something, but that's a red herring of a topic. You're still not getting what I'm saying.

    The point is not to ignore pain. The point is to realize there's nothing there to hurt about.

    Why does it hurt when somebody calls you a slut?

    Because the word has these connotations and saying it inspires these chemicals that cause you pain?

    Or because you want to be accepted in society and this person is telling you you're not worthy?

    Rhetorical question. It's the latter.

    Now. You know somebody is trying to hurt you; they're going to say whatever they think will hurt you the most, regardless of whether or not it is true.

    Now how do you interpret what they're saying? Are they making a valid judgment of your fitness for society? Or are they just being a jerk? (It's still hurtful that somebody -wants- to hurt you, but it's on a whole different level, particularly when you put the fact that they want to hurt you into the context that they want to hurt anybody they can get away with hurting.)

  23. The point is not to ignore pain. The point is to realize there's nothing there to hurt about.
    The point is not potato, the point is pohtato.

    Or because you want to be accepted in society and this person is telling you you're not worthy?
    Yes, this hurts, but--it's supposed to hurt. Wanting to be accepted in society is a good and natural thing.

    You know somebody is trying to hurt you; they're going to say whatever they think will hurt you the most, regardless of whether or not it is true.
    Yes, and that's what hurts. Someone wanting to hurt me is a bad and scary thing, not something I can brush off just because I understand it.

    Telling a kid "oh, the bullies don't really care about your weight, they're just saying that because they hate you and want you to suffer!" is, uh, not soothing.

    But bullies aren't forces of nature and they don't pick their targets at random. Bullies are people--people who are responsible for their actions, people who are vulnerable to punishment and sometimes even rehabilitation, and people who are influenced by social messages. Bullies do pick on fat kids and slutty girls and other outsiders more. And the problem here is entirely on the bullies' end and I would rather teach bullies not to bully than teach fat kids "oh, they're only saying that because they hate you."

  24. Are you saying you didn't really care about the "slutadox," that it was that people were accusing you of it that was the problem, and the content itself wasn't harmful?

    That those bullies were and are the real problem in your life, not the things they said, not the things bullies continue to say?

    Bullies tell kids "I hate you." It's hurtful, yes. But it doesn't stay with you.

    You're wishing bullies would just go away; I don't know and I don't pretend to know a recipe for punishment, rehabilitation, and social messages which will eliminate bullying - particularly part-time bullying - and I think no such recipe exists. I -do- know a recipe for helping kids put bullies into context, and for helping them move on with their lives without self esteem issues because that boy she dumped in ninth grade lashed out and said he didn't care because she was too fat to love anyways, or the boy who was told all throughout high school by another boy who decided he'd make an easy target to abuse that he was too girly to get a date.

    Let me know when you find the recipe to cure bullies. I think I have a pretty good one to make them less relevant in the meantime.

  25. (Important note on potential recipes: Paxilon hydrochlorate is not a cure for bullies, even if it seems like a good idea at the time.)

  26. Umm... as someone who was a victim of bullying, more or less, I would like to say that they do not stop at trying to hurt you with words. Ignore them or dismiss them long enough, and they turn to malicious pranks, or worse, violence. I could handle the words because I was too emotionally numb to care about what other people think, due to issues which had nothing to do with the bullies themselves. I made it very difficult for them to prank me in any meaningful way, and violence was ended right away with overwhelming force (as in, one-strike-and-they're-on-the-ground-screaming level force - you do not want to mess with a misanthropic battle-ready physics geek*, even a child!). So I did not fear for my life. And punishment for severely injuring them even though they attacked first? Meh, small price. Unfortunately my reputation of "OMG psycho don't touch!" never lasted because my parents moved too damn much.

    (*If you're wondering what "physics geek" has to do with it, think "someone who can figure out how to make the most out of momentum, speed, mass, and leverage despite having no martial arts training".)

    I suppose one saving grace was that I never bullied anyone myself - my self-esteem, what I had of it, was dependent entirely on the knowledge that anything anyone else could do, I could learn to do better - and I didn't need to prove it to anyone else (not that I cared what they thought anyway), only to myself.

    But, getting back on topic, ignoring bullies takes a hard heart that most children don't (and probably shouldn't) have. They must also be willing to endure violence and nasty surprises, since telling an adult does nothing - assuming they don't just tell the kids to deal with things themselves, having bullies punished just results in the doubling or tripling of the bully's abuse. (Multiple punishments might work, but they have to deal with a lot of abuse in the meantime, so that's still "enduring it".) And meanwhile, Your friends, if you have any, will probably dump you like a hot potato, due to fear of being collateral damage to the bully's wrath. Under such circumstances, how can it be said that what the bully thinks doesn't matter? I suppose, on one level, it doesn't, but the actions that result from what they think certainly do.

  27. For fear of derailing this comment thread further, and against my better judgment, I'm going to (with many reservations), agree with Orphan.

    I was bullied, and it bothered me, and it didn't stop until I got a "Psycho, stay away" rep. Any solution to any problem which requires as its precondition that people stop bullying seems to me to be unrealistic.

    That said, eliminating bullies may not be necessary to alleviate the problem. As I'm sure most of us know, for every bully there are 4 bystanders (and 73.2% of statistics are made up on the spot, but my point holds). If commenting on someones sexual activity becomes irrelevant, it stops being the given target for bullying.

    Will bullies find new and cruel ways to hurt people? Of course. But I've never heard of an instance where someone was bullied for eir religion in my hometown. It was just a boring topic. If sexual history can become that boring (or at least that diversely accepted) then the world will be a better place, with rainbows and unicorns!

  28. As I have been reading this blog, one thing that I've noticed about sex-positive attitudes is that they are very similar to libertarian attitudes, to wit, if it's not harming anyone, then it's not anyone else's business, and it's not immoral.

    As a society, we have greatly reduced the harmful attitudes towards bi- and homosexuality, which has improved our society. As we promote a sex-postive attitude throughout society, we improve as a society.

    Yes, bullies are jerks, and they suck. However, standing up to and/or ignoring them are ultimately reactive solutions, while removing the attitude and prejudices that form the nucleus of bullying is a proactive solution.

    I can have a sharp edge on a tool that cuts me every time I use it, and put on a band-aid after each use, or I can grind off that edge and not have to worry about the band-aids.

  29. Calling a woman a "slut" isn't just a childhood/adolescent schoolyard occurrence that can be shrugged off with mental/emotional toughness. Women who are branded as "sluts" can and sometimes do pay a heavy price in even our modern can affect her employment, custody of her children, her physical safety, her emotional and mental health. Same goes for the LGBT kids/people who have to hide from bullying as well as kinky and poly people. It's not fair to say one individual can/should have the internal fortitude to stand up to or single-handedly change societal expectations, entrenched gender roles, and cultural beliefs about what is "right" and "normal". It takes allies and bystanders to step in and shift the shame to the perpetrating bully, making it socially unacceptable to throw those words and actions around, much as we have for racist bullying. Would you tell a kid to "Just shrug it doesn't mean anything" when s/he gets called the N-word on a regular basis? Especially, if you're NOT a black kid and are talking out of zero experience with not just the word but the more insidious intent behind demean, devalue, demotivate, silence, disappear the target and threaten to "keep him/her in place."

    People can and do get bullied beyond what even the toughest person can stand over an extended period of time and the consequences are starkly real, not just emotional...ask a mental health professional dealing with these clients. Just in the last few weeks we've heard several stories of people committing suicide as a result of the pain of bullying (the gay kids, the college kid who had his sex life surreptitiously broadcast live to the internet...a 40-year old adult might be able shrug it off, but a young person or a person who is vulnerable due to other circumstances in his/her life may not). We still have a lot of work to do in dismantling the "slutadox" and other made-up spectres.

  30. I'm glad I'm with a man who is mature and deeply respects me. I'm glad I am a slut and have an interesting sex life and that he supports that part of who I am, as I support his equally interesting sex life. I'm glad he calls me slut as a term of endearment. I'm glad I'm not breaking his heart when I fuck other guys. I'm glad we've figured things out through open and honest communication. I'm glad to have the best of both worlds - a meaningful relationship AND interesting encounters. I'd love for more people to enjoy such a liberating relationship. All they have to do is work at replacing the fear in their heart with love.

  31. I only shave my legs once every few months. Nobody really cares, I run around in shorts and stuff even. I only shave if I'm about to attend a wedding or something like that. Swimming pool? Doesn't matter. People who know me care about my mind/personality, people who don't know me don't notice me. I certainly don't hate men though, I'm dating two of them.