Can You Be Ethical and Slutty?

Can You Be Ethical and Slutty?

Women struggle with deep internal conflicts around sexuality.  Do you feel confused about how you are “supposed” to act sexually? Do you stop yourself from doing certain acts or saying certain things for fear of being labeled as slutty or loose? Are you uncomfortable with initiating sexual acts? Do you block your own sexual pleasure?

A research study finds that of the small percentage of women who choose to watch pornography, they more often choose to watch porn “made by men for men” as opposed to feminist pornography. In an interview on Altnet.org, the researchers added that “Studies show that what turns women on is different to what they wish turned them on or how they politically feel about it”.

Huffington Post reported a story on Lynn Brown Rosenberg, who claims that she finally awakened sexually at age 70, 15 years after her husband died. She said, “I was a nice Jewish girl taught to believe that sex was dirty”.

This week, my female client told her husband, “I’m embarrassed when you use the word naughty [in reference to her] in here”. She added, “I don’t want you to stop using that word at home”. Why might she be embarrassed and also not want him to stop using the word “naughty”? I hypothesized three reasons. One: she felt exposed. Two: she doesn’t want him to censor himself. Three: the word naughty might actually turn her on, even though she may not want it to.

What is the theme in these three stories? Permission. Women do not give themselves permission to express their sexuality. They experience conflictual feelings about sex, sexual messages, their own sexual behavior and attitudes. They limit their sexual choices and freedoms. They experience guilt and shame around their sexual expression. Experience has taught women that once they show any form of sexual liberation, society quickly labels them as sluts.

The slut label is highly offensive and shameful to women. To avoid it, many either hide their sexual escapades from others, limit their sexual repertoire or decline to engage in sex altogether. Instead, they opt for the “good girl” label. Can’t a woman be “good” and sexual?

In their book, The Ethical Slut, Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy reclaim the word slut as sex-positive. They acknowledge that historically, the word slut denotes a woman as promiscuous, amoral, sinful, pathological and easy. In contrast, men are often referred to as “studs” for their sexual conquests. The term “male slut” has developed more recently yet needs the qualifier of ‘male’ whereas “slut” on it’s own implies a woman’s behaviors.

Easton and Hardy redefine slut as follows:

A slut is a person of any gender who celebrates sexuality according to the radical proposition that sex is nice and pleasure is good for you…. As proud sluts, we believe that sex and love are fundamental forces for good, activities with the potential to strengthen intimate bonds, enhance lives, open spiritual awareness, even change the world. Furthermore, we believe that every consensual sexual relationship has these potentials and than any erotic pathway, consciously chosen or mindfully followed, can be a positive, creative force in the lives of individuals and communities.

The theme of permission emerges repeatedly in my work. Whether on the macro level of research studies, through the lens of a 70 year old woman’s story on the internet or in my office with a mid-30’s female. In session, my client tearfully added, “When I was in high school, a teacher referred to me as lovely. How could I be lovely and sexy?”

My client’s statement exemplifies what so many women struggle to reconcile. Good versus sexual. Translation: good versus bad. How do we reverse the impact of this social construction? Rewrite your sexual script.

Education. This can start as casual discussion with friends, on-line forums and/or community groups that celebrate sexual diversity. One such source is the work of Betty Dodson, a renowned feminist who pioneered the women’s sexual revolution in the 60’s and 70’s. Betty’s work focuses heavily on women and masturbation. Read books you normally would never touch, such as The Ethical Slut (referenced above) or For One by Lonnie Barbach.

Exploration. Once you’ve given yourself permission to read a lot and talk more openly about sex, start to explore your own sexuality physically. Try new things with yourself or your partner.  Explore new positions, play with toys, talk graphically during sex. Ask for what you want. Initiate. Find your sexual aggression.  Keep in mind that if you can’t talk about it, you can’t do it so don’t put the cart before the horse.

Empowerment. Unfortunately, we do our gender a disservice. Rather than empower other women, we strengthen the social construction by slut-shaming other females. How do you respond when another female has multiple lovers, dresses provocatively, flirts insatiably, sexually aggresses, teases or talks openly about sex. Do you shame her, envy her or support her?

While it’s never too late to reclaim your sexuality, I advise that you try before you turn 70. You have access to the tools and resources you need. It’s now a matter of choice.

Carolynn Aristone
carolynn.aristone@gmail.com
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