Sexual pleasure for women is a political construction, too. Women’s sexuality as well as men’s has been forged within the dominant/submissive model, as an artifice to appease and service the sexuality constructed in and for men. Whereas boys and men have been encouraged to direct all feeling into the objectification of another and are rewarded with “pleasure” for dominance, women have learned their sexual feelings in a situation of subordination. Girls are trained through sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and early sexual encounters with boys and men in a sexual role that is reactive and submissive. We learn our sexual feelings as we learn other emotions, in male-dominant families and in situations in which we lack power, surrounded by images of women as objects in advertising and films.
Because women’s sexuality develops in this context of sexual terrorism, we can eroticize our fear, our terrified bonding. All sexual arousal and release is not necessarily positive. Women can experience orgasms while being sexually abused in childhood, in rape, or in prostitution. Our language has only words like pleasure and enjoyment to describe sexual feelings, no words to describe those feelings that are sexual but that we do not like, feelings that come from experience, dreams, or fantasies about degradation or rape and cause distress despite arousal."
Sheila Jeffreys, “How Orgasm Politics Has Hijacked the Women’s Movement,” 1996 (via o00o0oo)
Slut-shaming isn’t a real thing. You aren’t being shamed for having sex; you’re being shamed for being a woman who isn’t doing what a certain group of men want.
Prude-shaming isn’t a real thing. You aren’t being shamed for not having sex; you’re being shamed for being a woman who isn’t doing what a certain group of men want.
Please can we stop perpetuating the idea that this is simply about cultural perceptions of sex, when really it’s about men — men — hating women and trying to control our bodies?
Please can we stop claiming the term ‘slut’ as if it’s some kind of tremendous act of defiance? The power of that word is not in the word itself, but rather the hegemony behind it, and to claim that the answer is simply to normalise certain behaviours associated with it is incredibly dangerous.
Men, as a class, agree that they should control women. They don’t necessarily agree on how they should control women. There are groups of men with different beliefs and interests — different ideas of how women should be. Some men think that women should be constrained within marriage; others that women should be free from monogamy and sexually available to them at all times (hence pornography and prostitution). Most think, whether consciously or not, that women should constantly attend to their personal whims, which are often incongruous with their political beliefs anyway.
It’s not revolutionary to rebel against one faction of patriarchy and not the others. It’s just choosing which you consider to be the lesser evil; which suits your own desires more. Taking on the label of ‘slut’ and sleeping around near-indiscriminately is just kicking one side in the bollocks and then running to the other. It doesn’t change how people see female sexuality because it isn’t female sexuality. It’s women trying to get as much out of exploitative male sexuality as they possibly can.
Sexual liberation in our current society isn’t female liberation. The answer to male dominance over us isn’t to simply fuck more. All us fucking more does is allow men to fuck more. It doesn’t stop men seeing women as objects. It doesn’t convince men of every woman’s right to autonomy. It doesn’t require men to see a woman’s sexuality as being her own rather than something for their pleasure. It demands nothing of them. The movement towards ‘sexual liberation’ is simply a movement to unite men against us, encouraging them to reject marriage for some hideous form of free love, where our availability to them is absolute.
There is nothing feminist about sleeping with men if you don’t demand respect for all women from those men. Basing your sexual behaviour on the misogynous ideals of one group of men isn’t demanding that respect, and you can point at the other group and their opposing misogynous ideals all you like, but it doesn’t change that.
We don’t need to reclaim the term ‘slut’ and the behaviours associated with it, because we don’t need to pander to the wants of any group of men. We don’t need to reclaim any words which belong to the language of a civilisation that we intend to destroy. We don’t need words that measure how much sex you have, even if they have positive connotations, because how much sex you have shouldn’t be important. It’s only important because men want to control the amount of sex that women have, whether to only have sex within marriage or to have sex with multiple men on camera for thousands of other men to enjoy.
‘Prude’ is one man’s rule. ‘Slut’ is just another’s. Self-respect can be both being naked and covering yourself from head to toe. But it certainly isn’t following any rules other than your own.
Bolded for emphasis.
Jeffreys, Sheila. Beauty & Misogyny: Harmful Cultural Practices in the West. (p. 110)
Honestly, the widespread acceptance of the phrase “slut-shaming” to refer to shaming the appearance of women in feminism (i.e. :if they dress in a manner cultural codified as being sexually suggestive or “provocative”), as well as the shaming of female sexuality (including their sexual orientation and sexual preferences) aggravates me.
An unfortunately large/prominent portion of feminists do not seem to realize that there are certain privileges attuned to labeling oneself a “slut”. For me, as a black woman, the history of how black femininity is constructed conceives of a femininity that is hyper-sexualized for the white male gaze and that to call oneself a “slut” only reinforces the racist, misogynistic historical narrative I’m forced to inherit in this system. That other women of color: Aboriginal women, Hispanic women, Latina women, Asian women, Arab women, (non-white passing) Jewish women have to deal with different, complex, oppressive, intersecting dynamics that makes the journey to embracing the slurs of their oppressors either entirely unappealing or far more difficult.
It’s difficult for me to take white feminists (and in my experience, it’s usually white liberal feminists that do this) seriously when during discussions on female sexuality they immediately refer to the “shaming” of it as “slut-shaming”. I may be shamed for certain sexual choices within certain social contexts, but do not assume that I’m willing to categorize myself as a “slut” for some pseudo-sense of solidarity with women who’ve become desensitized to the gendering and history behind the slur or who have out-right claimed it as a positive label for the oppressed group within the patriarchal system.
I may be sometimes shamed for some aspects of my sexuality, but under no circumstances am I a “slut.”
A Southern Women’s Writing Collective. Sex Resistance in Heterosexual Arrangements. (p. 3 - 4)