Here’s an audio version
As a self-professed word geek, I’m using the word vexed advisedly. The American Heritage Dictionary fourth edition 2009 defines it as: 1. Irritated, distressed, or annoyed. 2. Much discussed or debated: a vexed question. Female promiscuity certainly seems to be discussed a lot lately, and debated too I suppose, though mostly at the safe distance of articles and blog posts. The “irritated, distressed or annoyed” sense, I must confess, refers mostly to me. compared to a lot of people, I only walk with one foot paddling in the riffling waters of social media, but it seems that every week or so I come across a tweet or other electronic referral to a piece on this vexed topic. Why? Why is this still a subject for argument and counterargument?
Last week, I read a well thought out and well researched piece about it which renewed my frustration. I appreciated the approach, which was to reframe sound reasoning on the topic into practical advice for men about how to make themselves more likable to women, and hence more likely to get laid. However, the piece was riddled with solid references to articles and statistics detailing the biases in research, and the misguided social pressures that discourage women from expressing, or even being aware of sexual desire. I was too depressed by the number of references to even look at any. I didn’t feel like I needed to, the author did a fine job of summarizing the horror.
The author referred a few times to the phenomenon of “slut shaming,” which renewed my irritation with another vexed question: the value of the word slut. I’ve never been entirely sanguine about the virtues of reclaiming language. One of my favourite accessible media websites, run by and for blind people, is called blindy.tv and I have several blind friends who refer to blind people as blinks, and all the power to them, but slut is a word I’ll just never like, and rarely use. Only recently, and I’ve been pondering it for decades, have I come up with a definition I can live with. Slut: someone who expresses their sexuality in a way that is careless of the feelings of others. This removes any gender identification, and focuses on the effect rather than the behaviour. Thus, someone who sleeps around a lot isn’t a slut, but someone who dresses in a sexually provocative way at their great aunt’s 80th birthday party, or brags about the people they’ve slept with…, well….
I’ve got several female friends who, at different times in their adult lives, chose to live celibate, because they didn’t want to settle for a partner they felt no emotional connection with, or who just wasn’t “Mr. Right.” For me, two weeks of celibacy has always been enough to turn “Mr. Right” into “Mr. right Now,” but I’ve always had a healthy respect for whatever choices women make on this issue. The only thing that sends me off into fits of ranting rage is people who assume that a promiscuous woman is one who is really searching for emotional intimacy, or one who has been misled into thinking that her value is as a sexual object to be used by others.
This said, promiscuity is much more dangerous for women than it is for men. It always has been, and always will be. So, here’s my how-to list for young women who want to get it on, and get it on a lot.
* Make sure of contraception. No matter what a guy does or says he’ll do, the results will always end up with you, and you’ll bear the consequences. Do some research and choose the method that suits you best, and that you know you’ll never forget or neglect, then use it all the time.
* Try not to fall into the trap of sleeping with mean guys. This sounds obvious, but, and I’ve checked this with many other women, sometimes tough guys have an odd appeal. I think it’s our instinctive selves saying: “That guy is tough enough and mean enough to protect me and my offspring no matter what.” We may not like to think about it, but sex is about reproduction. We obfuscate this delightfully, but I think we’re best served by never entirely forgetting that our reptile brain doesn’t forget it. Mean guys are just mean though, and nice guys make way better lovers.
* Protect yourself from STDs: every time. Don’t assume a new lover knows the right way to put on a condom. He probably does, but if he doesn’t he’s unlikely to say so, and you’ll be the one to lose. Besides, you can make a sensuous act out of making sure you stay safe.
* Choose lovers who don’t talk about other women they’ve slept with. If he gossips to you, he’ll gossip about you.
* Don’t blow off possessiveness in a guy as unimportant. It’s not a cue that he’s really into you, it’s a cue that he’s 2 steps away from being an abuser.
* Don’t brag, accept to close friends whose discretion you can rely on. Guys have feelings about this stuff too, and I suspect they don’t like to be talked about any more than we do.
* Learn to ask for what you want and what you like in an honest, direct, but kind way, that doesn’t make your lover feel like they’re doing it wrong, but that you’d like to show them how to do it more right.
* Have fun! If you’re not enjoying yourself with a lover, you may be sleeping with them for the wrong reasons.
There, I feel better. It irks me that this topic is still debated and misunderstood, but I can’t keep my virtual pen out of it. I must self-select, cause I don’t think I actually know anyone who espouses the negative values you still here about female promiscuity, yet the discussions continue. Certainly I live in a bubble of my own creation with people who share my values. Nevertheless, it’s a big world, and maybe even some people I know secretly have opinions about this stuff that I wouldn’t like. Having ranted satisfyingly about it, maybe I’ll be more able to let go of the chronic disappointment I feel each time I come across a new article on the subject. This debate should be long finished. Since it’s not, I feel eased by contributing my own rant.