Walking the Slut Walk Every Day

I’m going to miss Slut Walk Spokane today. And I feel bad about that. Because, after a lifetime of shame and denial, I would so love to march down our streets in my skimpies and proclaim myself a sexual female with pride and unabashed joy.

I love sex. I enjoy it most in the context of a committed relationship, but I’ve had my share of exciting one-night stands, too. And why not? Sex feels good, it’s fun, and it provides me with opportunities to give pleasure to others. I’m a “happy animal” in the sack, as my friend Rose says. I’d have it every day – or more — if I could.

So there. Now I’ve said it, and publicly: I’m proud to be a slut. But it hasn’t always been so.

When I first ventured into the weird and wonderful world of sex — it was 1979, and I was 18 – I did so secretly, fearing for my “reputation” in the small Southern town where we lived. By then, feminism had empowered me enough to have sex before marriage, but not enough to claim my sexual desires as healthy and normal. Then my mother found my birth control pills and, after I returned home from a date, called me a slut.

“How many boys have touched you?” she asked.

My blood hummed in my ears. Three, I mumbled.

“How many does it take before you’re a slut?” she said — and threw me out of the house.

For most of the history of humanity, shame has been the companion of the sexually active woman. From Hester Prynne to Monica Lewinsky, we’ve been shunned, condemned, mocked, and slandered for doing what comes naturally in the rest of the animal kingdom. An indignant friend told me in college of a rumor she’d heard that I’d slept with the entire basketball team. She wasn’t indignant because it was a lie, but because she believed it might be true.

And so what if it had been true? Isn’t it my body, and my business what I do with it? Apparently not. “Promiscuous” was the sneering term employed for women like me, while sexually active men were admired as “studs.” At age twenty, in effort to change myself, I married a man who didn’t enjoy sex. Needless to say, the marriage was a disaster.

In the ensuing years, I learned to embrace my sexuality, and I found men who valued it. Nevertheless, deep down inside I felt unclean. This notion was reinforced at work. A nightlife reporter, I was criticized for dancing in the “mosh pit” of a tiny punk bar and then writing about it, while a male reporter did the same at a Pearl Jam concert and got published on the front page. Our publisher passed a dress code requiring underwear; rumors flew that my refusal to wear a harness – oops! bra — inspired the new rules.

Four years ago, my teen-aged daughter introduced me to “Sex and the City” – I am not a TV watcher — and my world rocked. For the first time, I witnessed smart, professional, single women – women like me! – getting it on with gusto, living sexually active lives without a lick of guilt or a syllable of moral doubt. Carrie, the angst-filled writer; Miranda, the tough-as-nails attorney; sweet Charlotte, and the uber-sexual Samantha — a Jones! — dated and mated all over New York and then talked about it without shame over breakfast. I felt validated. Watching it, I felt as if society were finally giving me permission to truly be myself.

Then I read mocking comments about the show. “Sluts in the City,” some called it. And I realized that my culture still had a long way to go before it would bestow the same sexual freedoms onto women that men have possessed since the beginning of time.

The situation for women has worsened in recent years. As Susan Faludi noted in her book “Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women,” for every step that we take toward equality and empowerment, culture tries to push us back two more. Now, society tells us that we’re to blame for being raped if we dress provocatively (even if we’re eleven years old), if we bring a man home with us, or if we, like CNN’s Lara Logan, venture into danger zones — or wear a low-cut dress.

Now lawmakers around America are proposing – and passing – laws denying women access to abortion services and birth control. Coincidence? I think not. Men want to reign us in. By controlling our sexuality, they control us. But we have a backlash of our own on its way, starting in the streets and marching its way to the polls next election.

How I would love to be there, dancing down the street with my sexual sisters, showing the whole world what I’m made of: flesh and blood and bone, desire and passion, moxie and chutzpah. I’m a slut. It feels good to say it. How many boys does it take? None, actually. I’m a happy animal. I was born this way.

3 replies on “Walking the Slut Walk Every Day”

  1. Sherry,

    I think it is worse when women blame the girls or women victims because of what they are wearing. I was listening to a woman at my work place being very judgemental of some girl who had been attacked wearing very little and speaking about her bringing it on herself.
    It is interesting how in different cultures it is different parts of the body that are sexually stimulating. Where I lived in PNG the thigh was the bit that was provocative to the men, as the ladies in traditional dress had their upper body bare, but wore a long skirt.
    So response to what someone is playing is culturally influenced as well, as your comments above point to.

  2. Nothing gets me fired up more than the gov feeling they have a right to own our bodies–feelin’ the burn in my belly just in writing that. When watching those cop shows where they’re manhandling and further degrading a woman for prostitution…well, I can’t watch, it so enrages me. Sometimes wish I could get in their ignorant faces and say, who the f*ck do you think you are–get your f*cking hands off of her–it’s HER BODY!

    This topic is interestingly synchronous with my thoughts this morning. About how we’re both “human” and animal, but it’s that animal part of us that we fear. And it’s why religion tells us that sex is bad, because they so fear that animal part of us. And I’m like you, I love that part of me, and am in no way ashamed of it. Our sexuality is one of the best and most enjoyable aspects of this existence, intricately connected to our spirituality, the juice of our creativity. I feel it very much connects us to that powerful part of us.

    For me, I was a virgin until my 20’s, despite having a best friend in high school who was definitely in that “slut” category–I suppose I lived vicariously though her, ha. I had that age-old belief that it was a good thing to “save” oneself for marriage, lol No doubt a moldy old leftover from my church-y childhood. But even from that first bite, I had no inhibitions. It would seem I had an inherent knowledge that our sexuality is a very good thing.

    Speaking of church-y things, those awful and ugly sexual terms we have. Like calling our genitals “junk.” And “slut”? What the hell? All of that is a spinoff of religion. Those terms carry such negative energy, the energy of self-loathing and judgment. Why describe ourselves like that?? I like the sound of Lover Goddess, lol But hey, that’s just me 😉

    Dove

  3. Jel and Dove, thank you for your insightful comments! I don’t understand repression of women and I never will. It’s what happens, I suppose, when “god” is male.

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