There’s No Such Thing As A Slut

There’s No Such Thing as a Slut, or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love Having As Much Sex as I Want
by Joanna Horton

“I felt that if I wrote “slut” or “whore” or “incest victim” on my stomach, then I wouldn’t just be silent … a lot of guys might be thinking this anyway when they look at my picture, so this would be like holding up a mirror to what they were thinking.” – Kathleen Hanna

(Riot Grrrl legend Kathleen Hanna, of the band Bikini Kill)

We can all agree that the word ‘slut’ is thrown around a lot these days, even sometimes used as a casual term of endearment between friends. Some feminists have even used it as a ‘reclaimed’ term, much like the non-straight community has adopted the term ‘queer’ and re-constituted its meaning into a positive one.

And yes, I am the first to argue that a fundamental part of feminism is the recognition of female sexuality in all its forms. Some women like to have sex a lot, some not so much. Some like sex with other women. Some like bondage, some like anal, and so on. You get the idea. The important point is to debunk the various myths surrounding feminine sexuality; to understand that all women do not fit into one of the two categories prescribed for our sexuality – virtuous virgin or nymphomaniac whore. (In recent decades a new category has been introduced – that of the frigid bitch.) Of course, all of these myths have been conceptualised and circulated by men, not women. And of course, they’re not truly representative of the diversity of female sexuality.

These ongoing efforts have made some progress in portraying women’s sex lives as nothing groundbreaking or terrifying, but just a normal part of life. However, the fight continues. One of the most contentious myths remains that of the Slut. This woman has many sexual partners, sometimes recurring and sometimes one-night-stands. She doesn’t establish a romantic connection with any of them, and she doesn’t want a monogamous relationship. Her partners presumably are of the same mindset as her, and if they want anything more serious, she kindly but firmly sets them straight.

In other words, she exhibits exactly the kind of behaviour that is considered normal and healthy (if observed with a wry grin and a ‘boys will be boys’ truism) if it ever occurs in young men.

Perhaps her behaviour is not ‘emotionally fulfilling’. Perhaps she is ‘acting out’ against some unhappiness in her life. Perhaps sleeping around does not, in fact, make her happy. These may all be true, but they’re not the point and they’re none of our business anyway. Society seems unable to accept the phenomenon of a woman sleeping with multiple men without labelling her a slut. And that wouldn’t even be so bad, if not for all the connotations accompanying that label.

Here are a few assumptions that come with the word Slut:

–       She is desperate
–       She’s a ‘nympho’ or has some other kind of disorder
–       Men don’t respect her
–       She can’t form close friendships with women due to jealousy
–       She can’t possess maternal instincts or want children
–       If she does have children, she can’t be a good mother to them
–       She has no morals
–       She seduces men (who are positioned as basically good people lured in by her feminine wiles, rather than equal partners in an exchange)
–       She has no other characteristics or features other than her promiscuity
–       She wants to get into the pants of every man she encounters
–       She is largely heterosexual, unless she fits the idea of a ‘lesbian nympho’ (a fantasy conceived almost overwhelmingly for a hetero male audience)

I know many women who enjoy casual sex with multiple partners. I don’t know anyone who fits the above descriptions. Of course it’s ridiculous to suggest that sex – such an integral and formative part of the human experience – can be decoupled from the rest of a person’s life. But it’s not ridiculous to suggest that a woman can practise a certain kind of sexual behaviour without subscribing to everything that apparently ‘goes along’ with that kind of behaviour. To return to my original point, nobody fits a sexual stereotype. Sexual stereotypes do not exist. They were constructed to sustain and perpetuate a certain kind of power structure called patriarchy. It’s no secret that this structure – rigid in its very nature – makes no room for diverse realities. So yes, I can be a ‘slut’ and a good friend. I can be a ‘slut’ and a good mother. I can be a ‘slut’ who makes a valuable contribution to society, or I can be a ‘slut’ who doesn’t.


Because there’s no such thing as a slut.

~ Joanna Horton


Women’s Lib Perspective on “Occupy Brisbane”

Notes on Occupy Brisbane from a Women’s Lib Perspective
By Corey Green 

Occupy Brisbane has been happening at Post Office Square since October 15th. It is both an encampment and an ongoing process towards a better world.

As an experienced activist I find the movement both uplifting and frustrating. Uplifting because it feels like a critical mass of people is finally seriously acknowledging that things have to change. The frustration stems from the fact that it feels like the movement is constantly reinventing the wheel.

It is hard to say that Occupy Brisbane is any one thing because the movement currently has no demands, and shies away from creating them. In the first few weeks it seems that the main aim of the movement has been to live co-operatively. This is going quite well, with food and shelter for everyone there and a hygienic environment being maintained. It is also very encouraging to see that people who were previously homeless have found it a good space to live and to be actively and autonomously involved in their own community. If for no other reason than this, Occupy Brisbane is already a success. As someone who suffers from mental illness I have found it a positive place to hang out and do the work that I would usually do at home. Perhaps it keeps me balanced because it is meeting a deep-seated need for social interaction in a communal space.

Proposals regarding the occupation are formulated in working groups or amongst individuals then brought to a nightly general assembly to be debated on. Proposals are discussed using a strict consensus decision making process, which means that nothing can be decided upon if even one person disagrees. Consequently the meetings are quite lengthy, and sometimes decisions cannot be reached on important matters. Another impediment to decision-making is a fear held by some that discussion of negatives will “manifest” negative outcomes. Personally I find this a bit of a victim-blaming approach, and feel like it tends to get used to selectively shut down the sort of discussions I’m interested in: political discussion. There is a general dislike of “politics”, perhaps because people associate it with Australia’s parliamentary democracy, but as the movement is principally concerned with creating a better world it is in its very nature political and part of a very long tradition. I wish some wouldn’t shy away from that.

Amongst the fifty or so tents present at Occupy Brisbane are people from all walks of life. Many people are curious about what is happening, and support the cause. The general vibe is that anyone is welcome to come into the space and participate, even people who are obviously part of the 1% like the Queen of England. This is because the dominant discourse at Occupy Brisbane is a kind of anti-discourse where there are no right or wrong ideas, and any problems can be overcome by love for one another. There is very little acknowledgement of the fact that every person there comes from a society that privileges certain groups over others, and activists who bring up these issues have been accused of manifesting the divisions that exist between people.

To look at the idea that you “manifest” your life situation through your positive or negative attitude, I am going to apply it to women’s struggle to gain the vote. So there was a situation where women had always had the right to vote, but then some women who had nothing better to do got worried that they didn’t have the right to vote, thus causing the right to be taken away from all women. However, someone who was familiar with the idea of manifestation came to them and taught them to hope that they would someday get the vote. They sat at home and they hoped, oh they hoped really hard, and they envisioned having the vote, and they never thought about not having the vote. And in the end the right to vote was miraculously given back to them. What I am trying to illustrate with this example is that the idea of manifesting your reality is actually an impediment to political struggle. Also I feel that it is really insulting to people who are going through a hard time in their life. Are people starving because they have the wrong attitude, or are they starving because of a larger political economy that’s not going their way? Would they be better off fighting for long term economic change and short term relief, or maintaining a positive attitude by pretending that they weren’t starving? This is not to say that everyone at Occupy Brisbane holds this set of beliefs, it’s just that the consensus decision making process means that debate can get hamstrung by the beliefs of some. Continue reading