Sunday, 1 April 2018

AM I A SLUT?

Hello lovely people,

Happy April Fools! Today I want to talk about women's sexuality (this is not a drill). Yes you read that correctly. SEX. SEX. SEX. SEX. SEX. SEX. SEX. Just had to get that out the way. Are we over it now? Good.

We exist in an era where slut-shaming is socially acceptable, where a woman's sexual expression (or perceived sexual expression) can be openly criticised by the masses. A 'slut' could be defined as a woman who engages in the same sexual behaviours as a man. Alternative terms include whore, hooker, hustler, slag, slapper, tart, tramp, trollop, harlot (if you wanna be all old-fashioned about it) and many, many more that I don't care to list here. Slut-shaming is a prime example of the major double-standard that exists between what is considered to be socially acceptable behaviour for men and women in society.

Examples of  so-called 'sluttish' behaviour can involve: wearing so-called 'promiscuous' clothing, flirting, having casual sex, having sex with more than one partner, having sex outside of relationships, masturbating, working as a sex worker, communicating sexual desires and showing literally any flesh at all. The warped ideas used to justify such criticisms are usually something along the lines of : women are precious fairy creatures who have no sexual desires/needs/wants at all and therefore any women that openly contradict this theory are crazy vicious witches with no self-respect. 

'Where did these strange, dangerous (and quite frankly, stupid) opinions stem from?', I hear you cry. 

Virginity has long been used as a means of commodifying women. Virginity is something that can be 'given' and 'taken', right? Even the tradition of a bride being given away by her father to her husband, is literally a transfer of ownership. Historically speaking, women who were not 'virgins' were considered to be damaged, soiled goods that could not be married off and were therefore of little use to their families or indeed, society. Virginity was like a ye-olde paternity test that ensured heirs were of the husband's bloodline. Still, in the 21st century, women are being killed for not being 'virgins', including women who are raped and those whose hymens have 'broken' by means other than sex (FYI hymens don't really 'break' - more on that here). The social construct of virginity has operated as a means of controlling women and maintaining a heteronormative, patriarchal world-view.

Indeed, the term 'virgin' is often used in a derogatory way towards men, but for different reasons. Although there is considerable pressure and expectation placed on men to have as much sex as possible, virginity and sexuality are not used as a means of controlling and shaming heterosexual men in the same way that they are used to control and shame women.

Slut Shaming and Rape Culture

This is particularly relevant, considering the recent rape trial, involving four Ulster Rugby players, and its appalling verdict. Since slut-shaming involves making inaccurate and ridiculous assumptions about women and their desires, it plays a significant part in normalising rape culture. The shame surrounding the topic of women's sexuality contributes to rape culture because it tells us that women who have sex, particularly in the aforementioned scenarios above, are dirty and morally skewed, and therefore any account of non-consensual sex is invited, deserved and most importantly their own fault. Victim blaming and slut shaming go hand in hand since the bigoted criticisms of slut-shaming culture provide ample evidence and justification for victim-blaming in accounts of sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape. Commentary like 'what was she wearing?' 'were they drunk?' 'she was asking for it/leading him on/flirting with him' are prime examples of insidious victim blaming at work.

Masturbation

It perplexes me as to why this is still a taboo topic. As mentioned in this article here, the smash-hit musical The Book of Mormon contains jokes about literally f*cking a baby, which provoked uproarious laughter from the audience and yet, here we are unable to talk about non-penis-related-masturbation. The core beliefs underpinning this taboo are along the lines of 'women have little to no sexual desire' and crucially 'women cannot be sexually satisfied without a man' (hahahaha - no). As well as being ridiculously heteronormative, this is simply incorrect. It boils down to a question of empowerment; women being dominant, pro-active and taking ownership of their sexual pleasure. This is not something that the patriarchy are going to start encouraging anytime soon.

WHY oh Why don't we talk about masturbation in Sex Ed programmes?

Porn

Women watch porn. Trans people watch porn. Non-binary people watch porn. All genders watch porn. That doesn't stop the majority of it being intensely misogynistic and heteronormative, cis-normative, abled bodied, weirdly hairless, and for the most part, intended solely for the heterosexual male gaze. Porn is this generation's sex ed and it really shouldn't be. If sex ed in schools provided factual, frank information, then I believe young people would be equipped with the tools to discern fantasy from reality.


source: teenzonemagazine.co.za

So what is the moral of this feminist jaunt?

Women's sexuality is none of your business.
You cannot determine somebody's wants, needs and desires from their outward appearance/behaviour. 
Sex that doesn't occur between a cis-man and a cis-woman is equally valid.
Sex work is work and deserves respect.
Virginity is a social construct.
Slut-shaming feeds rape culture.
Women can and do have high sex drives.
Women do not and should not have sex out of duty or for purely baby-making purposes.
Masturbation isn't just a thing for penis-owners - sorry folks.
Sexual activity and self-respect have absolutely nothing to do with each other
Porn is viewed by all genders (and also needs to cater for all genders and levels of ability)
Sex Ed needs to be revolutionised to cater for the real-world needs of young people.

I am aware that non-binary and trans people have largely been excluded from these kinds of conversations. This is a really great article (containing much needed data) addressing just that. 

This is a fabulously factual myth-busting article surrounding masturbation.

This is a wonderful non-binary guide to sex and sexuality.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this post, perhaps it has alerted you to your own internalised shame and stigma around these topics.

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Until the next time,

Niamh xxx

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