A couple days ago, I took a quick breather to catch up on some blogs on my phone. Sitting on the porch outside the craziness of a conference full of hungry people, I found and read Jaclyn Friendman’s earth-shattering piece, My Sluthood, Myself. This piece hit me like nothing has in months – years. Perhaps it was because I read it 10 hours into a hectic 13 hour day at work, or perhaps it was because Jaclyn’s honesty was so raw and pure, but My Sluthood, Myself left me holding back tears and whispering “thank you.”
In an act of bravery both fierce and shocking, Jaclyn wrote: “Last summer, I suffered the breakup of a relationship I’d thought would be permanent. Since then, I’ve had sexual interactions of the orgasmic kind with 9 different people, none of which I was ever in a committed relationship with.” The piece goes on to explain how “sluthood” saved her from the “rock and a hard place” dichotomy of serious relationships she wasn’t ready for, or celibacy. Sluthood gave her another choice. She writes:
I’m telling you this because sluthood saved me. Sluthood gave me the time and space to nurse a shattered heart. It gave me a place where I could exist in pieces, some of me craving touch, some of me still too tender to even expose to the light. Sluthood healed the part of me that felt my body and my desires were grotesque after two years in a libido-mismatched partnership. Now I felt hot, wanted, powerful. My desire and enthusiasm was an asset, not an unintended weapon. Even now, with more time passed, now, when I am actually ready for and wanting a more emotional connection, sluthood keeps me centered. It keeps me from confusing desire and affection with something deeper. It means I have another choice besides celibacy and settling. It means I won’t enter another committed relationship just to satisfy my basic need for sex and affection. It gives me more choices, it makes room for relationships to evolve organically, to take the shape they will before anyone defines them.
And she writes:
I’m telling you this because sluthood requires support. Because any woman who indulges these urges carries with her a lifetime of censure and threat. That’s a loud chorus to overcome. A slut needs a posse who finds her exploits almost as delicious as she finds them herself, who cares about her safety and her stories and her happiness but not one whit about her virtue. A slut alone is a slut in difficulty, possibly in danger.
And here is where I have to stop. I can no longer continue to write how I feel. I cannot type the words that explain why her words resonate so deeply with me, and elicit such an emotional response from me. As I am typing this right now, I am starting to cry.
I am not Jaclyn Friedman. I am not the director of an organization. I am not the author of a renowned book. I am not a feminist celebrity. I do not have job stability. I do not have the privilege of discussing my “personal business” on the internet, no matter how much I want to. It is already enough of a professional risk to keep this blog – a blog about (gasp!) feminism and (gasp!) sexual health – nevermind discuss my sex life or my feelings about sexuality. I can’t. I am censored. I am voiceless. My Sluthood, Myself gave me, and women like me, a voice.
Women may have the right to vote, to work, to wear what they like, but we still do not have the freedom to speak openly about our sexuality, especially if it does not fit within the lines of what our patriarchal culture deems appropriate. We don’t have the freedom to challenge assumptions, like the assumption that sluthood is a sign of emotional disturbance or evil. We do not have the freedom to explain how sluthood can be healing, uplifting, empowering – or to explain how women that ultimately are looking for love and monogamy can still find periods of sluthood fulfilling.
Jaclyn is in a position to do so, but giving voice to something like sluthood is no small thing. She has, in effect, put herself on the line for the rest of us, ready to take the brunt of the slut-shaming that inevitably would follow. Like this bucket of thinly-veiled feminist-hatred from “Life Coach” Stuart Schneiderman:
In a sense Friedman is martyring herself for a cause, and attempting to lure young women into going home with men they don’t know to explore their sexuality and liberate themselves from….
Friedman does not say it, but women who engage in these behaviors most often liberate themselves from their modesty and dignity. But why quibble.
Friedman is not martyring herself for just any cause. She is a card-carrying feminist and is helping to recruit young women into her own cause.
For anyone who is still puzzled by how it happens that so many young women have chosen to participate in the hookup culture, Friedman provides more evidence that feminists have been encouraging the behavior. Not all feminists, of course, but more than enough to influence young women.
Mr. Schneiderman believes in shame. His latest book argues for the use of “the concept of shame as a basis for a reinvigoration of American political and moral values.” (Really.) It should be no surprise that he manages to roll together all the stigmas that women like *us* (is it even safe to say “us?”) face: the doctrine of “feminine modesty,” slut-shaming, the idea that feminists are dangerous “recruiters” of young women, etc. And he blames it all on Jaclyn, my hero, the one who was brave enough to give me a voice.
I’m telling you this because juries still think women who even look like they might possibly be sluts are “asking for it.” I’m telling you this because some people still think it’s OK to drive a teenage girl to suicide because she was probably a slut. I’m telling you this because our policymakers would rather girls get sometimes-fatal diseases than be perceived as condoning sluthood. I’m telling you this because it’s important for everyone to understand: Sluthood isn’t a disease, or a wrong path, or a trend that’s ruining our youth. It isn’t just for detached, unemotional women who “fuck like men,” (as if that actually meant something), consequences be damned. It isn’t ever inevitable that sluthood should inspire violence or shame. Sluthood isn’t just a choice we should let women make because women should be free to make even “bad” choices. It’s a choice we should all have access to because it has the potential to be liberating. Healing. Soul-fulfilling. I’m telling you this because sluthood saved me, in a small but life-altering way, and I want it to be available to you if you ever think it could save you, too. Or if you want it for any other reason at all. And because even if you don’t ever want sluthood for yourself, you’re going to be called upon to support a slut. I’m telling you this because when that happens, I want you to say yes.
Schneiderman is wrong about Jaclyn being a martyr. She is not, because we will not let her be taken down by the bullshit he and other small-minded individuals spew. I – we – are her posse, and she will not go through this alone.