In Defense of Sluts

Recently, an administrator at the women's center of a large Midwestern university inquired about bringing me to campus as a featured speaker. After reviewing my press kit, she applied for an honorarium. She e-mailed me to say that her request to the student board that allocates funds was denied because board members feared that I would promote (and possibly recruit students for) prostitution. I chalked it up to a wacky bunch of ill-informed kids until the same thing happened at another university in the South. In all the talks I have given at colleges around the country, never once has prostitution been mentioned in my initial pitch, nor in any portion of my presentations. Sure, I've made donations to sex worker organizations and written about various aspects of the industry; I do support the legalization and unionization of sex work (because whores deserve fair working conditions and health benefits, too), but that's not my agenda when I speak at institutions of higher learning. How did two separate groups make the leap from me to prostitution? There can be only one answer: They think I'm a slut.

I've never denied being a slut. I've had my fair share of sexual partners, both in and out of relationships, and from the average person's perspective, I'm probably a trollop. Although most people think it's a put-down to say I put out, I embrace the label willingly and with enthusiasm. I encourage other easy riders to do the same. From Mary Magdalene to Pamela Anderson, sluts are mythologized, denigrated, and misunderstood by society, and I propose to debunk the label and its lies. I think it's time we put the stereotypes of sluthood to bed once and for all, reclaim the term, and redefine it.

All sluts are women. Why is it that women who have multiple sex partners, play the field, or have an abundance of erotic experience are skanks, but men who do the same thing are studs? The feminization of slutdom is another example of misogyny hard at work—a symbolic scarlet letter meant to prevent women from becoming too sexually assertive, independent, or empowered. We need to squash this tired double standard in its tracks, and start calling guys sluts, too.

Sluts lie and cheat. Contrary to popular belief, sluts aren't sleeping around behind a significant other's back or deceiving partners about their true desires; on the contrary, many sluts know what we want and are up front about it. In 1998, authors Dossie Easton and Catherine A. Liszt coined a meaningful term (and lifestyle) with the title of their book The Ethical Slut. They also introduced the notion that players with morals were not walking contradictions. Their use of the term slut is definitely tongue in cheek, since the subject of this how-to guide is responsible polyamory. People who practice polyamory (some of whom also call themselves sluts) have sexual and emotional relationships with more than one person. In other words, your slut is someone else's polyamorist.

Sluts are morally bankrupt individuals without a conscience. The heir apparent to the Ethical Slut may be Zen Slut (, a self-proclaimed stereotype-busting broad who runs her own website full of treatises and propaganda about sluthood as a spiritual calling: "Through sex and relationships, I gain introspection and insight into myself and the selves of others. Zensluttery is a bit of a spiritual path for me . . . transcendence through orgasm. . . . Sex is . . . one of the ways that I make my world make sense, and one of the tools I use to understand people and my environment." While the object of some sluts' worship may be more dick than divine, Zensluttery is another take on the power of sluttiness.

Sluts will do anything and anyone. Just because we may cast a wide net doesn't mean we tramps don't have our own personal standards and boundaries. Sluts may be more open to acting on attraction and expressing our sexual selves, but we're not indiscriminate: We can be as selective and picky as non-sluts about who we'll slip between the sheets with, and what we'll do once we're there.

Sluts are sex addicts. Sluts enjoy sex, but their enjoyment does not make them compulsive. Has anyone taken the standard test to determine sexual addiction? Well, if you masturbate frequently, engage in sexual dialogue on the Internet, rent or purchase porn regularly, believe your parents didn't have a good sex life, or often find yourself preoccupied with sex, you can be classified as a sex addict.

Sluts have diseases. Being a slut does not automatically make one ignorant about sexually transmitted diseases, lax about practicing safer sex, or willing to swap bodily fluids with everyone including the milkman. Sluts have been around the block, and every sexual partner one has increases the risk of being exposed to STDs, but being a slut does not make one more careless or stupid. In fact, the sluts I know are more informed about their sexual health than the average person, and more careful about using condoms and other methods of protection.

Sluts are commitment phobic. Some sluts incorporate their taste for variety into their relationships and may have several partners. Others just prefer not to be tied down, but it's up to the individual slut. There are as many people in relationships with a fear of intimacy as there are on the loose. Samantha of Sex and the City has done a lot for sluts everywhere, embodying a sexually voracious woman who is thoughtful, three-dimensional, and has feelings. She even gave monogamy a shot, and it didn't kill her; it just made her stronger.

Sluts are emotionally unstable. I'll concede that some sluts need therapy, some sluts use sex to mask insecurities and pain, and some sluts are just plain crazy. I could say the same thing about monogamous people, virgins until marriage, and a certain blonde, booty-shaking pop star. It's time to stop reviewing that copy of Basic Instinct and realize that sluts can be sane and normal as much as the girl next door can be out of her mind. Frequent, inspired sexual activity is not synonymous with psychosis.

I confess that sometimes I wish all sluts were self-aware, articulate, and empowered à la sex worker activist Annie Sprinkle or Zen Slut, but, alas, they aren't. I'm content that there are some very bright ones in the world, spreading a more sex-positive message for young sluts everywhere.

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