A personal narrative about the limitations and repression of my sexual autonomy, this essay pokes holes in the standard narrative of human sexuality and explains the more plausible theory of females evolving to be promiscuous.
Slut is a word that cuts deep, piercing the skin’s surface and going straight for the heart. When I was 13 years old, I started developing breasts and my body became fuller and rounder, softening the edges of my childish figure into the body of a grown woman. At age 14, I easily could have passed as a 20-year- old, and my male classmates would not let me forget this for a minute. I don’t remember the first time I heard the word slut muttered under the breath of a boy in my class, but I do remember when it became a normal part of my day. I do remember when I realized that my body (in the eyes of society) was the definition of dirty, something that needed to be covered up at all times or else I was asking for trouble.
In my rebellious nature, I pushed back…with force. I chose not to cover my skin and I did not hide myself from the world. I recognized when my male classmates or authority figures made me feel uncomfortable simply because I inhabited a female form. I also paid close attention to the rare times where I was encouraged to embrace my body and to never stand down in the face of discrimination.
So let’s go back to this one simple, yet powerful word: slut.
It’s not designed to be a compliment, nor is it meant to describe a positive quality in a person. In fact, the outdated definition reads that a slut is “a woman with low standards of cleanliness.” But the updated definition is “a woman who has many casual sexual partners,” which is modernly interpreted as a derogatory descriptive. But why?
As a woman who grew up within conservative traditions, I was taught that men were only interested in having sex with me. In order to protect myself from the hoards of sexual predators that I would encounter on a daily basis, I was taught to remain on guard at all times. I was raised with the idea that my sexuality was something that could easily be stolen, something that I should hold onto for dear life if I wanted to remain a person of value. For some people, this is a beautiful sentiment and it resonates with them. For me, it propelled a toxic relationship with my own sexuality, an obsession with emotional expression, and confusion about my personal identity as a whole. It led me to believe that goodness and purity were the opposite of sexual desire, that they existed separately. As I began discovering my abundance of sexual desire, I experienced a constant stream of conflicting emotions, torn between my longing for authentic and meaningful connections with other people and my intense desire for wild, mind-blowing sex.
At first, I felt like a bad person, but then I realized that I was not alone in this constant state of desire. I wondered if maybe, just maybe, I was actually a slut, like all those snotty middle school boys had said. I began questioning what the word even meant and why I had been taught that it was such a bad thing in the first place.
What is so wrong about a woman who has multiple sexual partners?
Why are we perpetuating the idea that women should have little to no sexual desire?
Today, the word slut is used to intentionally hurt another person, aiming to diminish their value by describing the abundance of their sexual offering. One could almost think of it as a metaphor in economics, the more sex a person gives (supply) the lower the cost will be (value). But human energy is not exactly the same as financial currency. The word slut is hurtful, not because it is a quantifiable assessment of a person’s sexual exchanges, but because of the hateful nature behind the word. It is an accusation that someone or something is tarnished, dirty, or less valuable due to extensive use.
It hurts when someone calls you a slut because it aims to cheapen your essence as a person. In many cultures, sexuality is inherently linked with a person’s identity, which is one reason that it has been yielded as a structure of power, whereby those who control sexual expression can willingly oppress those who lack its control. Anything that reclaims one’s personal identity and individual power would then be seen as a threat to the systematic imposition of control. For example, a woman acting with full sexual autonomy is described as a slut, bad, evil, or dirty, because she is no longer being controlled by the patriarchal system that benefits from her submission.
According to modern science and socially explicated norms, the standard narrative of human sexuality claims that females have less, if any, sexual desire and that males contain an excessive amount. Yet, in actuality, this theory has little evidence to back it up, and countless studies that disprove it all together. For example, female humans evolved to experience multiple orgasms consecutively, while on the other hand, males evolved to experience a decline in energy levels and the desire for sleep directly following an orgasm. Simultaneously, the anatomy of male human penises, compared to those of other ape species, evolved into a specific shape that creates a vacuum-like function. With repeated thrusting, also a significantly higher amount than our ape counterparts, the head of the penis acts as a suction, aiming to remove sperm that has been previously deposited by a competing male.
All this to say that our prehistoric ancestors used sexual promiscuity not only as a tactic for enhanced reproduction but also as a form of social bonding - and the ladies are running the show!
While I was taught to feel that my subconscious sexual desires (for more sex from my partners and from other people) were indications of extreme sluttiness, in actuality, I was intimately connected to my body’s natural instincts. Maybe, instead of being offended by the word slut, I shall stand in its glory.
Yes, I am a woman who has enjoyed sex with multiple partners, and I am a freakin’ powerhouse.
Maria Borghoff is an artist, yoga teacher, and curator at GROOVE Studio. She helps creative people share their voice and instill positive change by combining movement, meditation, art-making, nutrition and daily rituals. mariaborghoff.com
Photo Credit: www.lipstickandpolitics.com