Thoughts On Slut Shaming: Respect, Infidelity, Logic, Gender Equality, and So Much More!

thoughtfulNow that my fear of slut shaming has been covered, I’d like to tiptoe a little deeper into the topic and share some thoughts I’ve had about slut shaming since I discovered the term.

My current theory: the slut shaming of women is related to the old “wife as property” idea of marriage. If a man is married and sleeps with someone other than his wife, well, what can she do? She’s his property – she has no real say. He has a mistress; that’s the way it goes sometimes, even if it’s not very admirable. In some cultures, men even take on additional wives.

But, if a married woman (the property) sleeps with another man…well, it’s a bit different. One man’s property is being used by another man, without any kind of compensation. I don’t even know of a word for the male equivalent of “mistress.” There is nothing but shame for the husband who has been “duped;” he’s a cuckold.  In Puerto Rico, it’s a common insult to call a man a “cabron”: a man who’s woman sleeps with other men. Are there equivalent words for women whose husbands cheat on them?

As a woman, if you have extramarital sex, you shame your husband, and you shame yourself, because you are his property. Perhaps this is part of the reason why slut shaming women is so much more popular than slut shaming men.

Or is it?

sad man

Slut shaming today does not only target women. I once began seeing a guy and was “warned” by a concerned friend that he slept around a lot. Because of that, this concerned friend thought that he wouldn’t be “relationship material.”

I was annoyed, not just because this friend assumed I was looking for a relationship, and not just because they assumed they knew what “relationship material” meant to me, but because this person was making a judgment of someone based on irrelevant information. The guy’s promiscuity should be viewed as just that: promiscuity. It should not be viewed as an indication of any other aspect of his character. It should not be assumed that it affects his relationship material-ness, which is vastly different for different people.

The definition and example of slut shaming posted on Urban Dictionary suggests that it is only bad because it means people will have less sex. It’s more than that, though. It’s an attack on character. For some reason, people associate what someone does with their sex life as relevant to the kind of person they are in other aspects of their life. It’s a cheap logical fallacy which is unfortunately used by educated people all the time. Be better than educated, people; be intelligent.

I think that one of the reasons why some may think slut shaming is only ever aimed at women is because it is more widely and vehemently done so. I haven’t conducted any studies or anything, but I feel that while there are probably plenty of well-intentioned people out there slut shaming men, telling them that they’re missing out on experiencing “true love,” informing/warning potential lovers away from them, and encouraging them to “be more respectful of women,” those people are labeled “cock-blocks” by popular culture. On the other hand, it’s much more acceptable for icons like Taylor Swift and even one of my favorite artists, Pink, to insist that self-respecting women certainly know better than to have sex. Apparently, being respectful of women, and women respecting themselves, means leaving their vaginas alone. What…err…cunt-bunters? Twat swatters?

People just need to respect people, regardless of gender identity, and regardless of how frequently they have sex. Part of ethical nonmonogamy and sluttery is that people are supposed to be considerate of one another’s feelings. Manipulating a person’s emotions to get them to have sex with you, or purposefully hurting their feelings afterward, is still unethical and disrespectful. Making it clear that you have no intention of being monogamous, being honest about who you are and what you feel or don’t feel, and finding someone who wants to sleep with you with that knowledge, is not disrespectful or wrong. It’s beautiful. Even if it happens 10 times in one week.

Slut shaming shouldn’t be perpetuated against anyone, but maybe it’s the way we interpret it and the way it is supported/unsupported depending on who it is aimed at that contributes to the sense of inequality we notice when it comes to slut shaming.

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Surprises

There is something somewhat amusing to me when people are surprised to find out that other people have found themselves in a love triangle predicament. Is it really that surprising that something as uncontrollable as love wouldn’t remain in a controlled, paired form?

I am totally understanding of being surprised that someone has cheated or lied – I mean, I tend to be less surprised, because I think that monogamous expectations encourage these things, and make cheating and lying a better option for some people, but other people might be surprised, especially if the person is otherwise generally honest.

Isn’t it sad that our expectations can turn an honest person dishonest?

Also fun to witness is when someone is surprised that they have found him or herself in a love triangle situation. Really? You were there the whole time, you are feeling the things you’re feeling; do you see now how uncontrollable love is?

I am busy living life and being amused; you should get out there and do the same.

STDs in an Ideal World

Sexually transmitted diseases, for me, are the top argument against nonmonogamous lifestyles. Hands down. Most other arguments are based on morals, religion, and social constructs that I don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye with, or which I find don’t apply to me, or which are outright misogynistic and stupid.

But, STDs, that’s real. They are an unquestionably valid concern: Even if you wear a condom every time with every partner, there are some STDs, including incurable ones, that can still be contracted (much slimmer odds, though). STDs that make you more prone to contracting HIV, even. It’s a very, very scary thought.

In an ideal world, every single person would be getting tested for every known STD before participating in sexual activities with another party. Even then, though, there are false negatives, and some STDs can’t be detected until some time after they’ve been contracted (at least 3 months for HIV). In an ideal world, people would remain abstinent long enough for the test results to be reliable, but now we’re relying heavily on a lot of thought-out, planned steps in the face of sexual desire, and we all know that the balance often tips such that desire gets the best of us.

Keeping with the “ideal world” theme, I think that an ideal world would also exist with much less stigmatization of people with STDs as well. I am a firm believer that the fear of finding out that one has an STD, the fear of knowing, is a fear that keeps many, many people from going and getting tested. If STDs weren’t attached to sex, which our culture still thinks of as a “dirty” and “base” activity, they would just be another disease. People want to know if the tap water they were drinking gave them cancer; they don’t all want to know if the sex they’ve been having (a natural and expected human behavior) gave them an STD, because of the heavy load of guilt that would come along with finding out that their actions gave them “that” kind of disease.

Clearly, my ideal world isn’t the same as that of others’. While this remains a valid argument against nonmonogamy, though, I feel the need to point out one thing:

The tendency to assume monogamy in a relationship is very, very dangerous. Statistics and experience show: people cheat. It happens. And because people have such a negative association with cheating (because we are “supposed” to be monogamous), people who claim to be monogamous hide their sexual partners from one another (or at least from the “primary” one), putting one, both, or more partners unwittingly in danger. If, for example, you decide to cheat on your partner, you’re not just deciding to take that risk for yourself; you risk your partner’s health as well, because you could catch and pass an STD to them. A risk they haven’t had a chance to say yes or no to. They don’t even know that their health is in danger, because your desire to maintain a monogamous front causes you to hide it from them.

It’s sick. I would like to hope that people who do this at least ask the new sexual partners to get tested first, but I know that this is often not the case. If we were more accepting of the fact that humans (not all, but at least some) are “fallible” when it comes to monogamy, we’d probably be a lot more open to admitting the need to get tested when a “mono-fail” happens.

I like to think so, anyway.

Commitment

People insist that “commitment” is essential for a relationship to work. I agree. I don’t understand why people confuse “commitment” with “monogamy,” though.

Commitment:

1. a : an act of committing to a charge or trust: as (1) : a consignment to a penal or mental institution (2) : an act of referring a matter to a legislative committee b : mittimus
2. a : an agreement or pledge to do something in the future; especially: an engagement to assume a financial obligation at a future date b : something pledged c : the state or an instance of being obligated or emotionally impelled <a commitment to a cause>(Merriam-Webster)

Can someone please point out to me where, in that definition, monogamy in a relationship is described?

When I commit to a relationship with someone, I commit to being there for them. I am “obligated and emotionally compelled” to do so. I commit to being honest with them. I commit to not breaking whatever ground rules we have laid out for our relationship. I commit to respecting them. I will NOT commit myself to someone who does not understand that I cannot commit to monogamy; it would be lying to them if I let them believe that monogamy was something I could do. I don’t like lying. It’s not nice.

You want to tell me that, okay, what you really meant was “fidelity” or “faithfulness”?

fidelity: 1: a. the quality or state of being faithful b. accuracy in details: exactness (check it)

faithful1: obsolete : full of faith, 2: steadfast in affection or allegiance : loyal, 3: firm in adherence to promises or in observance of duty :conscientious, 4: given with strong assurance : binding <a faithful promise>, 5: true to the facts, to a standard, or to an original <a faithful copy> (check it)

I’m just as steadfast in my affection towards someone I love as any monogamous person. I adhere to my promises. I am brutally true to the facts. . .ah! There it is! The “standard”! That’s where I don’t fit. No, no, I’m definitely not standard. I guess I’m not “faithful”. Oh well.

But, I AM committed. To more than one person. Don’t you dare try to tell me I’m not, or insinuate that I have “commitment issues”. Or do. I’ll know you’re wrong.

P.S. Go ahead, say it straight: monogamy is required to make a relationship work. Right. And everyone in a functional relationship is completely monogamous. Go read a book.

Talking About It

I might be unique, but I’d rather be able to be completely honest with a romantic partner than not.

“You actually told your boyfriend that you wanted to sleep with other people?!”

Well, yeah. I find it a bit sad that this is such a shocking idea to so many people. What is love if not the ability to tell the person you love anything and everything, especially the truth? If you are hiding who you really are from someone, there is no way for them to actually love you; they can only love the limited version of yourself that you have presented to them.

It’s scary telling that kind of truth, because most of us are convinced that it will end in a breakup or “taking a break.” In my opinion, this isn’t the worst thing that can happen. I’d be much more unhappy in a dishonest relationship than in a relationship that had the potential to evolve based on mutual honesty and respect. Yes, respect. I actually find dishonesty with a partner to be disrespectful. Oh, the audacity!

And, if the relationship did end based on honesty, I’d rather that than it endure as long as I hid my innermost thoughts and desires from someone I loved.

Here is a potential approach to this situation: stay together, and work through and communicate about each other’s needs. You would be amazed at how much you can learn about yourself, your partner(s), and your relationship(s) when you actually sit down and communicate honestly (even bluntly!) with one another.

One amazing conversation couples should sit down and have is: what do you consider cheating? I’m not the first person to say this by any means, but unfortunately, many people start this conversation after they have already done something that they think might be cheating. Funny how there’s enough grey area on that topic for us to avoid the conversation until it might be too late, isn’t it?

When it comes down to it, I like the way it was once put in a livejournal polyamory group: cheating means breaking the rules. You make the rules of your relationship. If your rules allow for other partners, then it’s not cheating.

But that means you need to sit down and make the rules, and you need to get to that before something questionable happens, rather than after. It’ll probably be one of the greatest conversations you ever have with your partner, with the added bonus of opening up the ability to revisit the topic as needed down the line.