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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Egads! (More Fear)

I used to read http://polyinthemedia.blogspot.com/ before poly was cool, nyah nyah nah nah nah nyah!

But, to be honest for a moment, back in 2007-ish, when I was just discovering that there was a word for what I was feeling, polyinthemedia posted instances of polyamory appearing on/in the internet, news, television, radio talk shows, documentaries, podcasts, you-name-it, and it kept me emotionally alive. It was hard to find mentions of polyamory outside the existing online communities. The monthly run-downs had less than 10 new poly-mentions to share, but it was stuff that I didn’t have the time or networking to find myself. Thanks to that blog, I felt less alone, less crazy, and more hopeful that one day the world over might more widely understand me and what I was feeling.

The word is out, friends. Just use Google. I did today, under the “News” filter:

googlepolyamory

 

Not only that, but, friends, we’re even in Merriam-Webster!

websterpolyamory

 

It also hit me while I was doing NaNoWriMo, and discovered in the 20-somethings message board a thread about relationships, where a whole, pardon my lack of better word choice, buttload of 20-somethings identified as polyamorous.

Huzzah!

I really did celebrate. I really did smile. I was so excited. I still am, honestly, but I’ve started to feel a small stirring underneath that excitement.

I hate to keep this theme going two posts in a row, but the ball is already rolling. I feel a twinge of fear.

I’ve been reading recently that polyamory is trendy, hip. I guess I’m not surprised. At the risk of sounding patronizing, what scares me is the immense potential for hurt feelings and bitter tastes that come with jumping into something like polyamory too quickly. I don’t want to sound like I’m saying, “Whoa, hey, don’t do what I’m doing, because I’ve been doing it longer and am better at it than you.” I don’t want to sound like I’m immune to mistakes and hurt feelings and bitter tastes. I also don’t want to sound like a worried mother.

I’m sure I’m not alone, and I’m sure that many will wave me off. That’s fine. I just want there to be fair warning. And reliable representations (as some have pointed out popular media may or may not be doing right now). And resources. And, well…

It’s not so much that I want anyone to do it “right”, just that I want everyone interested to do it carefully, considerately and not with the same attitude that you would approach slap-bracelets or flared jeans or Gangnam Style. I just foresee a whole lot of yelling and screaming and “there is no way in hell polyamory could ever work, ever, ever, ever it sucks and made me hate my life ahhh!” And I care about people. So I worry. Maybe I shouldn’t, but I do.

People have their paths to follow. For me, polyamory was a very divergent path from the others I could see around me. It still is, in my real-life community and circles. It was hard to take, but because of that, I had to think about it long and hard, and I became damned sure that I had to take it because I realized, “This is who I am.” I’m happy that it will be less hard for other people who find that this is who they are, but scared that it will be so easy that some tread this way, even though it’s the wrong path for them, and they’ll wind up hurt.

Deep breath. People step onto the wrong path every day. For some, the wrong path is the popular one. If this becomes a popular one, and some people head down it simply for the sake of popularity, and it’s not for them, they’ll learn that they need to find another path, right?

I hope so.