I’m excited to introduce you to our guest poster. Her name is Stephanie Vega and she runs a web site called Scandalous Women. This a fantastic site for the intelligent and sexually aware female. Enjoy her post and check out her site! www.Scandalouswomen.com
Picture from faithmcguire.blogspot.com
I was called a slut once in middle school by a girl after I kissed a guy she also liked at a school assembly. She wasn’t happy about it so she called me the one name she believed would be the most stinging. Slut. Perhaps it would have been insulting a generation prior but it was 1993 and being a slut had actually become rather chic for some of us.
Fourteen years and dozens of sexual conquests later I’m a big proponent of sex-positive feminism or ‘Stiletto Feminism,’ a movement born from the turbulent social and sexual upheavals of the 1960s that flourished in the 1980s and 90s as a back-lash against the conservative movement that endeavors to put limits on what women can and cannot do sexually. Broken down to its core component, sex-positive feminism’s message is a woman’s sexuality can and should be used not only for her pleasure but also her benefit if needed.
An article from 2000 in Time featuring the cast of Sex and the City drew some positive attention to this phenomenon as did an episode of The West Wing. The August 2000 issue of George magazine also featured it, calling this a “new kind of feminism.” It described the “Stiletto Feminist” as the woman who “embraces expressions of sexuality that enhances rather than detracts from women’s freedom.” Dr. Susan Hopkins, a lecturer in The School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Queensland, wrote a cultural analysis of the contemporary archetype of the stiletto feminist in popular culture in her book Girl Heroes. Dossie Easton and Catherine A. Liszt took the subject head on in their wildly popular book The Ethical Slut: A Guide to Infinite Sexual Possibilities. To be fair, the movement was criticized in a book titled Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture. All are excellent reads providing different perspectives of sex-positive feminism.
And those of us who have embraced the tenets of this, knowingly or unknowingly, have apparently been smart about it. At the same time HBO’s Sex and the City was becoming a phenomena, sexually provocative female pop stars were burning up the airwaves, and virginity was becoming an afterthought, something curious happened: Unplanned teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease rates dropped overall. You can credit great parenting, good government policy, effective ad campaigns from Trojan, or the fact that women were (finally) in charge of their own poonannies for the positive statistics, but one thing was certain – women knew what was at stake with their freedoms and weren’t going to blow it like some nervous fumbling girl enamored with her high school’s star quarterback.
A generation of young women (I dare say two generations because this movement began in the 60s) have found the courage to do what men have been doing forever: Fuck with wild abandon. After all, Ernest Hemingway famously said, “What is moral is that you feel good after and what is immoral is that you feel bad after.” And I’m here to tell you it feels good.
And that attitude isn’t without evolutionary and generational causes. Women have been taught since the dawn of recorded history that our sexuality is a commodity to be bargained with and exchanged for security within a marriage. If some women throw those norms out the window, the reasoning goes, they cheapen the supply. Men will be less likely to provide security for women if they can get what they’re seeking free somewhere else – or so we’ve been taught. So women, based on something ingrained in their minds by societal norms, will naturally try to offset what they see as the devaluation of their ‘product’ by undermining sexually confident women.
Of course, it isn’t only women who are condemning other women’s sexuality. In male-dominated societies, female sexuality has always been feared. One of the earliest myths in Judaism is of Lilith, Adam’s first wife, who was banished from the Garden of Eden for being on top in a sexual encounter with Adam. Notice the sin wasn’t the sex itself but rather the woman was on top of the man rather than beneath him. Theories persist today that the forbidden fruit that Eve tempted Adam with was actually a metaphor for having sex for reasons other than procreation. One of the first laws in recorded history calls for stoning to death any woman who has had sex with more than one man.
Consider also some of the double standards our daughters are subjected to. Men who sleep with a variety of women, moving from one conquest to the next, are often admired while women who engage in the same behavior are considered whores. Rape victims are sometimes blamed for their own assaults because of the way they were dressed, obviously meaning they were asking for it. Many insurance plans will cover Viagra but not the birth control pill. Some pharmacies refuse to honor prescriptions for the birth control pill unless the female can prove she’s married. And on the topic of the pill, a controversy brewing in England right now is whether teen girls should be given access to it over the counter while at the same time teen boys have been buying condoms unhindered for years.
Ley explains that female sexual freedom throughout the history of the world ties directly to the economic independence enjoyed by women in any given society. Among the Inuit, where women have sexual freedoms comparable to the men of their society, the women traditionally oversee the family’s economy. The government of ancient Sparta, where women were allowed to own land, wrote laws protecting women’s sexual freedom. Among the Islamic culture in 19th Century Morocco, wealthy women often engaged in flagrant affairs, protected from their husband’s anger by the fact that family’s wealth was in the wife’s name, inherited from her family. In 18th- and 19th-century Italy, women had a Cicisbeo or Cavalier Servente, a lover and servant who had “privileged” access to her. In today’s Western world, as women’s economic status has risen, so have the rates of female infidelity, and, not incidentally, the attention to female sexual satisfaction within heterosexual relationships. (translation: guys are trying much harder to make us happy in the bedroom).
A book that takes on the practical application of sex-positive feminism is The Ethical Slut: A Guide to Infinite Sexual Possibilities by Dossie Easton and Catherine A. Liszt. It is credited with raising awareness of the possibility of consensual non-monogamy as a lifestyle, and providing practical guidance on how such long term relationships work and are put into practice. The authors define the term slut as “a person… who has the courage to lead life according to the radical proposition that sex is nice and pleasure is good for you.” The term is reclaimed from its usual use as an insult and is used to signify a person who is accepting of their enjoyment of sex and the pleasure of intimacy with others. The book discusses how to live an active life with multiple concurrent sexual relationships.