“A man can sleep around, no questions asked, but if a woman
makes nineteen or twenty mistakes she’s a tramp.” ― Joan Rivers
*Stretches and cracks knuckles* Oh, I have some opinions on this!
I have a confession to make: Back in my formative years, I very much held this way of thinking. That women who had a different partner every night either were lacking in self-respect, going through a tough time and using sex as a coping mechanism, or were, as folks around me called it, ‘selling themselves short.’
That being said, I didn’t hold as much leniency over men, as society often does on matters of sex and who we do or don’t sleep with. It disgusted me how it was always the women who bore the brunt, whereas the men got off scot free, for the same thing. I felt, surely if it’s one rule for one, it should be one rule for everyone, right?
Growing up, even in sex ed and the general perception at the time, it all boiled down to the same thing: You don’t want to be the girl with ‘the reputation’, do you? You don’t want to be a young mother, do you?
If either happened, whoa Lord have mercy. The last thing a woman wanted to be was ‘common’, a ‘runaround Sue’, or more crassly put: a whore, a slut, a slag, followed by a slew of rude (and inaccurate) ‘loose vagina’ jokes by her peers.
Since then, I’ve pretty much done a 180 on my more conservative views in my teenage years. I still firmly believe the ‘one rule for one, one rule for everyone’, but on the other side of the coin: If a man, or male presenting person is able to enjoy casual sex safely (use condoms and dental dams, folks!) and consensually, then why shouldn’t the ladies & femme presenting folks be able to?
Why is it a ‘walk of shame’ for us, but a ‘stride of pride’ for them?
Why is it a ‘master key’ for them, but a ‘shitty lock’ for us?
While there are some changes that are challenging a very rigid view around sex, it’s amazing how sex positivity is still, in many ways, in the minority. Being part of a community that often writes about sex, BDSM, gender etc. in such a way that we advocate for sex positivity, it’s a punch in the gut reality check, to see in the rest of the world, how often we are, in fact, part of the minority.
Sadly, sexual shaming is alive and well. Especially, among communities where purity culture and abstinence-only-until-marriage education is championed. The reason, beside from a fundamentalist take on sex, which often compares women to dirty glasses of water and chewed up bubblegum, is keeping people in the dark about safe sex and advocating for forced childbirth.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, on top of twisting religious verses out of context to justify policing of dress, how a woman acts, if she speaks. Etc.
Jezebel, Whore of Babylon, Book of Timothy, Proverbs 31 etc. are often used as ‘clobber verses’ to keep women and young girls under the heel of fundamentalist teachings. From someone who reads and studies the context of these texts, it boils my blood to see them used in this way. On top of my own personal opinion, that a lot can change in 2000 years.
Growing up, I was brought up in a house that was very much in the middle of a conservative and modern approach. My parents and grandparents (the latter saving themselves for marriage, as wasn’t uncommon in the late 1950s) yes, made sure I knew about contraception, how babies were made etc. but never forced me to believe in ‘you only have sex if you’re married’. Yes, they said if that’s what I wanted to do, they’d support me, even if it wasn’t their own personal approach. Everyone is different.
On the flip side, they weren’t the biggest fans of casual sex either, my grandparents especially. They knew when all said and done, it was my choice and business, but in a well-meaning way, said the following: ‘Just don’t sell yourself short. You don’t have to get married, but just make sure it’s with someone who treats you right, even love. It’s always better with someone you love.’
I can’t say I haven’t stuck to that. I’ve only ever slept with men I’ve felt or feel love towards. I’ve never had casual sex, but that’s because at the time, it wasn’t right for me.
It’s not that I haven’t wanted to when opportunities presented themselves with gorgeous men when I was single, but I couldn’t get over the feeling empty afterwards when someone leaves, the thought of not seeing them again. The feeling of someone just leaving after sex, the abruptness of it, just didn’t make me feel good. But that was my decision, and no one else’s.
My parent’s and grandparent’s well-meaning words (I’m not making excuses because they’re family here) while slightly more old-school in some ways, was meant as a protection, and they’ve said that so themselves.
They said they didn’t want me being treated badly by someone who thinks I’m only good for fucking, or the group of friends afterwards that would label me a ‘slut’ for being ‘easy’. They’ve seen first hand it happen to others when they were my age, and didn’t want that to happen to me.
Granted, for those of you who’ve had casual sex, I understand that’s not the case for everyone. They were referring to those people, casual or not, who treat you like just something to fuck, not a human being. Those who don’t actually respect you, sometimes even trying to sweet talk their way out of using protection, then proceed to brand you a ‘slut’ for ‘putting out so easy.’ *shudders* We’ve all come across those people, and they are jerks. Your ‘number’ doesn’t and shouldn’t determine your status or self-worth.
It’s like when I came out to my Grandpa as bisexual (different analogy, but bear with me) he accepted and affirmed me to my relief, but told me to be careful who I told. Not because he was ashamed of his bisexual granddaughter, but because he didn’t want me being subject to biphobia from people who think ridiculing people, or worse, for that is ok. Keeping in mind, he was in his early 30s when being anything other than straight was decriminalised here in the UK. Plus, with such homo/bi/transphobic behaviour still happening, his concern is very much understandable.
I am thankful for my family, that we can talk about these things, even if we see differently. That ability to have those conversations, even if they got heated at times, reinforced my wanting to be sex positive. However, getting into sex blogging and writing seriously opened my eyes about advocating for such.
That means choosing what is right for YOU with your autonomy. If that means you having safe group sex with other consenting adults every other weekend? Go you! Waiting until your wedding night with your future husband because that’s what you both want? Go for it. In a sexual BDSM arrangement with a friend, respecting each other’s boundaries and consent? You do you.
In the last few years, I am seeing how certain stigmas, particularly towards women, are being challenged. There’s more conversation around comprehensive sex education, LGBTQ rights and safe sex. Change is starting to happen. It might take a few thousand years to break down shame altogether, but slow change is better than none at all, right?
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