Most would agree that the word ‘slut’ is a offensive word. It is thrown at women with such venom and derision that it could well be more offensive than any other derogatory term used to attack women.
The word ‘bitch’ has become kind of cool. To be a ‘bitch’ carries an element of power. Madonna. Margaret Thatcher. There was that wonderful quote from Stephen King’s Delores Claybourne : ‘Sometimes being a bitch is all a woman has to hold on to’ These days being called a bitch has some street cred. It’s kind of hip. But being called a slut is still extremely uncool.
This tells me that true female liberation is not anywhere near complete. When Rush Limbaugh called contraception advocate, Sandra Fluke, a slut, because of her views, women around the world were aghast. A group called ‘Sluts Unite’ was formed in response, a group of women who felt that to be shamed as being a slut for expressing her sexuality in a way that differed from the patriarchal expectations of females was a heinous thing. They advocated for a paradigm shift around the word, suggesting that it be haloed with pride instead of shame. The saddest aspect of this story is that their greatest opposition came from other women.
This brings me to my memoir, ‘One Way or Another; the story of a girl who loved rock-stars,’ which was recently published by Black Inc. It tells the story of my own sexual awakening and lust, not only for life, but for rock-stars. I was quite honestly a little teenage slut. I believed that sex was about more than procreation. I believed that I had the right to choose who, how and when I had sex. And I believed that embracing my sexuality and expressing it as I saw fit was my right as a human woman.
While I have had much positive feedback from readers who understood and championed my candour, I have been surprised by some negative lash-back from other women who have not read the book, but have read about it. There has been a distinct tut-tutting coming from some so-called liberated women. I was sexually active at fifteen, almost sixteen. In many cultures that is a very marriageable age. I was not groomed or taken advantage of. If anything, I was the seducer, the predator. I knew exactly what I was doing and it felt healthy and natural. Some feminists have thrown up their arms shrieking that I was molested by a pedophile. I say ‘bollocks’. That is disrespectful to me. It infers that I was a stupid, clueless child and that was simply not the case.
Other women suggest that as a rock and roll groupie I was used and discarded by my musician lovers, letting myself be degraded. ‘Bollocks’ again. It was always a consensual transaction and I used as much as I allowed myself to be used. I enjoyed myself. My sexuality was really one of the few areas I felt in control of and empowered by.
People are constantly asking my ‘poor’ husband how he is handling the public disclosure that his wife was a rampant slut in her younger days. The inference is that he must be ashamed and mortified. But my husband is one male who truly embraces the idea of women’s lib. He gets it. These same people are always shocked and surprised when he tells them how proud he is of me and my past.
Naomi Wolf, in her wonderful book, Promiscuities explores this attitude and she points out that there is always a furore surrounding the so-called bad girl memoirs.
‘Despite the rhetoric of freedom that surrounds us,’ she says ‘women’s reclamation of the first person sexual is filled with the risk of personal disaster.’ She goes on to suggest that some factions of feminism quite hypocritically think that it’s okay to do it, just don’t write about it for heaven’s sake!
I know where she is coming from because I have felt the icily dismissive hand of uncomfortable critics. Women who do not like to be reminded that their young daughters are sexual. Women who resent their own inability to embrace their inner ‘slut’. Women who resent other women who dare to.
Does having sex make you a slut? No, it seems to the lip-service liberals. But enjoying it and talking about it does. One critic said to me, ‘Your book makes you sound slutty!’ My response. ‘I should hope so!’
When the word ‘slut’ becomes as affectionate as ‘playboy’, then we will be truly liberated.