I Am A Slut And I Have My Pride

Content Notes: slut shaming, gaslighting, victim blaming, and sexual abuse, following some definitions: rape

Audio version: IAmASlutAndIHaveMyPride.mp3

Introduction And Defintion

You should not call someone else a slut without their consent. The term comes with two distinct meanings: One referring to the appearance of a person while the other one describes the (perceived) behaviour in relationships. This article focuses on the latter, discussing its negative association but also its neutral meaning and reclaiming. You might use the term for me as a description if you like and to explain why being a slut is okay. Not as a slur. It is a term I identify with, but there is also much more about my personality. It describes parts of my sexual or romantic preferences and maybe parts of my sexual identity as the term gray ace does, or polyamourous or panromantic or non-binary. (Yes I can be and am a gray ace, non-female slut. Ace is short for asexual and gray describes that there is a spectrum and I am somewhere on that spectrum, meaning more asexual than most people.)

From my point of view the term slut is an umbrella term that people can choose for themselves if they have a more open concept of sexual or romantic relationships than the norm of our society, either by choice or because they just cannot adapt to the invisible rulebook of how relationships have to be. These rules, where the first kiss defines the beginning of a relationship and then you are not allowed to kiss someone else. Also you have to have sex but not right away and you have to plan to stay in this relationship forever. Some people get that concept and that is okay, and some do not and that is also okay.

The term slut is often used as a slur to shame people (mostly women) who have too many partners or change partners too often (following that invisible rulebook) but, as I recently learned, the term is also used to shame people who have never had a sexual relationship at all, because this appears to be strange. People thought there ought to be a hidden promiscuous sexual life and shamed that friend for it because an asexual person fit even less into their concept than a promiscuous person.

The term slut is also used as a slur against ignorant assholes because as always there is this mechanism of shaming: terms that are describing characteristics of people which do not fit into society become a slur, and then the slur is an instrument to shame people and we want to shame assholes so we use the slurs. Some actually forget the origin of the slur. Most of us do not forget it. Some claim they would forget, but if you talk to them in detail you often just find internalized hate against the characteristics that do not fit in their concept of good. If I tell people that I am a slut and explain, they usually defend my ways of living as not exactly fitting the term slut in a certain specific way. For example: you did not have sex for a while. Or you would not do it with anyone. But they miss the point. Everything of this would be fine as long as there was consent. But sometimes it creeps them out. Often it is hard to get them to that understanding, which brings me to the point: Even if people say they would not have a connection to this meaning of the term slut they usually do have it internalized. Please try to reflect, if you have. Then fight against it.

A Horror Story

This is a quite personal story that I call a horror story because it still impacts me and makes me feel horrible. It is an important story with many elements and dimensions of harm slutshaming does. It most likely is far from being the worst example, but it is true and happened to me, so I can talk about it in detail as first person.

When I started at University I tried a monogamous heterosexual long term relationship. It is not a bad thing. It just does not fit my way of being. Not at all, not the tiniest bit. I just do not get it. Why would I do a certain action like kissing with only one person. Why would it mean more than touching lips and enjoying your hormones and dopamines go crazy. If I meet a new person and I have the urge to cuddle and kiss and I do not know the person that much, why would I not give in? Maybe like a cat. Some cats also cuddle with strangers they trust. For me it feels so strange to not cuddle or have sex if I have the urge to do so and the other person also wants it, and if I trust a person to be able to understand the concept of consent far enough. Having that monogamous relationship felt like following abstract rules that did not make sense to me. I did not feel comfortable and always like I was about to do something wrong. So after we broke up, I decided to try to follow what feels right for me (Of course only with people who agree with it).

I met a person in a lecture who liked me quite a bit. We talked about musicals, poems and stuff, and once met for the christmas market. Then we went for a walk in the night at a lake and talked. The content became a little personal, not too much from my point of view, but maybe from his. Then, it was getting cold, we went into my apartment and sat together on my bed which at the same time was my couch. He stated he had an interest in kissing me. And I started to share that interest. But I also knew that I was not ready for a long term relationship. So I told him. I told him that I was sharing the interest but that it was an impulsive interest for the moment. That I would do it but there was no guarantee that I would want to do it again tomorrow, or at any time. And also that I was not monogamous. I explained it: I told him that kissing him now would not mean that I would not kiss another person the very next day or during a relationship if we happened to develop one. And that we at some point probably needed to talk about it.
And I also told him that I was afraid because I had never done that before. I never had sexual contact with a person before outside a common relationship model. (That is not true, I had, but like when I was 8 and when I was 14 or so.)
He claimed he was okay with it and that he believed me.

We met a second time. Since I shared that I was a slut (but not using that term back then), he wanted to share something special about himself with me, as well. He was hesistant, and somehow wanted me to be curious, but I was like: If you want to tell me, do so. If you do not want to, that is just fine. I do not need to know.
He was not happy about it. He wanted to tell but only if I really wanted to know which was not the case. He wanted that I really wanted. So at some point he told me, anyway. He had a certain fetish. Then he asked me if it was a bad thing to have that fetish. I disagreed, of course it is totally fine to have a fetish. He asked me if we could include the fetish into a sexual play. I said no, I would not feel comfortable with it. Maybe another time but not now. He argued, that I just said that I thought it was totally fine to have that fetish and that this was a contradiction. I am already telling things quite detailed and will not go into further detail. In the end he emotionally pressured me to give in and perform a sexual action I did not consent to. Well, I did say yes, but I felt I was forbidden to say no again. He convinced me in that emotionally loaded moment that he suffered discriminition regarding this fetish, and that I would be part of the discriminating people if I would not give in. He moaned that he would never find someone for this and asked me if I found that he deserved to be alone. Also, he reminded me, that I was more open with regard to relationships and this was maybe somehow part of it. It did not end there. It needed a while until I gave in. He neither let me time nor space to think.

After that experience I met a very close person I trusted. I felt uncomfortable about that experience and did not immediately know what was wrong. I talked about it to that person of trust and they said:

If you sleep with just any person at the university you just met, you are worth as much as a used up piece of flesh.

I guess there is no need to tell that this was not at all helpful. Maybe I might mention that this statement haunts me up to today. I have no words how much it hurt me when I was in need of help and this very close person instead was victim blaming and slutshaming me. To make things clear

  • It is totally fine if I choose to sleep with any person at the university I just met if it happens consensually.
  • This does not give anyone the right to treat me like shit, or abuse me. It does not make me worthless or a tool for somebody's unfulfilled desires.

The person claimed to have said this because they were so worried. With this statement about their intentions the person took away the means of defense. This did not reduce the harm that was done and instead added another kind of harm. Until today I cannot defend myself and still am completely helpless.

Well, anyways, I found out that I did not want to continue the haptical part of the relationship. I called him and told him. He was crushed. He already had planned to go camping with me, dreamt of a future with us. He wanted a justification for my opt-out. He demanded it. I tried to explain to him. He did not understand, it did not follow logic from his point of view.
I also reminded him, that I had told him in the beginning, that I followed an impulse and that I was not sure about where that would lead. That I also told him, that this might not last long. He said, he just did not believe that I meant it, because that would mean that I was a slut and he just could not imagine that I was that evil. He asked me to never start a relationship with a person again when I was not certain that I wanted it to last, because everything else would be evil and would hurt other people's feelings like I hurt his.

At that moment I was hurt. I always am in doubt if the error is on my side or the other (or both for that matter). Since, if I assume I did nothing wrong I would be in the same position as the other side. I could be as ignorant as anyone. I should at least consider it. Which is shit if you just were emotionally pressured into unwanted sexual interaction.
But at the same time I was sure that his basic definition of a slut fit my way of living except for that conclusion that I was evil because of it.

Luckily only a little later I started an open, polyamorous relationship with my girlfriend who identified with being a slut and explained to me the term reclaiming but more of that later.

Analyzing The Horror Story

  • We have two persons in that story who slutshamed me. They did so because they really believe that it was something bad to be promiscuous. Probably you cannot deduce that entirely from the story above but I know since I talked to both in detail about it. Everytime somebody uses the term slut as a slur it confirms their world view. People cannot distinguish. You cannot tell me that people can think that you can be a slut with self-respect and at the same time use slut as a slur against ignorant assholes.
  • The abusive person in this story has the internalized belief that being a slut is a bad thing. And nonetheless he had experinced me as a nice person in the beginning. That caused a contradiction to him and therefore - trying to rationalize - could only decide on believing that I was not a slut, or that I must be evil. He decided for the first and did not believe that I was capable of doing such "horrible things". Even when I told him. And even though this is an extreme case, I experience it a lot.
  • This brings me to the next problem of internalized slutshaming: I always need to explain and justify myself against windmills. When I start a new relationship I not only need to tell people that I am a slut but also I need to convince them. They often do not believe me at first. I can choose wether I introduce the topic using the term slut or I describe how I am. Fun question: did you just think I should rather explain and not use the term slut? Why? (Not implying something, I just ask you to reflect.)
    And in many cases I need to explain that this does not imply that I would have sex with anyone or that I would force people to sexual action.
    This is the standard problem with defaults. The people who do not fit the norm need to explain themselves. All the time. In addition to the problems they face for not fitting in. And it is not even just explaining like in "I am not A but rather B", like it might be more the case with homosexuality these days, but it is also explaining B.
  • Many people do not register the way I am as something valid. If I describe, how I am, they think I was strange to be that way and that this just cannot be true, that I might mean something else. Or they think that I needed to change, or my way of being just is not existent, even though I describe how it is. They go so far and deny it completely. Here is another reason why I call myself a slut or use labels. If a label is established, at least people believe in the existence and at some point that this was something okay to be.
  • Slut shaming is also used for victim blaming. Slutshaming people actually think sluts had less rights for being treated respectfully. They somehow think if you do not follow that invisible rule book it is your fault for being sexually abused. Yes, people actually think that. I have experienced it so often that I am close to convinced that one of your family members or really close friends think that way. And that is maybe the worst. If you do not get the support you need after sexual abuse.

Reclaiming, Why I Chose To Call Myself A Slut

There is some general procedure in language that happens to terms for marginalized groups. The term describes a certain characteristic, behaviour or identity of a person. This characteristic, behaviour or identity is assumed to be something bad by society. Society starts using the term as a slur. Then you have basically the following options:

  • Forbid the usage of that term. Choose another one. This is the strategy most allies would like to choose.
  • Forget about the original meaning of the term and only use it as a slur. This is a bad option since it is impossible. Many poeple tell me they forgot about the original meaning, or even worse, tell me, that they can distinguish and use it only as a slur when they do not connect it with the other meaning. Thank you so very much (sarcasm). I do not trust that and even if I did: this internalizes the message for people who do not distiguish.
  • Reclaim the term. If you are part of the marginalized group, you can (do not have to!) choose to use the term for yourself while you explain other people that there is nothing bad about the meaning and they should stop using it as a slur!

There are good reasons for the third option: First, it helps stopping the cycle of inventing new terms all the time. And second, it stops some scenarios from happening.

  • The scenario where you tell someone about your way to live, and then they immediately start to draw the line between your behaviour and the behavour of a slut, telling you that you are not a slut and by that justify your way to live while slutshaming others.
  • You have the best chances, when they accept you as you are, to prevent them from slutshaming in future and to fight against it for you.
  • You really say it out loud, the term, they would call you when they find out you really are who you told you are. The blaming situation described above is less likely to happen, because they would like to use the term "worthless slut" but you already used the term "slut" to begin with.
  • Maybe hard to explain, but it empowers. I can say "I am a slut and I have my pride" and nobody can steal it. Because everything is said. It is okay who I am. I took the term with its definition and say, the whole definition is fine.

There are also good reasons against using terms for yourself. For example when it was invented by somebody who defined it as something hurtful to begin with, like "idiot" (it is an old greek term but was reintroduced with this toxic and dehumanizing meaning later). You should not use the term idiot as a slur. It was invented to describe a mental disability that did not even exist in that way.
Also there are terms invented by oppressors. Lots of racist terms come to my mind.
In general as a person who is not affected by that kind of discrimination, you cannot argue in the same way I did for reclaiming, to tell people to use the terms that are/were slurs. Sometimes it were oppressing slurs to begin with and there is a horrible history behind it. It is wise to always listen to affected people.
Reclaiming works for the affected, not for others. You can of course help by justifying that it was okay for a person to choose a term like slut for themself but you should not choose a label for another person even if it was not an act of for example slutshaming. It is like it is with any umbrella term. People choose themselves if they want to use it for themselves or not.

If reclaiming works for you, it is a power move. You own that word. You basically say it is so very meaningless to attack or insult a person for the corresponding way to live that language just cannot and must not provide an insulting term for it. You do not forbid to use that term but you delete the insulting meaning because it does not make sense to even have it in memory. You start to break a structure that is deeply incorporated in society. You confuse and confront people and provoke reflection. At least parts of the slur cannot hurt you anymore. You learn to distinguish the meaning from the intended insult in the clearest way possible. You are less likely to accidentally run into defending yourself while shaming others who are not as "bad" as you are, or to unconciously shame yourself for parts of it. The term itself is not a weapon anymore. If you yourself do not connect a reduction of self-worth with the term, it helps. What is left is the intention, and of course this is still hurtful enough.