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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Column: On sluttiness

I’m honestly uncertain on how I feel about my personal sluttiness.

If you were to ask me about sluttiness as a concept, I would talk your ear off about Tracie Egan-Morrissey, the erstwhile blogger known as Slut Machine.

Stumbling across her blog called “One D at a Time,” centered around the sex adventures of a woman in New York City that discusses squirting, queefing, anal and Egan’s fascination with the Hitachi Magic Wand, doesn’t seem like it would be an important event in my life as a feminist – but it was.

Egan’s nuanced reclamation of fucking – not because she was abused as a kid, not because sex was a coping mechanism for a woman who was desperate or lonely or didn’t respect herself, not because she sought to make a political statement with her sexual behavior, but because she wanted to! – was contradictory to everything I had been trained by my family and culture to believe. Becoming a feminist was, among other things, a personal recognition that my value as a person is not related to who I have sex with, how much I have sex with them or under what consensual circumstances I do so.

Egan is an example of the fearless kind of feminist I’d like to be. Viewing sluttiness with her as an avatar, the empowerment of choosing who I’m sexual with sounds awesome. Having sex, or not having sex, is a choice that should be afforded to all women without the intervention of people who want to police our bodies and our actions.

But then I come back to reality. Embracing “sluttiness” as society sees it is not as easy as I thought it would be. It’s all very well and good to say you’re sex positive, that you own your body and your decisions, that slut-shaming is an archaic example of a misogynistic society oppressing women by restricting their behavior through normative standards. It’s all very well and good to tell people who want to reduce me to a vagina to fuck off and then go and have sex with someone because I’m awesome. In terms of feminist theory, those are all very well and good. In practice, however, there have been some difficulties.

Having recently broken up with a long-term partner, for the first time in a while I was a free agent, and for better or for worse, I took hearty advantage. I didn’t realize how easily I’d bow under the pressure of a culture that participates in slut-shaming. I’m afraid of how people will perceive me. Being known as, taken for, treated as, disrespected for being a slut? That’s scary. My lofty ideas about the power of my body, bolstered by the Slut Machine’s tempestuous, hyperbolic, pro-woman experiences (she just recently got married, by the way), shrivel like testicles in a freezer when we get right down to the real-world execution of becoming that four-letter word.

Sex is great, and there are a lot of attractive people out there; I wish I could act on these two facts without fearing the judgment of friends, family, acquaintances, and, hey, even the people I might have sex with – but I can’t. I’m afraid. The brash panache I so admire in Egan isn’t yet something I can pull off.

HALEY DAVIS can be reached at hrdavis@ucdavis.edu.


  1. In a crass metaphorical manner I hope to explain the double standard that exists in most human cultures regarding promiscuity in men versus women: men are exuders of dirtiness, women are the receptacles for dirtiness. Therefore, it’s good for men to get rid of, and bad for women to accumulate such filth. To use an evolutionary model as explanation, it is good for men to spread reproductive seed, but bad for women to have doubt when it comes to establishing parentage (who yo baby daddy?) since this may compromise the parenting help they receive. This double standard will prevail until human anatomy and/or evolutionary pressures change.

  2. @bthomas:

    Mind over matter. If you can dream it, you can be it. If you build it they will come. Life is like a box of chocolates.

    Edit: Grow up.


  3. Will I sound corny if I reference a Tom Robbins novel? I was reading it a few months ago while going through a similar situation, and it sort of encapsulates my viewpoint.

    Basically, as Robbins writes, fun, meaningless sex with people we don’t care about is emotionally bad for us. Like, the equivalent of eating a McDonald’s super-sized meal. Although it’s fun, it’s important to recognize that, like fast food, it won’t make us feel that great and it’ll catch up with us in the long run. One night stands are necessarily meaningless or uncaring, they just often are.

    That said, I like sluttiness. I think sluttiness is fun. And women should have the right to do what they want without afterward feeling devalued or ashamed.

    But, I also don’t think women or men put enough importance on sex anymore, or at least, not the right kind. We worry about STDs and pregnancy and our reputations, but we don’t think about how it affects us emotionally. We look at naked pictures and we watch porn and we focus on the mechanics of sex. We forget that sex, like so many other things, is 90% mental (after all, isn’t the brain really the most erogenous zone?). How can something that is so in your own mind not affect your mind? It does, even disconnected from societally-enforced feelings of being a whore. After having had meaningful sex with someone, where you care about the other person, it just feels different, like you are adding instead of subtracting. Is it just me?


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