naked: bodysnarking in disguise

Photo of graffiti outside Sienna Miller’s home, via Splash

I have to point you over to this post on The Frisky about the Great Slut Debate, and why, exactly, we keep flogging it over, and over, and over again. Amelia sums up the debate brilliantly:

The most common use of the word “slut” describes a person, usually a woman, who is promiscuous–another word that’s definition is totally open to debate. I suppose if you’re, say, a practicing Catholic, you’re a promiscuous slut if you’re having pre-marital sex. If you’re a person who thinks sex should occur between two people who love each other, someone who has sex with someone they only like may be a slut. Maybe your definition is a numbers game–five sexual partners in one’s lifetime is a-okay, but anything over that and damn, it’s obvious you don’t respect your body. People who throw around the word slut love to pretend like there’s a concern for the slut’s body, and her lack of respect for it. What does “respect” in this context mean anyway? Certainly it’s possible for a woman who’s slept with 40 men to respect her body more than someone who’s only slept with one person–maybe she respects her body’s desire to experience pleasure, rather than her body’s desire to follow rules put upon her by someone slipping a purity ring on her finger, for example.

What struck me the most was her point about how the harping on the disrespect-for-our-bodies angle is disguised as “concern” for other women’s bodies. It hit me hard–it’s just another wretched facet of the whole bodysnarking phenomenon, isn’t it? Where we busy ourselves worrying about who has gotten fat and who’s gotten thin and whose ankles are too thick and who can lose the baby weight fastest and become an OMG WEIGHT LOSS SUPERSTAR!

We get righteously (and rightfully) angry when magazines do it, but
then we participate ourselves, when we enter into the slut debate, the
judgment of sexual behavior. I would even suggest that we buy into it
when we let ourselves feel guilty for our own sexual behavior–when we
decide that we’ve been too promiscuous, we’ve enjoyed ourselves too
much (because the human body is absolutely built for ascetic
self-denial). We’ve been too physical. We’re not allowed to be physical because we’re too fat, we’re too nice, we’re too insert-guilty-thought-here.

more than just sex–it’s pleasure. We demonize pleasure too often, we
deny ourselves luxury and indulgence. We eat lemon gum instead of gummy
bears far too often, we turn down the offer of a one-night stand
because it would not be right. It would be wonderful, but it wouldn’t
be right. We don’t want to be a slut, or a pig. We don’t want anyone to
think of us like that; we secretly hate ourselves and think of
ourselves like that. We internalize the snark.

with Amelia–the slut debate needs to die, and it needs to take guilt
over indulgence and remorse for pleasure and shame when we indulge in
luxury with it.

9 Replies to “naked: bodysnarking in disguise”

  1. Wow, I’ll have to say I disagree with you completely on this. I don’t see the word slut used nearly as frequently as body image put downs (fat, pig, skinny bitch, etc), first of all, maybe it’s still used in high schools but certainly not in adult conversations. And while body image insults really have no moral background (being too fat/too thin really does not make you a bad person) certain sexual situations DO make you a bad person. The reference in the picture above is in reference to a celeb who slept with a married man. Which is morally repugnant. Sorry.

  2. “We eat lemon gum instead of gummy bears far too often, we turn down the offer of a one-night stand because it would not be right. It would be wonderful, but it wouldn’t be right. ”

    Love that line – I agree with you 100%.

    We judge others so often to quiet our own guilt and perceived shortcomings – and its a vicious cycle.

  3. Excellent post!

    To the second commenter: having sex is NOT morally wrong unless you’re hurting someone (i.e. breaking someone’s heart) or hurting yourself, either physically (i.e. unsafe sex) or emotionally (i.e. mistaking sex for love).

    And even in the above case of Sienna Miller, whether she is morally repugnant or not, then I think that’s something that the involved parties should deal with, and is certainly not deserving of defacement of her property.

  4. I still have huge issues with the word slut since in Jr. High it was discovered I had kissed one of the most popular boys in class (I didn’t tell anyone, I kept it a secret) and was immediately and viciously ostracized and called slut. In a mean fashion that only jr. high girls can match, they also taunted my 9 yr old sister as “slut jr.” So, I figure that everybody really needs to just worry about themselves.

  5. I agree with you Anne, totally.

    And while it’s slightly off-topic, since someone popped up with Sienna Miller, I have to say my piece on this because it’s been sitting on the tip of my tongue every time I see a story about her:

    Why is it that Sienna is a slut, for being a single woman who is attracted to a man who happens to be married (but has clearly propositioned her), yet Balthazar Getty is basically getting a free pass even though HE’S the one breaking up his family, making his wife a fool, and being an embarassment to his children, friends, everyone??? Sienna didn’t STEAL him…she just happens to find him attractive (though it is hard to see why, given his obvious slimyness), and clearly, he is presenting himself as unattached and available. Again, a instance where the woman is the whore/slut/villain when the man really deserves all of the crap he hopefully has coming to him. Yay patriarchy! :-|

    Alright, off soapbox now.

  6. Yes Loey, but you are reiterating my point, body image issues DON’T have moral connotations, and sexual situations SOMETIMES do, you actually define it very well by saying “if it hurts someone.” I think they are very, very different issues and I don’t know if it helps body image advocates by associating the two.

    (also, I don’t think anyone ‘deserves’ to have their property defaced….but PLEASE don’t victimize the woman!!)

  7. Hey, 2nd poster… body issue comments are unfortunately starting to have moral connotations.

    For example… “Why doesn’t he/she have the discipline to just not eat so much/exercise more/whatever? What an uncontrolled glutton. I have the discipline to not put everything I want into my mouth and therefore have every right to look down on you because you are a gastronomical hedonist.”

    Why isn’t that the same as “I have the discipline to not sleep with every man I desire and therefore have every right to look down on you because you are a sexual hedonist?”

    Issues of cheating and infidelity are moral by their very definitions. For contrast, open marriages are not. But in matters of cheating, the blame should be on the one who promised until death do us part. Slut, playa, whatever. The one who promised broke the promise. That’s the moral issue. And yeah, women always get the bad rap. Who was the one who had to wear the scarlet letter? You can thank pre-paternity test and pre-birth control politics for that.

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