November 7, 2013

What Is A Slut?

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What is the issue?

My friend told me that since he moved to Austin a year ago he’s had sex with about 40 people. 40! I couldn’t help but raise my eyes a little, but without judging him of course. Isn’t 40 people a lot of people? Does he ever worry about catching an STD?

“Yeah, it’s a lot. I should probably tone it down now. And, besides, I don’t get many messages on Grindr anymore because I’m no longer new. Everybody wants the fresh meat,” he said.

But if you do the math, 40 sexual partners in a year isn’t really that much. 40 people a year is about about three people a month. Does sleeping with three different people a month make someone a slut anymore than going home with, say, 100 people in a year? Is there really a difference between sleeping with 40 people versus 100 people? And if so, what’s the difference?

Gay men are usually stereotyped for being horn dogs who have sex all the time. We have hook up apps and Craigslist and Manhunt and whatnot to find our next piece of tail. But isn’t the search for sex a thing that affects all people with penises? Everywhere you look, men of all sexual orientations are complaining about the lack of sex or how they want more sex. It’s on TV, in the movies, in popular music. The thing the stories always have in common, though, is how the male drive for sex is perfectly okay and within the bounds of reason. Men are supposed to be having sex, and there’s virtually no such thing as a guy who has too much sex.

So when does a guy become a slut?

Are you a slut because you text XXX pics to folks?

Or because you video all of your sexual encounters and share those videos with people?

Or because of what you like to do in bed or where you like to do it?

Or because your Manhunt pic is a close up of a body part?

Or because you slept with 3 different people today?

Or because you have a separate “booty phone”?

I don’t have to remind everyone about the gender imbalance where sex-having is concerned. Patriarchy and Judith Butler tell us that women aren’t supposed to be promiscuous, and if they are then they are bad and must be stopped. Guys? Feel free to spread your oats all over the place! Lara Stone, one of my favorite fashion models, once famously said that she would rather have a gay son than a daughter because it would be fun and because daughters have boyfriends. Boyfriends are bad news. And it’s a popular theme on television for young men to be congratulated by dad when they have sex, but daughters are watched closely. If guys are supposed to be sleeping around and women are supposed to be more reserved sexually, who are guys sleeping around with?

The only reason we have slut shaming is because people are still used to the idea of sex for procreation. But is that even still a thing? I’m pretty sure people are having sex because it is awesome. This is, I think, why some folks are afraid of gay sex: because it is purely recreational and doesn’t lead to anything. And yet, slut shaming doesn’t always come from conservatives for procreation and do-gooders: it comes from people like me, too, who freaked out when my friend told me how many sexual partners he’s had. Or the time my eyes got big when I had dinner with a famous queer theorist who told me he’s had sex with over 5,000 people in his life.

Why do we involuntarily make snap judgements about people based on how many people they’ve slept with or are currently sleeping with? Whatever the answer is, it’s the same reason we lie about our “number” when that question comes up in a new relationship.

There’s no universal definition of a slut, because a slut is when someone else’s sexual behavior makes you uncomfortable. Or maybe it’s just something we call people when we aren’t getting laid ourselves. TC mark

image – Shutterstock
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