Why Queer Women Cannot, By Definition, Be Sluts

Illustration for article titled Why Queer Women Cannot, By Definition, Be Sluts

There's a crucial difference between a straight slut and a queer slut, and it's the shame factor. But it's not shame in the way you might think.

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Presumably, queer women who are cool with calling themselves a "slut" base their queer-sluthood on number of partners -– such is the case in Jaclyn Friedman's recent heat-scoring piece "My Sluthood, Myself," in which Friedman assesses her straight-slutting on the same terms she does her casual sex with women -– in her estimation, it all adds up to one big slutty statistic. But I'd argue that when it comes to gauging one's overall sluttiness, volume of sex is secondary to what those partners are packing.

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The issue isn't one of moralistic shading; I'm all about pussy in the same way I'm all about dick, albeit in different amounts, and as a non-idiot I'd never suggest that a girl who goes both ways should grow up and "choose already." What I will suggest is that this thing of "slut" — so easy now to take on and cast ourselves as, to very simply describe the activity of a lot of fucking — be reconsidered or clarified, because "slut" doesn't exist as an idea without its association with shame. This is why there's no original analog for a "male slut," why we have to dredge up horrible jargon like "himbo" and "man-whore." These all provocative-on-purpose jokes cannot be taken as seriously as to call a woman a "slut." They're less sincere, more ironic, somewhere along the lines of Megan Fox saying, "Suck my dick." (And we only say that because there's no good way for women to casually communicate their own aggression without bringing male genitals into it. But that's another discussion).

A slut without shame is not a slut at all, and a queer slut is, mostly, freed from all of the still-in-effect stigmas and judgments of straight straight-up sluts. This is because the shame of "slut" is specifically about the fear and subsequent judgment of women making themselves available and in some ways vulnerable to men. But we're not so much worried about a so-called slut's emotional well-being as we are afraid of her being used up, spoiled, pregnant with a fatherless baby — because all of that stuff is bad for women, individually and collectively.

But these fears don't — can't, really — translate to the lesbian community. And perhaps it's because of that that gay and bisexual women are "allowed" more than the straight girls. The virtue and bodies and numbers (the numbers!) of straight women are still — errantly and irrationally — made to be everybody's business. But in the canon of queer-girl narratives (be them public or amongst friends or within a community), a lot of sex with a lot of people is understood to be normal and important, a dominant rule of self-discovery.

Unlike the heterosexual slut, representations of queer sluts are understood to be sexy, uncomplicated and explorative (Laurel Canyon). Or just brutally masculine (Shane on the L Word). Or just there for faux-artistic boner-making (Chloe). It's understood that there's pleasure happening throughout all of this, but it's safe, educational, and importantly not destructive in the way that girl-on-guy slut-stuff always will be to the shamers. And so any busy queer girl is not a slut. Because no matter how readily we reclaim words like dyke or whore or cunt or whatever, there are other people who say these words and mean them, and they mean them not for us. They mean these words in another way, a way that is hard and unforgiving and reserved for a different kind of girl. And there's still a lot more of them than there are us.

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Kate Carraway is the Senior Writer at EYE Weekly. Follow her on Twitter at @katecarraway.

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Earlier: My Sluthood, Myself

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DISCUSSION

CassandraSays
CassandraSays

This is a particularly wierd thing to navigate, mentally, for women who are bisexual. I've always felt way more comfortable with the idea of casual hookups with other women than with men. I flat out will not have one night stands with men, because their reactions are too unpredictable and too likely to be negative (not that I'm saying all men are assholes about casual sex, but enough of them are to make it just not worth the potential hassle to me).

I always wonder to what extent men are actually aware of this, the fact that they'd get laid more often if they didn't insist on making sex difficult, stressful, and potentially loaded with unpleasant consequences for women. I know there have been many times when I've been attracted to a man and thought about hooking up, but decided not to for that reason alone - didn't feel like dealing with their potential obnoxious reactions/attempts at shaming afterwards. Put me in the exact same situation with a woman I'm equally attracted to and I wouldn't hesitate for a second to hook up.

It really is different, and I don't think the difference has to do with the physical experience at all. It has to do with the societal connotations, and more specifically with how men usually behave towards women they sleep with.