Archive for July 13th, 2006

Let’s Talk About Sluts

July 13, 2006

I saw an article today that made me think, and that I thought might help stimulate some conversation around here.

The article, in the New York Times, is about the change in use of the word “slut” and its attendant meaning(s). I didn’t really get labeled this way when I was in high school, and I’m not entirely sure why, since among my close girl friends I was definitely the most adventurous one (which actually wasn’t that adventurous, but everything’s relative I guess). But I always said that I didn’t believe in that word, that women had just as much right to pursue such activities as men, and that I personally wouldn’t use it. Yet, I know that the sexual double standard persists and that it was all around me in high school, college, and law school especially. I was once called a whore in no uncertain terms by a jealous male “friend” who saw me leave the bar with another guy whom I had met that night — at age 27 he hadn’t gotten beyond such, in my thinking, juvenile characterizations.

Now that I think of it, I am sure that numerous people have thought of me in this way, and it just never affected me much, notwithstanding that I have always been vocal about opposing the word. It has always seemed to me that the slut concept is inextricably tied to low self-esteem, and there’s a whiff of the idea that girls do these things in a misdirected attempt to be liked or loved, rather than because they want to. Which is its own double standard. Personally, I never participated in anything I wasn’t interested in doing, notwithstanding that there were psychological rewards (and usually also detriments) in addition to physical ones. And I was always mystified by the use of terms like “give it away” that implied that having sex diminished a person’s worth, that there was some quantity that could be used up and after which one’s claim to personhood was spent. How draconian, and how absurd, that seems.

Without going scriptural on me, what does this “slut” concept mean to you all? How do you make sense of it? Do you view people (women or men, or both) in certain ways if you know things about their sexual histories? Envy, pity, contempt, disgust, interest, indifference? What do these reactions say about us and how do they relate to the choices we have made in our own lives?

There are also tons of ancillary questions, like how you discuss your history with your significant other, whether you share numbers and details or keep everything to yourself, whether such revelations cause jealousy or anger and why, and of course, how the next generation is dealing with these issues. And in a broader sense, why sexuality has always been such an incredibly fraught issue that seems to bring out such extreme reactions from asceticism one one end of the spectrum (I always think of St. Augustine) to libertinism. And, of course, why libertinism is only acceptable in men. So, what do you all think?

Old West History Trivia

July 13, 2006

15 Minutes of Fame

One hundred twenty eight years ago, this fellow was a 28 year old out of work buffalo hunter with nothing to his name but his horse, saddle, and rifle. Three years later, 125 years ago tomorrow (July 14th), he became famous. Can you name this Old West figure and comment on, or tell a little of his story?