How are Slut Shaming and Slut Idolization Closely Linked?

It’s all about preventing women from experiencing sexual pleasure.

Emma Lindsay
May 12, 2016 · 6 min read

Women are more reluctant than men to have many sexual partners because women are stigmatized for sexual promiscuity is the conventional wisdom, but I don’t believe it.

I mean, maybe that was the case at one point, but we’ve had like, Pamela Anderson and Paris Hilton and a bunch of other blondes who have basically made a career out of being slutty. Maybe they face some sort of downside, not being taken “seriously” or something, but the hyper-sexualization of women has really blown up across the board. I probably don’t even have to post a link to this, but uh, advertising has become more sexually explicit over time as has television and movies.

Even in progressive circles, sex positive feminism has taken off. I couldn’t find any statistics on it, but most of the young feminists I know claim to be “sex positive” (and, this doesn’t seem to be a unique to the people I know.) For me personally, the part of my sex life that is the most embarrassing is the two years I didn’t have sex rather than anything scandalous I did do.

I mean, I don’t know what happens in like conservative states because I don’t live there, but in the highly liberal places I tend to live it seems like no one really gives a shit if women are having a lot of sex. Sure, maybe some women have a sort of left over residual guilt, but like… it seems like maybe this isn’t a big thing. It seems like as a culture, we’re ok with women having a lot of sex.

What we’re still not ok with, however, is her enjoying it.

I was watching a south park episode where Cartman was trying to slut shame Wendy and he wrote about her “Wendy Testaburger has proven time and time again that she will do anything to pleasure her vagina.” When I heard that line, I was like that’s it.

It may seem strange that we, as a culture, could drift from so slut negative to slut positive over the course of, like, 50 years but on a deeper level we haven’t shifted. With the invention of birth control, paternity is no longer at stake during female sexual dalliances. However, what is at stake, is control over the male workforce by rewarding societal success through access to sex with women. It is important for the perpetuation of our culture that women continue to reward socially conforming men with sex. It is now less important how much sex a woman is having but rather that she is having it with the “right” people. And by “people” I mean men.

It is “conventional wisdom” that women are attracted to “successful” men, and you can see this play out in their dating patterns. On OkCupid, for instance, women respond way more often to men who earn more money. And, as pickup artists have learned, women are attracted to men with social status (which is why they’re constantly trying to fake out social status.)

However, is this an innate fixture of female sexuality?

Professor Chivers demonstrated that what women claim turns them on and what actually turns them on is different. What men claimed turned them on and what got their dick hard was generally in alignment, but this was not the case with women and their vaginas.

[W]ith the women, especially the straight women, mind and genitals seemed scarcely to belong to the same person. The readings from the plethysmograph and the keypad weren’t in much accord. During shots of lesbian coupling, heterosexual women reported less excitement than their vaginas indicated; watching gay men, they reported a great deal less; and viewing heterosexual intercourse, they reported much more.

What Do Women Want?, NY Times Magazine

I would venture a guess that this disconnect is subconscious, aka, women believe they are turned on by what they say they are, but their vaginas get wet for something completely different. As Vera Maass explores in Facing The Complexities of Women’s Sexual Desire, women face more overt pressure to mis-represent their sexuality than men do.

[H]istorically women’s sexuality much more so than men’s was shaped by cultural and social factors: in fact, men were generally a big part of those environmental conditions or constructions. Not so long ago, women found themselves in situations where they had to engage in sex whether they liked it or not as it was the husband’s right, and where they had to make compromises about sex — and many still do in order to keep an in tact marriage for their benefit of their children.

Vera S. Maass, Facing the Complexities of Women’s Sexual Desire

It is likely that many of these pressures are internalized so that a women becomes unaware of her own true desire. Nancy Friday was a feminist researcher who wrote the book My Secret Garden, a collection of sexual fantasies from British women in the 70s. The 70s were a time of overt sexual repression of women, and Friday found that women would invent storylines in their head to accommodate the internalized belief that they “shouldn’t” desire sex.

More than any other emotion, guilt determined the lines of the fantasies in My Secret Garden. Here hundreds of women inventing ploys to get past their fear that wanting to reach orgasm made them Bad Girls. All in the privacy of their own minds, where no one would know.

The most popular guilt-avoiding device was the so-called rape fantasy — “so called” because no rape, bodily harm, or humiliation took place in the fantasy. It simply had to be understood that what went on was against the woman’s will. Saying she was “raped” was the most expedient way of getting past the big No to sex that had been imprinted on her mind since early childhood.

Nancy Friday, Women On Top

The “rape” fantasy is still a common one, because overt forms of sexual oppression of women still exist. However, as the superficial attitudes towards women and sex have changed, so have female fantasies. It is now permissible for women to have sex… so long as her energy is directed primarily toward pleasing men.

You probably know what this looks like, but I tossed in an Axe commercial for good measure:

The idolization of the slut is essentially the idolization of women who are completely pliable to male desire. Axe commercials are frequently a commercial manifestation of the cultural fantasy that women are sexual objects that can be acquired by acting out in incentivized behavior (in this case, purchasing Axe.) While it is absurd when taken to this degree, this commercial works because it plays on the underlying belief men have that they can do something or buy something that will make women automatically want them.

If female desire is something innate and self determined that cannot be earned by men, the whole capitalist system breaks.

I am not sure of the exact social means by which we force women to become out of touch with their own sexual desires in order to play the role of male rewarder, but I should explore that in a future blog post. However, we can rest assured that it is happening or women would not be so out of touch with what their vaginas are telling them.

Ariel Levy highlighted the absurd length this is taken to in an interview with a woman in her book Female Chauvanist Pigs:

“He’s a good-looking guy, but he had gotten really chunky and we didn’t have sex for the last year,” Frailey said. “That’s another thing that I do and I don’t know why: If I stop being really attracted to someone, then I can’t have sex with them.”
Think about the underlying logic of that statement: She doesn’t know why she doesn’t want to have sex with someone she’s not really attracted to.

Ariel Levy, Female Chauvinist Pigs

Women have internalized, so much, that their sexuality is for the benefit of men that they have learned to invalidate their own attractions. This is learned, this is absolutely learned, the same way that women in the 70s learned to “not desire” sex.

What man would question why he didn’t want to have sex with a woman he wasn’t attracted to?

Women may have won the right to have sex, but they have not won the right to have it with who they please. They have not won the right to feel pleasure. They have not won the right to reject men who are “socially desirable” but are nonetheless not desirable to them. Women have been locked out of their own sexuality, so they can’t even feel what turns them on. Women having full awareness of their own desire is a destabilizing force that patriarchal societies will repress at all costs, and we’re still there. We are still repressing it.

But it won’t last. We are coming for you, patriarchy!

Emma Lindsay

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