Be Whoresome

TIM SQUIRRELL is sick of slagging women off, and argues all genders should wear their promiscuity with pride.

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I’m a slut.

I’m a tail-chaser, a bed warmer, a massive hussy, a harlot, a strumpet, a trollop. I’m promiscuous.

There is a fundamental dichotomy of language in how we describe men and women who sleep with multiple people. If a man does it, he’s a legend, a lad, a champ, a stud; at worst, he’s a man-whore. If a woman does it, she’s a slut, a whore, a slag.

I am not a man-whore. When somebody uses this term to refer to a promiscuous man, they perpetuate the idea that the trait of being a ‘whore’ is intrinsically female. The need to append the word ‘man’ on the front is deeply problematic; when describing sexual behaviour, even our terminology makes a value judgement on the activities of women as opposed to those of men.

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How can we change this? When you picture an ideal, sex-positive society, what do you see? I see a world where people are free to sleep with whoever they want, as long as all parties give informed consent, without risking the judgement of others: as my favourite feminist slogan of all time goes, ‘consent is sexy’.

How do we get there? Well, for starters we need a neutral, non-judgemental way of describing people who sleep with lots of people. Luckily, we already have such a word. Unfortunately, that word is ‘slut’, and has all kinds of negative connotations. We could just abandon the word altogether, and make up some other word, something inoffensive.

I don’t think that’s necessary. I think that we can use ‘slut’ as a label, a descriptor, without it being a value judgement. In order for us to do this, those of us to whom it applies must begin to use it to describe ourselves. This is something that people of all genders must do, to show that there really is no difference between promiscuous men and women, and that there is nothing wrong with promiscuity, no matter who does it, as long as all parties give informed consent.

Why should we reclaim this word and use it to refer to ourselves when it has been used to repress sexuality for so long? When we call ourselves sluts, we take away the ability of other people to use it against us. If someone says that you’re a slut, you can say ‘Yes, I am. What are you trying to say?’ It becomes a neutral term, an equaliser, something which can no longer be used to induce guilt, embarrassment and shame.

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Why is this reclamation relevant to us as students? How is it something that we could benefit from? There is a stereotype of Cambridge students as awkward and sexless. Some people here don’t have sex out of choice; there are many, though, for whom sex would be a choice, but who feel that it’s not a choice that they are free to make without being subjected to the criticism of their peers. A lot of the girls I know have been put off having sex with more than one or two people during their time here: they’re worried that people will judge them, or that their ‘number’ will get too high (and wouldn’t that be awful). If we lose the idea that women should be judged differently than men for what they choose to do with their bodies, then people will be free to have more sex, if they want to. What’s more, that sex will (hopefully) be good sex, free of the guilt that so often wracks people right when they should be enjoying themselves most.

Some people will criticise me for this. They may say that there is a ‘natural’ difference between the tendency towards promiscuity in men and women, usually justifying their position with popular evolutionary psychology. I don’t think there is anything I can say that will sway these people from their position; usually the scientific justification is simply used to give credibility to an ideological argument that otherwise lacks it.

Others may say that men do not have the right to reclaim the word ‘slut’; it is a word that has been used to oppress women, and women alone can choose to reclaim it. I don’t believe this is productive. If we continue to emphasise the idea that terms like ‘slut’ must refer exclusively to women, we undermine the idea that men and women can and should be sexual equals. This is something that everyone must be able to support, or it will fail.

So go forth, and do your very best not to multiply.