Eat, Drink, Blog / Gypsy's Musings

The Question of Being a “Slut”

questionSo, this is one of those questionable posts that you might not want to read. This is due to it having sexual content (duh! header!) and that it’ll probably piss off a lot of women who don’t like certain epithets that have been twisted to mean something pejorative when the word isn’t necessarily a pejorative to begin with. Finally, if you don’t like spoilers and haven’t seen Silver Linings Playbook, you might want to come back at another time (I’m not revealing key plot points, but I will discuss the film and its characters).

For those who don’t know, SLP is a dramedy about a bi-polar man, Pat (played with great nuance and skill by Bradley Cooper), and a neurotic (possibly nymphomanic, more on this below) woman, Tiffany (played with brave, occasional scene chewing by Jennifer Lawrence), who come together as friends and become a little less crazy in the process. In the suburb of Philadelphia where the characters reside, there are few secrets. It’s well known, for example, that subsequent to her husband’s death (possibly before and during their marriage, as well), Tiffany was pretty much labeled the town “slut.”

I’ve gone round and round a bit with this label. I personally don’t have a problem with this word, but a lot of women (especially feminists, among whom I consider myself a member) don’t like the derogatory terminology for a “woman who likes to have sex.” In fact, I think it’s the perfect word to describe a certain kind of woman: one who likes to have a lot of sex in as many different ways and scenarios as she can.  This isn’t about “sleeping around” or having multiple partners; it’s about being sexually adventurous. Dangerous diseases and people aside, not everyone likes adventurous sex. Sluts do. I think you can even talk about “man sluts,” if you like. Not guys who are Lotharios or cheaters, but men who really like their sex in 32 flavors and then some.

I struggled with my inner slut for most of my life. I was monogamously married for 18 years, and my ex was not comfortable with my flamboyant nature. My ex occasionally tried to satisfy me, but mostly he just oppressed me and made me feel bad for who I was. I think this is what is known as “slut shaming.”  And while we had a lot of sex during our marriage (and, to be honest, I miss the frequency if not the man), it wouldn’t make the average person blush.

Since our break-up, I have definitely had my share of blush-worthy encounters. But you know what? I’m not ashamed of being a slut. I own it. I’m even thinking of getting a “slut” tattoo (I have no tattoos, so this is rather remarkable branding). I don’t want to be told I’m bad or I should hate myself simply because society doesn’t like sluts. For the record, I am very much against cheating, but monogamy and fidelity are not mutually inclusive. I want to reclaim the label slut because it is not a synonym for promiscuous, but rather a sexuality that is no more or less authentic than any other form of sexuality.

In Silver Linings Playbook, Tiffany doesn’t brag about sleeping with everyone at her workplace (including women), which results in her losing her job. Nor is she ashamed for having slept with everyone at her work. She’s not trying to titillate, she simply has no issues with fucking random people. I’m sure there will be those who watch this movie and assure themselves that her slutty days are behind her by the end of the film. I actually doubt that she changes sexually, because that is not where her neurosis lies.

Tiffany says something really awesome near the beginning of the film when Pat judges her for being a slut:

“There’s always going to be a part of me that’s sloppy and dirty, but I like that.”

She then shouts at the convoluted Pat if he likes himself as much as she likes herself. I think that’s key to anyone who comes out, whether you come out as gay, a fetishist, or as a slut. If you like yourself, you like the sloppy and dirty stuff that is you. And if you never acknowledge you have a sloppy/dirty side, you won’t be happy in your relationships with other people, be they monogamous, polygamous, or somewhere in between.

And if you can’t have a sense of humor about all these labels, maybe this will help.

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