A Slut By Any Other Name
I am a slut.
I have pretty strong feelings when I type that sentence or say it aloud. Sometimes, and for the most part, I feel super strong and fun and sexy when I say it. Fuck, yeah, I'm a slut! Other times I say it with a question since I'm not always as sexually promiscuous as the word might imply. Yet other times there's a sense of shame and angst that come with a word I was raised to believe was all kinds of negative.
Flick was just designing business cards for us for our podcast and website and he described us as podcasters, sex-geeks, and sluts. I found myself resisting including the word slut. Could a person really put that on a business card? Maybe we should say perverts or deviants instead. Would people still take us seriously? What if we're trying to run in serious polyamory circles that frown on casual sex? As much as I want to fully embrace my sexy slut self, I still have some serious discomfort around the word.
I always wanted to be a slut, though I learned well when I was young that it was the worst thing a girl could be. It meant she didn't respect herself and it meant she had no value to anyone so I stayed on the Good Girl path even though I wanted so badly to be bad. In Grade 7: "Jenny let someone fingerbang her. Slut." Ooh, really? Could I get fingerbanged? In Grade 11: "That slut Natalie fucked Trevor and Lyle at the party." Two guys? Two guys in one night? Where could I sign up for this? My teenaged panties were soaked thinking about it even though I knew I was supposed to feel disgusted. I jumped on the judgment train because I knew it was expected of me but I wanted in.
I lost my virginity at 15 to my early 20s boyfriend (don't panic, age of consent in Canada in 1988 was 14) but that didn't feel slutty since we were in love. I'd celebrated my 15th birthday by getting drunk and throwing myself at him at a party, and a close friend walking in on him going down on me was one of the zingiest pieces of the experience for me. She saw what I was letting him do and it felt doubly good to see her scandalized expression. We didn't talk about it after but I really wanted to. I wanted to hear all the shock and awe she felt about it. It was slut adjacent because of the age difference, though I didn't ever hear people talking behind my back about it. The social standing that came with having an older boyfriend was one of the only good things about that relationship. That and he was a truly decent guy about never pressuring me to do anything I didn't want to. The fact I wanted to do all the things likely made that easier, but again, we were in a serious relationship so the sexy stuff was appropriate.
The closest I got to getting to be a slut when I was young was getting to kiss guys in musicals while dating other guys. Playing Rizzo in Grease in High School and making out with Kenickie on a bench for a whole scene every rehearsal and performance was the best thing ever, even though I wasn't attracted to the guy who played my love interest. It was that we shouldn't have been allowed to do that, and we were anyway. A few years later I got to kiss a different dude in a different show and transgressing that boundary again was thrilling.
I didn't figure out until much older that transgressing boundaries is probably my favourite sexual stimulus, and part of why non-monogamy is so perfect for me. The fact that it is against the social norms is a big part of why it turns me on so much. Getting to kiss and fuck some of my friends while maintaining incredibly normal friendships with them is so damn hot, because they're hot, and because you're not supposed to do that stuff with your friends. As good as it would be for society to have much more normalized forms of alternate relationships, I hope that fucking people other than my husband, sometimes with my husband, remains somewhat disreputable. I like disreputable. A lot. Like, roll around in it until I'm covered in its delicious stench kind of a lot.
That said, I have an ambivalence about being thought of as 'only' a slut. The fact that some of the relationships that began as entirely sexual grew into intense emotional and sometimes love connections lends my sluttery an air of respectability that I wish I didn't feel the need to seek. I can't shake off those lessons about how sex is one of the lesser, base instincts we have, that it shouldn't be a priority and that relationships based on sex are of less value than ones based on love. We bring our girlfriend Iris to many events with our vanilla friends but I would never consider bringing a casual sexyfriend and introducing them as such. And some of the resistance I feel about announcing to the world at large that Flick and I are non-monogamous is that I know there are many people who would look at our marriage as less legitimate than a monogamous one. I reject the rules but I benefit from the social capital of a long-term marriage so it's hard to throw that away.
Even within my marriage, learning to shake off the negative connotations of being a slut was difficult. I had a lot of internal slut-shaming that I had to let go of, and I also had to let go of my expectation of how differently Flick would view me when he saw me being slutty. He helped me along immensely when he walked in on me changing for a date and announced, 'Hey! It's my magnificent, sexy, slut wife." I was completely stunned for a moment: shocked, mouth hanging open, but my automatic indignant reaction quickly turned to excited and happy that he saw me that way.
That said, it hasn't been easy to entirely throw off the feeling that he's judging me in uncomfortable ways, and though we've had a few mfm threesomes, they've been extremely rare in our sexual repertoire. I tended to watch Flick entirely too carefully and judged any discomfort in his expression, or lack of responsiveness he had as unhappiness in being present while I was being a slut. I took that on. I started shaming and stopped enjoying myself, and eventually I quit suggesting we have them, since the programming I received growing up to protect the man's feelings above all else was very effective.
Flick and I talked about again it more recently (using your words, kids, it works!) and after reading Emily Nagoski's Come As You Are, which explains how new and different experiences often hit the brakes on some people's arousal, I understand that it's much more about the experience being different, than any judgement on my character. Our plan is to try having them regularly with the same other guy, since we suspect that familiarity would probably help him get into it much more.
When I'm with other sluts it's very easy to embrace the term--Go Slut magic!--though I continue to struggle with embracing it fully outside a happy accepting circle. I did give Flick the go-ahead on doing the business cards, slut and all, and I'm hoping that using them and standing up to people's potential reaction to them will help me embody the term more fully. Besides, I do dig the zing of an air of disreputability, and I will enjoy seeing the occasional shocked expression. Slut? On your business card? Who would do that? This slut.