Karen Owen & Slut Shaming on Jezebel + Black Women & Representation

October 16, 2010 • Hot Topics, Relationships, Self-Love, Sensuality, single women • Views: 197

Writer, lobbyist and feminist activist Megan Carpentier asked for my thoughts on F*cking While Feminist, Karen Owen, the Powerpoint superstar from Duke University, and general slut shaming culture for a Jezebel collaborative blog

This was a timely request as earlier in the week I felt “slut shamed” by one of my twitter followers. I’m not sure what he was responding to (maybe my Friends With Benefits video, Safe Sex Pledge or ancient Celibate Slut post) but he tweeted “Ironically, the Chocolate Queen of the Nymphos is a New prude. Ha.”

Before I remembered that I don’t give a damn what random tweoples think I tweeted back: “Unfortunately I have always been a prude with my body, nympho with my mind! Nothing new about that.” And then: “All jokes aside, sadly none of my real life friends wd call me a nympho but 99% of them would call me a sex blogging prude! #shrug”

I was surprised that I was hurt and upset. This exchange stirred up a number of thoughts and emotions: “Why would anyone think that I’m a nympho? Huh? Me? Hilarious. Sex is awesome so who cares if folks think I’m a whore. Are people still that ignorant and limited that if a woman writes and speaks about sex then she must be a nympho or slut? But what’s wrong with being a nympho or slut? Why am I not more of a nympho or slut? Maybe I am letting down the Official Relationship, Sex and Lifestyle Bloggers of America by not being more of a nympho or slut. And am I not past caring what random people think? Isn’t my favorite affirmation ‘What you think of me is none of my business?’ Mmm. Nachos.”

So, needless to say, I can’t write an original post for Megan and Jezebel because the schedule conflicts with my new therapy sessions.

And for the feminist record, I find Karen Owen’s Sex List Powerpoint Faux Thesis hilarious– and not because I feel a sense of glee and reversal of fortune at a woman ranking a man. My friends and I have emailed, laughed at and exulted in our share of penis photos. Big deal. Women enjoying sex and ranking men privately is nothing new. Trust me.  I find Karen Owens’ Duke athletes sex list amusing because mixing sex with a Powerpoint presentation is funny. Plus the faux Duke U thesis was written for a private exchange amongst her friends. As far as we know, this was not intended to be a public document. What I did find extremely troubling about the Karen Owen Screw List debacle was her casual and insulting racial references. But that’s another post.

My “What is a Slut” entry (below) was originally printed in the anthology Dirty Words: A Literary Encyclopedia of Sex, edited by Ellen Sussman.

SLUT (slŭt) noun.

Definition: The origin of the word slut does not stem from a sixth grade bathroom stall encounter between Gina Holder and Jaqui Saunders’ boyfriend Jay as originally suspected.  The word slut was derived from the Middle English word slutte for a slovenly woman and has come to mean a woman having multiple concurrent sexual relationships.
Politically Correct Synonyms: horizontally challenged, non virginal, footloose, lover of people, pussy power advocate, indiscriminate, giving humanitarian, woman with the morals of a man. 
Politically Incorrect Synonyms: skank, tramp, slag, sausage wallet, ho, hoochie, wench, trick, hussy, chickenhead, harlot, jezebel, tart, slore, whore, courtesan, jump off, sidechick, floozy. strumpet.
Related terms for Non-Monogamous Women: mistress, prostitute, nymphomaniac, polyamorous, sex-positive, fellacious, virtueless, loose, easy, promiscuous, lusty, dirty, low.
Suggested Textable Backronym: She Loves U too?!
I was always jealous of the girls we called sluts.  I was one of the finger wagging, moral policing, high-roaders and former Girls Scouts that sat in the front row of every class in Middle School and raised our hands practically before the questions were asked. When I grew up in the late eighties, slut was probably the worst thing a woman could be called.  We were taught to just say no to all kinds of things and AIDS seemed like it might be lurking behind every toilet seat. Teen pregnancy threatened to ruin us  The so-called sluts seemed so much freer than the rest of us, flipping off society with their don’t give a damn attitudes. They seemed happy, like by sleeping around –or appearing to– they were living slightly above the law.  
I was one of a handful of kids of color at an elite New York City all-girls prep school that went from kindergarten to twelfth grade.  I was reminded often by my parents and my peers that in addition to regular teen aged concerns, I also bore the burden of representation.  “You are not only representing yourself in the prep school community.  You are representing every African American young woman in America,” Mrs. Johnson, one of the two black teachers in the school told me when I racked up too many tardies.  Really?
 
So if Abiola met a boy at Le Panto’s, our after school watering hole, and made out with him as Lizzie Paddock seemed to do on a daily basis, not only was Abiola a probable slut, but she was marking every young lady of African descent that might grace the halls of Brearley, Spence, Chapin, and Nightingale-Bamford (our neighboring all girls schools) as sluts too.  My social life could single-handedly dismantle civil rights and set black people back forty years. 
Madonna’s Sex book, daring music videos and cutting edge lyrics made all of us girls want to be exactly like her when we grew up.  When our imitations of her wild style of dressing – cut off shirts, rolled up skirts and public bra straps — compromised the integrity of our dull navy uniforms, our headmistress added a new rule to the manuals on proper apparel: No underwear is to be worn as outerwear.  After all, we were not only representing ourselves, but also the school and its mission of providing an academically rigorous liberal arts education to girls, by truth and toil.  Our playground motto was Other girls marry doctors, we become doctors.  Evidently, our Madonna wannabe wardrobes threatened to dismantle women’s rights and set back the hundred and ten year old history of the school.  My behavior as a young woman could again degrade my tribe.  
So who was having all the fun while I was upholding the honor of my race and gender? The best known of the young women we called sluts in high school were Dana, who was caught having sex in closet, Ariel, who claimed to have contracted a case of crabs by trying on jeans in the Gap, and Elle, who became a teen mother at sixteen.  They are now respectively a real estate developer, investment banker and day care matron, so I guess that they were no worse for the wear. 

Sluts are brazen outlaws. Male counterparts to sluts are called playboys, philanderers, players, ladies’ men, man-whores, lady killers, cads, womanizers, and rakes – all glamorous compared to the derogatory word slut. 

On the other hand, a hoe is a garden tool, necessary for irrigation. The crops die without it.  

Damn straight.
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