I Haven’t Actually Been Called a Slut

By Creatrix Tiara, cross-posted from Creatrix Tiara

Not that I know of anyway – no one’s said that to me in my face. I don’t even know if I’ve been called a harlot or a whore or any other synonym for a loose promiscuous woman.

People don’t often tend to associate me with sexuality, at least when they just see me and don’t really know about what I get up to. “Unattractive” or “ugly” would probably be more common insults, asides from “you Bangla”.

But the biggest reason though is because I spent all my life in a society and culture where people didn’t even talk about sexuality. That thing about how women are sexualised in society through ads and media and all that? Not where I came from! You were meant to be pure, innocent, untouched, sweet…”sweet” was actually a word that got used a hell of a lot as a compliment, come to think of it.

If you wanted to denote someone as slutty, trashy, harlot-like, you know what you’d call them?

Sexy.

Yes, that trait people in the rest of the world spend tons of hours and dollars achieving? That buzzword in company mission statements? That marketing aim? Undesirable. You’d get it in a sneer from your school classmate, that admonition from your boss, that behind-the-back bitching from the neighbours – all for wearing a tank top or having your hair out or putting a strut in your walk. People knew that in some contexts it was meant to be positive, which made the word a double-edged sword; if you accepted the word as a compliment, you were proving how degrading you are, and deserved the insult.

Here’s an example of how intense it could get: Sometime in the mid 90s, some lad mag classed Malaysian pop superstar Siti Nurhaliza as one of their sexiest women. Now Siti is massive popularity-wise – when Britney Spears first got started people were trying to match up their potential careers! She’s likely still going and won’t stop for a while. So she’s a very big deal in Malaysia – even if you don’t follow her music (pop-Malay-folk ish) you still followed her career one way or another.

She had to release a press statement declaring: “I’m not sexy!”

The Western-eduated folk found that amusing and pointless, but the “sexy” declaration was really a potential career-breaker for Siti. She was the epitome of Malay femininity, which meant she was supposed to be well-mannered, poised, clean, polite, family-friendly. Accepting any level of “sexy” inferred that she was a wild child, a rabble-rouser, loose morals, had no respect for culture or elders, no shame or dignity. And that just would not do.

Shame and dignity. Two words that get used a lot to suppress sexuality.

As I mentioned, there’s not a lot happening in Malaysia sexuality-wise (which is a bit surprising considering birth control is over-the-counter and apparently Malaysian abortion laws are a lot more liberal than some American cities) or even physically (PE is a joke). No one will talk about it, plans to introduce a sex ed curriculum keep getting stalled, and if you want to ask the only answer you get is “don’t think about it”. How are you going to learn anything about good consent or owning your bodies or good vs bad touch if you weren’t treated as someone with a body to begin with? You were just a brain, there to get good grades, don’t worry about the rest of you.

That was certainly my experience – I had to get my sex ed from books and CD ROMs and the Internet, and somehow I managed to get enough to know that it could lead to unwanted pregnancies or STDs, was messy and icky, and my paranoia made me feel that I would be that rare 0.01% who’d get sick & pregnant even with a condom AND birth control AND a lesbian or something strange like that, so I ended up going asexual most of my life. What’s the worry anyway – there’s the rest of the world!

Then I got Mark The Boyfriend and suddenly got to find out for myself what the big deal was. And it was great! Physicality was awesome! A few years later, after finishing uni and dealing with some personal changes, I found the space and courage to really take on my sexuality – andboy what a ride that’s been! I found a love for eroticism in performance (art is my kink!), embraced the display and enjoyment of my body, spent time reconsidering and reconciling the differing (sometimes conflicting) paradigms I learnt about sex, love, relationships, intimacy, friendships. There were down times too – being assaulted, having hearts broken, still not being completely capable to communicate what I would like without holding myself back nor imposing myself on others, not feeling strong enough to speak up for my own boundaries because I’m so used to “be accommodating!”.

All of that I’ve had to do pretty much on my own – not completely alone, because there were the burlesque classes and the lovers and the discussion groups and the art directors and so on. But I did have to build my own definitions of sex and intimacy and relationships and so on, having not found too many that resonated with me and my experiences. And yet I could not find support from the culture of my origins, from myfamily.

“Don’t you have any shame?!”
“Why are you giving up your dignity!?”
“Why does Mark let you do this?!”
“Can’t you change your passions and give this up?”
“Why are you bringing shame onto the family?”

It’s never just me. What I do affects my family, my culture, my background. I am seen as a representative, a synedoche, a microcosm. Even if my parents have been long dead I’ll likely still have my actions be considered as that of XYZ’s Daughter, rather than that of my own agency.

And it is this self-same agency that has led me to passionately embrace causes like SlutWalk. The agency that marks the fact that my body is my business, that it’s not owned by or representative of anyone else, that I have every right to seek & build support for my body my way.

do have a sexuality, I do have physicality, I am sexy damnit. And that is not a shameful thing, that is not a loss of dignity. It’s reclaiming ownership of what is rightly mine from the start – and making a stand to assert that no one has the right to abuse, insult, malign, harm, or attack anyone AT ALL, including me, for making our own damn bodily choices. Even if they are the slut-version of Voldemort. Even if they are “cheap STD-infected hookers”. Even if they’re not sexy. Even if they are sexy.

No ifs, no buts, just NO.

My body, my business.

Image credit: yegslutwalk

  • Pingback: Does SlutWalk Speak to Women of Color? | SHOAH

  • http://soyluv.wordpress.com/ soyluv

    thank-you! some of your reasons are also why i too, support slutwalk and am anxiously awaiting the proposed organizing for one in my Florida city.

  • Kasia

    Wonderful.  Thank you

  • Xeginy

    This was wonderful. Thank you.

  • Cassie

    Loved this! I felt like cheering at the end.

  • http://twitter.com/undrcoverhippie yoli bee ☆

    this was a great read, thank you so much for sharing. 

  • Anonymous

    “Slut-version of Voldemort.”  <3!

    • http://blog.themerchgirl.net Creatrix Tiara

      Heh, I nearly used Hitler, but I didn’t want to Godwin this article…

      • Anonymous

        ROTFLMAO  at  “but I didn’t want to Godwin this article…”

        This is a great post, Creatrix Tiara. I’m still unsure about SlutWalk as a movement, though I can dig it as a form of protest against what that fool cop said. You’ve given me a lot to think about. Thanks so much!