When I was looking at OK Cupid again yesterday I noticed this question:
It's not a new question; I've seen it before. But it felt new when I read it again because I have now had fourteen sexual partners. And even though anyone who might be made uncomfortable by a woman with fourteen prior sexual partners would also be bothered by someone with thirteen, or probably twelve, it still feels different to read people's answers when they not just talking about someone like me, but they are specifically talking about me.You're in a new relationship and your partner admits that they have had 14 sexual partners. Does that sound like a lot to you?
a. Yes, and it makes me uncomfortable
b. I guess, but it doesn't change how I feel
c. That seems like an average number
d. No, that's nothing
Lots of people answer 'a.'
And that means that lots of people are made uncomfortable by my sexual history. Even accounting for the fact that the question specifies that the person being judged is in a romantic relationship with the person answering the question, that still says a lot about their opinions about sex. Even the way the question is worded, implying that one's sexual past is something to "admit," as if it were something to confess.
Last night, a friend posted a link to an article about some new celebrity, and he called her a whore. I responded with this:
I was shocked enough that he'd written the comment in the first place. I wrote this because I genuinely expected him to change it. And yet, even though I expected a positive response, I wasn't prepared for how moved I would be to read it:
|(The sentence should read, "I don't agree with the way that 'making a sex tape' has become a springboard to celebrity and success.")|
Seriously, it makes me tear up a little. Because, even though I had no idea who Farrah Abraham was, and once I learned, I had no affection for her, it really did matter to me that my friends not call her a whore. The word hurts. And hearing he word taken away, deliberately, hearing it invalidated, was more meaningful than I would have predicted.
3. Playboy Mommy
There is a Tori Amos song from her third album, Boys for Pele. I listened to that album a lot in college.
I never was the fantasy
Of what you want
Wanted me to be
Don't judge me so harsh little girl
So you got a playboy mommy
You seemed ashamed
Ashamed that I was
A good friend of American soldiers
On bad days, that song could put me on the floor.
I had no daughter to be ashamed of my choices, but I knew what that shame felt like. Even if I couldn't put a name or a face to the source, I knew that there was a right way and a wrong way to have a body, and I knew that there was a right way and a wrong way to display it, to use it, and that transgression of those rules was shameful.
I have felt like a slut for wanting sex when I shouldn't. For wanting the wrong kind of sex. I have felt dirty. I have felt like a frigid bitch for not wanting sex when I should. And the definitions of "should" and "shouldn't" have always been "what someone else wants."
There were times that I really could point out a specific source for these feelings. There were words and incidents. But most of the time, those feelings didn't emanate from a point source, they were part of the miasma of shame around me. I breathed it in; I became my own source of shame. I didn't need anyone to tell me that there was something wrong with me, because I was perfectly capable of telling myself.
4. Untitled extra words. I guess that's a "conclusion?"
Someone said, in response to my criticism, that changing the language used won't stop people from being mean to each other. I agree. But it narrows the scope. Calling someone "obnoxious," or even "worthless," both can be hurtful for the person in question. No one likes to hear those things said about themselves. But the damage is limited because everyone agrees that "obnoxious" is a trait to avoid. When someone is criticized by being called a whore, it tells everyone listening that "whore" is also a trait to avoid. And since the definition of "whore" seems to be "a woman who is more sexual than the speaker deems appropriate," that means that pretty much every woman has been considered a whore at some point in her life. And so it criticizes, not only that one woman, but every woman.