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Feminspire | April 20, 2014

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Memoirs of a Modest Slut

Memoirs of a Modest Slut

There comes a time in every one of my relationships when I have to explain that I don’t wear bikinis. I like my body, but I roll my eyes when my romantic interest protests that I’d look great in one. He’d know, after all; he’s seen me in my underwear. I explain that to me, wearing a bikini in public feels like going out in my underwear. I just don’t want to be that naked outdoors. It makes sense to those who know me well – I am often cold and always covered up, and I rarely even take my shoes off before it’s time to go to bed. I delight in the surprise every time a man removes my minimizer bra to discover that my breasts are two cup sizes larger than they appear beneath my clothing. To me, there is something wonderful about the experience of exposure, but when I do it, I like to do it all at once: heart, mind and body.

My choice not to wear revealing clothing is not a choice I make in judgment of women who do. It doesn’t come from a desire to receive less sexual attention, which is lucky, because in my experience, I actually receive more catcalls the less sexy I dress (like when I have the flu and walk one block to the drugstore in sweats for apple juice and medicine). Sure, strangers on the street (and hopefully my employers) probably see me as wholesome, and my friends call me “Grandpa” in homage to my collection of oversize sweaters and oxfords buttoned all the way up to the top. Rape apologists everywhere: I am a prime example of a woman whose sexual activity is no way related to or represented by her choice of clothing.

[TW: discussion of rape, sexual assault and slut-shaming.]

That’s right: I’m slutty. I am more sexually promiscuous than any of my friends. My recent transition into a monogamous relationship was a bit of a difficult adjustment, in the wake of more than a year of being single and not going more than two weeks without sex. I have slept with more than one person in the span of twelve hours, and that doesn’t count the threesome I had on Halloween (sober, by the way). I’m not saying this to brag, I’m saying this to own up to the reality of my behavior. While I feel completely at peace with my choices, I am all too aware of the fact that being honest about my sexual behavior limits the amount of people who will take me seriously, sleep with me, or date me.

It’s all too easy to be offended by slut-shaming when it’s in the form of a false accusation, but because I am sexually promiscuous, every time a woman anywhere is called a slut for any reason I become as offended and embarrassed as if I were attacked directly. Every time a woman gets called a slut, I am being made to feel like my choices regarding my body, no matter how safely and responsibly I make them, make me a dirty, disgusting person who is unworthy of respect.

Let’s backtrack to October of 2011. Fresh out of a long-term relationship, I began spending time with a foreigner who was subletting a room in a friend’s apartment. I had not quite cut ties with my ex, and for the first time in my life, found myself sleeping with two people at the same time. I felt so guilty about it, so slutty, that when that foreigner drunkenly held me down, despite my protests, and forced himself inside me, I not only neglected to report it – I continued to see him until he returned to his home country a few weeks later.

This is just another very real danger of slut-shaming. I had internalized it so much that I did not respect my own right to say no. I said “no” and “stop” and I tried to push him off of me, and when I failed I lay there, looked blankly at the wall and thought, “so this is what this feels like.”

I was not a virgin, but that was the day I felt like I lost my purity. For a time, I’d find myself in situations in which I felt I was expected to put out. Saying no felt pointless – after all, it was pointless when I said it to a man who claimed to love me. I found myself paralyzed, letting things happen to me, letting men touch me however they wanted. I was unable to move on from my long-term boyfriend because he was the only man I trusted not to objectify me, and when I ultimately lost him for good, there was no one left to trust.

That’s the thing about hitting rock bottom. When there’s no one left to trust, you have to learn to trust yourself. When I told my ex what had happened, he asked me why I didn’t scream. The truth is, I was ashamed, even in the moment, that I had let this happen. Eventually I realized that the longer I continued to take blame for what had been done to me, the more powerless I felt. Little by little, I began taking back the power I had lost that night. It started small, with declining to go back to a date’s apartment. I began to challenge myself, finding myself getting up in the middle of foreplay, zipping my pants and walking out with a proud smile on my face. I had to allow “no” to regain its meaning before I could feel the power in saying yes. Now, every time I decide to sleep with someone, regardless of the circumstances or whether or not I’ve slept with the person before, I feel stronger knowing that it’s my decision. Every time I say yes, I’m reminding myself that no one will ever have the right to make me feel dirty ever again.

Written by an anonymous reader

  • http://www.facebook.com/elise.haydenferdman Elise Hayden-Ferdman

    Thank you, so much, anonymous reader, for such a brave and clear piece. I feel like I did 5 years of therapy in 3 minutes reading this. Thank you.

  • Kiana

    I have so so so much respect for you for writing this. You are so incredibly strong and I really admire you for talking about your experiences. And tbh, I thought I was the only one uncomfortable with wearing bikinis. I only bought my first one this past summer but I only wear it when at a friend’s house, not at a public beach or pool.

  • MarlenaRae

    This is a beautiful piece of writing, and an incredible story. Thank you so much for sharing it.

  • RandomGuy

    As a guy reading this, I have to say, good on you and congratulations on personal growth, may you continue to travel that path (hopefully, without traumatic injury). I’d hate it though if you left mid foreplay, that’s just mean, but I’m happy that you took control over your body and there is no doubt that it is your right to leave mid-foreplay if you did. Although, and please hear me out here, you could have prevented what happened. And this is not about screaming, or blaming the victim, or how many people you’ve slept with, if you said no you said no. But you exhibited a tremendous amount of security. Being insecure is something that will hurt you in all aspects of life, the way you were hurt I can imagine was horrible but it could be a lot worse.

    My point is something that you know already, because that is exactly what you’re saying that you gained a lot more comfort in who you are, a lot more respect for yourself and that it empowered you to truly say yes. The thing that I don’t understand though, is why isn’t that said more clearly by young feminist women. You say it but you also confuse it with a side message.

    Being sexually promiscuous in my book is not a biggie. Being insecure enough in yourself to try to forge an identity from the validation from the attention you receive for being slutty that is a huge character flaw. Increased chances of rape are the least of your problems in that case, if you’re not secure in yourself you cannot be happy.

    From what I’m reading you paint your experiences before and after in almost the same light. You’re saying that you made equally smart decisions before and after and are blaming external factors for your mental state at that time. But even without societal pressure, do you think it is believable that you were in a stable mental state when you were sleeping with someone that you had just broken up with and with someone else. I don’t buy any sort of social norms on sluttiness had anything to do with the unhappiness you were feeling when you were sleeping with those two people. I can believe that is how you would rationalize that to yourself but that behavior is not healthy. We’re human, we have insecurities, the best way to tackle them, is acknowledge them and take them headon so you don’t get blind-sided by them.

    I’m glad you found a way to teach yourself to respect your decisions. While it leaves some questions in my head on how confident you were in yourself at the time, but hey you’ve got to start somewhere.

    • Y.

      You seem to be arrogant enough to think that you’re a better judge of the reasons why she sleeps with a lot of guys than herself.
      Also, by implying that she’s wrong when “blaming external factors for [her] mental state,” that she’s wrong about how deeply the rape culture has affected her self-esteem, and that she could’ve just ignored what society says, you’re denying the power that rape culture has to repress women and make us second-guess ourselves. Worse yet, you’re questioning this woman’s ability to know herself and her own experiences.

      • Darth Jader

        “Rape culture” is about as real as the “triple breasted call girl” or the “double cock porn star”.

        What she had to say was good, and I’ve known girls (and guys) who showed all the same sort of behaviours. However there is nothing wrong or slutty about having casual sex with a friend, and it is really very cruel to just get up and walk away mid foreplay. I understand it was a “healing” thing for her….but it’s still cruel, self serving, and inconsiderate of other’s feelings.

        • http://www.facebook.com/jackieklein Jackie Klein

          You don’t need to consider the other’s feelings when denying sex. Any person, regardless of sex or gender, is allowed to change their mind about what they are comfortable with, even if it’s in the middle of foreplay. Continuing with the act even though you may not want to is not or you’re afraid of what the other person will do is not consent.

          Rape culture is very much a real thing. Your comment is a prime example of it. No person is “obligated” to have sex, regardless of the situation. Your comment shows that you have very little understanding of rape culture. May I suggest reading one of our many fantastic article on rape culture? This one is a good introduction, and it was published pretty recently:

          http://feminspire.com/understanding-rape-culture-and-its-impact-on-all-women/

          • Darth Jader

            Sure they’re allowed, I never said otherwise, doesn’t change the fact that it’s kinda cruel, and VERY self serving when it’s deliberate, especially if you don’t like the person. It may not be consent, but as the other partner does not know what’s going through your head, it’s also not anything wrong on your part. (women and men both HATE it when you repeatedly ask “are you alright”, “are you comfortable with this” etc. as it shows both insecurity and a lack of respect. “WELL I WOULDN’T BE DOING IT IF I WASN’T INTO IT!”). “Rape culture” is a product of our “victimized society”, it is a PHILOSOPHICAL notion that has absolutely NO empirical data whatsoever to back it up, it’s an utterly ridiculous idea (just like the idea of a “patriarchal society”). No, nobody is obligated to have sex, and again I NEVER SAID OTHERWISE, however DELIBERATELY implying sex, then withdrawing, simply for the sake of personal gain or to cause emotional pain, is a VERY cruel thing to do (I’ve been on both ends of it, I doubt you have). I understand the notion of “rape culture” very well, probably better than you do, I also live in the REAL WORLD, have REAL LIFE EXPERIENCE, and I know the idea is UTTERLY ridiculous. Saying “Rape culture exists, you just don’t know it” is akin to saying “God exists, you just don’t know it” or “The Flying Spaghetti Monster exists, you just don’t know it” (see what I did there? I made a joke in reference to 3 underlying connections to feminism related to a certain elevator incident…I wonder if you can figure out what it is and how it’s connected….the purpose of it is to offset your forthcoming comments questioning my reading comprehension…because if you can’t figure out the connections here, then yours pales compared to mine, and by association I win the argument over the existence of “rape culture”.

  • Y.

    Thank you for this.

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  • Kat

    Like many people have, I have to say, Thank you for sharing this.

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  • Emily Vrotsos

    Thank you, brave one. You gave me back my “no”.