Slut Shaming Anyone?

2015-02-06 22.14.14 (4)

http://smartbitchestrashybooks.com/2016/01/guest-rant-slut-shaming-in-romance/

Go to the above link and read the post and the many, many comments because you might find it as fascinating as I did. I didn’t comment because I had too much to say about it. Or thought I did.

This post hit a nerve not because I think I slut shame women in the books I write, but because of my age. At least one of the commenters mentioned the age of the authors and truly, you have to take that into account. Not that, as a reader, you’d necessarily know the age of the author.

We’re all shaped by the era in which we were raised. And the family in which we were raised. The views of an author who grew up in the sixties and seventies in a devout Roman Catholic family will be much different than a child of the eighties and nineties who is now penning romance novels.

I’ve had women older than me say they don’t like the word “slut.” I’d never heard of “slamp” until I’d read the above post, which (I assume) is a cross between a slut and a tramp, although I’m not sure what the difference is. Someone younger will have to explain it to me.

But as my current work in progress is about a former adult film actress, my editor suggested I didn’t need to clean it up so much. I want the only man my heroine has slept with prior to the beginning of the story be her husband on and off screen. A reader suggested I could pull off this story because of Pretty Woman. That story line worked. Remember Julia Roberts’s character saying repeatedly, “I say who, I say where, I say what” or words to that effect? She had control of her sexuality even though she slept with men for money. But…she didn’t sleep with Richard Gere’s lawyer when he wanted her to so she wasn’t a slut.

Maybe the better question is what constitutes a slut? Who decides that? Is it just a perception we have of women with a lot of sexual experience/partners? How do we know how many they’ve had or what they’ve done unless they tell us?

I love to watch reruns of Sex and the City, but sometimes it all just seems so exhausting. Remember the episode when Carrie couldn’t figure out why Aidan hadn’t attempted to sleep with her after they’d been dating for a week? I thought it was rather sad, this attitude of, “Hey, you bought me a cup of coffee, let’s hop into bed.”

What about today’s fifteen-year-old who sleeps with a kid because he bought her a Caramel Frappacino? Is that what sexual intimacy is worth these days? Are teenagers ready to be in charge of their sexuality?

I like a love scene as much as the next reader, but for me it has to have a purpose. Sex for the sake of sex or because a guy is hot or the woman is in the mood and a guy she just met is up for it leaves me cold. If that’s moralistic and old-fashioned, well then, consider the source.

FantasyMan72web

Fantasy Man releases February 2016 from Samhain Publishing

Back in the mid-nineties when I originally conceived and wrote FANTASY MAN (Samhain Publishing 2/2/16) the heroine was a virgin. Thanks to my editor she no longer is. Not that he deflowered her or anything! He merely suggested that the premise needed some work. As in most things editorial, he was right. I may have gone too far in the other direction because I can’t even excerpt the first chapter to post on this blog.  But I wrote it and I stand behind it. So maybe my attitudes on acceptable sexual behavior have changed since then like the rest of society’s. I know one thing. My 85-year-old mother would be just as appalled with FANTASY MAN as she was with the much tamer A MONTH FROM MIAMI.image001_edited

 

7 Comments:

  1. Your questions and points give me pause. I have not thought of any of this in so long. I really don’t care about people being sluts or not. Maybe that is really old. Or I have finally truly come to: other people’s choices are none of my business. I never heard slamp, how funny. Today people do all the same things people have always done, but they just don’t hide it. And from my perspective of what has happened in my own family–great Big messes–it is a little sad, terribly confusing, quite a bit of hurt. But you know, people go on, and everyone does try to love the best they can, and we all learn lessons. One thing I know, women and men sleeping around with many partners is nothing new. There was the woman at the well in the Bible. 🙂 Think of the not-to-distant Victorian era. The nobility often could not be certain who fathered what child. The American Indian did it right: all inheritance passed through the mother’s line, because it was always evident who the true mother was. 🙂

    • Well said, Curtiss Ann. We can only judge people if we have certain (or what we believe to be certain) knowledge of their behavior. This makes me think of Dr. Phil’s “There is no reality, there is only perception.” Like you, I’d really rather not know what everybody is doing or who they’re doing. Maybe what we’ve really lost in society is the ability to be discreet! I don’t like labels so much either. It’s all well and good to believe there’s no emotional impact from a sexual encounter, but I think we know better. I just thought it was all so interesting. Bottom line: romance novels are fiction meant for entertainment. Real life? Not so much. 🙂

  2. I agree with the above- I’m not one to judge people’s choices. I was born in ’80 but within an extremely religious family- which obviously informs my own writing. I had a main character once who an editor said was slut shaming another girl and that was never my intention. The MC just didn’t like how the other girl was using a whole bunch of guys at one time. I don’t think that’s okay for either a woman or man to do (and neither did my character). Maybe that’s just me though. It’s definitely an interesting topic for discussion.

    • My OLD dictionary defines slut as a “careless, dirty, slovenly woman; slattern;” OR “a sexually immoral woman.” So what I seem to be getting from the discussion on slut shaming is that yes, this is what they are, this is what they do, but we should not call them out for it. As you said, an interesting topic!

  3. I found your post from a traceback to the SBTB comment section, and as this is a topic of interest to me I thought I might weigh in on some of your questions.

    “my current work in progress is about a former adult film actress … I want the only man my heroine has slept with prior to the beginning of the story be her husband on and off screen.”

    As a younger reader, this would read to me as an example of a very contrived way to keep a heroine “pure.” As a reader, I would be less interested in an adult film actress who only performed with her husband than I would be about an adult film actress whose work in the sex industry didn’t define her sexual preferences or values outside of her job. That seems not only more realistic, but a more nuanced take on our idea of what an adult film actress is.

    “[Julia Roberts’ character] didn’t sleep with Richard Gere’s lawyer when he wanted her to so she wasn’t a slut.”

    Choosing not to sleep with the lawyer is kind of more a comment on what I mentioned above, that just because she was a “working girl” didn’t mean she automatically says “yes” to everyone in her personal life. She still gets to choose when and with whom she wants to have sex. Plenty of people would still call her a slut just because of her job and the number of men she’s slept with, even if she says “no” to some others. Plenty of people would still think she’s a slut just because of what she wears, without even knowing for a fact how many men she has slept with.

    “Maybe the better question is what constitutes a slut? Who decides that? Is it just a perception we have of women with a lot of sexual experience/partners? How do we know how many they’ve had or what they’ve done unless they tell us?”

    Slut-shaming is in the eye of the beholder. That’s part of why slut-shaming is so damaging: it can happen to any woman, at any time, for any reason, and it’s all a way of tarnishing her character. I don’t personally believe that the amount of sex a person has had, has any reflection whatsoever on what kind of person they are outside of the bedroom, so I don’t like seeing “slut” used as an insult to degrade them, make them out to be a villain, or posit them as a lesser person than the heroine.

    “I thought it was rather sad, this attitude of, ‘Hey, you bought me a cup of coffee, let’s hop into bed.’

    What about today’s fifteen-year-old who sleeps with a kid because he bought her a Caramel Frappacino? Is that what sexual intimacy is worth these days? Are teenagers ready to be in charge of their sexuality?”

    I think the spectre of the promiscous fifteen-year-old is a little overdone, to be honest. Yes — plenty of teens have sex. Yes — plenty of teens do it irresponsibly. So do plenty of adults, though, and though its been a few years since I was a teenager, I always found adults’ estimations of all of the sex we were having (and their suppositions about all of the reasons we were having it) to be almost amusingly wrong. But I think your attitude about teen sex is paralleled here:

    “I like a love scene as much as the next reader, but for me it has to have a purpose. Sex for the sake of sex or because a guy is hot or the woman is in the mood and a guy she just met is up for it leaves me cold.”

    You have your own preferences about the kind of sex you want to read and write about, and you’re 100% entitled to them. These preferences are probably in part formed by how and when you were raised, like you said. But to get back to the question that I think informed your post, of whether the age of the author matters to a reader, I think the answer, unfortunately, is “Probably.” And that’s not to say that there aren’t older authors who have attitudes more in line with the younger generation and vice versa, but from reading your post, and some of the lines I picked out above, yours does read a bit older. I wouldn’t have to know how old you actually were to pick up an “old fashioned” sensibility from your post. I wouldn’t probably choose to read your work if that’s what you bring to your writing, but I assume there is a loyal audience for what you do write, who appreciates your viewpoint, and that makes it valuble. So in short, my opinion doesn’t really matter, but since your post (possibly rhetorically) asked, this is my response.

    • Fascinating and thought-provoking. Thank you for the detailed comments. Regarding Pretty Woman, your comment “Choosing not to sleep with the lawyer is kind of more a comment on what I mentioned above, that just because she was a “working girl” didn’t mean she automatically says “yes” to everyone in her personal life. She still gets to choose when and with whom she wants to have sex.” And my character gets to make that choice in her (former) working and personal life too. I didn’t go into the story or my character’s history/choices here. In my character’s case, she has no interest or inclination to have sex with anyone other than her husband and no monetary reason to do so. I’m sure I had to make her somewhat pure to make her an acceptable heroine for ME to write as I come from an era where marriage meant you didn’t have sex with anyone but your spouse. But a lot of the story centers on how she’s judged/condemned for the films she made. Just as the women labelled “sluts” are judged and shamed in fiction, and in reality. The point being, as I said, we don’t really know about anyone else’s journey. We’ll see if my purified story gets published and/or finds an audience. Stay tuned.

  4. Pingback: Good Girl Shaming? | Romancing the Funny Bone

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