Why Are Men So Scared of The Word Slut?

I was stale drunk when Samuel and I started talking on Hinge three weeks ago, that expired feeling you get after being on the sauce all day, being close to throwing up and actually throwing up, all before 7 PM. I had recently changed the age range of my dating pool from 18–35 to a more responsible 22–45 after a friend asked me how many men I had slept with who were younger than me that were actually impressive in bed. The scales had fallen from my eyes; I changed the range and waited for the likes to roll in from all of the emotionally available men I had purportedly been missing out on.

If I know anything from experience dating older guys, it’s that they are generally more sexually oriented than their younger peers. That might sound unbelievable to some, but most men aged 30+ are done beating around the bush and will straight up ask you where and when you next want to be pounded into oblivion. Samuel was no exception.

Gruff looking, dishevelled in a nonchalant but also highly curated way, and overall pretty hairy, he ticked a lot of my disgusting little boxes. A small toddler stood next to him in two of his photos — a Dad — another box ticked. I kicked off the conversation by mentioning that I was happy that he liked that I wanted my toes sucked. He replied almost immediately. “I’m so fucking into it. My mouth wrapped around your feet, my hands busy elsewhere. It’s not my first rodeo.”

…I cringed, the first cringe of many. Every message he sent me was grammatically correct and coded, like he had played this game for years and knew exactly what was going to happen before it occurred. It seemed almost like he knew the outcome of us, and his overall sheepishness both pissed me off and intrigued me.

We chatted for a little longer about our hobbies and what he wanted to do to my extremities before I hit the sack. I woke up the next day, severely hydrated, to a poetic proclamation of lust;
“Lovelly (virtually) meeting you…woke up thinking about kissing you in places most men won’t — couldn’t show self control, took a firm grip of myself; was fun. Made a video: maybe one day i’ll show you, if it gives you pleasure.” I scoffed out-loud. I had exchanged less than 20 messages with this man, and he was already sexting me as if we had been dating for three months.

I also contemplated; where haven’t most men kissed me? The top of my head, I guess?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m in an open relationship, and my priority is time-saving over exchanging the pleasantries that eventually lead to screwing, but Samuel’s aggression was surprising even to me. The hyper-awareness of older men came into acute focus, and I bristled comparing his messages to those of the dopey twenty-something dudes I had been talking to in the past month.

Eventually Samuel and I met, and fucked, and fucked again. The sex was great, and he only made me feel uncomfortable a couple of times, which to a war-weary person like me is an overall accomplishment. One of those times, we were reflecting on what we had just done after he had spent the better part of an hour spanking me. He wondered where that came from, and I stated that I had been a slut for the better part of my life, and it was just what I liked. He winced and looked away from me. “I hate the word slut. It’s horrible. It has horrible context around it.”

I gently suggested that perhaps a woman’s use of the word in reference to herself is a re-appropriation, taking away the power of the slur and turning it into a positively charged descriptor for those it used to besmirch. He persisted, continuing almost as if I hadn’t said anything that stemmed from my own lived experience. “It will always have bad connotations to it, no matter how it is used. The history is there. And there is no similar word for men, no one calls men sluts. I don’t use it, and you shouldn’t either.” I closed my mouth, dazed.

Most men are adept at proactively indicating that they wouldn’t ever actually hurt you if you mention you like rough sex. In their desperation not to ‘get #MeToo’d”, they unknowingly (or knowingly) are quick to define your sexual desires as misleading at best, inherently disrespectful to the female race at worst. This isn’t explicitly stated; their use of language gleaned from years of being taught that a woman’s sexual needs and desires are an alien land to be conquered and subjected — or as an extension of this, entirely mythical — is enough to plant the seed of self doubt in your transparency. Samuel demonstrated this first hand after I answered his question about what I liked in bed. “I won’t treat you like shit, if that’s what’s implied — I won’t hurt you, unless you request it — you’re in safe hands.” Did I unwillingly imply that I wanted to be damaged? Is it demeaning that I like to be spanked? Should I not have told him that I want to be slammed against a wall and used like a human shake-weight?

As long as you were told from the beginning that they would only hit you if you REALLY wanted it, then clarity on the details is up to you. The man is absolved of the possible fallout that comes with the kink. What self-respecting feminist would actually want to be choked, or have sex in public, or be called a dirty little cum-bucket anyway? I’m happy to take advantage of the runoff of whatever trauma you endured to come out with a dented sexuality — but you should really do some long and hard rehabilitation of those aspects of yourself if you ever want to be truly happy.

The feigned innocence is insulting, almost as if men are oblivious to the fact that we consume their media, we watch their porn, that we also have internalised misogyny that we are painfully trying to extricate from ourselves so that we can become whole again, and we know that the image of the obedient slut hungry for jism and bruises is one of the most popular archetypes in the tiny cast of characters between Madonna and Whore.
Why then act so surprised when we proclaim out loud our slut-dom? Either way, it is advantageous to them; we bought into the propaganda, and they won’t get in trouble for treating us in line with their desperate narration. Win-win.

It feels exhaustively disappointing that my sexuality in relation to masochism, sadism, and the like, is inexorably linked in some way to the creation and manipulation of the male gaze. If there were a way to create a controlled experiment in which one investigated the contribution of nature v nurture to my eventual preferences in a world devoid of men, I would gladly be a participant, but there is not. This doesn’t change the fact that I love sex, and being degraded, and being in charge and open about wanting those things, about control and release. It doesn’t make those aspects of my sexuality any less valuable, or me as a person any less valuable, as much as people would try and convince me otherwise.

I keep thinking about that night that Samuel and I first slept together, when we talked about The S Word. That I should have been more stoic about my opinion on the matter, that to be honest, it mattered more than anything to me in that moment that he understood I knew what I wanted, and I wasn’t going to buy into the shame card he dealt me. A week later a man I met at the club I work at recoiled when I called myself the same word. “Don’t say that. I don’t like it.” I was rocked with deja-vu. The most frustrating part of this is the knowledge that I can’t do the majority of the work for them. I cannot make a man understand overnight the power he has to belittle me in ways I haven’t asked for. I have tried to reconcile myself with the idea that the time I spend with these men is better used getting my rocks off than re-educating them — because that takes longer than a lifetime. As hard as I try to make myself, it still hurts every time I brush up against it.

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