(Yes, I’m aware this is an interesting follow-on to ‘It’s Not All About The Sex!’ But hey, what the hell. Let’s talk about the sex! Or rather, let’s talk about people’s attitudes to the sex.)
When people want to attack me for being polyamorous (or bisexual, for that matter,) invariably the first thing they come up with is “OMG, you SLUT!”
Firstly, I can reasonably assume that if somebody is calling me a slut, they’re attempting to insult me. I hardly think they mean Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy’s alternative definition  of the word. And what gives someone else the right to throw slurs around because of my choice of lifestyle? Yet they think they can, because we’re taught to believe there’s some kind of moral superiority inherent in sexual monogamy.
The most obvious response to being called a slut is ‘no, I’m not,’ but that really doesn’t tackle the underlying issues here. Another possibility is ‘and so what if I am?’ which digs slightly more into the question of why having (what is perceived to be) lots of sex is such a terrible thing. I’m still working out where I stand on the ‘slut as a reclaimed slur’ thing. In principal, I think turning around a traditionally derogatory term and identifying with it in a more positive way is a good thing, (among my many identities, I define myself as ‘queer,’ for example) but this particular term is not something that feels quite right for me personally.
Slut is thrown around as an insult because it’s often seen as one of the worst things a person (specifically a woman) can possibly be. Have you noticed the intense social importance of your NUMBER? (That is, of course, the number of people you’ve had sex with.) I’ve only recently begun to learn that my “number” isn’t something to be ashamed of or even something particularly important. The fact that it’s higher than zero or one doesn’t make me ‘ruined’ or a lesser person, and the fact that it’s lower than many people’s I know doesn’t mean I don’t match up in some way or have some level of “experience” that I need to catch up with.
What’s interesting is that, amidst being repeatedly called a slut, I’ve also been called a prude, or uptight, or ‘sex negative,’ more than a handful of times. I don’t have casual sex at all these days , and made a decision about a year ago to restrict certain activities only to people I’m in love with. For some reason, certain people – and, it has to be said, this comes from within poly space as often as from outside of it – seem to find this really threatening or even offensive, as though my choice is a direct attack on theirs. I am unsure why, as I don’t take a holier-than-thou stance on it, or judge anyone else who makes different choices. This is my decision, for me only, and what is right for me would not be right for somebody else, and vice-versa. Perhaps it is also quite telling that these accusations often come, directly or indirectly, from people who have tried to get me into bed and I’ve turned down.
I’m amazed that it still needs saying that it’s not okay to insult somebody or imply there’s something wrong with them if they don’t want to have sex with you.
Perhaps it’s simply that mainstream culture seems determined to shove all women’s sexuality into one of these two boxes. Slut or prude, virgin or whore, nothing in between. We know sexual orientation and gender are not necessarily binaries. So why, as a culture, do we persistently insist upon presenting women’s sexual choices as a strict one-or-the-other?
People who think I’m having too much sex/sex with too many people/more sex than them label me a slut (or even a whore.) People who I won’t sleep with, or who think I’m too picky, label me a prude. And, from what I’ve heard, this is very common of female experience, even in such supposedly progressive and accepting spaces as polyamorous community.
There’s a whole world out there in between these two extremes, and falling anywhere on that spectrum – including at one extreme or the other – is completely okay! I’m sick of being insulted for my choices. I’m sick of not being able to win. I’m sick of others thinking they know what’s best for me.
If I’m perceived as a ‘slut,’ I’m told I’m being used and taken advantage of by those evil men, because I couldn’t possibly want sex, because woman, right? If I’m perceived as a prude, I’m told I’m repressed and pitied by people who view themselves as more liberated than I am. What about the radical notion that true liberation comes from being given agency to make one’s own choices, and trusted to know what is right for oneself?
So I say no, don’t label me – don’t stick my sexuality into one of your narrow little boxes. I’m just someone who makes my own sexual choices based upon what’s right for me, at any particular time, and right now chooses to only be physically intimate with people I have a decent level of emotional connection with. Umm, is there a label for that?
 “A person of any gender who has the courage to lead life according to the radical proposition that sex is nice and pleasure is good for you.”
 A post specifically on this will be forthcoming when I finish writing it.