More on the Sluttiness Question

Tracey Emin Says Everything Best

Ada, I read your post first thing this morning and these lines about your personal 90s sluttiness really made me want to cheer:

But as far as whoring around? I wish now that I’d done it MORE. For me sex was tied up with adventure.

Your words reminded me of this poem, “Drowning in Flowers,” by Rita Dove, I’ve loved since college, which gets at one of the major reasons that girls have sex that no one ever talks about: CURIOSITY.

So I was thinking about that, and my own lack of regret for my own 90s sluttiness, when I was looking at Marisa’s Tumblr and saw that she reblogged Lesley’s dating advice column. And it struck me that we should stop telling girls to not have sex, since sex doesn’t seem to be the real problem. Instead, we should tell them to follow Lesley’s advice, which is:

Let’s do what we want and go for what we want, and if it doesn’t work out, let’s promise ourselves we won’t take it for personal. Most of the time rejection is protection.

Totally, right?! I was thinking about how this is basically the ultimate truth of dating life, and we should just tell this to as many teenage girls as we can, as I started clicking on links to some of Lesley’s other dating advice columns. And I came to one in which she admits:

For me, I cannot have casual sex. I can lie to myself and think “Whatever! Who cares?” but before you know it, I’m shame spiraling in fetal posish, and newsflash: I CARE.

And my celebration ended.

Like, immediately. Suddenly, the 90s sex memories that had seemed funny a few minutes ago (the guy who kinda talked me into sleeping with him then said “I can’t believe we just did that” as soon as it was over or the guy who took me out on a few dates before saying “can I ask you something? Are we ever going to have sex? I mean I don’t want a relationship right now….”) started to seem as dark as they felt at the time.

Then it got worse. I kept scrolling around Tumblr, trying to take my mind off these very wallowish, not-very-2010 thoughts, and I came to Tavi’s agonizingly familiar open letter to the eighth grade boys in her class. It felt a little bit “Precious Things” all over again and I started counting how many hours I had before I could go to sleep and forget I had ever gone off on this emotional tangent.

So where does this leave me on the sluttiness question?

In the same place. At my most optimistic (and, like Andi at Bitch, I’m not that optimistic), I think that Flanagan wants the same thing for teen girls—in whom we can’t help but see ourselves–to be protected from pain. But that’s pretty much impossible. And so I think I’m back to what you said, which is that “teen girls should do whatever they want.” I kinda think girls need to figure out what they want sexually and it’s always going to be a process of trial and error and it is always going to require a lot of being super-attentive to ones own feelings and figuring out how to honor them. Wait, that sounds like 70swoman, not 90swoman! But you know what I mean. Sometimes you have Beyonce/Taylor/Christina-style bravado and sometimes you want to get all “Fuck and Run.” Still, I don’t regret my sluttiness in the 90s.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “More on the Sluttiness Question

  1. Meghan

    I only regret the slutty times where I kind of wanted to say no, but didn’t know how, despite what riot grrrl and everything else the 90s had taught me. I so agree with sex as a teen and twentysomething (for me anyway) being so about adventure, which was great, only sometimes half-way into the adventure I realized I’d rather not see this particular one through and because it was a totally concentual thing I didn’t know a polite way to back out. You know, because of that whole needing to be a nice girl thing. I could say “hey bro, are we going to fuck or what?” but then I was too worried about his feelings if I decided I kind of changed my mind and wasn’t feeling as bold or interested once we actually got down to business.

    Also there were plenty of times where I was the one who ended up feeling gypped and liked I wanted more emotionally (a la fuck and run,) but there were close to just as many times where the roles were reversed (and the soundtrack in my head was a little more flower (also by Liz)) so, in my experience at least, I think we all want different degrees of sex and relationships and romance and I’ve found it to be a lot more individual than gender-based.

  2. Thanks, Meghan, for bringing up the fact that sometimes men/boys want more than just sex, too. Casual sex vs. meaningful sex isn’t about gender as it is about two people and whether they are looking for the same things from each other. And, people being what they are, and communication being as difficult as it is, often those two people aren’t on the same page. Does that mean it’s wrong? No, it means it’s life. And sometimes life hurts.

    Yes, sometimes the casual sex I had in the past ended up hurting me emotionally. Does that mean I shouldn’t have had it? Hell no. Why are we so hellbent on ignoring anything in life that doesn’t make us happy happy smiley smiley?

    If we try so hard to protect young people from pain, they’ll never learn anything.

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