I have a question on the difference between owning a great, great pair of confidence pants with guys and becoming one of those gardening tools. Here's the setting. It's my summer after senior year, and the majority of people I have hung out with have been guys. Whether its just one on one going to a movie, or going to the beach or drive-in with multiple guys, I absolutely love being around the opposite sex. And yes, sometimes a bit of making out (or more, whoops) has been known to be involved.
A lot of my friends have told me I'm slutty, or worse, easy, and I really don't think I. I like to think that I'm going out and just having a good time. The thing is, its not usually like me to be this forward with guys. I'm part of a wicked nerdy group at school, and I'm finally letting go and just enjoying myself. So what do you think? Is that slutty?
What do I think? I think I'm going to go quietly beat my face against a wall in exasperation that people are still asking this question in 2012! Because AAAAAARGH! (Which is, incidentally, the comment my editor appended when she forwarded me this letter.)
So, before we begin, let's unpack the word "slutty": literally, it means "a promiscuous woman." But it's also a derogatory term, which means that it means "a promiscuous woman" in the same way that "faggot" means "a gay man" or "kike" means "a Jewish person." It's a word that's more than the sum of its parts, and when you use it, what you're saying is this: "Your sexuality, in combination with your femaleness, makes you disgusting and despicable."
Which is why you're not going to catch me weighing in on whether your activities are "slutty" or not—because the word "slutty" is meaningless unless you agree with its underlying premise that your value as a human being is compromised by what you do in the privacy of your bedroom, that the measure of your worth becomes less with every roll in the hay, and that sex, or sexual activity, or even just sexual interest, creates an indelible black mark on your character.
I don't buy that. And let's be real: you don't, either. You're onto something when you note that what your friends call "slutty" and "easy," you call "going out and having a good time"—namely, that these words are only insults if you think there's something inherently wrong with being sexual.
Which there isn't. So while it's always good to check in with yourself every once in awhile as you go about your business—sort of like you'd pause every once in awhile during a delicious dessert buffet, just to make sure you're not indiscriminately eating things you don't actually like or want — you should feel free to keep on having fun... as long as you are having fun. You can snog/make out/dance naked and horizontally/enjoy morning-after pancakes with one guy or ten guys or a hundred or a thousand, and the only measure of its okayness will be whether it is something that you, personally, want to be doing. That's what confidence is: knowing what you want, and actively pursuing it.
And that's that.
But now that we've tackled your problem, hang on, because I've got one of my own: despite having noticed the discrepancy between what your friends call "slutty" and what you call "having a good time," you seem to still believe that "slutty" is a thing—just that it's not necessarily a thing that you are. And so, in return for getting the Auntie Sparknotes go-ahead to happily enjoy hangouts and hookups on your own terms, please do this: ask yourself why you think that other people shouldn't enjoy the same freedom to judge for themselves how best, and how much, to engage with their sexual selves.
Who or what do you imagine a slut is? What makes her different from you? Is it the number of guys she's been with? The number of people who know about it? The circumstances under which she has sex? Is it what she is or isn't interested in doing in bed? Is it whether or not she enjoys it? Does your opinion of her change depending on whether she's a nerd, or a cheerleader, or a Christian, or a person who spends her Saturdays reading to the blind?
No, really: sit down with a pen and a pad of paper, and write out your answers. And once you've unpacked all your assumptions about those who deserve the label of "slutty" or easy," ask yourself this: why should girls be obligated to play hard-to-get, regardless of whether or not they want to? Why is it that when a guy and a girl go to bed together, we assume that the girl is responsible for saying "no"—and that if she doesn't, she's lost something and/or doesn't respect herself? What do girls learn from being taught to ignore their own desires, because other people's opinions of their sexuality are more important? What do guys learn from being taught that they should desire and pursue sex at all costs, but think poorly of the girls who have sex with them?
These aren't easy questions, or comfortable ones, but the important questions never are. And since you're already sensing that the line between "confident" and "slutty" is one that's arbitrary at best, you owe it to yourself to drag this issue out into the light and take a good, hard look at it. You know from your own experience that being nerdy and being horny aren't mutually exclusive, that your sexuality is an enjoyable part of your humanity, and that being judged on it is reductive and insulting. And I'd like you to think about that.
Because the more you do, the closer we get to a future in which beating my face against the wall no longer seems like a really great idea.
Got something to add? Leave it in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.