Sid on Sex: Instead of Slut Shaming, Let’s Embrace the Label

Sid Azmi: Sid on Sex and Slut Shaming
Photo courtesy Tatum Mangus.

Sid Azmi is the owner of Please New York, an educated pleasure shop in Brooklyn. Her column “Sid on Sex” explores her daily revelations gained helping all kinds of women lead satisfying, joyful sex lives. This month: What if instead of slut shaming, we could proudly own our hard-earned right to pleasure?

I am a slut.

When I refer to myself as one, I am talking about a woman who has worked long and hard to give herself permission to experience pleasure on her own terms.

Before I was a slut, I was a young girl who experienced sexual trauma, who became a young woman who had to manage a partner’s sexual anorexia. I was the daughter of a culture and religion that exempts women from feeling pleasure. I was a mother who suffered post-birth complications that made it painful to even want sex, let alone have it.

 
Why is the word “slut” so derogatory?
 

I earned the permission and the right to fuck and to say that I enjoy fucking.

However, when society refers to me as a slut, it is usually meant to degrade. It is often used to devalue my worth as a woman and a human, by manipulating through words my sexual openness. Suddenly, my person becomes less respectable; my morals become questionable.

Why is the word “slut” so derogatory? How does being sexually liberated, accepting of and open to sex affect one’s integrity as a person? Does being a slut make me a less thoughtful writer? Does it make me less caring towards the patients I see every day? Does it affect my ability to lead or to make sound decisions for my small business? Does it cause me to be a perverted parent? Does it make me less able, as a partner, to give and receive love? It is as though the word “slut” annihilates all goodness within a person.

 
Our bodies, our pleasure, our orgasms are all immediately accessible to us. So why don’t we start there?
 

It is habitual for society to fear, shame and disregard what it does not understand. In doing sex work, sex workers—sluts, from all different dimensions of sexuality—experience this judgment and yet they trudge on daily to destigmatize, neutralize and make accessible something we all secretly and innately desire. Because society loves and hates sluts at the same time. It admires our ability to deflect shame and to provide us all with a safe space to share, but it also detests us for the strength and boldness that make us sexually alluring.

In fact, I believe that having the self-assurance to comfortably and respectfully refer to oneself as a slut is an act of radical feminism. As feminists, we are fighting constantly for equality in socioeconomic status, and yet we are slow to state our sexual desires, boundaries, preferences and indulgences. Our bodies, our pleasure, our orgasms are all immediately accessible to us. So why don’t we start there? We have the privacy and freedom to explore what gives our bodies pleasure, and yet we shame masturbation. We have the voice to tell our partners what we want and don’t want in a relationship, yet we shame open conversations about sex during a dinner date (“good” girls don’t initiate sex or conversations about sex). We are told to aim for executive positions, yet we can’t tell our partners that we prefer being on top (because our clitoris and g-spot are simultaneously stimulated), and this is really how most of us get off during penetration. We are encouraged to speak up for equal treatment professionally, and yet we shame ourselves into not being to tell our partners, “Sex doesn’t end with your orgasm, it ends when both of us say it does.” What if, instead of shaming sluts, we start looking up to these individuals as radically empowered women we should all aspire to be?

If feminism is a way for us women to collectively come together to better our state as women, starting with being more open and sharing about our sex lives amongst ourselves might empower us on a whole different level. What if friends, sisters, mothers, aunts, grandmothers and mothers-in-law started speaking about their sex lives? Wouldn’t we have a better, more realistic model of what sex actually looks like? It might help us feel more free, normal and accepting of ourselves as women and as people, and more compassionate towards others. Simply hanging out with another slut can make our lives better.

Clearly, this article is not expecting that every woman who declares herself a feminist must embrace the term “slut” as one of the identities in the rich dynamic of her person. But what if we were to stop and catch ourselves when we found the word “slut” slipping off our tongues to negatively comment on a woman we don’t really know? That would be a splendid start. Shame is a form of oppression. Oppression is a means of discrimination. What if we all challenged ourselves to use this word only in the positive connotation of it—someone who is sexually empowered? Vocabulary informs our perception. In choosing our words, we are choosing our principles, habits and attitudes over time. I have yet to hear anyone say that they don’t want to be agents of their sexual lives.

 
I love to fuck! This is the privilege of being a slut—to be openly explicit about the perceived “illicit.”
 

As a slut, I can self-assuredly and openly proclaim what so many—women, men, people of different gender identities and racial, economic, cultural and religious backgrounds, single, partnered, parents or childless—feel. I love to fuck! This is the privilege of being a slut—to be openly explicit about the perceived “illicit” adventures of sex. I believe that sex is intimate, but not illicit. It is the one activity during which all the parts of my person converge to bring out the incredible human that I am. I am receptive and assertive, vulnerable and invulnerable, free and bound, fluid and inflexible, adorable yet still a cunt, playful and serious. Because we exist within the wide spectrum of polarities that contain our identities, it almost feels like during fucking, I am wholesome. Each time I plunge into this space of joyful abandon with my partner whom I love dearly, the woman, lover, friend, relative, mother and boss that I am make me an incredible slut, and it works the other way around too!

So feel free to call me slut anytime, however that term carries its meaning for you. Sluts will always take it as a compliment and feel grateful for the richness that our sexual awareness has brought into our lives.