the underpants to prove it
July 9, 2002 04:04 PM

I've always been a proponent of letting people define their sexual identities however they like. If you'd like to define yourself as gay, straight, otherwise queer: fine with me. I know that's not the prevailing attitude, it's not very queer-correct. Meaning. The assumption that you can define your sexuality as you like creates the possibility of preference as a choice, not some sort of birthright, which in turn opens up a political hole for the moralistic to decide that the only non-hellfire-inducing choice is heterosexuality.

And who wants more hellfire talk, right?

Still, part of my feminism equals choice theory is the choice to define yourself at any point on the sliding scales of sexuality [your sexual practices] and sexual preference [your gender preference(s)]. And the origin of my theory likely has a lot to do with having allowed other people to define these things for me at times.

Bisexuality is a giant metaphorical wrench. In many ways, it has become a pop culture phenomenon over the past decade(ish). It carries connotations of nascent feminism, pre-homosexuality (as a dear friend often called it, "fence sitting"), sexual experimentation, counterculture lifestyles, and just plain sluttiness. [As if "sluttiness" were even a concept that should be allowed to be valid.] And it's not even particularly well defined. Is it a practice? A preference? A stopping off point on the way to something else, something with crisp and crackling boundaries?

The reactions in college were typically of three types: dismissive, fascinated or discouraging. Admitted bisexuality made me a queer dilettante, an object of intrigue for the sexually repressed, a slut. Being a late-blooming experimenter and flirt compounded all of the above. Being a girl compounded everything [not necessarily badly].

I was told I was a slut, and I suppose I was. I'm not even sure I know what a "slut" is. Other than, I suppose, a woman whose sexual behaviour doesn't meet other's expectations somehow. Maybe she's too outspoken, too queer, too flirtatious. Maybe she has full breasts at age twelve. Maybe she's just not like the people around her; we all know difference is scary.

In the 1940's-60's, being a "slut" meant you were a bad housekeeper. It was rather commonly used slang, and I was tickled to see Stephen King pick it up in Hearts in Atlantis (he probably got it from Barbara Kingsolver.

Whatever it means, being a slut wasn't completely bad. In a way, it was a license. Except - it was a license that wasn't backed up with any sort of understanding on my part. The truth - I didn't know much about sex. I didn't know how to talk about it. I really didn't even have much of it. And a slut is assumed to know things. This license could have made me brazen, made me comfortable. But it mostly just made me complicit in my own embarassment.

It made me silent.

I'm still hesitant to talk about sex seriously, non-theoretically. I'm even more hesitant to talk about sexual preferences. I like girls. But I've also been in a monogamous, straight relationship for years. Does that mean I have to turn my queer membership card in? Did I ever have one?

I don't know.

What I do know is. I'm keeping the slut card. If being sexually different makes me a slut, aren't we all sluts? I'm working on being the kind of slut who can talk openly about what she wants and not hesitate to get it. And I've got the underpants to prove it.

Besides, I've always been a terrible housekeeper.

This entry was brought to you by We Have Brains, a feminist collaborative writing project for all us sluts.

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