This is an old post, but worth repeating.
I am so tired of us 'sexy-shaming' women.
If you haven't done it, you've seen it. Judging women for dressing too sexy, or acting too sexy, or dancing too sexy, or being in a line of work that we consider sexual, or doing things we associate with sex. And if you're a woman, chances are you've made excuses for yourself for looking or acting or being sexy. "I didn't realize this dress was so tight!" "I had no idea these shoes made me look like a hooker!" "I was only dirty-dancing because I was drunk!"
It's old, people. I'm really tired of it.
I really started thinking about this when I saw a thread on a hula-hooping facebook page. Most of the participants in this group are young women, much younger than me. One of them shared a comment someone left on a picture of video of her hooping that insinuated that she was being sexual. She defended herself, saying "Don't make hooping sexual!" The ensuing discussion consisted mostly of people saying either "hooping isn't slutty" or "haters gonna hate", but my thought is this: so fucking what? So what if her hooping is sexy? Women are sexy! It's part of our nature, and it's been so for ages, even before Salome had poor John's head served up on a plate. Granted when I hoop there's nothing sexy about it. I'm lucky when I can keep the hoop going around my hips and throw in a few tricks--adding sex appeal would be nothing short of disastrous. But if I could hoop sexily? Then heck yeah I would! So does that make me a slut?
The obvious answer is no. But that doesn't stop the pervasive judgement. perpetuated by a conflicted society that bombards us with pictures of barely legal lithe girls in undergarments and touts them as sexy, and then turns their noses up at strippers. When I started belly dancing, years and years ago, people judged me for it. After all, you're half-naked, gyrating your hips around. Doesn't this make you a slut? I made excuses, concessions. I didn't dance in restaurants for men--I danced as an art form. I was sensual, not sexual. I kept all my lady parts safely tucked away. MY belly dancing wasn't slutty. But truth was, when I danced I felt sexy. Very, very sexy. No matter what I wore or who I danced in front of--even when I danced alone--I felt hella sexy.
So did that make me a slut? How about when I started pole dancing? Again, I was surprised at the judgement, especially by other women but by men as well. Again, the defenses: It's athletic! It's basically aerial gymnastics. It's not like I'm stripping while I do it! You can't wear a lot of clothes or your skin won't stick to the pole! But once again, the truth was buried beneath the defense. While I liked the acrobatic parts of the sport, I loved the sexy part of the dance. It made me feel beautiful, alive, sinuous, sensual, and yes--sexy. My clothes got skimpier and sexier. I danced in heels. I emulated strippers and their hypnotic seductive moves.
So is that where I became a slut? No. And here's the bottom line, which we need to be reminded of again and again and again---dancing sexy does not make one a slut. Dressing skimpy does not make one a slut. Stripping for a living does not make one a slut. Sleeping with consenting adults does not make one a slut. No matter where, when, or how many.
But slut-shaming is pervasive, so pervasive that I know I lost some of you in that last paragraph. Our culture really wants to hang onto the notion that women are not supposed to do what they want with their bodies, and that women who do should be scorned and judged. So we make excuses for ourselves when we do things that could be perceived as slutty. Or we avoid doing such things completely to avoid judgement.
All those Halloween costumes we scoff at--sexy nurse! Sexy zombie! Sexy pirate! That's in all of us, every day, in real life. Sexy doctors. Sexy lawyers. Sexy EMTs. Sexy chefs. Sexy professors. Sexy baristas. Sexy CEOS, accountants, dancers, graphic artists, stay-at-home moms. We don't need a silly costume once a year to be sexy. We just need to be who we are, comfortable in our own skin, doing our own thing. For some of us, that might mean dancing in 5 inch heels. For others, that might mean wearing comfortable clothes and reading a book. But let's stop the judgement, of ourselves and of each other, for being sexual beings.
So go ahead and be sexy. Wear what makes you feel good, move in ways that make you feel good. Sleep with who you want to, when you want to. But be safe about it. Know that the judgement is not going away. Protect yourself. Don't put yourself in unsafe situations. Be as sexy as you want to be, and when you hide the sexy side from those who will use it to hurt you, do it not because you are ashamed of it, but because you are strong and smart and safe.
For as long as she can remember, Lisa Litberg has loved to write. Over the years she has amassed quite a collection of short stories and poetry. Free is her first novel. Ms. Litberg has been a high school teacher for nearly twenty years and helps empower her urban students with the power of the written word. Currently she is working on a short story compilation geared toward urban youth, as well as her second novel, which will answer her readers' questions about what happened to Free.