July 27, 2010
A recent blog post from Feministe encouraged women to embrace their inner slut. I thought it was a fun and interesting spin on an age-old double standard. I’m sure some people were offended by the moral implications, but many more in the comment section felt empowered. Sort of like Black people embracing the “N” word. This was horny women throwing off the shackles of a puritanical society.
I certainly have no problem with women having more guilt-free sex. I’ve often encouraged it. But where I fell off the bandwagon was when the author admitted she was sexually assaulted. It gave me a moment of pause, not to condemn but pause for concern. Certainly, I can understand wanting to let it all hang out, especially after the end of an emotionally grueling relationship. I can even understand the need for space to emotionally heal. Just not sure if copious amounts of sex is the way to do it.
Don’t get me wrong, I think survivors should have as much sex as the next gal. More power and more condoms to you. But the fact is sexual trauma can create an unhealthy relationship with sex. And that can ruin a survivor’s chance at learning to deal with intimacy and even impede recovery, especially when the survivor confuses sex with intimacy. Especially, if the woman has a taste for emotionally unavailable men or needs to be emotionally detached/drunk to enjoy sex. So for me, the issue is not so much the amount of sex being had, it’s the way these women relate to it.
In her defense, the author also mentions she was in therapy for a long time. But any therapist will tell you that sexual promiscuity is an adverse effect of sexual assault. This is not so much a moral judgment as it is a medical one. So I don’t know if it’s the right message to be sending other women who have been sexually assaulted. It’s sort of like asking alcoholics to embrace a keg of beer or telling a rageoholic to just go with it.
Maybe we should ask if those women are having sex for the wrong reasons. – Are they using sex to create self-worth? Are they having sex with multiple partners to get back at an ex? Are they using sex as a way to avoid intimacy and sabotage relationships? If a relationship ended because of infidelity, should the person be racing to sleep with the next person who gives them attention? Isn’t casual sex reinforcing self-destructive behaviors?
And then comes the issue of needing time and space to heal after a long term relationship. Wouldn’t time for reflection and time to work on issues be more productive (albeit less fun) than having sex? The same applies to serial daters or people who jump from one relationship to another. We all need time to assess and rebuild. By jumping into the arms of another right away, aren’t you essentially depriving yourself of this opportunity to heal and grow? And if you’re a survivor of trauma, don’t you need even more time to heal?
The author had mentioned breaking a dry spell, so clearly she had taken time out to work on herself. But many survivors do not. Many are so frightened of being alone, they use sex and rebound relationships as a quick fix. They fear being alone because that means being alone with their thoughts. And that means having to deal with difficult issues and troubling memories. Seems like I read somewhere that, in order to be strong enough for a relationship, you have to be strong enough to be alone.
Yeah, we all have a right to make bad decisions. I’ve abused that right on numerous occasions. But as good as it feels to have someone validate our bad decisions, is it the right thing to do? Sex should be had frequently but when it becomes yet another way for someone to avoid taking responsibility for your own behavior and mental health that’s when I have to question priorities.
Sexual liberation should be embraced, but not at the expense of self-liberation. Sex should be guilt-free, but does that mean free of responsibility? Maybe those who are suffering from trauma should settle some personal issues before they go jumping in the sack with every Tom, Dick and Mary. Just sayin.