Feminism / Society & Culture

3 Reasons My Desires Make Me A Whore

Whore's red lipstick.

Although I am always the same person, my chances of being called a whore while wearing red lipstick increase greatly. Why? Because I’m expressing myself.

I know. The word whore hurts to hear. It starts with that cold Wh sound and ends with the R, like a snake in the garden.

The word itself comes from Proto-Germanic etymology (should my studies be correct) and means, literally, “one who desires.” While the word has lent itself to many meanings, it wasn’t always technically pejorative, though our usage as a society sure has been. 

Instead of discussing why I’d like to re-appropriate the word–which, of course, a part of me wants to do–I want to take back the instances in which I’ve been slut-shamed, harassed and punished for being a Human Being born into a female body.

Desire shouldn’t be punishable in most circumstances, and I don’t believe they were punishable in mine.

I DESIRE TAKING MY CLOTHES OFF. I started to dabble in burlesque about two years ago; I started off by taking classes at The New York School of Burlesque. I was always interested in the expression of the naked body as art and canvas; we can use our bodies to tell stories, build confidence and even heal-and burlesque was a form I’d appreciated.I was mostly interested in the idea that I could flick a switch and become object or subject. The crowd cheers for a naked human who is delivering a satirical, funny, archetypal, narrative or simply sensual performance, and those cheers say, “It’s OK. You are accepted.”

But after leaving the club, my eyelashes and glitter still on, my happy Facebook status beaming, “Just stripped out of a sparkly mermaid costume,” I’d get messages from people: “Wow. I didn’t know you did that sort of thing,” “I thought you wrote poetry? I didn’t see you like that. I’m surprised,” and “I didn’t realize you were a stripper.

At times I’d shoot back, “What’s wrong with being a stripper?” or “I do write poetry, but I also like to dance burlesque.” Other times I’d wonder, silently daggered, am I ruining my reputation?

After years I stand firm: hell no I’m not. I’m having fun. I work. I work hard. I create beautiful things. I’m a writer. An editor. An employee. I’m a lover. A daughter. A sister. A friend. And a performer. Get over it. While everyone is having a sissy-fit over my sexual expression, they should know I’m actually carefully examining it academically and more so, simply having fun.

I DESIRE SEX AND SEXUAL DISCUSSION. Something I learned the hard way is that not everyone appreciates an open dialogue on the topic of sex. People weren’t raised in that setting and they’ve never had friends that spoke up about orgasms and anal sex and masturbation. And that is perfectly OK. I can’t expect everyone to be like me; in some cases I’m the shy one.

I am lucky to have a wonderful group of friends and peers that love to talk about sex. However, in some cases when I am publicly sexually open, I’ve been met with backlash or silent judgement.

Case in point: I am acquainted with a small circle of people who I see on a regular basis, and they view sex talk as a sort of faux pas. When my boyfriend and I discuss ‘intimate relations’ publicly, there’s a weird silence.  Now, there is a difference between going totally TMI with your sex and simply talking about sexuality as it relates to the world.

Sure, we’ve been those people, but I’m not talking about that situation. I’ve spoken about my ideas on birth control or pornography or anal sex with or near these people, and they seem to tune-out. Their eyes gloss over and they’ve entered the Offended Zone. Should I have known better? Am I at fault? Should I not make assumptions about others? Of course I shouldn’t. But it’s the after-affect that kills me.They then go and talk about: just what is wrong with Lisa Marie Basile? Does she not care about her body? Is she a slut? Where did she get that mouth?If people could simply ask, “I don’t understand your position. Can you tell me more?” I’d jump on the couch like Tom Cruise on Oprah.

Enough is enough. 

I believe that while sex is an intimate affair, it carries with it the necessary potential to be discussed academically, socioculturally, philosophically and spiritually.  I believe that it is a great, natural and useful thing when it is enjoyed by a consenting group of mature adults who respect one another.

While we take risks when putting our opinions into a public forum (mostly because people-all people-can’t control their love for gossip, learned responses or internalized oppression) I am consistently left wondering why we are so quick to judge and denigrate women based on their sexual choices (i.e, slut shaming) rather than considering them to be a person who makes choices based on feelings and thoughts and information.

If we take a moment to step back and respectfully consider (not necessarily agree with) the human before us, it should do the trick, even if it feels like cognitive dissonance. A little discomfort won’t kill you!
 
I DESIRE TO LOOK ATTRACTIVE. I have spent years debating: Is it OK to want to look good? I have spent years wondering, Am I doing this for society, for men, for other women or for myself?

This is a tricky one, because we hear everything from women who are powerful and secure within themselves don’t need to show off to women who are powerful and secure showcase themselves unapologetically.

Feminism is what we make it for ourselves. There is no right or wrong in most situations. Everything is OK; we can look how we want to look. Period.

For me? I do wear clothes that reveal my body. I enjoy being perceived as a beautiful woman. I enjoy having a sexual magnetism. I don’t feel ashamed of it. So what about street harassment? If I didn’t look so damn slutty I wouldn’t get that sort of attention, right? So, how can I be annoyed with it? Duh.

What’s that? That’s a steaming pile of victim-blaming. I’m pretty sure that if you leave your house looking interesting, revealing or different, human beings are naturally going to take notice; why shouldn’t they? They have eyes and brains. But one of the cooler parts of being a human is that after years or evolution, the cortex has allowed us to make rational decisions.

One of those decisions is simple: don’t abuse people and don’t make them feel uncomfortable. For some reason, however, women are still the exception.

Physically and verbally inserting YOURSELF into OUR private realities because of something WE are wearing that YOU like or judge or desire? Not OK. Looking good isn’t an invite to stare, ogle, touch, harass, chase or abuse a person.

I recognize that a big part of this discussion is cultural and societal. Beliefs and behaviors and ideas will differ throughout communities.

And while this is to be noted, one fact remains: women throughout the ages and throughout these various communities have been called sluts and whores and prostitutes and concubines for being sexually expressive, interested in male behaviors or jobs or simply being or thinking differently from the accepted norm.

We are ruthlessly punished for looking beautiful, dressing well or being flirtatious (or not flirtatious at all! Oh shit!) either by harassment, out-casting or death. We have been drowned, hung, burned at the stake, stoned, raped and acid-maimed.

One should be able to express themselves and be sexual creatures without worrying for their emotional and physical safety.

Three nights ago, I went to dinner with the Luna Luna staff writers. I wore a low-cut leotard and short skirt. I got on the subway and was stared at intensely. When I asked the man to stop, he leaned over me, stared down my shirt and said, “Freedom of looking.”

I said, “You are making me feel uncomfortable. Would you like this done to your mother or sister or daughter?”

Guess what? He called me a whore.

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11 thoughts on “3 Reasons My Desires Make Me A Whore

  1. Pingback: What People Are Searching For When They Find Luna Luna (aka, CREEPY & HILARIOUS) |

  2. I love your carefully-reasoned writing! I also have a question that might sound naive or offensively conservative, but I hope that’s not the case: what do you think is the boundary between benignly appreciating beauty and being leering or creepy? If someone looks for several seconds at someone else because s/he is taken with how beautiful the someone looks, would you consider that leering? Or is your point that regardless of where your “creep” threshold is, you should be vocal when it’s crossed, and it should be respected?

    • Hi Amy! Thanks for reading. I do think there is a giant difference–first of which is that if one DOES reveal general discomfort, you should know enough to stop. If a person’s body language says, “please stop,” that should do the trick. But! there are people who don’t notice, like attention or whatever–the thing is: you should catch yourself before objectifying people. Looking and appreciating (I do it) is one thing. But standing over/staring directly at for long periods of time/expressing rudeness, shaming or harassing when called out? Oh hell no. I guess the threshold for me is staring for a long time…at body parts. And staring even when the person acknowledges you and says, indirectly, via body language, “I’m not cool with this.” Amy, awesome question.

  3. As a red-blooded male that loves women that wear red lipstick and are comfortable with their sexuality, I just want to say: thank you!

    It’s great to see, because this is a side so many women are afraid to show, and it’s great that there are great women like Luna encouraging other women not to be scared of being a beautiful woman. I love it!

    When I see a beautiful woman like described above, I don’t stare, harass, or touch. On occasion, if the vibe is there, I will share my appreciation of her beauty (completely respectfully, of course) and go about my day.

    Since I’ve shown my appreciation, I will go about my day and let the women control the discussion from here :-)

    • I think it’s so important to mention that not EVERY comment made by a man can or should be considered harassment. There are ways to compliment women without being misogynistic, creepy, or just rude, and that is, like you said, by doing it respectfully. A simple “you look really nice” or “I like your style” is (for me at least) not a problem, but it’s super important to read the woman’s body language accurately (i.e. is she interested in speaking to you further? or does she just nod and look away? etc.). It becomes a problem when the comments are disrespectful, looking at women as a sexual object (i.e. “nice tits” or some such garbage), or when there is simply staring (as Lisa mentions above) OR when men persist in their attractions when clearly the woman is not interested.

      Thanks for being an open-minded, logical and — dare I say it — feminist man!

    • Chris, was good to read your reply as I do and feel the same, on very many occasions when I see a lady with either a very pretty blouse, or a wonderful smelling perfume, etc. I will say “excuse me, I just wanted to tell you that color looks great on you” etc. than smile, say have a nice day, and walk away, no additional motive at all. I think too often when a woman goes out looking or smelling nice there is nothing wrong with politely telling her so.

    • Absolutely. This article focuses on the creepy/mean realities that happen every day. I’ve been told a nice, “you look nice,” and it’s been left at that. I’ve also been told “you look nice,” don’t respond and then get a nasty response. While the positive experiences are greatly outweighed by the negative, there are still loads of men that are respectful of women. Since image is the first thing a person registers about another person, and since complimenting them on their image seems easy–I’ll let people do that. I still wish people didn’t come up to me, a total stranger, to comment on my image. A part of me thinks they’re doing it because I’m female and I’m a receptacle for comments and by default the subject of the male gaze, However, I have to continue remembering not every intention is a bad one. Certainly many men have inspired and even influenced me in my perception of the world. I thank them for that.

  4. Bravo! To be honest I would fear going out dressed like that, I do wear mini skirts but I do it with leggings. I do get lots of stares and plenty of guys trying to flirt with me, but that’s about it I think the word whore is beautiful and we should taking back, because it outlines all of the aspects you mention. Sadly we live in a patriarchal society where fear of woman’s sexuality prevails, but we can definitely change that. Now that being said, I love being called a whore by my lover. The word only hurts me when its done intentionally to hurt me by others, but I definitely need to work on that. Powerful and liberating post! I think I love you, :)

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