In July, Jaclyn Friedman posted an essay on Feministe entitled “My Sluthood, Myself.” Among the responses was a piece by Susan Walsh, the gist of which seemed to be that Ms. Friedman’s search for sexual novelty would be harmful to her own well being, and probably a bad example for others, given what we now know about oxytocin. However, while amateur psychoanalysis is good clean fun, “relationship science” hasn’t entirely discredited the hookup, apparently.
As to Ms. Walsh’s reply, what stood out was the following:
“Women who… do not embrace a life of sluthood, are indeed left alone by many men. That’s a good thing in some ways, but terribly disappointing in others. Very few women embrace the notion of receiving zero male attention once word gets out that they are not slutty. They cannot compete with determined sluts in the marketplace among these men. Sexually discriminating women have every reason to withhold support from sluts. Sluts are wreaking havoc on the supply side.”
To say that sluts are wreaking havoc on the supply side is to buy into an awful idea about relations between men and women. Notably, that women supply sex, that men are the demand side of the equation, and that, by implication, men are “civilized” by judicious withholding and rewarding with sex by sexually discriminating women. Indeed, Ms. Walsh’s idea of male sexuality as uncivilized is expressed in the way she describes the “havoc” caused by sluthood: Women who do not embrace a life of sluthood are left alone by many men, she says, and “That’s a good thing in some ways, but terribly disappointing in others.”
“Leave him alone!” is an imperative statement most often directed at the schoolyard bully. When Ms. Walsh says that non-slutty women are left alone by many men, she is to some degree comparing the bully and the sexually active man. And when she says “That’s good in some ways, but terribly disappointing in others,” what is she saying, exactly? She seems to imply that male sexuality – which a woman may be terribly disappointed to miss – is inherently bullying and aggressive in nature and men will only be civilized if sexual “rewards” are parceled out in penny-packets by sexually discriminating woman.