Fastened To A Dying Animal
The reaction to Jaclyn’s My Sluthood, Myself (also at Feministe, and at Jezebel) has been overwhelmingly positive. It has consisted mostly of women offering support, many saying they’ve had very similar experiences. There have been a lot of these comments. It is obvious that Jaclyn’s essay touched a nerve with a lot of readers, and that as she often does she said things that needed to be said, but that others were not saying.
There have been a few reactions the other way. I’m not linking, because they’ve mostly come from people who are so unimportant that I would unduly raise their profile. Anyway, what they have to say is mostly predictable, so it can be effectively summarized: women who have sex outside approved patriarchal guidelines are broken, and nobody will ever love them, and they’ll die alone.
I’ve written before that the biggest arguments used by forces opposing sexual self-determination are the threat of disease and the threat of unwanted pregnancy. That’s a unifying thread in the culture wars over birth control, abortion, and sex education. Yet those threats have consistently failed to hold back a tide of progress. They know they’re losing, and they need another argument.
Their replacement argument is the “you’re broken and you’ll never find love” argument. They’ve been making it at least since the beginning of the second wave, but it has gained prominence in the last ten years or so. The other two arguments have failed with time because the world has changed and technology and culture have given women substantially more (though far from sufficient and not at all equally distributed) ability to avoid infection and unwanted pregnancy. The third argument, while not dependent on technology, is even more tied to a social order that is passing away.
The proponents of “sluts die alone” want us to believe that their position is based in nature and immutable, but the evidence for that is just shit. The ability to be successful in a long term romantic relationship, monogamous or not, is not dependent on number of previous sex partners. I’ve successfully stuck to the agreement my spouse and I made over a decade ago, having had plenty of previous partners, and know many people with similar experiences, so it’s impossible to convince me otherwise. I doubt there’s any peer-reviewed experimental science to that effect, either. Folks with more partners may not want monogamy or even long-term romantic partnerships at the same rate as others, but there’s no reason to believe they can’t find or maintain them.
The major problem with their argument, you see, is that it’s just not true, and if all the folks who had their multipartner fun and then found a great romance and a partner to share a life with (whether monogamous or not) would stand up and be counted, the whole argument would shatter. The more we speak, the easier it is to see through.
(The title is from Yeats’s Sailing To Byzantium, which is also the source of the title for No Country For Old Men.)