Why Queer Women Cannot, By Definition, Be Sluts


There’s a crucial difference between a straight slut and a queer slut, and it’s the shame factor. But it’s not shame in the way you might think.

Presumably, queer women who are cool with calling themselves a “slut” base their queer-sluthood on number of partners -– such is the case in Jaclyn Friedman’s recent heat-scoring piece “My Sluthood, Myself,” in which Friedman assesses her straight-slutting on the same terms she does her casual sex with women -– in her estimation, it all adds up to one big slutty statistic. But I’d argue that when it comes to gauging one’s overall sluttiness, volume of sex is secondary to what those partners are packing.

The issue isn’t one of moralistic shading; I’m all about pussy in the same way I’m all about dick, albeit in different amounts, and as a non-idiot I’d never suggest that a girl who goes both ways should grow up and “choose already.” What I will suggest is that this thing of “slut” — so easy now to take on and cast ourselves as, to very simply describe the activity of a lot of fucking — be reconsidered or clarified, because “slut” doesn’t exist as an idea without its association with shame. This is why there’s no original analog for a “male slut,” why we have to dredge up horrible jargon like “himbo” and “man-whore.” These all provocative-on-purpose jokes cannot be taken as seriously as to call a woman a “slut.” They’re less sincere, more ironic, somewhere along the lines of Megan Fox saying, “Suck my dick.” (And we only say that because there’s no good way for women to casually communicate their own aggression without bringing male genitals into it. But that’s another discussion).

A slut without shame is not a slut at all, and a queer slut is, mostly, freed from all of the still-in-effect stigmas and judgments of straight straight-up sluts. This is because the shame of “slut” is specifically about the fear and subsequent judgment of women making themselves available and in some ways vulnerable to men. But we’re not so much worried about a so-called slut’s emotional well-being as we are afraid of her being used up, spoiled, pregnant with a fatherless baby — because all of that stuff is bad for women, individually and collectively.

But these fears don’t — can’t, really — translate to the lesbian community. And perhaps it’s because of that that gay and bisexual women are “allowed” more than the straight girls. The virtue and bodies and numbers (the numbers!) of straight women are still — errantly and irrationally — made to be everybody’s business. But in the canon of queer-girl narratives (be them public or amongst friends or within a community), a lot of sex with a lot of people is understood to be normal and important, a dominant rule of self-discovery.

Unlike the heterosexual slut, representations of queer sluts are understood to be sexy, uncomplicated and explorative (Laurel Canyon). Or just brutally masculine (Shane on the L Word). Or just there for faux-artistic boner-making (Chloe). It’s understood that there’s pleasure happening throughout all of this, but it’s safe, educational, and importantly not destructive in the way that girl-on-guy slut-stuff always will be to the shamers. And so any busy queer girl is not a slut. Because no matter how readily we reclaim words like dyke or whore or cunt or whatever, there are other people who say these words and mean them, and they mean them not for us. They mean these words in another way, a way that is hard and unforgiving and reserved for a different kind of girl. And there’s still a lot more of them than there are us.

Kate Carraway is the Senior Writer at EYE Weekly. Follow her on Twitter at @katecarraway.

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Earlier: My Sluthood, Myself

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