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Just Because She’s Sexually Liberated Doesn’t Mean She’s Easy

Just Because She’s Sexually Liberated Doesn’t Mean She’s Easy:

“So I Googled you, and you write for Playboy, huh? I read some of your work—really interesting stuff. Nice pictures, too.” His eyes twinkle. It’s a first date. The man sitting across from me has that look in his eye. I know that look. It’s the “This chick is a slam dunk” look. I can almost see him salivating, and it’s not over his $65 steak.

I never really know how to respond to this line of questioning, even when I know it’s coming.

“So you going to use me for research, right?”

Ugh. Puke. I smile politely and push my food around my plate.

He tries to laugh it off, “I’m just kidding.” Yeah right, buddy. I’ve had at least eight variations of this conversation on first dates since I started writing about all things sex. I know he’s partially joking, but I also know that buried within every joke is a kernel of truth—he thinks I’m easy because I’m a proud, sexually liberated slut.

For those of you who are just tuning into this column, I often get naked online. I #freethenipple. I write openly about threesomes, my porn addiction and my love of giving blowjobs. I’m not alone. More and more women are throwing off the shackles of thousands of years of institutionalized sexual repression. More and more people are exploring relationships outside the social norm. In this new era of Tinder, sexting, nude selfies and Fifty Shades of Grey, more women than ever before are exploring the full range of their sexuality.

It wasn’t always this way. If I’ve learned anything from society regarding my sexuality over the years it’s that there is a thin line between sexually liberated and slut. So for a long time—like many women—I was an ashamed slut.

Every woman (and man’s) sexual journey is different, and it’s shaped by so many influences–societal, parental, religious, conscious and subconscious, experiential and theoretical–that by the time you’re fully ready to take charge of your sexuality, untangling the knot in order to make heads or tails of things can prove daunting. Throw in some trauma and/or sexual abuse, and you have the kind of psychological wasteland that made Freud hard.

My sex education started before I even knew it, in Catholic school. It continued in junior high by crusty gym teachers doing their best to explain the dangers of STIs and pregnancy to a roomful of hyperactive, hormonal pre-teens. Most of my early knowledge of sex came from fuzzy porn, Hollywood and the horrifying shock of walking in on my parents. Like most teenage girls, I was taught by my mom to withhold sex. “Don’t be easy,” she would say.

But what is “easy?” The inherent problem with defining “easy” is that the negative connotations associated with the word come from many of the double standards sexual liberation seeks to undo. As a promiscuous woman I’m labeled “easy,” “dirty,” “slut,” “whore” or a host of other nasty names that invoke guilt and shame. If I’m a promiscuous man, I’m a “legend.”

As a promiscuous woman I’m labeled a ‘whore’. If I’m a promiscuous man, I’m a 'legend.’

This double standard bothered me before I could articulate that it was a double standard. In high school I was bullied and slut-shamed by sexually active men and women before I even lost my virginity at 18. It felt unfair, and I reacted to society and my pre-installed Catholic shame by becoming promiscuous. This wasn’t healthy, but I wouldn’t be able to see that for years.

Most of my earliest sexual experiences were drunk and meaningless. Throughout my 20s my sex drive was much higher than my standards. I was having sex AT people. I’ll show you, world. I told myself I was sexually liberated, but in reality I had low self-esteem and a massive chip on my shoulder. I thought I was empowered, but I was really just using my vagina to manipulate men. Instead of something sacred and beautiful, I turned my sexuality into a weapon.

The Madonna/Whore double standard is still alive and well, despite all of our “progress,” and nothing illustrated that more recently than Kim Kardashian’s naked selfie. Men and women took to slut-shaming and mom-shaming her. One of the biggest criticisms was that a woman who was that overtly sexual wasn’t “wife material.” This struck a deep chord with me. A couple of weeks ago I made the mistake of reading some of the comments about my “Naked Manifesto,” and many people, men and women, mentioned that they would never take me home to meet mom or that “it takes a slut to defend a slut.”

When we all judge women for being “easy” or “sluts” we are participating in the idea that a woman owning her sexuality somehow deserves to be shamed. This notion is really only one rung down on the #rapeculture ladder from saying “she deserved it” for wearing those clothes or that a sex worker deserves to be raped.

However, I’d be lying to you if I said that, even at 37, after all the work I’ve done on myself around all of these issues, that reading those comments didn’t upset me. I found myself fighting the same old feelings of shame, rage and unworthiness. Are they right? Does my lack of modesty preclude me from ever finding love? Do I deserve to be publicly shamed for embracing my sexuality?

NO. And that realization is exactly what it means to be “sexually liberated.” For me. I think it’s different for everyone. It started when finally, in my late 20s, I became conscious of all the forces, external and internal, influencing my sexuality and actively took charge of the intelligent pursuit of sexual pleasure. This also meant taking a hard look at my trauma, addiction and how the hyper-sexuality of my youth was really just a defense mechanism. It also meant forgiving myself, and then and ONLY then was I on the road to true liberation. Super fun stuff, right?

I’ll let you in on my dirtiest secret: I haven’t had sex in 2016. In fact, I haven’t slept with anyone since the hot couple back in October. Because, as it took me decades to learn the hard way, you can be sexually liberated and still have standards.

The truth is–I’ve been easy and not been sexually liberated. I’ve been sexually liberated and not been easy. It took me years of work to learn how to be “easy” (fuck whoever I wanted just because I wanted to) and not go into a massive shame spiral. Because the difference between being sexually liberated and easy–is owning it.


Bridget Phetasy is a writer and comic in Los Angeles. Twitter: @BridgetPhetasy.

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