Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Finding Her Inner Slut

In all honesty, I rarely use the word "slut." And not just because it is more commonly used by women to refer to other women. I don't use it because there is no good reason to resort to name-calling.

Now, Jaclyn Friedman has not only given us permission to call her a slut, but she has fully accepted and embraced her recently-acquired sluthood.

Having discovered the uses of sluttiness in her mid-thirties Friedman has chosen to tell us all about it, and even to proclaim that the experience was therapeutic. She entitled her article, "My Sluthood, Myself," taking off on the old feminist classic, "Our Bodies, Ourselves," but forgetting that for most people sluthood does not involve taking control of one's body, but giving it away. But why quibble.

Friedman's is not a cautionary tale about the wages of sin. It defends the practice by claiming that sluttiness has conferred extraordinary psychological benefits.

She knows that writing her story is going to cause some pain to those near and dear, is going to hold her up to some level of public disapproval, and is going to render her goal of finding true love that much more difficult to attain.

Nevertheless, she lets it all hang out, because she has found a higher calling. She wants all of the young women out there to embrace their own inner sluttiness.

In a sense Friedman is martyring herself for a cause, and attempting to lure young women into going home with men they don't know to explore their sexuality and liberate themselves from....

Friedman does not say it, but women who engage in these behaviors most often liberate themselves from their modesty and dignity. But why quibble.

Friedman is not martyring herself for just any cause. She is a card-carrying feminist and is helping to recruit young women into her own cause.

For anyone who is still puzzled by how it happens that so many young women have chosen to participate in the hookup culture, Friedman provides more evidence that feminists have been encouraging the behavior. Not all feminists, of course, but more than enough to influence young women.

For the purposes of this blog, the more important question is whether this behavior is really as therapeutic as Friedman claims it is?

More importantly, it offers an opportunity to address another crucial issue: when someone like Friedman has undergone what she calls "good long term therapy" that has helped her "to heal at a deeper level" how does she then deal with romantic adversity, with a lost love?

When we are asking about the results that anyone can expect from therapy, we not asking whether the patient feels better or believes in her treatment. We really need to know what coping skills she has learned and how she uses them the next time she finds herself in a difficult situation.

It is fair to mention that Friedman tells us that she was a victim of sexual violence, and that she still finds herself acting as though her behavior were a function of the trauma.

Still, we are within our rights to examine her public exposure of the way she dealt with the loss of a relationship that she had believed was going to be forever.

Let's offer a counterpoint, an alternative, to Friedman's approach to her pain. You may have seen or heard of Hephzibah Anderson's new book Chastened. You may also recall my post on same: Link here.

Like Friedman, Anderson was dealing with romantic adversity. She was feeling that something was wrong, and that she had lost touch with her feminine side.

To heal herself and to recover her womanhood, she decided to suffer a year without coitus. It was a year containing relationships, romance, and even some of what is commonly called foreplay. It did not include sexual intercourse.

Anderson found it an enriching experience, on many levels.

Friedman took a different tack. Feeling lost and alone, seemingly lacking in resources to deal with a breakup, she threw herself back into dating like someone who was desperate.

In her words: "A I crawled out of the acute grief stage of my breakup and into the Land of Reboundia, I launched myself somewhat full-throttle into dating. It was comforting to me to find that there were other people I found appealing who felt similarly about me. But each person I'd meet, if there was any kind of a click at all, I'd throw myself at them whole-hog, wanting so badly for them to be The One that proved I wouldn't have to die alone with a shriveled-up vagina and no cats... And then... when something would inevitably go wrong, however or silly or minor, however nascent the connection was, it would feel overwhelming. Like I was dying. Like I was broken all over again."

The despair is palpable. So is the vulgarity.Less clear is the fact that acting out of despair is never a good tactic. Even less clear is the fact that Friedman was clearly jumping the proverbial gun with these relationships. She had had sex before the relationships had had time to develop.

Such connections are rarely sustained.

Yet, she does not step back and ask what she might have been doing wrong. She seems to believe that if she sleeps with a man he ought to become The One, and thus to love her forever.

In the end, she seems to have fallen into severe doubt about her own sexual attractiveness. Where Anderson profited from a year without sex, Friedman had had a very different reaction to an eighteen month dry spell, one that had occurred before her most recent and most traumatic breakup.

In her words: "Didn't feel too good. Made me feel like I would never be touched or loved again. Made me feel, in a word, desperate. You know what's not a great emotional state for making important life decisions? Desperation."

Anderson was worried that no one would lover her again. And she believed that her sexual adventurousness was making her less than lovable.

Friedman was worried that no one would ever want to have sex with her again. Her previous experience had told her that she could not handle chastity. Therefore she did not turn to chastity, but to Craigslist Casual Encounters.

Was she acting out of desperation? According to her own testimony, she was. But she needed to feel that someone wanted her, no matter how gross they were, no matter how little she wanted them.

At the least, one can say that therapy did not provide her with very many skills for appraising her situation and acting in a way that did not affirm her desperation.

Friedman was thinking, not that something was better than nothing, but that just about anything was better than nothing.

Amazingly enough, Friedman believes that her newly discovered sluttiness will free her from entering into "another committed relationship just to satisfy my basic need for sex and affection." She continues: "It gives me more choices, it makes room for relationships to evolve organically, to take the shape they will before anyone defines them."

Of course, that is also what Anderson was trying to achieve. And we will have to say, if you believe that feelings are everything, then Friedman is expressing her feelings and her wishes accurately.

Unfortunately, her chances of developing a long term relationship after publishing a confession of how much of a slut she is are slim indeed. And they are made even slimmer still by the fact that she seems to be suggesting that while she is allowing a relationship to develop organically, she might still be indulging her inner slut through Craigslist Casual Encounters.

Therapy seems to have taught her to get in touch with her feelings. But it also seems to have lured her into mistaking her feelings for reality.

But, she might reply, she knows it herself, better than you and I.

Maybe so. But there's knowing and there's knowing. Friedman does not know it well enough to prevent herself from engaging in the ultimately self-defeating rebranding of herself as a slut.

I should mention that when Friedman has her first and sexually successful hookup-- though she never uses that term-- she does not feel all that good about herself.

She discovers that in order to maintain her sluthood, she needs a merry band of enablers.

In her words: "... sluthood requires support. Because any woman who indulges these urges carries with her a lifetime of censure and threat. That's a loud chorus to overcome. A slut needs a posse who finds her exploits almost as delicious as she finds them herself, who cares about her safety and her stories and her happiness but not one whit about her virtue. A slut alone is a slut in difficulty, possibly in danger."

As I said, these other women are enabling a bad habit.

Surely, it is Friedman's right to do as she pleases with her own sexuality. I still find it offensive for her to encourage young women to follow the same path. At that point, she is not just a slut, but she is an enabler.

I suppose it proves the truth of the old saying: Misery loves company.

25 comments:

LS said...

At least whores charge money for their services. /sarcasm off

Seriously, what empty, empty souls.

The Angry Swan said...

I'd rather be an empty soul than a hateful, judgmental misogynist.

Octopunchy said...

"Unfortunately, her chances of developing a long term relationship after publishing a confession of how much of a slut she is are slim indeed"

Listen, your retrograde, judgmental, paternalistic attitude may be depressingly common, but being an outspoken "slut" is hardly the kiss of death you imagine it to be. In fact, I wager that more people would be turned off a potential mate by a long-winded diatribe about the evils of feminism and casual sex than they would by a story like Jacklyn's.

helen said...

I would encourage everyone who's just read Schneiderman's terribly written, self-serving drivel to actually read Friedman's article -- because this entire critique is based on a complete misreading of what she actually said. His confusing distortion of the timeline of her "sluthood" enables him to then distort her discussion of feeling desperate; in the original article, it results in a failed two-year relationship, and the "sluthood" comes several years later, after a different relationship. Just sayin'.

Mr. James said...

What, pray, is your advice for all the sports "heros" who assault multiple women with abandon? Is it permissible, in your world, where Victorian/Georgian values rule supreme, for men to have multiple, anonymous partners?

Anonymous said...

Well I'm not a judgemental misogynist with paternalistic Victorian attitudes like Bad Ol' Stuart:

I would help Jaclyn stay in touch with her inner slut by banging her upside down after she fellated me for a while.

In my bad-ol-days, I tore through women like this. Not many were Demons in the Sack. They were more caught up with the "sluttiness" of it all rather than top-shelf sex.

You just keep "empowering" yourself and we bad guys will keep porking you silly for our own amusement.

Maybe you can't be Mrs Right, but you can certainly be Ms Right Now!

--Gray

Jennifer said...

i really wish i had something intelligent to say however all i can muster up right now is that you and this piece and your "psychology" are really fucking funny. and not funny "ha ha". funny as in the "i feel bad for you."

Anonymous said...

You imply that Anderson's (polar opposite) approach is the only valid one. As a "coach" you should surely have worked with enough people to realize that a one-size-fits-all approach to anything is neither constructive nor even useful.

Unless, of course, this is simply a vehicle for ideologically derived values. In which case, carry on; there is nothing to be gained from conversation.

-- B. (yes, that one).

Anonymous said...

Fat girls don't have the same pick of partners that smaller women seem to, though I've been pleasantly surprised and moved that there are more people out there who are attracted to me than I'd thought.

AHAHAHAHAHA!!!

In the bad-ol-days, we used to "go piggin" for that kinda stuff.

Very empowering, I'm sure....

As a "coach" you should surely have worked with enough people to realize that a one-size-fits-all approach to anything is neither constructive nor even useful.

-- B. (yes, that one).


Well, you certainly fit-into-her well enough that she felt "empowered" a few times. I guess that was constructive and useful.

Of course she did go back to women, so not that constructive and useful, I suppose.

Hey, B, you used ideologically derived values to pork her. No whining about it now--it cuts both ways: The pen is mightier than the pork-sword and yours is apparently mighty....

wv: jehah the female gender of Jehad.

--Gray

Anonymous said...

No, Gray, you're just a judgmental misogynist who thinks that making hate-fucking threats is a laugh.

Anonymous said...

I was helping her stay in touch with her inner slut because I care. Deeply....

I certainly don't hate her: She's a slut and admits she likes to get boned my anonymous men.

I'm helping her. I'm empowering her by recognizing, and not being judgemental about, her "sluthood". It's a beautiful thing.

--Gray

Anonymous said...

Oh Gray - you're one of *those*. No biggie, I don't feed trolls. But I bet you were the crazy kid at school: the one that didn't understand the difference between kicking a puppy and drowning one.

--B

Anonymous said...

I'm glad we could come to an understanding, B.

If that is your real name....

--Gray

matttbastard said...

Where to begin?

Well, let's start with the bio of our esteemed host. Schneiderman proclaims himself to be a "Life Coach, Executive Coach, Relationship Coach Writer". How he manages to do all this without even a whistle or an Adidas track suit (let alone any original insight) is beyond me -- but who am I to judge, seeing as that is apparently Schneiderman's self-appointed duty?

He did, after all, apparently write the book on shame.

And indeed it is a cryin' shame that the good folks at Knopf actually wasted precious wood pulp on such self-righteous, buzz-word-laden drivel.

Still, one has to admire such a picture-perfect example of the virgin-whore dichotomy in action. If only Coach Schneiderman had the ethical cojones to actually address the meat of Friedman's post, instead of misappropriating passages completely out of context to construct a straw-slut for him to subsequently burn at the stake of patriarchal propriety (while simultaneously lauding the chaste virtue of secondary-virginal Hephzibah Anderson).

See, Coach, some of us are actually empowered (yes, empowered) by the notion of someone taking full possession of their sovereign bodily landscape. And whether that involves exploring mutual carnal delight, or shunning it, the point is this: it is the choice of the individual, and their choice alone.

So, with all due respect, Coach, please find another platform to launch rote misogynistic missives couched in pseudo-intellectual armchair psychology. 'Cause your tired shtick is worse than the sound of one hand clapping.

It's the sound of you sucking your own dick.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Stuart: quit wrecking the fun for guys like Matttbastard.

See, Coach, some of us are actually empowered (yes, empowered) by the notion of someone taking full possession of their sovereign bodily landscape.

Do you know how many times he's gotten laid with that spiel?!

(golf clap)

(eww... don't say "clap")

--Gray

Susan Walsh said...

Wow, I'm quite taken aback by the vulgarity and vitriol being spewed here. Did all the haters find this via a pingback at Jezebel?

What I found most profoundly disturbing was her trolling for sex in Casual Encounters. As she hurriedly gets ready minutes after placing her ad, she keeps repeating the mantra that the guy is probably an axe murderer. A reasonable fear, and one with precedent. I wonder what inspires that kind of self-flagellation?

Jaclyn Friedman is looking for Mr. Goodbar (that was a novel and 1977 flick for you youngsters). I hope she doesn't find him.

BStu said...

I'm really struggling to know how to even respond to this screed. It struck me, though, that you never really said why her choices are wrong. You never bothered to explain your central thesis. So what can I really respond to if you don't know it yourself. You clearly disapprove, but you coat that judgementalness in paragraph after paragraph of vacant nothingness. She's just wrong. You won't say why. You won't say how. You won't say how it will have consequences. That's quite a word count to convey utterly nothing.

matttbastard said...

I'd encourage "Gray" to try and replicate Coach Schneiderman's admirable prowess at self-fellating, except he might give himself chlamydia.

Anonymous said...

She's just wrong. You won't say why. You won't say how. You won't say how it will have consequences.

Y'know, I think that is a great point: They may actually not know!

I was enjoying making sport, but now I feel kinda bad for them all. They are just groping their way into the future.

You just can't fill a void inside with a greater variety of things that hurt you. You can deny the hurt, and even make a virtue of the pleasures one uses to numb the hurt, but it will just hurt you and others in the end.

I've looked into too many eyes of women who were just worn out from temporary carnal pleasures; there is just nobody left.

They aren't empowered, they are just used up. Indeed, I was happy to use them.

The perverse mental rationalization it takes to turn that use into "empowerment" is a handicap to a fulfilling life.

Sorry I'm being a killjoy. I had my fun and there are plenty of guys like B and Matttbastard who are having their fun now, "empowering" women.

Nevermind. You go girl!

--Gray

Anonymous said...

Um, Hephzibah said on the Colbert Report that she had a very "liberal" definition of what she could do while "chastened". She basically only limited herself from sex, but kept the "anything but..."

So don't consider her some lady of virtue to compare "sluts" to. She still could've been plenty slutty without traditional intercourse.

Jersey Guy said...

Dear Mr. Schneiderman, sir, in exactly what century is it that you are living?

Respectfully
JG.

Jersey said...

@"--Gray" There doesn't appear to be a speck of Gray about you. You certainly view the world through a black and white viewfinder. Sad, that.

Condolences,
JG.

(queer)bitch said...

congratulations for completely misconstruing the entire piece, and doing exactly what she discussed in her article: slut-shame. whether or not I choose to go out and do the same is not important, but I will defend any woman's choice to be a "slut".

THIS:

The Angry Swan said...

I'd rather be an empty soul than a hateful, judgmental misogynist.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thanks all, for the spirited discussion. If you have not noticed, I have responded to some of the more interesting points in a post yesterday, entitled: Jaclyn Friedman proclaims herself a slut.

I am going to post again on the topic raised by (queer)bitch-- slut shaming-- today at some time.

So, stay tuned.

sex shop discreto said...

So, I don't actually believe this will have effect.