Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Jaclyn Friedman Proclaims Herself a Slut

Yesterday I wrote a post about Jaclyn Friedman's discovery of her inner slut. (Scroll down for post and comments.) Apparently, Ms. Friedman took some serious offense to my post and goaded her minions to attack it.

This they dutifully did, in the comments section of the post. Rarely has that section seen such passion or incivility. I am sorry to say that Ms. Friedman's minions are neither great minds nor great wits.

I do, however, appreciate the attention. So, thank you, Jaclyn Friedman. You have earned a follow-up post.

Apparently, her minions' best developed intellectual resource is name calling. If I do not agree that slutty behavior is therapeutic-- which is Friedman's central point-- then I must be a judgmental misogynist or worse.

Apparently, encouraging young women to go out and develop their sluthood shows respect.

Go figure!

To those of us of a more advanced age their comments bring to mind Charles De Gaulle's famous quote: Le reforme, oui; le chienlit, non.

But that is neither here nor there. I do want to reply to some of the arguments raised against my post, but I do not want to bury it in the comments section. So here goes.

I think it fair to say that the word "slut," even used by someone who proudly proclaims herself to be one, still retains a negative emotional charge. That many commenters would think that I, by my lonesome, could define the word or its usage or its connotations is flattering indeed.

If they believe that Friedman and her minions can change the meanings or usages of words by their lonesome, they are suffering an extremely narcissistic illusion.

People still get agitated when you suggest that a woman is a slut, because they understand that words mean something and that labels have consequences.

Clearly, Friedman is trying to remove the negative connotation from the word. She is trying to make sluttiness a positive, liberating, and therapeutic experience.

I would not deny that the connotations of words change over time. The way people use and abuse language often produces subtle, but meaningful, changes.

The way language is used resembles a marketplace. And just like a real market it contains many participants and players. The fact that one person, or small group of people, does not like the connotations attached to a word does not change the way the word is used.

If you believe that your experience is more positive than the word "slut" suggests, then try using a different word.

I agree with Friedman that teenage girls ought not to be hounded to death by being called sluts. I also do not think that they should be sexting or otherwise behaving in ways that might attract the label.

Neither I nor the rest of the patriarchy has very much control over the behavior of teenage girls. I fear that they will read people like Friedman and decide that they should embrace their inner slut. If they do they will suffer unexpected social and romantic consequences. Social consequences that they are ill prepared to deal with.

Should teenage girls be led on by a false promise of liberation into a situation that neither they nor Jaclyn Friedman can control? I think not.

If they know the consequences of their behavior, if they are old enough to understand these consequences, and if they fully understand the consequences of advertising their sluthood, then the choice is freely theirs.

The cold, hard truth is that if you jump in an empty swimming pool you are going to get hurt. If your friends are goading you on, that is not a good thing. If someone comes forth to say that the picture painted on the bottom of the pool creates a mirage that looks like water, he is not trying to spoil your fun, but to protect you.

And trust me, the pool is equally empty whether I say it or not. Reality does not bend to the demands of your ideology.

I find it hard to believe that anyone still believes that advertising your slutty behavior will have no effect on your ability to engage a long term relationship. If they do, then they should simply get out of their cave and try a few moments in the sun.

Friedman understands it. She says so.Why would people defend her article by saying that it does not.

As for some of the specific points, many of which revealed that Friedman's minions do not read very carefully, I did state clearly that Friedman's dry spell antedated the depressive episode that led her to Casual Encounters.

She had experienced that dry spell as a trauma, and thus, had excluded the possibility of doing as Hephzibah Anderson had done.

And yes, I did note clearly that Hephzibah Anderson did not give up all sexual activity, but only gave up coitus. I wrote that she engaged in what used to be called foreplay, but maybe the reference was too opaque or outmoded.

I am not sure what a "straw slut" is or why my response reveals patriarchal propriety. As I just said, and as I said in the post, sluttiness as a pejorative is far more often used by women against women, by girls against girls.

Keep in mind that Friedman suggests that the experience was therapeutic. She felt it was liberating. She encourages others to embrace it.

Caring about what will happen to the girls who follow her down that "primrose path of dalliance" does not feel to me to be an effort to burn anyone "at the stake of patriarchal propriety."

I offer my compliments to the commenter who came up with that phrase, especially since the most famous woman who was burned at the stake, Joan of Arc, was also called La Pucelle. I will leave you all to look that one up too.

As for the notion that someone can take sovereign possession of her sexuality by giving it away for free, I disagree. Unless of course you want to say that Friedman's gesture is a kind of feminist potlatch.

(FYI, potlatch is an Indian custom where two chiefs compete with each other to show who has more riches. They each burn their possessions, to show that, in our terms, they are so rich that they have it to burn.)

As for the person who wanted to know why Friedman is wrong, I did not go into too much detail because Friedman does it herself. She is wrong because her sluttiness and her public proclamation of same throws up an obstacle in the face of her relationship goal.

It is also wrong, as Friedman knows, and as Susan Walsh mentioned in the comments, because it is dangerous behavior. Her musings about an axe murderer suggests that she has a real fear of the possibilities of such casual encounters.

It may not be the best thing in the world to go out and have a casual encounter. It is probably not the worst either. So be it.
But it is worse if you try to overcome your embarrassment by doing it over and over again, to the point where you come to see it as defining who you are.

The worst idea is announcing your new habit to the world and insisting that the world accept it as a good thing.

Until the thought police arrive you cannot have that level of control over the minds of other people. Nor should you even expect to. It is profoundly disrespectful.

I hope that clarifies things.



27 comments:

InquiringPhotographer said...

Serious question, Mr. Schneiderman, are you a licensed psychotherapist?

InquiringPhotographer said...

In your experience, my dear Mr. Schneiderman, is is possible for a person of, shall we say, male persuasion, to be a "slut"?

Inquiring Photographers want to know.

Anonymous said...

is is possible for a person of, shall we say, male persuasion, to be a "slut"?

No, but he can be a womanizer, and that is wretched enough.

Like a slut, womanizers are never happy. It's a pathology: they cause a lot of trouble for their families and friends. They are untrustworthy, unkind and selfish, like sluts.

--Gray

wv: luvpedly. Let's not.

InquiringPhotographer said...

@Gray: Is you name "Mr. Schneiderman"? Didn't think so. I wonder what it like to live in you head. A head that seems to contain a judgement for everyone but yourself. Must be really uncomfortable.

LS said...

A head that seems to contain a judgement for everyone but yourself.

That would be changing the subject. Why don't you address what was said. Oh yeah, ad hominem is always easier to make you look high on the horse.

InquiringPhotographer said...

@LS: Is there something to respond to in Gray's post? Really? All I see there is a judgemental rant, no content of which to speak. I responded via the only avenue that Gray left me.

Amelia said...

I love when misogynists get defensive.

Love, a witless minion

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thanks, Amelia. As they say, anything for love.

Next time, though, please explain the reference to Witless Minion. Not all of us are that conversant with comic book lore.

On a more serious note I do hope that by the time you finish college you will have learned more than name-calling.

InquiringPhotographer said...

Dear Mr. Schneiderman, sir. It is only name calling when it isn't true. Hope that helps.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thanks for all the help, IP.

Let's see if I understand this correctly. A woman who recommends that other women embrace their sluthood is striking a blow for women.

A man who recommends that women respect themselves and their intimacy by not giving it away to strangers... is a misogynist.

Hmmm. It would almost seem to me that you have all gotten it backwards.

Thus, I will repeat, by your standards, IP, it was rank name-calling.

Women who are giving other women dreadfully bad advice should not call anyone a misogynist. Remember the old saw about people who live in glass houses...

InquiringPhotographer said...

Ad hominem warning: My dear Mr. Schneiderman, sir, the impression that I receive from you is of someone who is stuck in a Victorian time-warp and doesn't appear to realize it. WAKE UP! It is 2010, your archaic rules no longer apply.

Anonymous said...

A man who recommends that women respect themselves and their intimacy by not giving it away to strangers... is a man who thinks it is his right to tell a marginalized person with whom he cannot empathize what she should and should not do with her body, shaming her with an archaic and unhealthy sexual social standard, and is therefore a misogynist.

So, yes, Mr. Schneiderman, It looks like you did get it right.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thanks so much, anonymous, for that witty remark.

Let's try it one more time, with feeling.

I am not saying that anyone should not be free to do as she wishes with her body.

Fair?

I am saying that I do not have the power to immunize her against the consequences, both emotional and practical, of her actions.

Nor am I willing to resort to name-calling if someone treats a woman (or a man) differently upon learning some piece of information that said woman (or man) has freely divulged.

Apparently, I am one of the few who recognized that Ms. Friedman had initially felt ashamed and/or embarrassed by her excursion into the world of sluttiness.

I am no surprised that she, however marginalized she is, would simply have a normal human reaction.

I think that the emotion was trying to tell her that sluthood was not for her. I meant to affirm the value of her emotion.

As you cleverly note, I have a limited capacity for empathy, but at least I did not join the chorus that refused to affirm her emotional response.

And, dare I say, for those who feel that I am something of a relic, bring to bear archaic standards, I would remind them that Ms. Friedman evokes the same standard when she says that, obviously, by proclaiming her sluthood to the world, she has taken herself off the fast track to love.

I have to wonder which world she is living in. Or does that mean that the world is full of archaic relics who will come to their senses the minute they are accused by some anonymous commenter of being misogynists.

Anonymous said...

I am saying that I do not have the power to immunize her against the consequences, both emotional and practical, of her actions.

This whole statement is just saturated with snide condescention. It is not your business or your right to "immunize" Jaclyn, or the women of the world from whatever consequences we experience due to our actions. What I see from you is someone who's outwardly giving the appearance of open-mindedness while inwardly sneering at us from atop your high horse. "Go do what you want, ladies, just know that I'M not gonna wait around to save you from the consequences of your wicked ways." Nice.


I think that the emotion was trying to tell her that sluthood was not for her. I meant to affirm the value of her emotion.

And yet, you have no right to "tell" her that sluthood is not for her. That's for her to decide.

Also, the reason Jaclyn felt ashamed when she became more promiscuous, as do many of us women when we venture into that area is not because the act itself is wrong, but that society tells us it is shameful and opinions like yours only help to enforce it.

I also don't see anywhere in her post that states she thinks sluthood has taken her off the track to finding love. Here's a quote from her post saying as much: "It reminds me to enjoy the life I have now, instead of waiting for someone to come start it. It helps me know my heart better, and my libido. It makes me better at communicating about both of them, and much less likely to confuse the two. To my mind, far from ruining me for real love, sluthood is preparing me for it."

Inquiring Photographer said...

"Or does that mean that the world is full of archaic relics who will come to their senses the minute they are accused by some anonymous commenter of being misogynists."

Dear Mr. Schneiderman, sir, does anonymity degrade the value of a statement? Does anyone here know for certain that your real name is "Schneiderman"? It could just as well be an alias or handle. That fact that the person calling you a misogynist is anonymous doesn't make you any less of a misogynist.

Sarah said...

I have to say that I. . .don't find anything wrong with this post. Nothing to argue. I agree with it.

I read the posting that caused all the issues a while ago, and it made no sense to me. Not being now (or ever) a "slut" myself, maybe I just don't understand the mentality.

But what you're saying DOES make sense to me. So there you go.

jaybeeeeeeeee said...

A potlatch is not where the chiefs of native tribes burn their belongings. The entire village/group/tribe/etc. get together and give their belongings to each other. (See wiki for instance: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potlatch) Either way, your use of the term doesn't do much for the argument you appear to be making that Friedman is wrong. A potlatch is a very positive thing.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thanks for the comment, Jaybee.

Here's a definition of potlatch from answers.com: "Literally, ‘giving’. An extravagant festival held by the Indian tribes of the northern Pacific coast, especially the Haida, the Nootka, and the Kwakiutl. The ceremonial destruction or giving away of possessions by chiefs and leading warriors establishes superiority in social or political status, or permits the assumption of inherited rights. One chief might ‘shame’ another by destroying valuable pots, killing slaves, and burning down houses. If the other chief failed either to give away or to destroy more things, then he would lose public esteem. According to legend, the first patlatch was concerned with the exchange of feathers, long regarded as sacred objects by the North American Indians."

That does not mean that it was the best comparison, but the notion of destroying one's goods in a competition between chiefs is certainly part of some potlatch rituals.

Anonymous said...

Aaaaaaah so THAT's what I've been doing wrong all this time. Giving my body away for FREE. Alrighty, but if I charge money, I'm a prostitute. And if I marry before having sex, I may be trapped in an attractionless marriage and end up divorced. But that would be ok, wouldn't it, because women are only good for cleaning and childrearing anyway.
Thank you so much for pointing this out. I'm sure I would have continued on my witless, mindless road quite happily. It's good that we still have pigs like you to keep us in check.

Anonymouse said...

Question the frame. Question why things are what they are. Question how they change. You wrote: "respect themselves and their intimacy by not giving it away to strangers."

What does this mean? Having sex with someone means disrespecting yourself? How so? How does marriage change this? How does commitment change this? Is the answer simply that because society will hurt you for doing something, you should not do it? How hurt do you think the children of interracial marriages were in the 50's and 60's by society's bigotry? Is it by that standard we conduct ourselves? Can sex be disrespectful within marriage? Can it be respectful without?

Question, man, don't just repeat bromides. But because I differ with you, I'm sure you'll label me a minion (turn on the enemy of my enemy is my friend, nu?)

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thanks, anonymous, for showing us all how to misread things.

The statement you quote specifies that it is disrespecting yourself when you give it away to STRANGERS.

Naturally, you forgot that word when you engaged in your little effort at distortion.

Do I really need to explain the difference between sex in a relationship and sex with a stranger?

And wherever did the previous anonymous commenter get the idea that I think that women are only good for cleaning and marriage, or that I am against premarital sex.

Evidently, you have not read much of the blog. For that I will happily forgive you.

The way you all jump to absurd conclusions is breathtaking. Feel free to dispute anything I said. But to attempt to discredit my opinions by introducing extraneous implications does not speak well of you.

Anonymous said...

Slutty behavior in a post fem world.

What really blows my mind is how women stick up for this movement. Like its thier god given right to destroy themselves and feel good about it.

Lets looks at the relation between the decline in morals in modern society compared to the timing of the fem movement. Less women want to raise families, all of a sudden they want to display selfishness and have no concern for the traditional roles they play. If they are so concerned about moving out of this role, they need to have a better plan for replacing the role they once served in society. Our children are suffering, they are being raised by nannies and live ins. Such a sad state of affairs this womans movement has left america in. I understand the original idea of it all, yet it has just gone so far south I wonder if America will recover.

David Simmons said...

Look, I know I'm joining the camp here quite late, but Mr Schneiderman, nice work using your knowledge of indigenous custom to bankroll your argument. It really reflects the elevated nature of your thought that you can quote French, too. It's convinced me that rather than listen to a woman write about what it is to be a woman, I should listen to a man who clearly understands the French and Native Americans, to tell me about women too.

You're probably right, you're not only a mysognist. You also suffer from hubris. And you place the burden upon women to understand that the world sucks. You essentially wish women to be equipped to deal with a harsh, patriarchal world. Good on you. Wise advice.

Except that it's in support of the status quo. Some merely wish to survive. Others, those young, those idealistic, those you judge misguided, those of us... some of us (and yes I'm a man - a bi-man), some of us... we wish to change the world.

It is not wrong to give others hope, even if such advice is dangerous.

It is, however, wrong to set yourself up as an intellectual and to deny your own prejudice, and your own privilege. I sincerely hope you do help people more than you've irritated and offended those of us who disagree with you vehemently.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

You are somewhat late to the party, but I would have happily overlooked the fact if you were able to offering something other than name-calling and invective.

Beyond that minor league rhetorical exercise, you really have nothing to say. I did, in fact, offer a close reading of Friedman's essay, in which I took issue with her conclusions.

In point of fact, a large majority of women take serious issue with her suggestion the way to overcome the pain of a failed relationship is to go to Craigslist Casual Encounters and have a few random anonymous hookups.

Truth is, I listen to those women and grand more credence to their view than I grant to ideologues like Jaclyn Friedman.

David Simmons said...

Okay... well, at the very least, thank you for taking the time to reply, that's much appreciated. I also appreciate that you've clearly given all this a lot of thought, and care very personally about it.

I guess, for me, I find all this somewhat overwhelming to think about (and perhaps the reason I react emotionally, like a lot of other people on the internet). I think sometimes that if I were to ever have kids, especially a daughter, what would I say to her growing up?

On the one hand, it'd be remiss not to warn and guide a child as to the very real dangers of our society. And on the other hand, I have an idealistic hope that a child could grow up, become a teenager and be free to experiment and explore with her friends, in a safe way, free from judgment. But like you and many others have said, how is this possible in days of 'sexting' where a teenager's choices are very, very real.

I'm not sure there are any easy answers to this, and I get the feeling that's one of the points you're arguing. I suspect both you and Friedman care very deeply about such a teenager's freedom, yet come at it from very, very different perspectives.

Thank you again for your words. I did, of course, mean to get under your skin, but also didn't mean to cause any real offence. I'm constantly trying to reevaluate the values with which I was brought up, and toss out the ones no longer relevant, and find or build with others new values that apply to our times.

Rosemary said...

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Anonymous said...

I am a Jaclyn Friedman fan (and a proud male slut) and I have more intelligence and more wits in my pinky finger than you do in your whole entire body, Stuart Schneiderman.

That is a fact.