Have you ever noticed that men who sleep with a variety of women, moving from one conquest to the next, are often admired while women who engage in the same behavior are branded as ‘sluts?’ We noticed it, too, back in 1999 when Scandalous began as a Yahoo! Club. Many who stumbled upon that fledgling online community were appalled. Some in the BDSM community labled us “Femdom lite.” Others in the swinging community shunned us for taking too much power out of the hands of men in the arena of open relationships specifically and female sexuality in general.
Yet they, and we, were unaware that an entire social and political mini-movement was bubbling under the international psyche – one that created a brand new component of feminism that seemed tailor-made for Scandalous.Sex-positive Feminism, sometimes called stiletto feminism, lipstick feminism, and slut-feminism, is a movement that was formed in the early 1980s and centers on the idea that sexual freedom is an essential component of women’s freedom. Some believe it is a natural progression from the sexual revolution of the 60s. Others declare it is a back-lash against the conservative movement that has endeavored to put limits on what women can and cannot do sexually.
An article from 2000 in Time featuring the cast of “Sex and the City” drew some attention to this phenomenon. The August 2000 issue of George magazine also featured it, calling this a “new kind of feminism.” It described the “Stiletto Feminist” as the woman who “embraces easy expressions of sexuality that enhances rather than detracts from women’s freedom.” Recent and current popular manifestations are Sex and the City, Lipstick Jungle, Cashmere Mafia, Mistresses, and strong sexual female characters on other shows.
Sex-positive feminism, as demonstrated above, is very prevalent in the media. There is no shortage of role models for the intelligent and sexually aware female. Dr. Susan Hopkins, a Lecturer in The School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Queensland, wrote a cultural analysis of the contemporary archetype of the stiletto feminist in popular culture in her book Girl Heroes. As developed and inspired by the Spice Girls and their vision of Girl Power, girl heroes (both real and fictional) are self-controlled, successful, feminine characters, who are often sexually aware. In addition to the Spice Girls, Hopkins explores the roles of Britney Spears; supermodels; Lara Croft; Xena; the Charlie’s Angels of the 2000s; Sabrina, the Teenage Witch; Mulan; The Powerpuff Girls; and Buffy The Vampire Slayer in developing this new image which informs and inspires pro-active, strong, and empowered behavior in young women.
Girl Heroes draws comparisons between these images and earlier, similar ones, such as those created by Emma Peel of The Avengers, the 1970s television show Wonder Woman, Madonna and the Charlie’s Angels of the 1970s, pointing out the relative independence of this archetype from male, parental, or even peer support. (source)
Beyond the realm of fictional kick-ass chicks and pop superstars is the real world. A book that takes on the practical application of sex-positive feminism is The Ethical Slut: A Guide to Infinite Sexual Possibilities by Dossie Easton and Catherine A. Liszt. It is credited with raising awareness of the possibility of consensual non-monogamy as a lifestyle, and providing practical guidance on how such long term relationships work and are put into practice.
The authors define the term slut as “a person… who has the courage to lead life according to the radical proposition that sex is nice and pleasure is good for you.” The term is reclaimed from its usual use as an insult and is used to signify a person who is accepting of their enjoyment of sex and the pleasure of intimacy with others. The book discusses how to live an active life with multiple concurrent sexual relationships.
And no mention of that book would be complete without a shoutout to Judith Brandt’s The 50 Mile Rule, which gives practical lessons to the woman who might stray from time to time away from the watchful eye of her husband of partner and get away with it. For as Jaclyn Friedman said, ““a slut is someone, usually a woman, who’s stepped outside of the very narrow lane that good girls are supposed to stay within. Sluts are loud. We’re messy.” And, she says, we’re “having more sex than you.”
Scandalous.com attempts to be the online presence for the sex-positive feminist, yet she is hard to define. She’s more than a media creation. She’s a wife, mother, sister, girlfriend. She could be your daughter. The Libertine in the NY Press give as good a definition as any. The Scandalous woman is a sexually charged being—sexually driven, sexually inspired and most definitely sexually open… She delights in the dance of seduction, revels in the thrill of romance and rejoices in the ecstasy of tingling sensations. All this she indulges without ever losing her cool, elusive demeanor. She is never overbearing, clingy or cloying. She knows when the moment is hers, and she knows when it has escaped. She knows when it is not there at all, and she knows that if there is no moment, there is no point. She lives for the moments—moments of connection, seduction, surrender, conquest. When she says something as forward as, “You make me wet” or “He’s always a great fuck” or even the sweet double entendre of “Thank you for coming. I do hope you come again soon,” she is bold and proud, yet graceful.
She may be a romantic dreamer, a cynic, a femme fatale, a goddess, a voyeur, an exhibitionist. She can be candid, cold, aloof, manipulative, intimidating, kinky, mysterious, seductive, dominant, submissive, loving and generous. No matter what she may be at any given moment, she is always authentic…
She may be cruel at times, but her cruelty is a result of honesty… She will never say, “I’ll be faithful, darling. I only want to be with you now and forever!” She can say, however, “I only want to be with you, right now,” if that is indeed the truth of the moment. Yet, the person who hears these words is foolish to assume that they extend beyond the moment or imply exclusivity.
She has few inhibitions. (I may go so far as to say that she has none.) By conforming to the standards of modern sexual practice, she is clean, safe, and takes reasonable precautions, but she is not excessively worried about the possibility of undesirable consequences. She would rather enjoy the risk of having multiple sex partners than miss the pleasures of varied sexual experience. Her safe practice gives her peace of mind, and she does not dwell on the horrors of possibility.
She understands that dishonesty and deception are far more painful than the open awareness that you are not her one and only sex partner. She may be cruel, but she has compassion, and is free. At least, freedom is her desire, her lifelong quest: free to experience, free to roam, free to love, free to leave. Free from guilt, jealousy and deception. Free with others and free within her self.