Generally, two things only women can be.
I’ve seldom been a slut–I was never able to say that before, or anything else on the topic of how much of a slut I was or wasn’t, because I never had a definition before that I felt satisfied any kind of consistency (internal or external). However, I have finally lucked out and stumbled across the bestest definition of s-l-u-t evar:
as the awesome Kelly Huegel pointed out, is a female person who has had sex with more people than any one person calling them a slut considers acceptable
Actually, by that definition I may never have been a slut, since as far as I know nobody has ever called me one. However, since the strong possibility always exists for any woman that at some point in time somebody somewhere has called her a slut outside of her hearing, I may have periodically been a slut. The closest I ever came to this face-to-face was the one-and-only-boyfriend-who-ever-asked-me-what-my-number-was, and appeared to be either deeply shocked or deeply impressed by said digit once it was delivered to him. (I returned the favor and asked him for his, and thence learned that his was, oh dear, lower than mine, which likely had some influence on the rather odd number-asking behavior and response to my response.)
I am mostly indifferent to the social construct that is a slut, but given my lack of personal dealings with the meme, I suspect a lot of my indifference stems from my privileged status as generally not being considered one. I have instead spent most of my sexual life married, which has resulted in more frequent accusations of codependency (not true–yes, I have checked with a psychologist on the possibility of that or any other quirks in my cortex–there are quirks, but not that one). I will say I have managed to spend the past five years only married for less than one of them, though I somewhat spoil that by having to admit that I have cohabitated for three.
Which is why I did really enjoy this piece from Jezebel, which has generated (unsuprisingly) all kind of bloggy feedback, both positive and negative. Not because I ever experienced the joys of “sluthood” myself, though I considered the idea on several occasions throughout the years, but because I know what it is to find well into my adult life that I was not only a serial monogamist but that I was a completely unintentional one, with unpleasant psychological results at the ending of the last foray into committed relationshiphood. I also found myself completely burnt out on the emotional roller-coaster ride, though my personal centering solution to this wasn’t to embrace casual sexual encounters. I figured out long ago that I am by nature monogamous, and in spite of the bewildering (to me, anyway–why does anyone care what someone else’s personal consensual sexual preferences are, really..? but oh, silly question–if that were the case, this wouldn’t be the behemoth it is) attempts by some to portray monogamy as unnatural and damaging for everyone. I have to admit, though, that my lack of interest in casual sexual encounters when monogamy is not an issue as everyone involved is totally single has eroded a little over the years. (Why this is, and why I feel I am naturally monogamous in general, is totally worth exploring further and I am gonna do it. Soon. Really!) But it still isn’t much of an interest.
But it’s really old news that only women can be sluts. I have periodically heard in passing, some man or other playfully labeled a “slut,” but it’s pretty meaningless in that context. For women, it can clearly become life-dominating. For Jaclyn Friedman, author of the Jezebel piece that prompted this train of musing, it clearly was as well. Frankly, I find the thought of it exhausting, the burden I and every other woman is supposed to shoulder at puberty (or even before, sometimes) based upon the fact that heterosexual men (the dominant variety) want to have sexual intercourse with us. Besides my history of not having to deal with it much personally, I suspect this exhaustion is the other main reason I am mostly indifferent to the slut meme–I don’t want to think about it. It’s not my problem, dammit! But you know, it is, by virtue of the fact that I am a woman. This is deeply irritating.
So I was already irritated when I continued my perusal of Feministe’s front page and got to this gem:
Diets all around!
Well, here’s some research that can’t possibly be misconstrued: a new study published in The Lancet has documented an association between the amount of weight a mother gains during her pregnancy and the birth weight of her infant. Since birth weight can be used to predict adult BMI, cue the ZOMG! Obesity! commentary. “For babies, studies are just now beginning to show that the effects of tipping the scales at birth may linger throughout life. Many experts suggest that excessive nutrition in pregnancy creates an abnormal uterine environment that permanently changes the baby’s brain, pancreas, fat tissue and other biological systems, said a co-author of the study, Dr. David Ludwig.”
I ate like a pig during both my pregnancies, once I was able to keep food down at all (in other words, not the first trimester or the first half of the second trimester). Though I may actually be insulting pigs by comparing my gestating eating habits to their usual ones. I gained about fifty pounds both times–I kid you not; when I stood on the scale in the delivery room while in the middle of labor with Offspring No. 2, I weighed in at 197 pounds. Not only did I consume vast quantities of food, it was whatever type of food I madly craved at the moment, which was quite the bewildering variety. (Yes, I drank pickle juice straight out of the jar, among other things. Pregnancy is weird. Avoid it until you are 100% sure it and its lifelong semi-autonomous consequences are what you really, really want.) Some of this food was great stuff for anyone, like the cucumber-and-tangerines kick I went on in the eighth month of pregnancy with one kid. Some of this food was not so great, like the french toast obsession I developed in month six or seven with the other kid.
So I starved myself (involuntarily, I assure you, not to mention dehydrated myself badly) for half of both my pregnancies and gorged like food was going to be gone tomorrow for the other half. I gained probably about as much weight as was recommended for the Octomom to put on (nope, neither of my pregnancies were even with twins). And yet–and yet–
Baby no. 1: male, full-term, 7 lbs 15 oz and 21 in. long
Baby no. 2: male, full-term, 7 lbs 15 1/2 oz and 21 in. long
According to kidshealth.org:
Most full-term babies weigh somewhere between 6 pounds, 2 ounces and 9 pounds, 2 ounces. Their average length ranges from 19 to 21 inches.
Hmm. Does the fact that at 5 feet 8 inches, I’m the shortest person in my family, and the only person shorter than me in the kids’ dad’s family is my sister-in-law at 5 feet 7 inches, and that in neither family is there an adult male below 6 feet in height, have anything to do with anything..? But even taking that into account, the kids weren’t outside the average range in length and were comfortably within the average weight.
Well, how about now though…? Maybe my goatlike approach to ingestion during pregnancy had a delayed response–
Baby no. 1: still male, 18 years old. 6 feet 4 inches tall. 160 pounds. (Actually a bit of a problem, as he is only 4 pounds over the underweight limit for an Air Force enlistee of his height. He has been advised by his recruiter to start scarfing down protein and hitting the gym for some weight training.)
Baby no. 2: still male, 13 years old. 5 feet 4 inches tall. 97 pounds. (According to standard charts for the US, this puts him at about the 80th percentile in height and 45th percentile in weight for a boy his age.)
…maybe I’ve starved them since birth, to hide my grotesque fetal abuse?
I know, I know, one piece of anecdata does not a refutation make…but it does make it hard for me personally to really take this seriously. It makes it very easy for me to see it as yet more womanshaming, safely targeting a role that only, indeed, women can and do take–there’s no way at all to slither out of gender-specific blame here, baby!
Let’s give the ladies a rest for a day, folks. Okay?