Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Slut Shamed?

I recently experienced some conflict with a dear friend of mine in regards to a subject that is very important to me. Neither of us is right or wrong in this instance, the situation is complicated and I don’t pretend to have all the answers. This is simply my perspective on events.

So, it finally happened. Something you would think I experience often but oddly don’t, something I write a lot about but often feel impervious to. I was slut shamed. By a close friend, someone I love whom I had always thought encouraged and supported my life choices, because she has always responded that way to me and my stories.

The incident in question was when I fucked Burly Man, the guy with the girlfriend, in the elevator. During the events leading up to the sex itself, my friend had been so encouraging of the whole scenario I figured she was on board with it. She egged us on, telling him not to invite his girlfriend back to her and her boyfriend's place so it could be just the four of us. She all but put out an air mattress and turned off the lights.

After we left her apartment and did the quickie in the elevator, on my drive home I received a text from my friend that simply said "So........."
So, I told her what happened. She wanted details and I provided them, because I know it's thrilling for her and I really don't care to keep anything to myself anymore.

The next day, when I brought up the fact that she had told Burly Man about my blog, she scoffed.
"Well I never thought you'd actually fuck him!"
This stung for a moment, but I wasn’t sure why so I let it go. Later I thought, really? After all the canoodling and groping at the bar and her helping push it further, she didn't think it was even a possibility we might have sex? Truth is, I didn't think we’d actually go through with it either because he seemed pretty adamant about not wanting to cheat on his girlfriend. So I was going to respect that, while respectfully pushing it to the limit. He was the one who stuck his hand down my pants and initiated the kissing that led to fucking in the elevator.

After it happened and I texted her the gory details, she asked,
"How are you?"
“Fine. You know I don't take responsibility for other people's relationships." 
“He should be able to sleep in the same bed with a porn star [and not do anything]," she responded.
I took this to mean she agreed that I wasn’t responsible, that we were on the same page, but when I felt the disapproving vibes coming off of her the next day, I asked her about it.
"Yeah I do disapprove. It went too far."
"What's going too far and why do you get to decide that?" I asked.
"Fucking him in an elevator is going too far!" She laughed through the phone, incredulous that I didn’t obviously see her point. I asked why she had encouraged the hookup if it made her so uncomfortable.
"I can understand it's fun to walk that line," she admitted.
"Don't you see how it's a little crazy that you would encourage me to do it and then disapprove when I actually go through with it?"
She didn't seem to agree that this was a crazy thing to do.

I understood in that moment a couple of things about my friend: that’s she's a person in a long term relationship and it might be fun to live vicariously through me in these moments of wild abandon, but that she maybe has some of her own feelings of guilt about actually living out these fantasies. My problem was, why hadn't she told me she wasn't okay with it beforehand, but also why was she making this my issue? I don't have a boyfriend, and Burly Man's relationship with someone I don't even know is not my problem. I didn't understand under what moral code I was meant to feel guilty for this and why it's okay to want to fuck someone else and cheat on your significant other but the second you act on those impulses you've done something bad. Isn't wanting to do it cheating in itself and following through on it just the natural progression?

I asked why she had never told me before that she disapproved of my life choices.
"I didn't want to hurt your feelings,” she said. “I didn't want to slut shame you." I wondered why it would even occur to her to slut shame me, why I was being slut shamed now for doing something that in my eyes was not a bad thing. Something I didn’t feel bad about then, and I still don’t now. Why should I hold myself accountable for anyone else's moral compass, even hers, which I never before realized bent this way?

In the moment I felt good about this conversation, I felt good that we’d cleared the air between us and set some things straight. But upon further reflection, I realized I was pretty angry and felt wronged by what had transpired. I also realized I was really sad because I felt a great trust had been broken that I wasn't sure we could get back, now that I knew I was being secretly judged by my friend.

The day after this talk, I headed to Portland for a month. Arriving in this new city, I thought I would be filled with wonder and excitement. Instead I felt depressed. I wandered the streets trying to get out of my head, but found myself back where I started. Within a couple days, I got more sick than I have been for as long as I can remember and was bedridden for four days. During these four days, I sweated profusely and moaned, my body aching to the point that I couldn’t stand up. I crawled to the bathroom and threw up and then lay on the floor staring at the ceiling. I felt like absolute shit, but coming out of the sickness was like coming out of an exorcism and I felt oddly cleansed. Like I needed to purge my body and get back to zero in order to move on from this emotional ordeal.

I’ve thought a lot about what happened with my friend and how initially it didn’t feel that bad, how it was subtle enough to sort of fly under the radar, only to emerge with these intense feelings of anger and frustration. And I started to really wonder why women do this to one another. Why we constantly judge one another, but also why we hold single women responsible for other people’s relationships. Why are we so quick to call another woman a “homewrecker,” as though the man in the scenario had no choice, or no self-control, so it’s up to the single woman to hold the line? That’s one of the great benefits of being single—not being beholden to anyone else’s feelings or the rules of a partnership, so why should I take on that responsibility for someone I don’t even know? Maybe I can’t control myself either, maybe women should be allowed to be as impulsive as men are allowed to be. Why are we supposed to always stand on the moral high ground?

I remember what it was like to be in a relationship, to deny certain impulses in order to stay in that relationship past when I maybe should have. I think we all do that—we don’t admit to certain things in ourselves or in the person we’re with until we’re ready to maybe let those things go, or let the relationship go. I guess what I would wish for myself for my next relationship is that I would demand honesty of myself and my partner and have the kind of relationship where I don’t need to keep my desires and fantasies a shameful secret. I don’t know if that’s possible—I haven’t been in a relationship for four years and in that time my views on all of this have changed immensely.

I feel like I have my own moral code and it has a lot more to do with honesty than it does with being “faithful” or “moral” or “good.” I think truth and honesty are harder and nobler goals than any of these things combined. I think we should be honest about our human impulses. And look at them, and talk about them. Rather than sweeping them under the rug and pretending they’re not there. Once we look at these human impulses and moments of vulnerability, we can start to accept ourselves for who we are and forgive each other a little bit more.