Sunday 26 October 2014

Colette Browne: Why no-strings sex remains the ultimate sin for women

Published 23/07/2013 | 05:00

Even the most intimate online comments can go viral in a nanosecond, especially in a world where social media is all-pervasive
Even the most intimate online comments can go viral in a nanosecond, especially in a world where social media is all-pervasive

AYOUNG woman who claimed to have had a threesome with two Irish rugby players was horrified when a Facebook message she sent her friend about the alleged encounter went viral.

According to reports, she has left the country after being subjected to a stream of vitriolic abuse from scandalised strangers when details of the private conversation were published.

So far, so mortifying. While consenting adults are free to engage in whatever sexual proclivities they desire, the reaction to the story online has been depressingly predictable. She is a slut. The rugby players are studs.

"Your dad would be so proud," is one of the nicer unsolicited messages she has received.

Despite the advances made by the women's movement over many decades, Neanderthal attitudes to sex haven't changed much since Eve was first demonised for giving into temptation in the Garden of Eden. Eve's mortal sin was eating an apple. For the 21st century single woman, the ultimate sin is no-strings sex.

Slut shaming is one of the last remaining gender stigmas and its persistence in the wake of three waves of feminism, spanning more than 100 years, suggests it has a cockroach-like resilience to modernity.

Men who engage in casual sex are treated to high fives and backslaps, but the women they sleep with are denigrated as whores and trollops.

Women don't even have to have sex to be a slut. Anyone who eschews wearing a burka in favour of a dress and a pair of heels can be accused of dressing like a slut. If you engage in chitchat with men in a bar, in what is deemed to be too flirtatious a fashion, you risk acting like a slut.

Last year an American student who had the temerity to suggest that contraceptives should be paid for by health insurers was described as a slut by conservative shock jock, and chauvinist pig, Rush Limbaugh. The self-appointed slut police are all around.

Even women who suffer sexual assaults and rape are denigrated as sluts. Our victim-blaming rape culture tells them they were asking for it.

A 2008 Red C opinion poll found that nearly 40pc of people believe a woman is to blame for her own rape if she flirts with a man, 33pc think women are responsible if they wear provocative clothing and an especially dense 10pc feel that women who have multiple sexual partners are entirely at fault – if you say yes to one man, it apparently confers a right on the rest of the male species to have sex with you on a whim.

Idiotic as this sounds, the evidence of these antediluvian attitudes abound. Young men are encouraged to sow their wild oats while they're free and single and then settle down with a "nice" girl – the ones who initially resisted their advances by remaining chaste and wearing a chastity belt.

For women, sex, unless it's with a long-term partner, is deemed dirty, dangerous and damaging. Virginity is referred to as something you lose, not something that is given away.

The message is increasingly conflicted. Popular culture lionises hypersexualised images of women while at the same time mythologising abstinence as purity. Women are told to look sexually available at all times but punished if they have casual sex.

An inconsequential one-night stand is an oxymoron because a woman's worth is a function of the number of sexual partners she has had, totally divorced from trifling things like professional qualifications and personal attributes. The more you have, the more debased you become.

Men who have sex are deemed to have won while women are said to have "given in" and, by extension, lost.

But sex isn't a zero sum game and as the numbers of single women continues to increase – young women today are five times more likely to be single than 40 years ago – antiquated attitudes will have to evolve.

So, if you want to have a threesome with a couple of rugby players, go right ahead. Just make sure that when you brag about it to your friends on Facebook, the security settings of your account are properly set.

Irish Independent

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