The Ethical Slut

EvilSlutClique's picture

We recently got a copy of the new revised and updated edition of The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy to review, because...well, we're us. Although we were familiar with the book, none of us had ever actually read the first edition, which obviously was a huge oversight being that we're Evil Sluts and all. So, a big thank you to the awesome people at Eden Fantasys for hooking us up so that we could remedy the situation.

Let's start with the obvious. Of course we're all on board with the idea of reclaiming the word slut and refueling it with new, positive intentions, so there was plenty for us to like right away in the book.

In most of the world, “slut” is a highly offensive term, used to describe a woman whose sexuality is voracious, indiscriminate, and shameful. It’s interesting to note that the analogous word “stud,” used to describe a highly sexual man, is often a term of approval and envy. If you ask about a man’s morals, you will probably hear about his honesty, loyalty, integrity, and high principles. When you ask about a woman’s morals, you are more likely to hear about whom she shares sex with, and under what conditions. We have a problem with this. 

So we are proud to reclaim the word “slut” as a term of approval, even endearment. To us, a slut is a person of any gender who celebrates sexuality according to the radical proposition that sex is nice and pleasure is good for you. Sluts may choose to have solo sex or to get cozy with the Fifth Fleet. They may be heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual, radical activists or peaceful suburbanites.

Our approach to a sex-positive language is to reclaim the original English words and, by using them as positive descriptors, wash them clean. Hence our adoption of the word “slut.”

The authors also break down a lot of the common myths and judgments about sluts - they're sinful and "indiscriminate", they have no respect for themselves or their partners, they have some psychological issue that needs to be resolved, and so on. They also challenge some of the conventional wisdom out there about relationships, like the idea that "long-term monogamous relationships are the only real relationships". On the flip side, they make it clear that being an ethical slut is not necessarily about being someone who has sex with lots of people - it's a state of mind: "...sluthood lives in the brain, not between the legs, and can fit comfortably and joyously into whatever consensual sexual and relationship pattern you choose."

There are a bunch of exercises throughout the book that are geared towards helping you rethink and clarify your own beliefs about sluts, sex, love, and relationships. This one might be our favorite:

Exercise: Sluts We Know And Love Make a list of all the people you can think of who are not monogamous, including characters from TV, movies, books, and so on. How do you feel about each of them? What can you learn (positive or negative) from him or her?

You already know that we enjoy dissecting a good slut-shaming pop culture moment, so this is right up our alley. (The list that we made just might pop up as a separate post soon, so stay tuned.)

The authors really emphasize that they want the book to be used as a tool that helps people to come to their own conclusions about what works best for them:

This chapter contains some of our beliefs. You get to have beliefs of your own. What matters to us is not that you agree with us, but that you question the prevailing paradigm and decide for yourself what you believe. Exercise your judgment—isn’t exercise supposed to make you stronger? Thousands and thousands of ethical sluts are proving every day that the old “everybody knows” myths don’t have to be true.

We like the fact that they're not trying to replace one set of one-size-must-fit-all Relationship Rules with another. They're giving you guidelines that can help you write your own rules. (Although they rarely use the term "rules" because it implies a rigidity, opting instead for "agreements".)

The biggest issue that we had with the book was more about what the authors didn't address. The chapter on "Battling Sex Negativity" is only five pages long, and the bulk of it is spent describing examples of negativity rather than giving advice on how to actually battle it. The advice itself is mostly stuff like 'don't tell your boss about your ethical sluthood because it might cause problems in the workplace' and that sort of thing. While they're right to point out that there aren't too many "equal rights for sluts" laws out there, so these issues are important, we felt like this was more "avoiding/hiding from sex negativity" than battling it. We felt this chapter should have been longer and covered a wider variety of issues related to sex negativity. We live in a society where slut-shaming is common and accepted and practically a hobby for some people. Where young women commit suicide because of endless harassment over things like "sexting". So it would have been nice to see a more in-depth exploration of the different ways that sex negativity can manifest itself, with more pro-active advice on how to respond.

We also had concerns about one small part of the section on childrearing. The authors claim that children of ethical sluts will benefit from having extra adults in their lives, but at the same time they also believe that short-term relationships are just as important/special/meaningful as long-term ones. While we agree with both of these points separately, we have to wonder if it's a good idea for young children to develop strong attachments to people who may only be in their lives temporarily. Obviously, every child is different and every family dynamic is different, but it would have been nice if this issue was also addressed.

Overall, we would recommend The Ethical Slut. You can get something out of this book even if you have no interest at all in polyamory - the advice about issues like jealousy, communication, and how to understand and take responsibility for your own feelings can be applied to many different kinds of relationships. Ultimately, the book raises a lot of questions and challenges a lot of assumptions about relationships, sex, and love. Has anyone else read this book? What did you think? Even if you haven't read it, feel free to share your thoughts on the concept of ethical sluthood in general, because you know we're always up for a good slut debate!

 
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Comments

thanks to you sluts...

arvan's picture
5

I am actually going to read my copy of the book.  I've got a few initial thoughts on the subject, but I'll wait until after I read the book to see how or if my thinking may alter on the subject.

Great review.  Thanks,

-arvan

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