Updated: May 11
As a freshman in college, I was in the throes of falling deeply in love for the first time. Since I was 19 years old and grew up Evangelical, that also meant I had definitely found my husband. We had only been dating for a few months, but I was sure of his soon-to-be-husband status, so I did what I had been prepared to do ever since my first kiss that wasn’t him: deliver my Litany of Lust Action. Then pray this exceptional man of God would still date me after knowing the depths of my sin.
I told my boyfriend about every person with whom I’d ever kissed and/or made out and/or gone to other bases. I don't remember him even caring that much. But when he responded with having only kissed 2 people compared to my (probably) 12, I was crushed. The only thing worse than being a virgin ho is being more of a virgin ho than your male significant other.
I left that conversation and sobbed-walked to my dorm. The realest walk of shame you ever did see.
There is no one person or leader who is responsible for the makeout history Ted Talk I felt I had to present to my boyfriend that day. But I do remember these ideas being mostly enforced by women in my life. The very real female fear of being labeled a slut transcended generations. At home, in school, and at church -- it was drilled into my head the worst thing to be as a woman (besides “difficult”) was being with too many men sexually and/or romantically.
What is the point of going to therapy if you can’t share it with your mother?
My Abstinence teacher at school taught that one day, I would fall in love. And did I really want to have to tell my husband all the men I’d been involved with before him? The less ghosts of yestersex things = the more desirable I would be to my future husband. Therefore, at all costs, keep ghosts of yestersex things to a minimum.
At home, my mom would refer to her high school self as a slut. She’d tell us stories of what a party girl she was and all the guys she dated. So when my dad, the goody goody golden boy of the county liked her, she was shocked. I mean, How could a boy so good like a girl so “bad?” Good men don’t want slutty women.
Now, when my mother and I discuss purity rings and other topics in my blog, she’ll still say things like “I just didn’t want you to be a slut like me.” “Mom,” I will frustratingly shoot back, “you were not a slut! You were probably just doing very normal teenager things!”
Unfortunately, I was born into this world a horny, excitable, over-sharing, romantic boy-liker
And then I go down the rabbit hole of explaining to mom that her belief of unworthiness around receiving my dad’s pure Christian boy love and that he kind of saved her from her slutiness was passed down to me to unpack in therapy and also in this blog post. I know I know, I’m exhausting. But what is the point of going to therapy if you can’t share it with your mother? #happymothersday
At a girls only youth group event, I remember listening to a married woman panel. The women discussed how, thinking about their husbands even kissing anyone previous to their matrimony, made them sick to their stomachs. They would have preferred if no women other than themselves were ever physically involved in their husband’s lives.
The message was that any amount of emotional or sexual connection I had with a man outside of marriage, cheapens the connection I’d have with my future husband. How could he feel special if I’m just willy-nilly throwing around crushes, kisses, and the occasional boob fondle?
Unfortunately, I was born into this world a horny, excitable, over-sharing, romantic boy-liker. So I was really up against the odds on this one.
Six years old is my earliest memory of getting really excited about a boy. I was at the GA (General Association, an annual event held for Baptist pastors) with my family, hanging out with the other soon-to-be-traumatized preacher’s kids. There was a boy named Michael who made up love songs about me the entire day. I blushed and ran away to play Pretty Pretty Princess.
Just kidding. I definitely indulged Michael’s kindergarten advances. Show me all the attention, 6 year old lover boy.
“Boy crazy”, “ho,” and “slut” are just words/ideas to make women feel bad or shameful about things that are 1000% normal
Throughout junior high and high school, I earned the title “boy crazy.” Not because I had a ton of boyfriends, I had exactly two. I was too afraid to date anyone who wouldn’t become my husband, so I just had a lot of crushes and talked about them non-stop. When giddily discussing recent attraction interactions with my friends, they’d say things like “Sorry, we just can’t keep up with all your boys, Mattie.” or “Yeah we need index cards or something.”
I remember knowing “boy crazy” was supposed to be an insult, but I didn’t know why. It’s not as if I was acting on my Mary-Kate and Ashley-kiss-a-new-boy-every-family-vacation lusts. What was wrong with just liking boys? Did these bitches REALLY not like boys as much as I did? The answer is, they absolutely did. I just talked about it more because discretion has never been in my wheelhouse.
When I became sexually active as a single woman in New York City, I wasn't sure how to avoid becoming the grown up sex-having version of boy crazy -- a ho. But I tried, still living in fear that if I had tooooo many partners, I would be deemed undesirable by the opposite sex. Even in my adult life, I found myself making romantic and sexual decisions based on a pretend man’s opinion of me.
For way too many years, in an effort to mitigate my ho status, I slept with someone who did not value or respect me, let alone prioritize me in the bedroom. As a sexually desiring single woman, I chose to sleep with ONE person long term who totally sucked and was not good to me, rather than indulge integrated, celebratory, respect-full sexual experiences on the regular with maybe (probably) different partners.
When I fell in love for the first time in my adult life, a friend of mine commented “Oh he’s foreign. So he doesn’t, like ‘get it.’”
“What do you mean?” I replied.
“Well, he’s not American. So he probably sees you as a novelty and doesn’t really grasp your whole like... blog, outspoken, sex positive thing.”
Ah, of course! The only reason a man could fall in love with a sex-positive, outspoken me is because he was foreign and “didn’t get it.”
As I've become more secure in who I am/went to therapy, I got to the root of this name-calling.
First of all, I don't hold anything against the women in my life who have subtly or aggressively enforced slut-shaming. They learned harmful messages around female behavior and value, internalized it, and then projected it onto me. I am certain I have done the same thing to young women in my past at some point as well.
So just know that if you've ever been on the receiving end of this name-calling, it's not personal. It has way more to do with whatever the person calling you the name/inferring about you is going through than your actions. Live ya life, try anal (somebody write that on a mug to sell at Marshalls).
Second of all, "boy crazy”, “ho,” and “slut" are just words/ideas to make me feel bad or shameful about things that are 1000% normal:
-Excitement in attraction
-Excitement about enjoying attraction and sex
Or perhaps most problematic:
-Expressing their joy in attraction and sex
I feel joy and excitement around things all the time. 30 Rock. Rose`. Spandex that don’t give me a vagina wedgie. Why am I made to feel shameful and deeply flawed for my excitement around sexual attraction but not 30 Rock? Who decided one was the cause of being an undesirable woman and the other is funny background noise?
Furthermore, these names taught me to operate on some external perception of me, rather than prioritizing and operating from my perception of me. I had to teach myself to default to my view of me, rather than someone else's (even if that someone else was a pretend person or the God of the Universe). And look, I do believe there are times when it's important to see yourself through the lens of someone else; we all have blind spots. But I'm thinking it should never be the lens of a "future husband" whose ego is so fragile he can’t bear the idea that I have so much as liked another man besides him. If there’s a filter in which I’m going to sift my self-perception, it will be of a real person I respect and admire, not...that.
Lastly, being involved with "a lot of men" has never cheapened connections with men whom I've truly loved. When you love a person, you love them. You aren't thinking about their ghosts of yestersex. That's fucking stupid.
Okay and actually lastly...all of this doesn't mean I'm not not selective. It just means maybe my sex sifting process is different than how society says I should sex sift (you can read more about that here and here), and that's entirely okay.
I no longer feel shame around the fact that I enjoy attraction. That I find sex and dating and relationship fun, or that I speak about it publicly. And I certainly do not think this makes me unlovable/undesirable.
If I’m boy crazy for being excited about relating to men, maybe I am boy crazy. If I’m a ho for wanting and indulging my wants, maybe I am a ho. If allowing myself to experience the spectrum of feels in this wild ride called being human elicits name-calling, call me the names. I see myself through my lens, and that’s the one that matters.