There Are No Sluts And There Is No Shame

"Simply put, shaming is a sham."

The unseemly clash last week in Parliament between a senator who has argued that adults should be allowed to make their own decisions and the woman whose personal life he called into question must surely be one of the lowest points in the history of Australian politics.

The public dispute has exposed Senator David Leyonhjelm as stubborn, belligerent and lacking any capacity for self-reflection, forced Senator Sarah Hanson-Young to discuss her private life in public, and in doing so has become a plague on the house they both serve.

At the centre of it all is a concept so fraught and problematic that Senator Hanson-Young has been boxed into a position where she has at once had to take a stand against women’s sex lives being used to slur them, while also revealing herself to be shaken and wounded by the attack on her character.

It is a position no woman should ever be forced into.

There is no male equivalent of ‘slut-shaming’ - a phrase so vile in its intention, and yet so ridiculously puritanical in its roots.

The lack of equality in this concept and the power it holds begs closer scrutiny of what the practice sets out to achieve and whether it can be disarmed.

Defined simply it means, as we all understand, a woman who has many casual partners, and has origins, as we all sense, in a more dated perception that such women are of low moral standard, ethically questionable or impure.

What this nonsensical term never reveals, of course, is just who these women are having these dalliances with, because surely those men must fall into the same category.

But from semantic discussions many of us will have had in our youth, we know the equivalent terms for men carry positive connotations of heroism and manliness.

If this brawl were ever about double standards, forsooth this is one.

So, at worst, the term ‘slut’ is a form of control over women’s sexuality that seeks to limit the number of partners they have by imposing a form of social pressure to discourage them from sleeping around.

At best it is a not-so-subtle way for men to bring women down, to humiliate them, and to call into question their character.

Both of which are based on illogical, outdated, unreasonable standards that do not now, and have likely never in the past, fit in with how we all know society works.

The cold hard truth, is that people have sex - women included.

And many will over their long and active lives have sex with multiple partners, and it is generally not a problem, and hopefully it is a barrel-load of fun.

And all of the marketing standards we accept promote it, and a swag of the art we consume depicts it.

And it is probably fair to say that many of the people out there who are not getting their rocks off as often as they’d like, wish they were.

Which makes it hard to deny that the practice of having multiple partners over time is widespread, and a whole lot more accepted than the prudish practice of shaming suggests.

Or simply put, shaming is a sham.

So while it is entirely reasonable that any person - male or female - can expect that their personal life not be dragged into public view in their place of work, and any person subject to such disgraceful behaviour is entitled to call it out, there is also another possible rejoinder.

David Leyonhjelm, why is it that you think a fully consenting, adult woman should not indulge in perfectly legal sex?

And if he’s not willing to make the same prescription for men, then perhaps instead of focusing on other’s perceived misandry, he needs to look at his own view of the opposite sex.

Sarah Hanson-Young Seeks Legal Advice Over 'Reprehensible' Sexist Slur

As for women, the term ‘slut’ is currently an egregious word that crops up in school yards and continues to haunt adult women with a senseless threat of censure.

Perhaps the time has come to reach a consensus on proscribing the word entirely.

Or alternatively we need to own it: instead of trembling indignantly in the face of bullies who seek to control and contain, we could stare them down with a stern, ‘grow up, we’re all adults, and are all entitled to enjoy a good shag.’