My name is Danielle and I’m a prude.
It isn’t that fun. I wish I were. Like most prudes my prudishness has more to do with how I was raised than it does with any real right or wrong ideologies. Being a prude is no more correct than being wild, uninhibited and outré. But being a prude is rooted in the idea that prudishness will save you from … something.
Unwanted attention? Society’s scorn? Perverts? No one’s ever been super clear on which horrors I’m avoiding by avoiding overt sexuality. Having fun? I’ve definitely avoided having fun. Mostly out of fear that fun would lead to something terrible.
Terrible things happen to women who like to have fun. Or at least that’s what gets drilled into your head when you’re raised a prude. From the opera “Carmen” to Tyler Perry’s “Temptation” to the film adaptation of Zane’s “Addicted” if you are a woman and you want to be in control of your sexuality, something terrible will happen. You will get strangled by your lover. You will get HIV. You will lose your family and all you hold dear. Your libido is dangerous, shouts all of popular culture – a woman’s libido must be controlled otherwise … society collapses? We all go to hell? Again, no one’s really all that specific. Women have been wilding out since women could wild out and society has trudged along. And while cinema, literature, operas are all about women who must “pay” somehow for their agency, the reality isn’t that clear cut. Especially in a dating environment where the woman who is the most aggressive is more likely to get better dating choices than all of us delicate flowers waiting to be picked in a less glamorous version of the ABC’s Bachelor.
Which brings me to the politics of Amber Rose’s recent Amber Rose branded “Slut Walk.” Her Slut Walk, held in LA was meant to push back against those who shame women for being out about their sexuality. Rose is often bombarded with vitriol towards how she dresses, who she dates and how she generally lives her life. She lives her life very publicly and therefore the public acts like it owns her, denouncing her regularly for doing the main thing that got the public to pay attention to her in the first place.
She gets dismissed for her past as a stripper. Kanye West disgustingly “joked” that he had to take “30 showers” before his now wife Kim Kardashian would be with him after dating Rose. An insult that seems especially unfair considering Kardashian and Rose pile in the same trade of being professionally pretty people who sell their hyper-sexualized images for cash, clothing lines, Instagram views, club appearances and notoriety. The only difference between them was Rose had to do it to survive initially and Kardashian comes from a well-heeled LA family. It’s a case of class making the sex business “classier” (“klassier?”) When poor women do it (or when brown women do it), it’s a problem. Case in point: Karrine Steffans, who while a successful author did not achieve Kardashian or Rose levels of fame for her sexual exploits. She did get shamed a lot for it. Just as Rose gets, and even Kardashian is often harangued in internet comment sections for her long ago sex tape. But they at least have a lot more success to soften those low blows.
But wealth and perceived whiteness won’t always get you passes for being whatever a “slut” is. Anyone can be a “slut.” The word – which is supposed to be about being a so-called “loose woman” or a “woman of ill-repute” seems to also be “woman who won’t sleep with me” and “woman who dresses a certain way” and “you, whoever you are” and “me” if I don’t say “hi” back to a stranger on the street.
What Rose has to deal with (among others) is largely why I am a prude now that I can’t use how I’m raised as an excuse anymore. I am trying to save myself from the world commenting on what I choose to do with my life. I’m trying to spare myself the pain and judgment of those who think I’d be better off married or invisible. But I’m old and experienced enough to know that being a prude won’t protect me from predators. Just a few weeks ago while walking in the rain to meet a friend, dressed in a hoodie and jeans I got propositioned by some weirdo leaning out of his car window. Yet the concept of “I was asking for it” if I dress, talk, act in my own sexual agency was stuck in my head. Of that weirdo, I, like so many, blamed that on myself. I was walking alone to meet a friend at 10 o’ clock at night. What did I expect! I told myself, as if that was a good excuse for the pervert who thinks all single women in the rain are sex workers.
It’s hard, mentally, to break out of that mold that something terrible happens to women who like to have “fun.” Even if I know for a fact that something terrible happens to women, in general, no matter if we live prudish lives or wild ones or some just somewhere in between. Almost every woman I know, including myself, has dealt with street or workplace harassment. A disturbing number of women I know have been molested or raped, often by people they knew, but also by strangers. And we all deal with the burden of thinking we can “prevent” this constant assault on femaleness, taking the burden off of the men who exhibit predatory behavior. But we can’t. Perhaps it’s better to be our unburdened selves. Be a prude or go on a slut walk, but be unencumbered. It’s better than living a life of fear and silence. It’s better than not having a life at all.