• Sharon Chau

Being a "Slut"




It all happened last Sunday night, when my mother came home from a dinner with some other parents. She was sobbing. I tried asking her what the matter was, but she didn’t answer and I couldn’t comfort her because I had a call until late in the evening. The next day, I was at work so I couldn’t confront her about it. I was genuinely very worried. I thought she or my grandma might have been diagnosed with something; Helen thought my parents were getting divorced and got preemptively upset.


That evening, dinner happened as normal - Helen was absent because of her lessons, so it was just my parents and me. We talked about our day as if nothing had happened, but there was notable tension in the air throughout. After dinner, we were sitting on the sofa watching TV - my mother started weeping again. I couldn’t hold it in any longer. “Come on, just tell me mom!” I said gently. “I don’t know how to break it to you,” she murmured, dabbing at her eyes with a soggy tissue. “Other people have been saying… really hurtful things about you.” I paused for a second, taking that in - and snorted derisively. “What, are they saying I dress really inappropriately? Or that I drink a lot?” I chuckled. “Is that all? God mom, I thought someone had died.” “No,” she hiccuped, “it’s much worse than that. They were saying you were… a slut. That you have been sleeping around.” Next to her, dad was sitting stoically, gauging my reaction.


“That’s stupid and just blatantly untrue,” I declared. “They really should get a life and stop prying into whatever the hell I’m doing. What exactly did they say?” My dad chipped in. “That’s not important. The question is, why are they saying this?” I shrugged. “I’ve been pretty outspoken about this on my blog, as you guys know. I talk about how women should be allowed to do whatever they want sexually - be that masturbating, hooking up with a different guy every night, or having multiple sexual partners at the same time. I’ve also written about porn and female pleasure, among other sexual things.” My mom physically shuddered. “They probably thought from those articles that I’m doing exactly that at uni. Not to mention I post lots of photos of my guy friends and I dress pretty skimpily, so they’re probably like, ‘she’s a slut’. Obviously those rumours are all, as you guys said, just rumours. I’ve done absolutely nothing of the sort. I’ve just been flirting with some guys as I’m newly single after a two-year relationship, but I have never slept around.”


My dad looked horrified. “Well of course they would fucking misunderstand and think you actually were sleeping around! Why the hell are you writing about casual sex? And posting photos of yourself in those clothes and in a fucking bikini - and with boys as well - what the hell would people think? You might as well just not wear anything at all if you’re barely covered! Are you that desperate for attention?” he said with disgust. “What the fuck, dad?” I half-shouted back. “I’m writing all that shit because I’m trying to change what sexist people think! People like you! And excuse me, I should be allowed to wear whatever the fuck I want because it’s my body!”


While this back-and-forth went on, my mom was sobbing in the background. “What did I do wrong to raise a daughter like you…” she mumbled repeatedly under her breath. “I’ve been such a failure as a parent.” Normally this would break my heart, but I was much too incensed to care now.


My dad took a deep breath and sighed. “You can’t go around saying these kinds of things. Regardless of what you actually do, it’ll brand you as ‘cheap’. And ‘easy’. No guy would ever want to date or marry after you’re seen as “used goods”, you know. I’m a guy, and I’d never marry someone like that - and neither would any other guy.” I rolled my eyes theatrically, seething inside. “Dad, that’s simply not true. Many people in the UK have loads of casual relationships - hell, even many of my friends in Hong Kong openly discuss these topics. And it’s not like I’m actually doing all that I’m writing about - I just think it’s really important to talk about it! It’s normal for girls to want sex too, you know.”


He choked. “Don’t you dare say that - I’m going to fucking slap you if you continue. You’re a slut. I’m ashamed to have you as my daughter.”


That was the last straw. I burst into tears. “Well I’m fucking sorry, Dad,” I screamed as I stormed back into my room and slammed the door, tears and rage blinding my vision.


That evening, I called some of my best friends. I bitched cathartically, got some helpful suggestions and had a thorough dissection of my current predicament and proposals of possible compromises from one of my closest friends. I knew what to do. I spoke to my parents and conceded - I was never going to write any articles about sex again; I would delete all my previous articles about sex, porn, and hookups; and I would get a boyfriend so all these rumours about me being promiscuous go away (applications are open if anyone wants to hmu). My parents were somewhat placated.


Interactions between us now are largely normal, even if there is some unspoken tension. But even now, my parents look at me differently - like I’m dirty, like I’m impure. The worst thing is how disgusted I know they are. They have made it very clear they simply could not accept the explicit topics I’ve been discussing, nor my revealing clothes, nor me flirting with guys. I would like to believe I’m above what my parents think - I know their views are severely antiquated and I stand firmly by the fact that everyone, including girls, should be allowed to discuss sex openly, and dress up however they want. I act like I don’t care. But the truth is that it hurts. A lot. Knowing that they’re disappointed in me, hearing their hushed whispers outside my room, overhearing my mom say “it’s like I’ve never known her”, and having them look at me as if I’m somehow soiled, just crushes me.


I’m also really upset that I have to delete my previous blog posts on the topic of sex and give up discussing it publicly. This is one of the few things I passionately care about. Through my articles, I obviously haven't been able to incite a revolution - but my frank discussion of female pleasure and porn has at the very least stirred discussion. My blog has gotten around 10K views since I started it during the first lockdown, with my 3 articles on sex getting 4K of those. I’ve received responses from dozens of people who have offered really interesting additional angles, but the best messages were from friends or random girls gassing me up and saying how important it is to break taboos surrounding female pleasure. But I do have to compromise to preserve my relationship with my parents. I’m probably going to shift to talk more about sexism and misogyny in Chinese society. We might not be ready to discuss sex and female pleasure, but we can probably discuss the casual sexism behind my parents’ views and the society that perpetuates these views.


To be clear, I love my parents a lot, and nothing about this debacle has changed that. They aren’t bad people, and calling them out on their sexism is no more than a condemnation of them bowing to societal norms. But I know that what they’re doing comes from a place of love - if I am to survive in Hong Kong, I simply cannot afford the reputation perpetuated by my discussions. Hypothetically, if an employer were to hear of my “promiscuity”, they would probably hire someone with a similar calibre who is unburdened with such values or a history they might someday have to defend. The sad reality is that in Hong Kong, having such a reputation will massively inhibit your ability to live a normal life.


But that’s not to say we should just accept the status quo - in fact, what’s going on pisses me off. A few things to note. Firstly, sex and relationships should be purely private matters. Who I like, who I sleep with, and what I do in the bedroom are none of your bloody business. If you’re an employer deciding whether or not to take me on, my sex life in absolutely no way affects me or my ability to perform tasks well. If you’re anyone else - just fuck off and get a life. How sad is it to have nothing better to discuss than who someone else is sleeping with?


Secondly, it is ridiculous how someone’s sex life can overshadow all other aspects of the person. It’s funny how these rumours about my “promiscuity” mean that all of my other achievements can be swept under the carpet and that I will be deemed as “irreparably broken” if they were true. It’s outrageous how other parents tell me, “It’s such a shame you decided to take the dark side - we always thought you had such a bright future.” Like - I’m sorry? I am at one of the best universities in the world, thriving and throwing myself into societies I care about. I am meeting some of the most insane and intelligent people and experiencing true happiness and fulfilment. I am going to have a bright future, despite whatever allegations and rumours you throw at me - and even if I did do all the things you accuse me of, this in no way invalidates my other achievements. And look at the double standard that is going on - if a guy were to sleep around a lot, he would probably be branded as a “fuckboy” or a “player” who “pulls” - if anything, promiscuity can be a badge of honour for guys. At the very least, he would not suffer reputational damage for having a lot of sex - but the same cannot be said of women.


Thirdly, especially to girls - instead of slut-shaming and judging other women, why don’t you support them? Women get hurt as a collective when you call a member of your own a “slut”, as it perpetuates the notion that women ought to be judged by their (supposedly private) sex life. I must confess I did this myself too. I had a close friend in Hong Kong who I did not support when others slut-shamed her, simply because I secretly judged her as well. I deeply regret this and would go back and wholeheartedly defend whatever she did if I could. But my point is, this judgement amongst women happens far too often. If you ever find yourself scrolling through your Instagram feed thinking, “Damn, what does that girl think she’s wearing”, check your internalised slut-shaming and stop tearing each other down. We need to band together to fight against the patriarchy.


To haters - I hear rumours and get hate all the time. I’m running in student politics - getting insulted, and having people dislike and want to destroy you are a given. There was a hate message in the anonymous group “Oxfess” (for Oxford students to confess random stuff) that was quite targeted, criticising my article on increasing access with an ad hominem attack. That made me pretty upset, but at this point I’m done trying to please everyone.


And to whoever is spreading these rumours, maliciously or not - I really, really hope you will stop and let this go. There are far better things to discuss, such as the sorry state of sexism in our city and the fact that spreading rumours can destroy a person’s life and family. Please, stop discussing or speculating about my nonexistent sex life, and focus on your own lives. If you just have to discuss me - maybe talk about how amazing I am.



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©2020 by Sharon Chau