The Scarlet Letter
I saw the movie Easy A last weekend. The film is about a woman in high school who pretends to have sex with a gay classmate so that he won’t get beat up every day for being gay; everyone will think he’s straight and leave him alone. This works well for the guy, but after having sex with one person (who she didn’t have sex with), the girl is labelled a slut.
Instead of bowing to the pressure and hanging her head in shame, she takes a powerful stance. Her English class is studying the book “The Scarlet Letter,” in which the “town whore” (um, she had an affair with the minister) is made to wear a red letter “A” for adulterer, on her chest at all times. Olive starts dressing the part of a fallen woman: bustiers, tight clothes and embroiders a large, red “A” on her chest. The women in her class hate her, the men want to fuck her and the Christians love her, hate her and want to fuck her.
What the film reminded me of was how women are constantly villified for their sexuality. No matter what stature a woman has attained in her work and her relationships, she is in constant danger of having the “slut” epithet hurled at her. The idea of a sexually confident woman is threatening. Apparently. Perhaps it’s remnants of the Christian archetype of women’s sexual power as mysterious and full of nefarious temptation.
In order to fully claim our sexual selves, women have to be prepared to jump through this hoop of fire. Like a gay person coming out, women have to brace judgment and scorn for enjoying sex.
Krystal Ball, a democratic candidate for Congress in Virginia experienced the backlash of…simply being a female, who might, on occasion, engage in sexual behaviour. After she took out a radio ad, a right-wing smear group dug up and published online photos of college-age Krystal engaging in some playful behaviour with her husband at a party.
“The tactic of painting successful women as whores – and I also can’t believe I’m using this word on your programme – that’s nothing new. Lots of women face this same thing. And so I decided, although I wanted to just sort of hide in a corner and cry, that I couldn’t let these tactics succeed,” said Krystal.
“Against nearly all the advice I was given I decided to give interviews. Siobhan “Sam” Bennett, from Women’s Campaign Forum, helped me to realize that the way to combat this was to take it head-on, to confront it.”
As more people are willing to own their power and individuality and take a stand for things that are: 1) their own business and no one else’s; and 2) healthy expressions of humanity, these tactics will be less and less effective.
I cried this week when I watched this video, as I’m sure nearly everyone did who saw it. A Fort Worth city council member bravely recounts his story about being bullied growing up gay. It’s part of a campaign started by Dan Savage to encourage gay teens everywhere that someday, despite how difficult things may seem, it will get better.
We live in a culture where most of us have internalized oppression–women call each other names for their sexual behaviour and worse, think poorly of themselves. The way past this is wearing a literal or figurative “A.” Acknowledging that I, Kim am a woman and I, Kim, love to get fucked.