I embrace the term slut. I’ve been called a whore. I guess that’s how some folks see you when you move through the world having sex with who you want to have sex with… Heaven help me (she said with an evil glint).

“I want to live in a world where the term slut doesn’t make sense as an insult”, to quote the UnSlut Project, a wonderful initiative to minimize the effects of slut shaming. (Check out their site. It’s phenomenal.)

I wasn’t always this honest when it came to sex. I had a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde characterization – totally contradictory. A working professional on the outside, a raunchy girl with a few skeletons in the closet on the inside. My partner could relate to both sides of me, funnily enough. He’s a bit of a whore too, so it works for us. I digress… Anyway, the world saw mostly the professional. The raunchy girl went unnoticed until I was, for lack of a better term, exposed for being a fraud. The culprit? A best friend. She told anyone who would listen that I was a whore and former stripper. That kind of rocked my world for a bit. Defragmented me.

It was a good thing. I was free to become less of a middle class white chick and more of a sexually individuated woman. One doesn’t always get those opportunities thrown in their face. It wasn’t a gradual undressing like in a high class club; it was a down and dirty grind in a back room somewhere… “Hey world, I’m a former stripper and present day psychotherapist!” Shout it from the mountaintops, tell anyone who would dare listen, including my family.

After spending multiple years in graduate school to individuate myself from the woman I was in my early twenties, one that I initially saw as flawed and undone, I was, at 34, forced to look in the mirror once more and process what it all meant. What is it about women putting other women down? I’ve heard it said that most of the genital mutilation in the world is perpetuated by women… That’s far worse than petty name calling… How is my story unique? It’s not. Far from it. Historical forces and social norms are invested in keeping women down.

I can say, today, that I was fortunate to have The Big Reveal take place. I suspect that I will thank that chick for forcing it upon me. I don’t think I would have done it myself. I think I would have continued to write quietly in my journal and not publish. I would have kept my mouth shut and not shared publicly. I would have stayed in my suburban hole drinking lattes and wearing yoga pants. Now I’m still drinking lattes and wearing yoga pants, but doing so in a sexually individuated way. It’s how I feel on the inside about my vulva. We’re cool with one another.

It’s kind of funny, because I wasn’t born a boat rocker. I was born scared.

The first person to call me a slut was my mother. I think I was about ten at the time. I had been doing some stuff sexually, but it was before the advent of boundaries for me and I didn’t feel guilt or shame initially. She gave that to me. I didn’t arrive in this world with it. Calling me a slut was a highly developed way of telling me to keep my mouth shut. She never wanted me to go public with my history and all that came with it – the stripping, the sugar babying, the sex at a despairingly young age.

It was hard for me to reclaim the word at first. My mouth didn’t want to say it. Now, it’s on. I’m moving beyond the middle class, white thang where I perceive sex as something naughty… (Unless that’s your thing, then, by all means, go right ahead!)

I’m trying to see women in the same light that I see most men… As individuated and capable of choosing their partners and keeping themselves safe. I am not a child, I’m a grown woman, and I’m entitled to my bravery. Don’t strip me of my bravery just because you’re afraid.

We don’t need to play the nice card anymore. We don’t need to sit with our hands folded in our laps. We don’t need to be Girl Scouts or choir girls to save face.

Let’s call a spade a spade.