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The Ethical Slut - Dossie Easton, Janet W Hardy

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Paperback: 296 pages / Publisher: Celestial Arts / 2nd Edition: 15 April 2009

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      10.04.2013 22:03
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      Some useful advice contained within, others may get more from it than me.

      When you hear the word slut, what do you think of? If you're a lover of words and their origins, you might think back to the days when it meant a slattern, or perhaps to when it was an affectionately meant term for a young kitchen maid ("She is a cheerful slut who keeps the pots scrubbed and the fires hot.") Most likely though, you'll think of it's modern usage, as a derogatory term for a woman (the term is only rarely applied to men), usually a woman considered to be sexually promiscuous.

      It's a term many women, myself included, would hate to be called - especially because, in my experience, the people who tend to call me that are the people I've refused to have sex with. Actually, usually I've just refused to take their telephone number after they've painfully groped my backside whilst out with the lads. But, for many years now, there has been a growing sex positive movement that suggests that, even if you do like to have lots of casual sex with lots of different people and behave in a way that might cause others to label you a slut, there's nothing wrong with it so long as you do it ethically and openly, without hurting anyone, and that actually, the term slut is something we should be proud of and embrace.

      I came to the book as the result of long discussion with my boyfriend about Polyamoury (essentially the practice of maintaining more than one relationship, with the full knowledge and consent of everyone involved . There is a lot more to it than that, but that's the simple version!) This book is regarded as something of a bible by many in the poly community, and was on the list of recommended reading for anyone new to the concept of poly.

      The main goal of the book, as stated in the first chapter, is to reclaim the word slut - to turn it from a sexists term of abuse into a unisex term of 'approval, even endearment. To us, a slut is a person of any gender who has the courage to live life according to the radical proposition that sex is nice, and pleasure is good for you.' And that certainly does seem to be the focus of the book, as they use the word slut very often. The book is not just about going out, having loads of one night stands and enjoying yourself though - it's about doing it the right way, the honest way, and as such, the book covers a variety of topics, such as sexual safety, the importance of open and honest conversation, and handling jealousy,with smatterings of the authors personal experience throughout.

      I'll be honest and say that I found it very hard to get into the book - I found the authors kept referring to each other throughout, and the fact that the book had been co-authored by two people who came to ethical non monogamy in different ways, rather than giving me additional viewpoints from which to examine the situation ended up leaving me confused, as I never knew who was talking at any one time, and I spent so long trying to keep the story straight that a lot of the details went over my head.

      There were a lot of comments that just gave me an uncomfortable feeling when I read them - for example 'A slut shares her sexuality the way a philanthropist shares his money -- because they have a lot to share, because it makes them happy to share it, because sharing makes the world a better place.' Whilst there is nothing wrong with having casual sex if that's what you are into, I find it hard to imagine that by having sex with lots of people I can improve the world. I did have sex about three days ago though with my boyfriend, at about 11pm, do let me know if you did feel any improvement in your life then!

      Another comment I really took issue with was 'We see ourselves surrounded by the 'walking wounded' -- by people who have been deeply, if not irrevocably, injured by fear, shame, and hatred of their own sexual selves. We believe that happy connected sex is the cure for these wounds, that it is important, possibly even essential, to most people's sense of self-worth, to their belief that life is good. '

      You don't tell someone with a peanut allergy to go off and eat more peanuts, so why advise someone suffering 'fear, shame, and hatred of their own sexual selves' to go off and get laid. As a survivor of sexual abuse, both as a child and as an adult, I find this approach very uncomfortable. I find the notion of sex (even good, loving, intimate, safe sex) as a cure all disturbing. I dislike the notion that if my sexual self esteem is low (and it frequently is) then what I need to do to feel better is to seek validation and happiness by having more sex , rather than dealing with my own issues myself.

      I found a lot of the information didn't apply to my situation - there are many kinds of non monogamous, open relationship, and whilst I would never say anybody's way of doing it was wrong (unless their practices were unsafe or dishonest) the idea of just going out casually and picking up someone for a couple of nights of safe, consensual fun just doesn't appeal. I don't want to reclaim the word slut. I don't want to be a slut! I just want to be happy with my lovely boyfriend, and if someone else amazing and wonderful comes along, to be happy with them too, after a comfortable slow period of getting to know them as a person. And I want to do the happy and comfortable bit before the sex - I'm an old fashioned girl!

      With that said, there was some great advice in there that was not only pertinent to my own relationships, but that would actually be good for most conventional relationships. There is some great advice about taking ownership of your feelings and emotions, and avoiding blame placing. There is great advice about communication and respect in relationships, and advice on ending relationships in a respectful and honest way that leaves no room for confusion. In particular, one piece of advice my boyfriend and I took to heart was the advice about letting each other meet any particular person of interest in our lives, so that I wouldn't panic that the other girl he was flirting with on Skype was actually Angelina Jolie, and that he could be reassured that the guy I was meeting for a coffee wasn't some millionaire Adonis ready to whisk me off in his private jet to a new life.

      The book also helped us discuss our thoughts, fears, and very importantly our priorities. With Poly still being very much something that is new to us (we've been together four years, but neither of us, int he year since opening our relationship up, have done more than kiss someone at the end of a date) it was important for us both to understand what we want, and what we don't want, in our relationships. We both agree that we love each other, and are not looking to replace each other. In fact, we're not even actively looking for anyone else in our lives, we're just open to the idea that one day, someone like that may come along.

      Overall, whilst I can't say I enjoyed the book - I found it a little bit too uninhibited and hippyish for me, and the repeated use of the word slut get annoying- and whilst not all the advice contained within applied to me, I did take something useful from it. I may even refer back to it again one day, if I need to remind myself how to own my emotions. There is no one-size-fits-all template for open relationships, and some people will get a lot more from this book than I did. Some people may well be proud to refer to themselves as a slut! But not me - though I did find some useful advice contained within it's pages,there was a lot in the book that I took issue with ,and for this reason I give it two stars.

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