-excerpt from Happy, Sexy, Shameless – What Your Mother Didn’t Know About the Birds and the Bees by Shasta Townsend
I found it in a second-hand clothing store. It fit perfectly. You could see every curve, a slight hint of cleavage, the wide legs made my waist appear even smaller and the material hugged over my butt making it appear like a round peach. It was a perfect polyester 70s pant suit . I loved it and I only wore it once.
Granted it was not the type of thing you wear everyday but my perfect pantsuit soon made its way back to the second hand store. I was at a costume party feeling hot, beautiful and totally 70s sexy that is until one jerk made a jerk-off comment.
He sidled up to me checking me up and down. He was a few inches shorter than my 5’5 frame and not overly attractive. I expected a come one but I did not expect what came next.
“If you were my girl-friend I would not let you dress that way. In fact, I would not let you leave the house in that slutty outfit. You are clearly a very bad girl,” he said.
I wish I had some witty repartee but instead I think my jaw dropped and I told him to fuck off as I slunk away feeling like garbage. I sought out my boyfriend at the time and told him I wanted to leave. I wish the magic of the pantsuit had kicked this jerk’s ass but I gave in to shame instead.
Fifteen years later that comment still echoes in my head. There are times when I stand in my walk-in closet rejecting tight tops or fitted jeans lest anyone think I am a slut but then I usually tell those echoes to fuck off too and wear what feels good on my pretty hot 40-year-old body. I have daydreams about being sex goddess of the universe and kicking judgmental ass in that 70s pantsuit which I never found again. Does that make me a good girl or a slut and should I even care?
The trouble is I do care.
Many of us received shameful messages about sexuality from our parents, our church, our society and even our friends that we are still carrying. We do care what people think. The virgin/whore paradigm is the Good Girl/Bad Girl Index and it is how many women regardless of age, culture, background or level of success still measure appropriateness. The Good Girl/Bad Girl Index appears to be the gauge many of use to make decisions about sexuality and to determine our own sluttiness or worthiness. Although we may reject this model outright and may have broken many of these Good Girl rules, the tyranny of the Good Girl/Bad Girl Index is still present. Many of the women I spoke for this book with said they felt the most shame about themselves when they broke with the Good Girl Index which includes:
• Good girls don’t have sex
• Good girls do not seek out sex
• Good girls do not enjoy sex but paradoxically should be willing partners
• Good girls are always monogamous and only have sex in committed relationships
• Good girls don’t have sex before marriage
• Good girls don’t sleep around or have multiple partners
• Good girls do not have one night stands or sex with random strangers
• Good girls do not dress or act provocatively
• Good girls are modest and dress modestly that is no cleavage, no tight clothing, no revealing clothing and little make up.
• Good girls do not talk about sex or what they want or like
• Good girls do not seek out male attention while paradoxically their value is affirmed by the desire and attention of men
• Good girls maintain a pure and innocent attitude and energy
• Good girls do not fantasize or express their fantasies
• Good girls are not sexually adventurous
• Good girls do not like or feel comfortable in their body
• Good girls do not seek out sexual experiences that are pleasurable or affirming
• Good girls do not engage in anything other than “normal” sex that is they do not have sex with other women, with multiple partners at the same time such as threesomes, they do not use sex toys, gear or gadgets and certainly do not participate in fantasy scenarios, Bondage and or SadoMasochism (BDSM)
• Good girls follow “the rules” or at least hide it when they are not
• Good girls carry shame, self-denial and self-loathing about sex – this is in fact what makes them “good”.
Almost across the board these were behaviors that fell into the Bad Girl category though many women said they themselves had participated in this behavior and usually quite enjoyed it. The Bad Girl Index includes:
• Bad girls like sex and want sex
• Bad girls have sex before marriage
• Bad girls have multiple partners or are promiscuous
• Bad girls have had many sexual partners
• Bad girls “cheat” or are not monogamous
• Bad girls express their desire, willingness and readiness for sex
• Bad girls enjoy the attention of men (or women)
• Bad girls will have sex with men (or women) who are in committed relationships thus having no moral compass i.e. they are willing to be the other woman
• Bad girls feel lust, desire and passion
• Bad girls seek out sexual encounters and sexual partners like a predator stalks prey
• Bad girls have one night stands
• Bad girls have sex with people they have just met
• Bad girls have sex just for pleasure
• Bad girls demonstrate “slutty” behavior such as wearing tight or revealing clothing, heavy or dark makeup or 70s pantsuits
• Bad girls are good at sex and know what they want
• Bad girls are clear on what they like and don’t like
• Bad girls take the lead during sex
• Bad girls are sexually expressive and talk about sex both in terms of their own experiences and sexuality in general
• Bad girls are wounded in some way and so sex becomes a means to bolster their self-esteem
• Bad girls have had varied sexual experiences perhaps including bondage, threesomes, toys, fantasy role play, sadomasochism and if straight, lesbian experiences
• Bad girls are open, comfortable and passionate about their own sexuality
• Bad girls are a bad influence on good girls and so need to be controlled
• Bad girls are not shameful but rather are happy, sexy and shameless.
We have largely bought into the Good Girl/Bad Girl Index and the messages about our inappropriateness and unworthiness based on this index.
I am not saying we should all have threesomes and one night stands as a way of expressing our sexual freedom though if that feels meaningful for you I don’t think that makes you a bad girl. The Good Girl/Bad Girl Index invites us to examine our own judgments about women, sexuality and how we measure and evaluate our selves. This index relegates the sexually aware and passionately alive women to the bad side of the scale.
None of us want to experience judgment so we tend to hide, protect or fear this side. When we judge our self and others through this index we create a division within – certain aspects are good and certain aspects are bad which means they need to be covered up, destroyed or feared. We live a half-life. We are split off from natural desire, power and sexuality. We become shrinking violets lest we shine too bright. This creates not only shame and guilt, but also a massive sense of disconnection from our bodies, from our beauty and from happiness as well as overwhelming anger, resentment and sadness.
It is time we no longer deem sexual power and the sexually alive woman as a bad girl if we are to experience the deliciousness of our own body, own sexuality and our desire.