The Ethical Slut, in a section discussing sex-negative language, spends some well-deserved time on the implications of “slut” vs. “stud.” It then mentions Don Juan, alongside Casanova and Jezebel as examples of legendary figures used as derogatory terms to express a negative attitude toward promiscuity. Something strikes me as odd here. I’m thinking: really? Don Juan is a curse word? I always thought of him as a suave seducer who adores women but can’t commit to one for life. But then it all came together. I suppose you could call someone a Don Juan. Other terms come to mind: womanizer, player or pick-up artist – Don Juan’s unfortunate 21st century incarnation.
Don Juan is a true romantic at heart who’s just misunderstood. He is not a liar or a cheater, or in any way disingenuous. He doesn’t have a script. He genuinely loves women and the art of seduction. Not everyone has just one love in their life – this doesn’t imply a lack of character or insincerity. It is also important to note that Don Juan is not a part of patriarchy, as he is himself a victim of patriarchy – being forced to “win” his fully consenting lover from her father. And yet, as a woman, even I pause with caution when I hear someone described as a “Don Juan.” It does translate into womanizer and player in my mind. I ask myself: is it hypocritical of me to ever call someone a womanizer or a player when I object to the term “slut” as pejorative? Let’s break it down. What are the implications? A “slut” is a promiscuous woman. It is the amount of partners and sex she has that determine her “sluttiness.” Hence Limbaugh’s “SO MUCH SEX!” tirade. A womanizer/player is a promiscuous man. But the implication here is some form of manipulation and deceit, as in he is “playing you.” So the judgement implied in the term is directed towards the inherent dishonesty, rather than the amount of sexual partners a man has. However there is frequently a general assumption by both men and women in this paradigm, that a hetero man cannot possibly be sexually active with multiple partners without being a manipulative liar. This becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
So what happened to the genuinely loving and passionate in the moment Don Juan and how did he turn into the cynical player?
When you examine some of the language around current male-centric movements, ranging from the MRA’s, to pick-up artists, to drunk hill-billies shouting on Facebook, – under the affected apathetic misogyny, you sense a deeply repressed sexuality and lost masculinity that never quite redefined itself post women’s lib. (This does not apply to ALL MRA’s, but is an attitude seen frequently expressed by self-proclaimed MRA’s and self-proclaimed anti-Feminists.) A staunch Feminist will ask: why would women’s lib infringe on men’s sexuality, unless said sexuality has previously defined itself through oppressing women? Ok, let’s step back and be honest here. Remember good old anti-porn Feminism? Well, that was mainstream Feminism, or at least wide-spread, from the 60’s to the 80’s. Andrea Dworkin, who wrote Intercourse, defining all hetero sex as inherently violent, spear-headed Take Back the Night – a movement against rape and pornography, essentially linking the two. The sex-negative attitude professed by this form of Feminism (condemning BDSM and all of pornography) has taken agency from women, calling their informed consent into question. But it also took a toll on male sexuality, creating a rigid wall of repressive political correctness, leaving a genuinely conscientious man to question all his impulses. Current anti-porn Feminists still insist on assuming men who watch pornography are perverts.
As men internalized the sex negativity professed by this brand of Feminism, Don Juan has ceased to exist. The current social norms available for young men to choose from are “nice guy,” who is presumably “pussy-whipped” and devoid of a self-defined, unfettered masculinity; or a total disingenuous asshole, as in – player, liar and cheater. The option of an honest and respectful man who happens to love many women (at a time or in his lifetime, ethical-slut style) is simply not available and is viewed with suspicion even by the most liberated women. On pick-up artist forums I see “gentleman” and “alpha male” used as mutually exclusive opposites, as if one cannot be “alpha” while being respectful of others’ boundaries.
This dichotomy of extremes without a happy medium, as always, exists as a result of repression. But it’s time to move on from the 60’s idea of Feminism. Sex-positive Feminism is the current mainstream, as apparently Feminism has self-corrected. It is all-encompassing and accepting of various sexual practices, orientations and genders. It isn’t judgmental of pornography, BDSM or hetero male sexuality. Shouldn’t the MRA’s love sexually liberated women who are accepting of male sexuality, while reclaiming their own agency? They should, but they don’t. There is a certain blindspot there. MRA’s seem stuck on that old-school academic definition of Feminism. The entire movement is based on counteracting it. They refuse to see the currently prevalent sex-positive, individualist Feminism, and even when faced with it make false assumptions. I suppose acknowledging this would make the movement somewhat irrelevant, especially in light of the fact that valid men’s causes, such as anti-circumcision, otherwise known as Intactivism, are in alignment with Feminism, as it relates to bodily integrity, personal autonomy and gender equality. (OMG, this sounds like Libertarianism, doesn’t it? Shh, don’t tell. The boys will get very upset.) So please relax. The SlutWalks (which are the contemporary, sex-positive incarnation of Take Back the Night) aren’t there to accuse everyone of rape and assume all men are rapists. They are there to demonstrate that it IS possible to create a non-judgmental sex-positive environment that is empowering and liberating for EVERYONE, and this shouldn’t mean exposing ourselves to sexual assault. Simple and beautiful idea. Feminism does not seek to empower women at the expense of men. It seeks to balance out the repercussions of rigid gender roles that have been written in stone for so long and have done damage to both genders, curiously some of which MRA’s complain about, such as the breadwinner role. Male disposability also plays into Feminism, as it seeks to reach true equality in the military. (You know what would really help put more women in the military? Addressing the honest to God rape culture that exists there!) Current Feminism also doesn’t seek to censor and police language for the sake of political correctness. (Note that criticism is not the same as government censorship.) Instead WE choose to reclaim this language.