I'm Sick Of My Feminist Mother Slut-Shaming Me

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Sex, Self

She supports a woman’s right to do whatever she wants with her body — except when it involves me.

By Sarah Khan

I am a sex-positive feminist and a happily, proudly promiscuous woman.

I believe sex should be talked about openly and maturely, and I believe that a woman’s decision to be sexual is a major tenet of modern feminism. After many years, I am comfortable in my perfectly-imperfect body and open about my sexuality.

The latter doesn’t sit well with my mother.

Though she is a feminist, and raised me and my brother with corresponding feminist beliefs, she is personally conservative. She holds fast to the old-fashioned idea that sex is an intimate and sacred act between two (married) people.

The first time my mother learned that I was having sex while single — with multiple partners — we inevitably had an argument.

“To me, it’s very unethical,” she said, and I surprised both her and myself by launching into an unexpectedly articulate tirade about how what she had just said was a form of slut-shaming.

“It’s also dangerous. Diseases and infections …” she tried, and I shut her down again with an explanation of how I am more aware of my body than anyone I know. I am best friends with my general practitioner and get tested for STIs regularly, regardless of how much sex I have.

She didn’t respond because she’s learned that it’s better to not further agitate me when I’m on my feminist soapbox, so the matter was dropped.

While weeping in bed that night, feeling utterly betrayed, I realized this wasn’t the first time I had been slut-shamed by my mother.

Although I was raised feminist by her, she still taught me to dress modestly, keep my curtains closed when I changed, and basically shield myself from all the men in the world, who had the potential to sexually assault me. Like almost every woman in the world, I grew up with a fear of walking alone at night, of showing cleavage (lest some sex-crazed man think it an invitation to rape me), of being afraid to change in front of a window, or even a turned-off webcam.

I realized that she had unknowingly been teaching me how to victim-blame.

Today, I’m proud to say my mother is a supporter of SlutWalk, is staunchly against victim-blaming, and all for empowering women. But when it comes to me, her ideals seem to change. She supports a woman’s right to do whatever she wants with her body, including being promiscuous, but when it involves me, she resents it. Her first concern is that our South Asian relatives will gossip about me.

I’m no stranger to being slut-shamed, but I am the sort of person who often takes things personally.

Hearing my mother guilt me for being the sort of woman I felt most comfortable being broke my heart. Coupled with the fact that I’ve failed to be the traditional South Asian woman my family expected me to be, it makes for an emotionally draining — often volatile — relationship where I constantly struggle to please her and my family, as well as myself.

As I grow older it’s getting easier to say “fuck you” to anyone who doesn’t support a difference in lifestyles and beliefs. It took a lot of pondering and constant licking of emotional wounds to realize that this should apply to my mother as well.

However, I do owe my mother respect, and believe she owes me the same. 

This article was originally published at Ravishly. Reprinted with permission from the author.

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