The Specter of the Constant Slut

by | August 26, 2016 | General | 3 comments

by Jean Roberta

My original plan for this post was to discuss words for sex acts and sex organs, as did Lisabet Sarai earlier this month. Context is very important to me, and this is why some of the shorter pieces that have been posted in ERWA Storytime make me uneasy, especially if they refer to such characters as “the office slut.” Has any woman who works in an office ever considered herself The Office Slut?

I don’t object to the word “slut” per se, but context is crucial. The purpose of most offices is to produce a product or a service other than sex. If someone in the office is known as the official Slut, she is probably not taken seriously as an assistant or editor, or whatever role she was hired to fill. (For more on this subject, see Nine to Five, the 1980 movie about working women in which Dolly Parton plays the role of a private secretary who is ostracized by everyone in the office because everyone thinks she is having an affair with her boss. She isn’t.)

Even literary erotica sometimes implies what porn films explicitly promise: that viewers/readers can visit a kind of alternative dimension, where great sex is always happening, and it is available to everyone who visits there. Rumors about actual places on earth where, supposedly, anyone could have consequence-free sex with anyone else at any time flourish best in real-world environments where sex is hard to get (e.g. high school, most workplaces, jurisdictions where “obscenity” is broadly defined and highly illegal). In the Land of Blooming Orgasms, supposedly, no one has to experience the frustration, rejection, humiliation, or competition for mates that characterize the real world.

A traditional double standard of sexual morality lends itself to belief in the Land of Blooming Orgasms. An extreme division of women into the good and the bad, based on sexual history, usually divides Virgins from Sluts as though these words defined different personality types rather than phases in a life. (Everyone starts out as a virgin, but anyone who stays that way for a lifetime has been deprived of much valuable experience.) Sluts can be imagined as having constant sex with random strangers whenever they are out of sight, not doing something more mundane.

The biological differences between males and females might encourage males (straight, gay or bi, but not trans) to believe that some women have sex constantly. Men know that they simply aren’t equipped to get aroused, ejaculate, then repeat the process again, and again, and again. Even the mightiest stud has his limits. Females, however, can be penetrated in every orifice as many times as they want – and if their desire has limits, the ability of others (armies or gangs) to rape them has no limits.

And therefore the myth of the constant Slut pops up in various contexts, and is often treated more seriously than it deserves. When I had sex for the first time with a boy I liked, it was a fumbling affair of mutually-missed opportunities. I was a teenager, and I had only a vague idea of what to do. Nonetheless, as soon as the boy had caught his breath, he said: “You must have done this a lot.” Apparently one fuck had transformed me from a nice girl with no experience into the eternal Slut. I was tempted to respond with teenage snark. (Well, I’ve spent the last five years in a whorehouse in Tiajuana.) Luckily, I didn’t say what I was thinking. I realized even then that the school gossip network would have accepted that statement, embroidered it, and circulated it throughout our small town.

This leads me back to erotic writing, a more wholesome exercise of imagination than gossip about actual people. References to the Office Slut, the Town Slut, the Wild Slut of the Jungle, or the Interplanetary Slut suggest fantasies about the Land of Blooming Orgasms. This is escape literature or masturbation material, and its charm is obvious. It’s not realistic, and intelligent authors don’t intend it to be mistaken for realism.

However, the tone of a piece of erotic writing isn’t always clear, or consistent. (If your goal is to write something entertaining and unbelievable, snark is good.) References to the Office Slut can sound negative, not because sexual skill or experience are necessarily bad, but because women are so often accused of being Sluts instead of whatever they appear to be: secretaries, administrators, students, teachers, mothers, faithful companions.

If I’m reading a piece about Captain Luscious of the Starfuck Fleet, I would like to see some reference to her actual ability to fly a space vehicle, even if it’s only mentioned in passing. This information would raise her above the level of a cartoon, or an insult. In the real world, even sex workers eat, sleep, do laundry, pay bills, meet friends for coffee, and raise the children for whom they need to earn money.

Besides, the sexiest stories are those that suggest the possibility of good sex in the messy, complex world where people actually live.

Jean Roberta

Jean Roberta once promised her parents not to use their unusual family name for her queer and erotic writing, and thus was born her thin-disguise pen name. She teaches English and Creative Writing in a university on the Canadian prairies, where the vastness of land and sky encourage daydreaming. Jean immigrated to Canada from the United States as a teenager with her family. In her last year of high school, she won a major award in a national student writing contest. In 1988, a one-woman publisher in Montreal published a book of Jean’s lesbian stories, Secrets of the Invisible World. When the publisher went out of business, the book went out of print. In the same year, Jean attended the Third International Feminist Book Fair in Montreal, where she read a call-for-submissions for erotic lesbian stories. She wrote three, sent them off, and got a letter saying that all three were accepted. Then the publisher went out of business. In 1998, Jean and her partner acquired their first computer. Jean looked for writers’ groups and found the Erotic Readers & Writers Association, which was then two years old! She began writing erotica in every flavor she could think of (f/f, m/f, m/m, f/f/m, etc) and in various genres (realistic contemporary, fantasy, historical). Her stories have appeared in anthology series such as Best Lesbian Erotica (2000, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, Volume 1 in new series, 2016), Best Lesbian Romance (2014), and Best Women's Erotica (2000, 2003, 2005, 2006) from Cleis Press, as well as many others. Her single-author books include Obsession (Renaissance, Sizzler Editions), an erotic story collection, The Princess and the Outlaw: Tales of the Torrid Past (Lethe Press), and The Flight of the Black Swan: A Bawdy Novella (Lethe, also in audio). Fantasy stories by Jean include “Lunacy” in Journey to the Center of Desire (erotic stories based on the work of Jules Verne) from Circlet Press 2017, “Green Spectacles and Rosy Cheeks” (steampunk erotica) in Valves & Vixens 3 (House of Erotica, UK, 2016), and “Under the Sign of the Dragon” (story about the conception of King Arthur) in Nights of the Round Table: Arthurian Erotica (Circlet 2015). This story is now available from eXcessica ( Her horror story, “Roots,” first published in Monsters from Torquere Press, is now in the Treasure Gallery of the Erotic Readers and Writers Association. With Lethe Press publisher Steve Berman, she coedited Heiresses of Russ 2015 (Lethe), an annual anthology of the year’s best lesbian speculative fiction. Her realistic erotic novel, Prairie Gothic: A Tale of the Old Millennium, was published by Lethe in September 2021. Jean has written many reviews and blog posts. Her former columns include “Sex Is All Metaphors” (based on a line in a poem by Dylan Thomas) for the Erotic Readers and Writers Association, July 2008-November 2010. The 25 column pieces can still be found in the on-site archives and in an e-book from Coming Together, Jean married her long-term partner, Mirtha Rivera, on October 30, 2010. Links:


  1. Anonymous

    Realistic and unrealistic settings are one thing, character-driven stories are another. A character-driven story can be set in a very unrealistic environment yet still provide psychological depth.

    Generally speaking, where erotica is concerned, how many loads of laundry a character does is less important than how many times she comes when she's being fucked on the washing machine, but she can still be an interesting character as opposed to Generic Slutty Maid™.

  2. Lisabet Sarai

    Fantastic post, Jean!

    Sometimes we authors *do* want to set our stories in the Land of Blooming Orgasms. That can be a lot of fun. However, we need to be clear (for ourselves and for the sake of our readers) that this is intentional.

  3. Fiona McGier

    I used to be called slut a lot, back before I got married. I think it was my propensity to have sex with whichever man caught my eye on any particular night. I was always amused when the men calling me that weren't the ones I chose to have sex with. So is slut a woman who enjoys sex, just not with you?

    Women who called me slut were buying into the "nice girls don't" patriarchal bullshit that has been keeping female sexuality bottled up for centuries. A very long time ago, men figured out that while you can immediately know beyond a doubt, who the mother of a newborn baby is, you only have her word for it on who the father is. So they concocted this enormous load of horseshit to keep female subservient.

    Hence the idea that virgins will magically become courtesans, knowledgeable and insatiable, the minute a wedding ring is on their finger…and without any instructions or pointers from the man with whom they are enjoying this transformation. Yeah…right.

    I love your description of the Land of Blooming Orgasms! A nice place to visit, as you point out, for a one-handed read that allows for quick and easy self-pleasure. But as a plot point of even erotica, it's a real stretch to get your reader to believe you. Unless your reader is like my dad used to be: convinced that everyone else in the world is having more and better sex than him. To that kind of reader, I guess the Land of Blooming Orgasms is always there, just beyond their reach.

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