OK, first of all, it seems (unfortunately) we’re not quite ‘post-shame’ yet, because when I asked my dad to enquire about this paperback he returned empty handed claiming he was reluctant to say the word ‘slut’ out loud at Waterstone’s.
Perhaps if enough of us read this semi-autobiographical compendium of sex anecdotes, one day we’ll live in a world where a bearded 72-year-old in a lightweight anorak can be free to buy his daughter (or indeed himself) a book with a chesty blonde and a euphemism for ‘whore’ on the cover in giant letters, judgement free.
Turns out Waterstone’s don’t stock it yet anyway so you’ll have to get it shipped in from the United States (or just borrow my copy?) but to sum up: this book is good.
What’s it about?
I started reading Karley Sciortino’s blog Slutever.com, about ten years ago and remember it vividly because it inspired me to put an advert on Gumtree requesting a relationship with an allergy-ridden asthmatic (a dream I finally achieved in 2016. Living.) It was also around that time I developed a burning desire to move into a squat.
The first bit of the book documents Karley’s escape from North American Catholic suburbia and her decision to join the illegal residents of an abandoned London lift factory which apparently led to a lot of skip-diving and blow-jobs.
The opening chapters are a slutty trip down memory lane if you’ve followed her work from the start. If not, they’re just slutty. You’re gonna love it.
Moving on through the book Karley uses her lustful enterprises as the basis for lots of food-for-thought theories on human relationships, and who better to guide us through all that grime, really, than a ‘hedonistic, sex-radical libertarian slut in a pink PVC minidress’?
Sex is pretty funny
This book is a collection of raunchy millennial memoirs (less Parisian candlelight, more spitting in the mouths of sex slaves) with a playful sense of the limitless comedy afforded us by the physical act of l-u-v. Though you might not relate to all Karley’s views, and may even find her forthright, politically off-key declarations a little bit problematic at points, if taken with a pinch of fuck-it, her mixture of scandalous life-experience and Cher Horowitz-level punchlines is basically priceless.
“With a dude, you can literally be boiling pasta and then randomly say: “I’m coming,” and he’ll sincerely believe you.” – Karley Sciortino
Though my dad was mortified by the title, the various (Allotment Grandad appropriate) quotes I read out loud to him raised a courteous chuckle. Either my father is too polite to admit he thinks I’m insane or this book has universal comedy appeal. Probably don’t read the chapter on sadomasochism to your nan though..
Why can’t women be sluts?
Contrary to what Karley suggests in the book, I have never had a rape fantasy, and could quite genuinely come thinking about what an excellent listener my boyfriend is… But no matter your position in (or distance from) the ‘whorearchy’ as she calls it, Karley’s thoughts make for excellent reading, as you’ll reconsider your own attitudes to sex and the promiscuous exploits of others.
The Vogue sex columnist’s eloquent self-mockery gets us questioning why we assume women who have loads of sex must be filling some tragic emotional void (a term I may coin for future descriptions of my vaj) and why we’re mortally afraid that women in relationships who have group sex will be psychologically scarred for eternity.
She asks why we’re insistent that only P-in-va-G counts as actual sex, why bisexuals in films are often also knife-weilding murderers, how lucrative needing a wee can be and whether non-monogamy can ever end in anything but a house fire.
If you’ve read Karley’s writing before, the standout revelation in this book is the bit where she talks about her foray into sex work. It’s something she hasn’t documented previously and is a colourful and clever examination of how and why women who think sex is fun decide to turn it into a source of income. In full agreement with feminist porn producer Erika Lust, Karley acknowledges that while not everyone in the sex industry considers it a dream career, many do, and are having the time of their lives.
There were moments when I felt the bleaker side of sex work lay forgotten, but Sciortino’s overall argument is that not all Sugar Babies, strippers or call girls are dying inside. These chapters are a modern manifesto for women, men and everyone in between who think – or are prepared to start thinking – less conventionally about love, money and doing it.
If you think you’re a slapper, Karley has a tale to trump your orgy. And while I’m thinking up more euphemisms for ‘freewheeling ho’, it’s important to acknowledge that Sciortino is fully intent on reclaiming the S-word and using it with pride. Like ‘queer’ and ‘bitch’ before it, Karley reckons ‘slut’ needs to reimagined and must now become a four-letter label sexually triumphant women are honoured to employ.
About the author
Apart from her blog, Karley Sciortino also writes a column for Vogue called Breathless and has hosted a Viceland documentary looking into sexual behaviour. She grew up Catholic and names a stained-glass image of the Stations of the Cross as an early introduction to BDSM.
Sciortino claims for her, being sincere is ‘off-brand’. But although she follows every thoughtful insight with a joke about British teeth, facts are facts, the woman’s pearls of wisdom could form a necklace and matching tiara (the sexy kind.)
If you happily consider yourself a slut, you might not think twice about reading this. But it’s everyone else (the virgins, the sexually sensible, even the anorak’d dads) who might be surprised how much this gasp-inducing saucy handbook can inspire a carefree new perspective.