Tuesday, January 5, 2010

If Warren Beatty Were A Woman, Would We Celebrate 12,775 Sexual Partners?

image Biographer Peter Biskind recently wrote an unauthorized biography regarding actor Warren Beatty entitled “Star: How Warren Beatty Seduced America."  In the celebrity tell all, he alleges that Beatty had sex with "12,775 women, give or take, a figure that does not include daytime quickies, drive-bys, casual gropings, stolen kisses and so on."  It’s steamy pages includes commentary on the women that have been involved with Beatty, including supposed commentary from Joan Collins regarding Beatty’s alleged desire to have sex seven times a day.

Over the years there have been numerous male celebrities who have admitted to sex with large amounts of women.  Their careers have not been in the least bit stymied by this admission and in fact, it has helped to assure and cement their status as an icon.   The more women a man sleeps with, the more successful he is considered.

Shall we take a little trip and imagine instead that Warren Beatty is a woman.   Let’s assume for the record that she has the same sort of professional success, race and wealth (though of course this would be an impossibility, as a woman with that many lovers would not be allowed to be this successful), how long do you believe it would take for people to start slut shaming her?  Even without proof of sexual activity, women are routinely shamed for being in bars/clubs at certain hours, dancing to suggestively and the clothing that we choose to wear.  

There is a reason why male slut requires a prefix; promiscuity is understood to be centrally a female phenomenon.  When we use words like slut or whore, unless we specifically refer to a man, it is assumed that the subject is female.  Our own language reveals how naturally we slut shame women.   If Warren Beatty were female and the situation was exactly the same, it would be two seconds before he was referred to as a disease spreading whore.

The genders aren’t just naturally different; we construct the difference and then discipline based on it. If this were not the case, we would not be so obsessed with creating everything that is supposedly feminine in pink.  The feminine is one of our oldest pejoratives and it continues to be a negative because of patriarchal privilege. 

If you want to make a young girls life miserable, start a rumour that she has had sex with several guys.  If you want to make a guy popular, start a rumour that he has had sex with several girls.  Everyone loves a playa playa, ‘cause he’s just a squirrel trying to get his nut. Boys will be boys continues to be one of our most popular sayings and it serves to give a pass to atrocious behaviour that we would shame a girl to the end of time for.

I suppose in the end, I cannot image a woman proudly announcing having a lot of lovers.  Even a friends with benefits situation, is enough to get her slut shamed, never mind having anonymous sex at will.  Good girls have to wait for love and never admit to having a libido unless it suits the male that she is currently involved with.  When I see the female equivalent of Will Chamberlain being celebrated without any hint of slut shaming, then and only then, can we claim to have had a sexual revolution.