Dispatches from a Sexually Autonomous Woman in a Post-Shame World


By Karley Sciortino

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Slutever is a call-to-arms, a confessional memoir, and a slut manifesto—and it's all thanks to a sex-radical hedonist in a pink PVC mini dress.

"Slut" is a great word. It just sounds perfect-so sharp and clear and beautiful. It's one of those satisfying four letter words, like cunt and fuck. Slut also happens to be an anagram for lust, which is one of those divine coincidences that makes you wonder if God actually exists.

We're lucky that slut is such a great word, because it's safe to say that almost every woman will be called a slut at least once in her lifetime. Despite a slowly shifting sexual double standard, it's still taboo to be a woman who's openly sexual-let alone one who sleeps around. Now Vogue columnist Karley Sciortino is on a mission to reclaim the word "slut" to represent a person who seeks out visceral experiences through sex, and who isn't ashamed about it. Sluts are special. Sluts are radical. And sluts are skilled at time management, because they can handle multiple partners on rotation, plus their jobs and their blogs and their beauty routines. Not everyone is qualified for this coveted position.

Slutever is a thoughtful, first-person account of a modern woman, navigating sex, love, casual hookups, open relationships,, bisexuality, BDSM, breakups, sex work, sex parties, and the power of sexual agency, as told from the front lines.




Slut” is a great word. It just sounds perfect—so sharp and clear and beautiful. It’s one of those satisfying four-letter words, like “cunt” and “fuck.” “Slut” also happens to be an anagram for “lust,” which is one of those divine coincidences that makes you wonder if God actually exists.

We’re lucky that “slut” is such a great word, because it’s pretty safe to say that every woman will be called a slut at least once in her lifetime. I, personally, have the distinct pleasure of being called a slut like twelve times a day—just one of the many perks of being a sex writer in the age of internet trolls (*hair flip*). I’m not sure if my brain is wired wrong, or if I’ve simply developed a defense mechanism after years of harassment for being a professional blow-job blogger, but now when someone calls me a slut I get bizarrely excited by it. I find perverse pleasure in knowing that simply by being a woman who openly enjoys sex, I’m able to incite rage in total randoms. It’s entertaining. And it’s a rite of passage. Being called a slut means you’ve really made it, ya know? Like you’re officially a woman.

But what is a slut, anyway? According to the relic known as the Oxford English Dictionary, “slut” is a pejorative term for a woman who has many sexual partners. However, in recent years, the word has gone a bit rogue. These days, it’s often used maliciously as an umbrella term for any woman who’s openly sexual. Something as PG-13 as texting someone a topless selfie can make you a metaphorical whore these days. But if you can be slut-shamed while you’re still a virgin, then how do we define what it means to be a slut? Who holds the keys to the slut kingdom?

To me, a slut is a person who seeks out visceral experiences through sex. Being a slut is not necessarily about having a high body count; it’s about being sexually activated. A slut is someone who has no moral obstacle between themselves and their desire to enjoy sex. A slut is a person who has sex with who they want, how they want, and isn’t ashamed about it. Sluts are special. Sluts are radical. And sluts are also skilled at time management, because we can handle multiple dicks on rotation, plus our jobs and our blogs and our beauty routines. It’s not easy, being a ho. Not everyone is qualified for this coveted position.

And the slut label is unifying. When I meet a girl who self-identifies as a slut, I immediately feel an affinity with her—like, one of us. It’s like a modern-day vagina version of the Freemasons, except without the cool secret handshake. (Unless a hand job counts?) I believe that once we accept this more contemporary, sophisticated definition of “slut,” it will be easier to accept the label as a badge of honor.

Unfortunately, much of the world has yet to catch up to our level of slutty enlightenment. Until they do, we just have to own it. One of the best pieces of advice my mother ever gave me was: Whenever someone insults you, just smile and say “thank you” in that wonderfully blasé-slash-potentially clueless tone that Andy Warhol perfected. For example, I was recently at the STD clinic being casually diagnosed with throat gonorrhea when the doctor let out an unnecessarily long sigh. “Well,” he said condescendingly, “I’ve never known a woman to have gonorrhea in her throat before. Usually we only see that in gay men.” And I was like, “Wow, thank you!” Followed by, “Did you just assume my gender?”

So far, my sex life has been—how should I put it…colorful? There’ve been a lot of ups and downs. And, like, whips and chains, lies and deceit, love and hate, lust and money. Not to mention bruises, rashes, dungeons, confusion, insecurity, blackouts, crutches, orgies, doctor’s appointments, boys, girls, toys, trauma, hotels, jealousy, addiction, mysterious bloodstains—ya know, the usual.

For the most part, I’ve found my sexual curiosity to be a positive trait, as it’s led me to have experiences that I’m certain I’ll be happy to have had when I die—from Eyes Wide Shut–style sex parties in hotel penthouses, to being the “first assistant dildo” on a porn set, to somehow ending up in a prisoner-of-war role play in Munich with a married couple who didn’t speak a word of English. Without question, if I weren’t as slutty as I am, my life thus far would have been far less interesting. As my hooker friend likes to say: “Sluts have more fun.” But my sluttiness has also been the cause of many existential bathroom-mirror moments. Over the years, I’ve often found myself stabbing at the ingrown hairs on my bikini line, thinking: How does my gang-bang fantasy factor into my life plan about who I think I am… or whatever?

We are taught that our sexual behavior has a vital impact on who we are, our mental well-being, and how other people perceive us—especially for women. From a young age, society tells us that when a guy has a lot of sex, he’s a virile Don Juan who’s just fulfilling his biological urge to spread his seed (gross?). But if you’re a woman who has a lot of sex, not only are you a slut (in a bad way), but there’s also something fundamentally wrong with your brain. You couldn’t possibly just want sex for fun, like guys supposedly do, so the desire must be coming from low self-esteem, depression, or because you’re “ugly” and can’t get a boyfriend (as if ugly people don’t have boyfriends?). Talk about gaslighting on a mega-scale.

Since my teens, part of me has been infatuated with the rebelliousness of being a girl who sleeps around. But there was another part of me that thought, Let’s be real—there’s probably something wrong with me. It’s hard to escape this gloomy self-diagnosis when everyone close to you—from your parents, to your church, to your friends and boyfriends and even the characters in your favorite movies—is constantly telling you that if you’re a girl who has a lot of sex, it means that you’re unequivocally fucked up.

In terms of sexual freedom, we’ve come a long way in recent years. (Hello, you can say “pussy” on TV now.) But there continue to be lots of mixed messages floating around. The double standard is finally beginning to fade, but we’re still a culture with a slut-shaming problem, often made worse (or at least more public) by social media. Casual sex has become a casual part of the cultural conversation—women stalk prey on dating apps just like men do—and yet it’s still taboo to be a woman who has multiple partners. While many women today are vocally antislut–shaming, very few women are openly slutty. Basically, society is experiencing growing pains when it comes to female sexual autonomy. To be a slut or not to be a slut? That is the modern feminist question.

Slutty Heroines

It’s a no-brainer that we’re influenced by the people and stories that make up the culture around us. And it’s difficult to cite an example, either real or fictional, of a happy, healthy, promiscuous person—let alone a woman. There’s yet to be a successful woman in a movie who says, “I’ve got four guys on rotation and feel great about it,” because that freaks people out. Usually, instead, the story goes that the slut gets punished—whether she dies in the end, or ends up miserable and alone, or is slut-shamed off campus—because that’s the narrative our society is comfortable with. The promiscuous woman is painted as evil, inconsequential, or disposable. The slut doesn’t get to become a lawyer and live happily ever after.

Like, have you ever noticed that in basically every horror movie ever made, the “slutty girl” is the first to get stabbed or eaten by zombies? Yeah, that’s not a coincidence. The “punished slut” narrative is ubiquitous across film, TV, and literature. From classic examples like Anna Karenina, Belle du Jour, and The Scarlet Letter (shout out to Hester Prynne, OG high priestess of slut-shaming) to modern real-world cases like Monica Lewinsky and the Duke Porn Star, sluts have been getting fucked—literally and figuratively—since basically the dawn of time. Writer Tina Fey really hit the nail on the head in Mean Girls, when the high school sex-ed teacher tells his young female students: “Do not have sex. If you have sex, you will get pregnant…and die.” Funny, yet morbidly on point.

While men have long been the arbiters of mass media, they are not solely to blame for the tortured-slut narrative. Women are often also complicit in slut-shaming. At the risk of sounding like I’m prude-shaming, it seems to me that a lot of women repress their inner slut because they think that feigning naiveté will increase their sexual or romantic value. These women are buying into the notion that overt female sexuality scares men (because men are actually more insecure about their sexuality than women), and that men need to operate under the illusion that women are clueless about sex. But this is tragique. When we do this, not only are we fucking shit up for womankind, but we’re also hurting ourselves. It’s like faking orgasms—pulling a Sally when some guy is basically setting your clit on fire means that he’s going to keep doing that for eternity (or at least until a braver woman comes along and sets him straight). In my opinion, the woman who is truly perverse is the woman who pretends she’s not sexual to appease a (thoroughly misguided) man.

Of course, not all women have voracious sexual appetites, or are strategically wearing ill-fitting turtlenecks to conceal their inner sex maniac. Some women just aren’t interested in having a ton of sex, and to them I say: “It’s weird that you’re reading this book, but I respect you!” The unglamorous reality is, we live in a sex-negative society that conflates having a lot of sex with being a bad person—especially if you have a (supposedly sacred) vagina. Because of this, it can be difficult to separate our own desires (or lack thereof) from a society that tells us that a woman who sleeps around is a skanky loser. Sometimes, when it comes to sex, we end up lying to ourselves about who we are and what we want. Like, who knows—maybe you’re secretly a ho, but you just haven’t allowed yourself to realize it yet. (Something to look forward to.)

Thankfully, there are a few beacons of light in the otherwise slutless media. An obvious example is Samantha on Sex and the City, whose unapologetic, self-aware slut pride and professional success have made her the reigning queen of women with a high appetite for sex and adventure. There are porn stars like Sasha Grey and Stoya—intelligent women who promote extreme sexual exploration and also speak out about sexual health. I love Amber Rose, Amy Schumer, Rihanna, The Broad City girls, and Chelsea Handler, who all flaunt brazen, more-is-better attitudes toward sex. These women are great, but we need more like them, especially in the mainstream. Like all marginalized groups, sluts need representation, and we are seriously lacking in slutty role models. We need more smart, responsibly promiscuous women, acting as living proof that having a high sexual appetite, and satisfying it, doesn’t mean you’re an awful person or doomed.

Back when I first started writing about sex, one of my mother’s main concerns—and there were many—was that being open about my slutty adventures online would make it difficult to find a guy to date me. And I have to admit, there was a time when I thought maybe she was right. But the reality is, if someone doesn’t want to date me because I’m a slut, then he’s clearly not the guy for me anyway. I don’t care if some bro finds me less appealing because of how many partners I’ve had, or if he doesn’t want to take me home to his mother, because while my lifestyle may be unattractive to him, his ideals are unattractive to me. In a way, being open about your sexuality actually acts as a filter through which only the enlightened may pass. And besides, there are plenty of sexually open-minded dudes to go around, enough to (at least attempt to) satisfy all the sluts currently roaming the planet. And if I’m wrong about that, well, we’re sexually flexible Millennials—we can just become lesbians.

Victim Who?

If you’re a sexually curious woman, along with being called a slut, another unfortunate refrain is: “Are you sure you want to do that?” Some of my greatest hits include: Are you sure you want to fuck that married couple? Are you sure you want to go to that sex party? Are you sure you want to be suspended upside down from the ceiling by a guy with a low-hanging man bun? Are you sure you want to pee into that lawyer’s mouth for $200? The implication, of course, always being: because you might not like it! But it’s like…okay, so what?

As women, we’re led to believe that a negative sexual experience can be devastating—that if some asshole crosses one of our sexual boundaries, or if we leave the orgy feeling fat and uncomfortable instead of enlightened, that we might never recover. But why do women always have to be the “victims” of sex? Why is it that in nearly every area of our lives we are encouraged to take risks and try new things—to Lean In and play hard—but when it comes to sex, we’re like, “Be safe or you’ll end up traumatized or dead”? These doomsday ideas become self-fulfilling prophecies, cultivating a type of sexual fragility that I don’t think is healthy.

It’s true that sex can be high-risk. Things go wrong. People get hurt. But just because I had a bad sexual experience doesn’t mean that I’m broken. It means I know to avoid that thing going forward. I’ve done a lot of things in my life that it turned out I didn’t like—like that time, for instance, when I let my boyfriend tie me to a dresser while I watched him have sex with my best friend. Unsurprisingly, it was literally awful, but now at least I can say I’ve done it? The point is, there are far worse things in life than bad sex (like a hangover, for example).

Of course, sexual assault is real, and should not be tolerated under any circumstances. But assault is separate from the concept of victimhood. Feeling like a victim is a subjective headspace. Think about it this way: Men are taught that there is no such thing as a negative sexual experience. From a young age, boys are essentially taught: All sex is good sex; take what you can get; even a bad blow job is a good blow job. Pretty much the only quasi-negative sexual experience that you ever see a man have in a movie is the trope of a guy being tricked into sex with a fat or ugly woman—which, of course, is never traumatic for him, but rather a comical encounter that provides fodder for banter with his friends the next morning. But when a woman is coerced into sex, she spends the rest of the movie crying in the shower and developing a cheesy nineties-throwback self-harm habit.

It’s no secret that female sexuality has long been policed. But today we’ve created an environment where (allegedly predatory) male sexuality needs to be policed, and (allegedly passive) female sexuality needs to be protected—which seems equally tragic to me. At the heart of the victim narrative is a familiar and unfortunate premise: the idea that, by having sex, men are getting something, whereas women are giving something up. It’s outdated, it’s offensive, and it’s psychologically destructive for women, because it has the power to mislead girls into thinking that having one not-ideal sexual experience means that they have lost a part of themselves. Hello—pitying and victimizing women doesn’t help us; it just dismisses the importance of female sexual agency.

Back in the mid-1960s, universities set curfews for their female students, whereas men were allowed to stay out as late as they pleased. It was then that a faction of the feminist movement, in part lead by Camille Paglia—the controversial feminist, academic, and writer, who back then was a college student—fought to gain the same freedoms that men had. They rejected the need for special protections, instead wanting autonomy over their private lives. They said: “Give us the freedom to risk rape.” Of course, that sounds jarring. But the point they were making is relevant still: We would rather be free in the world and accept whatever risk comes along with that than be trapped inside, endlessly braiding each other’s hair like passive Rapunzels.

In our postwoke social-justice Millennial whatever, there is no excuse for men to not have a thorough understanding of the nuances of consent. Today more than ever we should hold men accountable for their actions, and to a high sexual standard. But as women, we infantilize ourselves when we don’t take responsibility for our own actions in the bedroom. We have to be able to assess the difference between assault and discomfort. Of course, I’m not saying that if you’re a legitimate victim of sexual abuse you should just “get over it.” (It feels relevant to note that, often, people who are sexually abused call themselves “survivors” rather than “victims,” in an effort to move away from the idea of the passive female victim who’s there for the taking.) But we decide what moments in our lives we give power to. We write our own stories. We can decide to define ourselves by our worst experiences—to become victims rather than survivors—or instead, after something bad happens, we can learn from it and move forward. Because realistically, being a fragile victim is just not on-brand for the modern slut.

If I want to reap the benefits of slutdom, I have to have a thick skin. If I want sexual freedom, I have to be able to say no. Slut power is about freedom, but it’s also about taking responsibility. The world is not a safe space. There is no such thing as safe sex. We are not victims, we are predators.

Cum to the Dark Side

For decades, feminists have been divided over what should become of the word “slut.” There are essentially two camps. The first camp believes that we should eradicate use of the word altogether, arguing that when women call each other sluts—even when it’s in an lol feminist bonding way—we’re perpetuating slut-shaming and so-called rape culture. It’s like when Tina Fey’s character in Mean Girls tells the group of high schoolers: “You all have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it okay for guys to call you sluts and whores.” While Mean Girls is basically my bible (I clearly can’t go three pages without referencing it), I don’t agree with that sentiment. I’m part of camp two, which posits that rather than rejecting the word, we should reclaim it. Historically, many pejorative words have been reclaimed—from “queer” to “butch” to “fag” to “bitch”—by the communities that experienced oppression under those labels. So why should “slut” be any different? It’s naive to think that we can simply abolish a word from the social lexicon because it’s “mean.” (And why would anyone want to get rid of such a wonderfully depraved word, anyway?) Instead, we should take ownership of the slut label, and subvert its negative connotations. Reclaiming a word gives it less ability to harm, and increases its power for provocation and solidarity.

The great feminist slut divide began back in the early nineties, when the Riot Grrrl feminist punk rock movement became the first group to attempt to reclaim the word. I was in my early twenties when I discovered the Riot Grrrl band Bikini Kill, and I remember vividly the first time I saw that iconic photo of singer Kathleen Hanna with “slut” scrawled across her stomach in red lipstick. She looked so impossibly cool. And not only was her message immediately effective, it was also just really funny. Like, girl didn’t give a fuck. In that moment, I realized that it was possible to hijack a word intended to hurt you, and reappropriate it as an instrument of power and irreverence.

I felt similarly the first time I saw a video of Annie Sprinkle’s performance art piece Public Cervix Announcement. In the performance, Sprinkle—the legendary artist, porn star, academic, and sex educator—sat on a chair with her legs spread wide, casually inserted a doctor’s speculum into her vagina, and then invited audience members to come look at her cervix with a flashlight. Pretty epic. She did this in more than a dozen countries throughout the nineties, in front of thousands of people, always with a big smile, cracking jokes. When I saw the video, in my early twenties, I was in awe of how playful the whole thing was. Sprinkle—who self-identifies as a “slut goddess”—was radical in her ideas about sexual exploration and slutty acceptance, but her rebellion had so much joy and levity in it. She was the ultimate antivictim. I was like, Whoa, feminism can be funny? Who knew?!

But not everyone was on the slut train. People in the other camp—the “anti-sluts,” if you will—argued that we should reject the word because it illustrates how, historically, women have been categorized based on their sexual relationships with men. They argued that, while embracing the slut persona might be chill and empowering within your enlightened social circle of feminist bloggers and their beta-male entourages, the rest of the world basically doesn’t get the joke. So you might think you’re being funny, but you’re actually perpetuating the sexual double standard. Essentially, this camp believes that in a world where women are hypersexualized, embracing the word “slut” is actually more of a surrender than a radical act of resistance.

That dispute—over whether, by being slutty, we are empowering ourselves or just shooting ourselves in the vagina—has been central to the feminist divide for a long time, but it hit a peak in the early 2000s. As you likely remember, this was the era of Girls Gone Wild, striptease workouts at the gym, the “landing strip,” and Paris Hilton casually flashing her labia to strangers. In reaction to this, writer Ariel Levy authored Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture (2005). The book was intended as a wake-up call to women, and essentially argued that the hypersexual female culture that’s supposedly “empowering” is actually just women taking part in their own objectification. She was basically saying that the freedom to be drunk at da club in Manolos with your vag out wasn’t the freedom that Gloria Steinem had in mind.

And that’s probably true—the vision of the future painted by the pioneers of feminism likely had more to do with women in higher education than it did with paparazzi pussy shots. But like, why are the two mutually exclusive? Why can’t I get a PhD and also jerk off in front of a webcam for money on the weekends? Why can’t sluts and nonsluts live together in harmony? Why is it unfathomable that humor and irreverence are valid modes of resistance? At the very least, it sure beats being offended by everything.

While I do think the word “slut” should be reclaimed, I should be clear about what I mean by that. The word “reclaim” is associated with redemption—to reclaim is to recover, to reform, to civilize. That’s not exactly what the goal is with “slut,” at least in my opinion. We don’t want to simply reverse the idea of being a slut from being “bad” to being “good,” or from unacceptable to acceptable. There is something bad about being a slut—something naughty, controversial, and unpredictable—and I don’t think we should lose that. Men don’t have to be good, so why should women? The idea that female sexuality is entirely righteous, or that we have a better handle on controlling our sexuality than men, is a great societal delusion (and one that is sometimes perpetuated by feminism). To totally flip the meaning of “slut” into something that’s solely positive or empowering denies the darkness that’s inherent in slutdom, which is part of what makes it so sexy.

Of course, we want to move toward a society where women aren’t slut-shamed and can express themselves without fear. But I think it’s possible to cultivate a society that permits healthy sexual exploration, while also maintaining the taboo and transgressive elements of slut life. Like, my goal isn’t to be good or normal or accepted. My goal is to be free. (And maybe also to troll society a bit in the process, for good measure).


I’ve been writing and ranting about sex and relationships for more than a decade, and have never been good at sitting on the sidelines, observing the action from an objective distance. I prefer to dive into a world headfirst, to chronicle my experiences from the inside. This book is no different. Slutever is a first-person account of a modern, young(ish) woman navigating sex, love, casual hookups, open relationships, boyfriends, girlfriends, bisexuality, BDSM, breakups, sex work, sex parties, and a whole lot of other slutty stuff, as told from the front lines. This is not a self-help or a how-to situation—god no, I wouldn’t put you through that. This is more of a call to arms, a confessional memoir, a slut manifesto, as told by a hedonistic, sex-radical libertarian slut in a pink PVC minidress. This is a story of a slut who lives happily ever after—or at least one who doesn’t get eaten by zombies.



Sex Education

What I’m about to say is so predictable that it verges on cliché: I grew up in a conservative Catholic family. Yes, I am a slutty Catholic girl. How unoriginal.


  • "Slutever is a funny, surprising, and ultimately enlightening book. Karley Sciortino is a natural-born killer of outmoded ways of thinking about love, sex, and personal agency. Generation slut has found a thoughtful, articulate voice."
    Christopher Ryan, Ph.D. (Co-author of Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray,and What It Means for Modern Relationships)
  • "Karley is the mad aunt every proto-slut should have. Hilarious *and* informative. I genuinely wish I'd had this book when I was a teen. I suspect it would have helped me make sense of the world and myself a lot faster."
    Stoya, pornographer

On Sale
Feb 6, 2018
Page Count
288 pages

Karley Sciortino

About the Author

Karley Sciortino is a writer, host, and producer, based in New York. She is the founder of Slutever, a website that explores sexuality through both humor and intellect. She also writes’s sex and relationships column, Breathless, and is the creator and host of Slutever, a documentary TV series that explores sexual behavior and premiered on Viceland in 2018. She is also a regular contributor to Purple.

Learn more about this author