Is it liberating to sleep around?

This week, whilst Lily Allen hit the airwaves declaring ‘I don’t have to shake my ass for you ‘cos I’ve got a brain”, a friend shared with me the story of a girl who had been a few years above me at school. Across the British media, under the banner of ‘Britain’s horniest student’ Elina Desaine, a third-year student at Exeter University, posed for photos in her underwear with a sash declaring her new title, and wads of money tucked into her knickers. The article reports her describing herself as a ‘Slutvian’ due to her Latvian descent and promiscuity, and a ‘modern-day feminist’. This begs the question; can you be both? The presentation of Elina in this article is undeniably degrading and extremely problematic, but it is all too easy to respond with distain, condemning her behaviour without considering the core question underlying this example – is it liberating for a girl to sleep around?

The questionable founder of the competition, Tom Thurlow, is quoted as describing Elina as ‘the most sexually confident person I have ever met’, exemplifying the view that Elina is a liberated child of feminism, benefitting from the battles of the 1960’s in order to sleep around at her pleasure. And it must be acknowledged that there is something to this. In another video that went viral this week, a bus of hockey players from the University of Stirling are seen chanting “A lady came into the store one day, asking for an orgasm…who the fuck cares what she got?” This tired misogynistic repression of female sexuality proves that women still have a long way to go before they reach anything close to a parity with men in the bedroom, and some will argue that the way forwards is for women to be more open and assertive about their sexual desires, needs and experiences.

However, the article is framed in the same problematic terms surrounding sex; Elina’s sexual partners are ‘conquests’, and she has a ‘shag list’, often using terms such as ‘third year guy’ as opposed to names. Is this what liberation is? No – this just an inversion of the oppression and objectification that women have been challenging for decades. While one member of a sexual encounter is dominant, and another a mere scribble on a list of sexual ‘achievements’, no progression has been made. Sure, feminism can and should mean different things to different women, but my message to Elina is; don’t kid yourself – shag all you want, but don’t shout about it. Letting yourself be presented like this in national media isn’t liberated, it’s degrading.