Margo Howard Sounds Off

Our beloved columnist clarifies her position on a charged topic: “friends with benefits”

To my wOw readers:

I gotta tell you, I haven’t created such a commotion with an answer to a letter since I wrote about handicapped toilets back in my “Dear Prudence” days. Many people suggested I accept ten lashes with a wet noodle … but, alas, my mother took the noodle with her.

The letter in question, of course, was from “John in Essex.” My English correspondent wrote this:

Dear Margo: I often see references in your column (and elsewhere) to “friends with benefits.” Where can I find a woman like this? It sounds wonderful. I can have sex and do nothing for her in return. When did this “friends with benefits” start? When I was a young man, we used to call those women sluts. So today we rename the sluts, and they fall for it. I wish I were 30 years younger. I could use a friend with benefits. — John from Essex

I answered:

Dear John: Thanks for the laugh. Your sly take on this subject is most likely shared by everyone who is middle-aged. My guess is that this new casual approach to what used to be something meaningful is post-sexual revolution, if not post-post-sexual revolution. Somehow the kids went off the rails and decided sex was just something to do … you know, like a video game or playing darts.

The women you call “sluts” I would call “loose,” and they have been around forever. That behavior, however, was not sanctioned, as it is now; there was usually a reputational price to pay, if not a venereal disease. (Those are still possible, by the way!) Around the 1780s, Count Talleyrand observed: “In order to avoid being called a flirt, she always yielded easily.” So you see, dear, the activity has remained the same; only the name has changed.

* * *

I now believe hell must have previously been anchored to who-knows-what, because it sure broke loose when I heard from countless numbers of women. The complaints were that I didn’t believe in sexual parity, I was endorsing a double standard, there really was no such things as “sluts,” I should have told John HE was a slut, and furthermore, I should retire. I was also taken to task for using the phrase “venereal disease” rather than STD. (I think physicians would disagree with this person.) Oh, and more than one person wrote that my having been married four times suggested I must have had “a colorful past” of my own. I acknowledge the colorful past, but I can tell you it never involved anyone I was not, well … involved with, and certainly not with anyone who phoned up and said “How about it?”

One writer said:

“This generation thinks that women can have fun if they should choose to this way and they have more to offer as a partner than their sisters who value virginity/purity/chastity. Instead of chastising us for that, celebrate it, or crack down on male sluts as well.”

I clearly didn’t craft my answer carefully enough, because I was somewhere between laughing and playing along. I mean, here is this guy saying Friends-With-Benefits is terrible … and he wishes he could find some of these women. By me, this is humorous. It was in no way reflective of me thinking that women are not free to do whatever they wish in the sex department. I have always believed that one can be busy, sexually, without being a slut. (Which, by the way, is a valid term if a woman’s #1 identifier is that she will sleep with anyone.)

The one thing I am not veering away from is that FWB can be totally without meaning, which I think is a shame. I do, in fact, believe that sex is recreation – for people who have a relationship. If people wish to engage in this pastime with casual friends, fine with me. I just think it takes away from any intimacy aspects of sex. And perhaps the word “slut” has become so expanded as to not mean to me what it means to others. I, for example, refer to myself as “a private plane slut.” I admit that I think FWB is an odd concept for, say, women over 45. I could be wrong. And I certainly wasn’t chastising anyone who chooses to live her life this way. I do not believe in a double standard. I do believe that women who are getting it on with anybody and everybody is the female equivalent of a womanizer. As I have said on Twitter, I wish there were a font for irony or sarcasm. For the readers who thought I was bashing women, I hope I have cleared up what my thinking actually is.

86 Responses so far.

  1. avatar secretagent412 says:

    You admit in your response that [slut] “…is a valid term if a woman’s #1 identifier is that she will sleep with anyone.” So if a woman’s personal sexual conduct doesn’t fall in line with what *you* deem to be acceptable, that woman deserves to be called names? Did you really feel that that lovely little “clarification” would placate other women?

    “Slut” is a pejorative primarily directed at women, that is used often regardless of actual sexual activity to shame, dehumanize and diminish a woman. It is a tool that people (often men) use to keep women “in their place” and fear of that word keeps many a woman from embracing, let alone acting, on her sexuality.

    Equating the term “womanizer” with “slut” is just disingenuous. You know very well that “womanizer” is not anywhere near as caustic an insult. Until and unless a woman’s sexuality is as embraced and celebrated as is a man’s, using that term is just perpetuating that tired old double standard, and doing the women of the world (and your readers, who respect you) a terrible disservice.

    And when people referenced your multiple marriages, they were pointing out that it wasn’t long ago that women like you were scorned and looked down upon by polite society. Keep using that term to color other women red, and you might notice some think you’re a bit pink, yourself.

    • avatar olivepoetry says:

      I don’t have a problem with the word “slut.” It can be applied to men too. I know many more male sluts than female ones. I think that focusing on semantics is a waste of time. Margo didn’t use the word slut first, she was responding to someone else who was using it, someone I might add who seems to be a wannabe male “slut.” Lighten up.

  2. avatar secretagent412 says:

    Yeah, and lots of people didn’t think “colored” was offensive for a long time, either. It was, and “slut” is, and nationally respected columnists bandying around terms that damage people is not something I want to lighten up about.

    • avatar olivepoetry says:

      the word “slut” has been around since the 14th century, a bit longer than “colored”. In the late 1400s, Chaucer used “sluttish” to refer to an ill-kempt man. It is not a word reserved for women. If Margo had used the “n” word I would be offended (I am offended when anyone uses the “n” word. The “s” word, not so much). I just think people give more power to negative language than they need to, especially when they react to pejorative language. 

      One of the beautiful things about the US is the lack of language police.   We are not the French, we don’t have government departments that work to keep the language pure. 

      I love books. I am a huge book slut. 

  3. avatar beatrix_pierre says:

    Geez, people. Everyone can huff and puff over double standards but the reality is FWB actually lets the men get away with no strings attached sex while the women gets the short end of the deal.

    For the rare woman who enjoys having only sex and no other relationship/commitment with the FWB, she is probably looked upon as a woman of power and wealth not as a slut or any other derogatory term.  

    For the men it’s a win win situation. No need to remember special days or worry about fathering a child or being committed. Having a reputation as a womanizer doesn’t stop the women flocking and hoping to be bedded.

    • avatar Raugiel Reddel says:

      Why would a woman have to be powerful or wealthy to desire some no strings attached sex? Is FWB only “OK” for rich people? Otherwise, how would having an FWB relationship make you appear wealthy or powerful?

      Also, as someone who has done FWB a few of times, I ended them all because the MEN demanded too much dang attention. Their professed lack of emotional commitment is often only that – professed.

      • avatar beatrix_pierre says:

        I don’t personally know any rich and powerful women having a sex only relationship. FWB is probably “okay” for sexually active people in their 20’s who can enjoy sex with someone they like in bed but don’t enjoy other activities with.  Just saying that perception is a wealthy woman who has a stud or two to service her needs probably isn’t seen as a slut in her circle while a financially less off woman who is in a similar relationship is viewed as a slut.

        Good for you, you enjoyed FWB with men who wanted to be more than FWB!

        • avatar Raugiel Reddel says:

          I think that any relationship where two people agree on the ground rules (truly and without coercion) should be “OK” regardless of other factors.

          Perhaps some of the reason people seem to be so hot-button about FWB, particular those that are insistent that it “never” works out, is because it seems many people lie about their desire to actually have a FWB relationship when what they really want is something else. Agreeing to a relationship type that you don’t really want will never make you happy, no mater what that relationship type is.

  4. avatar Lisa Cornell says:

    Personally, I always thought FWB applied equally to both males and females as did “sluttish” behavior. In fact, I thought that this was something women felt was the great equalizer. For the record, having had a colorful past and now happily ensconced in middle-age and a monogamous marriage, I see this lifestyle choice as doomed to failure. It offers little or no intimacy and if one can judge from the comments here and in the original post, it leaves its adherents or supporters angry and defensive. The fact is, women and men have been duped into believing they can have it all. The fact is, none of us can have it all. Those who wish to embrace a lifestyle that does not respect boundaries of taste and behavior, should understand there will be consequences for their behavior, which includes a lack of acceptance. For those who think it is empowering, I say good luck with that. I firmly believe they will wake up one day and regret it. That said, life is full of regrets. I guess from my standpoint, I just never understood the concept of how dressing like a slut or behaving like one, empowered women. To me, dressing with little to no clothes on is the most most degrading form of enslavement.
    By the way, I ran this by my husband and he is intrigued. I discussed with him that since he is my BFF, I suppose we could be F Buddies who are FWBS. He wants me to make him a booty call. I told him that he couldn’t call me for a while afterward and he asked if it was against the rules for him to come home after work. I told him, we could make an exception.

  5. avatar Obediah Fults says:

    Let my friend, Margo, alone…you big, bad meanies!

  6. avatar gracem says:

    I was hoping for an apology, when one came, it wasn’t much of an apology. I was kidding, I didn’t mean it that way, and some women really are sluts are not statements of someone who is sorry for what they said. 

    They are the kind of statements made by people who have been called on offensive speech but really do not respect the group they offended.

    I am quite surprised that a website for women would endorse this kind of thinking. Words do matter. You can call it semantics all you want but the words used to describe oppressed groups have power and they matter.

    Do those of you who think the word slut is an acceptable word also think if a “slut” gets raped she is at least partly to blame for the way she acted or dressed? Does her reputaion count against her?

    How very disappointing that this website has chosen to allow women to be degraded and disguised it as everyone being entitled to their opinion.


    • avatar JustChillPeeps says:

      I agree! I’m not sure which is more egregious Margo original reply or her um…clarification (’cause it sure wasn’t anything close to an apology). If someone wouldn’t be unhappy in a FWB relationship because they feel it “…. it takes away from any intimacy aspects of sex.” Fine, that is your business BUT you don’t get to call a woman a slut or loose because she makes a different choice than you. And that’s why many people are upset with both Margo’s original response and her um….clarification.

      And Wow…you might want to make a statement yourselves, something this distasteful from one of your featured writers is NOT good for a site dedicated to women.

    • avatar Lisa Cornell says:

      Wow, I never realized I was a member of an oppressed group. The problem with women who believe all women are members of a disenfranchised group, is that they see women who disagree with them as traitors or victims. I am a firm believer that women who think that they should be able to dress as sluts, behave outrageously and do and say as they please, must be willing to accept the consequences. Ditto for men. However, by and large you don’t see men parade about with their sex organs on display. How does dressing with little or no clothing on, empower women, please tell me. I really do think that parading one’s physical attributes reduces us to shallow sex objects. How can we blame anyone for objectifying us when we reserve the right to put the girls and our asses out there for public consumption. Those who choose to make their living by using their rumps rather than their wits, ought to understand they are making women in general and themselves in particular, look foolish.

      Finally, when I read the writer’s letter, I thought he was being funny. When did we lose our sense of humor. Some of the posters here not only have no sense of humor, but they come across as mean and nasty. They talk about misogyny, but what I hear is misandry. Let’s agree there shouldn’t be double standards and realize we need to start by respecting ourselves and each other regardless of gender.

      BTW, I agree with Margo and love her advice. I had wondered where her mother’s wet noodle went. Thanks for sharing.

      • avatar Lila says:

        Lisa Cornell, WELL SAID.

      • avatar Raugiel Reddel says:

        Do you live in the USA? From where I sit, it is expected and encouraged for women to dress provocatively, and par for the course for young men to do the same these days. Have you seen the “Situation” clothing line?

        Also, if you think making an average of 70% of what a man does for the same job, being expected to do 70% of the housework and 80% of the child rearing – but also expected to call that equal partnership – is giving women 100% equal status to men (therefor not an oppressed group), then perhaps they will never have to treat us like equals. Enjoy the gilded cage!

        • avatar Lila says:

          “…it is expected and encouraged for women to dress provocatively…” YES, big problem: sexualization of females from an early age, teaching both boys and girls that the only value a female has is looking great and putting out (run a search on “sexualization of girls” and see all the reports and studies about the harm). So, defy expectations: DON’T dress like that, DON’T buy into it, teach our daughters the same, and explain why. Clothing choices do send a message.

        • avatar Lila says:

          Statistics: Women will NEVER be 100% equal to men because women are the ones who get pregnant. See “There Is No Male-Female Wage Gap,” Wall Street Journal, 12 Apr 2011, by Carrie Lukas. When males and females were equally compared – a pool in which ALL were young, single, childless, and urban – women’s pay actually came out ahead of men’s. Pregnancy and childrearing derail all that, married or not. Fair? No. Fact? Yes. There are only 24 hours in a day, and every hour spent at work is one not spent with the kids, and vice versa.

          Men also only get 24 hours a day, and even if they are the best Dads ever, they will NEVER have to spend one second of their time pregnant, in childbirth, recovering, having complications… we don’t have to, either, but the price is foregoing a family. Not an equal choice.

          • avatar Sadie BB says:

            Lila – sounds like a good argument for better social supports for working parents. Rather than just passively accepting the status quo.
            Don’t know that much can be done about the pregnancy part but most women I know seem to be off about 4 months per child – it’s the child rearing that really cuts into ones time.

          • avatar Lila says:

            Sadie, it IS the child-rearing that really cuts into one’s time, and somehow it IS still disproportionately the women who bear that burden. Single fathers (like mine) also see their careers suffer, due to all the same distractions that single moms deal with…. but with married couples, where you would think things could be split more equally, it seems that they just… aren’t. And I wonder why that is. Is Mom’s career automatically assumed to be the “lesser” of the two because of her 3 or 4 month maternity leaves for each child?

            As for better social supports for working parents – businesses might talk a good game, but such support is expensive so they would really rather not pay for employee absences… including illnesses or family emergencies, much less maternity. Govt-funded programs – well, need I say more? Not much there either.

          • avatar Sadie BB says:

            Lila – From what I have observed mom’s career is considered lesser because it is lesser. Lesser paid.

            And yes, I am advocating for government support for parents. Right now we have created a situation where intelligent women think twice about having kids and the half the time don’t have them at all. Wonder how that’s going to work out for the next generation.

        • avatar Sadie BB says:

          Go Raugiel!!

      • avatar beatrix_pierre says:

        Go Lisa!

  7. avatar B.eadle says:

    UGH! There was a second letter on the day that this one ran. A letter from a person with an actual question who was seeking actual help. I don’t recall seeing a lot of responses for that poor woman. Maybe some of you who are all up in arms over this idiot from Essex could get off your soapboxes long enough to offer assistance to the other letter writer.

    If you think less of Margo for her response than so be it. Her life will go on. Consider yourself educated on her stance, as she is on yours. John from Essex is laughing his butt off at all the uproar he caused with his stupid letter. Can we just let him go back under his rock?

  8. avatar normadesmond says:

    i’d scrolled down and read some of the
    responses to the initial post and quickly scurried away. all those flailing talons…

  9. avatar LandofLove says:

    “The one thing I am not veering away from is that FWB can be totally without meaning, which I think is a shame. I do, in fact, believe that sex is recreation – for people who have a relationship. If people wish to engage in this pastime with casual friends, fine with me. I just think it takes away from any intimacy aspects of sex.”

    I share your opinion on that, Margo.   

  10. avatar BeanCounter says:

    Everyone is a martyr.   Clarification:  Everyone LOVES being a martyr.   Everyone loves being “offended”.   Everyone loves being involved in everyone else’s sex lives. 

    My take on this?  This guys nonsensical letter and Margo’s tongue-in-cheek response is lovely and entertaining.   It has no impact on my life and how I refer to other people as sluts or not.   You judgmental people are crazy.  

  11. avatar Nousatsu says:

    Letter #1 has obviously elicited many responses and I couldn’t help but share my own:
    First, to the commenters citing religious reasons as why “FWB” or whatever derivation you would like to use is wrong, I must ask – do you follow ALL teachings of the Bible? If not, you are not a “Christian with VERY strong spiritual beliefs”. If you claim to be Christian, then you should not pick and choose which parts of the Bible you believe and follow. If you truly believe you are Christian, then what God has said is his Word. Any derivation is that of forbidden. You are putting yourself above God and saying that what he has put forth is wrong. As to the female commenters, the Bible says a Christian woman should not even be commenting on this site in response to a man’s letter – “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.” (1 Timothy 2:12). Not to pick on Belinda Joy, but if your avatar is a picture of yourself, you look to me as if you are a black woman. If you are, the Bible also condones slavery. “Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the cruel.” (1 Peter 2:18). Women are also to submit to their husbands – “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:22). Women have been seen as the lesser sex for eons and this letter, even if in jest, only perpetuates this inadequacy. I could continue to point out countless other passages from the Bible that are equally ridiculous and insidious, but I don’t feel I need to belabor the point. I was raised Christian, with a minister as a grandfather. I have read the Bible (many times in fact), but I have also read many other religious doctrines. Human sexuality and religious doctrines should have nothing to do with one another. After all…there is a reason the Bible (and others) are kept in the fiction section of the library….
    Second, I can’t help but continue to applaud all of those who are asking – if a woman is a “slut” for sleeping around, then what is the man that is sleeping with her? “It takes two to tango”, after all. Female, male, what does it matter what they do in their bedrooms behind closed doors? I have never understood why anyone else cares what other people are doing on their own, consensual time. It does not affect you in any way, shape or form. Nor do I understand why women get the “joy” of be labeled as a “slut” or the like simply because they enjoy physical pleasure. There is a reason why women are able to reach an orgasm that is separate and independent from procreation. So we are supposed to deprive ourselves from natural, physically pleasure simply because we are not legally bound to another person of the opposite sex? Balderdash! We only have a finite amount of time on this earth in this shell, so why are we to not engage in a consensual activity that hurts no one, but brings joy to ourselves and our sexual partner? And yes, this does sound like the same argument for gay marriage, but no I am not gay. I am well adjusted, educated, loving, caring wife, mother, sister, friend, etc. that is very sexual and derives great pleasure from sex. I have had many lovers and am not apologetic for that fact. Nor should I be. Nor should any man who also has consensual sex with whomever he chooses.
    I’ll close with another quote: “You and me baby ain’t nothing but mammals, so let’s do it like they do it on the Discovery Channel”

    • avatar S Hughes says:

      I think it was Americans who invented black=slave.

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        In Spain, Italy and Portugal, people with very dark skin (Sub-Saharan Africans, as distinguished from Semitic or Arabic people, or those with Indian or Mediterranean input) were referred to, in a non-pejorative sense, by words meaning “black”, or “as black”. Many pure tribal people do, in fact, have such dark skin as to appear black, or nearly so. This was not prejudicial originally. “Negro” is the Spanish word for “black”.

        You should really look into all the terms for Black people (still the term ALL of my friends and acquaintances use, and my husband’s co-workers, and my son’s fellow students) that were in use in New Orleans that were completely non-pejorative in the 1800’s. “Darkie”, “n****r”, “nigra”…those were insults, as were many others. “Black” became really popular in the mid-20th century, and was followed by the slogan “Black is Beautiful”. It was not considered a pejorative, nor an equivalent of “slave”.

        Current associations of black with darkness, evil and ignorance are etymologically naive, because those associations (based in early Christianity) disappeared long before slavery really took hold in this country, then reappeared relatively recently with the advent of “African American”. Africa is not a country, it’s a continent, and it’s huge. There are hundreds of ethnic and racial types of native Africans, so to refer to “black” Americans as African Americans is specious at best, as there are Semitic, Arabic (both “white” ethnicities, technically) and hundreds of different tribal “black” native Africans, many of which are genetically unrelated, and whom hate each other.

        I do believe that Whoopi Goldberg, so highly respected on this site, said it best:

        ” * Most of all, I dislike this idea nowadays that if you’re a black person in America, then you must be called African-American. Listen, I’ve visited Africa, and I’ve got news for everyone: I’m not an African. The Africans know I’m not an African. I’m an American. This is my country. My people helped to build it and we’ve been here for centuries. Just call me black, if you want to call me anything.”
        o The Daily Telegraph interview, 20 April 1998 [1]

        That is how all of the many, many black people I’ve known in my 52 years seem to have felt as well.

  12. avatar Raugiel Reddel says:

    This clarification is pretty disappointing. As I read it, you say you were laughing at John and playing along with him. However, all your zings are directed at people who might like a FWB situation, an no negativity directed at John. Maybe I am sarcasm deficient, but I don’t see anything in your response to indicate that it is not meant to be taken as it is written.

    The second part of your clarification makes no sense. You won’t back down from the idea that FWB CAN be meaningless? Sex in ANY relationship or lack thereof can be meaningless. Have you forgotten the letters you have received from married folk that illustrate this? What you are doing is not refusing to back down, but trying to make it look like you didn’t condemn all FWB relationships as meaningless by definition in your first post. Of course, that is in effect backing down, but without admitting you are doing so.

    I am with those other readers wondering whether the original post or this “clarification” is more embarrassing.

  13. avatar maytaguide says:

    In my opinion, Margo, you had it right in your original column. Your clarification is fine, but you needn’t apologize to anyone.
    Does “John from Essex” actually exist, or was the letter a clever plant to set off a storm?
    Irony is a virtue that requires intelligence to appreciate.

  14. avatar mjd4 says:

    Margo wrote, ” here is this guy saying Friends-With-Benefits is terrible … and he wishes he could find some of these women. By me, this is humorous.” 

    I think, if we lived in a world where such a declaration was obviously ridiculous, there would not have been such a strong response.  The problem is, I am sure the LW saw nothing at all odd about what he said, and he is by no means alone.  There are, in this day and age, a great many men and women who would judge a woman for having casual sex while accepting that of course a man is going to try to.  There are men who will judge a woman unworthy for having sex with him too soon, even when he (obviously) had sex just as soon. 

    Margo may have found this inherent contradiction funny, and indeed it should be, but nothing in her response suggested that she disagreed with it.       

  15. avatar Belinda Joy says:

    I don’t know Margo, did you really have to clarify your opinion? Or are we dealing with a small but vocal group of angry and overly sensitive women?

    Your regular readers and those that know your sense of humor and style of writing had to know all you said in your response to John was said with your tongue firmly planted in your cheek. What you said about John railing about women being sluts for engaing in FWB all while wishing he could do the same, is exactly the irony that struck me as laughable.

    I have said this a million times to you, but I wish I could be as detached and non-judgemental on issues of this sort as you are.  Take comfort Margo in the fact that those that know you best, and follow your column, know where your heart and HUMOR rests. For those who are feminazi’s (yes I realize what I said) or overly sensitive female supporters (as in the countless women that say “I support women no matter what” that should tell you the caliber of person you are dealing with. As JayZ says, brush the dust off your shoulder….and move on.     

    • avatar Sadie BB says:

      Belinda – counting posters (not the number of posts – everybody’s opinion counted just once) across both Margo column we have

      34 Against her sentiments
      16 for
      8 can’t really tell where they stand

      So… We may be vocal but we are not small !!

      • avatar Belinda Joy says:

        Sadie BB: Do you realize that the Dear Margo column is carried on many outlets, not just wowowow? For you or anyone that reacted to her response to John’s letter is tantemount to people being up in arms and complaining that (RIP) Andy Rooney responded to a letter in a sarcastic manner.

        Those that “claim” to follow Margo should know her sense of humor and have understood her response in that light. Nothing about her response was remotely written in a manner that should require her to make an apology IMO. There are men AND women in this world that are sluts. And some of us….label those who view sex as a light and airy, no big deal issue “my body is a playground” manner as….sluts. I know I do.  I found his letter funny because he was essentially saying he hates sluts and wants to be a slut.


        • avatar Sadie BB says:

          Belinda – I have actually been on this site for years and I do understand. I also understand that on a website dedicated to women you will find many readers who have thought this issue thru. Apparently Margo does not.
          slut is now a term akin to n#gger. Because I know a couple of black people who don’t find the word offensive, is that any excuse for using it? Don’t think so.
          I actually feel some sympathy to Margo because I once carelessly used the word ‘retard’ in front of someone with a mentally challenged brother. They quickly set me straight…much more gently that I deserved.

        • avatar Raugiel Reddel says:

          So, all us women who don’t appreciate Margo condoning the use of derogatory slurs against women as a “joke”, as she says she meant it, are uppity sticks in the mud who just don’t get it? Where have we heard THAT line before???

        • avatar Briana Baran says:

          Belinda Joy, YOU do realize that not all outlets necessarily carry the same Margo column each week, don’t you? O, I thought not.

          Ignorance and seraphic bliss. What a concept.

  16. avatar Lila says:

    I will just say one last thing here. Women DO have a good bit of control in how they are perceived. I managed to make it through more than two decades in the Army, where… from what I read… one in three servicewomen are harassed or sexually assaulted. I guess I am one of the 2/3 who don’t have any issues. It was not luck.

    It is a common saying in the military, among the young and testosterone-soaked types who perhaps did not attend charm school, that there are three types of women: bitches, sluts, and dykes. Crude, but those are the terms used, and you won’t be able to change their minds or language by railing at them about it. As an officer, you can make them shut up when you are around, but that’s about it, and then you won’t know much about what’s what.

    No problem. Here’s how I changed their minds about this particular runty-looking little female: at every duty station, I arrived as a bitch from Day One. To all observers, even my peers, a frigid, detached, way-too-serious, no-fun bitch. Not mean or rude, mind; just all about work and hardly any personality, and in a very short time in any new job, all that mattered to anyone was that I was competent. At that point, I had their respect – real respect – and could lighten up. Be fun sometimes, even.

    Something else that was important: I intentionally never, ever, EVER brought up my gender in any work-related or performance context and CERTAINLY not to say that I was “offended by something” or to cry about how a male officer got an assignment I would have liked. That is the biggest, number-one way to mark oneself as an adversarial whiner who rocks the boat, it erodes your credibility, and it doesn’t do any favors for other military women, either. Plus, if you actually have a valid complaint later, you get the “just crying wolf again” syndrome; “Oh, it’s HER making this accusation, pffft.” Seen it happen more than once. To be credible, one must choose her battles wisely and very, very sparingly.

    Fair? Probably not. Oh, well. Worked for me.

    • avatar Sadie BB says:

      Lila – I think most women understand if they keep in their place & don’t rock the boat they will get treated better than the ‘troublemakers’.


      Just curious about what you think of the 33%ers. Are they all sluts? Most of them?

      If not…then it WAS luck. Could have been you too.

      • avatar Lila says:

        Tired of the baiting.

        You imply that I don’t rock the boat. Bull. More than once I have exploded at my own bosses (punishable in the military), but very, very rarely, only in private, and only when I was absolutely certain it was completely justified and was prepared to fall on my sword if necessary. I can be very passionate about doing what’s right. And you know what? NONE of those moments had ANYTHING to do with gender or sex, and everything to do with discipline, with operations, with security and the like. When I speak of those who get a REPUTATION for rocking the boat, I mean they play the gender card a lot for very minor things, they use it to get what they want, or to try to get out of trouble that they got themselves into, or to get extra concessions, and generally make such a nuisance of themselves that everyone, male and female, up and down the chain, avoids them like the plague. When one of these types is around, it makes the rest of us embarrassed to be female.

        You imply that I think the 33% are mostly or all sluts. Bull. I will tell you this: predators in general, including harassers and rapists, go for what they THINK will be a weak target. It does not matter what the victim really IS; the only calculus in a predator’s decision is what the predator perceives. So control their perceptions. In the military there are two factors: the potential target (will SHE be able/willing to get me in trouble?), and the command climate (will my COMMANDER hear about this, and if he does, will he punish me?). I was fortunate to be in units with a pretty good command climate. Many of the 33% have the bad luck to be in units with weak leaders, but they can still do a lot to put off the predatory types. A person is always their own first line of defense.

        My whole point was that I was a little extreme, but effective in how I managed others’ perceptions of me; and those perceptions were not wrong! I have ended careers over various disciplinary issues, including one harassment case in my company. The woman was not weak, or a slut. The man (her boss) was just an old-school jerk and PERCEIVED that he could get away with it. Well, he perceived wrong.

        • avatar Lisa Cornell says:

          Lila, I don’t make a habit of commenting specifically to posters here, it usually only serves to fuel their spewing, but I have to tell you, I think you’re great.

        • avatar Sadie BB says:

          Lila – I am NOT baiting you, I am questioning your assumptions. And I can see it’s making you uncomfortable, but I’m not going to be ladylike and stop.

          You say you don’t think that the 33% are sluts, just weak. Well the weak are not going to get justice without the strong on their side. Do you think you did enough? Do you wish you could have done more?

          Let me give you an analogy. In the old south black people had a choice of three categories set up by slaveowners. They could be obedient, they could be ‘lazy’ and get a whipping or they could be criminals and get lynched.

          So did we say they could control that choice by being obedient and the only problem with that slavery situation is sometimes the obedient got whipped or lynched? Because that seems to be your arguement. That the problem is not the system, the problem is women not staying in their little predefined box and you are not going to get involved with any situation outside that box.

          Which is the practical thing to do, I admit, but it’s also the least you could do.

          • avatar Lila says:

            Oh, for…! Re-read, please. I DID NOT say the 33% are weak. I said the problem is the perceptions of predators.

            I wasn’t in the military to go around crusading for women. I don’t think you grasp just how patently counterproductive that is for all women, not just the ones who engage in it. Females who flap around crying about gender only make chauvinists dig in, and set us all back. Their primary label is always “female” and chauvinists will see them however they see females.

            The very best way to get equality is to BE equal. I changed more than one chauvinist’s opinion about women just by being serious and competent and all about the job. My primary label, intentionally, was “officer.” Huge difference.

            And – no one needs me to go around crusading for women. The military actually has people assigned to special commissions for that these days, and plenty of men and women who are very seriously engaging the issues. I was and am more interested in doing the jobs I was trained to do, and believe it or not, that was the very best thing I could do for women, too.

            OK, ‘nuf said. This thread is as tiresome as the previous, I doubt I can be any more clear on what I have said, so…. Off to other things.

          • avatar Sadie BB says:

            Sorry Lila – I am absolutely not letting you off the hook here.
            The problem is indeed the perception of the predators. Their perception that they can get away with their behavior if they just confine it to a certain subset of women. And their perception appears to be correct so far.
            After all, you were in the military – and I think your perceptions are pretty spot on – yet you are giving them a pass. And it’s not as if you could be demoted or get a dishonorable discharge at this point. So you are exactly the sort of person we need to go around crusading against this BS rather than washing your hands of it.
            Or we could just be honest about the 33% situation and every time a female enlists hand her a morning-after pill, some penicillin against infections and a supply of condoms with a list of ways to convince her attacker to wear one. “I have venereal warts’ usually works pretty well.

          • avatar Sadie BB says:

            And by the way, I am not out to change chauvinist minds, just boot them the hell out of my way.

          • avatar Briana Baran says:

            Sadie BB. I worked most of my life in male-dominated arenas. I couldn’t hide my femininity if I tried…and I never tried. I wore what I pleased, worked as I pleased, and dealt with the harassment as a woman, not by hiding. I wore heels, and make-up, and dyed my hair any color I chose and dared not to be a frumpy, grumpy, shapeless bitch…but I also didn’t flirt, tease or harass the many men I worked with.

            I would NEVER compare what I did with military service. Never. It is a different world. Anyone who enters service needs to put his or her Causes away, and become part of a vast unit, and still more concentrated units…whether that person is male or female, gay or straight, no matter their religious persuasion…or lack of such. It’s all about doing your job, and doing it well, and having your fellow service-peoples’ backs. You really should do more reading on the true feelings of soldiers about women, gay and lesbian individuals…the main concern is “Does he or she have my back?”, not “Can I get into her pants?” or “Is he looking at my ass?”.

            As for what Lila, or anyone else SHOULD be doing…not everyone wants to march in parades, write letters to Congress, and scream their lungs out. I am one tough female. At 5′ 1″ I can still back people down in a heartbeat. I can’t speak for my older son (though his step-father and I raised him just like his younger brother, he has taken to his bio father’s attitudes. Nature following nature in that case), but my younger son, now 14, is a gentle, compassionate young man who understands both self-respect and respect for others, boundaries and consequences, and has yet to approach the bright, funny, sweet girl he likes because he’s still very hesitant about his own value (even though he’s bright, funny and sweet too, and she’s been mooning over him, and him over her, for months). I’m doing my part…but I am not a joiner. I’ve sent a few blistering letters. I’ve been assaulted by FEMALE Right-To-Life activists after coming out of a building in which no abortions were performed, after a routine exam, and fought back. I changed policy in the stores I worked in to make them more comfortable for the mothers and sisters of the boys and men who were 98% of the customers. I had the lesbian couples who felt at ease in my shop. I wore leather and spikes (which is more me than you might suppose)…and donated gift certificates to Project Prom so that the boys with girlfriends who both felt uncomfortable about all of the obligatory prom night crap had somewhere they could go with no alcohol, and talked to them about societal and peer pressure ad doing what really feels right…not what peers tell you to do.

            But I have never marched in a parade, and never would, or joined a protest, or a group. I’d plotz in about ten minutes. I don’t go to the movies…I cannot stand crowds…and I don’t trust Causes. Causes become parodies of themselves, trying to force everyone to like mindedness. I am not a Follower, or a Leader. I am very much a loner. So is my husband. We are both so much different than other people that we had to learn certain essential skills as children (he under much friendlier and more auspicious circumstances than I) to understand the people around us. I. Did. Not. Say. Better. But very, very different. Our son has always been encouraged to be social, and he certainly is. But we are not.

            It is so wrong to accuse, and become morally outraged, when someone refuses to think as you do. You cannot force a person to do as you’d like, or as you think they should. I don’t see Lila as supportive of chauvinism (I haven’t heard the term for awhile), or as misogynistic, or condoning harassment or rape in the military. In my opinion, your view is heavily colored by your misunderstanding of military versus civilian life, and by your own dedication to your cause, which I am NOT judging, but which it does appear that you think every woman should share equally to yourself.

            Sadie BB, I have seen the worst of men. I was held as a virtual captive and sexually assaulted by a 65 year old family “friend” (whom my mother thought “sexy”) for three weeks when I was sixteen. I spent the first 15 years of my life truly, actively wanting to be male (I do mean in the absolutely serious sense). I am a recovered addict and alcoholic, 26 years clean. I am diagnosed with 5 separate Axis I mental illnesses, and have been medicated (26 variations on a theme) and under a psychiatrist’s care for the last 14 years. My mother severely verbally and emotionally abused me as a child and teen. I have two failed marriages to losers, for which I am totally accountable, and second trimester miscarriage behind me. This is no sob story. I am 52 and still walking, and I accomplished most of it on my own…without becoming a misandrist, without support of any kind, or rehab, or AA, or family, or losing a day of work. I think it unkind, and perhaps specious of women to expect others to constantly take up the torch of the “Weak” and carry their weight.

            I could have been considered weak: hallucinating from birth, abused and reviled by my mother, molested, detested, street rat crazy, a drunk and an addict, and nobody’s idea in the ’70’s, ’80’s and ’90’s of beautiful…but I made it. I am NOT an example…I am a person. I don’t want to be a Poster child for a Cause. I might guess that Lila, successful female soldier, feels the same.

          • avatar Sadie BB says:

            Hi briana! Was wondering where you were.
            First off I would like to say that were it not for the efforts of uppity women like you and me Lila would not even HAVE a military career to retire from. So I damn well will presume to call her out on her meek acceptance of the three categories of women in the military.
            I agree one cannot force a person to change their mind. I try hard to focus on presenting facts, logical arguments and uncomfortable conclusions and let people change their own minds. But I do insist on people changing their behavior where I can ( not talking about Lila here actually). I expect respect. Period.
            I did not mean that Lila must join my parade. But I do want her to get out of my way…and other women’s way,if she does not really care about this fight.
            Btw I have a male high school buddy – Major Paul (real rank, not real name). Commanded in Iraq, brought everyone back, although not exactly sound in body or mind, I’m afraid. Anyway he does not agree with Lila. At all. Perhaps because he’s black and if everybody had accepted that slavery is just the way the world is he’d be out out tilling a field down south right now.

          • avatar LandofLove says:

            It sounds as though you have a hard time grasping subtleties. You also seem to have a overblown sense of self. If you’ll reread Briana’s post, you’ll note that her manner of dealing with discrimination was very different than your method of demanding that everyone get out of your way. The feminists who paved the way for women in the military, and other areas of life, resorted to a variety of means to make their points; sometimes it involved marches, and other times it took working one on one to convince the non-believers. They knew that there are other ways of killing mosquitoes than with a machine gun.

            If you examine your insistence on people changing their behaviors, you may find that the biggest obstacle in your way is you, yourself.  

          • avatar Sadie BB says:

            Landoflove – if combatting racism & sexism is not about changing behaviors then what is it about?
            Do enlighten me.
            I am well aware there are many ways to change a situation, both subtle and overt. And I am one of the overt ones, as you have noticed.
            Accepting demeaning categories without protest changes nothing. Just the opposite, in fact. That why I objected to it.

          • avatar Briana Baran says:

            Mmm, Sadie BB, not one bit of offense intended…but, to paraphrase, my post did not mean what you think that it means. I think that a few succinct sentences taken in the singular will help:

            “I think it unkind, and perhaps specious of women to expect others (eg: other women) to constantly take up the torch of the “Weak” and carry their weight.”

            “I am NOT an example…I am a person. I don’t want to be a Poster child for a Cause.”

            “I would NEVER compare what I did with military service. Never. It is a different world.”

            “It is so wrong to accuse, and become morally outraged, when someone refuses to think as you do. You cannot force a person to do as you’d like, or as you think they should.”

            Sadie BB, I said all of these things in *defense* of Lila’s position. I do not see her as you do at all, and I think she set a fine example, as a member of the military, of what women can accomplish, even in the face of harassment (do you not recall that it DID happen to her?) and in helping others defend themselves against it, which she also successfully did.

            I’m not certain that I would refer to myself as an “uppity” woman. I have been called a LOT of negative things on my way, including evil, insane, dangerous and scary…but never “uppity”. I have never gotten righteous and indignant when men (or other women, and that’s happened more than a time or two) tossed the common pejoratives or accusations my way, just raised an eyebrow, said, “You think?” or the equivalent, and let them wonder. Men have been warned a time or two by friends that my “No” means just that, and three unfortunate morons learned to their discomfort (gravel in the face does sting so) that I could, and would, lay down a man who put unwanted hands on me, and that he’d be inclined to stay down for a while. One was my first ex husband. I divorced my second husband and lived as a single mother, with no support from family or friends, and no complaints, rather than put up with his infantile, entitled, extremely abusive ways.

            But I didn’t do any of these things to prove a point, or blaze a trail, nor have I ever self-referenced as “uppity”, or a feminist (that actually has negative connotations for me, and this isn’t the time to explain the reasons), or used my gender to get ahead in any way, or dressed in a particular way to down-play my appearance. In fact, I’ve dressed as I pleased, within reason, including refusing to wear hose at my last workplace on the grounds that they are a medically proven health hazard, at every job I’ve had. My last employment was at an office, and I had a crew-cut and crimson hair…and no one said a word. I got four calls after I quit pleading with me to come back…at a higher salary…despite my eccentricities…non-Christian {there was almost an harassment issue started by me on that subject}, no hose, ankle socks and flat shoes, buzz cut and long skirts and a refusal to slack during the work day…even when I was 8.5 months pregnant. I drove a farm tractor during planting, and the only concession I made was a tighter bra (no sports bras back then). Tractors bounce. A lot. No one made any comments after the first day that I spent from dawn till dusk working, fueling on my own, and doing the heavy lifting on my own, with no expectation of special consideration because I was female. I’m no farm girl…I was born and raised in Niles, just outside of Chicago.

            I was a victim once, but never again. I’ve written to help and offer hope to women who were suffering on this website, and actually had other women call me out for being a braggart, for lying, for using my example to encourage and support. Count me OUT of the Cause. I detest the “it’s my way or the highway” attitude that it lofts on its banners and pennincels. No thank you.

          • avatar Sadie BB says:

            Well briana, I too think that no one ever dared call you uppity…to your face. Just as I think you have actually proved some points about women,however unintentionally, simply by being yourself.
            And I did not ask anyone to join a cause…just get out of the way if it was not their deal.
            Lila was actively promoting a mindset that basically rates service women on their fuckability. And I called her on it.
            As for my outrage…ha. God forbid a woman should be passionate about something.

          • avatar LandofLove says:

            I’ve been reading Lila’s posts on various topics for quite a while on this site, and her comments have always struck me as well thought-out and reasoned. Having had a sister in the military, I know it’s a different world unto itself. Given those circumstances, Lila’s approach of being serious, competent, and all about the job may well have been the right approach in convincing others in her environment of women’s equality. I don’t see how Lila is “giving the military a pass”; rather, I think she used reason, not emotion, in dealing with discrimination.

          • avatar Sadie BB says:

            Landoflove – I agree that Lila’s post are intelligent & well reasoned. That’s why I even bothered to continue the discussion.
            And letting predators define who the prey is as long as they dont include YOU is indeed ‘giving them a pass’. Although it may be necessary for immediate survival.
            Does it not strike you as odd that the countries where women are the most covered up ( chadors, abayas, burkas) are frequently those most hostile to women?
            Believe me, we could all creep about in breast-diminishing clothing pretending to be short big-hipped men and there would still be rape and harassment. A slut would be redefined as one who wore mascara or showed an ankle or something.

          • avatar LandofLove says:

            The point of my comment was that Lila was a better judge of how to deal with discrimination in the environment she lived in than we are. Although ideology is wonderful to have, it has to be tempered with some reality. By Lila presenting herself as a competent military member to her colleagues and superiors, she might have done more for women’s causes than by conducting a crusade in that environment. I assume that Lila was taught to know the “enemy” and the best way to deal with him. It’s presumptuous for those of us outside her situation to tell her what she should have done.

            Please tell us specifically what you would have done in her boots.    

          • avatar Sadie BB says:

            Landoflove – as a middle-aged female in a male dominated profession I have been in Lila’s boots. (although not nearly as stressful occupation) And I behaved pretty much as she did, disguising my female attributes in those hideous buttoned up flowered blouses with the bow under the chin and a no nonsense manner. But that was the bad old days. And these appear to be the bad old days for women in the military if they have more chance of being attacked by our side than the enemy.
            My problem with Lila is that she’s fine with situation, even when she’s out of the military and could effect some change in attitude

          • avatar Sadie BB says:

            To continue..
            At this point Lila is out of the military and can’t be retaliated against. And as an officer her words would be respected by the military. But she continues with the party line. It’s one thing to have other priorities, but here she is actively accepting the categories bitch slut dyke – laid out for her and urging other women to do the same.
            I’m sorry but if you’re not part of the solution…you’re part of the problem.

          • avatar Briana Baran says:

            Love the way this site attempts to stop conversations it doesn’t care for by terminating the reply function. Interesting tactic, but so pathetic.

            Sadie BB, outrage does not equate to passion. Lila never said a single word regarding a woman’s rating as “fuckable” per military standards. She was speaking of perceptions of vulnerability and weakness, and how to avoid them. The military is NOT the place to make a stand regarding one’s Causes, passions and grievances against the world…be it womens’ equality, an end to sexual harassment, extermination of a certain race, ethnicity or religion, stopping world hunger, terminating the rights of gay/lesbian people based on your personal dogma…it is a place in which the lines between gender, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity and race begin to dissolve as members become part of a greater family.

            Yes, there are those who cross the lines, and they are being dealt with more and more severely (in other words, correctly) every day. Becoming a crusading member for a Cause helps no one. As for your attitude that if someone is not with you, and won’t use your methodology, they best get out of your way…so? What are you going to do if they don’t? What if their way turns out to be more productive, successful and efficient than lowering the bulldozer blade in a relentless, blind charge to have it your way?

            As for someone calling me “uppity” behind my back, O, Sadie, I’ve been called all sorts of things out of my hearing that eventually made their way back to me. Ball-breaker, cast-iron bitch, nickle-plated c**t, bull-dagger, psycho (oops, Belinda Joy referred to me as too crazy to post right here on this site), sociopathic, dangerous, cold-blooded…so “uppity” would be sort of sweet and endearing, in my humble estimation. Of course, I’ve also had most of these things said right to my face…and all those dim-witted folks got was the same curious look and lifted eyebrow as anyone hurling lesser epithets. I don’t get terribly torqued by words.

            I don’t know what points I’ve unintentionally proven especially about women…I think I’ve simply shown what any human can do, regardless of adversity and circumstance, with a bit of determination and a lot of accountability and survival instinct. As for passion, Sadie, some of my posts have been so passionate, and so strong, that even the writers of WoW have claimed to be moved, and other readers have suggested that I should be a motivational writer. Or speaker (eee, I never speak in front of people if I can help it). I am NOT bragging, just making my own point. I do know the difference between passion, and righteous indignation and outrage, and the line can be a microfilament at times.

            On these two threads, far too many have snapped that thread irrevocably.

          • avatar Sadie BB says:

            Briana – the reply function only allows you to go so deep – otherwise we would eventually be reading posts one word wide!
            I am sure Lila did not intend to promote a fuckability standard for women in the military, but she did. To clarify:
            slut – we’re going to f*ck you
            dyke – we don’t want to f*ck you
            bitch – we’re kind of afraid to f*ck you, but if we run out of category one sluts, you’ll do
            When you let predators define the prey, you can indeed behave in a way to deflect their attacks…onto an easier target. Until they run out of easier targets. Then it’s you.
            The military is not the place to promote one’s cause? Errrr blacks in the military…gays in the military…only there because they promoted their cause.

          • avatar Sadie BB says:

            Also – I roved around the Internet looking for the actual statistics. Looks like Lila was off by a factor of 200% because it’s not 33% raped or harassed.
            It’s 30% rape. 70% rape or sexual assault. 90% rape, sexual assault or harassed.
            From the 2010 dod report yes, things appear to be getting better. But it’s nothing to get complacent about. Not with those numbers.

  17. avatar doodydoo says:

    Margo’s “explanation” is not satisfactory. It only shows that she just doesn’t really get it. She was in the wrong and should have offered a full-out apology.

    Sorry, I’ve loved Margo for a long time (including when she was Dear Prudence), but this does it for me. I won’t be reading her column anymore.

    • avatar Sadie BB says:

      Pleeeeazzzeee Doody do not leave me alone here with the slut-shamers!

      I mat be forced to use the phrase ‘old farts’ again and we know where that leads. Total flame war!

  18. avatar Katharine Gray says:

    I don’t think Margo owes anyone an apology.   I think this letter and Margo’s response generated the backlash because many women (and I cannot exlude myself) do not want to accept that if he meets you tonight and you put out he will probably NOT still love you tomorrow.   The best advice my mother ever gave me was *play hard to get* and I never followed it because of course I was so liberated and wanted a relationship with no game playing and blah blah de blah and sex was beautiful and I could *own* my sexuality and blah de blah blah.   Luckily for me (although not after a *colorful* past), my husband courted me for three years without me realizing it and he THOUGHT I was hard to get!  We were friends, but the moment the *benefits* started that was the rest of our lives.

    I don’t consider myself in my colorful past as being a *slut* but as being misguided and misled by the hype that sex was just for fun and had no emotional consequences for either sex once it was over.  But I do consider myself as being a complete dumbass back then.  I look back and cannot believe I gave away that part of myself to people (who may have been good, bad or indifferent ) because I thought it was the *enlightened* and *liberated* thing to do.

    I am not coming from any particular religious backround (although let us be thankful that Christianity and Judaism do not demand clitoridectomies).  I just think that if I could tell myself then what I know now, my past would have been a lot less colorful and I would have had a lot more respect for myself.  I would also tell myself that any man who calls me at 10 pm or later and wants to get together just wants a booty call and if I say no he will move on to the next person on his list..and is not someone I should continue to be associated with on an intimate level.  Sorry..that is Realville..and it hasn’t changed for centuries and will not no matter how many people lash Margo with a wet noodle.  


    • avatar secretagent412 says:

      Wow, Katherine, way to take your experience and assume it applies to everyone else. Because you equated “liberated” with no standards means everyone else does it that way? Actually, you can be liberated and sexually adventurous without sleeping with sleezeballs who only call you after ten. Perhaps that’s the issue. Women take their sex drive for a ride and end up in a wreck and assume that’s the only way to do it? Like anything else that’s powerful, one must learn how to handle it. You have to learn your own boundaries and what makes you feel safe and loved, learn to distinguish men who respect you from men who don’t. Yes, there are tons of idiots out there, but insisting that sexual restraint is the only way to weed them out is like saying driving 35 is the only way to avoid an accident. I have learned how to drive my car, and I respect its power. Just because there are people out there who shouldn’t be trusted with a gokart doesn’t mean the rest of us need to garage our Maseratis.

      • avatar Sadie BB says:

        Secret agent – brilliant analogy!

      • avatar Katharine Gray says:

        Secretagent, I thought I was making the same argument you are making…that women should have standards and boundaries and distinguish between the men who respect them and men who don’t.  I don’t think I advocated celibacy…only discernment.  But it seems that my admitting that perhaps I lacked discernment a time or two in my far distant and very young  past and suggesting that discernment is a better way, has led you to conclude that I was a stupid slut so my experience doesn’t apply to anyone else.  And you thought Margo and John were judgmental!    

        • avatar secretagent412 says:

          No, you referred to yourself as stupid for thinking you could “own” your sexuality and not play games. I don’t think you were stupid. I think you experimented, got burned, and took that to mean that playing hard to get is the only way to be. Yes, that works for some men; my argument isn’t that it doesn’t. My argument is that it shouldn’t have to. A man should respect a woman who explores her sexuality just as he has, and we shouldn’t be “lucky” that a man accepts that we have a sexual past just like him.

          Playing along works. And if some women think this system is “equal” and that they don’t have a duty to agitate for change, fine. But don’t try to tell those of us who do agitate, who do call men (and sometimes women) on their crap, that it’s fair at right that we are held to different standards because of what’s between our legs. The generation before us fought too hard so that we may hold jobs, pursue education, and be spoken to with respect for us to let it settle here. Here, where we are “allowed” to work just as much, but often paid less. Where we must work, but also provide the majority of childrearing. Where apparently nationally respected columnists and several other women think its ok to slap a women with a foul name if her sexual choices don’t agree with them. This is not equality, not yet.

  19. avatar Dan Patterson says:

    I think ALL men are sluts. We’re built that way.

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      I tell my husband and my son that they need to install a continuous eye that can travel all the way around the skull to enable looking without turning the head. Of, course, my son is fourteen, so I do believe the addition of some ball bearings in his neck to prevent sprains when it whips around might be proactive when it comes to ER visits.

  20. avatar French Heart says:

    What others do is their business.

    I’m with MM & Beyonce. Without the ice, no dice. Put a ring on it. Or hasta la vista, bebe. No discussions.

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      Sorry, French Heart, a ring, no matter the carat weight or clarity, is no guarantee. Nor are proclamations of undying love and devotion, a priest, and a whole cathedral full of people, and vows made before the deity of your choice. Humans are fickle things.

      MM is a rather poor example.

  21. avatar D L says:

    My God people!! Many of you seriously need to lighten up! We’re here posting our opinions, not cold-hard facts (regardless of what some of you think).

    I’ll put in my 2 cents: throughout my life, I’ve heard that women who sleep around are sluts. Men who did it were dogs/studs/womanizers – depends on who you talked to. Double standard? Sure. As I got older, the FWB term came around. Are these women also “sluts”? Are these men “dogs”? You know what? I DON’T CARE AND NEITHER SHOULD YOU!!!

    Here’s the skinny, folks: if 2 consenting adults get into a FWB-type of relationship, fine. If a woman jumps into bed with whoever smiles at her that day, fine. If a man has more notches on his belt than Gene Simmons (5,000+), fine! It’s THEIR business what they choose to do with their time. Should people take precautions? Yes, they should be responsible for themselves and their well-being. But again, what they do is THEIR business. If its not hindering my life in any way, who cares?

    By the way, I have a friend who is labeled a “slut” by many people. I even think of her this way b/c she does sleep around. But she hasn’t made a play for my husband, is happy as a clam about her life and makes me laugh whenever I see her. So… what’s the problem?

  22. avatar Cindy Tran says:

    I’m not offended by Margo’s response, but I can see how people would be upset by it. I get that both letter and response were meant to be lighthearted and funny, but it does come out as slightly offensive. It’s kind of like how all squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares. Squares being sluts and rectangles as fwb. Meaning that maybe people in fwb are sluts, but not all of them are. Would have been nice for Margo to point that out to the guy, but she pretty much agrees with him. Of course, people define “slut” differently so you may end up being a slut in their eyes just by having premarital sex.

  23. avatar Koka Miri says:

    I am under 30 and am engaged to the person I have monogamously dated for several years. My only relationship – not because I am super religious but because I was happy doing my thing until I met the right person.

    That clarified…Margo, respectfully, your point of view is old-fashioned. You write: “The women you call “sluts” I would call “loose,” and they have been around forever. That behavior, however, was not sanctioned, as it is now; there was usually a reputational price to pay, if not a venereal disease. (Those are still possible, by the way!)”

    “Loose” has a negative connotation; “slut” has a negative connotation; there has been a movement (recent) to label guys who sleep around as sluts too, but when you do that it’s a bit tongue-in-cheek. It’s not taken seriously. So I believe your intentions were good, but they didn’t read. You kind of sidestepped the whole issue of this misogynistic writer writing in without a real question and even gave him airtime. Aren’t there people out there with real problems?

    That said, thank you to all the men who wrote in to the actual column and stood up for us women!

    Secondly, to Lisa Cornell – you said you never realized you were part of an oppressed group. About a year ago I would have been in agreement with you. I was staunchly anti-feminist; I thought the label was divisive. Everyone should be equal and if there’s a need for feminism, it doesn’t exist.

    But then I started paying attention. It’s so subtle, but the message that women are lesser is everywhere. 

    The most obvious example is politics – abortion rights and birth control and Planned Parenthood itself have been under attack recently, and while yes, these affect both men and women, it mostly has to do with women’s bodies since you know it’s a woman’s baby without a paternity test right off the bat. I’m sure someone can explain this (the way it’s more of an attack on women than men) better on this message board, or maybe it doesn’t need to be explained.

    Secondly, you can see it in the way that media covers female stars. They rip apart their clothes and weight constantly, where it takes a significant change in appearance for a male star’s body to be commented on. I was reading Yahoo the other day and the commenters on there give you proof enough. They (mostly men) rip on everything from bags under a woman’s eyes to weigh gain to money to “looseness”. You just hardly ever see that under an article about a guy! Adele, for example, was recently reported as having a breakdown because her producers were ragging on her weight so badly. You don’t hear about that happening to a man.

    For another thing, I’m an avid reader, and patriarchal society is accepted as the norm in fantasy books. Why? Isn’t it fantasy? But it’s been written that way for so long there aren’t a whole lot of authors who question it. Equally bad is the “tough girl” character who can only be tough and is never mentioned as showing real feelings. They write strength like a man’s strength, not like a woman’s.

    You can see it in the way Hillary Clinton was written up in the news for covering her mouth when watching what went down with Osama Bin Ladin. Because she’s female, she was criticised for emoting. She said she was yawning, but it shouldn’t matter either way.

    There are just so many examples. The ones I mentioned are random and the least of it. I have had a complete 180 in my thinking this past year because I started noticing the things I just took for granted before.

    I completely agree with those of you who say “slut” is a slur. The actual definition and it’s common usage differ and I think it’s being willfully ignorant to say it’s not a slur against women in particular.

    As to the actual topic, friends with benefits among the younger (my!) generation is still going to get you talked about, but I still wouldn’t equate this with being loose or slutty or whatever misogynistic term you’d like to use. At least FWB are friends, and not a random bar hookup.

  24. avatar gracem says:

    Well, I am done here. I have read here for a long time, but I have never felt the need to register and comment before this.

    I was expecting that a site for women would make it clear they won’t stand for women being called degrading names, but I guess I was expecting too much.

    I won’t be returning to the site.      

  25. avatar JustChillPeeps says:

    Interesting, this has disappeared from the list of Margo’s columns, I had to go to my history to find it. Why? Was it the Wowowow or Margo’s decision? And when is Wowowow going to address this?

    In the past Margo has given some hinky (at least to me) advice but never to the point of engaging in what I can only call Misogyny. I’m a long time lurker and I’m about to delete Margo from my bookmarks and I doubt I’ll be back to this site unless Wowowow does make some kind of statement at least acknowledging/explaining why this is this column is MIA.

  26. avatar Briana Baran says:

    This is for Sadie BB. First and foremost, I am not certain what other sites that offer a “Reply” function you frequent, but I can assure you that none of the others I peruse have the defective, narrowing effect that this site uses. My husband, who is an IT administrator, and is extremely familiar with professional website design, finds WoW’s website maddeningly, but amusingly, dysfunctional.

    The acceptance of black people (which probably goes back much further than you are aware), women (once again), and gay people in the military was not promoted in the latter half of the 20th century, and currently, from within the military. The groups that support the Causes are civilian in nature by a vast majority. In the meanwhile, thousands, if not millions of black, female and gay people joined up, and served successfully, and made the point WITHOUT embracing A Cause, but by doing their jobs, and doing them well without wearing the hair shirt of an abused and discriminated against minority.

    I’d also like a source for your numbers vis a vis rape, sexual assault and harassment. You cited the DOD for statistics on improvements regarding prosecuting cases of harassment, assault and rape…but I could not find your statistics there.

    Of course, I have fairly firm convictions regarding the definitions of rape, assault and harassment…having experienced all three. Some people are very fuzzy about the latter two…a man putting his hand on a woman’s shoulder becomes “sexual assault”, and asking her to have dinner with him, even politely, more than once in less than a six month period is”sexual harassment”. I don’t believe in “there’s rape and then, well, there’s rape” (which may be why I object so strenuously to fans of Roman Polanski’s), and sexual assault should entail forcible sexual contact without penetration, or any *sexual* contact after a person…not just a woman…says “No”. O, and yes, I am clear, penetration can be with anything, anywhere. As for harassment, my definition is of undesired, long-term insistence on using unwanted suggestive language, vulgarity or innuendo, asking for sexual favors in return for advancement, a raise, or in order to maintain a current position or even keep a job, lewd gestures, sending of pornography with intent of obscenity, behaving in a provocative manner after being asked to stop, constant unwanted touching…I think you get my drift.

    But the idee fixe is impossible to loosen once its adamantine jaws clamp shut.

  27. avatar Sadie BB says:

    Another interesting link
    I do not know anything about this org so grain of salt…