In 1992, Madonna released her seminal book Sex to screams of “she’s gone too far this time” and “she’s morally clueless”. These were standard cries for almost anything Madonna did, because at that time no-one pushed more female sexual boundaries than her. The Sex book came sealed in aluminium — a reminder of the feminine sexual taboos contained in its pages — and in spite of the protests, went down in history as the best-selling coffee table book of all time. Madonna changed the way we view women and women's sexuality by taking control of her own sexuality and showcasing it to the patriarchy with the message, “You want sex? Let me show you how it’s done.”
In 2018, thanks to Madonna and women like her who have pushed hard to get messages about women’s sexuality out in the public arena, we have made some progress along the way. The fight for women's sexual equality continues with the very slow, very subtle fading out of double standards. This fight is now taken up by new women in new ways, and one of these women is Karley Sciortino, the host of Slutever.
Sciortino, Vogue’s sex columnist and an ex-assistant dominatrix, throws a feminist-lite lens over sex and the sex industry in Slutever as she unashamedly barges into this male-dominated arena and asks, “What’s here for women?” In her book of the same name, Sciortino defines the word "slut" as “someone who has no moral obstacle between themselves and their desire to enjoy sex”. There’s no shame in that, right? What’s with all these outdated rules about sex anyway?
Sciortino unboxes sexuality and tries to free it up from its shrink-wrapped societal packaging and open up the world of feminine sexual freedom. If you are a little shy about this subject matter, Sciortino is the perfect host to assist your journey out of the vanilla sex world with her engaging, straightforward and, at times, very funny presentation. With each episode, Sciortino’s open-minded millennial feminist approach to sexuality grew more and more likable. As trans man Cameron says in episode five, “Sex is more than just parts fitting together,” and with this theme in mind, Slutever takes us into the world of infinite sexual possibilities.
We go to the home of Mistress Lucy Sweetkill, a New York dominatrix who has two lifestyle slaves — just, you know, to do all those little chores around the home that Mistress Lucy can’t get to. Pain Puppy and Shine happily attend to Mistress Lucy’s every command in exchange for her being their “dom”. While some may view this as exploitative, Pain Puppy sees it as “part-employment and part-life coachy”, and tells us that Mistress Lucy has “taught me a lot about myself”.
Weed lube entrepreneurs Rachel and Cyo agree wholeheartedly with Sciortino when she says, “Having a vagina is really stressful.” Their product promises to de-stress your vagina by getting it stoned. And the world thought the Sex book was out there!
At the Folsom Street BDSM Fair in San Francisco, we meet the owner of KinkBNB, a site for those who may feel “vacationally oppressed” where you can book a weekend getaway that includes a slave and a dungeon. Next time you’re booking your holiday on Airbnb, maybe you will accidentally click on KinkBNB and take your vacation to a whole different level.
Slutever makes it clear that women's sexual pleasure isn't ranked highly on the agenda of mainstream sex industry innovation. In among the robot sex, cannasexuals, BDSM and eco sexuality, Sciortino does not back away from highlighting the gendered inequality that exists for women in this space. How hard can it be for Sciortino to get a massage with a “happy ending”? As it turns out, pretty hard for a woman, even in New York City.
This is pure entertainment, but it is entertainment and pop culture that have fostered change and have the potential to reset social standards. So while a plethora of sexual choices are showcased for us in Slutever, it’s worth remembering that many women still have no agency and no choice in their sexuality or sexual behaviour. Sciortino uses this platform to continue the Madonna-esque boundary pushing. She sends the message that women should be in control of their bodies and be able to indulge in whatever sexual pleasures or fantasies they want without judgement or adverse societal consequences.
Slutever airs Tuesday nights at 9:30pm on SBS VICELAND and SBS On Demand: