for karley sciortino, 'slut' isn’t a four-letter word

The uncensored sex writer's Viceland TV show, 'Slutever,' arrives during a defining cultural moment.

by Mattie Kahn
|
Jan 22 2018, 5:39pm

It wasn’t a quickie. It wasn’t an immediate thrill, a sudden climax. But for Karley Sciortino, oh. The build-up was worth it.

This week, Sciortino, who hosts the VICE Slutever web series, covers sex and modern relationships in a column for Vogue.com, and runs her own site, Slutever, will premiere a new TV show, Slutever, on Viceland. And two weeks later, she’ll release her debut book, a memoir and “slut manifesto” of the same name that sets out to introduce readers to the best that sex, love, hookups, open relationships, BDSM, sex parties, and sexual freedom have to offer.

Even for Sciortino, who revels in a full dance card, the past 12 months have been busier than usual. But the comedown, she tells i-D, has been euphoric.

Viceland pitches Slutever as “a series of sexual adventures,” and even the earliest installments live up to its promise. In one, Sciortino goes deep into the world of male sex workers. In another, she auditions applicants for the role of her personal slave, members of a new class of submissives who find pleasure in the fulfillment of...their dom’s household chores. (It’s like an internship! But with more PVC.) And yet the show somehow upends that obvious trope of sexual and sexualized content in the media, the one that seeks to shock or even repulse its audience. Slutever is fearless, sweet, interested, and hilarious, much like most of what Sciortino has published since she first decided to chronicle her sexual escapades on the Internet. On TV and in print, Sciortino isn’t just an irresistible and charismatic host. She’s compassionate. She’s instructive. Think Virgil. Except the corporal punishment is harsher, and there’s much more latex. It’s true, Sciortino seems to tell us: Hell is hotter.

Of course, the kind of sex she’s interested in — it’s not without its risks. Sciortino has built a career on adventurous sex, but her book and series will be released in a cultural moment that has exposed the fault lines. “I finished the book in August, before all the #MeToo news,” Sciortino explains. But months later, she still sees it as her best possible contribution to the nascent movement. Slutever sets out, from its outset, to redefine “slut.” It’s not some slur. The slut, she concludes, is a force to be reckoned with. “That’s at the heart of #MeToo, that’s the best of it, I think,” Sciortino continues. “It’s the idea that women can assert what we want and what we won’t tolerate.”

But the book is a retort, too.

Sciortino, who extols experimentation and likes to push (not just yours, but her own) sexual boundaries, doesn’t believe that all bad sex traumatizes the women who experience it. “We have been conditioned as women not to take risks when it comes to sex, because bad sexual experiences can be painful or because we’re told that we’ll never recover from them, which is so insane because in all other aspects of our lives, we’re told that failure or discomfort will lead to wisdom, to a better understanding of ourselves,” she says. And while she’s quick to add that assault and misconduct are serious, violent crimes, she refuses to see sex in such black and white terms — just positive or otherwise a violation. “I want people to be wary of that.” Her rationale isn’t that bad sex is some essential rite, but that it’s important for women to discover and name what gives them pleasure — and what doesn’t. The point of Slutever is to cheer women toward “powerful, autonomous sex lives.” And sometimes, that means “bad” choices.

Sciortino knows better than most that the best sex demands at least two participants, and the revolution is not for women to realize on our own. For all our visions of the female utopia, the future needs men in it. And the fact is it shouldn’t be so hard to persuade them; this moment has revelation to offer them as well. It’s true that women have been socialized to be generous, to be quiet, to put male pleasure ahead of our own, Sciortino explained. But patriarchal societies don’t just hurt women. Warped cultural expectations harm men too.

“Men have been raised to feel like they need to be competent in the bedroom, like asking questions is emasculating, that ‘real men’ take control,” Sciortino tells us. “And that’s terrible, because it leads to this pressure on men to be super masculine and that forces them into dominant roles that don’t feel natural or good for all of them.” For a few minutes, Sciortino explicates social theories and gender norms. She cites studies. She sounds as much like a journalist on National Geographic as she does on Viceland. But then she laughs. “How do I put this? It’s like, I have this friend who thinks more men should get into pegging. Because the truth is if more men knew how to take a dick and get fucked, they’d probably be a lot better at fucking us.”

Tagged:
Sex
Culture
Karley Sciortino
VICELAND
Slutever