Friday, December 13, 2013

Being a conslutant

Background: Yesterday, there was a bit of an argument in a chat room for sysadmins, where I usually hang out. It's a place where I can keep in touch with people with the same kind of professional issues that I face myself, talk about work as well as everything else, and blow off steam when necessary. While this chat room is part of a greater site, it has ists own subculture and terms in use that are specific both to the sysadmin community in general and to the regulars of the channel in particular. On the site, each chat room has its own moderators, and a moderator can susbend or ban any user, or remove any text, in all chat rooms, not just in the one they usually moderate.

The argument started while I was at lunch, when one of the other denizens of that room asked me to respond in-channel, using the term "are you there, you sexy conslutant". Someone apparently noticed this, and a moderator from another channel came in to "our" channel. He took issue with the term, saying that it was unprofessional. A few texts were deleted and a couple of users were suspended. There was apparently also some discussion in a moderator's chat room. 
Today, I looked back at the history during the time I'd been offline during the night. I found that the mod who'd complained had on one occasion said "All I'm suggesting is that we not get used to calling women sluts". While I agree with that statement, it also shows a complete lack of understanding of the term "conslutant", and how it's been used by me and many long-time net-friends of mine. So I wrote the email below to that moderator.

After the arguments yesterday, I would like to clarify a little why I've been using the term "conslutant" to refer to myself and other consulting sysadmins.

First, I fully agree that referring to women as "sluts" is way over the line. I've had occasion to point that out on [the chat] a few times, and have always had a lot of backup from most of the regulars there. (I've also argued against using "whore", "bitch", using "rape" to refer to e.g. paying too much for an item, etc)
Like you, I find it abhorrent that a woman (or man, for that matter) should be shamed for having and enjoying sex, whether for fun or for profit. (I also strongly believe that the sex trade as it exists currently is abusive and damaging, but that is a different issue. My point is that it's not the person engaged in renting out access to their body that should be shamed, it's the person exploiting them.)

I, and the members of the old old bofh/ASR community who started using it, also feel that it's highly hypocritical to condemn someone for renting out certain parts of their body or certain actions, but not others. It's illogical that it's considered OK for someone to pay for the use of my brain, or my muscles if I were in a physicallly demanding job, but it's not OK to pay for other services.
By referring to myself (and my coworkers) as a conslutant, I'm saying that there is no difference in kind between me and a woman selling herself in some other way. For my male colleagues using the same term referring to themselves, that is an even stronger statement. And for others to use it about me is reinforcing that I am not better and those other women are not worse.
Conversely, by saying that a "respectable" woman such as myself shouldn't use that term to refer to herself, is saying that it's my respectability that is the issue, and implying that were I not respectable it would be OK. (I'm not saying that this is your argument, but it is one that I have encountered. I have, in fact heard men say "it's not OK to call her a slut" rather than "it's not OK to call anyone a slut".) My entire argument is that denigrating any woman for her sexual choices is always wrong, no matter what those choices are, and whether they were voluntary or forced upon her, by circumstances or by direct action.
So that is the background to my reaction. I hope this clarifies matters.