Scandalous: Nature or Nurture?

What makes one woman scandalous, while the next one will do everything she can to avoid being seen, even by her intimate partners, as so? Is it nature, or nurture?   Writer Alexa DiCarlo believes both nature and nurture play a role in a woman’s sexual development.

I‘ve been engaged in a several conversations over the past few days about what makes one a slut – is it nature, nurture, or both?  And by “slut” I’m referring to a woman who allows herself to enjoy her sexuality freely without constraints regardless of anyone else’s opinion (a la The Ethical Slut), and not in the stereotypical pejorative way you frequently hear it used.  In other words, I mean slut in a purely positive way here.

Defining and Delineating “Slut”

Let me clarify what I’m referring to before we get started.

There are two ways of looking at the concept of slutdom – externalized and internalized.  In the externalized version, we look at someone else’s (invariably female) behavior and define it as “slutty” based on some purely subjective measure (i.e., the number of cocks she’s believed to have had in her cavities in a given time period, how she dresses, a tattoo or piercing she has, etc.).  This is middle school behavior, of course.  If you’re an older teenager or an adult and are still calling other people “sluts” pejoratively, you have some serious maturity issues and need to grow up a bit, by the way.

The internalized version refers to how we perceive ourselves and our own behavior.  Despite the negative connotation generally associated with being perceived as a slut by others, many of us relish and embrace the role of amateur whore in our personal lives.  And while some women go to great lengths to deny or “prevent” themselves from becoming scandalous, there are those who work to develop, enhance, and enjoy acting out the role of slut for their partners (irrespective of relationship status).  This is the breed of slut that I’ll be discussing here.

Let me also state that the internalized slut is a state of mind – it is what you believe it to be.  To my knowledge, there is no set of “standards” that one can point to and say, “If you meet all the requirements in this list, you are a certifiable slut!”  You achieve Slut Nirvana when you’re comfortable allowing yourself to enjoy your sexuality freely without reservation and without regard to what others think about how you manage it, though many might argue that you have to be “wilder” than the average person to get there.  The point here is that neither I nor anyone else can tell you whether or not you’re a slut.  If you and your partner(s) believe you are, you are.  There may be different degrees of slutdom, however that’s a subject for another time.

What makes one woman embrace her inner slut, while the next one will do everything she can to avoid being seen, even by her intimate partners, as a slut?  Is it nature, or nurture?   I happen to be a firm believer that both nature and nurture play a role in the development of the slut.  Let me explain.


One of the required predicates to being a slut is a sex drive; if you’re not driven to engage in sex, then you’re going to have a hard time legitimately claiming the title of slut, don’t you think?  Sex drive is almost exclusively the domain of your hormonal system – the testosterones, estrogens, and other chemicals in your body that function to generate interest, desire, lust, arousal, and so forth.   Contrast this with people who are asexual.  No one knows for sure what causes asexuality in toto, but one fairly common attribute is the lack of sex drive, which may be attributed to a hormonal imbalance, low hormone levels or some other genetic arrangement.

Your hormone levels are a function of your biology, which is in large measure determined by your genetic makeup.  Specific genes and/or gene combinations are believed to be responsible for the levels of hormones that are produced in your body.  And, following that logic path, you can get an idea of how nature might influence one’s relationship with slutdom.

There are some evolutionary biologists who argue that promiscuity is the de facto state for human beings as well, though many temper those assertions by applying them only to men (“men need to spread their seed as far and wide as possible to ensure continuation of the bloodline…”).  Lately, there have been a  few ruminations about women having a genetic predisposition to enjoy more than one partner as well. They assert that eons of evolution drive us to want to fuck in order to perpetuate our species, not unlike every other animal on the planet.

Is there a specific gene or series of genes that might be configured such that one individual may be more prone to promiscuity than another?  They’ve identified genetic differences between people who’re more conservative and those who are more progressive, so it doesn’t seem outside the realm of possibility, does it?  If that was the case, perhaps there’s much more “nature” behind it than we might even suspect at this point.


On the other side of the equation are those who insist nature plays little or no real role in slut development.  If you grow up in an environment that doesn’t foment the development and growth of the slut way of thinking, you are not likely to develop into someone who fully embraces the promiscuous side of your sexuality as a positive life force in their view.  It is these environmental factors that nurture (is it acceptable to use the term nurture with respect to the development of sluthood?) you as you grow up, molding you into what you become as you grow into and through adulthood.

When we speak of these environmental conditions, we’re referring to a variety of external factors that influence you over time.  Some of these that have particular relevance to this concept include:

Parents:  Parents are one of the most important sources of influence for most people as they grow up.  Parents who are more liberal and encourage their children to explore the world around them, make mistakes and learn from them (rather than punish them), and teach them the values of concepts like diversity raise children who are much more in touch with the world at large.  The more you investigate and explore outside the box you see as your safe space, the more likely you are to encounter other behaviors that arouse curiosity, and the more likely you are to explore alternative states of being.  That of course includes human sexuality.  On the other hand, parents who are controlling, overbearing, and dictatorial suppress an individual’s drive to act outside the little box they have found to be “safe” around their parents; some people literally never recover from being raised like that.

The impact of your parents can be measured in both direct and indirect terms.  Direct impacts include, for example, rule setting; maybe your parents don’t allow you to date or hang out with members of the opposite sex, perhaps. What about the way parents react when they catch their young child masturbating (even infants masturbate, by the way)?  Some parents will swat the child’s hand away and tell them that it’s a bad thing to do.  Over time this will cement in the child’s mind that self pleasure is a bad thing, and may inhibit further self exploration (necessary for the development of slutishness) later in life.

Indirect examples include whether they monitor what you watch on TV, the kinds of movies you go to, the kinds of books you read, etc.  If you’re allowed to watch anything on TV, you’ll be exposed to a much wider exploration of sexuality and you will imbibe some knowledge and curiosity from that.  Another example of an indirect impact includes a child finding their parent’s porn stash and perusing it.  I know women who attribute their slutdom (in some cases, even professional slutdom) to the fact they stumbled across their father’s Penthouse magazines or the like.  One of my best girl friends in middle school used to masturbate to her dad’s Hustler magazines rather regularly.

Siblings:  Not unlike what you experience with your parents, your siblings will also have an impact on how you grow up, often in conjunction with your parents, of course.  If your sister gets caught fucking her boyfriend (or girlfriend) in her bedroom, how she’s treated and how she reacts to being caught/punished will influence you in some way with respect to how you view sex, for example.

Friends:  The circle of friends you keep will also dictate the extent of your slutdom, generally speaking.  If you hang out with a clique that shuns the “sluts” and others who act outside of what they perceive as a more chaste/acceptable norm, you’re probably not going to feel free to let your inner slut shine, at least not visibly (which will largely preclude its serious development).  The inverse to that may be true as well (it’s not unheard of for there to be sexual initiations to join some cliques at some high schools).   I was fortunate (?) in that the main group I hung with consisted of sexually adventurous types – we fed off each others’ sexual energy.

Church:  This is a biggie here.  Unless you’re a member of the Unitarian Church (which embraces sexuality as an important component of life, and has a very robust and inclusive sex education program), you’re likely taught by your church that any sexual exploration outside a committed, monogamous marriage is grounds for being doomed to eternal damnation.  If you’re of the Catholic and Baptist faiths, sex is dirty, degrading, disgusting, and damaging until you get married, at which point it instantly becomes the most wonderful gift you can give your partner (yes, I know, the logic escapes me as well!)

Unless you’re able to free yourself from that asinine propaganda, you’re probably not going to be as free with your sexuality as you otherwise might.  It’s a shame that many people are so weak that they allow someone else to dictate to them how they should manage something so central one’s self identity as their sexual orientation and behavior, but the brainwashing these organizations foist upon their followers it quite robust.  Fortunately, many people rebel against this as they reach adolescence and begin to think for themselves (Catholic high school girls have a well-deserved reputation for being huge sluts; it’s not just an archetype).

Societal and Cultural Influences:  This includes influences you get from what you see going on in your neighborhood, your “people” as a group, the community you live in, and how you see yourself and people like you engaged within the public at large.  We all take behavioral cues from how we see the groups we belong to portrayed; it provides us with clues as to how we should act to “fit in” within our community.  Some cultures are much more open with sexuality than others.  If your culture eschews sexual expression (and few don’t in this country), you have one more obstacle to overcome in your path to slutdom.


Access to Education, especially Sex Education:  Even in the most robust, comprehensive sex education programs in this country, you don’t get a lot of good information about sexual philosophy, techniques, and practices.  And if you don’t spend some time on the Internet or in books looking for information about how to fuck, you’re not going to find out about many of the types of activities that could be used to expand your sexual horizons, improve your sexual techniques, and build your sexual repertoire.  Without access to and accumulation of that information, you really are behind the power curve.  Intellectual curiosity is a must for the budding slut.

Your First Experiences:  The experiences you have with your first sexual partner(s) will have an impact as well, especially if there’s coercion or force involved.  If your initial involvement with sexual contact is negative (including early childhood sexual abuse), you’re likely to develop an aversion to future sexual contact (though, for some, the impact is the diametric opposite of this).  You may even develop self-esteem issues, which could further erode your self confidence enough to negatively impact your search for sluthood.  Conversely, like many other experiences in life, if your first is very positive, you’re likely to continue to examine and explore new possibilities.

What about Personality Traits?:  Some people are just more gregarious than others and will flirt and interact with people on a much more personable level.  The more extroverted you are, the more likely you are to feel comfortable approaching other people, to include initiating sexual encounters.  Most of the true sluts I know are not afraid to articulate their sexual desires to a partner, though not all are aggressive enough to pursue someone of their own volition.  Some people believe these traits are genetically determined, while others believe they’re determined by socialization and familial influence.

So as you can see, there are a wide variety of external factors that can come into play that will influence how you view your sexuality.  There’s no way to gauge the specific impact of any of these, either, so there’s no way for us to quantify to what extent any of these influences might have on you or any other individual.  It’s not really possible to generalize to any great extent, either.  Most people would assume that the parents would play the most significant role, but that’s not always the case, especially given the unique familial configurations you see these days.  In some cases, the friends and other people one hangs out with (including those online) will have much more influence over our development.

A Little Bit of Both

I do agree with those who say that, generally speaking, we’re born with a sex drive, and how we utilize or manifest that is largely determined by the environment we grow up in.  I know girls who, later in life, exhibit a robust sexual persona after they’ve been able to break free of the societal and familial indoctrination that made them “prudes” through their younger days.

Someone in my Twitter stream stated that they believed prudes were made, not born, and I absolutely agree with that.  Exploring your sexuality is a natural, normative part of growing up.  That includes becoming interested in partners sexually, typically (though certainly not always these days) progressing through what we identify as a common “cycle” – holding hands, kissing, petting, body exploration, and often moving onto activities that are more sexual in nature (manual sex/masturbation, oral sex, and vaginal and anal sex).  It takes indoctrination and repression to quash this in a human being, and that  represents an unnatural interference in human sexual development.

The sad thing about these types is they often miss out on being able to experiment as they grow into adulthood.  The enter their college years inexperienced, which makes them more vulnerable and prone to overindulging.  I’ve seen it happen many times.  Some are able to deal with it effectively; some not so much.  Those who show up to adulthood with a robust exposure to appropriate sexual management skills are usually able to do quite well, however.

Overcoming Obstacles

Can this be changed?  I think it is generally possible, yes, especially if the anti-sluttishness derives from environmental influences.  I know women who were raised in a very restrictive environment who were able to fully embrace their slutty side with some training and encouragement and are quite the good little sluts now.  I don’t know anyone who has(had) a very low sex drive that was able to turn it around, however, at least, not without the assistance of medication.

You also have to an intellectual curiosity about sex and sexuality to be an effective slut, in my opinion.  It’s not enough to be able to perform specific techniques or simply allow someone to do things to you; anyone can do that.  To fully develop into a true slut, you need to want to learn about sex and why things work the way they do.  Good sexuality involves not only the body, but the mind as well after all.

For some of you the next logical question might be, “How can I learn to be a scandalous?”  I think that might be a subject for a later writing, no?

More Research & Education Needed

Quite frankly, there’s been little scientific research done on specific triggers for overtly sexual behavior, in anyone, not just females.  There’s a good bit of political discourse on it, of course, especially when it comes to female sexuality  (it is, afterall, one of the basic tenets of feminism that women should be free to express their sexuality as they see fit [oddly, except for sex workers, in many cases]).  But there’s been no real attempt to quantify the specifics about what triggers specific behavior patterns.  Much of that has to do with the fact that it’s hard to get funding to study sex – funding agencies (especially the public ones) tend to shy away from “controversial” topics.  :rollseyes:

Obviously, this is just a superficial treatment of the subject (and a non-technical one at that).  But you get the idea.  This is one aspect of what I like to refer to as Slut Theory , a course of study that would be interesting course to teach at the college level.  I wonder how receptive any college would be to naming it that, though?

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Based in San Francisco, Alexa is a professional courtesan and freelance writer who covers various aspects of female sexuality.


  1. I’m totally LOVING this Reading! Would I personally classify myself as a Slut! When I’m with one person…I’m a Total slut! I’ll do almost anything. Was my upbringing part influence. Hmmm… I had reservations on acting out my sex drive. My Grandmother was Catholic. But, I have always believed in=1) Body- I don’t want to share bodily fluids with someone just for the sake of needing sex.Touch is huge with me and I want to really feel connected. I want to spend hours and minutes with touching a person. I’ve had with my ex-husband an entire weekend where we never left the room….no t.v. no children. Nothing except just two people.2) Mind-I need to feel like I can relate to the person I’m with. Actually have a conversation that is stimulating. I want to Trust the person. Talking is huge here. If there is no trust and no understanding and relating to the person then you can’t explore together. I want to feel I can say…Hey…Touch me here and let’s try this. Communication!3) Soul-My IDEAL Sex partner is into….Soul Sex-Tantra for Two!:) I have to admit reading this brings alot of stimulation and controversial views. I personally want Body,Mind and Soul with someone that feels and wants the same thing. I Really…really am interested in learning more of this topic.THIS really has me wanting to learn more= MHC and sexual selection! My ex husband always mentioned my smell and how he couldn’t get enough of it. My oldest daughter always mentions how when I get out of the shower and it’s not the shampoo or soaps used that I have a certain smell that she feels calms her and that she loves. I am also a Nurse and I freak out the doctor’s and everyone at my work because I DON’T convert with the many shots I’ve received. I have had 3 series of Hep B shots….4 MMR shots and all my titers come back….NEGATIVE! I DON’T convert…and I’ve explained this a million times to health workers…including college. You can ask me to go get another series but it will be the same thing again. I now keep my records of my series and my Titers… I’m exhausted from trying to explain…HELLO..I DON’T convert! Sorry! I don’t even convert with the influenza shots or pneumonia vaccines. Another interesting thing that has me wondering about this very thing is at work just recently this week in fact I had a guy tell me how he loved my smell! I’ve known him for an all 15 minutes. This guy is the first guy I’ve physically looked at in 3 years and went WHOA! He is *HOT* very *HOT* to look at. I found myself thinking…maybe! Then said…Nah! He is the first that has physically stood looking at me and I found myself going…Shit-don’t look at me with those warm eyes and that sincere smile…his Warmth was radiating off of him. We were at work and I was working and there were 5-6 people around us and suddenly I stopped and felt him watching me and looked up and was hit with an intense stare. The look in his eyes and that instant connection I haven’t allowed myself to feel towards anyone caught me off guard. I’m not even looking to get into any kind of relations with someone because I’ve been afraid that my having multiple children would cause to much conflict and I don’t want to project my chaos on anyone. I’d rather not involve someone to save them in a way. Even if I’ve been interested in someone I made a choice of not getting involved. I don’t think I could do all I do and then suffer a blow of having a guy tell me he couldn’t be with me because of all the responsibilities I have! This is the HONEST reason why I don’t go and get involved. I suppress that Sex Drive. Suppression…does effect my overall internal feeling of connecting with an adult partner. Ugh..kinda sucks…LOL! 😉