I'm a Slut: Thank You, Rocky Horror

I’m a slut. I don’t mean that in the dictionary-defined “many casual sexual partners” way (because I am most comfortable with one stable partner). I mean it in the “sex is fun, and I’m a human who enjoys it” way. I like to think I’m pretty open about sex. I’ve never felt uncomfortable when a sex scene comes on the TV with my parents in the room (in fact I insist on watching Love Actually every Christmas with my family despite the totally unnecessary porn scene). Sex feels human to me. It’s a part of falling in love just as much as a first kiss is, so why stigmatize it?


It’s actually surprising even to myself how chill I am with sex. I was sheltered growing up and not allowed to watch most promiscuous TV shows and movies until I was 18. But as soon as I became an official “adult,” the parental locks on my Netflix account were gone, and I was consuming all the raunchy content I could. Orange is the New Black, Bridesmaids (2011), and American Pie (1999) were some of the first pieces of slutty media I watched. Nothing was terribly shocking to me; I had seen and read porn quite a bit by then (thanks 2014-era Tumblr), but it all felt so adult. Sex seemed like something so far into the future that I didn’t quite understand, but also like something I was looking forward to taking part in one day.


I studied so many films and TV shows the summer after high school graduation, but none prepared me for adulthood quite like The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). It’s campy, obscene, and has just enough nip slips to keep it spicy. But, most importantly, it portrays sex in a way that no other media does – it makes it fun in a slutty way.


RHPS doesn’t view sex as an act you do with a monogamous partner — in fact, it laughs at monogamy and boring, married, missionary sex. The main characters and couple, Brad Majors (Barry Bostwick) and Janet Weiss (Susan Sarandon), are the stereotype of a good virgin pairing. In fact, they are really only engaged so they can bone in the near future. But when their car breaks down on their way home from a friend’s wedding, they end up seeking help at an old mansion where sexual deviancy is the norm.


Art by Maddy Sutka

The film views chastity as something out of the ordinary. Why would you save yourself for marriage? Why wouldn’t you give into absolute pleasure? And as a very-much-a-virgin 18-year-old, it was refreshing. The film didn’t villainize sex or even look at it as a stepping stone to a serious, monogamous relationship, but instead, as something purely fun. This felt revolutionary to me.


I had grown up hearing the talks from my parents about condoms (always use them, herpes is forever!), birth control, and consent, but I had also gone through the Texas public school system which preached abstinence and celebrated virginity above all else. Never did I get a lesson about pleasure. Even in porn, male pleasure is the highlight. Sex ends when the man finishes. There were never conversations about LGBT+ sex or even a mention of what a clitoris was. To be quite honest, I probably learned about the clitoris through some mediocre fanfic smut online – but I probably learned most things through mediocre fanfic smut.


But RHPS was different. Susan Sarandon’s character, at first determined to hold onto her virginity, soon realizes that she wants to have sex – so why deprive herself of it? As she sings to the namesake of the film, Rocky (who is a certified hunk), “I wanna be dirty / thrill me, chill me, fulfill me,” it was the first time I heard a female character in any film be outspoken about her desires. She asks to reach climax, to have her partner pleasure her, and is open about the fact that she wants to be “dirty,” an image so far removed from how she started at the beginning of the movie.


She helped me realize that sex didn’t just have to be about a man’s pleasure, and I was allowed to have desires as well.


RHPS was also one of my earliest introductions to queer cinema. Throughout the film, it doesn’t matter if you are a man, woman, or anywhere in between – Tim Curry’s character will fuck everyone. He spends the film wearing fishnets, a corset, and thick lipstick in a way that is powerful (it’s also probably the reason why I am very attracted to men in lingerie). The characters in Rocky Horror are unapologetic in the way they present, and their confidence is empowering.


Art by Maddy Sutka

This isn’t to say that RHPS is a beacon of only positive messages, though. It is heavily dated and perpetuates misogyny and rape culture like many other films of that time (and who are we kidding, films today) do. The film lives on today with shadow cast screenings, where actors perform the show while it simultaneously plays behind them on a screen. They are known for their “virgin games,” a hazing ritual where “virgins” (anyone who has not seen the film, been to a shadow cast, or both) are invited to the front of the theater and often made to perform suggestive acts. In my virgin games, I was called to the front and told to bend over in front of the crowd before receiving a single spank on the ass. For me, it wasn’t a big deal, but for others, it can be.


Other shadow casts have done rituals such as kissing a stranger, eating a piece of food (no hands) off another person’s body, or even moaning the name of a family member. I’ve been fortunate enough to have attended shows with strict consent rules and even sections of the theater that were “safe spaces” where you won’t be touched or harassed while sitting in. That being said, some shadow cast performances don’t offer these spaces, and it can be more overwhelming than fun to attend.


I’m grateful for everything the RHPS gave me, but I also look at the history of the show, and I do see its flaws: how Tim Curry’s character coerces multiple characters into having sex, how outdated the language within the film is, and how some use the promiscuity of the show to excuse their own predatory behavior. I hope that these issues spark conversation and change within the Rocky Horror community.


Despite its flaws, I can’t help but look fondly at all the show has given me as a piece of queer, sex-positive media. Even as American cinema becomes more LGBT+ positive and sexual in nature, nothing compares to how un-judged and supported I feel when watching Rocky Horror in a crowded theater with other RHPS fans. It doesn’t matter if you’re a slut, gay, or even a virgin. Everyone just wants to come together to yell at the actors, wear fishnets, and dance the Time Warp.


RHPS isn’t perfect, and maybe the decadence sapped my will, but I think I want to stay and give in to absolute pleasure.


27 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All