The Slut Gene

We all have nubbins for rubbin

Nicole Peeler
Human Parts
Published in
7 min readFeb 5, 2024

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Photo by DIGITALE on Unsplash

I’m in the car with my mother. She’s been talking nonstop for twenty minutes and I’m paying zero attention when I hear “the slut gene.”

“Sorry?” I ask.

“My Aunt Shirley. She was like your Aunt Pat. You know, a slut!”

Before I can open the car door and roll out, she continues.

“I’ve never wanted to have sex with anyone but my husband. And only when we were married! But they had sex before marriage, and then they had affairs. With other married people! It’s like they have some gene. A slut gene. Do you think that could be a thing?”

As she doubles down on her diagnosis, I mentally acknowledge that my mother could be onto something.

Because if she thinks there’s a slut gene in the family, then I’ve inherited it.

It’s simple math, really. I’m 45 years-old, I’ve never married, and I’m a sexually healthy woman who has had at least a few relationships a year. Furthermore, I practice what Dr. Kim Tallbear calls decolonizing love, or what most people call consensual or ethical non-monogamy, or polyamory. I’m also queer, and my philosophy on gender and sexuality is that we get up hung up on our bits and bobs but, in reality, we all just have nubbins, for rubbin. That it can be that simple, if we let it.

But my mother knows none of this.

Partly, it’s because this is the same mother who, despite being entirely non-religious and staunchly feminist in some ways, also insisted that any sex before marriage would inevitably lead to pregnancy, the clap, and the ruination of one’s entire life (and probably any reincarnations thereafter). To be fair, she spent decades teaching a class on child rearing at our high school to actual 15-year-old mothers, but there was definitely no nuance to her messaging. I assume she knows that I’m no longer a virgin, but I have no desire to go into any details.

And I haven’t talked about my romantic life with my mother since I was in graduate school in Scotland, when I told her I was moving in with my boyfriend, a man I really loved and had zero intention of marrying. A week later she told me she’d gotten the names of a good immigration lawyer. I told her that was unnecessary because…

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