Arts·Poetic License

With 'slut' reclaimed, poet Twoey Gray has a fiery message for what word should be next

“Setting a boundary is something to be proud of. I know myself and I know that my ‘no’ matters.”

'Setting a boundary is something to be proud of. I know myself and I know that my "no" matters'

"I think that there's huge power in reclaiming the word prude," says Toronto spoken word poet, arts educator and PRUDEmag zine-maker Twoey Gray about her poem Anthem of the Prude. "I'm really proud of many people for reclaiming the word 'slut' and I hope that word prude will soon move in the same direction."

"Setting a boundary is something to be proud of. Your own agency is something to be proud of. And calling yourself a prude is a way to emphasize that, 'Yep, I know myself and I know that my no matters.'"

Watch Twoey Gray perform Anthem of the Prude:

Twoey Gray performs Anthem of the Prude to reclaim the word "prude", for knowing yourself and for knowing that "no" matters. 3:37

As the world around us grows more and more uncertain, eight young poets speak their truth in the third season of the CBC Arts series Poetic License. Watch all 8 performances now.

Gray sends her poem out to a coalition of those shamed for their decisions, for who they are, for what they like or don't: "I do it for the prudes and the spinsters and the asexuals. I do it for the girls with disabilities that prevent them from having penetrative sex. I do it for the girls who have a spiritual relationship to sex that might involve chastity; it might not. I do it for people who live on that continuum of being both a prude and a slut — for anyone, not just women, who's ever set a boundary and had that boundary disrespected or had that boundary seen as outrageous."

The reclamation of the word slut is something Gray supports fully, but she asks us to think about why it has been comparatively easier for that preference to follow this path of destigmatization. "I think that the reason the word slut is so available to be reclaimed is because men are very supportive of it being reclaimed."

"Men like a slut. Men do not like a prude. No one likes a prude! It doesn't sound fun. It's not an interesting headline." Her message is one of acceptance and support for reclaiming all aspects of this spectrum and respecting agency no matter which way it goes. "I hope that people don't misconstrue my message as being that people should not have sex, people should not be sluts, because I think everyone is navigating the two and they're symptoms of the same system."

Anthem of the Prude by Twoey Gray

when i wouldn't let him put it in. when i wouldn't let him put it anywhere. the fake phone number. the withheld lap dance. "elizabeth," i said my name was. melissa. kate. erica. kathleen. and i didn't like him touching my knee. and when she said please. and when she meant, if you loved me you would. for the thrown drink. the feral tear. the spit. for the open-eyed-kissers. traitors of the prom. the bridesmaids groaning into their tulips. for the way my body revolts when handled incorrectly. for the way my body in turn is considered incorrect. for the picky bitches. battle-axes with the lifted chins. for the girls who chose the bathroom stall over the change room. the seven minutes in heaven sit-outs. for the wallflowers who waited the appropriate measure to be ready until ready never arrived. us, madonnas of the lesbian bed death. the frigid partners of unlucky men. twisted spinsters with a jewel on every finger, a gold fang in our granny panties. when i shut the blinds on my liberation. when my pussy failed to meet the minimum threshold for sexual empowerment. the least marketable item of reclamation. to us who rob the movement of a masculine appeal, sabotaging the seductive middle ground. we who have been prescribed and pathologized, therapied and threatened, prayed over and for. no-fun-white-dresses. virgins impure. too sinful for even the slutwalk. evading our biological responsibility. juvenile. not worth my conversation. why didn't you tell me when i first said hello? why won't you just shut up about it? we who believe we're better than everyone, don't we? we who acid splice our boundaries? who keep it all to ourselves? who find deliverance in our sacred no? god. she's such a...

Twoey Gray is currently working on a zine called PRUDEmag that's now accepting submissions until April 30th, 2019.