It seems you can’t read a paper or blog these days without articles about SlutWalks — protests against victim-blaming and rape culture — popping up. I’ll take this opportunity to add to that growing pile of stories.
I admit, when I first heard of SlutWalks, I was instantly conflicted. While I will fight to my death defending the notion that dressing or behaving a certain way is — under NO circumstances – an invitation for rape, I couldn’t help wondering how using a pejorative term furthers the rights of sexual assault victims. Luckily, as quickly as I had become conflicted, I came to my senses. I realized the term “SlutWalk” bothered me because I was buying into the myth of the slut.
This is very alarming. Me, a die-hard feminist whose existence centers on the belief that women have every right to choose their lifestyles, had succumbed to this irrational stereotype. Momentarily, but nevertheless, I had. And that, my friends, is a huge red flag: the acceptance of slut mythology is so ingrained in our culture that it can set up camp in an otherwise sex-positive, feminist brain.
Once I regained my sanity, I realized how genius the concept is. Much like Inga Muscio’s Cunt, SlutWalks are reclaiming the word “slut.” The founders of SlutWalk in Toronto explain,
Historically, the term ‘slut’ has carried a predominantly negative connotation. Aimed at those who are sexually promiscuous, be it for work or pleasure, it has primarily been women who have suffered under the burden of this label. And whether dished out as a serious indictment of one’s character or merely as a flippant insult, the intent behind the word is always to wound, so we’re taking it back. “Slut” is being re-appropriated.
We are tired of being oppressed by slut-shaming; of being judged by our sexuality and feeling unsafe as a result. Being in charge of our sexual lives should not mean that we are opening ourselves to an expectation of violence, regardless if we participate in sex for pleasure or work. No one should equate enjoying sex with attracting sexual assault.
YES! I applaud this movement for its boldness and ingenuity. Despite advancements over the years for sexual and victims’ rights, true success will never come to fruition so long as society embraces victim-blaming. Nor will perpetrators sufficiently be brought to justice if law enforcement — who are supposed to protect and advocate for victims — participate in slut-shaming or sexual profiling. To that police officer in Toronto who said that women “should avoid dressing like sluts in order to not be victimized,” I say try being on the receiving end of sexual harassment or assault and see what it’s like to be called a slut.
The bottom line is that no woman should ever be asked what she was wearing or how she was acting in response to reports of unwanted sexual advances. Rape is rape, period. It doesn’t matter whether you’re wearing a skirt, pants, a low-cut dress or a freaking snow suit. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been drinking or even if you’re considered sexually “promiscuous.” No means no, and the onus should never fall on the victim.
If you are interested in supporting or participating in a SlutWalk, see if one is coming to your town!
*** Please note, this post was originally published on FeministsforChoice.com, where I am a contributing writer***
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