Today, we have a special report from Sophie on her experience at this Sunday’s Montreal Slut Walk.
Thank you, Camille. Yes, I spent this Sunday enjoying what ended up being a lovely sunny afternoon with a bunch of sluts and slut supporters. Sounds peculiar? Maybe, but let me explain. The idea of the Slut Walk came after a member of the Toronto Police Department gave a lecture on sexual assault prevention at York University, stating that women should avoid dressing like sluts if they want to avoid being raped. Yes, someone actually decided to say that do a group of women.
The Slut Walk started in Toronto as a response to those comments, but it’s a much bigger issue than that and it quickly spread all over the world, with satellite versions of the demonstration in many cities all over the world. Why did it become such a big deal? Essentially, we live in a culture where sexuality is fraught with a lot of very bizarre and contradictory ideas, when it comes to all genders. We get taught to simultaneously hide and flaunt our bodies. We get shoved into rigid gender definitions which create internal conflict and bizarre social power struggles. We don’t know how to enjoy ourselves or let others enjoy themselves without judgement or abuse.
The main issue people have with the Slut Walk is just that, because it’s addressing several different problems, it doesn’t necessarily seem to have one clear message. (I think it does: Nothing justifies rape.) It’s easy to tease out the multiple valid messages, but by the looks of most commenters on news sites, it seems like people don’t like to think. What I want to do is just address some of the frequent criticisms of the Slut Walk movement in an effort to dispel some of the confusion.
Slut is a bad word. Calling this the Slut Walk is demeaning and sets women back.
The Slut Walk is kind of twofold on this issue. Many people are using the Slut Walk as an opportunity to reclaim the word, taking away the negative power and replacing it with joy. Books like The Ethical Slut talk about a way to enjoy sex while being safe and without hurting anyone in the process, for example. Slut could just mean a person who enjoys sex and has a lot of it. What’s wrong with that. It’s pretty badass.
Then again, some people don’t identify as sluts and just go along with the name because it’s a direct link to the comments about dressing like a slut, which was the ultimate form of slut shaming. (Slut shaming = making someone feel crappy because their behaviour or dress is outside one person’s particular comfort zone.)
That police officer was right. Dressing provocatively is too tempting for some people!
This is victim/survivor blaming and it is unbelievably disrespectful. Anyone should have the right to live their lives in peace without fear of being attacked. Just as it’s pointlessly cruel to tell someone that they shouldn’t have been walking around with a cell phone if they didn’t want it to be stolen, it’s horrible to imply that it’s anyone’s fault but the person committing the crime. Why don’t we push it further? I’m a busty woman, so maybe I’m more of a target. Would you say that I shouldn’t have such big boobs if I didn’t want to be a target? Or someone who is exceptionally pretty? Would you say that they should hide their nice features so they don’t attract attention?
What about the fact that slutty to one person is perfectly chaste to another? We all have our definition of what’s modest or immodest. I feel judgement sometimes when I walk around in a t-shirt and jeans in my Hassidic neighbourhood because I know that my outfit is considered risky by people in that community. Just as many people would judge Camille for being on a porn site, you guys think she’s amazing for making such classy erotic material. Some people would strongly disagree with you and think she’s of low morals and asking for trouble. It’s all relative.
The sad fact is that rape and sexual assault know no skirt length. I recently read a comment somewhere (don’t remember where unfortunately) from an ER doctor who said that most of the sexual violence cases they saw were in sweatpants, jeans, t-shirts, sweaters, even footie pajamas. It’s also important to realize that a large percentage of sexual violence happens to children or the elderly. It’s an issue of control more than anything else across the board, so the whole idea of dressing like you’re “asking for it” is kind of a non-issue.
If you’re promiscuous or a sex worker, you’re sending out the message that you always want it.
Just no. No matter how many sexual partners you’ve had, whether you’ve had sex with this particular person before or whether you have sex for money, everyone has the right to say no. No behaviour justifies rape or sexual assault.
Why did you bother having a demonstration about it? Couldn’t you spend your time doing something more productive?
Sure, but then again, couldn’t we all just eat nothing but rice and give away all our worldly possessions and give all of our money to charity? The argument that this walk takes energy/time away from worthy causes is untrue. It’s important to bring messages like this to the public eye. Also, the proceeds from t-shirt sales and the event after the demonstration all went to Stella, a sex workers justice and advocacy group with initiatives in sexual assault prevention in schools and community centres all over Montreal. Most people involved in the Slut Walk are involved in projects and charities to support what they’re marching for.
This is all about hating men, isn’t it?
Not at all. Men can be sluts, men can be accused of dressing too provocatively and men can experience rape or sexual assault. Just because the majority of cases are men’s violence against women doesn’t mean that men’s experiences of sexual violence are any less respected or valid. Beyond male survivors, there were also lots of wonderful men there expressing their solidarity and respect. Signs like “Real Men Don’t Rape” were very popular. Consent is sexy, after all!
The most important thing is that the majority of slut walkers, especially the organizers and speakers, made it very clear that this is a societal problem. We are teaching don’t get raped instead of don’t rape, but this is bigger than that. We’ve created a very unfair society where people are getting all the wrong messages all the time. We need to teach consent, teach respect, teach fairness and raise children so that all their voices and feelings can be heard. I know I’m idealistic as hell, but it is possible, but only if we pay attention to these causes and get to the root of the problem.
My Sunday was spent in the company of people who really get it, and it couldn’t have been more spectacular. As one of the organizers and speakers said, “So call me a slut if you want to, but you can never use that word as an excuse to violate me.”