I’ve been getting lots of email from folks asking for my take on the Slut Walks. I’m sure many of you have heard about these protests taking place all over the world this summer. If you haven’t, here’s the gist:
While giving a crime prevention forum a Toronto police officer proclaimed that, “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized”. In short, his comment explicitly implied that women are responsible for being raped because of the way they dress. AKA: victim blaming. AKA: slut shaming.
Let’s be clear here: no sexual harassment or rape victim is EVER responsible for the crime committed against them. Ever. Absolutely no exceptions. The blame lies with the rapist and the rapist alone. This fact is what spawned the global protests coined “Slut Walks” in which women take to the streets in any clothing they so choose to wear in order to reclaim the term “slut”.
The objectives of the Slut Walk protests are (from SlutWalk Portland):
“It’s a frightening world when one of the biggest insults you can use against a woman is her sexual freedom. SlutWalk aims to change that, as sexual freedom is absolutely a positive thing and should be treated as such. Together we are standing up as Portlanders and saying we’ve had enough of the slut shaming, enough of the victim blaming, and enough with the violence: against women, against children, against men, against people of color, against members of the LGBTQ community.
SlutWalk is equally about changing attitude around rape as it is about reclaiming slut as a positive force and embracing expressing sexuality.
How often do we hear “She was practically asking to be raped” or “Well, she shouldn’t have been dressed like that”? We aim to abolish rape culture and rape-excusing. No one ever, ever asked to be raped or assaulted. No one is ever “asking for it”, or “had it coming”.
Rape cannot be stopped by carrying your keys between your fingers or “remaining vigilant at all times”. Rape cannot be stopped by considering sex sinful or bad.
Rape can only be stopped if rapists stop raping. ”
The Slut Walks have been a divisive event amongst gender equality activists. Some say the term “slut” is better left to die than reclaimed as an empowering term. I have also read criticisms that it is just an excuse for women to bear all in public and has little to contribute in terms of the abolition of slut shaming and victim blaming. Obviously, proponents think otherwise: they assert that the term can be reclaimed for sexual empowerment and the walks will help to raise awareness about the fear and violence that globally surrounds female sexuality.
I am a strong supporter of the objectives behind the Slut Walks (obviously). Sexual violence is so astoundingly prevalent that it hurts to even think about its magnitude and effects. Let it be known: there needs to be more awareness and there needs to be change.
But something in my gut has a volatile reaction to the term slut and I personally have no desire to “reclaim” it. To be clear, I am not the type to dismiss language’s ability to be reclaimed. I, and plenty of others, have already reclaimed the word “cunt”.
What’s the difference for me between reclaiming “cunt” and reclaiming “slut”? Well, cunt refers to a body part. It was not always a shameful word, it has just become that way over time. Slut, however, does not have empowering roots in the respect of the female body and it’s amazing capacities. It has roots in sexism and misogyny. It is a quantification of what is “too much” in terms of a woman’s sexuality. The term slut explicitly implies that there are special limits for women and that, when crossed, she deserves to be degraded and put back in her place.
I see nothing to reclaim about this word. Even in reclaiming it, it still brings stigma to female sexuality. I will not call myself a slut and I do not find it empowering.
I think that a better course of action would be to help people understand that the term slut, in and of itself, is an oppressive tool. In my opinion, it would be better to assert that:
-There is nothing wrong with having lots of sex.
-The term slut is sexist and oppressive. Calling a woman a slut is sexist and oppressive.
-Women are not sluts. Men are not sluts.
-There is no “should” when it comes to consensual sex.
-Cultural shaming should not be focused on the woman/”slut” — this is victim blaming. Instead, blame those who perpetuate violence. Blame rapists.
-Let’s abandon the term “slut” and push to adopt an enlightened view of sexuality where someone’s private life and personal decisions are not stigmatized either way.
To close, just because I disagree with reclaiming “slut”, that is not to say that I don’t think the Slut Walks are harmful or pointless. I support the protests on the whole because I still think they are a good way to raise awareness around these issues. I also think that the people who are pointing fingers calling this “an excuse to bear all” are part of the problem, not the solution. The whole point is that we shouldn’t need an excuse to dress however we want. Best of luck to all those who are participating. Let’s hope you can enlighten a few.
Sorry if that was rambly. My 2 cents. What’s yours?
I get email:
So I’m nearly sixteen and I want to stay abstinent with my boyfriend until I’m ready and mature enough. Although sometimes it’s really hard to do so, I was wondering if you had any tips on how to stay abstinent. He respects my decision but I know he feels ready for sex so it’s hard for us to stay abstinent when we’re alone together. We love each other and don’t want this to ruin what we have :)
Sounds like you’ve already taken the first step to get your needs met: talking about it. The mutual understanding that you have with your boyfriend is one of the most powerful tools you can use to keep your body in touch with your mind until you’re ready. When your ready, sex can be a creative force…not a destructive one! :)
1. Keep talking about your decision – keep updating each other on where you’re at with your readiness. This will also help to prepare you for a healthier sexual relationship when that time comes!
2. Keep your underwear on – underwear can be a good place to draw the line if you’re not ready.
3. Keep yourselves busy – if you don’t want to have sex, try to avoid situations that would be ideal for doing so.
4. Use alternative practices – if you’re ready for it, masturbating together is a fun, safe way to obtain sexual release without sex. In the same vein is making out, strip teasing, and massages.
5. Take a stance on drugs and alcohol in sexual situations – these can impair your judgment. Decide in advance if you want to use them.
6. Question yourself – if you’re having a hard time in the moment, remind yourself of the reasons why you feel you are not ready to have sex.
7. Pick a clear time for re-evaluation - consider choosing not to make any decisions about what you’re ready for while you’re in the moment with your boyfriend.
And don’t forget, when you decide that the time is right for you, protect yourself. :)
Other folks have tips of your own? Post them below!
I have to ask.
Apparently a group of 8th grade Pennsylvanians ended up at Hooters for lunch during their field trip this week.
So far, no shit has hit the fan. Big surprise. Seriously. This seems like something conservative types would throw a fit about.
I’m not so sure I would personally be upset as a parent. At least, not for the reasons other people might be. I hypothesize (since, alas, I am not a parent) that the sexual aspect of Hooters would not be a problem–you can find “sexier” things on TV. EDIT: To be clear, sexiness/boobs/women are not a big deal, especially for 8th graders. In fact, this sort of experience might be another useful tool to talk to my kid about sexuality and sexual expression.
However, I do have a problem with supporting Hooters as a company. It’s not sexuality itself that’s at issue, it’s the type of sexuality. The company has been involved in many degrading and disempowering practices toward their female workers and company authorities have been tangled in a slew of lawsuits for sexual harassment. Reputable chain strip joints generally have better track records–perhaps because their purposes are more explicit. Further in my distaste, the premise of “Hooters” is body negative and sex negative (pairing large breasts with attitudinal stereotypes required for employment, creation/encouragement of body hierarchies, encouraging gender hierarchies, reinforcement of women’s bodies as objects of sex in menial labor positions etc) as can be seen in the 3 in-text links above. IMO, this is not an empowering expression of sexuality and thus is not a company I want to support. My dollars are political and I can see myself being a bit irritated that the school would facilitate the financial validation of this kind of company through my kid.
Here is a poem sent to me by Ari, a Sex+ viewer. I thought I would share!
A smile can hide pain
Laughter can hide a sob
Fake can hide a lifetime of hurt
Make-up can hide every scar
“Happy” can hide how you really feel,
but when do we become real?
When we strike the blade for the first time?
When we break down in a million tears?
When you become everyone’s rock
but can barely hold yourself up?
When the tag reads one, but your eyes see one hundred?
When last night’s dinner is being flushed with your pride?
When no one sees past a forced smile,
an un-sincere laugh, a half hearted
What do we do then?
We mask it more?
We let ourselves get to the point
Where a gun to the head, a handful of pills,
Anything, is better then this life
Little 12 year old girls walk around the mall
Makeup caked to their face, hair bleached and fried straight
So skinny you can see almost every bone
How has this become our vision of perfect, pretty, even beautiful?
Its none of those things, its sad
So don’t fall for it
Don’t fall for the trap they call the “in-crowd”
Because every person is beautiful and perfect
just the way they are.
Have something you want posted? Drop me a line! :)
Have a brilliant day everyone. I’ll be back later this week.