Walking with sluts

The organisers of slutwalk are suggesting that parents bring their children along to these marches. Now I don’t want to come over all Mary Whitehouse, if women want to don their leather bra and hot pants and march along the street to protest about rape in the name of empowerment that’s entirely up to them, although the point of these marches has escaped me.

Do the organisers really think that these walks are going to prevent rape or sexual assaults, which anyone with half an ounce of common sense knows, is never about the victim, the fault or blame always lies with the attacker. Let’s be clear here, rape and sexual assaults are always about power and violence, sex is simply the weapon used to inflict this upon another. A woman or man, walking down the street or out and about in the general public, does not consent to sexual assault by virtue of how they may be dressed or behaving. The majority of rape victims are women, although we cannot forget that male rape is also prevalent in society,  but it must be remembered that the reported crime figures regarding the incidence of male rape is estimated to be only the tip of the iceberg, most incidents go unreported, due to the still very taboo nature of the crime.

Are any potential rapists likely to go home and re-think their lives on the basis of witnessing the march? Or will the sight of women sexually objectivising themselves and ironically, for a bunch of feminists turning themselves into objects for fetishistic sexual admiration, further entrench the link between dress and sexually promiscuous behaviour? Will women in their micro-mini skirts and bras reinforce the idea that women are simply objects for the viewing pleasure of men? Will this whole march prove somewhat counter-productive as women are deliberately flaunting their sexual attributes and buying into the whole “prick-tease” attitude? We know that men are wired to respond sexually to visual stimuli whereas a woman’s sexual responses are, on the whole, more complex than a simple physical reaction. Slutwalking is glorified teasing. It’s saying look at me, I am a sexual being, I have the freedom to dress as I want, to behave as I want (none of which are freedoms that I would wish to deny) I’m going to dress as provocatively as I can, I’m going to associate myself with a word that has connotations of not being choosy about with whom I might have sexual relations, and if a man has a sexual response to me on the basis of how I am dressed, then he has to deal with it.

All of which is fine up to a point, of course if a man does have a physical response to a woman, then he needs to ensure that his sexual desires are appropriately and consensually channelled,  and the same applies to women. But the question needs to be asked, if women don’t want to be objectified, if they don’t want to be “slut-shamed”, i.e judged by their sexuality and potentially feel unsafe as a result, why they then choose to present themselves solely in terms of their sexuality? There is nothing brave or empowered about going on a slutwalk, whereby safety is guaranteed in numbers. All it does is present a totty fest for the likes of Jeremy Clarkson.

Dressing in a sexually provocative fashion is usually something that is grown out of by the mid twenties. Most teenagers who dress sexually provocatively, do so because they are insecure, they want to attract the opposite sex, they want to be attractive to the opposite sex, but haven’t yet gleaned the emotional maturity and sophistication to work out that there are better and more effective ways of meeting your soul-mate than simply reducing yourself to a collection of your various body parts. And why is it that a chorus  ” you’re not going out dressed like that” still resonates around most households containing a teenage girl, the length and breadth of the country? Is it because parents want to “slut shame” or is it because parents are actually wishing to protect their children, because they realise the message that teenagers may inadvertently or otherwise be sending out? That they realise that their children may be solely identifying themselves as someone who is available for sexual activity, something that is fraught with danger for inexperienced teens.

Most women come to the realisation that actually they want a partner who loves them for who they are, soul, mind and body, not just the latter. To dress sexually provocatively screams immaturity and attracts attention for all the wrong reasons. Generally women who dress like sluts are not taken seriously by men and women alike and with good reason, namely that they are reducing themselves to the level of an object, they are showing themselves in a one-dimensional aspect. And by dressing sluttily I mean by leaving nothing to the imagination. There is a distinct difference between dressing sexily, which leaves room for  a hint of imagination and dressing in a sexually explicit fashion.

And this is why I find it incredible that the organisers of this walk, are inviting people to bring their children. No doubt these would be the same type of women who would scream at me for taking my children along to a pro-life rally due to it being “inappropriate”. I cannot think of anything more inappropriate  than to take children along to a march which is concerned with the very adult business of sexual behaviour. To take my seven year old along, would surely necessitate an explanation of both sex and rape? How on earth is this appropriate for a child? How is appropriate to take a child along to a march where she will be surrounded by people dressed in a sexually provocative fashion, and explain that men like to see ladies dressed in their knickers and that sometimes a lady in this state might make a man want to do things to her without her consent which could hurt her? How on earth does one explain to a young child the various implications of the word ‘slut’?

Is it really appropriate to start teaching children that they can have sex with whoever they like and whenever they like and there should be absolutely no consequences? Surely by introducing the idea that others may be judgemental of their sexual behaviour, that in itself gives them pause for thought about sexual behaviours and norms? I can just imagine what my child’s school, who operate a zero tolerance policy on swearing and bad language, would make of her weekend diary detailing slutwalking with mummy and the accompanying drawings.

The word “slut” implies that one is not particularly choosy about one’s sexual partners, that one has plenty of them and defines themselves by their sexuality. Well that’s fine and dandy, you have as many sexual partners as you like and be proud of that, dress as provocatively as you like, be seen purely in terms of a sexual object, invite men to be sexually aroused by your appearance, but don’t expect me to endorse your quasi page 3 parade nor pass that message on to my children.

I wonder how many women who feel that it is so empowering to walk semi-naked through the streets with a group of similarly attired women, at zero risk of assault, would actually choose to wear the same clothing, or lack thereof and walk through a city centre alone in the small hours of the morning? Or would encourage their daughters to do similar? Because if we don’t invite sexual appraisal by our appearance, then surely both a niquab wearing and  scantily clad woman walking through a city centre alone at 2am would be at identical risk?

It’s all about taking responsibility and taking ownership.  You choose to dress in a sexually provocative fashion, then you choose to be judged purely in those terms, like it or not. That’s not inviting rape, as I stated, the responsibility always lies with the attacker, but you are marking yourself out as a target for those with proclivities towards sexual violence, regardless of whether that’s right, just or fair. In an ideal world, a woman should be able to wear whatever she likes without inviting judgement, be that bikini or burka. The world we live in is far from ideal and defining yourself purely in terms of sexuality or sexual attractiveness does little to change stereotypes.

Besides far more empowering is knowing that you don’t need to define yourself in those terms, that your attractiveness and sexuality transcends the mere physical. Tramping around in the altogether, celebrating your freedom to dress as you please is one thing, but don’t expect it to change any attitudes. Still Primark might finally discover that they have a run on their padded bras for seven-year olds.

2 thoughts on “Walking with sluts

  1. I think it’s a good idea. It’s got people talking about who’s responsibility rape is – always the perpetrator.

    I’d like to see a lot more talk about consent, and making sure that men know that no means no – there is no such thing as assuming someone wants sex, because of the way they’ve dressed and acted. Consent is the issue. A woman can go out dressed however she likes and rape is never her fault. It’s good that it’s opened that debate again.

    1. I agree with that up to a point, but it’s the whole identifying oneself as being a slut, that doesn’t work for me. I don’t think the word is capable of being reclaimed or used positively. At best it says “I am happy to have several different sexual partners, I am in control of my sexuality and with whom I have sex”. So why use such a derogatory term, which only reinforces the idea of women as victims or objects? What does identifying yourself as being a person who chooses to have multiple sexual partners bring to the debate other than reinforce the preconceptions behind the word, particularly if you dress in a certain way?

      Also I think some people do dress and act a certain way because they do want sex. That does not excuse rapists, no-one should make assumptions that a woman is inviting assault, but sometimes there are women who dress and behave with a purpose in mind. That may be “empowered” but it’s certainly leaving one’s motives open to misinterpretation. There are women and men who wish to be sexually dominated within their relationships so I think the idea of women as purely victims is too simplistic.

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