In reading the reaction to the Slutwalk blog posts and news coverage, I feel like there might be a little bit of a message gap in the Slutwalk movement. I'm going to try to bridge that here by addressing some of the most common objections and misunderstandings that seemed to come up.
What is the message of Slutwalk?
The message of Slutwalk is that SOMEONE BEING A SLUT DOES NOT EXCUSE SHAMING, HARASSMENT, OR SEXUAL ASSAULT.
In other words, if you see someone looking or acting like oh my god such a slut, you let her go on her merry way. You have no more right to abuse, mock, harass, or assault her than you do any other person. And if a slut is abused or assaulted, she did not want it and did not deserve it, and the people victimizing her are every bit as guilty as if they did it to a non-slut.
Isn't being a slut a bad thing?
Nope! If we understand "slut" to mean "someone (usually a woman) who dresses sexy, acts sexual, and/or has a lot of sex," there's absolutely no harm done. "Slut" only became an insult because our culture is completely screwed up about sex, so instead of dealing with it head-on, we assigned it such a tremendous emotional load that instead of saying "Slut is bad because X," we could just say "SLUT!" and have people feel bad from that alone, no logical rationale required.
Having sex without freely given consent, sex that involves dishonesty or manipulation, sex that spreads diseases or causes unwanted pregnancies--these are bad things. But none of them is inherent to being a "slut." A slut who does their slutting safely, honestly, and consensually is enjoying and sharing pleasure and joy.
Are you encouraging women to act like sluts?
Nope! We're just saying it's an acceptable option.
Lots of people at the Slutwalk were dressed very modestly, and I personally know that some of them were monogamous or celibate. Absolutely nobody was telling these people that they needed to be sluttier to fit in. Slutwalk is not an event to recruit sluts, but to defend sluts.
But isn't it safer for women to dress modestly?
Yeah. That's the problem.
Actually, there aren't any statistics on clothing and sexual assault, but there doesn't seem to be much connection. Sexual assault isn't a matter of "she aroused me so much I just couldn't stand it;" it's an act of deliberate violence. The majority of assaults are committed by people who already know the victims. Often the assaults take place at home. Speaking anecdotally from three years of experience as an EMT and an ER worker, most of the sexual assault victims I've seen were wearing jeans, sweatpants, pajamas, even hijab. (Or little footie pajamas with Elmo on them.)
However, women who are perceived as sluts are more subject to catcalling, harassment, and social shunning as they go about their lives. They're also more likely to be blamed and less likely to be protected or get justice if they're assaulted. These are real risks, but they're risks that suck and we want to get rid of them, because there's nothing wrong with being a slut.
So if you don't want to be harassed for sluttiness, why not just put on some pants already?
1. The problem is on the harassers' end, not ours. Our sluttiness harms no one and ought to be our right.
2. What if we did? It would go one of two ways. Either some women would still be in short skirts and they'd have even bigger targets painted on their backs, or all women would start wearing pants... and then the harassment would focus on women whose pants were deemed too tight, or too colorful, or too low-cut, or whatever. In a crowd of prudes, people would still go after whoever seemed "sluttiest" relatively--you can see this happening in schools with uniform codes, where the slightest variation in girls' shoes or the way they wear their uniform sweater can make the difference between "cool" and "nerd"... and "slut."
Without attacking the root cause--people thinking that sluttiness is bad and that it's okay to harass sluts and ignore violence against them--no change that the "sluts" themselves make can ever be enough.
Aren't you just putting on skimpy clothes for attention?
What, you want protestors not to try and get attention? "Oh, don't mind us, we're just having an eensy little protest over here, we'll be very quiet."
We're drawing attention to our cause, not just to our bodies, and if you're capable of listening to the words a skimpily-dressed woman says (you can do it, little buddy!), this will rapidly become clear.
A lot of the Slutwalk women are fat and ugly, haw haw!
Obviously this isn't a "question," and anyone saying this has a few years to go before they're worthy of any response beyond "ssshhh, grownups are talking."
The frustrating thing about this response is that it's not a response; it's just a random, lazy attempt to make people feel bad. The only reasons to do this are:
1. You're such an emotional child that you think making someone feel bad means you "beat" them at some sort of "game," and you just want to be the biggest winner possible!
2. You think that it is okay to harass sluts or that people who assault sluts should go free, but you can't support this logically and/or you don't have the courage to spell it out, so you just lash out with a generic insult.
If you have any other questions/objections (either that you have or that you've heard), post them in the comments; I'll add interesting ones to the post.
This was most informative, Holly Son of Mogh! You bring honor to the Empire!ReplyDelete
I think the message of the Slut Walk can be boiled down even more to just:ReplyDelete
"Everyone has the right to choose who they fuck."
A woman who dresses in sexy clothes has a right to choose who she fucks.
A woman who's had sex with a lot of people has a right to choose who she fucks.
A woman who takes money in exchange for sex acts? Still has the right to choose the specific people with whom she commits those acts.
I guess we can blame a lot of society's ills on the widespread and totally false idea that women don't like sex and don't feel desire. If women don't like sex, clearly they must only have sex to please a man, or because they're fundamentally broken, or something. Therefore, a woman who's slept with a lot of guys must be willing to sleep with absolutely any guy at all.
And a woman who dresses in "sexy" clothes, well, she's obviously super-into the idea of pleasing men, so she'll have sex with absolutely anyone, too.
The Slut Walk is about teaching the world that women who have a lot of sex are people. Sluts look just like anyone else and deserve to have their personal boundaries respected just like anyone else.
It makes me sad that a lot of people seem to have missed the point.
That last response you mentioned, the hosts of a local morning radio show in Toronto were doing that a while ago when they heard about the slut walk. All they could do was mock the people involved ignoring the actual message and it pissed me off.ReplyDelete
I wish I had known about the slutwalk here before it happened so I could have shown my support.
The last nonquestion on the FAQ so far was specifically why I chose to slut walk.ReplyDelete
Because people told me I should feel HONORED to be raped. Because it meant I was pretty.
Fuck them with a cactus.
I have a bit of a personal question. I'm committed to the cause that Slutwalk is supporting. However, as a gynosexual man, I can't deny that a major motivation to attend Slutwalk as opposed to other protests would be the prospect of seeing sexually attractive women in revealing clothing.ReplyDelete
So I guess the question is how can an ally who likes 1) sexual justice and 2) sexy ladies reconcile these two motives for attending Slutwalk?
"Because people told me I should feel HONORED to be raped. Because it meant I was pretty." That is so messed up that I don't even know what to say. Horrific. It's horrific.ReplyDelete
Erl, I would say that it's fine! You are free to enjoy sexually attractive women in revealing clothing, so long as you don't disrespect them by cat-calling, mocking or expecting them to be attracted to you just BECAUSE they are wearing skimpy clothing.
"Speaking anecdotally from three years of experience as an EMT and an ER worker, most of the sexual assault victims I've seen were wearing jeans, sweatpants, pajamas, even hijab. (Or little footie pajamas with Elmo on them.)"ReplyDelete
That last sentence made me want to cry.
I can't deny that a major motivation to attend Slutwalk as opposed to other protests would be the prospect of seeing sexually attractive women in revealing clothing.ReplyDelete
I feel like if you think the women there are gonna be dressed like strippers, you may have in fact missed the point of the Slut Walk.
But then again I didn't go so I'm not sure what people dressed like.
So I guess the question is how can an ally who likes 1) sexual justice and 2) sexy ladies reconcile these two motives for attending Slutwalk?
Just be subtle and non-creepy about checking people out. I'm emphatically pro-gay-rights and also think twinks are hot as fuck and that's what I do.
@Jennifer - that last sentence just didn't make sense the first two times I read it. Now I understand it, it makes even less sense...ReplyDelete
@Holly - I'm not going to ask how you do that stuff day in, day out. Just let me say I'm so, so glad that someone like you can be there to help pick up the pieces. You are several different kinds of awesome.
Yay! I was trying to print out fliers for the LA SlutWalk today, but all the printers everywhere are broken :(ReplyDelete
Still, I'm really happy there's going to be one in my area that I can go to.
Re Rogan's "fuck them with a cactus" line.... if you ever want to insult someone in hideously specific, spiny detail, plus sound very erudite and fancy, there's a great French line a friend taught me years ago: "Ve te faire enculer avec un herisson." Which basically translates as "Go get fucked in the ass by a porcupine/hedgehog." Which, frankly, sounds pretty unpleasant to me. That phrase always makes me feel better when people are being profoundly unpleasant.ReplyDelete
Though I must say, whenever I think about it too hard, I always feel bad for the hypothetical spiny mammal...
In conclusion: yay, slutwalks! It's great to see people responding like this. Even though I personally think that trying to reclaim the word "slut" is sort of strange (I'm too much of a 19th century studies historian - "slut" originally referred to a someone who kept a slovenly, filthy, disease-ridden home; someone who was literally dirty), but I'm all for people's right to use it as a self-identifier if they want to. And, you know, for people's right to BE as "slutty" or not as happens to work them them, under whatever circumstances they choose.
The little footie pajamas line made me so sad too.ReplyDelete
A BBC article mentioned that lots of the slutwalkers were in jeans etc. but some were 'dressed more provacatively'. Hmmmmmmm. Yes and no, BBC, yes and no...
Anyway - the word itself. Certainly in Scotland (where I'm from) it wasn't always about sex, a woman may have been called a slut if she did not keep her house clean and tidy, if she was slovenly. It may have implied careless behaviour in other areas of life but being deliberately sexually alluring/provocative in public would have made her a hussy, not a slut. Just some info for the interest of it. Funny how words evolve and have different connotations even in the same language. :-)
Oddly enough, the word hussy sounds so old-fashioned to me that the notion of someone being called a hussy strikes me as somehow humorous. But then, I'd prefer to be reclaiming strumpet, so my linguistic notions may be a bit off.
Erl - There's nothing wrong with liking to look at the women in sexy clothing, so long as you're respectful about it (no staring, no creepy comments, no uninvited touching). As long as you keep your manners about you, nothing wrong with enjoying the event on two different levels.ReplyDelete
Anon - Actually, some women there were dressed, if not like strippers, at least like stereotypical "sluts." The point being that shouldn't be a wrong or dangerous thing.
Unwillinggal - Whether Massachusetts and Scotland speak "the same language" is definitely up for debate. Calling someone a "hussy" here would be more old-fashioned and silly than insulting, and if someone doesn't keep their house tidy, they are a "slob."
"Because people told me I should feel HONORED to be raped. Because it meant I was pretty."ReplyDelete
These are the people who told me, in the next breath, that I had no right to be angry anyway, because I really shouldn't have dressed *like that* if I didn't want it.
That's why we need these events. My body is mine, and no one has a right to it, whether I'm naked or wearing a snuggie.
Wish I could have been there :) SlutWalk Denver, anyone?
Rock on. I'm really excited about the SlutWalk in my area that's coming up in a few months. =DReplyDelete
re AvaTrimble and Rogan: where I live, the expression goes "go shit hedgehogs" (as in, instead of fecal matter).ReplyDelete
Yeah, I always get a bit skeeved about insults like 'fuck you in the ass with a cactus' or 'go get fucked by a hedgehog' or whatever because they seem a bit... rapey to me. That's probably oversensitive survivor stuff, but just a thought. I like 'go shit hedgehogs'! A friend of mine once did a verse improvisation in which one character said 'May you have pine cones for kidney stones!' which I thought was pretty epic.ReplyDelete
Anyway. Some first comment, huh? I've been lurking for a few months, love this blog, and I want to thank Holly for introducing me to the concept of Slutwalk, as there's apparently going to be one here in London in June, and I'm definitely going!
Oh oh oh! Someone on Facebook *just* invited me to the Brisbane Slutwalk at the end of the month. Thanks for your timely and informative posts - now I know what it's all about, I'm definitely going :DReplyDelete
I think we could add to the list:ReplyDelete
Whether I choose celibacy, to wait until marriage, or to have sex with 100 people, I should only be judged by the love and respect with which I treat my partner(s) - not by the number of them.
Just wanted to say that I *LOVE* the new blogge theme and commenting system!ReplyDelete
@ DarthShepherd: What is wrong with oversensitive survivor stuff? Its just as legitimate as undersensetive nonsurvivor stuff or undersensititve survivor stuff or oversensitive nonsurvivor stuff.ReplyDelete
I dont think these insults are okay either, in part because of what you said, and in part because I think these comments are seen as insulting because embracing something with your vagina or anus is seen as degrading. So it works via misogyny and fear/disgust at anal sex (which I think is intertwined with disgust at male homosexuals which itself is intertwined with misogyny etc...)
If embracing something pleasurable with your vagina or anus was seen as a good thing these insults wouldnt work...which brings us directly back to the slut walk:-)
I'd propose to stay away from insults with sexual content, for instance from the classical "fuck you". If consensual sex isn't bad and if sex shouldn't be used as a weapon, why use it for insults?
(Sorry for the essay, but before the next comment is like "Yeah, but its not about embracing something PLEASURABLE...": I really tried to come up with an analog for getting your penis embraced by something unpleasurable...I didnt find one. Which led me to the conclusion that the act of embracing is part of the insult.)
Symm - I think "go fuck a shark in the mouth" would work for penis-insults.ReplyDelete
But I further propose that:
A) There are many, many not-even-a-little-rapey insults out there. Someone of any gender can be told to go hug a porcupine without sexual connotations.
B) I am, however, uncomfortable telling survivors that they have to reign in their rage and only express it in polite ways. I would prefer that people not use sexual insults, but in some cases I'm not going to enforce that preference.
I support the cause. Fully. I just can't believe we'll be successful in "reclaiming" the word. It's always seemed to me that calling it a Slutwalk is self-defeating before it starts.
"If we understand "slut" to mean "someone (usually a woman) who dresses sexy, acts sexual, and/or has a lot of sex," there's absolutely no harm done."
But that's not how it's understood. That's not how the people we're protesting against use the word, and it's not how the people to whom we are trying to spread awareness will hear it.
'Slut' may mean 'promiscuous', according to you and in your circles, but it comes from 'dirty'. And it keeps that connotation in lots of places across this country and outside it.
" 'Slut' only became an insult because our culture is completely screwed up about sex..."
Alack, but no. Chaucer was insulting men for being sluttish, i.e. slovenly (same root, apparently), back in ye Chaucerian times. More relevant, 'sluttish' meaning 'filthy' is in use across the pond as recently as in Bridget Jones's Diary.
Where I grew up, the word 'slut' was nearly always preceded by the word 'dirty', with 'nasty' as an alternative.
I'm not optimistic that the BDSM/queer/sexpos community slang meaning for the word will win out in the outside perception of Slutwalk.
Speaking as a survivor, I must reign in my rage. Because unrestrained, I would use an atomic device to calcify Mecca on Ramadan. Castrate every Clinton Democrat. Things would go downhill from there. And rage is self perpetuating, you can't over restrain outrage.ReplyDelete
Potting at 2-liter bottles with a little Tannerite inside is a acceptable release compared to what I feel most days.
In the words of Ozzie Osbourne, "Most days I wake up wanting to violently destroy, everything, anything. And that's me in a good mood!"
And I don't have Ozzie's musical skill to make my anti-social (I almost typed So-Cal) tendencies.
If I call someone a "slut", it's always positive.
@ Holly: I've never lived in a country where english is spoken regularly. Is the penis-shark-mouth insult an insult which is actually used? If not: I'm impressed by your creativity!:-)ReplyDelete
Concerning Hollys B.): Maybe there is a misunderstanding? I never meant to police survivors on what to say, did it come across as such?
Yes, my suggestion is that we all think about why we would use insults with sexual content. But I can totally relate to using these insults in certain circumstances, I am using them too from time to time when thinking/talking with friends about my own experiences with sexual violence. On the other hand, I (just speaking for me) won't use these words if people are around who don't know me and my thoughts about sexuality: whenever I am in the situation of hearing people I don't know well curse this way I get very, very uneasy (since I don't know if they see sexuality as inherent aggressive, which would make me prefer not to be around them).
Sorry, I think I'm derailing the thread a bit...Don't hesitate to tell me to get back to the original topic.
I would just put it down as one of the things in modern English that pisses me off, along with 'that's so gay', 'retard' and 'fraped*'.ReplyDelete
Not a huge deal, but skeevy. I like slut though... and I think in response to Galatea, people who know etymology can put way too much emphasis on an origin that noone who doesn't know it would even think about. The people using 'slut' to describe someone who has a lot of sex aren't doing so because they've read Chaucer. I think we've made some ground when it comes to reclaiming it, the Ethical Slut etc.
* I think this might be a British English thing, but it's when someone goes on your Facebook and changes stuff for lolz. 'Facebook raped' or 'fraped'. Hate it hate it hate it.
RE: Symm and Darth SheppardReplyDelete
I don't tell folks to fuck cacti because I think penetrative sex is disgusting. I say it because it sounds incredibly unpleasant. Same reason I call people nonconsensual cockbites or douchelemons. (I'll have to use the shit kidney stones, though; that sounds REALLY nasty!)
Couldn't say it with the hedgehog, though. I'd feel bad for the poor creatures. Cacti I see as being more capable of not caring overmuch.
--Rogan, post-op and high on painkillers
@Mr_Monster: Footie is a slang term for Blanket Sleeper, wikipedia it for images and the meaning will become depressingly clear...ReplyDelete
I really hope the word slut can be reclaimed, I spend a good amount of time in classes teaching students about feminist perspectives (this is dificult as a maths teacher but worth it!) Every bit helps! If it can be mentioned with people unfamiliar with the term once in a while, one day it'll get there :)
The awe, Holly, continues unabated. I feel dumb just leaving comments like "wow, great points." So I mostly don't say anything. But it doesn't mean I don't feel it. I'm so late to the party but this is a very good post.ReplyDelete
"Nope! If we understand "slut" to mean "someone (usually a woman) who dresses sexy, acts sexual, and/or has a lot of sex," there's absolutely no harm done."ReplyDelete
Are you sure? See this link:
According to the studies he cites, a person's (man or woman, however the effect is more pronounced in women) odds of having a successful marriage decline as they have more sexual partners. If these studies reflect reality, then sluttyness, even as you define it, is a predictor of divorce. Divorce is universally a bad thing and harms all parties involved.
Now, for the sake of intellectual honesty, I should point out that in my haste I've made a bit of a post-hoc fallacy. It's entirely possible that "sluttyness" and divorce may both caused by external cause that is not inherently dependent on "sluttyness". Correlation is not causation, and alas those studies only show correlation and speculates at causation.
Anon - A) The greatest effect seems to come from whether someone has more than one partner, which is barely "sluttiness" by the conventional definition.ReplyDelete
B) I suspect this has a lot to do with religion and culture, where people who believe in chastity until marriage are also likely to have a taboo against divorce.
C) I don't think getting divorced is always a bad thing. Sometimes it's necessary. Maybe the study shows that having multiple partners gives someone the confidence and perspective necessary to leave a bad marriage.
D) None of this justifies a third party treating "sluts" badly, much less assaulting them. (I know you're not saying that, but I just wanted to bring it back to the Slutwalk message.) If someone is raising their future risk of divorce, that's their own problem.
"D) None of this justifies a third party treating "sluts" badly, much less assaulting them. (I know you're not saying that, but I just wanted to bring it back to the Slutwalk message.) If someone is raising their future risk of divorce, that's their own problem. "ReplyDelete
At a bare minimum, divorce effects two people, not just the one who made the decisions that increase her or his chance at divorce. I would say that in most cases, the effects are spread amongst many other people. What if there are children involved? What about the rest of the community? There are studies that show that a divorce within a community increases the risk of divorce throughout the community (http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1490708). The consequences of their actions are borne everyone.
Therefore, I think we should have some taboo against "sluttyness" for both sexes. No, that doesn't, and shouldn't excuse assault. I don't see why it would. Even in cases where consent is in dispute (he-said, she-said), the accused would experience shame for seeking casual sex in the first place, in addition to the shame of being accused of sexual assult.
"C) I don't think getting divorced is always a bad thing. Sometimes it's necessary. Maybe the study shows that having multiple partners gives someone the confidence and perspective necessary to leave a bad marriage."
Or to leave a perfectly good, but not perfect marriage. Generally, divorce does not make unhappy people happier (http://www.americanvalues.org/html/r-unhappy_ii.html, yeah, they have an ideological dog in the fight, I'll admit it). There are times (abuse, abandonment, infidelity, and.. that's about it) where it's necessary, but even here I'd say it's a bad thing. It may be better than the alternative, but it's still not a good outcome.
The problem here is that for you, you're advocating a taboo against a behavior.ReplyDelete
For me, it would be a taboo against my self. As someone who's already way on the right-hand side of that bar graph, I'm apparently Bad For Society--and should be treated that way? My whole life? Ouch.
It wouldn't even make me less of a slut. It would just make me a slut everyone hated.
I also still believe that if two people don't want to be with each other anymore, they shouldn't be stuck together. I believed this about my parents (I wish they'd separated YEARS earlier; it would have been far better than the constant fighting and tension that happened instead) and I believe it about most couples who don't want to be together any more. As far as I'm concerned, divorce isn't a "risk," it's a very necessary option.
The thing that's always made me go "Mrr?" (and that I've commented on elsewhere) is that for me, most of the promiscuous women I've known have had fairly tame tastes in clothing. (Whereas, in contrast, many of the women I know who dress in short skirts, low-cut blouses and heavy makeup tend to be chaste.)ReplyDelete
So when I hear the phrase "dressed like a slut" I have to think, "you mean she was in a baggy sweater and jeans?"
Anon - correlating multiple partners to a higher rate of divorce is all fine and dandy, but more information is needed before tagging it as a Bad Thing. Although I was lucky enough to come from a happy home, I've seen far too many divorces that were too long in coming to see divorce as something to be necessarily avoided.
As anecdotal evidence: a friend of mine was pressured into marrying the first man who showed serious interest in her, in part because he basically told her no one else would ever want to marry her. She spent about 20 unhappy years in this marriage before finally realizing she needed to get out. Maybe if she'd had more experience going into it, she would have had enough confidence not to settle for that jerk - or at least to divorce him sooner and reclaim her life.
Anecdotal evidence, of course, proves nothing - except that experiences are varied, and making assumptions is bad. (And in her case, divorce certainly did make an unhappy person happy. She felt better the moment she left his house, and she's currently married to a wonderful man who adores her.) The point is that we can speculate all day about what the study "means," but ultimately we don't have enough facts to demonstrate anything but the basic correlation.
I can take this personally as well. The slutwalks are part of a movement that has made it shameful for me to say that I, a chaste man, am looking for a chaste wife. Saying that I'm not even allowed to consider someone's past is every bit as judgemental as saying that being a "slut" is a generally bad idea.ReplyDelete
Anon - This isn't Opposite Day Oppression. We're saying it's okay to be a slut or to be chaste.ReplyDelete
I will say, you're allowed to consider someone's past in a "I'm looking for a chaste wife" way, but not in a "I'm looking for a chaste wife because sluts are ickywrongbad" way. That's actually not okay and you should feel shame for that.
I think my latter point stands. Making a judgment that is wrong to condemn casual sex is still making a judgment. I fail to see how, ethically speaking, it's much different than condemning casual sex. You may say that condemning casual sex causes more harm than casual sex itself. I've already voiced my disagreement to that point. Ultimately, I think that's what it comes down to. I think it's ethical to discourage casual sex by some way of social pressure and you don't.ReplyDelete
I think I've made my point as well as I can, so I'll go ahead and give you the final word. Thanks for the discussion; many bloggers do not welcome dissent they way you have.
Anon - Making a judgment that is wrong to condemn casual sex is still making a judgment.ReplyDelete
Yeah, that's a "tolerate my intolerance" argument if I ever saw one spelled out.
...and sorry, but it's logically impossible for me to do so.
@ Anon -ReplyDelete
"According to the studies he cites, a person's (man or woman, however the effect is more pronounced in women) odds of having a successful marriage decline as they have more sexual partners. If these studies reflect reality, then sluttyness, even as you define it, is a predictor of divorce. Divorce is universally a bad thing and harms all parties involved. "
Statement: well, then perhaps they... won't get married? I guess I'm not seeing the same value in a successful marriage. If I've got multiple partners, and that will ruin my chances of having a successful marriage, then I just won't get married. I don't see marriage as a necessarily positive thing, to be honest. It's a choice that can have good and bad consequences. That's all.
Inquiry: are you operating under the assumption that people, in general, both plan to get married at some point in their lives, and then rely upon that marriage to be successful in order to be fulfilled and happy?
Clarification: maybe I'm missing something, because I really don't have the best perspective for this sort of thing. I certainly don't qualify for the "multiple partners" category, and I have no plans of marrying anyone. I actively avoid anything that could lead to that. So I'm not trying to be dismissive or condescending or something. I really am curious.