Posted in Body Politics, Commentary

Why I’ll be doing Slut Walk this year

Saturday, on the eve of my 41st birthday, I’ll be suiting up in my best sexy red dress, fishnet tights, and a pair of bitchin’ combat boots to join other women and men in the Tucson Slut Walk. You’ve probably heard of Slut Walks; they’ve been happening all over the country, all over the world, even, in response to a Toronto police officer’s comment to college students that if young women didn’t want to be raped, they shouldn’t dress like “sluts.” (Whatever that means. Our puritanical issues with people happily engaging in consensual sex, and expressing in whatever manner that they don’t live in constant terror of their own bodies, other people’s bodies, and sex, is a whole other post.*) The implication being, of course, that victims of sexual assault of all kinds, whether it’s a groping on the city bus, a jerk who won’t leave you alone in a bar, or rape, are “asking for it” by what they’re wearing. This is not a new thing; the only surprising thing is that despite all the changes in laws, all the consciousness-raising, people still think it, still act on it. Nobody asks to be harassed, attacked, or raped; the decision to do that lies squarely with the asshole/criminal who does it.  End of story.

When I first conceived of writing this post, I planned to write what I presumed would be a pretty long list of reasons why I felt it was important to participate in the Slut Walk, because I’ve got a lot of complaints about the problematic views our society holds and propagates about women’s bodies and sexuality, and the whole pejorative use of “slut” to begin with. But the more I thought about it, there is really only one reason: I’m sick to death of the profoundly stupid and entirely illogical idea that I, as a woman, or more broadly (ha!) as a human being, am responsible for your behavior when you are not.

Women half a world away from me wear burqas because supposedly the men in their culture cannot be held responsible for what they might do should they behold women’s beauty, their sexiness, or, let’s just lay out out there, their femaleness. People in my culture criticize those men, and those women, in one breath, and then in the next tell me I shouldn’t dress sexily, or walk down dark alleys, or talk to strange men, or drink from a glass I didn’t obtain myself and haven’t been guarding personally, lest I fall victim to someone’s criminal intent. Because if I do, and I haven’t taken every possible precaution that has been drilled into my head since the day I was born female, then anything bad that happens is my fault. I should’ve known better. I shouldn’t have worn that. I shouldn’t have looked so sexy. Didn’t I know that a poor, simple, frail man would not be able to withstand my feminine wiles? What did I THINK would happen?

Well, I thought I could live my life without viewing every single choice I made through the lens of fear and victimization avoidance. Silly me.

We don’t hold men responsible for rape. Men don’t hold other men responsible for dispensing with the whole concept of consent. Women are supposed to be the gatekeepers, keeping men in check, and men are supposed to outwit or overpower the guard. We hold women responsible for not controlling the behavior of others, others who are supposedly beyond even their own control. It is the height of entitlement, of privilege, of staggering bullshit, to abdicate personal responsibility for your behavior and expect someone else to change her/his life so you don’t have to think or exercise self-control.

Fuck that noise.

If you are a person who cannot see another person walk down the street, whether you find them attractive or not, without acting on every instantaneous, immature, entitled, sexual, and possibly violent, impulse that flits through your tiny brain, the problem is you. Not me.

I’m not willing to take your crap on. I take responsibility for my behavior. I expect others to do likewise; they are not excused from behaving like decent human beings by virtue of my femaleness, my fashion choices, my sex-positivity, my unapologetic visibility.

And what’s with the breathtaking entitlement inherent in men supposing that just because I am not averse to having my appearance noticed by them, and just because I might not even be averse to sex on principle, that I must want to have sex with them in particular? Even if a woman is looking to get laid of an evening, that doesn’t mean she relinquishes all right to decide who she wants to join her in that endeavor, and that any man who buys her a drink or who asks should be accommodated.  I learned when I was three that just because I wanted something didn’t mean I was going to get it.  And throwing a fit or being a jerk about it wasn’t going to make it any more likely that I would get it; it just meant I was a fit-throwing jerk, with a toddler’s view of the world.  This is not an attractive quality in anyone over the age of three.

*Okay, I lied, and I’m going to deal with the whole “look like a slut” bit now, because quite frankly, it pisses me off, and I can’t divorce it from this issue.  While it’s absolutely true that rape happens to people regardless of what they’re wearing, and what they’re wearing is irrelevant (no one blames someone who is victim of a home invasion or robbery for having so much curb appeal that the criminal just couldn’t help himself), I also don’t appreciate the misogyny in the very word “slut.” The only reason “looking like a slut” is a problem, is because we have a problem with sluts, and I’m also sick to death of slut-shaming.

What exactly is a slut, and what does one look like? As far as I’ve been able to gather, a slut is any woman who does not engage solely in one-on-one monogamous sex in relationships of long duration. Even if she’s serially monogamous, if the list gets too long, and her number too high, then she’s a slut.  (And sluts are BAD, in case anyone was unclear on that point.)  If she’s merely suspected of the above, she might well be called a slut; I’ve read many stories of girls and women who have been harassed as so-called sluts who were actually virgins. If she wears clothing that highlights, deliberately or incidentally, her body, and she’s comfortable with that, she’ll probably be called a slut by someone, sooner or later, to her face or behind her back. And if the body she clothes is one that others appreciate from an aesthetic point of view, especially if it’s abundant in the T&A areas, she will be called a slut merely because someone else has chosen to sexualize her body, regardless of the fact that she had no more control over that than she did how tall she was, or the size of her feet. If she looks sexy, she must be having a lot of sex. (Because you can totally tell by looking.)  And if she’s having a lot of sex, she’s a slut.  Therefore, if she looks sexy, she’s a slut.  False logic rules the day!

And what of the woman who genuinely likes sex, likes a lot of it, and is generous in sharing that with other folks? Is this behavior that should be condemned? Why? If she’s a consenting adult, whose business is it besides her own what she does? Why are we so threatened by women who own their sexuality and express it as they see fit? Why are we so unwilling to dispense with the double standard of “boys will be boys,” expressed with a mild sigh and a shrug, and “nice girls don’t,” with those who do being universally condemned with a venom generally reserved for war criminals? What the hell is that?

Furthermore, we live in a society that tells girls, little and grownup, that their greatest worth is in their prettiness, their fuckability; a society that uses women’s bodies and sexuality to sell everything from beer to Burger King; a society where sex is imagined as a conquest, where men are supposed to persuade, wheedle, and beg until a woman gives in. How does one not gag on the hypocrisy of living in a society where all this is true, but if a woman surrenders to her cultural programming and actually engages in the sex everyone and everything around her is telling her she should be having (regardless of her own desires), then she’s a slut to be shamed? She becomes the girl the other women despise, and the men won’t take home to mother?

Basically, what it comes down to is that, as a woman, I’m supposed to be the vigilant gatekeeper of my sexual purity (to what end, I’ve never understood), while my supposedly precious, sacred sexuality is considered fodder for discussion and comment by strangers, the target and the method of merchandising and advertising, and an obstacle to be overcome, by everybody else in the world. They feel entitled to use female sexuality for their own purposes, and that’s just dandy. But if a woman feels entitled to use her sexuality for her own purposes, then she is a slut, and the clutching of pearls begins. She is not a fully formed, capable person engaging in a natural act according to her own values, desires, and decisions; she is merely a slut, to be derided, denigrated, and dismissed by all.  Doesn’t she know that women do not belong to themselves? She, along with all her sisters, is public property, and should comport herself accordingly in appearance and action, or face terrible, hurtful consequences for her rebellion.

Which is a world view I reject as absolutely and utterly foul, hateful, and fucked up.   Here’s my world view:  Women are fully functioning human beings, free to act (or not act) as they see fit, including in the sexual realm.  We all have bodies, and we should stop judging and freaking out about our own and others’, clothed or nude.  I believe in untrammeled body sovereignty, from how our bodies look to what they do. Sex is a positive, natural experience between consenting adults and we would do ourselves worlds of good to jettison our puritanical baggage about it.  I believe in having and respecting personal boundaries, and not imposing your own issues, prudery, morality, or physicality on others.  And that’s why this slut is walking.

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Author:

I've been doing some form of creative writing since 9th grade, and have been a blogger since 2003. Like most bloggers, I've quit blogging multiple times. But the words always come back, asking to be written down, and they pester me if I don't. So here we are. Thanks for reading.

2 thoughts on “Why I’ll be doing Slut Walk this year

  1. …and the clutching of pearls begins. That is awesome! This is one of your best yet, and that’s sayin’ something. If society had your view of sex and bodies, rape would be a thing of the past.

  2. Thank you very much.

    I’d like to believe that, but I suspect it won’t happen in my lifetime. Until women are accepted by all people (including themselves) as full-fledged members of the human race, it’s going to continue.

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