Why are all these people talking about walking sluts?

Photo courtesy of
‘SlutWalk Tampere 6.8.2011’
courtesy of ‘Kulttuurikahvila Hertta’

There’s been a few news tweets about the SlutWalk that happened this weekend and unsurprisingly several of them – maybe most – have touted photos. I’m not condemning that – I like looking at provocatively dressed women myself. But don’t miss the very serious reason it’s called SlutWalk and involves protesting while scantily-clad: to combat a perception that dressing a certain way is in any way permission or a valid reason for other people to use your body against your will.

If that seems implausible in 2011, well, the whole impetus for this now nation-wide and multi-country phenomenon was the somewhat astonishing statement from a Canadian officer of the law during a lecture on health and safety.

“You know, I think we’re beating around the bush here,” he reportedly told them. “I’ve been told I’m not supposed to say this – however, women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised.”

I’m (sadly) not surprised that someone would say a version of “If you wear that skirt you’re just asking to be raped,” but I can’t say I expected to hear it from a police officer.

Holly Kearle writes very eloquently here about the point of SlutWalk and why she participated. She’s also the force behind the excellent Stop Street Harassment blog. If you’ve got the time to look at some skin you’ve got the time to read what she wrote about this event. I’d encourage you to keep up with the SSH blog as well.

It’s easy for us men to be blind to the reality of the million little shitty things that happen to women in our society – we’re not the target of the harassment. We might not ever see it going on, but it does. Constantly. Take ten seconds at Holla Back DC and see the sort of unbelievable crap that happens all the time, ranging from crappy inappropriate talk about mustache rides to stalking and physically threatening behavior against a fifteen year old girl.

SlutWalk might not be how you want to confront this sort of thing in our society – Holla Back DC’s Chai Shenoy didn’t feel like it was a productive thing for her – but the women who stood up and told their fellow DC residents that how they look or dress isn’t cause to mistreat them have good cause to think making the statement is necessary. Make their sacrifice of their time worthwhile and look past just the pictures.

Well I used to say something in my profile about not quite being a “tinker, tailor, soldier, or spy” but Tom stole that for our about us page, so I guess I’ll have to find another way to express that I am a man of many interests.

Hmm, guess I just did.

My tastes run the gamut from sophomoric to Shakespeare and in my “professional” life I’ve sold things, served beer, written software, and carried heavy objects… sometimes at the same place. It’s that range of loves and activities that makes it so easy for me to love DC – we’ve got it all.


8 thoughts on “Why are all these people talking about walking sluts?

  1. @Don, It’s like this; would you leave your portable GPS in your car while it’s parked on Georgia Ave, DC? The answer is no. Why? Because you know that displaying your GPS attracts vile criminals. I think people who commit rape and other sexual acts of violence are scum of the earth and should be severely punished; therefore, we must be aware and careful that such people exist.

    Woman who are provocatively dressed draw more attention to themselves; as you even said, “I like looking at provocatively dressed women myself”. Therefore, if even you pay more attention to these woman then don’t you think a sick criminal would also? Let’s not let our ideologies get in the way of common sense here.

    Let me give you a personal example; I’m black and if I dress a certain way then white people perceive me to be uneducated, violent, etc… So guess what, I’m not going to dress that way. Do you think if there was a rally called “SagYourPantsWalk”, white people would then start treating black people who sag their pants without pre-conceived notions? Nope, it would probably make things worse.

  2. Again, I agree that woman should be able to dress as they wish and be able to walk the streets freely. Just like I should be able to leave my GPS in my car without having my window broken. But we live in a world with some very sick people; and I think we should take every precaution possible. Again, I do not think woman dressed provocatively deserve to be harassed.

  3. You’re confusing a suggestion that someone practice situational awareness to avoid being victimized with a statement that someone is complicit in being victimized.

    “You can reduce your chances of being attacked by being careful where you go and when” is miles away from “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised.”

    Further, there’s simply no support for the idea that women who dress in a more sexually appealing manner are more likely to be attacked. What there is concrete proof of, however, is that women who are attacked will have their manner of dress scrutinized if they wear anything more raunchy than a reindeer sweater and sweatpants.

    If you want to paint a more accurate analogy using race we shouldn’t talk about saggy pants and pre-conceived notions, we should talk about a time not that long ago – within my parents’s lifetime – when a black man might get assaulted by a bunch of white assholes on a bullshit pretense about “overstepping their proper place.”

    “Black men should avoid looking at white women if they don’t want to get beat up” is something that might have been said by a cop 60 years ago. And it would have been just as wrong as what the Canadian officer said. The beating wasn’t about a look and the rapes aren’t about how the women look. Both crimes are about the attackers, and putting even a hint of responsibility on the victim is misguided and counter-productive.

  4. 1. I do not agree or condone what the Police Officer said. So there’s no disagreement there. I agree that his comments are disrespectful and inappropriate.

    2. I did not say, “women who dress in a more sexually appealing manner are more likely to be attacked”. I said that they draw more attention.

    3. The Jim Crow laws are not an appropriate comparison. Why? Those men weren’t being victimized because they were looking at white women; they were being victimized because they were black, i.e. a white man staring at a white woman would not have elicited the same response. What you choose to wear out to a party is a choice, being black is not. Big difference. So an appropriate comparison is where the person has a choice to do X or Y.

  5. 2. Sure, they draw attention. But I don’t think drawing more attention is statistically significant with regards to their being assaulted. If the defense for “don’t dress like that” is to help a woman be safer then there needs to be some support for the idea that the manner of dress increases the odds of attack. The fact that 2/3 of assaults are by someone the victim knows doesn’t lend a lot of support to the idea.

    Further, 60% happen in the victim’s home or someone else’s home. So there’s one of three possibilities:

    A: The way the woman is dressed doesn’t matter. This is my assertion; the rapist is going to rape anyway and the only way clothing matters is if the rapist thinks it’s going to help them get away with it. And if that’s why then the Slutwalk message is dead-on target.

    B: The way the woman is dressed incites someone to rape who wouldn’t have otherwise. I don’t see an explanation for this other than the rapist thinking it’ll allow them to get away with it (see above) or they’re completely off their head nuts. And I do not accept blaming people for the reactions of crazy people.

    C: The rapist might not have done it but that sassy little outfit was JUUUUUUSSSTTTT enough to push them over the edge and rape. I don’t think that’s plausible and I don’t accept this as a way to view people or a way to handle society. The blame there is on the person who refuses to handle their urges and views someone else’s desires as subservient to their own.

    Putting that aside and looking at the other 40% we get the same question of “would this not have happened if they hadn’t been dressed this way?” If you are simply saying that it would have happened but maybe to someone else who drew less attention… how’s that okay? Someone got violated. “As long as it’s someone else” isn’t a sensible way to run society.

    The slutwalk folks assert that blaming manner of dress is just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic: the core issue is that someone decides to rape, period, and 100% of the blame for it rests on the shoulders of the person who rapes. Blaming clothing is somewhere between irrelevant and contributory.

    3. Yes, and the women are being raped because they’re women. Until you can provide some support for the idea that manner of dress causes rape that wouldn’t have otherwise happened it’s EXACTLY the same: criminals who do not respect the rights of others using a pretext to violate them.

  6. I agree with what you’re saying but can I just ask a honest question here. Do you really think society will change? This is where I guess me and the SlutWalk people diverge; I DO NOT think this society is going to change. Just my honest opinion.
    Because I don’t think society will change, i.e. there will always be rapist in America; I think we must operate as careful as we can in this unfortunate reality. This means woman should walk at night alone(take a taxi), or if you’re going to a bar and drinking making sure someone is watching out for you, not drawing unwanted attention from creeps, lock your doors at night, get an alarm system.

    Maybe I’m being pessimistic but I don’t see society changing; there are some sick people out there and I think it’ll be that way as long as I’m living. We can’t change the creeps but I feel like SlutWalk is preaching that we can change the creeps. So are you saying that we can change the creeps?

  7. If you mean do I think will society change and rape go away? No, I think probably not. Not in our lifetimes at least.

    To me that’s all the better reason to avoid any sort of victim blaming. Saying that dressing a certain way invites rape accomplishes nothing but making some people feel like shit and possibly helping criminals feel better about themselves. So why do it?

    I don’t think SlutWalk was ever supposed to be about the rapists – I think it’s supposed to be about everyone else. Telling victim blamers (or well-meaning folks like I’m sure that cop is, overall) that how they say certain things matter. Telling victims that what happened to them wasn’t in any way their fault.

    Do I think it reaches anyone who might be on the edge, someone who thinks a sexy outfit is in some way an invitation? I don’t know. Honestly it’s hard for me to even imagine that there is anyone who thinks that, it seems so stupid to me. But maybe. Or maybe it just lets someone who thinks they might get away with it because of a sexy outfit that it’s not so.

    Hell, maybe it’s all a big self-empowerment circle-jerk and nobody is reached but the folks who already believe. I’m not sure that even that makes it wrong. Sometimes a movement needs self-motivation. If this does it then is that enough?

  8. Okay, well put, I definitely agree with that…I wasn’t looking at it as an woman empowerment event (partially due to the name) but I agree that this serves that purpose, which is valid.