Photo: Getty

“Women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”

When a police officer spoke the above words to a group of Toronto students at a talk on safety and sexual assault on 24th January 2011, indignation exploded across campuses in North America. It proved the spark to very dry tinder. That the policeman since apologised and withdrew his remark was neither here nor there, because had he never said it, that attitude hounds women of the west on a daily basis. This is the old whore/virgin dualism ten times over, and the fact that a member of an organisation otherwise set up to protect citzens from crime proves all too bitterly how institutionalised misogyny is.

The contradiction in terms between women being sexually “liberated”, the desirability of availability, that is taught to us with Barbie dolls and lad’s mags “pin-ups” from cradle to grave and the word “slut” is seriously messed up.”Slut” represents the power of naming and shaming at a moment of the speaker’s choosing to whom might otherwise be an object of desire. Men sneer at girls dressed in exactly the same way women are in the porn culture they wank over on a daily basis. From the earliest moments of our adult lives, watching Christina’s “Dirrty” video or boyfriends asking us to pull porn star moves, girls are taught to show and tell. But display too much flesh, and you’re a whore. Sleep with more men than 3, and you’re a slag. But who makes these rules? By the looks of the porngraphy, both soft and hard, read and watched from Dublin to Dubai, men like women with all but no limits at all – so using the word for anyone with a skirt shorter than a nun’s is clearly confusing and hypocritical.

It struck me, reaching a sexually mature age, that I could be called a slut for having sex at all. In fact, it seems the real crime was to enjoy it and make no apologies. There seems to be a distaste for the idea of women getting sexual pleasure haunting culture, even that which we call raunch. Raunch culture is more about the show of sex, perhaps. Spin round a pole, flash your tits, fine, but if you engage in sexual display and enjoy it? What a slag. As Natasha Walter put it, we are no more than dolls. No wonder strippers have fake, dolly names. Slutwalk has grown from that incident at Toronto Uni and offers the chance for girls to say, fuck you. I can wear what I like, including skimpy shit that turns me and others on, and it is in no way a passport to rape me. Sluts are people too, and there’s nothing wrong with dolling up and getting some nice attention. It in no way says you want to be assaulted. If men can’t tell the difference between good and bad attention, they can stop deciding the way things are gonna be. In the words of Mother Monster: “baby, I was born this way”.

Slutwalks are happening across the world: get involved. Glasgow and London’s Slutwalks both take place on Saturday 4th June. See Facebook or Google “Slutwalk” + your area for details.


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