Slut Walks: An International View

Dominique Strass-Kahn is released on his own recognizance because the hotel maid he allegedly sexually assaulted is not “credible”. It is alleged she escaped her home land by lying (who knows what we would do to escape hell?), changed her story and she has received huge amounts of money from drug dealers (then why is she picking up the disgusting mess often left in hotel rooms?). Since going public much has been made of the fact that she is allegedly not attractive. The publicized fact that his DNA was on her, and there were medical signs of assault is nullified.  Mr Strauss-Kahn powerful, wealthy international figure will likely have the charged against him dropped.   And the maid poor, dispossessed crucified in the press?  Who knows?  Who cares?  She is a lying associate of drug dealers.  Right?  Geraldo Rivera asked if it was a"transactional" event.  What, so now she is a prostitute? After seeing the way she has been villified in the press and slammed by bloggers why would anyone report a rape?

 

 

   Protestors at SlutWalk Aotearoa in Auckland. Photo / Michael Craig

In June 2011 scantily dressed women around the world marched in the street with signs in a Slutwalk.  Their point was that women who are raped or sexually violated are often judged to be “sluts” who asked for it.                

Similar demonstrations like “Take Back the Night” are not new.  Their explicit message is that a woman should be able to walk freely, at night, scantily dressed and remain safe from assault. The question that begs to be asked is “Should women march for the ‘right’ to dress in a slutty fashion, or should they march for greater education of women and men on how to self protect?”  Should they call for a review of court systems and penal codes that do not even contain the word “rape”?  In Western Australia less than 1% of reported rapes end in a conviction for the rapist.  Is being able to ‘take it off’ in public really the point?

Is there a difference between telling a woman “you asked for it because you dressed like a slut” and “if you dress like that you may attract unwanted sexual attention including assault?”

 

 

Is there an advantage to dressing and acting in a sexually provocative manner in front of strangers and dulling inhibition with alcohol?  Is this liberation or self endangerment?  Is there any way to say that women do need to take some responsibility for their own safety without excusing the rapist’s behavior?

 

“I think a world in which a woman is free to act explicitly in complete safety is not a reality - and never has been, anytime in history.” Writes Dita De Boni, a self avowed “typical lefty liberal” in the New Zealand Herald, June 28, 2011.  Her article “Is It OK To Be A Slut?” is a common sense discussion on the topic. 

If reality shows that scantily dressed women who drink themselves past the point of self protection are at a higher risk of assault, is it wise to then live in that reality and adjust one’s course to foster safety? 

Do clothes and alcohol factor into this?  If not, does warning women against drinking too much and dressing scantily continue female oppression?  Should a woman be able, anywhere at any time, to act and dress any how she wishes (even if mentally ill) without fear of attack from a sexual predator?  Is this an achievable goal?

This is an age old argument.  To suggest that scantily dressed women invite self endangering responses from some men elicits howls of “you are blaming the victim”.  Additionally to even suggest that heterosexual males will be whipped into some kind of raping frenzy by a scantily clad woman, at night, in public invites equal ridicule.

Has our society been “pornified”?  Do labels like “Cougar, Yummy Mummy” etc. glamorize the sexualization of women even those at a grandma’s age?  Do celebrities like Madonna or Lady Gaga add to that mix? Do padded bikini tops for small girls, and sexualized clothing designs for t’weens and teens feed into this public display of sexuality?  Are sections of our society perpetually aroused?

Not every rape survivor is scantily dressed.  Some are sleeping in their own beds behind locked doors.

How do we encourage women to be smart about their own safety, to be aware of the impact they are having and still place the onus for rape upon the rapist?

As coordinator of the counseling side of a 24x7 service that responded to sexual assault and abuse I discovered that the vast majority of women who were raped by strangers were either intoxicated or drugged past the point of being able to defend themselves.  They did not always intake the sedative knowingly or voluntarily. However, enough of them did that I offered to design an education program for men and women.  In Western Australia if both parties involved in sexual activity are drunk the woman cannot legally give consent.  If a drunken woman strips naked and beats him to the ground and he complies he is guilty legally of sexual assault.  Few young men know that.  Both lives can be destroyed because of a drunken night of sexual activity.  Additionally the young women who wake up to discover they have been sexually active, with little or no recall of the event, can be infected with sexually transmitted disease, be impregnated or otherwise traumatized.  I was accused of blaming the victim when I suggested this educative program.  That was the furtherest thought from my mind but illustrates the difficulty in discussing the topic, even amongst the professionals who intervene on behalf of the sexually assaulted.

The only way to discuss this topic with any sense of reason is to separate the topics.  The one topic is, “are women further victimized by the Police, the courts and the media if they claim sexual assault?  Is the victim blamed?”

The second topic is, “does dressing scantily and drinking or drugging past the point of being able to self protect expose the woman to a higher likelihood of being assaulted?”

Is it realistic to sum this up with, “Ladies refuse to be blamed for unwanted sexual attack, change the penal codes and court systems if they demean and dismiss you, educate the Police and other first responders as to the true nature of sexual assault, but be safe!!!  Live, dress, use alcohol and act in a manner that deters sexual assailants"?  Well, is it?

Comments

In order to comment on BlogHer.com, you'll need to be logged in. You'll be given the option to log in or create an account when you publish your comment. If you do not log in or create an account, your comment will not be displayed.