[Crossposted also from The Red Garter Club 3.0 blog]
Most of you know me as a fierce defender of and even sometimes worshipper of sexually assertive women.
It’s not because I aim to get into every one of their panties, either.
(Though, admittedly, the thought has crossed my mind a time or two. A day. OK, OK, an hour a day. Oh, all right…plenty of hours a day. Hey, I’m an average man with feelings and working sex organs; can’t deny that.)
On the other hand, though, that desire for women who aren’t afraid to “play the slut”, if not even “BE the slut”, comes with an ethic and a responsibility to respect them as full human beings not reduced to the size of their chests, butts, or clits.
Even when they fully choose to show themselves off or put themselves out for their own sexual pleasure, it is fundamental that anyone worthy of having a human conscience remember that just because they put out does not make them your very personal sex doll or vibrator; and that outside of the fantasies they provide, they are and should be respected and given all the privileges of privacy that all women deserve.
Needles to say, that also includes the right NOT to be sexually assaulted, or to be catcalled against their will or consent, or to be judged by their style of dress.
Actually, that goes for all women in general, whether they choose to dress in a burqa, a business suit, or a tank top and miniskirt. Whatever they decide to put on (or take off) is inmaterial to whether or not they are available to you. If she wants you, she will say so; otherwise, just assume the default position of NO and move on. (And no, “maybe next time” does not mean “Yes” either…it means just what is says.)
It is depressing to actually have to type this in the second week of the fifth month of the year 2011, because the idea that a woman’s choice of clothing determing her supposed sexual availability and giving a green light to any rapist or other sexual assailant to ignore her stated rejections should have been put to permanent rest a long time ago.
What turns this into an even greater travesty is when the voices for “modesty” and forced chastity and browbeating women for their choices happen to call themselves “feminists”. Nay…”RADICAL feminists”.
And this is why I once again have to drop another Gail Dines Stupid Radfem Right update on you. Not that I like using up valuable pixel space ripping on the Wheelock College professor/antiporn “leftist” activist/faux feminist, but when she goes like Bill O’Reilly and says something more astonishingly, breathtakingly, viciously boneheaded than her usual mimes about porn being the Great Male Patriarchial Capitalist Menace, I feel the need to write something before my blood pressure bursts.
This time, the “good” Professor has decided to sink her teeth into the unwilling neck of an emerging movement known as SlutWalk, which was designed to defend the right of women to wear whatever the fuck they wanted and resist rape and sexual assault in their own way.
SlutWalk originally started out in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, by a feisty group of feminists who got seriously pissed off when a Toronto policeman named Michael Sanguinetti decided to shoot his mouth off about rape prevention. Problem was, he blamed the victims of rape for their own accounts, directly implying that they wouldn’t be raped if they had just been a bit more selective with their style of clothing. The direct quote from Sanguinetti (courtesy of The Guardian UK):
“You know, I think we’re beating around the bush here,” Michael Sanguinetti began, blandly enough, as he addressed the 10 students who turned up for the pep talk. Then he said: “I’ve been told I’m not supposed to say this – however, women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised.”
Ahhh, yeah. Because the many women who didn’t dress “like sluts” and still managed to get sexually assaulted don’t quite matter, right?? And, of course, the men who do in fact attack women only attack women who dress like “sluts”, thusly, they should be given the benefit of the doubt that they are motivated solely by rampant lust rather than anger and violence and rage vented through sex…ahhh, really???
It was in anger of a different kind that some feminists in Toronto decided to directly take on Sanguinetti’s bullshit straight on and defend the notion of female sexual self-determination against such slut shaming and rape ideology. Thusly, Slutwalk Toronto was born online (and on Facebook), and a protest march organized..which has basically exploded and metasized into a worldwide movement against the mythology and etology of slut shaming.
Their manifesto released at the time of the original protests in Toronto speaks for itself; so I will simply reprint it in its entirity.
BECAUSE WE’VE HAD ENOUGH!
On January 24th, 2011, a representative of the Toronto Police gave shocking insight into the Force’s view of sexual assault by stating: “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized”.
As the city’s major protective service, the Toronto Police have perpetuated the myth and stereotype of ‘the slut’, and in doing so have failed us. With sexual assault already a significantly under-reported crime, survivors have now been given even less of a reason to go to the Police, for fear that they could be blamed. Being assaulted isn’t about what you wear; it’s not even about sex; but using a pejorative term to rationalize inexcusable behaviour creates an environment in which it’s okay to blame the victim.
Historically, the term ‘slut’ has carried a predominantly negative connotation. Aimed at those who are sexually promiscuous, be it for work or pleasure, it has primarily been women who have suffered under the burden of this label. And whether dished out as a serious indictment of one’s character or merely as a flippant insult, the intent behind the word is always to wound, so we’re taking it back. “Slut” is being re-appropriated.
We are tired of being oppressed by slut-shaming; of being judged by our sexuality and feeling unsafe as a result. Being in charge of our sexual lives should not mean that we are opening ourselves to an expectation of violence, regardless if we participate in sex for pleasure or work. No one should equate enjoying sex with attracting sexual assault.
We are a movement demanding that our voices be heard. We are here to call foul on our Police Force and demand change. We want Toronto Police Services to take serious steps to regain our trust. We want to feel that we will be respected and protected should we ever need them, but more importantly be certain that those charged with our safety have a true understanding of what it is to be a survivor of sexual assault — slut or otherwise.
We are tired of speeches filled with lip service and the apologies that accompany them. What we want is meaningful dialogue and we are doing something about it: WE ARE COMING TOGETHER. Not only as women, but as people from all gender expressions and orientations, all walks of life, levels of employment and education, all races, ages, abilities, and backgrounds, from all points of this city and elsewhere.
We are asking you to join us for SlutWalk, to make a unified statement about sexual assault and victims’ rights and to demand respect for all. Whether a fellow slut or simply an ally, you don’t have to wear your sexual proclivities on your sleeve, we just ask that you come. Come walk or roll or strut or holler or stomp with us.
Join us in our mission to spread the word that those those who experience sexual assault are not the ones at fault, without exception.
“No one should equate enjoying sex with attracting sexual assault.” Isn’t simplicity wonderful??
Remember, Clones, these are NOT porn performers or exhibitionists insisting on their right to walk the public streets naked at rush hour, nor are they sex workers calling for their right to walk the streets in front of the local high school. These are basically your mothers, your daughters, your girlfriends, your friends….in short, average women insisting that they, not some asshole policeman, can determine for themselves when to attract wanted sexual attention and when not to….as well as restating the essential truth that no woman should ever be blamed for being the victim of sexual assault, and that no man should be allowed to use the excuse of a woman’s state of dress as a “Get Out Of Jail Free” card or to ever justify sexual assault or battery.
Sounds like progressive feminism to me. Who would ever oppose that kind of movement against sexual assault, other than holy roller fundamentalists who insist on forcing chadors, burqas, and veils on women as a means of “protecting” them from the evil “male” desires??
Who, you ask?
Cueth the Professor from Wheelock College and antiporn activist named Gail Dines.
Of course, she was too chickenshit to post her observations from her home base in the US, so she (and another professor/rape “expert”, Wendy Murphy), decided to use the friendly pages of the Guardian UK to vent her spleen as to why SlutWalk is BAAAAAAAD for women and feminists, if not fundamentally antifeminist.
At least, anti- the kind of sexually restrictive, reactionary, closed-minded, fear-mongering “feminism” that Dines love to waddle in.
Most of her rant focuses on the stigma that the broader culture still attaches to the word “slut”…which she so lovingly not only approves of, but even uses as a wedge against those women stupid enough to accept their right to sexual self-determination not redeemed by her own radical feminist values. Some snippage follows:
It wasn’t long ago that being called a “slut” meant social death. No “nice” boy would take you home to meet his parents and no “good” girl would ever be your friend. At the same time, refusing to submit to sex meant you were a “prude” or “frigid”. In short, there was no right way to be. Things have improved a bit in that young women are more insistent on their right to sexual autonomy, but sexually active women remain vulnerable to harsh social judgments even as the mass media celebrate and encourage such behaviour. And research shows that the label “slut” still has long-term negative consequences, especially for younger girls.
Now, I’m not denying that such attitudes about women being “prudes” and “frigid” don’t exist among select few people….but notice how Dines turns it against women who do resist the stigma and who do declare themselves to be sexually assertive…as if they are the cause of the “negative consequenses” of rape. Of course, you will remember that the meme of “We’re just ‘prudes’ because we resist evil male sexuality!!” is a classic projection of Dines used to ward off charges that she indeed wants to censor sexualiy of women. To which the proper answer should be: “Well, if the shoe fits….”
The fact that more than 2,000 turned out to march around Boston Common suggests that women are, indeed, hungry for sexual autonomy. But something else was at work here: many of the banners protested the ubiquity of sexual violence in the lives of women. Signs made by protesters showed that women are angry with being blamed for male violence and fed up with the failure of the culture to hold men accountable. Clearly the theme of the SlutWalk has struck a nerve, with similar events being planned around the world, including one in London in June.
The organisers claim that celebrating the word “slut”, and promoting sluttishness in general, will help women achieve full autonomy over their sexuality. But the focus on “reclaiming” the word slut fails to address the real issue. The term slut is so deeply rooted in the patriarchal “madonna/whore” view of women’s sexuality that it is beyond redemption. The word is so saturated with the ideology that female sexual energy deserves punishment that trying to change its meaning is a waste of precious feminist resources.
So now, Dines and Murphy are attempting to steal the thunder of SlutWalk by claiming that their motives are not what they have explicitly stated themselves…and also attempting to undermind them by telling them that their mission is a failure because….the word “slut” is simply beyond redemption as a bludgeon of “patriarchy”.
You may note the thinly veiled implication that as a result, any woman who attempts to claim usage of the term as a symbol of sexual self-assertiveness and autonomy is, by Dines’ edict, a mere pawn of, if not a direct agent of, said “patriarchy”, and a useful idiot of “male sexuality” in opposition to “female sexual agency”. In other words, Dines simply paraphrases the long lived dictum of her predecessor and mentor, Catherine MacKinnon: “If ‘slutdom’ is a part of your sexuality, then you have no right to your sexuality.”
Oh, did I say “thinly veiled”??? The next few paragraphs state it far more explicitly:
Advocates would be better off exposing the myriad ways in which the law and the culture enable myths about all types of women – sexually active or “chaste” alike. These myths facilitate sexual violence by undermining women’s credibility when they report sex crimes. Whether we blame victims by calling them “sluts” (who thus asked to be raped), or by calling them “frigid” (who thus secretly want to be overpowered), the problem is that we’re blaming them for their own victimisation no matter what they do. Encouraging women to be even more “sluttish” will not change this ugly reality.
As teachers who travel around the country speaking about sexual violence, pornography and feminism, we hear stories from women students who feel intense pressure to be sexually available “on demand”. These students have grown up in a culture in which hypersexualized images of young women are commonplace and where hardcore porn is the major form of sex education for young men. They have been told over and over that in order to be valued in such a culture, they must look and act like sluts, while not being labeled slut because the label has dire consequences including being blamed for rape, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and self-mutilation.
Because, you see, according to Gail Dines and Wendy Murphy, calling yourself a “slut” simply enables men to think of ALL women as “sluts” in the negative “I want to rape them with impunity” way. In fact, the mere calling of oneself a “slut” engaging men to mere erections and sexual arousal is more than enough in this evil “porn culture” to encourage violence and degradation of women.
Naturally, Dines and Murphy are far too sophisicated as “radical feminists” to come out and say that maybe Officer Sanguinetti was right all along and that women who dress “sluttily” are to blame for their own violence And, quite naturally, they are quick to place the fundamental blame on the rapists themselves and give the women a break as the ultimate victims of male assault.
The problem is, though, that their core ideology of laying the fundamental blame on “male rape culture”, fueled by porn, capitalism, and mere male erections, doesn’t really allow for women fighting for themselves to reclaim their own individual right to be safely sexually assertive, or to even dress the way they want. Indeed, in a back-door kind of way, they actually give plenty of tribute to the fundamentally repressive, conservative meme of “she asked for it” by basically accepting carte blanche without any proof of evidence the fact that men are at root evil rapists led by their erections to brutalize women.
It’s as if the fundamental fact that the overwhelming majority of men do in fact respect women enough to not assault them even if they are dressed in a way that sexually arouses them doesn’t even register with Dines or Murphy. Or, that most women are more than capable of negotiating with men the acceptable boundaries of consent and what is and isn’t acceptable behavior or contact based on time and place…and, more importantly, that women and men are able to have those boundaries enforced through mutual trust, consent, mutal pleasure, and, if needed, the power of the state.
Besides all that, Dines and Murphy conveniently gloss over the far more powerful institutions of society that do NOT reward women for “slutdom”, but in fact punishes them profusely through loss of respect, loss of self-esteem, and even loss of social and economic privileges, if not actual physical punishment. Porn performers may get paid a decent amount of money, but they don’t compare to Hollywood movie actresses or politicians or even CEO’s…and I’ll bet ‘ya not many of those are self-identified “sluts”. For every Cameron Diaz there are at least five Demi Moores; and Sarah Palin still makes more money than Lisa Ann could ever dream of. (Unfortunately, since Lisa Ann’s a lot more moral and accomplished than the Half-Governor ever will be. Even fully clothed.)
Of course, Dines and Murphy do have an alternative to promoting “slut” theology….unfortunately it’s the same old tired “authentic female sexuality” divorced from real fact or experience or orgasm, rooted in the usual radfem notion of “radical female sexuality” (or, what the old heads would call “radicallesbianism”) freed from the bounds of male dictums and demands…and of male erections, too.
Women need to find ways to create their own authentic sexuality, outside of male-defined terms like slut. The recent TubeCrush phenomenon, where young women take pictures of men they find attractive on the London tube and post them to a website, illustrates how easily women copy dominant societal norms of sexual objectification rather than exploring something new and creative. And it’s telling that while these pictures are themselves innocent and largely free of sexual innuendo, one can only imagine the sexually aggressive language that would accompany a site dedicated to secret photos of women.
While the organisers of the SlutWalk might think that proudly calling themselves “sluts” is a way to empower women, they are in fact making life harder for girls who are trying to navigate their way through the tricky terrain of adolescence.
Women need to take to the streets – but not for the right to be called “slut”. Women should be fighting for liberation from culturally imposed myths about their sexuality that encourage gendered violence. Our daughters – and our sons – have the right to live in a world that celebrates equally women’s sexual freedom and bodily integrity.
How nice that two women who have no problem sharing the dais with such prominent progressive “feminists” as Patrick Trueman, Shelley Lubben, and Judith Reisman, can lecture other feminists on what they should represent as “authentic female sexuality”. And how even nicer that they can promote their version of “It’s not your fault, but close your damn legs and cover yourselves up anyway, because you are enabling the men to leer and that’s raping us anyway” as a means of “sexual freedom” and “women’s autonomy”.
I’ll take Susie Bright and Nina Hartley’s brand of feminism over this crap any day of the week.
And I’ll STILL respect a woman’s right to say “HELL NO” and mean it, and still say “YES” and mean that, too. Whatever she chooses to wear.
I love and worship sluts — the real ones and the wannabes just playing for fun — just too damn much to degrade and disrespect them as much as “feminists” like Gail Dines do.
But, she wouldn’t be the Bill O’Reilly of radicalfeminists otherwise.
And Slutwalk wouldn’t be the best of legitimate progressive feminism if they didn’t incur her wrath. All the better for them, I say.
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