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Why This Slut (Probably) Won’t Be Walking

A few years ago I picked up the nickname “drunken slut” within my family (the comedy, you see, comes from the fact that I was the total opposite at the age of fifteen). The nickname rings a little differently now since, on occasion, I am drunken and I’ve done things that could qualify me as a “slut” in some people’s eyes. Still, it’s all in good fun and I don’t mind one bit. Honestly, I’ve self-identified as a slut on occasions… like the time I wore my homemade “Shameless Hussy” button to a discussion of Wendy Shalit’s Good Girl Revolution to make my feelings about Shalit’s shaming BS clear. I tell you all this so that it is clear off the bat: my issue with SlutWalk has next to nothing to do with some sort of discomfort around reclaiming the word. (Although I get where people who hold those reservations are coming from.)

I’m a slut, deal with it. Now that that’s out of the way… can we talk?

I don’t intend to attend the NYC SlutWalk, despite the fact that so many of my awesome friends plan to go.

A protest with specific goals (like this one) is something I can stand behind and something I would love to attend (if I only I didn’t have work!). An event like Slut Walk, on the other hand, not so much. The original Slut Walk, in response to the ignorant comments made by a Toronto police officer, had a specific goal (getting an apology along with educating the public). In that context, the name of the movement made sense – the officer said that “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized” – protesters wanted to show this one officer what rape survivors/sluts/what have you really looked like and how pissed off his comment made them in order to gain an apology. The protest was a success and they got what they wanted!

So why are there now “SlutWalks” in New York, and London, and Portland, and so on? It honestly doesn’t make sense to me.

Let’s dig into this for a second:

“SlutWalk is about expressing our unity, fighting to shed the stereotypes and myths of sexual assault and supporting a better understanding of why sexual assault happens, putting the blame where it belongs: on those who perpetrate it. We believe in working toward better partnerships and conversations in our communities to help make this happen.”

I totally agree that this event is unifying. However, you lose me on the fighting stereotypes and supporting better understanding aspect. The people who attend the event get it, without a doubt, but those seeing news coverage or hearing about the event? Not so much… as evidenced by the piles of misinformed articles written about SlutWalk.

SlutWalk is a fun name for an event, no doubt. It’s edgy and attention-grabbing and almost everything you’d want for a protest… except for the fact that it can be alienating for people who don’t feel comfortable reclaiming the term, and the fact that people who don’t know much about the event are not well-informed by the name. Edge can be good, but without substance behind the edge you start to fall apart.

This reminds me too much of those silly breast cancer “awareness” gimmicks that people take part in on Facebook. You know the ones: post your bra color to raise breast cancer awareness! Or, post your foot size in inches with a sad face after to really get the guys guessing and raise some awareness! Sure, this generated attention when it first went around… but as far as breast cancer goes I don’t think 6 inches :( is going to inspire anyone to engage in some self testing. Similarly, I really don’t think that marching under the banner of “slut” is going to do much to educate or change the minds of those who don’t already understand your message.

Both of these instances make me happy on one level, as I think it is fantastic that people care about raising awareness about breast cancer, or about fighting to shed the stereotypes and myths of sexual assault and supporting a better understanding of why sexual assault happens, putting the blame where it belongs: on those who perpetrate it. Still, I wish that enthusiasm could be harnessed in a more effective way. For instance:

  • Volunteering for your local Rape Crisis Center. If you don’t feel capable of taking hotline calls or going on accompaniments (which does take a lot out of you) you can often still offer your time staffing information tables at events, doing office work, and so on.
  • If you’re a nurse consider becoming a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (the people who collect evidence from survivors of sexual assault) and helping sexual assault survivors directly by servicing them during some of the toughest parts of their ordeal.
  • Get involved with the Green Dot Project. There are a ton of ways to do this… everything from hosting Green Dot events in your area to becoming certified as a Green Dot VIP to simply doing your best to act out green dots (like calling people out on rape jokes or calling the police when witnessing violence) in your daily life.
  • Learn about consent laws and the basics of affirmative consent. Then, educate your friends and family so that everyone can have consensual sex!
  • Attend a Take Back the Night event – where survivors share their stories and attendees take to the streets to reclaim the night (traditionally a time where people warn women not to be out alone lest they be raped) from fear of sexual assault.

All of these will do a hell of a lot more than donning a cute outfit, making a witty poster, and taking to the streets to send a message about stereotypes and reclamation and myths and blame to… someone.

For those dying for a good protest (I know how you feel!) I really advise checking out Take Back the Night! Take Back the Night reminds me of SlutWalk a bit, in that they’re both marches, however I think that it succeeds in the areas where Slut Walk fails in my eyes. Take Back the Night has a clear message (that people should not be expected to live their lives for fear of being assaulted). Instead of being a specific protest made general, it remains a generalized protest applied to specific communities (like college campuses).

At the end of the day, I’m not judging people who choose to go to SlutWalk because SlutWalk is not the problem, not really. The problem here, in my opinion, is a lack of motivation and encouragement to engage in activism that isn’t fun. I beg all SlutWalkers to consider putting their enthusiasm to use fighting sexual assault in other ways as well. I suspect quite a few already do, but it still needs to be said. Being a rape crisis advocate or calling friends out on dangerous thought patterns is not nearly as fun as attending something like SlutWalk. Instead of being surrounded be a crowd of cheering happy comrades you might often find yourself alone and struggling, looking like the odd one out instead of an awesome member of a popular movement… but these are the actions that make the biggest impact, because they are the ones that invade everyday culture, they are the ones that ensure someone is there to help sexual assault survivors in their times of need.

Additionally, if you do choose to go to SlutWalk (I may break down and see you there!) please, do me a favor and make it as effective as you can! Post Facebook statuses about the event and what it means to you, tell your friends and family exactly why you’re walking, blog about it, and think hard about how impactful your presence is. Here are some awesome ideas out of past SlutWalks:


This dress is fantastic because its message is clear and strong – she isn’t just wearing a little black dress, she’s wearing a little black dress that makes a statement!


Simple, powerful, to the point.

I’d also love nothing more than to be proven totally wrong (because SlutWalk just sounds so damn fun!), so let me have it, dissenters! Also, anyone have any other recommendations for sexual assault fighting activities? Pictures of cool SlutWalk or Take Back the Night signs? Let me have it in the comments!

4 replies on “Why This Slut (Probably) Won’t Be Walking”

This is my first post on here ever, but I had to respond to this piece.

SlutWalks often do not raise the awareness about rape culture that the author desires because, yes, they too frequently present a muddled message to society at large without the right media/speakers’/outreach/education teams. However, I know that SlutWalk NYC and others have been trying to obviate any mixed messaging about the goals of the march. For example, SlutWalk NYC has specifically been responding to misguided/misinformed articles about SlutWalk in the NY Times, the Post, and the Daily News while also crystallizing our own messaging and mission. Moreover, even if some SlutWalks have mixed messaging, I really don’t like how this author casts them as largely ineffective events and claims they are just windowdressing without substance. I have been to SlutWalks before and again and again I have been moved by the comfort the event offered to many survivors of sexual violence. Many SlutWalks have been doing much of what Take Back the Night does during its rallies and speaking engagements. They give survivors of sexual violence a safe space and tell them that they are not alone and that people are there for them and will be in the future. If that isn’t effective or worthy or substantial, I don’t know what is. Lastly, SlutWalk NYC and others are not just about the one event. SlutWalk NYC knows one march isn’t going to change everything and we plan to have SlutWalk NYCs every year. That is why, in building up the march, SlutWalk NYC has been protesting the rape cops, Moreno and Mata, and the DSK case. We also are going to have tabling/flyering after the event to encourage people to get involved in other organizations. SlutWalk can and will be the gateway for organizers and attendees to become involved, in the long-term, with more feminist and anti-oppressive activism.

And with all that being said, I hope to see everyone there on October 1st. Check out slutwalknyc.com for more information.

I walked in Seattle’s Slut Walk and having been there I can definitely understand your hesitation in going (I’m not 100% sure I’d go to a second one, if there is one). The message was incredibly muddled. The walk timed very close to the Pride parade, which meant there were loads of people still on a fun-high from that. So there was this bizarre, confusing mix of people who were simply revelling in their sexuality and those who were presenting themselves more seriously on the message of ending sexual assault. Obviously, neither of these groups are in the wrong, but put them in the same march and the whole thing ends up confusing and a little weird (as demonstrated by the overally tone of “huh?” in much of the reporting about the event).

The whole message muddling was pretty evident in the struggle to come up with good chants. “We love sluts” was easy to yell, but didn’t convey much. “What do we do when women’s rights are under attack? We fight back!” was more on-message, but really, who the hell can understand that yelled by a huge group?

I think it has some serious potential, seeing as it gets women fired up in a way that we don’t really get to be very often. But how do you fight back on-point about ending something as widespread and amorphous as rape culture? I don’t really have an answer, but I hope someone finds a way to do it so I can participate in that, too.

On a more personal note, this is my SlutWalk Story (copied from my tumblr because I am lazy and have been typing at work all day):
the first time I wore my Miku Hatsune costume, it was an anime club Halloween costume contest. I was talking to a guy there about various things, including the costume. Finally, at what became the end of the conversation, he said to me: “You couldn’t really wear that around anywhere else, though, I mean, that outfit totally says ‘Rape me’”. I was too stunned that someone had actually said that and thought it was remotely acceptable to say that I wasn’t really able to formulate a comeback.

Add to this the anime fandom’s casual use of rape jokes and calling people “rapeable” as if that were a compliment. I can’t think of anything more appropriate for me at Slutwalk.

And for fun, a picture.

Thanks for your comment! I think you put my hesitation into words much better than I managed to… it kills me that the energy surrounding Slutwalk is just SO exciting and wonderful, but the message just seems to be getting so garbled. I wish I could think of some way to help harness that energy and focus it, you know?

I love your outfit, and the rationale behind it… it is amazing how ignorant people can be. I guess I just wish that I felt more confident in Slutwalk’s ability to get its message to the ignorant people that make comments like the one that was made to you, because THEY are the ones who really need to hear it!

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