Anti-porn feminist Gail Dines manages to completely miss the point of the Slut Walk marches being organized in cities around the country. Dines and her co-author think that the marchers are asserting their sexual liberation by clamoring for the right to be sluts.
In fact, Slut Walk is satirizing the whole slut construct. The Slut Walk phenomenon got started because a thoughtless cop in Toronto opined at a campus safety meeting at one of the most prestigious law schools in Canada that women could avoid getting raped by not dressing like sluts.
But what does a slut look like? How does a slut dress? Judging by the photos, some women (and men) wore mini skirts, others showed up in hoodies and jeans, or provocative toques and parkas, or in one case, a gilded smoking jacket. Granted, the first walk was in Toronto in April, which might discourage anyone from showing skin.
Organizers told people to wear whatever they wanted. The message was: Who’s a slut? We all are. Or none of us are. And who cares? It’s a stupid, meaningless concept anyway.
“Slut” is just another way of saying “worthless” without having to come up with a reason. Little girls get called sluts before they even know what sex is.
If someone calls you a slut, there’s nothing you can say to refute the claim because it never had any cognitive content anyway.
Even virginity is not a defense against alleged sluttiness. Virgins can be sluts if they dress the wrong way, walk the wrong way, or even instill the wrong thoughts in other people. Some people will convict you of sluttitude because your body is the wrong shape, or the right shape.
What determines sluttiness? Is it number of partners, or the number of sex acts, or the kind of sex, or whether you enjoy it, or what other people infer about your self-esteem based on what they assume about your sex life? It’s all of the above, or none of the above. Either way, you lose.
Maybe it has nothing to do with you at all. Maybe it’s because your accuser is racist or classist and your “sluttiness” is built into some stereotype that was clanking around in their head before they ever met you.
If you try to argue that you’re not a slut, you’re implicitly buying into the idea that there are sluts out there. If there’s some criterion that will set you free, that standard will indict someone else–someone with a higher “number,” or shorter skirt, or a later curfew. So we get bogged down in slut/non-slut border skirmishes over a line nobody should have tried to draw in the first place, and we all lose.
The only “refutation” is to laugh in your accuser’s face and get on with your life, however you choose to live it. That’s what Slut Walk is about.
Just do your damned jobs, cops, and protect everyone.
[Photo credit: Toronto Slut Walk, by nonprofity, Creative Commons.]