Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Slutwalks and Sexuality

I finally found a couple of interesting comments about the "slutwalk" phenomenon, from the jaded Brits who run Spiked. This is Brendan O'Neill:

The most annoying thing about the SlutWalk phenomenon, which arrived in Britain at the weekend, is not its knowingly provocative name or even its attempt to make a serious political project of the frazzled Nineties pop trend of Girl Power (“I wear sexy stuff, therefore I am powerful!”). No, it is its inherently anti-social nature. These are the most anti-social sluts on earth. Where I grew up, the catty phrase “she enjoys the company of men” was often used as a euphemism for “slut”, but you could never say that of those taking part in SlutWalk. On the contrary, many of the SlutWalkers seem to see interaction with men as a dangerous and risky thing, best avoided.

Of course, no one – except maybe Peter Sutcliffe – disagrees with SlutWalk’s spectacularly uncontroversial message that women should be free to dress as they please without getting raped. But it is quite different to expect to be able to dress as you please without attracting *any* attention from blokes. Yet that is what some SlutWalkers seem to be demanding: effectively the right to dress provocatively without ever being looked at, commented on, whistled at or spoken to by a member of the opposite sex. Unless such interaction is clearly solicited, of course.

One SlutWalk supporter says “no matter what a person is wearing”, there is “absolutely no excuse for violence, verbal degradation, rape, lewd comments, pinches, touches, grabs or come-ons”. What?! The lumping together of rape with come-ons, as if both are equally demented and unwanted, reveals the general distaste for unguarded and unpredictable sexual interaction that underpins SlutWalk. A leading SlutWalk organiser says “society is too tolerant of the lewd comments and wolf-whistles that make people feel unsafe”. If anyone is belittling rape, it is these so-called sluttish feminists, who discuss rape and wolf-whistling in the same outraged breath, as if a builder saying “nice bum!” is an act of unspeakable violence on a par with forced sexual intercourse. SlutWalk, it seems, is less about addressing the problem of rape than about challenging society’s alleged tolerance of - and therefore boosting its intolerance of – male sexual bravado.

And Abigail Ross-Jackson:

Why should men be demonised for wolf-whistling or for attempting to chat up a woman whom they think is attractive? The Slutwalkers’ demand of the right not to be judged is profoundly backward and anti-social. Several of the banners on Saturday’s protest seemed to suggest that men are more like animals than rational human beings. One said: ‘Why am I dressed like a slut? Why are you thinking like a rapist?’ This is worrying, because it points to another serious problem with the Slutwalk phenomenon: its embrace of the widening definition of ‘harassment’. While most people would agree that stalking, groping and so on is unacceptable, amounting to harassment, the idea that looking, thinking, flirting and chatting someone up is also no longer acceptable, and that it amounts to ‘thinking like a rapist’, shows that everyday human interaction is now increasingly being labelled ‘harassment’. What next: no eye contact without written permission?

One woman who took part in the London Slutwalk later tweeted: ‘Thirty-seven people have taken my photo so far on #slutwalk. Just one sought consent first. (Of those I challenged, it’d not occurred to them to ask.)’ This just about sums up the preciousness, and the social aloofness, of Slutwalkers: they seem to imagine that even on a public demonstration at which they have dressed in the most attention-grabbing way, it is somehow a violation of their person for someone to take a photo.
I imagine these observations are slanted, and that many slutwalkers have different views of these things. But the observation was also made by some women in my house that you can't simultaneously dress in deliberately provocative ways and expect not to provoke someone.

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