SlutWalks and Rape – Trying to Find Some Clarity Here…

A little while ago I came across Slut Walks following a Mona Gable Blogpost, which led me to the original NYT article it was based on, by Rebecca Traister.  Somehow I missed all of the coverage around SlutWalks and found it a very intriguing idea. It’s also been rattling around in my head ever since and I wanted to write my thoughts down, but I just haven’t had the time or headspace to get my thinking together. So here goes.

For those equally oblivious to these events, SlutWalks came about when a Toronto police officer told a group of college women in May this year that if they wished to escape sexual assault, they should avoid dressing like sluts. Idiot. It actually reminded me of the South Australian judge who, many years ago during a rape trial between a husband and wife, said that “no really can mean yes.” He wasn’t popular. Anyways, as a result of the Toronto cop making this stupid statement, men and women have marched in more than 70 cities around the world, often dressed in “sluttish” attire. It’s not an activity that made it to Singapore suffice to say… Well I don’t think it did?

Both Mona and Rebecca raise this issue quite delicately, with neither convinced that marching the streets in a pair of panties is the way to deal with the situation, but then, what is appropriate? One thing that has always pissed me off is the question in a rape trial – what were you wearing? Like that has absolutely ANYTHING at all to do with rape. I’ve met many rape victims (and have almost been one myself twice) and you know what, some dress sexily, some as modest as can be – and every time I hear this question, I want to scream to the judge and the media often supporting the idea – “if we all dress in ankle length floral kaftans not dissimilar to a tent, will you then finally accept that it is the man’s responsibility?” And if it’s continued to be positioned as women’s fault, you have to ask – do the Arabs have it right by recognising men can’t control themselves, and therefore the women must take responsibility by covering up and dressing in burkas?” Also, if it is women’s responsibility, does that mean the West is as full of sexual repression as is reportedly the case in the Arab world?

I unequivocally believe that it is NEVER a woman’s fault for being raped. We do not ask for it. We do not attract it by how we dress. We do not deserve it for being free and easy. The only thing women are guilty of is having a vagina (besides other orifices). I mean, can’t people see the contradiction with how we view our so-called progressive world alongside archaic beliefs like this? So much for women’s lib!

Men who rape are responsible for their own actions, but some claim they cannot control themselves. Somewhere along the way in a rapists life, one experience (or many) happened that taught them violence was OK, or that women were inferior, or that control is something appealing, or that sexually dominating people was horny, or they were sexually abused by someone they trusted, or they watched their mother raped by their father, or considered the scenes in porn movies where women enjoyed having a 15 inch dildo shoved up her rear the norm, or whatever… And there is another element to look into – the “sickness” within society at large that creates “these” people, rather than laying all of the blame with the victims. Or is it in the genes as some claim?

The reality is – this situation isn’t straight forward no matter how strongly I believe that women are not responsible for rape. So I decided to do a bit of “market research” and asked Steve – why do men rape? He said he had absolutely no idea how any man could enjoy forcing a woman sexually, let alone being physically capable of sustaining an erection while forcing themselves upon a woman. OK I said, let’s talk about that no-turning-back-point you get to, where there’s a promise of sex, or we’re getting hot and steamy and something happens – the boys interrupt, for example. I have watched this point occur a few times, and for me, no big deal if we get interrupted. But for Steve, he goes from angry to hurt and back to angry again for about 24 hours afterwards and it can be rather uncomfortable. Thankfully, he’s more of a sulker about it, but it’s a pretty powerful reaction to observe and one I am unable to appreciate fully. It’s just not like that for me and I presume, most women.  

Steve explained “it’s like my whole body is surging with testosterone, every muscle is pumped up with it, and until I can get that release I am consumed by it.” I asked another friend Dave, who is equally respectful of women and he said pretty much the same thing. And you see, I believe this is the point we are talking about – that all consuming physical reaction. Fortunately, the majority of men on the planet have had an appropriate upbringing that teaches them to control that urge and not lash out when they don’t get their “release” (even if sulking might follow). Unfortunately some men have not learnt that control. For me, this is the fundamental issue.

Women are being blamed for men reaching that point and their inability to control themselves. What gets them there? A woman is teasing them or perceived to be? They are getting on well with a woman and the night is looking promising? A porno? Who knows! I don’t know what happens to make a man capable of rape, BUT the role of women should be deemed irrelevant, because men should be responsible for themselves and know what is, and what is not, appropriate behaviour – hey that’s what being part of a civilised society is about. Are men going to tell me they can’t control themselves? Let’s face it, if men aren’t held accountable for their actions, they’re going to keep doing it.

If you read the blogs/articles linked to this post, there’s a story of an 11 year old Texan girl gang raped and you know what the neighbours said? “Well she did wear make-up and dressed maturely for her age.” She’s 11 and probably doesn’t even have pubes yet! How can she be responsible when she’s probably still playing with barbie dolls and doesn’t even understand what sexuality is? The other criminals in these cases are the media who publish this SHIT, because it is shit. But the neighbours even thinking this stuff defies belief! How can they ever believe that an 11 year old girl is even remotely responsible for being gang raped? And what sorts of men get their kicks from that? It’s a monstrous thing to do, but again, I have absolutely no understanding of male mob mentality in these situations.

Of course, the popular case in the media this year was Dominique Strauss-Kahn. We all know the case – he’s a powerful man and a foreign maid accused him of sexually assaulting her. The news comes out and what does the media do? They start questioning the maids’ integrity. She lied in her immigration application. She’s a prostitute. There are recordings of her speaking to some other dodgy immigrant about getting money out of him. And so on and so on. I don’t know about you, but whenever a potential rape victim is vilified in the press like this, the FIRST thing I ask is who’s covering things up here? It’s not like DSK has a clean track record! Now free, let’s just hope the French woman who has come out has more success, although she’s being equally vilified in the media. If he’s guilty, put him in jail, if he’s not, don’t. BUT do not put the victim through a trial by media because that just means more women will not report rape. Why would you?

Women have always been vilified by society, with women regularly part of the vilification and gossip-mill I might add. It began with Eve the temptress; to Jezebel – “the Jezebel” – but only because she was living her life as was her right as a Queen of the time, praying to her heathen Gods, and she was judged retroactively for these “crimes”; to Cleopatra known for her beauty, sexuality and associations with two very famous men of history, but not for her cleverness in rescuing as much of Egypt as she could when it was on its deathbed; to even Yoko Ono because she dared to be the love of John Lennon’s life; I could go on and on and on.

It has always been the case that women are divided into three categories – the frigid bitch, the whore and the mother. No matter how much progress we make, or how many women get up in the ranks of power, when things go wrong or scandals break, women are relegated to these roles – every time.

But here’s another aspect to the story. There is no doubt at all that rape is a shitty and horrible aspect of humankind, however it’s not unique to humans. When searching for animals that rape: dolphins; ducks; geese; seals; bears; spiders; ferrets; chimpanzees; orang-utans; and even scorpion flies, all came up as contenders. Now while us humans don’t like to consider ourselves animals, I would suggest that rape existing within our societies is proof that we are, indeed, still animals.

And while rape within the animal world can never be proven to be “the same” in the human world (because we don’t speak animal,) there is another aspect – under socio-biologicaltheories of rape where it is suggested as an alternative gene-promotion strategy that is most likely to be adopted by the ‘losers’ in the competitive, harem-building struggle.” That makes sense, because in my eyes, rapists are losers.

The way I see it is this – sex is when two consenting adults agree to get down and dirty, whereas rape is violence, power and a need to dominate, and nothing else. As such, it is the rapist who is responsible for the act. Why people rape other people seems to be an aspect of humankind that I doubt is going away anytime soon. In the meantime, what do we do about it?
  • Go on SlutWalks – why not – although I would personally choose to wear modest attire
  • If a judge ever asks the question – what were you wearing? We create a media sensation until that judge is fired!
  • Create community support groups ALL OVER THE WORLD that are there for women or men who are raped – because men get raped too
  • Every time we see a woman disparaged by the media we ask the question WHY? And if it turns out that the woman was being slandered to protect the man, we boycott that media organisation for ever
  • We don’t join in discussions about “guilty” whores or sluts, and instead, try to help people see that maybe the way the story is being presented is not the full truth?
  • We stand up and report rape to the police, whenever it happens and we bring our community along with us so that if negative media comes out, we say fuck you together!
  • Essentially we ALL work together to make sure no rape victim is EVER disparaged for having the courage to report a crime

The point is, we all need to stand together and say we no longer accept any responsibility for the small percentage of men that can’t control themselves and commit acts of violence. The Geneva Convention finally recognised rape as a warm crime, and it’s time for all of our legal systems to get serious about this issue and make it the rapist’s responsibility. Rapists being the guilty party should be the status quo.

And finally, something to be grateful for. To the men and women participating in the world’s SlutWalks, I think you can be truly thankful to live in a society where expressing anger in this way is acceptable. In many countries, when women are raped, rather than being loved and supported by their family and community, they are killed because of the shame it brings on their families – aka “honour killings.” In fact, in many cases, they don’t even need to be raped – just speaking with a man can be enough. Other horrible consequences for many women/girls in the world for just being female, where men seem to be obsessed with the concept of female sexual purity, include female infanticide, dowry deaths, bride burnings, acid attacks, female genital mutilation, sexual slavery and more. In these countries, SlutWalks could not happen. At least most of us don’t have that shit to contend with.

Many of us have the good fortune of being raised in societies that embrace the concept of free speech, and for others, we have that freedom to a certain extent. So in regards to SlutWalkers, go for it, because isn’t it great that you can? And now, in whatever way we choose to fight this fight, let’s all work together to change this mindset, in as many countries as we can, because a change in mindset is well OVERDUE.

Yours, without the bollocks

PS: thanks for getting this far. Obviously something I’m passionate about because it is SO important, but I also appreciate that I haven’t gone deeply into many arguments, and missed out on many more, but the blog is already way too long. Forgive my brevity in some cases!

4 Responses

  1. I think the issue with rape here (in ANY context) is about power, not about sex. Yes, even in the case of so-called "date rape". It is always about power over the woman. Not about enjoying themselves sexually, or getting beyond "that" point.

    There is NEVER. EVER. EVER. an excuse for the male to let themselves off the hook for rape.

    It is NEVER the woman's fault. Ever.

    If she has said "no", doesn't matter what point it has gotten to, it is rape.


    🙂 thank you for your well articulated post. what a breath of fresh air!!!!

    as one of the organisers of SlutWalk in SG, i truly, truly appreciate seeing something like this being said amongst the usual internet slander by people who just refuse to open up to the idea or are guarded/too obsessed with smaller issues like the use of the word SLUT in the name of the movement. as valid an argument it is, it really IS NOT THE POINT. and most people so far, have failed to see that. so thank you, once again! 🙂

  3. Hey Vanessa, thanks for reading it and don't worry, new things always get that sort of attention. I'm planning to be at the activities and to get involved, so really looking forward to understanding the issues from a Singapore/Asia perspective! Great work you're doing it here xxxx

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