I’m Not Supposed To Say This

Tired of the routine objectification of their bodies and the ways that women are told to accept violence as a ‘natural’ part of sexuality, the SlutWalk movement emerged at a time when the absurdity or ‘dislocation’ of this culture was becoming increasingly evident to large sections of society (see Shaw, F. 2011). Although they might not have been familiar with the term ‘rape culture,’ there is no doubt that women (and many men), had become increasingly frustrated by the ways they were being policed and held accountable for other people’s actions. – Kaitlyn Mendes, “How the SlutWalk Has Transformed the Rape Culture Conversation”, Alternet, Aug 12, 2015

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1. Testosterone. Also Freud. Take your pick. Or both, like me. I’m dismayed that both the chemist and the philosopher missed this easy one.

2. One may claim that provocative dress does not warrant violent behavior. But it is willfully ignorant of bio-chemical and psychological realities of human sexuality to deny that provocative dress should only affect any possible object of interest or none at all. Aggression, and sexual aggression is a very real dynamic of human life. Protestantism long has tried to convince us to think that it need not be so. Many weak liberal and libertarian arguments take up that request.

3. Ask more experienced women for their views about the motivations and role of excessively provocative dress. Or, ask female sociologists as to why, on average, youth and lower economic status correlate with more frequent and greater degree of provocative dress. Take your pick. Or do both, like me. – comment, “Sluts And Baptism – Reappropriation”, What’s Left In The Church, June 6, 2011

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We just happen to disagree on some fundamental points here. Do I approve or disapprove of certain trends in women’s attire? Who cares? They are adults, and I respect their privilege to make choices, even choices I would not make.

In essence, you are suggesting that men are brutes, the mere glimpse of cleavage or the mons drives men in to a sexual frenzy from which nothing but the violent (sexual) possession of the one so dressed can deter him, and the best thing for women to do is to understand this, rather than be appealing for a possible assignation with someone.

Second, sticking to my own consistency, I do not as a general rule, disparage anyone with a word – “slutty” – to describe their sartorial choices. It makes the very category mistake the sponsors of the Slutwalks are attempting to end – that a woman can be judged by her appearance, and therefore receive some kind of partial responsibility for the victimization she may receive from men who, glimpsing her cleavage or bare midriff, become insane with lust.

This isn’t about being, or dressing, slutty. It is about the freedom to be adults and make choices, including choices with which others may not agree. Maybe even choices I would prefer my own daughters not make.

As you well know, I do not like moral scolds. Our society would be far better without them, whether they are the kind who insist that I am bad and evil because I don’t think sex is the worst sin ever, or the kind who insist that adults should not be free to make choices others don’t like because of the possible effects on other people. – Me, comment, “Sluts And Baptism – Reappropriation”, What’s Left In The Church, June 6, 2011

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The first New York City SlutWalk in 2011.

The first New York City SlutWalk in 2011.

Once upon a time, I had another blog. On that blog, I ventured far and wide on all sorts of topics and issues. While always rooted in my faith, I tossed discipline out the window. By and large, however, I had fun talking about everything because everything interests me. When I voiced agreement with the methods and goals of the SlutWalk movement emerging in 2011, it seemed someone was upset with me doing something that . . . well, I’m not quite sure what bothered him. Was I supporting “sluts”? Well, since I’m no longer an ignorant and stupid adolescent, I have to say I’ve never actually met a “slut”. Used as a derogatory descriptor for women who behave sexually as men have historically acted, I find it fascinating that an adult human being in the US would keep it as part of our vocabulary. Particularly as used to attack rape victims as deserving of violence because of their alleged appearance, such a word serves a vile purpose. Finally, to carry on that it is somehow “naive” to insist that adult human beings be allowed to live without the threat of violence . . . that’s just odd. Actually my favorite of the claims was that men are slaves to biochemistry, testosterone making us drooling, sex-crazed buffoons at the barest glimpse of female flesh. Or perhaps the one in which I was told that I should more attention to the slutty ways youth like my daughters dressed than scolding men for just acting the way nature programmed them; that was special, too.

One “criticism” in particular struck me both as morally obtuse and cowardly.

At the same time, I find more troubling the stated preference for “solidarity” with women in Saudi Arabia and other countries with gross violations of basic standards of women’s rights, or in the Sahel in Africa where female circumcision is still common practice. While these are, indeed, issues about which to express outrage and for which more work needs to be done, I find it troubling, to say the least, that one would “prefer” such solidarity, which while morally admirable entails no risk of personal involvement through the messiness of actually getting to know those subjected to such treatment, or risking one’s own personal freedom by stating such solidarity from a distance. It sets up a false choice – either we support a bunch of rich white women or we support a bunch of poor, suffering women of different races, ethnicities, and religious beliefs. On its face, it should be obvious why such is false. [I]nvolvement in the morally messy lives of persons whom we may well encounter each and every day places a far greater level of moral commitment and potential cost upon us.

As the book review at Alternet shows, the rising awareness of slut-shaming and rape-culture has had amazing effects. What one would have been local news stories about gang rapes have become world-wide calls to action against protecting the perpetrators of violence. Not just an elite phenomenon, awareness of slut-shaming and rape culture knows no race, class, or nationality, calling out actions around the world. We owe much to those two young women from Toronto who were mad as hell and weren’t going to take it any more.

 

Glasgow SlutWalk, 2011

Glasgow SlutWalk, 2011

Indeed – the radical notion that no one deserves to be raped. . . . Not a young woman walking home alone from a club. Not an eleven-year-old girl wearing make-up. Not strippers or prostitutes. Not a woman who dresses provocatively, however that might be defined. Not a woman who dresses modestly. The SlutWalk was an attack on the still all-too-prevalent idea that women are object of male lust, regardless of their race, their dress, their nationality, or their consent. Awareness of the prevalence of rape culture is helping; that there is a thriving MRA/PUA culture, especially online, that continues to demean women, attack and threaten women (and some men) who denounce it, and spreads the virus of male sexual dominance and violence as somehow both natural and right means we still have a whole lot to do. We all owe a debt, however, to all those women all over the world who refused to be shamed and victimized by a power structure that perpetuates male violence against women.

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About gksafford

I'm a middle-aged theologically educated clergy spouse, living in the Midwest. My children are the most important thing in my life. Right behind them and my wife is music. I'm most interested in teaching people to listen to contemporary music with ears of faith. Everything else you read on here is straw.

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Howdy! Thanks for reading. Really. Be nice and remember - I'm like Roz from Monster's Inc. I'm always watching.

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