“Women should avoid dressing as sluts to avoid being victimised” was the advice the Police Constable Michale Sanguinetti gave to a group of students in Toronto.
The women were not impressed and 3000 of them promptly took to the streets for the first ever “Slut Walk” to demonstrate for their rights to wear what they want.
The underlying issue of course is that in our sexist society it is still the victim that gets the blame for rape and not the rapist. It is as if the “poor men” are like Pavlov’s dog – they see a mini skirt and can’t help themselves but just have got to rape the woman who wears it, as “she was asking for it”. The stance of feminism is clear: not only should the victims not be blamed but we should look more closely at what rape really is: Rape is not a forceful expression of sex but a sexual expression of violence. Rape is used to humiliate and hurt women, to shut them up, to put them in their place – beneath the men who do not want to accept that when a woman says “No” she means “No”. Men are used to getting their own way – always and at all costs.
Not just young women in mini-skirts get raped but women in bhurkas, and grandmothers get raped, too. Women get ritually raped in war as this is considered a “violation of the enemies’ property” and men get raped in prison by other men who are not gay or bisexual – rape is not about sexual gratification but about power.
“He is attractive and rich and could have had afforded to hire a plane and have any sex in the sky with any woman he wanted” said a Parisian about Dominique Strauss-Khan after he got arrested in New York for his forced fellatio and attempted penetrative rape of the chamber maid. But the thing is he did not want sex with a woman who consented, he did not want to pull a one-night stand or pay for sex, he just fancied to put a woman down by using his cock. Just a quick humiliation of a “slut” before he shot off to the airport, back home, running for the presidency in France where he is a highly regarded politician. After all she came to his room, wearing a sexy maid’s uniform and was just asking for it – or so was the excuse in his head when he tried to rape her.
The most shocking thing about his criminal behaviour to me is that he thought he could get away with it – check out of the hotel, board a plane without batting an eyelid, as if nothing had happened. He must have been certain that she would not say or do anything or that no-one would believe her, otherwise it is doubtful he would have risked his reputation at such a crucial stage of his career. This was not the first time he used violence against a woman. There was another case before, another woman he raped years back and she did not report the incident to the police because her mother talked her out of it. It was considered a freak incident as he is normally “such a lovely person person and must have just lost control, once”. No need to kick up a fuss, just forgive and forget.
But then maybe it was “date rape” and that is as the British Justice Minister, Kenneth Clarke, told us only a few days ago a “less serious form of rape’. As if. Rape is rape is rape. Every woman going though this, no matter what the circumstances were, has been violated, humiliated and traumatised.
For her fear reigns. She is told to “be careful” about what she wears or whether she walks back home alone late at night. As if it is OK that human rights are not woman’s rights, and that women are still second class citizens who are brought up to live in fear and guilt.
Things have got to change. We do not just need to reclaim back the night but the right to do what we feel like without being blamed. One of the best things I ever did was learning self-defence up to the blue belt in Tae Kwon Do. I learnt to shout like a demon and have used this techniques many times when I have been harassed. Of course in an ideal world, men would stop their sexist and violent behavior. This is what we want and are fighting for but until then it is time to stand tall and be counted.
It is time to “Holla back” when the builders wolf-whistle at you, and time to join the Slut Walk when it comes to your town. It happens on the 11/06/2011 in London from 1:00 p.m., Trafalgar Square: www.slutwalklondon.tumblr.com
Cover shoot for issue 58 of Desire Magazine by Petra Joy, published 2007.