June 6, 2011
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 – especially cocky, swaggering 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.
The SlutWalk organiser says that one of the “main messages” of her campaign is that “a woman’s appearance is not a sexual invitation” . But it is. When women wear revealing gear in a pub or a nightclub, they are definitely issuing a sexual invitation. And why shouldn’t they? They want to pull, get off, cop off or whatever the crazy kids call it these days. It is part and parcel of the perfectly normal, perfectly healthy interaction of the sexes that women dress attractively and men respond in kind, by making a comment, offering to buy a drink, attempting one of those apparently criminal “come-ons”. The high-minded feminists who make up SlutWalk’s supporters and cheerleaders seem to want to opt out of this everyday social interaction, to dress as sluttishly as they like while also being surrounded by some magic forcefield, legally enforced perhaps , which protects them from any unwanted male gaze or whistle. They are prudes disguised as sluts, self-styled victims pretending to be vixens, astonishingly anti-social creatures who imagine it is possible to parade through society dressed outrageously without any member of that society ever making a comment about or to them. This is the highly individuated politics of fear – fear of men, fear of unplanned-for banter, fear of sexual licence – dressed up as radical feminism. But to update an old saying: no slut is an island.