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Saturday, December 4, 2021

Columns

A miniskirt is not consent


On June 4, 2011, Chicago women took over the Windy City’s streets for “Slutwalk Chicago.” Slutwalks are put together to destigmatize sexual violence against women and to enforce the notion that choice of clothing does not indicate consent.  | photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

On June 4, 2011, Chicago women took over the Windy City’s streets for “Slutwalk Chicago.” Slutwalks are put together to destigmatize sexual violence against women and to enforce the notion that choice of clothing does not indicate consent. | photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

This Saturday, Cherryhurst Park will be host to “Slutwalk Houston.” Don’t let the name distract you. A score of similar marches have been taking place all over the world since they first took place in Toronto this April. The first slutwalk was formed in response to a speech given to a group of female law school students by Toronto police officer Michael Sanguinetti. During the speech, Sanguinetti told the female students that if they wished to avoid sexual assault they “should stop dressing like sluts.”

Organizers of the original Toronto walk wrote on their website, slutwalktoronto.com, that they organized the event because “being assaulted isn’t about what you wear; it’s not even about sex; but using a pejorative term to rationalize inexcusable behavior creates an environment in which it’s okay to blame the victim.”

Slutwalks exist to bring attention to the victim-blaming misogyny that is still inherent in our culture. Rape is a violent crime, and what a woman wears has no relevance, nor does it in anyway excuse their victimization.

According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, 44 percent of rape victims in the US are under the age of 18, and 15 percent are under age of 12. Clearly, the state of dress or sexual appeal of a woman is not the issue. It is also worth asking what constable Sanguinetti thinks of men. How many male readers could confuse a miniskirt for consent? A minority, I am sure.

The reasons that sexual assaults are committed are varied and controversial. According to the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault, sexually violent men are frequently diagnosed with a similar variety of personality disorders as other perpetrators of violent crime. Rape is a violent crime that has nothing to do with sexuality.

And, unfortunately, 15 out of 16 rapists never spend a single night in jail. This is largely because 60 percent of rapes and sexual assaults go unreported. These crimes go unreported because there are people in power, like constable Sanguinetti, who make rape victims feel as if the rape was their fault.

The slutwalk movement has drawn more attention than similar protests in the past. This is possibly attributable to slutwalk’s provocative title. Some feminists think that the word “slut” is so deeply intertwined with gender traditions as to make the word irredeemable. Others think that the redemption of such a word, and indeed such a concept, could strike a powerful blow against myths that tie women and girls’ self-esteem to their perceived purity.

Regardless of what we call this march, which has become the most successful feminist actions in 20 years, telling women to change how they dress is the wrong solution to the problem of sexual violence in this country.

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