Political Promise

Three Words For Slutwalks: Education, Education, Education

In Garry Lee on June 20, 2011 at 7:00 am

It all started when a Canadian policeman told students that they should avoid dressing like sluts in order to avoid rape, now ‘slutwalks’ have become a global phenomenon, writes Garry Lee.

When a Canadian policeman told students that they should avoid dressing like sluts in order to avoid being victimised by rapists, the world responded with protests about reclaiming the streets and the right of both men and women to dress however they pleased. These protests have been christened with the name ‘slutwalks’. The most recent slutwalk took place between Hyde Park and Trafalgar Square, with hundreds, both men and women, many provocatively dressed and carrying “No Means No” signs.

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown’s article for the Independent on the issue highlighted evidence that suggested both drunkenness and revealing clothing as factors that made women more vulnerable to rape, and has been met with a lot of criticism from readers. While she recognised that the victims of rape are not necessarily the ones that are dressed in a sexually suggestive manner, she managed to agree with the idea that dressing in such a way helps to define women by their sexuality, and suggest naivety on the part of the person dressed this way.

Marcia Cohen and Sherrie McKenna of Yale University offer a few insights in the curriculum of their Rape: Psychology, Prevention and Impact course that are relevant to voice here. First, it’s a common “myth that rape is primarily a sexual act”, “rape is a crime of violence”. Secondly, research indicates that identifying a rapist is difficult because “most rapists blend well into their own communities”. These first two insights suggest that the way a victim is dressed is relatively unimportant, and secondly that there is no particular instance when you should be more or less prepared against such a threat. Thirdly, they suggest that while women “genuinely believe that they could fight off a rapist”, “few women give much thought to how they would do this”. Beyond the more traditional means, Cohen and McKenna suggest turning the rapist off by proclaiming that you have a venereal disease or by a “repulsive physical act such as vomiting, urinating or defecating”. These more creative repulsion tactics highlight the number of responses available to potential victims and go beyond the belief of basic high-school self-defence classes that suggest a kick in the genitals is the only road to freedom.

The slutwalk protests do not represent to me the reclaiming of the streets and right to dress how you please, but instead the beginning of a dual process of both gender empowerment and education. Societal perceptions were never going to change overnight, and surely the best defence against rape is acknowledging how little you know about self-defence, and then taking action to best prepare yourself. The mantra of the movement should not be “No Means No”, but instead, it should be “Education, Education, Education”.

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  1. I very much agree with you Garry. I however, do not support this slutwalk thing since the name is rather demeaning and offensive not to mention (as your article shows) ditracting the the issues and real research underneath. An opportunity of raising awareness on rape crimes and research squandered. The so-called slutwalk is a complete shambles. The idea of dressing the way you like i.e as the protest name suggests – a slut – as being somehow an expression or idea of raising awareness is bewildering and totally irrelevant.

    On a separate note, I kind of feel sorry for the Canadian policeman. I think he gave what he thought in his opinion was a helpful advice, but delivered in a clumsy and ill-worded manner.

  2. […] Three Words For Slutwalks: Education, Education, Education (politicalpromise.co.uk) […]

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