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Slut Walk? No Thanks!

entertainment Updated: Jun 27, 2011 11:04 IST
Seema Goswami
Seema Goswami
Hindustan Times
slut walk

Okay before we get into all this ‘Slut Walk’ business, let’s get two things straight.

One: a woman’s right to refuse sex is – and must remain – undisputed. It doesn’t matter what she is wearing; how she is behaving; how much she has been drinking; why she came back to a hotel room with the guy in the first place; or even, why she allowed him to kiss and fondle her.

If she wants to say no – no matter at what stage in the proceedings – she has an absolute right to do so. And any man who ignores that is guilty of rape.
That is something that we are all agreed upon: Yes means yes; and no means no.

Two: Rape is never ever a woman’s fault. Never. Ever. Okay, let’s say that again. Never, ever.
It doesn’t matter if she is provocatively dressed. It doesn’t matter if she is walking down a rough street alone. It doesn’t matter if she is drunk. It doesn’t matter if she is out late at night. It doesn’t matter if she is sexually active. It doesn’t matter if she is ‘promiscuous’. It doesn’t matter if she is a sex worker.
No woman ever ‘asks’ for it. Never ever.

Provocatively dressed women organised Slut Walks all over the world, to reinforce the message that this did not justify rape

But my question is this: Do we really need to parade our streets in small, tight clothes to reinforce these two messages?



In case you have been living on a different planet for the last month, this is how it all began. A policeman in Canada suggested that “women should avoid dressing like sluts” in order not to be victimised. This led to widespread outrage and a worldwide movement to reclaim the word ‘slut’ for women who wanted the freedom to dress the way they wanted.



Women organised Slut Walks all over the world, during which they walked the streets wearing short skirts, bikini tops and the like to assert their right to dress provocatively – and to reinforce the message that this did not justify rape.



Well, duh, of course it doesn’t. But if you ask me, all this ‘slut talk’ (not to mention Slut Walk) seems to be missing the point somewhat.



Let’s assume for a moment that a woman has the right to dress like a porn goddess if she so desires. That she has the right to cavort in public all day long, dressed like that. And that if the men around stare and leer or treat her as a ‘sex object’ then they are infringing on her right to dress any way she pleases.



Now, let’s turn it around. Let’s also grant men the right to display pornographic images wherever they please – at work, at home, on public transport – because, well, they enjoy looking at them. Let’s allow them to crack dirty jokes all day long or make sexually explicit comments because, hey, they love doing that. How long do you think it would be before the ladies start complaining?



Okay, maybe that’s a bit extreme. So, let’s take a step back and allow men to put their own flesh on display if they feel so inclined. They can whip off their shirts at the office; show the crack of their bums on the streets; and go dancing in nightclubs sporting just their underwear. Yes, I agree, it won’t be long before the women start crying foul.



So, what we are effectively saying is that women have the right to sexualise their environment if they feel like it. But the men around them must do nothing of this sort – for fear of being dismissed as Neanderthals and hit with a sexual harassment action for good


measure.



Double standards, anyone?


Let’s look at this another way. Let’s say you decide that it is your right as a law-abiding citizen to leave your front door unlocked when you go out. Is this likely to attract the attention of your friendly neighbourhood burglar? Probably. Is it more likely that you will be robbed as a consequence? Of course.



Does this mean that the thief who robbed you is not guilty? Of course he is. Does it follow that you bear no responsibility for what happened? Of course you do.



You turned yourself into an easier target because of your actions – and you have to take the rap for that. Every choice we make has consequences; and we have to keep those consequences in mind every time we make a choice.



So, no one is denying women the right to dress any way they feel like. But if you dress to be noticed, then don’t complain when you are noticed. If you dress to attract attention, then you must be reconciled to the fact that you can’t control what kind of attention you will attract. None of this can be used as a justification for rape – but yes, freedom does come with responsibility.



I wrote a couple of weeks ago about how the best way to target a woman was to attack her sexuality. And one of the words thrown around by such people was, yes, you guessed it, ‘slut’. So pardon me if I see no reason to adopt the word as a badge of honour rather than slam it for the sexist abuse it is.



And hence, I say to all the ladies who have been sending me invitations to participate in the Delhi Slut Walk: Go take a walk if you want to. But I’m no slut; and I will be damned before I ever refer to myself as one.



seema_ht@rediffmail.com

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Follow Seema on Twitter at twitter.com/seemagoswami

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