Feminism | Posted by Evelyn T on 05/31/2011

The Slut Walks and Victim Blaming

So recently the feminist community has been rallying around the SlutWalks. Personally, I’m beginning to feel a tad sorry for the poorly spoken police officer who instigated all of this as he’s probably (hopefully) feeling like an idiot right about now. But not too sorry.

Recently the topic was brought up in my calculus class, and although most students didn’t know about it, the ones that did all said the same thing: “Well, you wouldn’t leave your garage door open and expect someone not to steal your car, would you?” I was surprised that so many people thought this, as I was under some sort of impression that victim blaming was only for serious misogynists. I was clearly wrong; it’s more subtle and widespread than that.

I think the main reason people don’t support or get the SlutWalks is because they don’t truly understand victim blaming. Sure, running around naked in the middle of the night probably won’t do wonders for your personal safety, but if someone chooses to commit a violent crime against you, it’s still not your fault. Nothing you do surrenders your right to control your body, and nothing you do can cause other people’s actions (like rape) – they cause their OWN actions – and I think that’s what SlutWalkers are trying to get at.

a Slut Walker

a Slut Walker

If you handed someone a loaded gun and they shot you, maybe it wasn’t the best choice on your part, but the fact that they chose to shoot you is their fault alone. This is the same with rape. Putting yourself in a risky situation and being to blame are not the same thing. Although most rapes are committed by someone you know, walking around alone at night can increase your chances of being violently attacked. This goes for all violent crime. However, even if we’re walking down an alley at 4 am, drunk, and dressed like a “slut” it doesn’t give anyone the right to commit a crime. It’s as simple as that. Nothing you do can surrender or make irrelevant your right to consent.

Victim blaming comes in many different forms. Suggesting that it’s a woman’s responsibility to prevent rape, instead of putting the blame on the perpetrators, is a type of victim blaming. Women shouldn’t have to guard their drinks, bring a friend to the bathroom, or pay for a taxi instead of walking home. Not enough emphasis is put on finding these rapists and putting them behind bars; in fact, only about 5% of rapists will ever see a day in jail – 19 out of 20 rapists walk free.

Victim blaming needs to stop. And I mean all types of victim blaming, especially the subtle kinds that are far too abundant for my liking, and easy to miss. Although the SlutWalks have received some controversy for the word “slut” from non-feminists and feminists alike, I believe the message they are trying to get across is good: no matter what you wear, or do, nothing can make you to blame for being raped.

For a list of cities participating in Slut Walk and upcoming Slut Walks, click here.

For more resources about Slut Walk, I recommend Chloe from Feministing’s post and Jaclyn Friedman’s Boston Slut Walk Speech.

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  • Ryan @ at 7:06 pm, May 31st, 2011

    I know…I reminds me when the security officer on campus told a student who got robbed “don’t where so much expensive jewelry and carry a laptop in the open like that” keep it more discreet.

    OMG everyone went crazy on him! Protests spread! This was some major victim blaming if you ask me.

  • Anna @ at 10:43 am, June 1st, 2011

    @ Ryan
    You cannot equate getting raped to getting mugged.

  • Sheridan @ at 11:12 pm, June 2nd, 2011

    @Ryan

    I agree with Anna, but your point can still be taken into consideration.

    Common sense is important – it ranges from not walking around naked in public to not openly displaying your wealth in a sketchy place.

    While one should always exercise common sense, we shouldn’t use it as an excuse to victim-blame. I don’t think it’s sensible to wear revealing clothes while walking home alone at night weaponless, but no rape victim should be blamed for doing so.

  • Quinc @ at 6:18 am, June 4th, 2011

    The difference is that nobody is going to call it a moral failing if you leave your garage door open. Meanwhile promiscuous behavior or flashy sexy clothing is considered morally wrong by some.

    Originally everyone was expected to be chaste, though often men got a free pass. For the last century or so people often expect the “opposite” genders to behave in opposite ways, namely promiscuous men and chaste women. The mainstream might not agree with the religious right’s ideas of sexual purity, but they still get the sense that women oughtn’t do that…for some…reason. Thus overt sexually is either tacky or foolish, thats such women should expect to be attacked by ravenous men.

    Views of male sexuality work to make women scared, and reduce the blame when men do sexually assault. Sometimes the nice guys finish last simply because they don’t behave the way people expect them to, i.e. sexually aggressive. Women get raped by them men that are supposed to be the best boyfriends, the ultra-confidant alpha males. They never see it coming, since rape is supposed to come from men in the bushes and “pathetic losers” who resort to rape and stalking out of desperation, because they lack confidence. Male dating guides always stress confidence, sometimes as if it were the only factor. One technique that stuck out to me: “Assume every woman wants to have sex with you!” i.e. assume they’ve already consented regardless of what they do or say, because as an alpha male you’re just that freaking awsome!

    Anyway, to summarize my thoughts on rape. Rape culture is pervasive, and influences both men and women. It pushes active consent out of the picture, and tells us that men ought to be active and very aggresive, and that women should be rather passive about attracting someone. Of course in rape culture, male attraction is quite the double edged sword, isn’t it?

  • Halle @ at 10:46 pm, June 4th, 2011

    Wow! Great article! And Quinc, I totally agree. Such an interesting perspective!

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  • LNA/Paris @ at 12:00 pm, October 8th, 2011

    I LIKE THAT :

    “if someone chooses to commit a violent crime against you, it’s still not your fault.

    Nothing you do surrenders your right to control your body, and nothing you do can cause other people’s actions (like rape) – they cause their OWN actions –

    Nothing you do can surrender or make irrelevant your right to consent.

    Being perceived/considered as a “slut” doesn’t give anyone the right to commit a crime.

    WE SHOULD ALWAYS REMEMBER !

  • LNA/Paris @ at 12:02 pm, October 8th, 2011

    to the webmaster/moderator :
    I mistaken my address in the last post…this is the right one.

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