This is our truth, tell us yours
Both Carter and I are, or have been happy to describe ourselves, as sluts. I may rue how many freebies I gave away before I discovered sex work, and he may need more hours in the day, but we both enjoy random encounters that leave all parties with smiles on their faces. Indeed, Carter has pointed out to me that when I do retire from sex work I will still have that random itch that needs scratching. Its not the biggest problem in the world, but, I know if I could never have that thrill of hot, horny, I really hope I never see you again, sex I would be disappointed.
I might therefore be seen as someone who fully supported the idea of slut walks, a movement which began when a Canadian policeman told young women not to dress like sluts as part of a rape prevention programme. Now the only rape prevention programme I would fully endorse is one that told men not to rape, but this, even by their usual shitty standards quite rightly caused huge anger and offence. From telling girls to not drink too much to telling them what to wear most rape prevention focuses on the idea that if only women would behave more “responsibly” instead of saying men are responsible for their actions.
However when slut walks first began I struggled with them, and each year they become more problematic, and oddly more slut shaming. It seems to never occur to the participants that a movement that began because of an objection to words about clothing have become all about a performance. To put it simply, clothes the slut do not make. This might seem irrelevant but last night as I saw tweets from the latest slut march the participants wanted to make clear that whilst they liked to wear a short skirt to appear daring, they were not of course sluts. It’s always been a movement of the respectable, the nice girls going a little bit wild, being naughty, white feminism’s very own Halloween.
The performative nature of the slut walks full of suggestions about which sex is acceptable, and which beyond the pale reminded me, oddly of this passage from the New Testament.
“When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get.
In our more secular society marches and activism can be the public prayer of the 1st century. Events like slut walk allow people to be where everyone can see them, to supposedly oppose the right things, whilst not actually challenging structural oppressions. What fun to dress up as a slut, since obviously a slut is seen by their dress and not their behaviour. The performance of opposing structural oppressions, the costume of activism. This is how we have a slut walk sponsored by an anti porn organization, or reclaim the night with whorephobic speakers. Whilst people may outwardly say they oppose the idea of judging women by their behaviour, they actually mean the good women whose behaviour conforms to patriarchal expectations.
I understand many people want to make their voice heard, and marches are a way, assuming they are not disabled, have funds, dont belong to a group who will be targeted by the police, that they can do that. All to often though, like the pharisee on the corner being heard as an individual, being seen in the right place, seems to be the only goal of the participants.