Story by Crystal Adams-King
Photos by Lissette Mendoza-Tapia
“I’ve been told I’m not supposed to say this – however, women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized,” said Michael Sanguinetti, a Toronto Police officer, to 10 students at Osgoode Hall Law School on personal safety.
Those few words started an international movement.
Through outraged posts on social media and comments calling for action, the Slutwalk was born as women (and some men) took the streets to voice their opinion.
The movement was created initially to provide a platform for women to openly stand against societal norms forced upon them, and the reclaiming of the term “slut.”
Although the first Slutwalk took place in Canada in 2011, the cause has since sprouted movements to take place in prominent areas such as New York, California and Argentina.
A girl can be perceived as overtly sexy for many reasons including those that may be out of her control. The way she dresses, her sexual orientation, engaging in premarital sex, even expressing interest in an abortion can cause a victim to criticized just for communicating their individuality.
“Just being me doesn’t mean you can have your way with my body,” explained Leslie Harris, a founding member of The Confident Queen Project, a women’s empowerment group. “I am a free, sexual being. People just don’t find value in being a human being anymore. Just because I’m drunk does not give you consent to take advantage of me. Have respect.”
With so many perceptions of the word slut it’s easy to pin the insult on various victims, primarily women.
“Just because I am wearing a short skirt or a tight dress does not mean I’m a slut. Even if my nipples are showing, it’s just me expressing how I’m feeling that day. I’m not asking for sex. The word slut is too easily thrown around. It’s like if you want to make a girl feel bad, grab some friends and call her a slut,” said Harris.
One of the more popular Slutwalks took place in Los Angeles on Saturday, October 1, 2016 and was endorsed by reality-celebrity Amber Rose.
Harris attended the event in hopes of raising the awareness of the harsh world of sexual assault. Attendees and vendors filled the streets of Pershing Square. Among the vendors selling wares was Romance and Dance Pole Aerobics, a sexy pole-dancing gym alternative.
Romance and Dance’s owner Phee Manuel stood up for women’s rights, saying the way women are viewed in America is a “double standard and unfair to women across all backgrounds and ages.” Manuel now owns three establishments, including one in which she encourages women to be sexy and be free.
On the other hand, the Slutwalk received much criticism for the “shallowness” of the event.
“When it comes to the Slutwalk, it’s a lot of hype,” said Katie Heaton-Smith, a psychology professor at LBCC. “One event hosted by a celebrity is not a movement. People might leave feeling good about themselves but now what? A day long movement isn’t going to erode illogical deep seated prejudice. It’s going to take individual movements and education.”
Heaton-Smith explained that it was only 40 years ago in the 1970s that unmarried women were allowed to receive birth control, and that was the beginning of women being accepted as sexual beings.
“Talk about the issues more than once a year. Educate through our actions. Be a crusader and teach the children about appropriate and inappropriate behavior. Don’t neglect how much progress we’ve made so quickly,” Heaton-Smith said.
“It’s sad that for one day a year, a girl will take off her clothes and hold up a sign pleading for sexual equality and freedom , but what about the other 364 days?” said Briana Nichols, a 24-year-old resident of Long Beach who also attended the LA Slutwalk. “The Slutwalk has become more of a statement for attention rather than a statement for change.”
According to the Rape Abuse Incest National Network, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, “One out of every six American women have been the victim of either an attempted or completed rape. Every 109 seconds there’s another victim of assault.”
Acting on sexual perceptions is a learned behavior. Avoiding these taught traits starts with education at home, and parents or guardians stepping up to nurture the child’s self-esteem so that child may grow up respectable towards others differences and tolerable to open sexual freedom.