How A Victim-Blaming Cop Inspired Slutwalk

Illustration for article titled How A Victim-Blaming Cop Inspired Slutwalk

Remember the Toronto police officer who told an audience that if women wanted to avoid rape, they should not dress like "sluts"? That's how Slutwalk was born.


Let no opportunity be missed to turn a fail into an opportunity: On April 3, Toronto women will march to police headquarters. There's also a Boston event. (The officer has apologized, but organizers say they want the police to be more accountability on how officers are trained to deal with sexual assault.)

It's also an excellent moment to remind anyone who needs it — and sadly many do — that people get sexually assaulted regardless of what they wear, that most sexual assault occurs between people who know each other, and that dressing "like a slut" is not an invitation to rape. Here's Toronto Star columnist Heather Mallick wondering what she should wear to such an affair:

SlutWalk will feature people in all sorts of garments and gear, dressed for the office, clubbing, yoga, walking the dog, whatever it is that people wear as they go about their lives not asking to be raped. It is a message of love and strength to all women (and men), especially those who have been assaulted at the core of their being.

Writing in the Guardian on a related topic, Hadley Freeman goes further, headlining her piece, "Rape is not a compliment." And really, isn't that the implication behind mixed messages that women shouldn't dress like sluts and yet should always look sexy?

Among examples like the upsetting UK case of a "family man" raping 203 elderly people and the Times coverage of the eleven-year-old gang-raped child and how she "dressed older" is a more benign, but still terrifying, one from Freeman's own life: When she was stalked.

Everyone was very sympathetic, but five times out of 10, their first question was, "So did you sleep with him?" Now, I could take it as a compliment that 50% of the seemingly sensible people who know me think that my sexual skills are such that I could cause a man to become mentally ill. But this would require extra-strength blinkers to stop me from seeing the obvious truth that this non-compliment contains within the hard nugget of misogyny-– namely, that women who are sexually harassed have brought it on themselves, either through their looks or behaviour.

...Rape and sexual harassment are not compliments doled out only to the beautiful and alluring. They are an extreme form of bullying, and they can, tragically, happen to anyone.


Only a society that puts so much obsessive value on a woman's sexual appeal could consider violation a compliment, as if it was primarily based on one's irresistible qualities.

What To Wear For Slutwalk [Toronto Star]
Slutwalk Set To Strut Past Queen's Park To Police HQ On April 3 [Toronto Observer]
Rape Is Not A Compliment [Guardian]


Kat Callahan

The damage here is twofold. Every time we talk about women being raped or sexually harassed because of what they are wearing or how the present themselves, we also suggest that such things are necessary for rape or sexual harassment to happen, and we further marginalise male victims of both.

"Oh silly men, you can't be raped. You are not sexy enough to be asking for it."

I hope there are plenty of men who go on this walk, showing that the true face of the rape victim includes the male face.