“Slut Walks”–an odd way to Claim Privilege!

Davd ,  May,2011

Slut Walks” are a form of sexual harassment of men, by women. Their premise is that women are privileged to show off their sexuality anytime, anywhere, and any way they like; but men must suppress any natural sexual response to the show, unless and until the women inform them, in women’s rather than men’s dialect, that they are now to become sexual. If at any time a woman who has invited and accepted sexual responses from a man, decides she wants no more, the man must instantly, without rancor, and Nicely, cease to respond. 1

If that’s a picture of normal human sexuality, then what the Hell species do you and i belong to?

Normal human sexuality is a whole lot more consensual: It progresses from invitation through mutual stimulation and arousal to intercourse [for which a shorter Latin word that hasn’t yet been called obscene, is coitus]. The most normal kind of sexual encounter is the kind, between a man and a woman, which begins with erotic words, postures, movements, and display of sexuality, progresses through kissing, fondling and undressing, and ends with coitus and orgasm. That is the kind of sexual encounter which contributes to reproduction of the species—which, in case you didn’t learn evolution in school, is why sex exists in the first place—to reproduce the species. That’s why people—and cows, dogs, horses, pigs, sheep, and tigers, to name a few of hundreds of other species—do their various sexual processes. We are descended from ancestors who reproduced sexually; and our sexual response patterns evolved because they contributed to reproductive success.

(Sexual behaviour patterns which cannot contribute to reproduction are less normal than those which can—simply because reproduction is the evolutionary basis for “sex”.)

When foreplay does not lead to coitus, it is usual for one or both parties to state, sometime between the first kiss and the first touch to skin that was clothed at the time of that first kiss, “how far [s]he is willing to go”.  When one party says “stop”, or “no farther”, the other is not expected to suddenly sit up straight and fold her/his hands in her/his lap—it’s generally agreed that the normal progress from erotic kissing to coitus has inertia and that stopping erotic inertia, like stopping a freight train going downhill, should be done gradually and carefully. Back in the years when i was sexually active, it was commoner for women than for men to show first sexual interest, and to make the first utterance about limits.

That is consistent with women being “the more sexual sex”. Reproduction is more women’s work than men’s: Even the anatomies of the two genders proclaim this plainly and eloquently. Men have only one actively sexual organ, and even it functions also for urination—as witness the old Boy-Scout joke, “The penis is for putting out campfires with; and if you don’t believe it, just watch a girl try to piss out a fire.

Women have at least three and arguably four or five actively sexual organs: Two breasts, a clitoris, a uterus, a vagina 2. They function at different times in relation to men and infants3; and before the Industrial Revolution, few mothers enjoyed even half as many hours of intercourse as they did of breastfeeding. Before the Industrial Revolution, in agricultural and most horticultural societies, both men and women normally dressed so as to cover their sexually active organs [which usually included covering the upper thighs], and showed their sexual interest only within marriage and [in some cultures but not all] during the process of selecting a marriage partner.4

The practice of limiting sexual display and foreplay to marriage and spouse selection is often called modesty. (There are other, non-sexual practices that also are called modesty—for instance, not boasting about one’s ability, achievements, good looks, or wealth.) Modesty is a virtue.

The display of sexuality by words, postures, movements, and display of sexual body-parts, naturally invites those who see the display, to “foreplay”—an old and respectable term for the kissing, fondling and undressing, that lead to coitus. It is natural for men to respond to a woman’s display of sexuality—which includes showing the breasts and posing the body in “sexy ways”, as well as the use of erotic words—with foreplay. Where  foreplay is not welcome, it is virtuous, decent conduct to dress, pose, and choose words—modestly. There is good semantic and psychological reason to call “Slut Walks”, indecent.

The commonest antonym of virtue is vice. From this we can semantically infer that deliberate acts of  immodesty, including Slut Walks, are vicious. It is at least a little vicious, simply to flaunt in public “I can get away with indecency” (which implicitly adds “because I’m privileged and you have to defer to my wishes”.) If men respond to the erotic display of strange women “indecently”—if indecency responds to indecency—the explicit demand of these “slut walkers” is that the men be punished for the same level of indecency they claim as their privilege5.

Foreplay among more than two people is imaginable but unusual; normally foreplay leads to coitus, and coitus is a two-person activity. (Sexual display in public would then logically be for the purpose of attracting several potential mates, among whom one would normally be selected and the others rejected. Among people of elite and bourgeois social class, the public to whom one’s sexuality is displayed is limited, the venue carefully chosen, and chaperones are normally present not to forestall but to channel the resulting attractions.)

Sexual display in public that cannot reasonably lead to selecting a partner, is without its usual or natural purpose6. Frankly, Muslim modesty costumes, while some may take modesty beyond what is necessary, are much preferable to showing one’s sexuality to people one has no intention of “foreplay-ing with”; or at times and places where foreplay cannot reasonably follow.

Public sexual display tends naturally to elicit sexual interest. Anyone who knows the modern meaning of “slut”7 can be inferred to know that; and it’s common knowledge that women often make an effort to get men’s attention (cf Armstrong, 2008: ch 3). Eliciting interest with no thought of responding to that interest, is fraudulent—or else it is deliberate harassment—if one knows interest will be elicited. “Slut walkers” do indeed seem to know they will elicit interest. Harassment, then, is the more plausible “reason why they do it”, rather than fraud.

“Slut Walks” make a claim that women have a right to harass men with sexual displays, gestures and remarks. If men were to harass women to the same level, would the men be punished?

If women can harass men to an extent that men are forbidden to harass-back—is that gender equality or inequality? (yes, that was also a rhetorical question.)

Slut Walks are a flaunting of privilege—of women’s privilege to harass men, and men’s obligation not to harass them in return. CBC News, reporting on the first “Slut Walk” on April 3, stated:

In January, Toronto Police Const. Michael Sanguinetti told a personal security class at York University that “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”

Sanguinetti apologized for his comments, but his apology failed to satisfy walk organizer Sonya Barnett.

“It was evident that if you’re going to have a representative of the police force come out [and say that] then that kind of idea must be still running rampant within the force itself and that retraining really needs to happen to change that mentality,” she said.

What unacceptable kind of idea? That women ought to behave modestly? Is it really unacceptable? for men to tell women they ought to be modest? … and acceptable to flaunt gender privilege while giving fraudulent lip service to “gender equality”? (or did i miss noticing that some of these Slut Walkers don’t even say they  advocate gender equality??)  I doubt the people who are concerned with Animal Welfare would let even women (much less men), treat dogs or horses that selfishly and teasingly.

The only unacceptable thing that i noticed—if anything—in the Constable’s remark, was “a naughty word”. All the Constable should be retrained to do—if anything—is choose a somewhat more polite (and in context of the “slob” meanings, less ambiguous?) way of making his point. The point, as elaborated above, is valid: Sexual display invites sexual attentions—so if you don’t want to be “hit on”, be modest (Armstrong, 2008: 30)8.

The “Slut Walk” advocates show me a much greater need for retraining than the Toronto Police do, especially if Sanguinetti is the worst the police have to offer. They need to learn why a century ago, modesty was an important concept. (Has the “slob” aspect of the word degraded their appreciation of human sexuality? or of their responsibility not to harass others by sexual display?) Might Slut Walks be telling us that a subset of women, how large a subset we don’t yet know, are willing to exploit as much privilege as they can get, and think Blaming the Victim is just mellow fine as long as the victim is a man and the abuser is a woman9?

I suggest men treat Slut Walks like an alarm going off—smoke alarm, intrusion alarm, pick your metaphor—and demand that legislatures act to remove laws that privilege women. As Charles Corry (2011) recently pointed out, we have many more than too many laws already10; and getting some removed [along with the “ignorance is no excuse” premise which has demanded the impossible for decades] would be a good first step toward restoring sanity and manageability to legal systems. Any time we are treated by law or Government as legally or morally inferior to women, maybe we should get three or more men together and go complain to the legislator’s constituency office. Maybe we should dress in mourning and have a Fairness Walk before the scheduled time of any “Slut Walk”. (Maybe some of you readers have some further good ideas to add ….)

Const. Sanguinetti, i would rather like to meet; me-thinks we share a lot of practical common sense. “Slut Walkers” who flaunt a claim to privilege—a privilege of public immodesty that no one should have, that is against both gender equality and the public interest—could they perhaps benefit from six months under Sharia as their re-education?

Will some lawyer reading this, who believes in gender equality, kindly charge dozens of women who tease men sexually and never have the slightest intention to follow through normally, with sexual harassment? A “Slut Walk” could be one good place to begin.

Some References cited:

  • Armstrong, Alison, 2008. Making Sense of Men. Sherman Oaks, California: PAX Programs Inc.
  • CBC Radio News, April 3, 2011
  • Corry, Charles E., 2011. EJF newsletter - Faux convictions. May 31.
  • Griffin, John Howard, 1960.  Black Like Me. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Signet paperback, 1961.
  • Morgan, Elaine 1973 The Descent of Woman.  NY: Bantam.
  • “Wiktionary”, 2011 [http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/slut], accessed June 2
1 – The important difference to Griffin’s (1960) Black Like Me, is that when he changed from socially “White” to socially “Black”, Griffin was always forbidden to show sexual interest in white women. This is a simpler and more consistent demand. Within the context of a “Slut Walk”, men generally in 2011 are being commanded by activist Feminists, to behave as Griffin discovered that “Black” men were required to behave in the Southeastern US in the 1950s. “White” women who dared to parade their sexuality could not then object to erotic teasing-back from “White” men, but could ask and often get horrible punishment imposed on “Black” men who did likewise.
2 – in alphabetical order: Note that i haven’t named either ovaries or testes, which provide the gametes but do not “act” observably during foreplay and coitus: In some species, including as i recall rabbits, ovulation is triggered by coitus. This is not the case among humans. Interestingly, women living together menstruate in synchrony—which implies that they ovulate in synchrony, and have synchronous cycles of sexual interest. This would normally mean that if they are “involved in mate selection”, they will be sexually coupling, each with a different man, at the same approximate time. Menstrual and ovulatory synchrony contribute to monogamy and act against promiscuity—an indication that monogamy is normal to humans.
3 – This essay is written principally for men; and the writer is very far from being “Lesbian”, so only heterosexuality, with its potential to perpetuate the species, will be considered here. If one wishes to be rigorous, one might indeed argue that homosexuality is titillation but not real sex… and also “cock teasing”, which goes beyond mere display, implies but denies coitus, and probably deserves its own posting.
4 – Societies in which public display [mostly of breasts] has been customary, have been located in the tropics, mostly small hunting-gathering societies and a few small horticultural and fishing societies. In these societies, everyone knows everyone else and has since birth. I suspect a connection to the Israeli observation that people in kibbutz who sat on the potty chairs next to one another back when they were being toilet trained in the communal nursery [a very efficient system where the mothers of the children somehow shared work assignments]–almost never courted or married. There is a hint there about the ethology of the incest taboo.We can observe that in Arabia and India, which are definitely hot enough at some times of year, both men and women wear light, loose, non-revealing clothing in public rather than go naked. I cannot recall seeing records or photographs of bare breasts in public in  China or Japan, either.
5 – There is a parallel double standard of violence that existed 50-60 years ago, (and apparently, long before then.) My boyhood playmates and i would occasionally get kicked-in-the-shins, hard, by a girl who then danced away chanting “Can’t hit a gir-rul, can’t hit a gir-rul”. Many parents discouraged their daughters from this kind of aggression (some mothers seemed to believe that such aggression was a legitimate way for girls to respond to merely verbal insults); but boys who fought-back after being attacked were generally punished more harshly than girls who attacked. The double standard of childhood verbal insulting was less clear, but again, favoured girls.
6 – Armstrong (2008: 30) states it this way: “Some women who have high levels of sexual energy make the mistake of broadcasting it widely. This causes them to get ‘hit on’ by lots of men, including plenty they’d rather not hear from! Unfortunately, they then blame the men—who are just responding to them!” A comment on sexual display made before Slut Walks began to occur, by a woman who values long-lasting relationships and makes her living helping people achieve them.
7 – Wictionary gives the etymology of slut: “First attested in 1402 CE, with the meaning untidy woman; cognate with the Dutch slodder, dialectal Swedish slata (idle woman). From the Late Middle English slutte, from slut (mud); of uncertain origin beyond that. Compare the dialectal Norwegian slutr (sleet, impure liquid).” Originally, then, “slut” was the feminine of “slob”. Some of the photographs of “slut walks” are consistent with this older meaning, as are some of the definitions given by Wictionary. The first listed is “a sexually promiscuous woman or girl”; the third, “a prostitute”, the fourth, “a slovenly, untidy person, usually a woman,” and the fifth, “a bold, outspoken woman.” (The second refers to male homosexuality and is outside this discussion.)
8 – As for the “slob” meaning, i don’t encourage nor discourage women from dressing like slobs in public. It depends on what they’re doing; and if they’re weeding a garden, for instance, why dress up? I wouldn’t.
9 – The harassment a “Slut Walk” constitutes is minor compared to false accusations of rape, US examples of which are documented in abundance on a website named “The False Rape Society”.
10 – “It is impossible to know all the laws and their ramifications. At the time the federal Constitution was implemented there were only a few federal crimes, e.g., killing a federal judge, treason, etc. Today even the U.S. Attorney for the 10th Circuit doesn’t know how many federal crimes there are but estimates around 4,500. But ignorance of the law is no defense in court, even when it comes to vague, obscure, or densely-written laws.”


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About Davd

Davd Martin (Ph.D., 1966, Sociology) has been a professor, a single parent on a low income from a small commercial herb garden, and editor of _Ecoforestry_. His men's-interest essays and blogs have appeared on "The Spearhead" "A Voice for Men", and "False Rape Society", as well as this site.
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