BLOG: Join the Sluts

Tomorrow sees not just Belfast Pride, but the first SlutWalk in Ireland.  London, New York and Toronto have all had women take to the streets in a 21st century version of Take Back the Night.

But Belfast isn’t quite as liberal as those other cities.  Even New Dehli’s SlutWalk is gaining more momentum than Belfast’s. For one, India’s parliament has the critical minority of one third women.  Northern Ireland has around 18%. Women are not quite equals here, and the refusal to acknowledge this by Stormont is a real problem.

SlutWalk’s main objective is to point out that women are the victims of rape. But for such a Christian place, Northern Ireland expects women to be the virtuous virgin, and if she looks remotely provocative she needs to take responsibility for the actions of others. For some reason “she was asking for it” is often cited as an excuse.  The idea of a girl going out in a tight dress and high heels, drinking too much is not a girl going out for fun, it is that she is looking for male attention.  And should she get a bit more than she had first wanted, well it is her own fault.

In 2010 Northern Ireland’s conviction rate for rape was one in fifteen. It isn’t that the support centres aren’t there for women, it is that they have one word against the other, and the man tends to get listened to much more often.

There’s been opposition to the idea of SlutWalk from women who dislike the word slut.  The problem is that there is no male equivalent to it.  Men are players or studs.  Women are slags and sluts.  In an attempt to be derogatory, the term “man-whore” can be used, but whore isn’t gender neutral.  If a woman wants to call herself a slut, then she can, but just because she says that doesn’t mean you can.

Belfast is different for marches, which is why there is only a contingent of Pride. It would have been nice to have the SlutWalk recognised on its own, but as it is meant to be sunny tomorrow let’s just hope for a good crowd supporting gay rights and condemning sexual violence.

  • pippakin

    The vast majority of victims of rape are not sluts but if they were it should make no difference.

    Good luck on the day.

  • Ní Dhuibhir

    Good luck! If I was in the country I’d be slutting it up with you.

  • Dec

    ‘In 2010 Northern Ireland’s conviction rate for rape was one in fifteen. It isn’t that the support centres aren’t there for women, it is that they have one word against the other, and the man tends to get listened to much more often.’

    Hope the march goes well but the statement above is ridiculous.

  • This is the incident which precipitated the first one of these:
    http://www.thestar.com/news/article/940665–cop-apologizes-for-sluts-remark-at-law-school

  • Hope the march goes well but the statement above is ridiculous

    No, I think the word you were looking for there Dec was “self-evident” rather than “ridiculous”. Surely the fact that the man wins in 92% of contested cases proves that it is his version which is being listened to by the PSNI and (if it even gets that far) in court?

    Good luck with the march Emma.

  • babyface finlayson

    The problem with slutwalk is its aims are confusing. If it is to highlight, as you say that women are the victims of rape, then what exactly is the point of the slut theme? If it is to reclaim the word slut well fair enough, but I’m not sure how many women want it really. Is it like black people being able to use the n….. word about themselves, but white people should not?
    On the rape issue, it has been said many many times before that women should of course be able to dress in any way they want without fear of rape. I should be able to step briskly onto a zebra crossing and expect all traffic to screech to a halt, but I might be foolish to do so.
    Also I have never ever heard anyone say ‘she was asking for it’. You have come across it often?

  • Independent Ulster

    Dressing like a slut, generally warrants a good reception from the male population. For biological reason we tend to like that sort of carryon.

    Of course it may lead to some unwelcome attention from some males who fail to understand that a slut (generally) likes to choose who she wishes to indulge in sexual activity with, at a time and place of her choosing, if indeed she wishes to indulge in it at all.

    Some of those males who have traditionaly failed to understand a slut’s right to choose have been in the judiciary, a profession with an unhealthy percentage of males and with it would seem little grasp of the vagaries of female sexuality and armed with a readiness to deliver the proverbial ‘she was asking for it’ for verdict if the opportunity arises i.e. the female victim did not have all her wanton flesh
    covered up from male viewers.

    But, and it is a sizeable but, what must be said, in the interests of female safety, is that dressing like a slut, just like walking home alone at night, whilst not inferring any
    moral culpability on the female may actually increase their chances of being attacked.

    I’m not sure marching up and down the street, in such welcome and delightful attire, is going to change anything, but as with our Orange brethern I strongly support their right to march as well as their right to choose.

  • Drumlins Rock

    “Surely the fact that the man wins in 92% of contested cases proves that it is his version which is being listened to by the PSNI and (if it even gets that far) in court?”

    The whole basis of our criminal legal system require a high standard of proof, beyond all reasonable doubt, this is difficult to achieve in any crime where it is entirely one persons word against another’s, unless their is a vast difference in the plausibility of the witnesses the judge and jury are bound by law to favour innocence.

    Aside from these legal points, the slut walk idea just dosn’t feel like the right way to tackle the issue to me, there has to be a better way to tackle these things, with a little less hype on both side, to start with can anyone say in what proportion of rapes is the victim dressed in such a manner, and would it have made any difference to the perpatrator?

  • Dec

    Oneill

    ‘Surely the fact that the man wins in 92% of contested cases proves that it is his version which is being listened to by the PSNI and (if it even gets that far) in court?’

    Well, if the man wins in 92% of contetsed cases then it’s obviously got to court so I’m not sure what point you’re making about the PSNI here. Clearly these rates are too low but is anyone seriously suggesting that in law, the weight of an individual’s evidence should be determined by their gender?

  • The comments above that mention the PSNI are being very unfair to the impartiality of the PSNI. Because the decisions in respect of the cases are not made by the PSNI but rather the CPS. You know that body that did Judge and Jury on the Iris Robinson gay remarks case, denying a proper judge or judge and jury decide. And the fact that it took so long to make that decision showed that it was not cut-and-dry no case to answer.

    The PSNI should not be shown in light of rape cases as to which side they listen to, the decision is not theirs to make.

  • Mark

    There are also cases of innocent men that have been falsely accused of rape . What would they call their walk . The my career is over because there’s no smoke without fire walk . This issue clearly needs to be addressed but I don’t think a slutwalk is the way forward . I don’t think it highlights any thing positive .

  • Mark

    Most normal men who have special women in their lives be they mothers , daughters , sisters , aunties , wives etc want to see their loved ones being a victim of a violent sexual assault . Its the worst thought a man can have . We would like to see justice one way or the other also .

  • Mark

    Typo ,

    do not want to see their loved ones etc …..

  • Why on earth a woman would want to self identify as a “Slut” is beyond me.

  • Alias

    The UK Home Office did research on almost 3000 allegations of rape a few years ago which found that 9% of them were classed by the police as false reports.

    Given the devastating consequences such an allegation can have on the person accused, and given that almost one in ten women maliciously make false reports to the police alleging rape, the real way for women who have been raped to be taken more seriously by the police and the courts is to discourage women from making false allegations.

  • Seamus

    “Well, if the man wins in 92% of contetsed cases then it’s obviously got to court so I’m not sure what point you’re making about the PSNI here. Clearly these rates are too low but is anyone seriously suggesting that in law, the weight of an individual’s evidence should be determined by their gender?”

    No. The major reasons for those statistics is that if the entire case is based on the word of the man against the word of the woman then there is clearly a reasonable doubt as to whether the man has committed the crime. If you are a member of the Jury, even if you believe the woman’s account over the mans, there is still reasonable doubt. And if there is a any reasonable doubt then you can’t convict him.

  • Comrade Stalin

    The “she was asking for it” defence should result in an automatic conviction. As would happen if a burglar used the same excuse for breaking into a rich man’s house.

    I think I understand the point of the “slutwalk” but I think it’s misdirected, but then we’re living in an age where music videos which are pretty much strategically-disguised soft porn are supposedly expressions of female confidence and independence.

  • fordprefect

    I agree with Pippa, good on them! And good on the gays as well! If this place is behind India in tolerance that tells you something. Remember prostitutes can and have been raped (and people were convicted of it). I think there is a male equivalent of “slut” they are usually called liars, dickheads or wankers!

  • Independent Ulster

    ‘wankers’?

    Some evident misunderstanding regarding sluts.

  • JAH

    In England the conviction rate is 6%. Whilst everyone would scratch their heads as to why it is so hard to obtain a conviction, Ulster is not quite the backward state the article presents.

    The low conviction rate has been an issue for a generation with no easy answers.

  • The whole notion of a ‘slut walk’ is utterly ridiculous.

    Yes rape is a horrible, evil thing. However no-one disagree’s with that, there is no issue of contention. People are protesting to say Rape is bad, but so what, everyone already agree’s with that.

    No-one blames women for getting raped, that kind of thing was left behind in the 70’s. This whole thing was started by a police officer giving out some sensible advice on avoiding getting raped.

    It’s similar to getting robbed. If you walk around the city centre at night with a laptop in your hands, you are more likely to get robbed. If you hid the laptop in a carrier bag you’d be less likely to get it robbed off you.

    This does not imply that it is your fault that you got robbed, it is just a practical tip if you wish to reduce your chances of getting robbed.

    Also the article author implies that sexual abuse/rape is something that only effects women and that is clearly not the case.

    To me the Slutwalk is a typical 21st century example of ‘slactivism’. It is a cause that everyone already agree’s with and has no real aims.

    If you really wanted to reduce rapes patrol the Holylands/University area in a high vis jacket and a flash light, it seems to me a poor girl is raped there every few months and it’s utterly disgusting but at the same time an obvious consequence of housing sex-offenders in a university housing area.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I don’t agree with that at all, Daniel. We can’t allow rape to be seriously considered to be merely a crime of opportunity.

  • Independent Ulster

    Comrade Stalin

    You say,

    “We can’t allow rape to be seriously considered to be merely a crime of opportunity.”

    As Ken Clarke pointed out before he was jumped on ‘rape’ covers a very wide spectrum and equally we cant simply pretend that the behaviour or a woman or how she dresses does not impact on the likelyhood of her being attacked, although that does not suggest culpability.

    Political correctness should not get in the way of a proper analysis.

  • grandimarkey

    I got into an argument with one of the organisers of the Glaswegian Slut-Walk a few months back on their Facebook page.

    I didn’t quite get the idea that the organisers wanted to ‘re-claim’ the word Slut. How can one reclaim a word one never had ownership of in the first place? The word Slut has always been a derogatory term, leaving only the option of co-opting or rebranding the term Slut. It seems like a pretty mammoth task.

    I was eventually banned from the Facebook page.

    Anyway, the Scottish wing’s pretty intolerant attitude to debate aside, I generally support anything that empowers women and reduces the likely-hood of rape (one of the most horrific crimes that can be perpetrated IMO) or the excuses for Rape.
    However, I’m not really sure if a Slut-Walk does any of those things…

  • Alias

    Good theory, Daniel, except that less than 4% of rapes occur in public places. Most occur in either the rapist’s home, the victims home, or in a home shared by them. The rest mainly occur at parties or in cars.

    But it would be interesting to see if rapes are higher in areas where sex offenders have been resettled than in areas where they haven’t. Common sense would suggest that there is a higher risk to women in those areas, depending on how mobile the offender is.

    Anyway, since the issue is whether or not the women is believed, then the issue of false reports is central to that. If women can be discouraged from making them then women who have been raped are less likely to be disbelieved. That is one culture change that could be engineered by women for women, rather than just defaulting to blaming men for everything that is wrong in the system.

  • Nunoftheabove

    I’m not clear whether they want to reclaim the word slut purely from males and for females or simply redefine it for everyone. A woman who is of her own volition highly promiscuous then that seems to me to be entirely a valid choice to make – she is entitled to be a free from any threat of rape and such protection as society is capable of giving her from it as anyone else – her promiscuity is neither here nor there or shouldn’t be – for men or for women. Likewise the distinction made (often by females as well as males, in my experience, perhaps slightly more so if anything) between a woman’s choice of clothing.

    Male society here has undeniable whore/madonna complex issues, deeply religious sections of society are, by and large, more afflicted by it than non-religious parts. Religion and the religious are answerable for that.

    If could get comfortable with their purpose/s as well as their modus operandi I might walk with them.

  • iluvni

    “Women are not quite equals here, and the refusal to acknowledge this by Stormont is a real problem”

    what a load of balls.

  • fordprefect

    Independent Ulster, I meant “wanker” in the widest sense of the word!

  • babyface finlayson

    Alias
    that figure of 4% is surprising. Do you have a link for it?
    If that is the case I am puzzled why the campaign is not doing more to highlight that rather than the confusing (in my opinion ) aims of slut walk.

  • TwilightoftheProds

    Slutwalk seems to be mostly about highlighting one aspect of rape – how women’s dress can be used as a crappy excuse for assault or to perhaps attempt to sow extra doubt in a few jurors minds in a trial. Its less reclaiming the word than throwing it back in people’s faces-they arent sluts they are men’s wives, daughters, sisters girlfirends, mates etc. I think thats fair enough. Some attitudes that still exist might surpirse people.

    Given the commentary a lot seems to be coming from male sluggerites. Glad to see that none of us are hypocrites, and all have pristine internet histories and hard drives.

  • Alias

    Babyface, it’s from a study called “Similarities and differences in women’s sexual assault experiences based on tactics used by the perpetrator”.

    “The most common locations that participants described were the perpetrators’s home (30.9%), the woman’s home (26.6%), a home belonging to both of them (10.1%), a party (7.2%), a vehicle (7.2%), outdoors (3.6%), or a bar (2.2%).”

    http://www.hawaii.edu/hivandaids/Similarities_And_Differences_In_Women_s_Sexual_Assault_Experiences_Based_On_Tactics.pdf

  • babyface finlayson

    Alias, thanks for that. I knew that most rapes are carried out by someone known to the victim.
    It makes sense to me to focus on those areas, instead of marching for something nobody is denying you in the first place.
    I, of course, am only a man, so what do I know.

  • wee buns

    ‘Tis to highlight the ‘unwritten rules of society’ is my understanding with the Slutwalk.
    Tongue in cheek of course. A tad provocative, and why not, given the issue.
    The ‘unwritten rules’ include: HE sows his wild oats, while SHE is deemed a slut, for daring to have a sexual appetite.
    These rules are endemic and need to be challenged although even the most progressive of female solitary will remind you NOT for pity’s sake, to wear anything less than strictly conservative clothing while appearing in court.

  • wee buns

    Typo – Female solicitors.

  • Pigeon Toes

    Ah but there rules for how “weemin” dress.

    “Chav”, “elegant”, Rock chick”, Mutton”, “sexy”, “demure”. “classic”, “demure” Business-like”, “casual” “with-a twist”…. ad infinitum

    Presumably in the mind of anyone committing such a crime their victims are”asking for it”

  • Alias

    Wee Buns, the relevant issue is promiscuity rather than socially pejorative attitudes to it. An application to introduce sexual history has to be made by the defence to the Court under UK law, and the Court will then decide if it is relevant or not. It would be relevant, for example, if the defendant claimed that sex was consentual and occured during a one-night stand, whereas the prosecution contended that the woman never had any one-night stands.

    Whether the woman is considered to be a ‘slut’ or a ‘stud’ is not relevant. The sexual history, however, is relevant. There is no evidence at all to support a claim that a jury is less or more likely to convict or acquit based on pejorative attitudes; and given that the gender of a jury is random, why should there be any such bias, cultural or gender-based?

    Also, it is simply nonsense to claim that assumptions about a person are not or should not be made based on their style of dress. Dress is a language, and we all know its code. You wouldn’t attend an interview for a job as a tax accountant wearing a pair of fishnet tights and a low-cut t-shirt, would you? No, but you would wear that outfit if you were working a red light district. There is a language to dress, and that can be relevant too. It isn’t evidence of anything, of course, but neither is someone winking at you evidence of anything…

  • Alias

    Babyface, I’d agree with you there. Given that sexual assault by strangers and sexual assault in public places is only applicable in a tiny account of cases, any assumptions that might be made based on a dress code in those cases totally misses the mark.

  • damon

    I was there yesterday and thought the slutwalk was hardly noticable. How would you apart from a few placards?
    I don’t care for the whole slutwalk thing – and here’s why:

    ”SlutWalk: a step in the wrong direction
    The protests against an apparent culture of violence towards women end up celebrating victimhood.”

    http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php/site/article/10524/

  • wee buns

    Alias
    ’Also, it is simply nonsense to claim that assumptions about a person are not or should not be made based on their style of dress.’’

    Quite so. Slutwalk merely exposes the assumptions in that position – the manner in which they reinforce old notions of how women are to be regarded and judged.

    Since feminism as a meaningful movement crashed and burned in the identity politics of the ’90s I’m afraid Slutwalk has no compelling meaning beyond it’s own spectacle.

    It is a parody, a play in which fishnets and underwear are celebrated as the garb that pull women into being seen as objects rather than subjects, to be constituted by the male gaze.

    However much of a ‘joke’ as this might be, it is also Slutwalk’s problem: a non-political event that cannot stand apart from the accumulated images of its construction; fetish gear, fishnets etc.

    Which is why this slut won’t be walking 😉

  • Comrade Stalin

    As Ken Clarke pointed out before he was jumped on ‘rape’ covers a very wide spectrum and equally we cant simply pretend that the behaviour or a woman or how she dresses does not impact on the likelyhood of her being attacked,

    In the absence of any evidence supporting this conclusion, I absolutely don’t accept that women do anything that influences their likelihood of being attacked. To me this sounds like an extension of plain old Victorian prudery, back in the age where abuse of all kinds was hidden by the admonishment “you must have done something to bring it on yourself”.

  • Stu DeNimm

    Criminy, I’d find a promiscuous woman’s testimony that she had been raped *more* damning to a defendant than a naive one’s. A woman who has been around is more likely than a demure one to have formed a clear intention whether or not to have sex with someone, to know how to say no clearly, and to have thought about what constitutes rape. Of course, I have no idea if this is what the slutwalkers mean to say.

  • wee buns

    CS
    Likewise. The whole ‘blame the fishnet stockings’ mindset is simply a form of whataboutry: an attempt to deflect criticism and responsibility for the crime.
    If it were not the fishnets, it would be the colour of her eye lash, or tone of voice when she said ‘no thanks’.

    Straightforward, justified anger as was expressed in 80’s by women’s marches ‘Reclaim the Night’ – I think the message was clear back then: NO to rape and domestic violence.

    Slutwalk’s problem, while drawing attention to notions of dress code & how women are judged, gets rather caught up in the..er.. fishnet, to the extent where the image has become indistinguishable from the reality.

    This muddies the issue and weakens the message.
    I always think it’s a mistake that the victim should allow itself to be defined by the enemy in any way.

  • Alias

    Has the alleged defence of “she was asking for it” every been used in a court? It’s a tad self-incriminating, isn’t it? Of course it has never been used as a defence since it isn’t a defence. Is it even a social attitude? Have you ever heard anyone say it? Have you ever thought it? I very much doubt it.

    The only social engineering needed here is one aimed at stopping a bunch of dumb students from bothering the rest of use with their neurotic angst and emergent social conscience.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Alias, the defence is being used, in a slightly more muted form, here in this discussion.

  • Independent Ulster

    Comrade Stalin,

    You say

    “In the absence of any evidence supporting this conclusion, I absolutely don’t accept that women do anything that influences their likelihood of being attacked. ”

    Let me give you a simple example – walking home alone at night. If you want ‘evidence’ try asking a few females what they think, unlike males, they wont simply be worried about being beaten up or robbed.

    You seem to be muddling accusations of women being culpable with suggestions that they are sensible.

  • wee buns

    Alias
    ”Has the alleged defence of “she was asking for it” every been used in a court? It’s a tad self-incriminating, isn’t it? Of course it has never been used as a defence since it isn’t a defence. Is it even a social attitude? Have you ever heard anyone say it? Have you ever thought it? I very much doubt it.”

    What planet do you reside on? This attitude is endemic. That it tends to take subtle forms only means that those who hold it realize it’s not acceptable in its crude form.

    IU
    Woman should be able to walk home at night. It’s male aggression that makes this dangerous, not women walking home.

  • Independent Ulster

    wee buns,

    You, like Comrade Stalin, are missing the point I am making.

    Is it sensible for women to walk home alone? The answer most women would give to that question is ‘No’, that is because we happen to live in a wolrd where ‘male aggression’ is not exactly unheard of.

    As I stated above there is a tendency to muddle suggestions that females should be sensible(given the world we live in) with spurious accusations (‘she was asking for it’) of women being culpable .

  • babyface finlayson

    Comrade Stalin
    Is it possible to say that women should use common sense when out at night, without being accused of blaming them for being raped?
    Say a woman is walking home alone. She can take a short cut through a dark alley or choose a longer better lit route. If she chooses the alley and is then raped, obviously she is in no way culpable, and is of course not ‘asking for it’. . But her behaviour has influenced the likelihood of her being attacked. Can you accept that?

  • wee buns

    IU
    Is the point not:
    Rape and male aggression is intolerable.
    As opposed to
    It’s intolerable that you might fall victim to aggression because of the stupidity of your actions.
    Think about it guys.

    Despite my criticisms of Slutalk’s confused message, it shows an urge to be radically political.

    The dilemma is about how to do this, in the current era.

    How would posters suggest women ‘frame’ protest against rape?

  • Independent Ulster

    wee buns,

    You say,

    “Is the point not:
    Rape and male aggression is intolerable”

    There are, as in most life situations, a number of points. Trying to close down a debate or to not discuss one or more points because it is not politically correct or suits some agenda is generally not the best way to proceed.

    Females, as a matter of course, observe sensible precautions when for example walking home, just saying that it is not the point – doesen’t change that.

  • Pigeon Toes

    Somewhere Benny Hill is still being shown and found “humorous”

  • carl marks

    I have to agree with grandimarkey here, whilst strongly supporting the walk and believing that no matter how a women is dressed they have the right walk unmolested wherever they want, I have two teenage daughters who go out to nightclubs etc and find the use of the word slut used towards them or any women for that matter unsettling. Having said that I hope this walk has a strong turnout and has a positive effect.

  • Mike the First

    wee buns

    Surely the message to children that they should “say no to strangers” doesn’t lessen that message that child abuse is intolerable?

  • wee buns

    carlmarx
    The slut word; while meaning to be attention grabbing and ‘jokey’ I think it backfires. Older/middle aged women do not even jokingly refer to themselves as sluts, but the younger ones seem to use it kinda liberally; almost feels like they are saying: ‘If we call ourselves sluts then we own it & nobody can hurt us’. Not true sadly.

    IU
    I’ve made a critique here of where Slutwalk’s failings and strengths lie but that’s not to shut down debate. Not involved in S-Walk personally, but I think it is an attempt to revamp ‘Reclaim the Night’ marches of the 70’s & 80’s, whose point was = angry rejection of violence against women.

    Women were marching to campaign NOT for more safety measures like street lights or policemen. Women’s experience is that they are threatened sexually despite sensible precautions being taken.
    To anyone who refuses to believe this, well there is nothing more I can say.

  • Independent Ulster

    wee buns,

    I agree with most of what you are saying about the slutwalk.

    In the context of the this debate, it is reasonable to point out, that certain aspects of female behaviour, although not inferring culpability(as has been pointed out repeatedly) may increase the chances of attack.

    Do you not agree with that?