The Lady Garden

Tea and Strumpets

Why I’ll be Marching

The first time I was ever called a slut, it was by my brother. I was 14, and a virgin. He objected to the shirt I was wearing, which I was accessorising with jeans and sneakers. It was my boyfriend’s shirt, and I guess it was too see-through, or I had too many buttons unbuttoned, or something, hence the epithet posh slut.

The next time was my boyfriend. He like to throw it around quite liberally. “You can’t go out dressed like that, you look like a slut.” “Why are you five minutes late? I bet you’ve been out slutting it up” “Why do you bother flirting like that, no one would want a stupid slut like you.” The last time he called me a slut was while he hurled a vase at my head.

After that, it was another boyfriend. He used it….differently. I didn’t hate it quite so much. But still, the first time he said it, I stiffened, upset. Wondering if it meant that on some level, he hated me. It didn’t of course, and he meant it in an entirely different way.

I’ve been called it a thousand times. I’ve asked over, and over again, how many people I have to have slept with to deserve the title. 100? 1000? 10? In the past year? 1, 3, 5? Does it make a difference if I’ve been in a relationship? No one has ever been able to answer. Shouldn’t something as important as this have a definitive number? If all women are either Madonnas or Whores, shouldn’t you be able to tell us which we are?

I’ve been called slut by a group of old men, by other women, once, fantastically, by a toddler. I have been repeatedly harrassed with phone calls and emails reminding me I am nothing but a worthless slut.

And you know what? None of that had anything to do with my clothes. None of it really had to do with me, except maybe that third example. It has everything to do with the fact that I (mostly) project myself as a woman comfortable with myself and my sexuality. That I am not scared to flirt, or ask for what I want.

And I am not putting up with it anymore. What I wear does not belong to you, anymore than who I sleep with. It wouldn’t matter if I was wearing these. Because it doesn’t matter. Assault isn’t about how we look, and calling me a slut is all about you, not me. It’s about you being intimidated by women who like sex. I can like sex how I like it, and I will put what I want on my body, from assless chaps to a nun’s habit, and you know what? None of that is any of your business. Stop policing women’s bodies, and stop making excuses for rapists.

I’ll be marching. Join me:

June 25 – Slutwalk Aotearoa protest, Auckland Chapter. More info.

June 25 – Slutwalk Aotearoa protest, Wellington Chapter. More info.

44 responses to “Why I’ll be Marching

  1. Jackie Clark May 12, 2011 at 9:32 am

    Bravo. Bravo, bravo, bravo. I’ve never been called a slut. Even when there was intention of sexual violence, and perhaps that’s why I always refer as that period in my 20’s when I was wild and free as my slutty period. It’s a way of owning my sexuality at that age, but also it’s by way of defiance. I intend to be out there walking. I only wish I had those red heels to do it in.

  2. Tamara May 12, 2011 at 9:35 am

    Absolutely! Thanks for sharing this. I am not on facebook, any chance I can get the details for Auckland some other way?

  3. Emma May 12, 2011 at 9:39 am

    And I’ll be flying to Wellington so I can march as well. My clothes are not “unfortunate choices”, and nor do they send messages. They’re clothes, they don’t even have a telegraph. I send messages by talking, which I’m unafraid to do. Even to people who want to tell me that my clothing choices are “damaging to women”.

  4. M May 12, 2011 at 9:57 am

    Well said! I also think that men more commonly display stereotypical ‘slut’ behaviour than women. There’s such as huge double-standard.

    It makes my heart ache to hear the way you have been treated. Such silly little boys. But maybe it has also made your stronger?

    BTW love the shoes!

    • tallulahspankhead May 12, 2011 at 10:08 am

      What’s slut behaviour, though? Sleeping around? Yeah, there’s a massive double standard, but I actually don’t think it is particularly bad for anyone to do that. Providing one is engaging in safe and consensual sex, where’s the problem?

      And ultimately, yeah, it probably did make me stronger. Which doesn’t mean I don’t have weeks where I want to run away and hide from the world. It also doesn’t mean that, when confronted with these situations now, I am any better at dealing with them.

      • M May 12, 2011 at 1:53 pm

        Not just sleeping around. I think it has a lot to do with respect for yourself AND your partner(s), or rather, the lack of it. I cringe when I see young women trying to make themselves into something they are not for someone who will not treat them with respect.

        And I agree on “sleeping around”; it’s not about how many partners a person has had, more about how they treated them.

        • tallulahspankhead May 12, 2011 at 3:13 pm

          I am very wary of questioning why anyone is engaging in any kind of sexual activity. I’ve had any number of unfortunate sexual experiences, whether because I was lonely, drunk, horny, needed to feel affection, insecure, or just felt like it. And some of those circumstances have led to fantastic times, too. I’ve done things having absolutely no respect for myself, and little respect for the other people involved. That still doesn’t make me a slut. It still doesn’t give anyone the right to suggest that I’m less of a person for those experiences, that I deserve anything bad to happen to me.

  5. Steve Withers May 12, 2011 at 11:03 am

    I hate the word “slut”. Most of the guys who use the word should get down on their knobbly knees, wipe the spittle from their mouths and straggly beards, and give thanks to the generous, big-hearted (or merely not choosy) women who share their feminine charms with them in any way. These miserable sods would live in a greyer world and remain virgins far longer than they would otherwise if it weren’t for these amazing women.

    All Bow Down. I’m serious.

  6. azlemed May 12, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    some friends said my wee 5 year old was dressed slutty recently, she was wearing a t shirt and a short skirt… shes 5 ffs, nothing slutty about it. I havent been called a slut and I am sure its bloody hurtful to be. why do people think they can just throw this word around like confetti…

    • Tamara May 13, 2011 at 10:19 am


      • azlemed May 13, 2011 at 11:04 am

        can’t say I was very impressed, shes a lovely wee girl and short skirts are fine imho. they are very judgemental about what people wear and I have heard them make comments about others too, but to say that about a 5 year old…

        • Muerk May 13, 2011 at 12:22 pm

          People are so mean. Man, when I was 5 I would run about buck naked in the summer. Ahh… the joys of life prior to people worrying about skin cancer. Personally I think we are far too prudish when it comes to clothes. I have no problem with nakedness in children and bare tops for adults.

          One thing with my boys is that they are very cuddly with my breasts. They see them as a mummy/food/comfort thing rather than a sexual thing. So when they see a naked woman in the media they don’t see her breasts as sexual but as maternal. For them boobs are about love. I often wonder how they’ll manage when they click about the sexual way breasts are viewed in our culture.

          • azlemed May 13, 2011 at 2:11 pm

            my kids are very use to seeing my boobs too… and I arent bothered about it, I just thought “shes 5, she can wear what she is comfortable in” there is plenty of time for her to develop her own sense of dress without negatives like this on it.

        • Muerk May 13, 2011 at 2:49 pm

          Actually what does bother me about children’s clothes are when they aren’t dressed warm enough. You see small shivering blue children who need warmer clothes quite often. And heeled, strappy sandals on little girls which means they can’t run around and play. Pretty shoes are okay for sometimes and dressing up, but for everyday – no. It’s too limiting.

          • azlemed May 13, 2011 at 4:22 pm

            yeah the kids walking to school in sandals or barefeet, its late autumn, mine have to wear socks and shoes, and they dont own any thing with a heel. If I am cold them I make them put more clothes on. merino is a big fave too cos then I know they are warm.

  7. ludditejourno May 12, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    Love it 🙂
    If sex is up there with about the most fun you can have with someone else, then why on earth is having “lots” of it (whether that means with one other person, or lots of other people) if it’s consensual, a bad thing?

    “Slut” is just a tool of controlling women’s sexuality. Nothing more, nothing less. I’ve been reclaiming it for years – if it means I like sex – guess what, it fits 🙂

  8. tallulahspankhead May 12, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    For an alternative view on Slutwalk, this is a lovely piece. I’m still formulating my thoughts on it, and while I agree with a lot of what she says, I think you can sit on both sides of the fence.

    • Emma May 12, 2011 at 3:35 pm

      Yeah, I totally support her point of view, and her reasons for her choice. And is there anyone slut-walking who wouldn’t? And doesn’t that, in itself, rather undermine her calling it a “them or us” movement? And… isn’t there a slight implication at the end there that if you Slutwalk, you can’t do other kinds of activism?

      This is the thing about us thoughtless individualists. We don’t mind if you don’t want to join in. That’s absolutely fine, we’re not going to think any less of you. All we’re asking is acceptance of our right to do what feels right to us. All reclamation of abusive terms is fraught. I’m not 100% happy with ‘queer’ as a positive term, but I don’t get to tell people who are happy to use it that they shouldn’t.

      Also, “stop and think”? Srsly? That’s not a teeny bit condescending? Again, how short does my skirt have to be before I’m “seemingly copying its [rape culture’s] actions?

      The more I read and mull on that piece, the more problematic I find it. The “what happens when you google” angle could be used to ban talking about anything ever in any context – it’s the way rape support groups got banned on LiveJournal.

      • tallulahspankhead May 12, 2011 at 4:03 pm

        The more I think about it, the more it bothers me. I don’t like the reclamation of Slut, either, and I have a half written piece about this. But that’s not up to me. If other women (or indeed, men) want to use it about themselves, more power to them.

        I completely understand what she’s saying, and her reasons for not attending. But to me, I am FED UP. I am bored of having this conversation, with everyone from random men in bars, to my mother. (srsly. “you shouldn’t put yourself in dangerous situations, because something bad might happen to you, and ‘some girls’ do.”) I am sick of talking, I’d like to yell, even if just for an hour.

        And yes, there is a total suggestion that if you attend a slutwalk, you negate your right to complain about rape culture in the newspaper. (I prefer to complain about rape culture in real life, myself. And loudly.)

        It’s also worth remembering this (from the original Toronto website):

        We are asking you to join us for SlutWalk, to make a unified statement about sexual assault and victims’ rights and to demand respect for all. Whether a fellow slut or simply an ally, you don’t have to wear your sexual proclivities on your sleeve, we just ask that you come. Any gender-identification, any age.

        I won’t be in my “skimpies”. I’ll like be in jeans, heels, and a slutty, cleavagey top. Which is what I wear to work most days. If that means people won’t listen to me, well, that’s not my problem. It’s the problem of the people who aren’t listening, and maybe, yes, just maybe, there’s a small chance we can get them to listen.

        • Emma May 12, 2011 at 4:39 pm

          It’s JUNE IN WELLINGTON! how skimpily dressed could you possibly be?

          • tallulahspankhead May 12, 2011 at 5:22 pm

            Maybe we should have some drinks beforehand? Which will have the added bonus of making us drunken sluts.

        • Jackie Clark May 12, 2011 at 6:07 pm

          Being sluttish and slatternly used to mean that one was dirty in one’s appearance and housekeeping – always attached to women, of course. Which makes me of a sluttish disposition on both scores. I think that article makes mention of this previous meaning? I understand her reasoning for not wanting to go and I had thought about not going because, really, I seem to have done a truckload of marching in the 80’s and I don’t do them so much anymore. But I think this one is worth it for a couple of reasons. Firstly, that the word is still being thrown around to hurt and denigrate women appalls me. It seems to me to be one of those equal opportunity words – used to justify sexual violence, but also as a marker of one woman’s distaste for another woman. Can we just not stop that shit already?
          And secondly, I’ll be walking because I think it may be time to remind people that it still isn’t safe to be a woman – in whatever garb you choose to don.

    • Isabel May 12, 2011 at 9:42 pm

      I can’t get comfortable with that article – it seems to be saying that wearing a short skirt, while not an invitation to rape, is Bad For The Cause and we won’t get taken seriously unless we button to the neck. Policing what I wear because people won’t listen to my voice if I look wrong is not that different from policing what I wear because people won’t respect my bodily autonomy if I look wrong.

      I’d love to come up and march with you all but it’s my kid’s birthday that day so I’m staying here to hang with him instead.

    • Muerk May 13, 2011 at 11:32 am

      I’ve felt really conflicted about this whole thing, and this article kind of articulated it for me. Not the rape culture bit, because then we could almost never talk about issues surrounding rape in case it encouraged rape culture, but the use of the word “slut”.

      For me “slut’ is a word that I don’t feel is reclaimable. It’s like the n-word, I just don’t want to use it. Partly, for me, is the way the word feels in the mouth. It’s hard word, all edges and sneer. I loathe the word “tit” purely on aesthetic value, so I would point out I’m weird this way. Slut is just a nasty, cruel word and frankly it can bog off.

      • tallulahspankhead May 13, 2011 at 11:54 am

        Like I say, I’ll have a post in a couple of days, saying much the same thing. I hate it as a word. It’s a misogynist, hateful word.

        But. Two things. First of all, I am not in charge of what anyone else chooses to reclaim. If someone wants to use it to refer to themselves, and finds power in that, then good on them. If they can divorce themselves from how the word can and is used, brilliant. All I can do is ask that they don’t use it to refer to me – or at least, not in seriousness.

        Because, secondly, context is key. I would have no major problem, jokingly using it with Emma – and probably have. And the kinds of conversations we have (usually while drinking) kind of lend themselves to it. Which is why i am OK with slutwalk. We’re not inviting people to call us sluts. We’re saying – those attitudes you hold about women? They’re not OK.

        • Muerk May 13, 2011 at 12:12 pm

          “I am not in charge of what anyone else chooses to reclaim. If someone wants to use it to refer to themselves, and finds power in that, then good on them.”

          Yeah, I agree which is why I wouldn’t criticise the Slutwalk. And I completely agree with the premise of the action – there is no way that the way someone dresses can make a sexual assault acceptable or even understandable.

  9. scube' May 12, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    I will be wearing scrubs.
    Because in the same way that dressing like a slut doesnt invite attack, dressing in a professional uniform doesnt prevent it.
    Kia Kaha

  10. gherkinette May 13, 2011 at 12:23 am

    I’m thinking about editing my piece as I’ve realised that I haven’t made it clear enough that my objections to Slutwalk are mainly based on what the people involved in SlutWalk London (and only London) have said to me personally when I asked for more clarification on the event. But unfortunately Blogger is down right now and I can’t do anything.

    I am not saying you can only do one thing. I’m saying that I’m doing it differently and that I’ve been fielding some pretty tough comments about my rapes from people who aren’t as au fait with feminism since this movement started so much press. It’s been a hard week fielding FB messages from people I haven’t see for 5 years telling me they always knew I only got raped because I was a vile faced slut who always walked like a slut and they’re allowed to call me that now, they saw it in the newspaper.

    I’m writing from the perspective mainly of how non feminists view this movement, not how well educated self identified feminists view the various waves of the movement. Is this universally helpful as a movement or is confusing people who don’t know much about it? I’m not judging anyone fro taking part. I’m just explaining that not walking doesn’t mean I’m doing nothing. Hope that cleared up things if anyone thought I was judging them.

    • tallulahspankhead May 13, 2011 at 7:20 am

      Ugh, blogger. WordPress is where it is at. 🙂

      I am so sorry you’ve had to go through that. I hope you have unfriended these people.

      Thank you for commenting – I didn’t think you were judging, and I really do understand where you are coming from – and would hate to suggest you’re not doing anything.

      As I say, I have issues with reclaiming the word slut. But I tend to hope that slutwalk creates a conversation about it, and about the way women are labelled and they way we’re treated. I doubt anything we do can be universally helpful. And as I say, I am bored of not being listened to. And I don’t think not being listened to has anything to do with my spectacular cleavage, and more to do with the fact that I have breasts at all. It’s not my job to teach people, and if slutwalk helps someone find out about sex-positivity, then fantastic. If it reinforces someone feeling free to call me a slut – well, they already were, so what have I lost?

      I think there is, of course, definitely room for both approaches. I will march, I will rant, and I will write here.

    • Muerk May 13, 2011 at 11:36 am

      ” It’s been a hard week fielding FB messages from people I haven’t see for 5 years telling me they always knew I only got raped because I was a vile faced slut who always walked like a slut and they’re allowed to call me that now, they saw it in the newspaper.”

      Okay, this makes me feel physically ill. That’s just appalling. Just… ugh.


    • Jackie Clark May 13, 2011 at 6:41 pm

      I am so terribly sorry that you have been abused like this, gherkinette. Truly dreadful for you.

  11. @missannajane May 13, 2011 at 6:35 am

    Fuck yeah. Well put. I’ll be marching because
    RAPISTS CAUSE RAPE. And I have the right to walk safe in the streets.

  12. Oliver May 13, 2011 at 10:03 pm

    I shall be marching, fully dressed. Probably more fully that usual.

    I don’t think the last bit is quite accurate ‘intimidated by women who *like* sex’. That’s an excuse, rather than a reason. Intimidated by women who aren’t under the control of a suitably manly man. ‘Prude’ is part of the same thing. All about controloling sexuality, but not just minimising it.

    • Isabel May 13, 2011 at 11:57 pm

      Yup – if you’re not a slut you’re frigid or uptight which is, somehow, just as bad and either way it’s all about who is in control and making sure we remember our place.

      • tallulahspankhead May 14, 2011 at 10:25 am

        I’ve never been accused of being a prude, so I tend to forget that side of it, but you’re absolutely right. It’s about controlling our bodies and our sexuality.

        It amuses me greatly that a person who has spent quite a lot of time calling me a slut (never to my face, of course) did so because I _wouldn’t_ sleep with him. Because I’d had sex with one or two of his friends, I apparently owed it to him to give it up. But of course, calling me frigid would have gone against the prevailing wisdom.

  13. Julie May 14, 2011 at 11:55 am

    I just wanted to say thank you for this post. Haven’t read the comments, hope I get time to come back and do so, found the post itself very powerful and evocative. I can’t recall ever being called a slut (and I think I probably would remember if I had) but I can feel the raw pain of the experience through your writing, thank you for sharing it.

  14. Pingback: However we dress, wherever we go « LudditeJourno

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