The Lady Garden

Tea and Strumpets

I Love Dudes

[Trigger warning: Lots of discussion of rape in the post, and I have no doubt douchey commenters will be along any minute now: I’ll try to keep a firm moderation hand on it.]

No, really, I do love dudes. I understand that as a feminist, I am supposed to be a buttoned-up, politically lesbian, battleaxe. But the problem is, I shaved my legs just this morning, and I am wearing pink, and I don’t feel like conforming to the patriarchy’s stereotype today.

So, I love dudes. I love their arms and their smiles and their hair, and the way they do that reverse head nod greeting thing that can turn me to mush. I love their minds. I love to fight with them. It’s why I want them to be part of the debate here, to feel free to comment, providing they aren’t being concern-trolling, mainsplainy, rape-apologist douchecanoes. (Or comparing women to, variously: cars, wallets, raw meat, or a bloodied leg. Here’s a tip, fuckwits: Women aren’t property. The comparison doesn’t apply.) But the thing I try to remember is that sexism does actually hurt us all.

And this is what I don’t get about the “Oh, but you have to keep yourself safe” crew. Aside from the point that that’s not what we’re arguing at all, it is harmful to men. Because it assumes that all men are one short skirt away from being a rapist. And I have known many a man, both good and otherwise, and I think most of them would bristle at that charachterisation.

When you say “But being drunk at 3am, alone and in town, dressed like a harlot, you’re vulnerable!”, it raises a number of points. First, do you really, honestly thing we don’t know that? Do you really think women, who are taught from day one to be scared of strangers offering us sweets, who are given self-defense classes, who are given any number of societal messages every fucking day need to be reminded of that the next person around the corner is likely to attack us?

Which brings me to my second point. Why do you want us to think that every man is a potential rapist? Why do you want us to live in a world where that’s true? Where rapists are the norm, not the incredibly rare, deviant, and criminal exception. Could it be that if we are scared and vulnerable, we’re easy to control? That getting fucked up on bourbon and coke until 3am is a man’s domain, and we little ladies should keep our sweet asses out of it? That it’s OK if we dress slutty, but only if we are doing it in its rightful place – in the bedroom to please you. Because that’s what you’re saying when you tell us that our behaviour is a “cause” of rape, or that rape is a “consequence” of it. Aside from it being a bullshit flawed argument, not upheld by the reality of sexual assault, you’re telling us that our behaviour is the only thing stopping that seemingly nice man who flirted with us, and sent us flowers, and bought us drinks is just a glimpse of our creamy thighs away from slipping us a roofie.

Yes, I am being glib. Because this argument fucks me off no end. Men aren’t just Animalistic Penis Brains (thanks Danielle), who can’t control themselves at the sight of a pretty women. The vast majority of them can and do. All you do by repeating this “don’t be slutty and you won’t get raped” idea, is hurt both sides of the debate. And take the responsibility away from the person who commits the crime – the rapist. And don’t forget, men get sexually assaulted too. By both men and women. And very few people question what they were wearing.

I wouldn’t encourage anyone to read the comments on Danyl’s post (the link above), because it’s descends into a circle jerk of fuckknuckles telling us not to be sluts, and that what we’re doing, with SlutWalk, is putting women at risk, by telling them not to be personally responsible for their own safety. On the kiwiblog post about my Paul Quinn post, there was a question about which bars I hang out at (dude, you’re never getting a blow job, I can guarantee that), and a bingo card full of comment about women “crying rape” when they slept with someone unsuitable, and the “culpability of sluts”.

So, again, I would ask – can you tell me how many people I have to sleep with to be a slut? Exactly how much of my breasts you have to be able to see for that to be true. And why is it any of your fucking business? Why on earth do you think what I wear, and what I do, gives anyone the right to attack me? Why are you so intent on controlling women’s sexuality and behaviour? That’s what we’re marching for. For you to fucking listen.

And I know a number of men who are going to march alongside with me. You know, those ones who are able to see me drunk, cleavagey, and “vulnerable”, and instead of raping me, make sure I get home safely. I would (and have) return the favour for them. Because I love those dudes, and respect them. And I will continue to do so, if that’s OK with you.

38 responses to “I Love Dudes

  1. Deborah May 31, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    Great post, Tallulah. There seem to be lots of meanings associated with slutwalk, but the one that resonates most for me is the one you emphasise here: it doesn’t matter what a woman or a man wears – the person who is responsible for rape is the rapist.

  2. LadyNews May 31, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    Well said! (And thanks for the link!). That kind of “I’m not saying drunk women are to blame, but..” view is so incredibly disrespectful to everyone, yet people who espouse it are apparently “just looking out for you” because “they care”, or are “good guys” for trying to help/protect you (and are defended as such). Ridiculous how having such low expectations of men as a group is something a “good guy” would do.

  3. Nick R May 31, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    Not much sign of the dudes queuing up to comment…

  4. M May 31, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    Bravo! I applaud you for bringing men into the discussion. As with a lot of things education is part of the solution and it’s obvious (and sad) that there is a lot of ignorance out there.

  5. Steve E May 31, 2011 at 4:47 pm

    So what happened to “All men are rapists, and that’s all they are”? Is that not the thing now?

    • Hugh May 31, 2011 at 5:43 pm

      That’s never really been the thing, Steve. I won’t go quite so far as to say that there aren’t any feminists who think that, because feminism is diverse and all that, but that viewpoint is far more peripheral to even radical feminism than you’d think from hearing a lot of popular anti-feminist critiques. I’ve certainly never encountered anybody who thinks that.

      • Steve E May 31, 2011 at 6:33 pm

        I can assure you that when I was at university, it most definitely *was* the thing – it was practically screamed into my face – along with every other male’s, of course – and I don’t recall very many women objecting… none, in fact.

        Admittedly, however, that was rather a long time ago; indeed it was before the Ice Age (not the last one, the one before that).

        • Steve E May 31, 2011 at 6:43 pm

          …more to the point (which i forgot to make LOL) is that it was feminists who pushed that message; so when our good host writes, “Why do you want us to think that every man is a potential rapist? Why do you want us to live in a world where that’s true? Where rapists are the norm, not the incredibly rare, deviant, and criminal exception. Could it be that if we are scared and vulnerable, we’re easy to control?” I’m inclined to agree, but not, I suspect, for the same reasons as she.

          • tallulahspankhead May 31, 2011 at 7:07 pm

            Hey, Steve? How about you engage with the arguments actually being made here, instead of harping on about the Evil Feminists Who Done You Wrong in the 70s.

          • Steve E May 31, 2011 at 7:35 pm

            Ok fair enough (in reply to tallulahspankhead @ 7:07 – not sure how this is going to format)

            “…you’re telling us that our behaviour is the only thing stopping that seemingly nice man who flirted with us, and sent us flowers, and bought us drinks is just a glimpse of our creamy thighs away from slipping us a roofie.”

            Can you not see that this is a straw man?

            “Why are you so intent on controlling women’s sexuality and behaviour? That’s what we’re marching for. For you to fucking listen.”

            If a cop says something along the lines of, “Women should be careful when they’re out drinking at night,” sure, that may come across as patronising and even misguided; however you cannot deny that it is intended in good faith, and frankly, I think that imputing it with nefarious motives such as to strike fear into the hearts of women for the purposes of control is wilfully arguing from bad faith.

          • tallulahspankhead May 31, 2011 at 10:04 pm

            1. A straw man? Have you _seen_ any of the comments on this website, or any of the others I linked to?

            2. Perhaps it was intended in good faith. But I wasn’t talking about that one policeman. I was talking about the pervasive attitude that slutty women are bad. The school of thought that seeks to control women’s bodies, be it through their clothing, their attitudes, or their behavior. That makes _us_ responsible for being attacked, rather than putting the blame on the attacker.

          • Isabel May 31, 2011 at 8:31 pm

            Steve – either there is a significant percentage of the male population who wouldn’t normally rape a woman but might be tipped that way by someone dressed “sluttily” enough (however you want to quantify that) or most men are able to control their urges no matter what outfit they are looking at and a few are rapists who rape women in varying types of dress and circumstances.

            We know that most men don’t commit rape when in the presence of a woman in a short skirt and we know that women in “modest” clothing do get raped so it seems likely that the main thing dress affects in rape cases is how seriously a victim gets taken after the fact.

  6. Bart Janssen May 31, 2011 at 4:50 pm

    So here’s the bit I struggle with, I agree totally that nothing you say or do gives anyone the right or even the remotest excuse to assault you let alone rape you. I get that, I believe that totally. Assault in general and rape in particular is nothing to do with the behaviour of the victim, it is utterly about the perpetrator.

    But, of course there is a but, what you wear is part of how you communicate, in the same way that what you say and how you say it is part of how you communicate. How you stand, sit, dance, strut all communicates things about you to those around you. None of that is a license to violence. But it isn’t entirely reasonable to say you can wear anything without believing you are communicating things to people around you that you may not desire.

    Yes I know I’m treading a very thin line here, which is why I struggle with it. But to ignore the power of non-verbal communication is not entirely fair. To some degree I think that is part of the point you are making, that you should be allowed the non-verbal communication you choose.

    I’m probably failing to communicate my uncertainty here. Nothing you wear gives anyone a right to do violence but what you wear does communicate and hence it does give people a reason to form an opinion about you. One response is that you don’t care what others think so long as they don’t do violence. I guess I just find that disquieting, it just doesn’t feel like the whole answer to me.

    • tallulahspankhead May 31, 2011 at 5:11 pm

      But one person’s dirty slut is another person’s burlesque artist. One person’s nun, is another person’s slapper on a hen night. It’s entirely subjective.

      Which is kind of the while point. As Emma has written, our clothes don’t send messages. Reading a message into them is all about you, whether you’re thinking ‘gosh, she must be cold in that skirt’, or ‘hmm, couple more drinks and I’ll be totally in there’.

      And since no one can tell me what a slut actually is (although a delightful person has tried today, by suggesting I look in the mirror – and I would, but I can’t afford the half hour of loving gazing that would engender) how am I supposed to avoid dressing like one to keep myself safe?

      So, I guess the answer to my question is this: any messages you perceive in my clothing and my body and my attitude are probably being misread. And they still don’t give you licence to hurt me.

    • Emma May 31, 2011 at 5:19 pm

      Thing is, it’s so often an incorrect assumption. And let’s stick to talking about just clothes, and not shift to behaviour, okay? Or talk about just behaviour. But they’re different things, let’s keep them separate.

      How you judge someone by their clothes says more about the judger than the judgee. It reflects their expectations – for instance, that every young woman in make-up and a short skirt is straight.

      My darling Megan and I have just been discussing the way that my proportions mean my clothes are either going to be baggy in the waist and arse (doesn’t care how she looks, maybe she’s pregnant, maybe she’s ashamed of her body) or overly tight in the tits (SLAG!). All that actually tells you is that off-the-shelf dresses aren’t made to fit my body. Is that the assumption a stranger would come to?

    • Craig Ranapia June 1, 2011 at 8:28 am

      Well, yes, Bart and I guess the whole conversation about seeing the world through distorting privilege goggles is a whole other can of worms. As I’ve said elsewhere, I suspect most of the SlutWalk man-splainers would start getting it if they were fag-bashed for wearing a “gay-looking” shirt or talking like a “queer”. Or if they woke up in an ICU, only to be told they shouldn’t have provoked their muggers by going out on the pull on a Friday night wearing an expensive watch and designer clothes, then being stupid enough to drink too much.

      I wouldn’t wish any form of assault on anyone (that’s not OK), but it sure seems the only way to make people see how toxic refusing to own your privilege is is when they end up in a situation where it’s taken away for you.

  7. Jackie Clark June 1, 2011 at 5:06 am

    Oh, I have just so much I want to say, and it’s been stewing away for a while, so let’s see if I can say something coherent and reasonably intelligent at this very early hour of the morning. Clothes. They’re a bugger, and now I know why it would be better if we were all naturists – which is something I have thought long and hard about because I’m not that fond of wearing clothes, quite frankly. And your argument, Bart, is one reason. I have always struggled with this ridiculous concept that “our clothes tell the world who we are”. Yes, I guess sometimes we dress to send messages about who we are. But I don’t think they send very deep messages – you can tell very little about a person from their clothes, I find, apart from the obvious. And something that very few people seem to talk about is how lazy you have to be to assume something about someone based just on what they’re wearing. Emma is entirely right when she says that those judgements are about the person making them. Clothing, in my opinion, is more often used as a way of putting people off the scent of who we really are.
    Nonverbal communication is very important, Bart, you are right. But that term applies to what the eyes, and the hands, and the body are saying. Not the clothes that cover that body.

  8. Bart Janssen June 1, 2011 at 9:41 am

    Well apart from Craig, thanks for treating my response as honest.

    So I guess the difference for me is that I think the message people send with their clothes is stronger than you are giving credit. At no point do I believe it is a message that condones assault of any kind verbal or physical. But try something for me, stand on a busy street corner and look at the people go by, then think about the automatic categorisation you do about who they are and what their values are. Yes I agree much of that is prone to being flat out wrong, but the reality is we make judgements about people by the clothes they wear. It is part of the information we use consciously or not. You may be special and never make judgements based on clothes but you should recognise that you are unusual in that respect.

    If you argue that clothes send no message and that the message is only one imparted by the viewer, then you are ignoring that problem that the vast majority of people do read messages from clothing. Are you planning to educate society to read no messages at all from clothes? I hardly think that possible or even reasonable. And yes I realise that means I’m disagreeing with Emma!

    I’m not remotely arguing that you shouldn’t wear what you want and that you shouldn’t be able to be safe regardless of what you wear. I guess I’m just concerned that the discussion is being framed as “clothes send no (important) message” and I find it hard to believe that. If Jackie can have fun by confusing people with what she wears the surely there is a message she is using to create that dissonance. As Jackie said raising everyone as a nudist would be interesting but I can assure you from personal experience that it only reinforces the concept that clothes are a form of communication.

    • Craig Ranapia June 1, 2011 at 10:04 am


      I’m sincerely sorry if you thought I didn’t treat your you comment as “honest”. I do people the courtesy of assuming they say things in good faith on-line rather than trolling, even if I think they’re utterly muddle-headed.

      And I’m not going to insult anyone’s intelligence by pretending I’ve never made idiotic assumptions about people based on how they dress. I’ve certainly had to think and re-think my visceral reaction to seeing Muslim women on the street in ḥijāb — and I still don’t like the what is (IMO) the rather patriarchal values behind that. But I’ve also made an effort to be informed, and sensitive to, the infinitely more complex and nuanced debates and reactions from Muslim women themselves who are neither ultra-fundamentlists nor wannabe Tali-barbies.

      If my instinctive reaction comes from the Fox News/Limbaugh/Beck playbook, it’s not the job of Muslim women to indulge my prejudice. It’s mine to respect womens’ freedom and agency, ESPECIALLY when I don’t like it.

    • Emma June 1, 2011 at 10:26 am

      Okay. No, not saying people DON’T judge by clothing. Often, at such a subconscious level they don’t even know they’re doing it. But yes, I am sticking with ‘information is too unreliable’ and yes I would like people to be aware of that when they catch themselves judging by clothes. And the more we have these conversations, the more people will be. That’s how you make long-lasting change: incredibly incrementally.

      And even “what this person does for a living” can’t reliably be judged. My partner still owns, and when appropriate wears, his overalls from his blue-collar days, and even now, when he’s an “office worker” you wouldn’t be able to tell from his clothes, because he works in IT.

      It is possible that women are more aware of the prejudices around clothes-judging because a) we have a much wider variety of dress options open to us, so we will be dressing in a wider variety of ways than a man and still be the same person, and b) we get the sharp end of it much more often. Because other than “gang patch” there really aren’t many ways a man can dress that diminish his worth as a human being.

      • LadyNews June 1, 2011 at 10:32 am

        And even if clothes could reliably tell you what someone does for a living, you don’t get to force them to do it for you- so, you don’t get to walk up to someone wearing a tool belt and say “hey mate, you look like a builder, so come put up a fence at my place. No, you don’t want to/can’t? Fuck that, your tool belt says you can, so I’m going to take it’s word for it and force you to do so against your will”.

    • tallulahspankhead June 1, 2011 at 10:38 am

      If I may, because it’s relevant (and also for the lols), I’d like to take another quote from Danyl’s comment thread. (Yes, I read it. Yes, I feel ill. Yes, I’d like to scratch out my eyes with a knitting needle. Yes, I’d like to buy Simon, Good Gravey, and the others doing good work over there a drink.)

      Guy….go out on the weekend and hang with a bunch of men drinking in a pub/club and just observe and listen to what they say in regard to Women they see in tight minis etc…it can get quite crude but its perfectly natural and has been since year dot.”Nice!Yeah baby!…damn shes fine! Hot! I so want to tap that ass!” etc etc…To anyone who’s been a hetro male and spent time in the company of others where Women and drink have been involved this sort of talk is just basic,matter of fact stuff.The manner of the Woman’s dress most certainly does attach the attention of sexually interested males and causes value judgements about the Woman and her possible sexual availability to be made. Now the potential rapist is another thing again…he’s an aroused guy who’s doing all this AND is prepared to go that bit further and cross the line to satisfy his craving.And he’s the one the Woman have to be prepared for trouble from.

      Here’s the logical extension of “clothes send mesages”. That because we are dressed a certain way, in a bar, at night, it is OK to treat women like a piece of meat. (And Bart, I am not saying you’d ever do that, of course.) And of course, women do the same to men. James may think it is “basic, matter of fact stuff”, but that doesn’t make it acceptable. I’d like to think the men that I know would assume, unless I were wearing a sign around my neck saying otherwise, that I am not “sexually available” based on the dresses I wear. (For the record, in case you’re reading, I often am.)

      • tallulahspankhead June 1, 2011 at 10:52 am

        Also, that “be prepared” line reminded me of this. Awesome. *where awesome = not very at all, and actually quite fucking awful.

      • Hugh June 2, 2011 at 3:02 am

        I’d like to think the men that I know would assume, unless I were wearing a sign around my neck saying otherwise, that I am not “sexually available” based on the dresses I wear. (For the record, in case you’re reading, I often am.)

        Even aside from this there’s a big leap from “sexually available” to “will have sex with anybody and can be ignored if she’s saying no”. If a guy does see a girl in a bar whose clothing seems to imply she’s looking to get laid, there are a huge range of options open to him that don’t involve raping her. He could buy her a drink, start a conversation or just say “Hey, wanna fuck?”. All of these give her the option of saying “No thanks” and his assumption that she’s interested in him doesn’t lead to anything more unpleasant for anybody involved than some brief awkwardness.

        So even if we concede the point that there is clothing that implies a woman is interested in sexual hookups, that’s a bloody long way from the idea that there’s clothing that implies a woman’s body is public property.

    • Andie June 3, 2011 at 5:25 am

      If clothes/body language/whatnot ‘send a message’ that women are up for sex, then I suggest clarifying the message by ASKING, which goes back to that whole “Hey, how about not raping people” as a way to reduce rape.

  9. tallulahspankhead June 1, 2011 at 10:01 am

    But, OK, if we accept clothes send “messages”, what are we meant to do with that information? I’ll accept that it’s something we all do, and admit it’s something I do myself. But mine tends to be around fashion criticism, and “did you get dressed in the dark?”, or “ooo, I like her boots”. But I don’t think it means anything.

    My outfit today could be viewed as me being confident, sassy, and I guess, because of the cleavage, sexually available. In reality, I was feeling a bit shit today, and I thought a pretty dress might help. And all the dresses I own show off my tits.

    The message is so coded as to be illegible. So when someone tells me “don’t dress like a slut”, my thought process goes like this:

    I thought I looked pretty.
    Really? A slut? You thing this is slutty?
    What about me gives you that idea?
    What is a slut anyway, and why shouldn’t I look like one?

    (And depending how forcefully they express their opinion about my clothes):

    How about you fuck off and mind your own business?

    • Moz June 1, 2011 at 1:28 pm

      Hey, quit hassling those who get dressed in the dark. For your information I do it out of consideration for my partner, who occasionally likes to wake up around lunch-time after an all night Australia’s Next Top Model binge. Doesn’t stop me making sarcastic remarks about what she’s doing, but why wake her up?

    • Bart Janssen June 2, 2011 at 9:27 am

      if we accept clothes send “messages”, what are we meant to do with that information?

      Which is the point where I agree totally with you and Emma. I know full well I fail to receive or correctly interpret many forms of communication (poetry?). So assuming I am interpreting the message from your dress correctly is fraught with risk.

      That such a message could ever mean “it’s Ok to assault me” is loony, there is no valid logic that gets from one to the other. It’s not that your dress has no message to send but rather that any interpretation of as a right to assault is simply a fail.

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