It's our second date. We've had drinks, made out and now it's
time to go home. I hail a cab, she gets in and I lean in to give
her a goodnight kiss - that's when the catcalls begin.
It might just be background noise to most of us now, but that
night the casual street harassment got to me. It was embarrassing.
The date had gone well, but she didn't text me again. They had
claimed our kiss for themselves and removed our consent from the
equation. Our fledgling romance had become public property, and it
was too new, too delicate to cope with the unwanted attention. We
Slutwalk is a march to protest the idea that it is us that
invite sexual harassment or violence; for instance if we dress in a
'slutty' or suggestive manner or do something provocative like kiss
another woman. The actual sexual orientation of the victim/s
doesn't matter since it is the perceived message of being 'up for
it,' even if you aren't.
Slutwalk started officially last year. A Toronto policeman told
a group of female students that if they wanted to avoid being
sexually assaulted they should try not to dress "like sluts". The
women organised a march to protest this. They argued that the
perpetrators of sexual violence should be the ones held responsible
While this idea that women should, or indeed can, reclaim the
night has been around since at least the 1960s the popularity of
the Toronto Slutwalk, which was recreated in many major cities
around the world last summer, shows that the underlying problem
hasn't gone away.
But why should you care about Slutwalk? It's only for straight
girls, isn't it? Or sex workers. No, it's for everyone who's sick
of being treated like a sexual object in public - in ways that are
more aggressive than complimentary. One of my friends said
recently, "I could live without another compliment if I could live
without the harassment as well, some people don't seem to know the
If you are a woman this affects you. The majority of sexual
violence is committed against women by men (although, of course,
everyone is potentially a victim of sexual violence). That we are
gay women does not protect us. It is just another 'no' on top of
all the 'no's that are currently being ignored. You might think
that is horrific. It is.
As lesbians our sexual identity, our public affection, can
sometimes be taken away from being ours - think of the vast
majority of 'lesbian' porn. How can we move away from being objects
of the male gaze? How can gay women, especially femme women, escape
what seems to be the endless, thankless chore of just putting up
with casual harassment?
We can do what we've done since the dawn of feminism - we can
march. March for our safety, march for our autonomy, march to say,
"We are ourselves without male validation or approval, we validate
It's also important to show solidarity. It isn't often we get such
a chance to talk about the more serious issues that plague women -
rape, sexual assault, intimidation, discrimination, the stigma that
is still, STILL, associated with being sexually active and sexually
So walk because you are not a slut. Walk because you resent the
implication. Walk because your sexual identity has nothing to do
with men. Sometimes we all need to be reminded of that.
Slutwalk Edinburgh. 7 July, 1.30pm. Parliament Square, The Royal
Mile, Edinburgh. Slutwalk London date for 2012 yet to be announced.
For more information go to slutmeansspeakup.org.uk
Photo Credit: Garry Knight