Published at Revolution website October 9, 2011
Revolution welcomes comments/responses to articles
in our newspaper. The following was written by Samantha Berg in response
to Sunsara Taylor’s article, “The Thing About Slutwalks…and a World
Without Rape” posted at revcom.us
I tried to avoid writing an essay on
SlutWalks. I’ve left pieces around the never-ending party that is the
internet, but I’d rather be stomping out johns than criticizing
essentially well-intentioned women.
The initial trigger shot off when Sunsara Taylor wrote an essay for Revolution titled, “The Thing About Slutwalks… and a World Without Rape”
and requested my opinion. My respect for her diligence has only grown
since we got to know each other at the Stop Porn Culture event in July
and she deserves a thorough response.
The anecdotes she offers of women gathering and speaking with each
other are potent, and I believe when she says it was an overall
inspiring occasion for the women involved. What I question is if that’s
enough to mitigate all the other stuff. Anti-woman traditions are often
ameliorated with “Well at least women are befriending each other.” For
example, polyamorists focus on what good friends multiple wives become
and women point out the friendships of the Sex & the City gals when
confronted with the show’s misogyny. Personal connections are good, but
are they good enough to exact necessary political change?
While I accept Sunsara’s recounting of how crucial camaraderie and
baby step introductions to feminism are, I have to deny that SlutWalk
represents a new surge of feminist energy. In 2004 I reported on the
March For Women’s Lives for The Portland Alliance newspaper,
and since then I’ve not just participated but planned other public
actions. Thanks to Facebook, I know of half a dozen feminist protest
marches this summer. A few, like Take Back the Night and Reclaim the
Night, are annual events on some campuses around the world. Others
dwelling in my Events folder are the Freedom Walk, Walk a Mile in Her
Shoes (men walk in women’s shoes), and the Zero Tolerance for Domestic
Violence Walk in honor of Maria Aguilar.
None of these, and more I’ll never hear about, will be covered by the
mainstream media with a droplet of the fervor given to SlutWalks and we
all know why.
Declarations of supposedly watershed moments in women’s liberation
are frequent, and they usually revolve around women acting more publicly
sexual. How many times have we been told that the public presence of
libertines like Mae West, Marilyn Monroe, Raquel Welch, Madonna, Lil
Kim, Britney Spears, Jenna Jameson, “Samantha Jones” and the entirety of
fuckme feminism’s twenty year rule would usher in less sexual
oppression for women? The theory has not become reality because men have
women where they want them and not Mae nor Marilyn nor Madonna have
managed to change that despite delusions of pussy power grandeur.
I have seen the word ‘slut’ so many times in the past few months that
despite my overt rejection it has seeped into my brain. When I think
and write, the word interjects. I recognize the effect from researching
pornography, though porn’s images intrude far more aggressively than
news-safe pictures of SW.
One day the word jumped out of my head deployed as an ‘ironic’
adjective to achieve sarcasm, possibly the purest form of Freudian slip.
A linguist, I know something of how language works, and I know people
can’t look at a word without reading it and recalling its dense social
content instantaneously. I can’t see ‘slut’ frequently put before me
without unconsciously referring to everything I’ve learned about it, and
neither can you.
When feminists hold signs declaring “sluts say yes” and “call me a
slut too” signs, they are making a public statement for womankind.
Unfortunately, men are not taking up the sign-holding women’s offers
with only the sign-holders. SlutWalkers tell men it’s okay to call me a
slut and to call my sisters sluts from now until they bore of it, and
men desensitize to desiring harsher words quickly. The explosion of
porn-inspired words made to hurt women is a lesson in never
underestimating men’s creativity when it comes to destruction, and women
had better learn the lesson because Future Sam will not write about why
I can’t support CumguzzlerWalks or CocksocketWalks.
In 2008 frat pledges at Yale held signs declaring “We Love Yale
Sluts” in front of the campus Women’s Center and in 2010 another frat’s
pledges chanted, “No means yes. Yes means anal!” Young pornfed men have
been giving women proof long before Slutwalks that positively sexy
feminist tactics aren’t working. “Yes Means Yes” is a useless strategy
for stopping men who are turned on by the thought of violating a woman’s
‘no’. Such men view women enthusiastically wanting sex as a challenge
to find something more degrading than they believe merely poking a woman
vaginally already is (in this case anal sex is the next level) and will
never be happy with hordes of lovely ladies begging for it. Like the
global appeal of sex with virgins, the whole point is to break something
The final incident spurring me to write was encountering a young
survivor of prostitution who was not beaten into The Life by a pimp or
forced by her impoverished family. The most common of reasons compelled
her, the need for money, and she met a woman who told her about the big
bucks to be made in pornstitution. She said she was a feminist.
I have heard this tale before, and if you speak with enough
prostitution survivors you’ll hear it too. If you’re able to read about
porn-caused trauma, I recommend radfem blogger Lost Clown’s testimony:
“Desperate for money (for food) and sold down the river
by women I trusted. Now I’m not saying that I am a moron and do whatever
someone tells me to do, what I am saying is that women who I respected,
who were older then me, more experienced then me, and in every way I
could see amazing feminists sold me on the idea that it was an ok thing
to do for money.”
Being recruited—maliciously or not—by other women into professional
sluthood is how most of the prostituted women I personally know were
coaxed in the door.
Tied into SlutWalk is the confusion of sex-focused feminists telling
men they can use women as prostitutes in an “I’m rubber and you’re glue”
way that bounces off the not-for-saleable proclaimers and, once again,
sticks to me and my sisters. They could be telling men about a
revolution sweeping the world from Scandinavia since 1999, a
woman-centered movement the mainstream media has actually given a huge
amount of attention to under the generalized name of trafficking.
However, the Nordic feminist revolution has been declared not just
unsexy by these sexiest of feminists, but worthy of active resistance
and called a menace to sexual freedom.
The organizer-acknowledged truth of SlutWalks is the same tragic
“make feminism sexy” edict that has failed us since that ship set sail. I
certainly don’t lay all the blame for labiaplasty, ass-to-mouth porn,
and the growing use of the phrase “child sex worker” on misguided
feminists, not in this male supremacist world. Right now I’m looking at
the contemporary phenomena of Slutwalks and taking in the positives of
women organizing under a ‘slut’ banner while keeping an eye on relevant
Feminists who pressure women into accepting themselves as sluts and
prostitution as a beneficial form of work have the good intention to
lessen the damages these two nasty manifestations of sexism inflict.
This particular road to Hell is not a paved path but the roof of a tall
building with young, questioning girls ringing the edges and Full
Frontal Feminists standing behind them. They look over the side scared
and wondering if they should take the plunge when from behind a trusted
voice chirps, “You can fly, sexy bitch!” So like Lost Clown they try,
and they drop, but it’s too far down for the Rosie WeCanDoIts to hear
the wet thuds on the street from the center of the roof.
The pornographic pushback of recent years is the expected response of
misogynistic men to women hitting their stride. Less expected was
liberal feminists accepting men’s abusive insults on faulty premises of
reclamation. Radical feminists will continue to have our unsexy marches
against sexual violence and they will continue to be mostly ignored.
Young women on the edges will still be vulnerable, but if they scream
“I’m a slut!” and jump off our roof, we have a rope of bedsheets tied
together and a team of radfems ready to pull her up.
Samantha Berg is National Coordinator for the feminist organization Stop Porn Culture and founder of www.Genderberg.com, an anti-prostitution activist community and resource center since 2005.
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