Why I’m Participating In SlutWalk NYC Tomorrow

As you may know, SlutWalk NYC is happening tomorrow at noon in Union Square. Essentially a protest against victim-blaming, the SlutWalk asserts that nobody ever deserves to be raped, regardless of where they work, what they wear, whether or not they’re a virgin, whether or not they drink alcohol, what race they are, what gender they identify as, etc. Although this may seem obvious to many, sadly, we still live in a society where rape victims are regularly “discredited” on the grounds that they are slutty and devious jezebels. It’s sickening. By calling it “The SlutWalk,” organizers are hoping to re-appropriate a word that has been used against women for a very long time, depleting it of its destructive power in the process.

What does one wear to a SlutWalk? Whatever one likes; that’s kind of the point. Personally, I think I’m going to wear the plain brown dress I was wearing one night a few years ago when I was almost definitely sexually assaulted. I say “almost definitely” because I can’t remember what happened, but basically, I know that sex was had, and that I didn’t remember it, and that I was probably passed out (or at best, incredibly groggy) at the time. I’m never going to know for sure because I don’t trust that guy to tell me the truth, but there are some fairly damning things working against him.

For instance, my vagina felt like sandpaper the next morning. It’s never felt that way before or since, and I’ve had some pretty bad sex. If I’d been awake and participating, it probably wouldn’t have felt that way. Also, he’d had plenty of chances to have consensual sex with me during the time we were “hanging out” (a step below actually dating), but each time, he seemed to get nervous and make some weird excuse to get out of it. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the one time he summoned the courage to throw it in me was a night I just happened to have overdone it a little and gone into some kind of blacked out, vegetative state. (The only time I’ve ever done this, not that it matters.)

Of course, he claimed that I was acting totally normal and that he had no idea I wasn’t going to remember anything the next day. I chose to believe him at the time, because I didn’t want to think I had been raped. For the next 72 hours, he regaled me with numerous texts about how much he liked me, how freaked out he was by what had happened, how he wanted to meet up and talk, etc. This was odd, as ours was not a deep relationship, but I gave him the benefit of the doubt and said okay. As soon as that 72-hour window had passed (not coincidentally, the window of time in which a rape kit can be done), he dropped off the face of the Earth and began ignoring me completely.

I should also say as background that we were both struggling restaurant workers/writers at the time, and I was doing a bit better than him at getting my career off the ground. He was a little jealous, I think. He was also afflicted by that latent emo-sogyny that so many young Brooklyn men suffer from. Perhaps still stinging from being called nerds and fags in high school, he and his friends made a lot of sexist jokes (including rape jokes, LOL), and were basically frat boys in American Apparel v-necks. Once, he submitted a long and un-funny story about semi-consensual sex to Vice Magazine, only to have it rejected on the grounds that it was disturbing and awful to read. That’s right, it was too offensive for Vice. I know this because he told me.

Why did I hang out with such a person? He was cute, and mostly fun to drink with, and gave me compliments, and I was feeling really lonely and bored at that point in my life. Why didn’t I, a self-identified feminist, get a rape kit done and try to piece together what had happened the night before? Because I knew the system would treat me like shit. I’m naked on the Internet, I write about sex, and I basically roofied myself. I knew nobody was going to treat me with respect. People much more virginal and less uncertain than me have had an infuriatingly tough time getting justice. I didn’t want to put myself and my family through that for such an uncertain outcome. Plus, there was the small amount of doubt I had about what had happened. I didn’t want to ruin a guy’s life (even if that guy was an asshole) when there was a chance he hadn’t actually raped me (at least, not on purpose?).

Should I have had to think about any of this? Fuck no. In an ideal world, the doctors and police officers would have helped me figure it all out, and then they would’ve helped me prosecute him in court, if necessary. But I knew the world doesn’t work like that. I’m walking in SlutWalk NYC because I think that’s extremely fucked up.

I’m also walking because this kind of thing has happened to about half of the women I know. I’m walking because when a friend of mine got beaten up by her boyfriend, the cops treated her like she was the one who’d committed a crime. I’m walking because I know people who have to see their rapists in social settings and act like everything’s okay. I’m walking because I know someone who has to see her rapist on TV. I’m walking because Dominique Strauss Kahn will never face justice for assaulting a hotel maid, because he’s a rich white man and she’s a poor immigrant from Guinea who has not led an absolutely perfect life. I’m walking for all sorts of reasons! I hope that you will join me. A protest might not change things overnight, but it’s important to send a message that the status quo is unacceptable. What will you be wearing?

Share This Post:
    • Anon

      Something similar happened to me. Too bad I don’t live in NY because I’d be there.

    • D.

      Hey Anon, there are SlutWalks in many different cities. Look up where you live and there might be one :)

    • lady

      I’ve never had anything that awful happen to me or anyone I know, and I’m grateful for that, and I respect the people that it does happen to. I don’t feel like I can say anything about women who have been assaulted participating in Slutwalk, because you should do whatever makes you feel better; however, there are some serious criticisms or Slutwalks in general and the idea behind them that are pretty damning: charges of it being a white-privilege event, that it doesn’t appeal to sex workers (maybe the ones most victimized by the violence behind the word ‘slut’) — on Facebook, there’s an ‘Open Letter from Black Women to the Slutwalk.’ Another article here: http://tothecurb.wordpress.com/2011/05/13/slutwalk-a-stroll-through-white-supremacy/

      These might sound a bit hyperbolic, but there’s definitely valid criticism in both. I for one don’t think that the word slut is reclaimable — and that Slutwalks, like the Occupy Wall Street people, are probably tons of fun (I am going tomorrow), they’re not likely to meaningfully change a single thing.

      • Anon

        So I took the time to read the article and look at some photos…
        As a Black woman, I can most definitely identify with experiencing white-privilege. So many minority groups that aren’t based on ethnicity seem to have issues with this. Even in the LBGT community (in my state especially) the representatives are usually white and well-to-do when that’s not the case for many people who are apart of the minority group. Women have been objectified time and again, but ask yourself: What do you see in the mirror when you wake up every day? Most likely a woman… But I see a Black woman. Different world/different rules. I’m glad you posted the article! Thank you.

      • Jamie Peck

        I’ve read those criticisms, and I still don’t really understand their conclusion. If women of color and sex workers have historically been hurt by the word “slut” the most, don’t they stand the most to gain by robbing the word of its power?

      • Marian

        As a white women (who is not as education on race relations as she would like to be) I can’t speak about black women and slutwalk. But I did attend one, where the head of the sex workers union spoke (I live in a country where prostitution is legal) so I guess that a good amount of sex workers are for slutwalk.

    • Megan

      Hey Jamie,

      My intellectual reaction (and, I know, the correct one) to all this is, “Yes, victim-blaming is fucked up. There’s no way anyone, male or female, who has been assaulted should be treated as if they were in the wrong, no matter what they were wearing, drinking, what personal history they have, etc.”

      My more knee-jerk reaction is, “But…what if the assault charge is indeed made up? It’s a small number, sure, but false accusations ruin lives, too.”

      I’m interested to know what you think about those false accusers. I haven’t studied this (and maybe I’m watching too much “Law & Order”!) but I know it does happen. I’d never want to go to the police after having the most horrific experience of my life, looking for help, and subsequently be demeaned, shrugged off, and told I was “asking for it.” But if someone ever brought a charge against me (or, say, my husband, or father…whatever, if that’s more believable), and it was false, I’d want to know that an unbiased investigation would be conducted. Where do you think the line is? Is there even a line–is it more that the ideal would be treating the victim/accuser with proper care and at the same time maintaining that the accused has to be proven guilty? How does law enforcement walk the line while comforting a victim?

      Curious to hear your thoughts.

      • Jamie Peck

        I don’t believe it’s law enforcement’s job to comfort a victim. I think it’s their job to gather evidence in a courteous and professional manner, take a statement, and sort out what happened from said evidence. It’s not their job to cross examine the alleged victim, and it’s not their job to tell a victim that they are definitely going to catch the perpetrator, because they have no way of knowing that. Unfortunately, what we have now is a whole lot of victim-blaming every step of the way, and a HUGE backlog of rape kits that will never get processed. I don’t think we’re in any danger of the cops being too much on the side of the accused rapist. Conviction rates are pathetically low, and the number of cases that turn out to be unsubstantiated (this does not necessarily mean they figure out the victim is lying, it can just mean there’s insufficient evidence to build a case) are actually lower than those for many other crimes.

      • Jamie Peck

        **correction: I meant to say that I don’t think we’re in danger of the system being biased in favor of victims.

    • Ava

      Thank you for this article, because something similar happened to me and I’ve never told anyone because I’m afraid all they will say is “well you were drunk shit happens lol”. When in truth I’ve never felt more violated or disgusted; with myself and with someone I had previously considered a friend. It helps to read that someone (and I’m sure many others) else has gone through this with the same things I felt.