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Home >> Blog >> Slut Walk in SL, UT

Slut Walk in SL, UT



There are those who say of the Slut Walk, "Of course we don't wish to blame victims, but there is nothing wrong with good prevention."

Modesty as good rape prevention is a myth. And that myth is your e-ticket to judgey town wherein slut shaming and victim blaming are the two main streets.

Take this female judge in Arizona for example. (Because women perpetuate patriarchy too!) This judge told a woman who was sexually assaulted at a club that had she not been there, none of it would've happened, and she hoped the victim learned a lesson. The message is clear. The burden is on us. We should cover up, stay at home, and expect to be treated this way by men if we don't. We should accept this as our reality.

I don't accept that. And neither did many others who have petitioned for the judges' resignation. She has since apologized.

I attended the Salt Lake City Slut Walk mostly because I loathe the "modest is hottest" culture that is so prevalent in this state. If you've never heard the phrase "modest is hottest" you're probably not from around here or you aren't LDS, so here's a little taste of what I'm talking about. I live within a few miles of a boutique called "Sexy Modest." The billboards greeting you as you come into my county usually have one that says, "Welcome to Mod-bod country," advertising another boutique that sells knee length shorts and cap sleeved shirts. There are "Modest is Hottest" clubs in our local highschools. There are mothers writing into their local papers about how their sons feel soooo bummed about the way girls dress at school. On BYU's campus, a girl dressed in perfectly normal clothing was given a note by a male peer informing her she looked inappropriate. On that same campus, they have stressed about one strap book bags because the strap might snuggle in between a female's breasts and accentuate them. Female angels in classical paintings by Carl Bloch are given photo-shopped sleeves. Leggings, jeggings, and skinny jeans are much maligned as a tricksy evil that must be fought. One strap dresses will get you kicked out of prom. A friend of mine who works downtown next to the LDS business college was on the receiving end of a snide comment from a passing male student referencing the length of her skirt. I could go on.

So there's your context for why I was totally up for this Slut walk, and confronting modesty as good prevention was definitely part of the agenda. But I came away humbled by the stories of survivors. They deal with so much more than just being questioned for what they were wearing, as if that should matter. People want to find fault with them so they can feel safer themselves. And in the process, they inflict more pain on these victims when what they need is our support.



The organizer of the event, Tiffany Thorne, bravely told her story on the steps of Utah's capital. You can watch the whole speech here, but these were my favorite bits:

"Modesty is not good prevention. Victims are selected for their vulnerability, not because they are sexually provocative. The fact is, according to Utah State University Sexual Assault and Anti-Violence Information, most convicted rapists don't even remember what their victim was wearing. According to the US Department of Justice, 60-70% of rapes are premeditated, and most survivors were wearing regular clothes like blue jeans or pj's when they were assaulted, not provocative clothes."

"When we tell people to prevent sexual violence by covering up their bodies, we do the bidding of rapists. Because not only do we send the false message that rape can be managed by invoking a degree of invisibility, we send the message that you must be afraid of how vulnerable you are, how little power you have, and if your power is taken away with an attack, we'll be too distracted by the way you covered up your body to achieve justice."

The Slut Walk, with its attention grabbing name, is a call to free women from these bonds of fear and shame. It's about raising consciousness, empathy, and putting the blame for sexual assault where it belongs. You may be saying to yourself, "Simmer down, feminists. You're trying to conflate a sound principle (modesty) with something entirely different (victim blaming)."

But I don't think so. At its most benign, modesty culture is just people harrumphing about how women dress because you don't personally approve. Or it's wives blaming other women for their husbands roving eye. It's cute boys singing cheesy songs on youtube to charm us into believing that covering up our bodies to a males satisfaction is just a cool thing to do. If you don't think the path of this logic leads to some warped thinking, you're living in cognitive dissonance land.

Because at its worst, modesty culture teaches young men that a woman in a sleeveless shirt or short skirt must have lower standards and lower self worth. That she is willfully inviting his sexual attention. He may even feel contempt towards her for this perceived attempt to put "impure" thoughts in his head. He may have bought into the idea that a woman's body is a thing to be feared, a thing that can make him lose control of himself. He'll blame her for the guilt he feels. He may well treat her as less than according to these judgments. At its worst, girls will be told they deserved to be disrespected, to be sexually harassed or assaulted. They will be told they are to blame for a boy losing control of himself. If they are raped, they'll be judged as having not practiced "good prevention" by wearing whatever *you* think might've spared her from being raped. They will receive the message that their body is first and foremost a sexual object, and a shameful one at that.



Yes, there are some girls and women who do indeed dress for male attention, and a lot of them do so because they have been taught their self worth lies in being pretty and attractive to a man. We're administering the wrong medicine by going all modesty police on them, because we're just reinforcing the idea that they should dress for men. But that's a whole other discussion.

I hope you'll attend your local Slut Walk in support of survivors of sexual abuse, or at least check yourself to see if maybe you've engaged in a little victim blaming/slut shaming of your own.

Just for fun, here's the link for the segment a friend and I were interviewed for. The night it aired I tried to get my 6 year old son to watch it. "Mama's gonna be on the television," I told him, thinking he'd be super impressed. His response: "I'm gonna go watch SpongeBob Squarepants." Someday I'll be cooler than SpongeBob. Some day.

And now, song time. =)




Last modified: 2018-12-18 03:55:56

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Name: Heather (324 weeks, 5 days ago)
Beautiful, Hillary. I've been meaning to write up my own take on the Slut Walk but you always say it better! Love ya.
Name: Travis (307 weeks, 4 days ago)
You go girls! And my alma mater, too. Your research rocks and your campus is a safe haven.
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