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Catherine Marcus is a civil servant and writer

Screen shot 2011-05-19 at 16.06.52 “Reclaim your inner slut”, say the organisers of Slutwalk – a movement
 which originated in Toronto in protest at a comment by Mark 
Sanguinelli, a police officer, to a group of students that they should avoid
dressing like sluts, in order to help prevent sexual attacks.  Here in Britain, who knew
 our inner slut had been lost?  The acreage of goose-pimply
 flesh on display, covered by the briefest of belts  – oh sorry, that’s
 a skirt – on most local high streets on a Saturday night would suggest
 that the nation’s inner slut hasn’t gone anywhere.

I think Sanguninelli’s
 words were bracingly honest – a reflection of the world as it is, 
with all the attending risks, as opposed to the utopic sentiment of "this is how the
things should be". It shows more respect to women to ask them to take 
responsibility for themselves than it does to pretend that certain
 dangers do not exist in order to preserve their idealistic view of the
world. It is infantile to dictate how people are meant to 
interpret provocative dress, and it is dangerous to pretend that
 deliberately setting out to excite sexual interest carries no risks
 whatsoever.   It is the mark of a sophisticated, civilised society that it extends 
equal freedoms to all its citizens, and recognises women’s greater
 vulnerability to the threat of sexual violence that has given rise to the
 protection of the law.


We are lucky to live in a country where rape is taken seriously, as the row over Ken Clarke's remarks shows, an
d an accusation will be investigated and dealt with as the serious
 violation that it is. But we make a mockery of the freedoms our society 
affords us if we pretend that we are "fighting" for the right to
 dress in a sexually provocative manner, as though we are making some
grand post-feminist political statement.  

Dressing like a slut is an act of insecurity, a lack of confidence in 
one’s allure, a reversal of the traditional order in which men enjoyed 
the thrill of the chase.  Dressing like a slut reduces men to jaded
 voyeurs, observing the parade of flesh on display before making their
 pick with a minimum of effort involved. Behaving like a slut reduces 
sex to the sum of its parts, a perfunctory meeting of skin and fluids,
 transient pleasure offset by the embarrassment of too much intimacy 
shared with a stranger. The age old ritual of impressing, cajoling, 
courting and seducing a woman is reversed, as unimpressive men take
 their pick from the drunken girls willing to leave their dignity on 
the dance floor.

Dressing like a slut sends out a message, regardless
 of intention: if this much flesh is on display for free, what little
 that remains uncovered is going for a song. And, sadly, the maxim holds true
 that people do not value what they obtain too easily.  

It is perverse to suggest that dressing like a slut is somehow a
 political gestur -  two fingers up to the repressive male patriarchy or whatever it is being dressed up as by the 
proponents of Slutwalk. Being sexy, or dressing in a manner that is
 attractive to men, is distinct from dressing like a slut. Being sexy 
is an assertion of women’s ancient power over men. Dressing solely for 
the purpose of signalling availability shows a lack of confidence, as
 though a woman cannot trust that a man will be intrigued or interested 
in her unless she advertises her willingness to have sex in flashing
 lights.

Women increasingly lack
 confidence in their allure and therefore feel the need to wander around
 half-naked in order to attract the attention of men. It is not
 patriarchal repression that erodes women’s self-esteem, but the lack 
of a patriarchal system that allows women to debase themselves in a
 way that they (usually) come to regret. There is nothing empowering about
 sleeping with someone who may be happy to exchange bodily fluids, but 
balks at the exchange of surnames and phone numbers.

  It is thrilling and exciting to enter into the night, unsure of what 
the next few hours will bring, transported by cheap booze and 
throbbing dance music. Pleasure and fun should not be denied to women
 "for their own safety" or for any preventative reason, but it must be 
acknowledged that the adjuncts of these nights – the drunkenness, the
 drugs and the casual sex – carry a price tag of their own.

In the case of
 one night stands, I have yet to meet any woman who rates sex with a
 stranger as being superior to that which is enjoyed with a long-term
l over. It can be hot, as the thrill of a new body carries an 
excitement all its own, but men have the advantage here, as they
 almost invariably emerge satisfied, no matter how transient and
 emotionally disengaged the sexual exchange. As a rule, it’s the lovers
 more familiar with our particular topographies who successfully 
navigate the more complex terrain of female sexuality. It is wrong to 
pretend that women are like men, with exactly the same desires and
 impulses.

Our psychology is as different as our physiology, and it is tragic to 
think of young women entering adolescence and adulthood in this
 hyper-sexualised age, who feel compelled to behave in a certain way
 out of a misguided sense of bravado, with no real sense of their own
 worth.

Many of this generation of women can boast a sexual past that
 would make the Marquis de Sade blush: this is not a society which 
bears the brunt of a repressive patriarchy, but one that has shrugged
 off that patriarchy and now must take responsibility for the 
consequences.

16 comments for: Catherine Marcus: Slutwalk – feminism taken to its most absurd conclusion

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