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Sluts Don't Cause Rape, Rapists Do: Why "Slutwalks" Are Sweeping the World

The idea behind the Slutwalks is simple, yet so often fails to get through: rape is rape, no matter what the victim wears, says or does.

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In fact, Slutwalk is satirizing the whole slut construct. .. Organizers told people to wear whatever they wanted. The message was: Who's a slut? We all are. Or none of us are. And who cares? It's a stupid, meaningless concept anyway. 

So the point of the marches isn’t simply to turn around and make a loaded word like slut positive, or even merely to reclaim it and use its power as a weapon but rather to shed light on its rampant and ridiculous use as an excuse for rape, an easy out for those with a propensity for victim blaming. The idea is that the girls we call sluts, the girls we say “were asking for it,” are our sisters, are friends, our loved ones, ourselves. 

The word “slut,” said Jaclyn Friedman during her speech at the Boston Slutwalk, which drew thousands to the Boston Common, is a weapon that can be used against women for any reason, a weapon that marks them as fair game, as less than human, as a target for violence. 

And make no mistake about it: we can be called sluts for nearly any reason at all. If we’re dancing. If we’re drinking. If we have ever in our lives enjoyed sex. If our clothes aren’t made of burlap. If we’re women of color...If we’re fat or disabled or otherwise considered undesirable... If we’re queer boys or trans women, we’re called sluts in order to punish us...If we’re poor... And god forbid we accuse someone of raping us – that’s the fast track to sluthood for sure, because it’s much easier to tell us what we did wrong to make someone to commit a felony violent crime against us than it is to deal with the actual felon.

Slutwalks are a playful and powerful way of combating rape culture, and they don’t preclude or negate more serious forms of anti-rape activism like the traditional “Take Back the Night” marches and speakouts or prevention work with men and via legislation. They complement these other forms of pushback and add a new dimension to the critique of the twisted way our cultural lens views sexual assault.

Watch Friedman's speech below and view a slideshow of Flickr photos tagged "slutwalk" below that.





Sarah Seltzer is an associate editor at AlterNet, a staff writer at RH Reality Check and a freelance writer based in New York City. Her work has been published in and on the websites of the Nation, the Christian Science Monitor and the Wall Street Journal. Find her at

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