Chicago Slutwalk: Marching Against Shame, Control, and Sexual Assault

Some women at Chicago’s slutwalk seemed ostentatiously self-possessed. I saw them unashamed of living in their bodies, and unaware of the beauty it gifted them. If that seems a little masculine, it’s because they refused to let the fear of sexual assault divide them from their bodies.

Shame might be its own type of violation: something or somebody separating your consciousness from inhabiting your body so that you try to curl it up, and keep your legs together to become as small as possible. Adding shame to the existing pain of sexual assault is cruel. Shame is a very powerful social force, and we couple it with the fear of sexual assault to control women.

While taking the train into the city for the slutwalk, I tried to be as small as I could. I kept my legs together and only tied my shoes with my back towards the wall. I didn’t mirror the postures of my male companions. And I realized that I do this everyday.

So, in answer to your questions regarding the slutwalk, it’s about freedom. Why should we let the fear rule our lives the way it does? Working on/for “don’t rape” campaigns seems more beneficial than allowing the fear of sexual assault to dictate what we do, how we dress, and how we behave.

The evidence does not suggest that wearing slutty clothing will make you a victim, so why do we behave as if it does? We use this fear to enforce conventional morality: don’t be a slut, don’t wander too far from home, don’t talk to strangers. Most victims of sexual assault know their assailants, but we’re asked to avoid situations that have nothing to do with preventing rape.

We like to pretend that we have control over whether or not we’re victimized, because that lets us believe that as long as we follow the rules (don’t be a slut, don’t have too much fun, etc.)  we’ll be safe. But by blaming the victims of sexual assault, we restrict ourselves with fear.