If I learned anything from the SlutWalk, it's that my understanding that rape, molestation, assault, and other sex-related misfortunes are far more common than I had assumed. Prior to my involvement in the walk, I could name maybe two people who had survived a rape, and one who had been molested as a child. I knew of no one who had been date raped, or slipped something in their drink. I thought maybe 1 in 20 women would be affected by this umbrella of crimes that fall under sexual assault. Today, the day after the walk, my perceptions have changed.
My own experience that might even be called assault was when there was a misunderstanding between myself and a gentleman who took my saying "Hey, I haven't gotten my latest Depo shot yet, and I'm past the due date for it. So, we're not having sex." to mean "We're not having sex without a condom.". Despite being very plain about my intentions on three separate occasions and declining to even walk down the family planning isle while we were out picking up snacks for the evening, he didn't understand that there wasn't a condition to be met. I had said no, and meant exactly that. After having to deal with his pawing on me when we got back to my apartment, even after making myself very plain, I ended up enforcing my statement by removing him from my apartment. This was probably 10 years ago, and that was the last time he and I spoke. I hardly consider it a loss. I also thought this was about as close as the majority of women came to being raped; that there were more near misses than anything you could file a police report about. My, how wrong I was.
I have learned that one of my friends has been raped twice in her life. One of those times did include her being drugged. She was drinking her can of soda one moment, and coming out of a fog while trying to find her clothes the next. One woman marched in her pajamas becuase that's what she was wearing when she was raped. She was there to make the statement that it's not the clothes, it's not that the victim is asking for it, it's that there was an utter lack of consent, and that's wrong. Another marcher showed up with the message that she'd like to see us able to talk about sex like grownups. (An opinion that I'm in total agreement with.) She told a story about how she was sitting in a room of very sex and body positive people in the kink community that she's involved in where the speaker asked if all the people in the room who had been a victim of sexual assault would please stand. I was expecting her to say something along the lines of "And would you believe that half of the women in that room stood?" No, what she said next gives me goosebumps to think about. Every Single Woman in that room rose from her chair to say she'd been victimized. Not one woman remained in her seat. That absolutely floored me.
This can easily be turned into a militant feminist topic, and that's not my purpose here. In my opinion, this is an issue to be owned by all the flavors of activism, not just limited to feminism. Rape and assault is not strictly about men abusing women.
Sex is a spiny subject, top to bottom. (pun intended) It's full of mechanics, moments, and emotions, all of which makes for a potential witches brew when we can't be plain about the subject. Women are told that "Good girls don't, but bad girls do.". Men have their own set of messages that they have thrust upon them; you're a stud if you bed many women, you're a wimp if you're inexperienced. Somewhere in that miasma of noise, misinformation, and crossed wires, people still get together to enjoy another's bodily gifts in whatever capacity they're comfortable with, and it's a beautiful thing! If I had the power to, I would remove the shame, embarrassment, and stigma from human sexuality. However, there is no immediate fix. What does is exist in the here and now are people who are passionate about making these changes. I am thankful for the men and women who are open minded to listen to all sides, pit-bull tough to not be discouraged by those who would denigrate their message, and kind enough to take those for whom they fight into the fold and help them to realize that there is life after assault.
To note, this idea that clothes can make a person a target for something they've never consented to came to a glaring head after the walk wrapped up. The local news was there interviewing people who had participated; asking them why they chose to be a part of the walk. One of the loudest and staunchest supporters there happened to be dressed in a way that was "atypical" for a Midwestern man to present himself; he was in a long black dress, fishnets, makeup, and a multi-strand pearl necklace. The news at first declined to interview him becuase their viewers might be offended by him and his appearance. The organizer fought for him to have his voice, that he was there because he believed and wanted to support the cause. Finally, the camera crew acquiesced and gave him his camera time. What I find so poignant about the whole thing is the message we were trying to send, (among others) is that "my clothes are not louder than my voice.". I think the news media may have almost missed the memo.
I would like to take a moment and thank all of the people who have organized these events, who have chosen to take the power from the word slut, and who have marched along side each other in an effort to affect change. If you are a survivor, you don't need to suffer in silence, and you are not alone.
For those interested in the coverage, I will be posting them here as they are published.
WOWT Channel 6
The Omaha World Herald
KVNO Radio Interview / Web Page