Is SlutWalk Doing More Harm Than it is Good?

Balliol College, Oxford, voted recently on whether or not SlutWalk would be fully supported by the JCR.


SlutWalk was born when a representative of the Toronto police force told a congregation of law students that “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised.”

Since then, groups of women have hit the streets, arguing against the idea that the way in which a women dresses changes the degree of sexual assault, or suggestion that a victim could somehow be “asking for it”, and on Sunday the 19th of May, 2012, it’s Oxford’s turn.

The first Slut Walk protest in Toronto, 3 Apri...

The message they are trying to convey is that people can dress how they want without being considered responsible for the effect this could have on men. This is a perfectly sound message: rape is in no circumstance the fault of the victim.

The number of rapes which get reported is an extremely low proportion of the number which actually occur, and people need to know that what they were wearing, how drunk they were, or whatever other circumstances came into play, are irrelevant: being raped is not the victim’s fault.

This isn’t what Balliol College voted against. Obviously, few people would want to argue against this.

What was voted was whether it will be fully supported: that is, whether it’s doing more harm than it is good.

In naming it slut walk, are the solving a problem, or making it worse?

The debate has now left the police officer in Toronto, and has moved onto the general attitude of people who dress “like sluts” are asking to be raped. The police officer has apologised for any offence caused, and the SlutWalk is now about changing attitudes.

In calling it “SlutWalk”, is the message, “what I wear is my decision, no-one asks to get raped”? Or is it (as the argument put forward by Hannah Smith, who forwarded the motion to oppose the walk), “I’m allowed to dress like a slut”?

Now that the movement has travelled so far from its roots, the message of the movement seems to be “woman can dress like sluts”.

How does a slut dress?

What does the word “slut” mean?

In today’s society, “slut” mean someone who sleeps around. In saying “I can dress like a slut”, people are saying “this is how people who sleep around dress”. They should be saying “if a woman dresses like this, it says nothing about her sex life”, but are they, in fact, making it worse for themselves?

Some people, however, are calling the movement a “reclamation” of the word slut.

Let’s look in the Oxford English Dictionary

slut, n.

Pronunciation: /slʌt/
Forms:  Also ME slotte, north.slute, ME–15 slutte, 16 slutt
Etymology:  Of doubtful origin: compare German (now dialect) schlutt  , schlutte  , schlutz  , in sense 1. Forms having some resemblance in sound and sense also occur in the Scandinavian languages, as Danish slatte (? from Low German), Norwegian slott, Swedish dialect slåta, but connection is very doubtful.


a. A woman of dirty, slovenly, or untidy habits or appearance; a foul slattern.


b. A kitchen-maid; a drudge. rare.


c. A troublesome or awkward creature. Obs.—1


a. A woman of a low or loose character; a bold or impudent girl; a hussy, jade.

b. In playful use, or without serious imputation of bad qualities.

3. A female dog; a bitch.


a. A piece of rag dipped in lard or fat and used as a light.


b. The guttering of a candle.


Which of these meanings are they referring to? Do they want to reclaim the meaning of “a women of dirty appearance”? This is the earliest meaning of it, so in reclaiming the word this must be what they want to do…

Unless, of course, they are referring to the meaning 2b: a woman of low or loose character, but used in playful terms? This is slightly patronising, and has come from a derogatory term.

It took only 48 years from the first usage of the word, for the word to have sexual implications, and before this point it was never positive. Even if you’re a candle.

So, unless someone disagrees with me (and please, feel free to!) I think we can dismiss this argument for the naming of SlutWalk.

Balliol JCR came to the decision that they would not fully support the movement, considering the majority of people who attended the meeting went with the intention to oppose the motion Smith proposed, this is astounding. They have come to the decision that people should attend the march to show solidarity, but that Balliol JCR won’t endorse the name.

This makes sense.

The concept and aim of the movement, I don’t think anyone could find a problem with, but in practice, is SlutWalk doing more harm than it is good?


5 comments on “Is SlutWalk Doing More Harm Than it is Good?

  1. You mentioned the definitions “a women of dirty appearance” and “a woman of low or loose character”. The purpose is to stop respected men viewing promiscuous women as dirty or of loose character, with an added hope that rape will happen less to such promiscuous women because of the higher regard for their character.

    Most of the people in slutwalks are people who not many people cares for the opinions of- transsexuals, prostitutes, younger feminists. Transsexuals are hated by pretty much everyone, including most mainstream lg maybe b not t groups (breeders! infiltrators!), prostitutes likewise are hated by pretty much everyone, feminists have minimal influence outside places where they’ve gathered authority with age.

    The likely result is that everyone else who views promiscuous women as bad will associate ‘sluts’ with transsexuals, prostitutes, and younger feminists. I have doubts that this protest will do anything especially good.

    I have suspicion of any movement that doesn’t actually have any clear plan which will result in what they want. “We’re going to walk in the streets in minimal clothing and with slut written on our bodies holding placards with witty epithets and so men will respect promiscuous women more and not rape them.”

    • I got the impression it was about how someone was perceived, not how they actually are. The way that someone dresses says nothing about their sex life, just as sleeping with people doesn’t make anyone a slut.
      I think, however, that having no clear intention now that it has moved from the police officer’s comment, that it has also moved from being about victim-blaming and so the name should change.

      • http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/About/General/2011/5/6/1304701779699/Magdalena-Ivasecko-and-Si-007.

        As they said, sluts say yes. People who dress in skimpy clothes do it often enough because they want male attention and sex. They don’t want to have sex with everyone though, and want their no to mean something. They don’t talk much about your implied message, that the way someone dresses says nothing about their sex life. The general message is more, even if we are seeking out casual sex, make rapists not rape, don’t tell me what to wear. Wearing skimpy clothes isn’t a license to grab my bum.


        “The prevalence of this attitude in our culture at large drew many to this cause to end blaming victims of sexual violence, and judging peoples’ worth by their bodies and what they do with them.”

        I.e. don’t judge me even if I am doing sexual things. That’s always been the core of their message. It’s mostly been promoted by women who want to do sexual things but don’t want to be raped. So the name fits.

      • I don’t like the word slut, I have a lot of sex and have slept with quite a few people. I’m not a slut.
        I think the beauty of words is that we can agree to disagree, but would still argue that the name should be changed to something which covers both our ideas of the events purpose, however.

  2. I got the impression it was about how someone was perceived, not how they actually are. The way that someone dresses says nothing about their sex life, just as sleeping with people doesn’t make anyone a slut.
    I think, however, that having no clear intention now that it has moved from the police officer’s comment, that it has also moved from being about victim-blaming and so the name should change.

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