I have in the past written about women and the crucial and difficult questions associated with them: Who are women? What do they want? Why are they looking at me like that? Is it true they store enough water in their breasts to survive for three weeks in the desert? Nobody really knows the answer to any of these questions, because women are a mysterious and little-studied subject. But there are some things we definitely do know about women — we know their basic shape, we know they eat roughly the same kinds of things as normal people, and we know they enjoy certain activities such as voting and motherhood.
Nevertheless, women still have the capacity to surprise, and nothing is more demonstrative of this femo-startling ability than SlutWalk, which takes place this coming weekend in Melbourne, and will be soon be sweeping the nation like a great bristly pubic brush.
What is a SlutWalk, you may ask. Is it that sort of walk when you go kind of bow-legged? Well, no, it is actually a powerful demonstration of things, inspired by a policeman in Toronto who told a group of students that if women didn’t want to be raped, they shouldn’t "dress like sluts". Now, in many ways this policeman has got a bum rap from the SlutWalk movement. He did not, after all, say that women shouldn’t act like sluts, only that they shouldn’t dress like them. It’s quite clear that the Toronto police force endorses sluttishness as long as the slut in question wraps up warm. Which is important, because you can catch a chill.
The real question is, what is a slut? It’s yet another difficult question that has no easy answer but which can probably be resolved by a lot of opinion columns. The word has gone through many permutations of meaning, having begun meaning a dirty or slovenly woman, at one time meaning "kitchen maid", and briefly in the 18th century referring exclusively to midgets, before acquiring its current meaning of any woman who has sexual intercourse with a man who has spent less than $50 on her in the last week.
But the fact is, that these days, in the 21st century, the age of fax machines, there are some women who actually like having sex and sometimes want to do it with men. I know, I don’t understand it either, but I have never been one to deny people their fetishes, no matter how bizarre. And it seems fair enough that if a lady gets some kind of mutant "pleasure" from rubbing her yucky bits against someone else’s, she should be free of harassment and abuse. And if a lady enjoys walking about with certain areas waggling free in the breeze, she should if anything be given a hearty handshake and possibly an expensive watch. And this is what SlutWalk is all about: a chance for females everywhere to stand up in public and cry aloud: "Yes we are strange and we wear frightening underpants, but we have RIGHTS".
Which you might think would be uncontroversial. The fact is, some people object to SlutWalk — and not just Canadian policemen and others who believe the tradition of slut-shaming is something worth preserving, like two-up or chronic alcoholism. There are actual feminists who think it’s a bad idea, even though the people who think it’s a good idea are ALSO feminists. Chicks, man. Will they ever make up their minds?
One of the feminists who doesn’t like SlutWalk is Gail Dines, who is such a big massive feminist that if you look feminism up in the dictionary, she’ll slap you because the first syllable of dictionary is "dick". Dines is a powerful and kind-hearted feminist who has committed her life to protecting women from penises, in particular through her book Pornland, a revisionist sequel to Enid Blyton’s Magic Faraway series in which Joe, Bessie and Fanny travel to a world at the top of the tree that seems like fun at first but ends up leaving them jaded and hollow inside and eventually Jo gets arrested for exposing himself to a pixie. Dines has a powerful message about pornography, which is that although pornography may seem exciting, it brings with it distressing consequences, like for instance you go through a lot of towels and sometimes you get a blister.
She also doesn’t like the way in which men who watch porn get an unrealistic idea about women. Like, I’ve been watching porn for years, and I am now unable to achieve s-xual release unless my wife asks me if I’m here to clean the gutters. It makes for a difficult s-x life, especially given she also watches a lot of porn and insists I interview her for a job before every intimate encounter. So we can see how pornography, though beautiful and thrilling in most ways, can have a dark underbelly that, if we are not careful, could lead us to completely waste our lives.
And then of course there is the issue of how, ever since nudity was invented in 1953 by Hugh Hefner, everyone is a rapist which is a shame.
Now it is easy to dismiss Dines and her supporters as crackpots, as fanatics, as sour-faced fascist-leaning morality-sows who wouldn’t know a good time if it jumped up and performed slow and methodical acts of oral love upon them. It is, in fact, VERY easy to do so. Try it right now! How easy was THAT? Isn’t it great? That’s probably a relief for all of us.
But still, does Dines have a point about SlutWalk? Given her record of personally emancipating over six million women using only a Macbook and a brochure about the dangers of sperm poisoning, we should at least hear her out. After all, isn’t being a slut a BAD thing? Aren’t we, as strong liberated women and weak-minded effeminate men who have run out of ideas for getting girls to talk to them, playing into the hands of the patriarchy if we allow ourselves to be labelled sluts and walk around wearing those really long boots all the time? Is it really possible to "reclaim" a word that people find a bit icky? Is it really possible to say, "I’m a slut and I’m proud?" Is it really possible to stop men raping you? Wouldn’t it be easier to wear a really ugly jumpsuit and move into a coal cellar? Wouldn’t it be easier to be a nun?
Well the answers to all the above questions are yes and no, but which are yes, and which are no? Impossible to say, although it’s probable that it WOULD be easier to be a nun.
I think that, in the end, when we consider the question of sluts and whether they should be walking or being shamed or going to prison, a very profound truth has to be acknowledged, a truth which has gone ignored for too long, which is that the opposing sides, the two gangs of womanistas, have more in common than they might think. Because what the Slutwalking sisters of sexual liberation and the purse-lipped Dinesian cock-blockers have in common is their basic, and deeply ingrained, ingratitude. Ingratitude towards men.
As men we have given up a lot for women over the years. We gave them the vote, we gave them drivers’ licences, we gave them nice clothes and the occasional bunch of flowers, all out of the goodness of our hearts even though we knew full well that we would be emasculated and stricken by insecurity and made the subject of interminably boring essays about the crisis of masculinity in western culture.
We made those sacrifices — and what do we get in return? On the one hand, a gaggle of uptight über-Frauen trying to make us feel guilty about our daily tissue turnover, and on the other, a terrifying battalion of flesh-baring harpies trampling all over our manhood and laughing in our faces just because of our very understandable resentment at the fact that some women like to have sex with men who aren’t us. It is, frankly, hurtful, and we can’t decide which is worse — the women who like sex or the women who don’t, especially given neither of them seems to want to give us so much as a peck on the cheek, no matter how charmingly we yell at them from our car or ask them to get various things out. It’s like, geez, take the compliment!
Is it any wonder we think you’re frigid lesbian sluts when you give us such mixed signals: "Oh, yes, I love to look attractive, but I don’t like random strangers demanding blow jobs from me". Well talk about eating a cake which you also simultaneously have! What else would you like, ladies? A chocolate palace? A hovercar? Equal pay? Maybe if you pulled your heads out of the moon you’d realise that what you wanted was right under your nose…all along.
So women, men, feminists, chauvinists, sluts, non-sluts, and angry bitter irrelevancies of both genders: the time has come to put aside animosity, and recognise that conflict gets us nowhere. There is only one way we can achieve peace between the sexes, and that’s to recognise that we all have rights, we all have desires, we all have soft, fleshy things hanging off us, and we can all get along as long as we admit to ourselves what we really already know: things were better in the old days. Before sluts, before feminists, before rape, before psychologists, before enjoyable sex. Can’t we go back? Please?
Because frankly all this woman stuff is making my head hurt something fierce.
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