A response to Slutwalk Portland

Illustration by Marika Van de Kamp

The Slutwalk: a new tradition featuring a brazen display of unabashed sexuality and freedom. Wonderful, right? Women should be free to do what they wish with their bodies, wherever and with whomever they want. I agree. But for every cause there is an effect; every well-intending person will face an unfortunate rendering of psychopathy; and we all have or eventually will make a stupid decision that may lead to serious harm.  

The walk is a statement about women being able to show themselves in obviously sexual ways but also how it should not be taken sexually or used as permission to assault. The walk also makes the statement that women are never responsible for being raped.

These messages have good intentions, but, for one, they are trying to liberate an already liberated population. Nobody is saying that women shouldn’t be able to dress how they wish, but anyone sensible would think about the consequences of wearing attire that is meant to draw attention to intimate parts.

Feminists are right about one thing: What a woman wears (or does not wear) should not give license for others to take advantage of her. It is never OK to sexually assault someone. Though, what the statistics actually show is that women who are more demure and shy in their behavior and conservative in their dress are more vulnerable to being attacked, and women who display themselves sexually project confidence and assertiveness that criminals are less likely to go after. Sexual assaults are predominantly about power and the desire to undermine, and someone who displays an abundance of power is not an ideal target.

Still, dressing slutty will not serve you well unless it’s objectification that you hope to accomplish. Don’t get me wrong, I like to look at butts and boobs too. (Is that sexist if I’m also a woman?) If I didn’t get stared at every time I went in public without a bra, I would omit that stuffy garment daily. I know that my skinny jeans, which I grew up wearing and feel most comfortable in, are quite form fitting and some men take that as me wanting them to look at my bum. Although it is still inappropriate for them to comment aloud on my appearance, I totally understand the human impulse to look at someone who appeals to you. This is something women need to be aware of and be cautious about.

When viewing women who they’ve never met before adorned in a skimpy bikini, the same part of a male brain activates as when men use tools. Objects. Men are thinking of pure physicality and nothing else. Well, if the striking image of your mostly bare body is all you exhibit, then what else is there to think about if one doesn’t know you?

Biologically, men are visual creatures, voyeurs not of their own doing but by nature. Women are too of course, but men much more so. If this is not the case, then why are there thousands of female-centered strip joints to every one that features males dancers? Why do men collectively spend much more money than women (who spend no money) to access porn or swimsuit magazines?

Men are wired to have a sexual response to a sensual image (shocker), and some will even react to a mannequin in a store window. This is not because men are socialized perverts, but because their brains are very different and visually oriented by nature’s orders. This is not mutually exclusive across sexual orientations: Gay men have strong responses to the sight of other men. I think we can safely say that the sexual imagery we encounter in passing is aimed at heterosexual men, proving that men are wired this way—gay or not. Most men learn how to control all this sexual input and be respectful. Think though of how tortured they must be, with advertisements and media images everywhere celebrating the tantalizing female body.

These facts of nature get muddled when we live in a campus culture that commonly points to the unscientific figure claiming “one in five women in college will get sexually assaulted.” Therefore, men are pigs. Yet no, anyone who has looked into the matter will see that what is considered sexual assault in that statistic, which was concluded by a mere telephone survey with a low response rate, also includes really dumb decisions and sexual encounters that were not assault but simply regrettable. Does anyone ever consider that the constant messages from society that tell women that they are oppressed and victimized plus the promotion of wild sexuality and poor decision making (i.e. the Slutwalk) might equate to these shocking results?

Getting hammered and having consensual sex is not rape. Getting hammered and passing out at a party (a circumstance which leaves one quite vulnerable) is raw ignorance. Dress does have an influence on what a man feels comfortable doing when a woman flirts with him and gets to know him. Avoiding sexual assaults and advances is not about telling women how to act but rather about keeping them safe: Be aware of the messages you send, and don’t put yourself in a vulnerable situation—especially while impaired.

Additionally, bogus revenge claims do happen. There are a number of decidedly discredited accusations, but these undeserved cries for victimhood belittle the terrifying experience of the actual victim who was sober, cornered, and unsuspecting. Instead of helping women to a) take responsibility for their actions or b) be smart enough to avoid an obvious situation where they could be attacked, we are training them to believe that nothing is their fault but always the man’s and that the easy way out of any regrettable situation is to claim victimhood. Oh, and don’t forget that sacrificing your self-respect and the mysterious beauty that is your body will certainly not make people think differently of you.

The truth is that women in America are the most liberated, free, badass creatures on the planet. Really, we have the freedom and power to accomplish great things, from intellectual attainment, societal and career pursuits, being mothers, and a number of other things; we are free to do it all. Our choice of attire is no exception, but we take our freedoms for granted and insist that we are victimized, as the way we dress and act shouldn’t warrant any consequences according to slut principles.


  1. It is unfortunate that a response to our event was written, because it is apparent that you did not listen to our guest speakers or research the purposes of Slutwalk Portland.

    While white feminism is certainly limiting and very problematic to the greater issues that people of different genders and races and sexuality his face, thought walk Portland organizers have always represented queer, sex working, people of color, and various genders, including men.

    The purpose of our event is not to argue that people should be able to walk around in something that you might find distracting, but rather to address the various disparities and intersections of rape culture as it impacts people in varied groups.

    One of our speakers, Kat Salas gave a beautiful speech that outlines her issues with feminism, as a Latinx queer sex worker.

    Another speaker, comedian Chris Ettrick talked about how being gay and a pole dance instructor has allowed him to shirk popular gender roles.

    Partner surrogate Carlene Ostedgaard details a world in where we experience mutual sexual pleasure that is not goal oriented or penis focused.

    And my call to action was to teach children consent and communication, so that we do not grow up in a world where women are defending the abuse of other women, as the writer in this piece has done.

    In conclusion, I hope that the editor of the Portland vanguard distributes responsibility with more intent, because I don’t think that writers who inject their opinions on events that they don’t understand should have a platform.

    • Elle, your response shows so much restraint and insight it’s amazing. Going to look up your event and walk proudly in it, wearing whatever the hell I want because “think about the consequences of wearing attire that is meant to draw attention to intimate parts” is one of the most rape-enabling crap I’ve seen published as an OP/ED in a long time outside of quotes from our current Administration.

      Someone with an actual BA in Journalism

  2. While I will defer to Elle’s comments on the content of SlutWalk – given that she is one of the principle players for the movement in Portland – I am concerned about this on a philosophical level.

    Much of this argument is rooted a reductivist framework: guys objectify (or, at bare minimum, instrumentalize) girls because of “nature”, brain chemistry, or some other speculation rooted in evolutionary biology. That alone might be an interesting claim if it were statistically or empirically conclusive and if human males showed, in general, as much self-restraint in sexual encounters as the average baboon. The problem is: it isn’t conclusive at all, and we very often do show restraint (certainly compared with our rapacious baboon cousins).
    Your arguement here, however, suggests that the proclivities for sexual assault-related activities are just a matter that can be reduced down to the nature of the male brain. In essence, this suggests that women need to exercise thoughtful caution (in dress, drinking habits, etc.) because males are naturally predisposed to to levels of objectification that can result in sexual assault. Aside from the obvious slight to women and questionable evidence; this is genuinely insulting to men.

    My mental capacities are a far cry from that of a baboon or early hominid, dear author – I needn’t view a woman in a bikini as a tool nor do I suffer some sort of primal urge to take advantage of a drunk girl. I never needed to learn how to “control” these supposedly innate sexual inputs because they never existed in the place. Human males are intelligent, and are more than capable of determining behavioral criteria and social expectations without having to constantly combat an endless cacophony of primal sexual urges. To hold us males to a lower intellectual standard is not only degrading; it loosely justifies the naturalization of certain types of sexual behavior – one of those being the propensity to sexually assault someone.

    As a human male I hold myself to a higher standard than a monkey, author – shouldn’t women be able to hold men to that standard as well?

  3. I am a PSU Alumni, a former college Editor and Editor in Chief … and I cannot believe this went to print.

    Mislabeling this Opinion piece as a “Review of an Event” is disgusting and speaks to poor editorial judgement. It would be my recommendation that The Vanguard reclassify this piece to what it is, an opinion piece. Otherwise it might suggest that this opinion reflects that of the entire publication.

    I hope that the author of this takes some time to further her education before attempting to inflict her biased and quite frankly, anti-feminist and downright sexist views on anyone else.

    • The current editor is fucking terrible. It would do some good for someone like you to do some outreach and stir the pot, because this has gone on long enough.

    • Amanda, it looks like you couldn’t tell this was indeed under the “opinion” section. Each writer might have said things a little different.
      How is this anti-feminist and sexist? If you become too sensitive to opinions, re-evaluate yourself. She brought up good points (that certainly needed some further explaining) but how is a woman sexist also?
      She ended it with empowering women, especially here in America. That doesn’t seem anti-woman to me.
      It’s a good thing you no longer are dictating what gets published because opinions are diverse and there needs to be more of it at Portland State.

  4. Can you please site sources about the following statements in your piece?

    “Biologically, men are visual creatures…women too but men much more so”
    “Men collectively spend much more money on porn”

    These seem to be somewhat outlandish statements without any solid facts or statistics to support them.

    Slutwalk is demonstration of support of victims of sexual assault/harassment/abuse who have been blamed for being physically,mentally, and sexually violated by another person.

    Slutwalk is not about “dressing and acting however you want with no consequences”. If you are a lawyer and you show up to work topless then yeah you will likely have consequences because that’s not appropriate for the environment you’re in. Those consequences however are not physical or sexual assault. As for doing whatever you want with no consequences Slutwalk is messaging the exact opposite. The message is “You cannot sexually violate another human with no consequences”. If we applied your argument to another crime that was not sexually oriented it would seem quite silly. For example if one was on trial for no sexual aggravated assault do you think the defense “well their face just looked really puncheable” would stand up in court? Probably not.

    Too many of your contemplative questions you’ve posed to make a statement can be answered with “because we live in a male dominated patriarchial society”. Teach people not to rape. Instead of teaching people how to not get raped.

    • I think the author could have included sources since these facts can be triggering to some. You sound like a worker at Google.
      There are many sources easily found online that support these claims, based on studies (biological, psychological, and social studies). Although some sites have been banning publishing triggering facts so I hope you find some good one’s if you decide to look it up. I’m actually a psychology student so I read and learn a lot about gender differences. That doesn’t mean we are not capable of doing the same things.
      Also, we don’t live in a male dominated society. Quit thinking like a victim or you will never be happy and never live to your full potential. Take it as advice.

  5. First, disclosure: I coordinated volunteer security for Slutwalk, so I have an obvious bias.

    This anti-feminist “response” article is founded on misconception, and wrong right off the bat. “A new tradition featuring a brazen display of unabashed sexuality and freedom”? No. The march is in protest of the belief that “Women could avoid being raped if they would stop dressing like sluts.” A pop culture rationalization at odds with sexual assault research.

    Astonishingly, the author at first gets this right, linking a salient study from the Duke Journal of Gender Law and Policy about how dressing provocatively doesn’t make women vulnerable… Sadly, only to later recant and close with the victim blaming insinuation that conservative dress keeps you safe from sexual assault. Thanks, Marika, for providing the research debunking your conclusion!

    This would have been clear to the author, /if/ she attended Slutwalk. If she listened to the speakers. Read the signs. Talked to those organizing Slutwalk. But she clearly did not — despite the march being right next to PSU.

    When you “respond” to something, shouldn’t you first know what it is?

    And then there’s her sexist generalization of men, “Think though how tortured they must be”, “Men are thinking of pure physicality and nothing else.” No, that’s a cultural construct and rationalization of abuse, excluding personal responsibility for men. Part and parcel of rape culture.

    Sexist generalization of women too! “Well, if the striking image of your mostly bare body is all you exhibit” — actually, the speakers were fully clothed, and people went to hear them speak. “Getting hammered and passing out at a party is raw ignorance” — as if that were the usual circumstance during sexual assault.

    The article closes with bald slut-shaming, “sacrificing your self-respect”, and a paltry attempt to discred college sexual assault statistics with a youtube link to talking points from conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute. Credulous!

    What a toxic marvel of victim blaming, slut shaming, and ignorance.

  6. It is clear this piece was written as a reactionary response to an event, and movement, that the author does not understand, and likely has not researched significantly, if at all. Little, if any, of this piece actually addresses the key points and issues SlutWalk centers around, as Elle points out in the first response on the comments here.

    SlutWalk is not about shaming men who like to look at sexy women. Nor is it about victimizing all women. Quite the opposite – if anything it is about pushing toward a society in which all people can enjoy sexually appealing thoughts, desires, behaviors, and interactions in a way that is respectful and safe for all parties involved, and for all identities and orientations.


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