On the Feminists-in-Underwear Walks

Revolution welcomes comments/responses to articles in our newspaper. The following was written by Samantha Berg in response to Sunsara Taylor’s article, “The Thing About Slutwalks…and a World Without Rape” posted at revcom.us Oct 9, 2011


I tried to avoid writing an essay on SlutWalks. I’ve left pieces around the never-ending party that is the internet, but I’d rather be stomping out johns than criticizing essentially well-intentioned women.

The initial trigger shot off when Sunsara Taylor wrote an essay for Revolution titled, “The Thing About Slutwalks… and a World Without Rape” and requested my opinion. My respect for her diligence has only grown since we got to know each other at the Stop Porn Culture event in July and she deserves a thorough response.

The anecdotes she offers of women gathering and speaking with each other are potent, and I believe when she says it was an overall inspiring occasion for the women involved. What I question is if that’s enough to mitigate all the other stuff. Anti-woman traditions are often ameliorated with “Well at least women are befriending each other.” For example, polyamorists focus on what good friends multiple wives become and women point out the friendships of the Sex & the City gals when confronted with the show’s misogyny. Personal connections are good, but are they good enough to exact necessary political change?

While I accept Sunsara’s recounting of how crucial camaraderie and baby step introductions to feminism are, I have to deny that SlutWalk represents a new surge of feminist energy. In 2004 I reported on the March For Women’s Lives for The Portland Alliance newspaper, and since then I’ve not just participated but planned other public actions. Thanks to Facebook, I know of half a dozen feminist protest marches this summer. A few, like Take Back the Night and Reclaim the Night, are annual events on some campuses around the world. Others dwelling in my Events folder are the Freedom Walk, Walk a Mile in Her Shoes (men walk in women’s shoes), and the Zero Tolerance for Domestic Violence Walk in honor of Maria Aguilar.

None of these, and more I’ll never hear about, will be covered by the mainstream media with a droplet of the fervor given to SlutWalks and we all know why.

Declarations of supposedly watershed moments in women’s liberation are frequent, and they usually revolve around women acting more publicly sexual. How many times have we been told that the public presence of libertines like Mae West, Marilyn Monroe, Raquel Welch, Madonna, Lil Kim, Britney Spears, Jenna Jameson, “Samantha Jones” and the entirety of fuckme feminism’s twenty year rule would usher in less sexual oppression for women? The theory has not become reality because men have women where they want them and not Mae nor Marilyn nor Madonna have managed to change that despite delusions of pussy power grandeur.

I have seen the word ‘slut’ so many times in the past few months that despite my overt rejection it has seeped into my brain. When I think and write, the word interjects. I recognize the effect from researching pornography, though porn’s images intrude far more aggressively than news-safe pictures of SlutWalk.

One day the word jumped out of my head deployed as an ‘ironic’ adjective to achieve sarcasm, possibly the purest form of Freudian slip. A linguist, I know something of how language works, and I know people can’t look at a word without reading it and recalling its dense social content instantaneously. I can’t see ‘slut’ frequently put before me without unconsciously referring to everything I’ve learned about it, and neither can you.

When feminists hold signs declaring “sluts say yes” and “call me a slut too”, they are making a public statement for womankind. Unfortunately, men are not taking up the sign-holders’ offers with only the sign-holders. SlutWalkers tell men it’s okay to call me a slut and to call my sisters sluts from now until they bore of it, and men desensitize to desiring harsher words quickly. The explosion of porn-inspired words made to hurt women is a lesson in never underestimating men’s creativity when it comes to destruction, and women had better learn the lesson because Future Sam will not write about why I can’t support CumguzzlerWalks or CocksocketWalks.

In 2008 frat pledges at Yale held signs declaring “We Love Yale Sluts” in front of the campus Women’s Center and in 2010 another frat’s pledges chanted, “No means yes. Yes means anal!” Young pornfed men have been giving women proof long before Slutwalks that positively sexy feminist tactics aren’t working. “Yes Means Yes” is a useless strategy for stopping men who are turned on by the thought of violating a woman’s ‘no’. Such men view women enthusiastically wanting sex as a challenge to find something more degrading than they believe merely poking a woman vaginally already is (in this case anal sex is the next level) and will never be happy with hordes of lovely ladies begging for it. Like the global appeal of sex with virgins, the whole point is to break something irreplaceable.

The final incident spurring me to write was encountering a young survivor of prostitution who was not beaten into The Life by a pimp or forced by her impoverished family. The most common of reasons compelled her, the need for money, and she met a woman who told her about the big bucks to be made in pornstitution. She said she was a feminist.

I have heard this tale before, and if you speak with enough prostitution survivors you’ll hear it too. If you’re able to read about porn-caused trauma, I recommend radfem blogger Lost Clown’s testimony:

“Desperate for money (for food) and sold down the river by women I trusted. Now I’m not saying that I am a moron and do whatever someone tells me to do, what I am saying is that women who I respected, who were older then me, more experienced then me, and in every way I could see amazing feminists sold me on the idea that it was an ok thing to do for money.”

Being recruited—maliciously or not—by other women into professional sluthood is how most of the prostituted women I personally know were coaxed in the door.

Tied into SlutWalk is the confusion of sex-focused feminists telling men they can use women as prostitutes in an “I’m rubber and you’re glue” way that bounces off the not-for-saleable proclaimers and, once again, sticks to me and my sisters. They could be telling men about a revolution sweeping the world from Scandinavia since 1999, a woman-centered movement the mainstream media has actually given a huge amount of attention to under the generalized name of trafficking. However, the Nordic feminist revolution has been declared not just unsexy by these sexiest of feminists, but worthy of active resistance and called a menace to sexual freedom.

The organizer-acknowledged truth of SlutWalks is the same tragic “make feminism sexy” edict that has failed us since that ship set sail. I certainly don’t lay all the blame for labiaplasty, ass-to-mouth porn, and the growing use of the phrase “child sex worker” on misguided feminists, not in this male supremacist world. Right now I’m looking at the contemporary phenomena of Slutwalks and taking in the positives of women organizing under a ‘slut’ banner while keeping an eye on relevant negatives.

Feminists who pressure women into accepting themselves as sluts and prostitution as a beneficial form of work have the good intention to lessen the damages these nasty manifestations of sexism inflict. This particular road to Hell is not a paved path but the roof of a tall building with young, questioning girls ringing the edges and Full Frontal Feminists standing behind them. They look over the side scared and wondering if they should take the plunge when from behind a trusted voice chirps, “You can fly, sexy bitch!” So like Lost Clown they try, and they drop, but it’s too far down for the Rosie WeCanDoIts to hear the wet thuds on the street from the center of the roof.

The pornographic pushback of recent years is the expected response of misogynistic men to women hitting their stride. Less expected was liberal feminists accepting men’s abusive insults on faulty premises of reclamation. Radical feminists will continue to have our unsexy marches against sexual violence and they will continue to be mostly ignored. Young women on the edges will still be vulnerable, but if they scream “I’m a slut!” and jump off our roof, we have a rope of bedsheets tied together and a team of radfems ready to pull her up.


Samantha Berg is National Coordinator for the feminist organization Stop Porn Culture and founder of www.Genderberg.com, an anti-prostitution activist community and resource center since 2005.

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