Photo by danielvmedia.com
“You will all burn in hell you disgusting whores! God hates sinners!”
Jesus, I think to myself. That’s a bit dramatic for a beautiful Sunday afternoon. Oh, well. I brush it off with a brisk shake of my shoulders. Now where did I put my car keys…
All of this hoopla over a really decent cause makes me somewhat unnerved. The ridiculous statements above came from scared men with sandwich signs draped over their bodies–forgive me, their unsullied, holy bodies. The sun was shining and the grass on the Portland park blocks had this amazing verdant thing going on. Coloring book style. I came here to join in the official Portland SlutWalk 2015.
Yah, I get it. The name probably threw you off, and that’s okay. It’s kind of supposed to. The whole SlutWalk movement has actually become a transnational phenomenon. The rallies started in Toronto in early 2011 in response to a police officer who said women could avoid unwanted sexual attention if they “[avoided] dressing like sluts.” Other cities followed. In a nutshell, participants of the protests wish to eradicate sexual assault, sexual violence, victim-blaming and excusing rape based on what the victim was wearing/drinking/doing at the time. For example, bro no. 1: “Oh man, I heard you banged Taylor last night. Wasn’t she pretty wasted?” Bro no. 2: “Yah dude. She couldn’t keep her eyes open. But she winked at me once in class and was wearing a super short skirt. She basically wanted me to fuck her.” Girl wasn’t able to respond and say no. Girl was dressed in skanky clothes. Girl had possibly expressed previous interest. Having sex with an unconscious female and blaming their behavior for the sexual assault they’ve endured? Not so cool. Sounds pretty straightforward, right?
It’s important to remember that this isn’t boy vs. girl shit we’re dealing with here. Organized by female phenom Sterling Clark, there were five speakers at the gathering in downtown PDX. The audience was made up of men, women, transgendered, queer, lesbian and gay and everyone in between with a sexuality for which I haven’t yet remembered a definition. The point is that this is everyone’s problem.
When I arrived in the bustle of scantily clad people ready to march (there were some super cute dogs, too) I didn’t expect to be moved so much. I am in staunch opposition of sexual violence in its many forms, but I kind of just wanted to get my tits out. My purple skirt and thigh highs must have been working their magic, because the religious zealots were still bellowing through their fat pie-holes. I wrote “I love consensual sex” on my chest and let them free. Then the meeting started before the march. The founder of the Portland chapter introduced each individual that would speak. There were many stories of sexual abuse, assault, verbal misconduct and a general atmosphere of “you know what? That shit happened to me and it was scary. It wasn’t safe. And I’m reminded of it all the time. But I’m taking these words back and using them for power and pride. I am not going to be ashamed for wearing what I want. And guess what patriarchy? Suck it.”
At the same time, it was quite sad to me. I know so many people who have been sexually assaulted. So many that it makes my knees buckle a little. I am one of those people, too. All around me were people who had been hurt by others in a very deep way, and all there to support one another through the heartache and anger and tears. My eyes even started to well up several times, because this energy was so palpable.
Stories were said and emotions recounted for all to hear. We put on our fishnets, held our signs, bared our breasts and marched upon the streets of Portland on the most gorgeous day of the year. It wasn’t for fun, it was for a reason. The route was short but meaningful and even though most passersby didn’t understand what was going on, we did. The word was out there and our chants were clear.
“Whatever we wear, wherever we go. Yes means yes and no means no. “
“ 2-4-6-8, no more violence, no more hate”
And it echoed off the shiny silver buildings and back into our violated ears. Some people post on Facebook about a cause. Some people get out there and march in the god-damn road. By the way, the protest was sanctioned by the city and we walked along a designated route with police supervision. Some cute ones, too! (Insert winky, slutty, kissy face). It wasn’t some floozy-driven mockery people might conjure up in their head. Slutwalk was organized and generally calm, with an intense pressure by the organizers to respect EVERYONE. I don’t think the grotesque hecklers had to adhere to the same strict agenda, sadly.
I walked my walk and I talked my talk. We all did. We were all there for one simple, common denominator: respect. Respecting experiences, boundaries and bodies. A few hundred totally different life experiences marching together. The crazy thing was that everyone was fired-up–yet kind. Passionately unyielding, but forgiving. Angry and yet willing to be vulnerable to help bring awareness and remind everyone that 2015 is not what you think it is. Indeed, we have come a long way. Indeed, we have so much further to go.