By Jesse Bade, Staff Writer
"Who Are You Calling a Slut?" Controlling Women's Sexuality through Shame and Violence, was the name of a discussion about the issue of women who dress "slutty" asking to be sexually assaulted. The Center for Civic Engagement sponsored the discussion in the Leo A. Guthart Cultural Center Theater, as part of its ninth Day of Dialogue.
Holly Myer, an organizer of the SlutWalk held October 1st in New York City, was a guest speaker at the event. She talked about the recent events of Toronto police telling college students that they should stop dressing "slutty" if they want to avoid being sexually assaulted. Myer spoke out against this statement, arguing that we cannot blame women's clothing for crimes because it leads to people overlooking the crime itself. That is why they perform "slut walks," she stated.
"It's about what we are trying to do to stop sexual violence," said Myer, emphasizing the idea that it should be the criminals at fault, not the victims who dressed like they were "asking for it."
In agreement with this idea, Dr. Lisa Merrill, a University professor of Speech Communication, Rhetoric and Performance Studies, provided an example in which she described a man reporting a robbery to a police officer. The officer responds to his report by saying things such as, "you were wearing an expensive suit," "you've given money to people before," and "you were walking at 11 o'clock at night, by yourself," all hinting at the idea that the man was asking for it, that he deserved to be mugged. Merrill exemplified the ridiculousness of the accusation that a woman deserves to be sexually assaulted, because in her scenario the businessman would be just as deserving of victimization.
Dr. Amy Baehr, an assistant professor in Philosophy, also spoke during the event. She displayed the research that was done in 2000 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which showed that approximately 70% of all sexual assaults are by a family member or friend of the victim. Baehr used this evidence to support the idea that clothing cannot be a contributor if these crimes are done by people the victim knows, because then the victims are not being targeted based on their apparel. Baehr also stated, in relation to statements made by law enforcement concerning clothing affecting attacks, that although we can say that a girl "ought not to dress like a slut" it is not an obligation.
"It is the assailant that has a moral obligation not to attack," Baehr said, thus reinforcing the idea that it is not the victim that should be scolded or punished.
This discussion opened the eyes of the many participants to the meaning of the phrase "dressing like a slut." It showed the injustice and inhumanity of a girl who dresses in "slutty" clothing being blamed for provoking an assailant to attack her and emphasized the fact that we cannot undermine the crime of sexual assault because of the victim's actions. The discussion concluded to say that rape is still a crime and must be equally punishable regardless of the clothing the victim was wearing when it occurred.