Sex & Love

Slut-Shaming, Sexual Assault, and Stubbornness

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As my partner and I held hands and walked down the sidewalk of a somewhat quiet street after lunch on Monday, a car drove past and a man leaned out the window just long enough to shout “Whore!” at me as they passed by.

I don’t know what made me a whore that afternoon. I mean, yeah, I like doing dirty things, but there’s no way that guy could have known. Maybe it was my mini skirt and 3 inch heels. Or that I was wearing makeup. Or that I dared to be a pretty girl on someone else’s arm.

The next day I was walking back to my partner’s apartment from the post office. I was listening to my iPod, the volume cranked. I watched a mini van slow down as it passed me. I could tell the (male) driver had said something, but had no idea what. Then, suddenly, the mini van made a U-turn in the street and pulled up alongside me, slow-following me with the driver still talking. I’m lucky the street and the sidewalk in this neighborhood are a good 5 feet or more away from each other. I ignored the man in the mini van. I kept walking. He drove off.

I wasn’t wearing heels or a short dress that day. There was no sign around my neck saying “please come harass me”. I don’t know what I would have done if the man had done more than drive up alongside me. I’m scrappy and I’m fast, but I shouldn’t have to think about that.

6 and a half years ago I was at the apartment of a guy I liked. We’d gone out a few times to museums and bars and I’d been to his place before for tea and intellectual discussion. We’d gotten drunk and made out once, but we hadn’t had sex. He told me he was a feminist.

We were in his room, in his bed, making out. As our clothing began to come off I stopped and I looked him in the eye and I told him point blank, in no ambiguous language, that I was not ready to have sex with him, and that when we did eventually have sex we would use condoms. He nodded his agreement, but not 5 minutes later he pushed himself into me without my consent and without a condom.

I pushed him away, I said “no” and he stopped, but he did not apologize. I should have put my clothes on and left. I should have told someone. Perhaps I should have reported him to the police. Instead I continued to date him. I didn’t even use the word “assault” in my head until much, much more recently. I confronted him about it once. He didn’t deny that he’d not gotten my consent, but instead of acknowledging that what he had done was wrong, he said I was just “too sexy.”

Yes, it was all my fault. I was simply too sexy to not be raped.

I’m not shy about the fact that I am a sexual person. I love sex. I love having a lot of sex. I usually leave my partners in the dust in that regard. It was a problem for me in the past. I want to experiment and try new things. I’ve been reading Dan Savage since high school. I do my best to be GGG.

I also love to dress up, to wear short skirts and high high heels and put on makeup and be super girly. I don’t see that as in any way at odds with my feminism, just as I don’t see my sexuality as being at odds with my feminism. I know how to hang drywall, how to change the oil in my car and I’ve hiked over 10 miles in a day. I’ve been running a feminist poetry press for 3 years. I shouldn’t have to say those things to try to stave off accusations of being not really a feminist, but I feel like I do, so there you have it.

The point is that I sometimes look sexy to some people. I enjoy looking sexy. I enjoy talking about sex. I enjoy being extra dolled-up when I’m out with my partner. I don’t mind being flirted with. I don’t mind guys saying some things that would probably offend many women. I know that is bound to happen just as I know that sometimes I’m going to get dirty looks from women when I go out. I am realistic. But it should be common sense that these things do not then mean it follows that it’s open season on me, that I deserve to be shouted at on the street. I might be a bit of a slut, but there’s not actually any shame in that.

Some women respond to the realization of what is essentially a lack of control with fear, with only going out in large groups, and with sweatpants or long dresses. However, I am stubborn. For better or for worse I will never do that. I will not stop traveling alone, wearing what I want, out of fear.

In truth, in spite of the above mentioned experiences and countless others of being cat-called and otherwise harassed, I’m not afraid. I’m not even upset about either of the experiences I had this week. It’s sad, but at this point I’m just used to it. But I am concerned that these men might pull the same stupid stunts with women who would be afraid or who would experience lasting trauma from the incident. I am concerned that men like that guy I was with 6 and a half years ago still exist.

To me, not being cowed is one form of my resistance. But perhaps a more important note here is that I am the mother of a boy. I am committed to raising my son to be the kind of person who would never assault someone else, who will be the one to try to stop assault from happening, who will always be respectful and kind and never take advantage of a woman. The way to stop sexual assault and harassment and slut shaming, for me, isn’t to change my outfits or stop talking about sex, but to raise my son well. So I’m going to do that and I’m going to dress like a slut all I want.

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Margaret Bashaar’s poetry has been collected in 2 chapbooks – Letters from Room 27 of the Grand Midway Hotel (Blood Pudding Press, 2011) and Barefoot and Listening (Tilt, 2009) as well as in many literary journals and anthologies. She edits the chapbook micropress Hyacinth Girl Press, attempts to repair antique typewriters, and spends far too much time at haunted hotels in coal mining towns for her own good. She’s only been suspected of being possessed once and hopes to someday become a rogue taxidermist.  @myhyacinthgirl

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2 thoughts on “Slut-Shaming, Sexual Assault, and Stubbornness

  1. Pingback: I Was A Slut Because I Refused To Give Head: The UnSlut Project |

  2. Excellent post! The men who cat-called you/insulted you are the ones with the problem. Sexy/beautiful women such as yourself are obviously a threat to them and they’re trying to degrade you out of their fear of what you stir up deep inside them. These men believe that all of us are whores just waiting to be attacked. It’s sick but you can’t change their minds or show them that a women dressing sexy is not an open invitation to attack by any passing man. God help the poor women who are married to those jerks. Thanks for sharing!! You made tons of good points!! I am now a follower. :-)

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