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Yesterday was the first annual Denver Slut Walk. Yeah, you read that right, and it shocked you a little bit, no? Which is exactly the point of this event; you see it is designed to raise awareness of sexual assault and victim blaming.

You see there is a very stupid but pernicious meme that if a woman (or a man for that matter) dresses a certain way and is sexually assaulted they were “asking for it”. Basically if people think you’re a slut, you don’t deserve to be protected from the predation of rapists.

This idea that anyone, ever, under any circumstances deserves to be raped or assaulted is crazy on so many levels, but let me start with the first and biggest false assumption; Rape and sexual assault are not about sex. They are about domination and control. Again, for those in the cheap seats, it is not about the sex.

Second, it does not matter if someone does have a vigorous and healthy sex life. If does not matter if someone enjoys sex a lot. That does not mean they are “asking for it”.

These are the ideas that the Slut walk is trying to get out into the larger world. Wear what you want, be who you want and nothing that you do makes it okay for anyone to rape you, ever. There is one other thing that the Slut Walks do, they are making an attempt to reclaim the word Slut. Right now it is a good dehumanizing word, a justification for abuse. And it is used far, far too often. Back in the ‘70’s Dan Akroyd used to get screams of laughter when he’d turn to Jane Curtin in the Point/Counter Point segment and say “Jane you ignorant slut”.

It was a funny joke, I laughed as a kid at the shock value of it. But it is a joke that can be ill afforded these days.

The event was not as big as the organizers had hoped. This is, after all, the first year for the Slut Walk here in Denver. Unlike Toronto where the Slut Walk began. This all started just this year, when a spokes person for the Toronto Police said:

One of the safety tips was for women not to dress like ‘sluts

While giving a talk on safety at a law school. The number of things wrong with this is legion and women around the world are standing up to say that enough is enough. There is no correlation between what one wears and sexual assault, none. Yet in the minds of many people (not just cynical cops) if someone wears sexy clothes, they are “asking for it”.
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Which brings us to the two organizers that I had a chance to talk with Emerald Green (and how cool a name is that?) and Bethany Feret. The two twenty-something Denverites say that they had heard about the Toronto Walk and wondered when there would be one in Denver. They finally came to the realization that if there was going to be a Slut Walk here, then they would have to do it themselves.

Organizing an event like this is harder than you might think but in just 90 days they managed to bring all the pieces together. The Facebook page for this event had more than 3,000 people saying they would attend, but the real number was probably closer to 300. Still, from small acorns do mighty oaks grow.

The point was not to have thousands of people come out (though that would have been nice, obviously) but rather to throw down a marker to say “This is wrong and it must end”.

Emerald and Bethany are not alone in this. Even though the Slut Walk is in its first year everywhere, there are more than 80 cities in 14 countries that will be having Slut Walks, everywhere from Mexico to India women and men are standing up and saying what should be obvious, no one deserves to be sexually assaulted.

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There is a culture in the United States that which seems to down play rape. And there is a lot of sexual assault and rape in this country, of both sexes. In Colorado 1 in 4 women and 1 in 17 men will be sexually assaulted. You all know four women and 17 men, so you can be fairly sure that one of them is the victim of sexual assault even if you have not been told.

Worse is the statistic that was on one of the posters up around the Greek Theater in Civic Center Park. It said that a recent survey of High School students found that 56% of girls and 76% of boys said that in some situations forced sex was acceptable. Maybe I am just reaching the old man part of my life, but that made me want to tear my hair out. What the hell is going on with our teens if this is a common belief?
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What I like best about the event was the crowd. You had everything from the Sex Workers Outreach group there in tight black leather, to the family in the picture at the top, Mom, Dad, and Daughters, obviously suburbanites, but there to say that no one knows what your sex life is like from your clothes and that Slut is not a word they were going to back away from, not even Dad.

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There were a ton of photographers there, after all if there are going to be people in skimpy clothes, it is worth sending someone to cover it. But it is not about what people wore or did not wear (your correspondents was wearing a Hawaiian shirt and shorts, I am a subdued type Slut) but that it puts the ideas out there and provides a sense of community.

As Emerald Greene said “If nothing else this is about giving a safe space for people to talk about sexual assault, whether they have been a victim or know a victim. This affects far more people than the general public is aware of and if using the word Slut brings that awareness up, then it is a good thing.”

There were no problems that I saw at the event, but the organizers tell me that they received a lot of heat while they are organizing on Facebook. Some folks thought it was just horrible that they were using the word Slut to draw attention to the issue; others thought that they should just shut up and go away. There were even threats of violence directed at the organizers.

Neither Bethany nor Emerald were sure that they would organize next years event, but they felt confident that someone would. They have actually done the hardest work, getting off their butts and getting something done. These are true citizen activists. They are not making a living doing this, they did it with very little support from anyone but their friends and family, and yet they held an event in the middle of major US city.

They are what we need a lot more of if we are to make our nation a better place. We need people who will stand up and say “This is enough, and I am going to do something about it!” after all you can only be an activist if you act. These young women have acted and they deserve our respect for doing so (not that everyone does not deserve respect as a human, but they went above and beyond that).

So, do Emerald and Bethany a favor, own your inner Slut and be loud in saying that your clothes are not consent. That no one deserves sexual assault, ever.

The floor is yours.

If you want to see all the pics from the Slut Walk Denver, you can see them at this link.

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