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Slut shaming vs victim blaming

December 17, 2012

I was reading The Guardian online the other day and found an article which described a hugely despicable practice called “slutdropping”. Now before I proceed with the story I should point out, which the article later does, that I only knew slutdropping as a dance move, where you fling one arm up in the air and drop suddenly to a squat before coming back up again. Usually it is employed to attract the attention of the opposite sex or at least for one night only pretend you are Beyoncé or JLo. However, in this article, slutdropping has moved on from being a fairly harmless dance move despite it’s really awful name, to a situation where young men offer lifts to young drunken women and if she accepts, she would then be driven as fast and as far as possible from her chosen destination before being unceremoniously chucked out the car. And there you have the slutdrop. Disgusting isn’t it? I mean, it’s bad enough to actually have named a dance the slutdrop because the implications there say it all. Are all women who perform this move sluts? Really? But then to take it further and then literally drop a woman, a drunk out of your car and call it slutdropping, tells me that there is something very wrong with the perception of women and in particular drunk women.

Just recently TfL release a video showing the pitfalls of having too much to drink during the Christmas season and travelling via public transport. Cue slightly amusing shots of people falling down and up escalators, falling over whilst running for trains, and general silliness resulting in painful falls. Fairplay to TfL they are just trying to encourage to be careful, but I was intrigued as to why all the examples they showed were of women. As if to say that men don’t get drunk and do foolishness. Why only warn women to be responsible during the party season? Why is women’s safety solely in their own hands?

Which brings me to my purpose for writing this article. I watched a video response by comedienne Chescaleigh on YouTube to another video where a female comedienne, Jenna Marbles, was discussing women (read sluts) who have one stands. The gist was that if a woman met a stranger or someone she didn’t know well, went home with him and then encountered rape or something similar, then really her own fault as she should have known better. Now I’m not here to debate the rights and wrongs of a one night stand, as I think it’s neither here or there to the point I am about to make, which is that rape in whatever circumstance it occurs should never be considered the woman’s fault. Whether that woman is promiscuous or a virtual nun, if she did not want sex, if she did not consent to sex and sex took place, then the man is at fault.

In response to the Jenna Marbles video, Chescaleigh gives a very emotional testimony of her date rape experience in her late teens. The story is all too familiar out with friends, gets very drunk, a guy in the group she is none too familiar with takes advantage and lo she wakes up next morning unsure as to what happened. To make things worse her ‘friend’ tells everyone about it and she has to suffer the humiliation of being called names, have slurs on her reputation while at the same time try to come to terms with the fact that she was raped. Unsurprisingly she blamed herself for what happened. I can only imagine that she went through a series of ‘if onlys’ and ‘whys’ which were more than likely compounded by the crap she was having to take from others over the situation.

But here’s the thing, and Chescaleigh makes this point soundly: Instead of blaming women for rape, or for ‘apparently’ getting themselves into a situation where rape occurs, how about men stop raping women? How about men stop thinking that a drunk woman is an open invitation for sex, non-consensual sex at that. Too often I hear stories of women who have been taken advantage of in what seemed like relatively innocent situation, and yes part of me does think ‘Oh my God’ I have done the exact same thing, but for the grace of God…’ and that woman’s story serves as a cautionary tale in that I now think twice when I’m out and about. But as these two videos demonstrate there is a very thin line between a cautionary tale and making women responsible or complicit in the violation of their bodies and rights, and I think that Jenna Marbles crosses it.

In the wider sense this YouTube sound off together with the slutdrop story and the TfL suggests that in society today women out having a good time or not as case maybe, is just not acceptable.  A woman dancing seductively is asking for it. A woman dressed in a short skirt or tight jeans is asking for it. A woman drunk and stumbling home is asking for it. Whether it be a tumble down the escalator, being pushed out of a car or being raped, women are still society’s most vulnerable creatures simply because nobody expects men to be honourable and responsible and to live that part.

So here’s my party season tip: Men, when you are out and the young woman you are talking, as attractive and fit as she is, if she is drunk and slurring her words and really is in no fit state to make a sensible and informed decision about whether or not she wants to sleep with you. Call her cab, if you have no money put her on the last train /bus home. Make sure she gets home and leave. That’s it. Perhaps, call her in the morning, if you have managed to swap numbers. Check she is ok. Trust me she’ll be embarrassed but she’ll think differently of you. This might work in your favour in the long run.  You might actually get a date, and even if you don’t you will be known as a man with manners, a gent, which is better being known as a date rapist. And you will restore a little bit of faith in men for several women out there who have had encounters with others who have taken advantage them.

For the rest of us, let’s not be so quick to judge. Regardless of the circumstances, rape  and other forms of sexual assault is not about sex, it is about power. It is about taking advantage of someone in a position where they are unable to protest. It does not mean that the victim is responsible and to imply as much is to absolve the perpetrator and we do not need to live in a world where that is the case.

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