What Dressing Like a Slut Says

On January 24, 2011, Constable Michael Sanguinetti and another officer from Toronto’s 31 Division came to a York University Safety Forum at the Osgoode Hall Law School. While presumably listing ways to avoid sexual assault  Sanguinetti  said, “You know, I think we’re beating around the bush here. I’ve been told I’m not supposed to say this, however, women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”

It was a choice of words he came to regret. It outraged many people including one MACLEANS commentator  who said, “A woman has the right to dress as she wishes. It is never okay for someone to take away her ability to feel safe in her own body simply because society deems her dresses provocative. A woman has the right to to say ‘no’ and have her decision be respected.”

Toronto Police spokeswoman Meaghan Gray responded on behalf of the Police by saying that cautioning women on their state of dress is not part of any police training. “They are taught that nothing a woman does contributes to a sexual assault.” Sanguinetti apologized in a written statement.

The Constable’s comments triggered a “Slut Walk” at Queen’s Park in Toronto that attracted thousands of participants. The movement has now spread to the U.S. and England. The intent of the walks is to help to remove the stigma of the term “Slut”. They also want to spread the word that those who experience sexual assault are not the ones at fault, without exception.

Which is all very admirable, but ignores the fact that the Constable was trying to tell women that there are violent men out there who target prostitutes (sluts), and in some circumstances, women will be safer if they don’t dress in the same clothing that prostitutes wear in order to advertise the sex trade.

It is the same common sense that says it is inadvisable to wear a bikini to a dinner party given by the bosses wife, or a fur coat to a PETA Rally.

One step beyond wearing hardly any clothes is Nudity. In many countries public nudity is forbidden outright on the basis that nudity is inherently sexual. Large numbers of people are, for various reasons, offended by and even distressed with public displays of nudity. Attempts to make public nudity legal will likely continue to fail, mostly because the majority of people don’t have skin that fits them all that well. That is why most prostitutes dress the way they do – it is more alluring to dress like a slut than to wear no clothes at all.

Which is likely why Mark Twain observed:

Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence in society.

So ladies, wear revealing clothing if you want to. But don’t ever think it is safe to wear anything you want where ever you want. Life isn’t about Why you shouldn’t be a victim, it is about how NOT to be a victim.

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15 thoughts on “What Dressing Like a Slut Says

  1. Margie, I agree that women need to think before they dress. But some countries like mine have taken things too far. Religious “advisors” in Malaysia had simply put the blame solely on women who wear high heels and red lipstick or short skirts on contributing towards the increase of rape cases. These advisors not only showed sexual discrimination but also insulted Malaysian men by implying that they are beasts who have no control of themselves and will attack any women they deem “too sexy”. These were actually on national newspapers and talks to ban high heels and red lipstick were on the headlines a little while. That was the time I felt ashamed being a Malaysian. Thank goodness the madness stopped eventually.

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    • I agree that women should be able to dress any way they want. But every culture has interpretations about what is suitable and what isn’t. We lived in the Middle East for a few years, and while we were not required to wear an Abaya, we were advised to wear modest clothing, and to cover our arms and legs when we were in public. This requirement wasn’t because men were viewed as not having control. This was a show of respect to the local women who did wear the Abaya.

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  2. I am giving you a standing ovation, margie! You’ve said what seems to be forbidden to say. We can all agree that rape isn’t about sexual attraction. Only the truly ignorant wouldn’t admit that. But the way a woman dresses can alert a rapist-to-be to look at it as a signal of submission, of weakness, and then, of opportunity. Wow – I could get into a ton of trouble for saying all this – not many women want to talk about this issue at all. But people get targeted for all sorts of reasons – it’s not a given that wearing “slutty” clothes will lead to rape – there’s no correlation, but it could start the chain of events.

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    • I agree that rape isn’t about sexual attraction, it is about exerting control. I believe that the Constable was telling women that there are ways to minimize being a victim, and that would include not dressing like a sex worker in certain situations or places. Women want to feel safe, but in the real world they are sometimes targeted because they are smaller and more vulnerable.

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  3. Excellent article. I too believe rape is about power. But your point about dressing for the culture you live in speaks volume. Well said. There are two sexes to be concerned about when we dress. Showing respect for other women is and should be a huge part of how we treat ourselves. Women’s rights isn’t always about showing more.
    Too bad we have not come further when it comes to women, dress and the abuse of power of them.

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    • It seems to me that in our culture, the single biggest challenge facing women is how to get past judging themselves and others by how they look. We all do it to some degree. It is unfortunate that we have an entire industry dedicated to fostering this insecurity.

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    • Hi Bee – From what I’ve read on the internet about this story, not many people spoke up for the Constable. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) my blog isn’t likely to be read by those people who tore into the Constable for his comment.

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  4. The title of this event is terrible. Sexual assault and rape victims deserve to be treated with the utmost respect not made fools of by supporting a group callled “SlutWalk” ..ridiculous. Please change this and treat these victims with care and RESPECT. Thanks a lot for rubbing salt into the wounds of these women who’ve been burned. O… yeah, I’m shocked the creators are women. Get a life and get creative. I’m sure as hell not supporting a group called SlutWalk no matter what it’s for. This is serious. Change the group name and don’t embarass yourselves. What the hell were you all thinking?
    Abigail Jane Dalgleish, Jessica Poor, Mariam Afshar and Anna Fry: You are the dumb sluts in this situation and need to get a fucking life. Don’t brainwash and hurt these precious women any more than they have been.
    To the women who dress like Whores:
    You women are acting like idiots. More to the point, like dumb sluts. Women need to use thier brains and stop dressing like skanks becuase it WILL get them raped. It’s the way sociopathic men behave and it would be simply common sense to send out your personal messages by your clothing, This cop, although crude, was right.
    Peace. -CleverOne

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    • Hi EC – Appropriate dress is both personal taste and part of a culture. There are times and places for any type of dress, and it is always a good idea to understand the consequences of these decisions.

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  5. I really dig your posts. We live in so called free countries. However, their is an old adage or saying that goes something like this. “Nothing in life is free.” Freedom to choose what you wear, where and how you live, what you speak, and the list goes on and on. Women as well as men most decide what is actually appropiate in any given situation. I learned a long time ago- where there is action there will be reaction. One can apply that saying to just about anything in life. I tried to write this in a subtle way- hope that this sounded okay but still could be understood.

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    • Yes, subtle but understandable.
      There is a time and a place for everything – though I think my definition of time and place is quickly falling out of step with many of the younger generation!
      I think they would be quick to tell me I’m too old to wear ‘slut’ clothes though.

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