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(sex)uality: the “safety excuse”

Image: Screenshot via YouTube

Image: Screenshot via YouTube

Don’t walk home alone. Learn self-defence. Mind your drink. Don’t dress provocatively. Don’t go into the mosh pit. Don’t get drunk. It’s for your safety. Subtext: not getting raped, not getting murdered – that’s your responsibility.

Just before Christmas, YouTube star Jenna Marbles released a slut-shaming tirade entitled “Things I don’t Understand About Girls: The Slut Edition”. It was atrocious. I am not going to respond to the whole thing, as the internet has kindly already done this, but one “point” she discussed has really stuck with me and I want to discuss that.

Jenna on one-night stands:

‘Maybe I’m at his house and he’s got big plans of chopping me up into little pieces and keeping me in his freezer for a while? Maybe he’s got like ten roommates in the other room that are just like waiting to close in and gang bang you for the night?’

She uses the “safety excuse” for slut shaming. The safety excuse is a great little method of shaming “sluts” whilst appearing concerned but really perpetuating sexist ideas about the sexual behaviour of women. It is victim blaming in its most innocuous form. It is something that is concerning – girls getting chopped up.

‘You know what’s cool? Hooking up with one guy that you care about and know and have strong feelings for makes you cool,’ says Jenna.

Jenna reasons that women are safer with someone they know than someone they just met. Intuitively, that feels right. Because we all know rapists and killers who threaten our safety are the guys who lurk in dark alleyways.

Female victims of assault are more likely to identify the offender as a family member than a stranger. The majority of female homicide victims are killed as a result of domestic-related altercations. Now I am not telling you to go jump into the next unmarked white van that someone offers you candy from. What I am saying is, the safety excuse doesn’t cut it as an excuse for slut shaming. Statistically, as a woman, a partner or ex-partner is a bigger threat than the random at the pub.

What is a slut, anyway? Can anyone give me a definitive answer? No. That is because what defines sluts or slutty behaviour differs from person to person. For someone it might be a woman who has sex with a large number of people. What is a large number? For others, it might be a woman who wants and enjoys sex. It may be a woman in a short skirt and low cut top. If you have big breasts, that’s every top but a turtleneck. Perhaps it’s someone who gets very flirty when they are drunk. Others may think a woman who has sex before marriage or spends time alone with men who are not family members is a slut. The only real criteria for being a slut is that you must be a woman and your behaviour must be deemed inappropriate by someone else’s standards.

At the end of the day, hiding behind the safety excuse while passing judgement on others is not going to fly. What it says is, if you get hacked to pieces by a serial killer, it is your fault for going home with him. It’s not the serial killers fault. You provoked him with your slutty, slut-face. If you get raped when wearing clothes that can subjectively be called provocative, well you were really just asking for it, so stop lying, you big slutty liar. Don’t you know that men are unable to stop themselves?

Sidebar: I have seriously wonderful men in my life and I find this idea that men have no control over their sexual desire really offensive. Like all men feel entitled to use the female body for whatever end, regardless of consent. I call bullshit on that one. Sure, men AND women need more education about consent and healthy relationships. But we are all human beings with the capacity to engage in self-control and a behaviour I like to call not murdering (I’m doing it right now).

Next time you feel worried about the unsafe situation that drunk girl is “putting herself in” by going home with some guy. Maybe rather than judging her, you could take a moment to talk to that guy about consent (and how she legally can’t give any). Create social pressure to not be a rapist rather than putting shit on women who fit your criteria for slut.

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3 thoughts on “(sex)uality: the “safety excuse”

  1. “If you have big breasts, that’s every top but a turtleneck.” As someone with naturally giant breasts (pardon my crassness) I definitely relate to this side of slut shaming. I have long ago let go of being “demure” in any clothing, and have embraced the “I’ll wear whatever I like” ethos but I know some people see my dress style as immodest.
    That said, I have been guilty of slut shaming in the past, and because society doesn’t teach us NOT to do this, I have had to learn to be more understanding and less judgmental. Just because my dress style doesn’t include fake eyelashes/hair or dresses that stop just shy of my behind doesn’t mean that people who do dress this way are some how my slutty than myself.
    Also, by religious standards, although I have only been with one gentleman and I now plan to marry the same gentleman, I have been “living in sin” for four years, which is just as slutty as someone who has had multiple sexual partners.
    In short, this article is awesome and this kind of talk should be part of sex education.

    • Thanks for such a lovely comment, Meghann. If I were to be “modest” about my chest, I would feel so restricted. So I too wear whatever I like. The whole thing with modesty is that it’s just like the word slut, completely subjective and gendered. If you feel comfortable in ‘modest’ clothes or ‘slutty’ clothes, it’s your choice and you’re still not ‘asking for it’.

      I think we’ve all been guilty of judging others, perhaps using the word slut out loud or in our heads. The important thing is to be aware of this judgement and question it. That’s what I try to do anyway.

  2. Pingback: The 64th Down Under Feminists’ Carnival | A life unexamined

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