SlutWalk Sashays into St. Louis

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Poster for SlutWalk Toronto
Poster for SlutWalk Toronto
Let us begin by stating the obvious: No matter how someone is dressed, it's a crime to rape that person. Even if they're dressed like a total, well, slut.

Yet, back in January, a police officer giving a public-safety talk at York University in Toronto advised a group of students that one way to avoid being sexually assaulted was not to dress like "sluts."

Constable Michael Sanguinetti allegedly told the handful of students in attendance, "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."

Although Sanguinetti has since apologized, calling his remarks "poorly thought-out" and "hurtful," students and community members were understandably aghast, and took to the streets in an event dubbed "SlutWalk."

The marchers were attempting to make clear in a very public way that their safety shouldn't depend on their attire. Now satellite marches are springing up all over the world, with an event planned for St. Louis later this summer.

Brennan Peters says she heard about SlutWalk and wasn't sure about bringing it to St. Louis, but the list of other participating cities got her fired up.

"I saw these tiny little towns getting involved and said, 'You know what, St. Louis? You're ready.'"

So she's heading up efforts to do a march here. Peters says she's long been involved in queer activism and visibility in St. Louis and in Illinois, and that the burgeoning sex-positivity movement in St. Louis (spearheaded by the community/calendar/blog Sex Positive St. Louis) encouraged her to see about bringing SlutWalk to the Lou.

SlutWalk, says Peters, isn't just about taking to the streets and making a spectacle in a bustier. She expects to be criticized for sexualizing the female form by putting bodies on display in a salacious context.

She's already getting some messages to that effect.

"Some are from people who are well-meaning and feminist, but they're misunderstanding what it's about. They thought the idea was to sexualize women. It's for everybody, and it's really more about sexualized violence," she says. "We have the right to walk down the street dressed however we want to be dressed and expect to be safe."

And despite the name, she says, the walk isn't necessarily meant to bring everyone out in their bordello best.

"The idea is not 'dress as slutty as you can.' The idea is dress however you are. If that means a T-shirt and jeans, [or] if you're comfortable dressing in a more provocative manner...go for it," she says.

Peters says she's still hammering out the concrete details of exactly where the event will be, getting permits and setting a date. But she's hoping for an outdoor expo that addresses public safety, sex positivity and gender expression in St. Louis City in late July.

"Rather than living in a society where we tell women how to avoid being raped, we should be teaching people not to rape," she says. "I think we should live in a society where we have that level of respect for one another."

Watch SlutWalk St. Louis on Facebook for details as they emerge.
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