4 June 2011

slutwalkA Toronto policeman started it all. In a health and safety talk to students he touched on the issue of sexual attacks on women and dared to say, ‘Women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised.’

Now, groups of women are marching across major cities in Canada and the USA to champion their right to dress how they want—provocatively or otherwise. They call the events ‘slutwalks’. The topic has crossed the Pond to British TV. One guest on the news this morning took the marchers’ side: ‘The only issue is that rape is wrong,’ she declared. ‘No-one has the right to tell women how they should dress!’

I nearly choked on my muesli, because in my view the Toronto cop deserves a medal for his insight, his reality and his disdain for political correctness.

Yes, rape is wrong. Always has been; always will be. It can never be justified. But once we move beyond that black-and-white tenet we enter a world of grey. A lot of the grey surrounds how sexual desire is triggered, which is different in men and women. I’m making some generalisations here, but women respond largely to who is making the sexual advances, to the atmospherics, to ‘romance factors’. Men, by contrast, are switched on by visual stimuli—and that’s about it.

It’s no good holding forth about how we think things should be in this respect. We need to come down to earth and face realities: this is the way things are. This is how men and women are wired, and nothing is ever going to change it.

So if a girl dresses provocatively—and I don’t need to spell out what that means—any normal guy who sees her is ‘turned on’. Whether she intends to create that effect or not is neither here nor there. It just happens. As far as the guy is concerned, her sexually provocative appearance yells, ‘Come and get me!’

Many men, of course, take control of their impulses. And so they should. But not all men do. Some will react at the most basic level and yield to them. These are the ones who will jump a girl tottering (due to high heels and too many vodkas) down the street at 3am after a clubbing session, drag her into some bushes and give her what they believe she is asking for.

Then there is an outcry. And rightly so, since rape is wrong; full stop. But some of the outcry is unjustified. It comes from indignant women who rave that they want to be treated with more respect and not just as sex objects. Fair enough. Women are more than sex objects and deserve to be treated with respect. But respect has to be earned. And there’s where our friendly Toronto cop chipped in with his advice. Ninety-nine percent of men would, if they were honest, agree with him.

Provocative dress is fine in the marital bedroom, but it doesn’t belong on the streets, or anywhere in public. To drive through any city centre late at night is to drive through a meat market, with acres of naked female flesh on display sending out just one signal to all the males in the vicinity. And women who don’t realise what that signal is—as interpreted by any typical man—need to wise up quickly.

I gather the poor policeman has been forced to apologise for his remarks. No doubt he was thinking of his job and his pension, both of which would likely have been on the line had he refused. But he really had nothing to apologise for. He was wise, he was practical. He was right.

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