We had turned the corner at U Street and were marching up 14th Street when the woman with the megaphone leading SlutWalk DC started a new chant: “We love consensual sex! We love consensual sex!” Well, OK, but who doesn’t? Is there any actual opposition to this agenda? Is there an Anti-Consensual Sex Movement that someone forgot to tell us about? Oblivious to the absurdity, about 400 women joined in shouting this slogan, which was at least better than their previous chants: “Blame the system, not the victim!” and “One! Two! Three! Four! We won’t take it anymore! Five! Six! Seven! Eight! Stop the violence! Stop the hate!” The “violence” to which that chant referred is rape, and “hate” is any discussion of rape (or any other subject) that doesn’t conform to feminist ideology. To distill their rhetoric to its totalitarian essence: “Shut up, because rape.”
The SlutWalk movement is about rape in pretty much the same sense Nazism was about the Versailles Treaty -- it’s the legitimate grievance that empowers a movement of irrational hatred. We may laugh at the carnival sideshow aspect of women stripping down to their underwear to march down the street in broad daylight, carrying deliberately provocative posters and shouting nonsensical slogans. But the leaders of the movement have a radical ideology they take very seriously, and that ideology is sufficiently influential that anyone who criticizes it risks condemnation as being anti-woman, or even pro-rape. If you doubt the seriousness of feminism, you need only contemplate the bizarre firestorm of controversy ignited last year when Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a “slut.”
Hussies, tramps, floozies, trollops -- call them what you will, they gathered Saturday morning in a plaza at the corner of U Street and Vermont Avenue. The first SlutWalk protester I talked to was a young woman carrying a sign that said, “Control Your [Slang for Erect Penis].” Certainly good advice, and also possibly an excellent title for a self-help book for college boys, whose out-of-control penises are the fundamental grievance -- the bone of contention, as it were. What people used to mean by the word “rape” has been revised in recent decades because of college women complaining about date rape. The rhetoric of SlutWalk activists -- “No means no!” -- is obviously not directed at the lurking sociopath, the knife-wielding career criminal who pounces from ambush in darkened alleys. Rather, feminist harangues about the meaning and importance of consent are directed at otherwise law-abiding men who don’t cope appropriately with sexual rejection.
Nowhere is this problem more widely decried than at America’s colleges and universities. Date rape is an apparently common campus crime that usually involves two drunk young people, one of whom has an erect penis, and the other of whom is unable to avert what the erect penis typically does. In addition to drunkenness and erect penises, college campuses are also the natural habitat of feminists, who control Women’s Studies departments. The rhetoric of the SlutWalk movement is familiar to anyone who has paid any attention to the rhetoric of campus feminists about date rape, which has now become official dogma. Consider this statement from Rhode Island’s Roger Williams University: “Myth: Rape is caused by lust or uncontrollable sexual urges and the need for sexual gratification. Fact: Rape is an act of physical violence and domination that is not motivated by sexual gratification.”
Rape is not about sex? George Orwell’s remark comes to mind: “One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool.” No ordinary man can believe that kind of feminist dogma, nor do ordinary women, but the prestige and authority of feminism among the intelligentsia means that few critics dare dispute this dogma directly, especially on campus. Feminists claim to speak on behalf of all women, so that questioning their arguments is “anti-woman” -- sexism, misogyny, or simply hate. Rigid ideological limits to discussion may prevent women’s studies professors from being embarrassed by confrontation with contradictory facts, but these Orwellian word-tricks do nothing to prevent rape. If rape is as pandemic on America’s campuses as feminists say it is, the obvious question is why decades of feminist consciousness-raising -- all those “Take Back the Night” rallies, women’s studies lectures and freshmen orientation seminars about the dangers of date rape -- have failed to solve the problem. Ask the feminists, however, and their prescription is always another dose of the same medicine: More feminism!
So there they were Saturday morning, gathering for the third annual Slutwalk DC, intending to raise their collective consciousness sky-high. The protest was part of a nationwide movement that actually originated in Canada. In January 2011, in a rape prevention seminar at York University’s law school, a Toronto policeman said women can avoid rape by not dressing like “sluts.” Whether or not the policeman’s advice had any usefulness in terms of crime prevention -- as if a cop knows anything about preventing crime, right? -- it sparked a furious reaction. Toronto feminists, many of them college students, held a rally where they dressed in obviously provocative clothing, protesting against the mere suggestion that there might be a safety factor in dressing modestly or any other common-sense risk-avoidance measure by which women can prevent sexual assault. Any advice of this sort is denounced by feminists as “slut-shaming,” evidence of barbaric misogyny, as if one were justifying, defending or even advocating rape. The absurdity of these denunciations in terms of basic logic should be obvious enough, and the uselessness of feminist ideology as a means of preventing rape ought to be equally obvious. As political demagoguery appealing to a lynch-mob mentality, however, the SlutWalk movement is pitch-perfect. Anyone who criticizes the radical tactics, rhetoric, and ideology of the movement is condemned as complicit in rape, enabling feminists to terrorize their critics in much the way the Ku Klux Klan terrorized its foes a century ago. Students of history need not be reminded how the mere rumor of sexual assault touched off the 1906 Atlanta riot or the 1921 Tulsa riot or any number of similar horrors. What the KKK was to racism, SlutWalk is to feminism. Turning rape into a political grievance has a remarkably similar intimidation effect.
None of the SlutWalk participants Saturday were wearing robes and hoods, however. Some were wearing lingerie and fishnet stockings, and four of them marched topless. One of the topless marchers, a 25-year-old Baltimore artist named Celine, was standing around the Vermont Avenue plaza when I arrived a half-hour before the parade began. The American Spectator’s managing editor Kyle Peterson had decided that SlutWalk DC would be a perfect assignment for a married middle-aged political correspondent, but Kyle hadn’t warned me to expect Celine and her breasts, which caught me by surprise. There she was in the warm August morning, her bare chest bearing a political statement written in red lipstick: “Still not asking for it.” My duty as a professional journalist was to interview her, and I expect Kyle to approve a double rate for this article. Call it combat pay.
“I have no concept of shame,” said Celine, explaining that she is the daughter of immigrants from France. “My parents were nudists.”
Well, that settles that, eh? French nudists are our moral superiors and, if we are too timid to emulate their heroic example, no ordinary American can be permitted to criticize this courageous ethos of shamelessness. In fact, I found myself accused of hateful sexism merely for attempting to describe Celine’s … uh, political statement. If Kyle hadn’t warned me about the risk of encountering topless feminists, certainly I could not have expected that any of them would be worth a second glance. Having occasionally seen photos of such protests, I hypothesize that the likelihood of any feminist protesting topless is inversely proportional to any normal man’s interest in seeing their breasts. Celine was a statistical anomaly in this regard and, because a mysterious technical malfunction with my digital camera accidentally erased my photos, I felt obliged to offer a word-picture to my blog readers. That’s how I discovered another anomaly: Celine is a heterosexual feminist with a boyfriend. His name is Erik, and he was deeply offended by my vivid description. My word-picture was “creepy” and “slobbering,” he told me via Twitter, evidently ungrateful that I had praised Celine’s attributes as superior to the other three SlutWalk marchers who had bared their (sadly unimpressive) breasts. Sarcastic humor about feminists is as quaintly old-fashioned in the 21st century as chivalry, and I was actually pleased by Erik’s bristling indignation. Of course, I would be outraged to read a complete stranger’s description of my wife’s breasts, but my wife has never paraded topless down a city street. Perhaps Erik’s anger shows that progressivism has not yet extinguished every vestige of sanity in America. Some glimmer still remains of that antique virtue which once led men to fight deadly duels over the slightest imputation of dishonor, and maybe Celine is not really as shameless as the politics of a SlutWalk protest would require.
Dr. Rorschach’s inkblot tests never revealed such symptoms of madness as one might have witnessed at SlutWalk DC. Several of the signs carried by the marchers featured crude synonyms for penis, vagina and coitus. A few of their hand-letttered posters amounted to criminal affidavits, including one teenage girl whose sign told how she got drunk and lost her virginity to a 24-year-old. The guy told her she was being a “tease,” her best friend told her it was her fault, and kids at school called her a “drunk slut.” This kind of public testimonial seems intended to function as psychiatric therapy. As politics, however, it serves to empower ideologues who wield victimhood as a weapon, turning crimes committed by individuals into a collective grievance against a collective enemy -- not just the criminal rapist, but what feminists call “rape culture,” a term vague and comprehensive enough to include just about anything any critic of feminism might say about sex.
Ask anyone in Steubenville, Ohio, about this. When two members of the Steubenville High School football team sexually assaulted a girl who passed out after a night of underage drinking last year, activists turned that crime into an argument about “rape culture.” Everyone and everything remotely connected to Steubenville or football -- coaches, school officials, police, parents, prosecutors --was accused of complicity in the assault, and it was impossible for anyone to contradict this rhetoric of collective guilt without being denounced as “pro-rape.” Unsubstantiated claims of a conspiratorial cover-up gained widespread credence, while basic facts of the case were falsified by anonymous online commenters. People who sought answers to simple questions -- How did these high school kids get access to booze? Why did parents permit their kids to go on this all-night spree of partying? -- were accused of “blaming the victim.” Possible contributing factors to the crime were irrelevant to the political discussion that angry ideologues wanted to have. This was a situation almost exactly analogous to the controversy over the death of Trayvon Martin, where accusations of racism were made against anyone who disputed the liberal media narrative of George Zimmerman’s allegedly murderous intent. Through their rhetoric of collective blame and collective victimhood, liberals imply that rape and murder are problems caused by conservatives. This is the hidden radical meaning of the slogan chanted at Saturday’s SlutWalk: “Blame the system, not the victim!” What do progressives mean when they denounce “the system”? The rule of law? Capitalism? America itself? Yes: America killed Trayvon Martin and America is responsible for rape. Everybody is a victim, one way or another, and if you blame America for your victimhood, what political remedy do liberals suggest? Vote Democrat!
This is why it is an error to dismiss SlutWalk as a bunch of silly women whose slogans are as ridiculous as their costumes. Feminists have an ideology that is taken seriously by influential people, and this ideology has been the de facto philosophy of America’s leading educational institutions for at least two decades. Lunatic radicalism is now considered normal, and sanity is regarded as “hate,” so that any man who notices a woman’s beauty (or prefers beauty to ugliness) is denounced as anti-woman and pro-rape.
Saturday’s SlutWalk was nearing its destination, heading east on Euclid Street toward Meridian Hill Park, when I finally summoned the courage to speak to the best-looking woman in the crowd. (Remember, I’m a professional journalist, so my opinions have the authority of Objective Fact.) The slender brunette was wearing a black bra and panties and holding aloft a hand-lettered poster that condemned any would-be critic for having “a f**ked up perspective on the crime called rape.” From my perspective, however, there was nothing about her to criticize and very much to admire, but I’m a happily married man and Kyle owes me double pay for having to endure that grueling ordeal. It took all the resourcefulness I could muster to walk up next to her, matching her long-legged stride, and say, “Those heels must be killing you.”
Even for a visibly healthy young woman, walking seven blocks in three-inch heels had to be painful, and my expression of sympathy was enough to break the ice for a brief interview. She spelled her first name -- “E-L-I-A-N-A” -- and her Italian surname, which I’ll omit for fear of inciting a vendetta from her New Jersey family. Also, a bit of research subsequently revealed possible evidence of conservative tendencies, including Twitter sarcasm about “undocumented immigrants” and a quote from Christian author Lisa Bevere. A good-looking conservative Christian girl marching in a feminist parade while wearing nothing more than a bra, lace panties, and high heels? Like Celine, the heterosexual feminist with a chivalrous boyfriend, Eliana’s participation in SlutWalk seemed illogical. This second mystery was solved, however, when Eliana said she is a university senior majoring in psychology with a minor in women’s studies.
“Ah, women’s studies,” I muttered at this unsurprising discovery. Paying $47,290 a year to be indoctrinated in radical ideology is a luxury none of my six children will ever be able to afford, but her feminist professors would have Eliana think of herself as a victim. The young, rich, and beautiful are collectively oppressed by the old, poor, and ugly, and if you don’t understand this, it’s because you’ve got “a f**ked up perspective” and are part of “rape culture.” The inmates have taken over the asylum and the world has gone mad. Up is down, right is wrong, it’s perfectly normal for women to parade half-naked on city streets carrying posters with dirty words and chanting about rape, and anyone who says otherwise is crazy. Conservatives can laugh all they want at SlutWalk, but the joke is really on us, because only in a country where important people believe in radical feminist nonsense is it possible that Barack Obama could have been elected president twice. The real victim here is America, and only liberals say she was asking for it.