For anyone unaware of what we're talking about here, this is Wikipedia's take on it:
The Slut Walk protest marches began on April 3, 2011 in Toronto, Canada and have since become an international movement of rallies across the world. They are a protest against the belief that any aspect of a woman's appearance might explain or excuse rape.
It begs the question 'To what extent does person a's action mitigate person b's response?'
There is a general principle in our (and many other) justice systems that a lesser charge or lower sentence applies where there are mitigating circumstances. The person who inadvertantly kills a burglar is charged with manslaughter not murder and often given a short or non-custodial sentence. The person who smuggles drugs under genuine threat of personal harm or harm to a family member may be treated more leniently than someone who did it for personal profit. The man who has sex with a woman against her will but who dressed provocatively is guilty of a lesser crime than rape.
Of course in our evangelical world, we are often encouraged do this when someone 'sins against us'. Yes, they hurt us badly, but consider their background, the problems they had as a child, the difficulties they have faced - forgive them.
But there is a flaw in these arguments. Human beings were created with the ability and the imperative to say 'no' to sin. There is no mitigation. We have fallen for the lie that says the external circumstances are so powerful that they over-ride or limit our choice. We are not then responsible for our actions, it is the fault of the external force, the mitigating circumstances. But the truth is that we are capable and we are expected, to say no to temptation. And it is an entirely reasonable and fair expectation because someone has shown us that it is possible.
Coming to this world fully human, not exercising his own divine power, facing the same temptations we face - and more, Jesus lived a life utterly without sin. In other words, Jesus, just like us, faced what he could have seen as overwhelming temptation. Yet even though he sweated blood with the effort, he exercised self-control. When every fibre of his being screamed for him to choose the way of escape, nevertheless, he chose the cross. The truth stands. We are designed, called and capable of choosing that which is right, even if it costs us our life. Jesus did it without recourse to his own divine power, so can we. Jesus did it relying on the word of the Father and the empowering of the Holy Spirit. So can we. There may be some temptations that are harder to withstand than others. The actions of others may lead us to temptation. But 'with every temptation there is a way of escape'. We are without excuse, there is no mitigation. The perfect life of Jesus stands in judgment of us when we fail to be like him. So of course we are 'not to cause our brother to stumble', we will be held to account for every time we lead others into temptation. But that is no mitigation of the one who then freely chooses to stumble.
The man is looking to have sex. The woman is dressed in a way that she knows will arouse. She's dressed like that not because she wants sex - and certainly not with that leering guy, but because her friends are and it's the uniform to get into the club. He tries to have sex with her, she says 'no'. He won't listen....
We make it too complicated, we try to judge. But actually, we don't have the whole picture, only God has that. From our perspective all we can say is this. 'You were unwise to dress like that - it increases the temptation and sadly there are many weak-willed men in the world. You should and could have withstood the peer pressure. Your identity is not rooted in who your friends are or your physical ability to allure. It breaks God's heart that you would think otherwise, he is desperately sorry for what has happened and offers his unconditional love and healing.' To the man we can say 'You are not an animal who has no control over his instincts. Your hormones may be powerful, but you are stronger. No matter how provocatively someone is dressed in your eyes, it does not constitute permission. She said no. You submitted to lust. That is both pathetic and wrong. You are guilty without mitigation of rape. Your identity is not rooted in the number of women you have sex with or how much you impress others. Love is not found in possesing, having power over or the kicks you get out of an encounter. You need God to set you free and give you real life.
So, Slut Walks. Are women free to dress as if their identity is rooted in their ability to sexually arouse men? Of course, but it doesn't make it anything less than profoundly sad. Are men less guilty if they fail to control themselves in the face of such folly? No, of course not. Do women make themselves more vulnerable by dressing provocatively? Self-evidently and sadly, yes.
Are 'slut-walks' an appropriate means of re-estabslishing the dignity and respect women deserve? Well, what do you think?