The third annual Amber Rose SlutWalk took over downtown Los Angeles earlier this month, bringing together activists, celebrities, and everyday folks alike to fight sexual stigma, slut shaming and victim blaming. From the colorful signs and outrageous outfits to the powerful speeches and educational booths, the event was both celebratory and serious, balancing the political and the personal through an inclusive day of sex-positive community.
SlutWalks are nothing new, and have been making waves around the world since the movement started with Toronto organizers in 2011. However, now that we have a president who faces sexual assault allegations, talks openly about groping women without their consent, and is a threat to bodily autonomy for women and LGBTQ rights, America is in dire need of a refresher course on consent and sex positivity. In such darkness, the LA SlutWalk was a beacon of light, providing a safer space to freely express dissent against rape culture, sexual stigma, and the ruling party's sex-negative political platform — all while wearing as little or as much clothing as you please.
The event began in the morning with a mile long march and ended with talks, performances, and celebrations in Pershing Square where dozens of vendors (myself included) sold their wares. I was fortunate enough to meet and mingle with dozens of people who attended and chat with them about why they decided to show up for sex positivity.
These are my five takeaways from SlutWalk LA:
1Clothing Is Never An Excuse For Sexual Assault
It should go without saying, but clothes do not equal consent. No one, regardless of what they are wearing, should be blamed for their own sexual assault. Critics of the SlutWalk may view hundreds of scantily clad folks marching as an apolitical offense to decency, but the tactic is harnessed by some attendees for a very powerful reason.
The SlutWalk participants who don their skimpiest garb do so to challenge the idea that an individual's fashion choices can or should invite sexual assault or slut shaming. And according to many attendees I spoke with, dressing in barely there looks was also a chance to embrace body positivity and take up space in ways they are not allowed to in their daily lives.
2Sex-Positive Feminism Must Include Sex Workers
Throughout the day, multiple activists took to the stage to affirm that sex workers rights are human rights. As a former stripper, Amber Rose has been an advocate for sex workers, and her outfit for the SlutWalk flipped the script on the "Captain Save-A-Ho" archetype in all the best ways. For those unfamiliar with the term, Captain Save-A-Ho is the embodiment of benevolent sexism, aka the guy who believes he can save a "fallen" woman in the sex industry just so she can become his personal property (Jacq The Stripper sums it up best in this piece). Rose, on the other hand, transformed the archetype into something positive, embodying her desire to aid to all of her fellow "hos" by coming out against sexual stigma.
3Sex-Positive Feminism Must Be Intersectional
In the past, some SlutWalks have gotten serious flak for their lack of diversity and insensitivity to the needs of women of color and trans women. Because racism, homophobia, and transphobia impact the ways sexism manifests, feminism must include the lived experiences of all people. As a queer woman of color, Amber Rose set out to make her event specifically amplify the voices of people of color and the LGBTQ community. The crowd and the lineup of performers and presenters reflected this effort, and so Black Lives Matter signs were front and center, as were those that challenged the gender binary and the idea that feminism is for cisgender women alone.
4Community Is Crucial To Activism
By far, the most inspiring part of the day was witnessing friends who made signs together, coordinated their outfits together, and marched together. Larger communities are built through smaller communities linking up, so what better way is there raise awareness about rape culture, sexual assault, and sex positivity than to get all your BFFs involved?
5Everyone Has The Power To Fight Sexual Stigma
Rose's keynote speech at the SlutWalk offered insight into the sex-positive momentum that she has built through her platform. But how can the everyday person change hearts and minds? Rose's advice to those attending the SlutWalk highlighted one way we can fight sexual oppression and repression every day.
"I want you all to know that you can make a difference in your own communities. I don't want to sound corny like a teacher...but you know, social media is a motherf*cker. You can really change people's minds on social media. We all have it," she said.
Granted, some online discourse can be very toxic and perpetuate misinformation, but there is undoubtedly truth in her statement. Both online and off, we all have the ability to challenge sexual stigma when we see it, whether it means examining our own sexual shame, calling in a friend when they slut shame someone, or volunteering at a local non-profit that helps survivors of sexual assault. Spreading sex positivity starts with each and every one of us, and we don't have to wait until the next SlutWalk to do it.