Business columnist, with a political twist, for NZ Herald

Dita De Boni: Is it ok to be a slut?

Protestors at SlutWalk Aotearoa in Auckland. Photo / Michael Craig
Protestors at SlutWalk Aotearoa in Auckland. Photo / Michael Craig

Short answer to the title for many women: yes, if it's me. No, if it's my daughter.

And this really cuts to the heart of the issue for me when I consider the Slutwalk marches of the weekend.

As a typical lefty liberal, I defend the right of any woman to walk anywhere in life at any time of night and be completely unmolested - and would like to see rapists rot in jail. In reality, I don't think it's that simple - especially when considering your own daughters (nieces, grand-daughters, etc).

Although she's only three at the moment, I dread the day my daughter starts insisting on her right to wear as few clothes as possible. Call me a prude, but I would be devastated if she chose to dress like a pole dancer.

In the same way as I don't see anything particularly liberating about stripping and prostitution as a career option, I can't see the value in putting yourself out there to complete strangers as a sexual object - especially in social situations where alcohol blurs the ability of people to moderate their behaviour.

It does demean heterosexual men to suggest they are all rapists and will all be whipped into an uncontrollable frenzy by a scantily clad female. This is not true and not a defence that should ever hold water in court. But a more subtle danger lurks.

I don't think it's far from the truth to suggest that many men view women differently - and not really positively - if they present themselves in this way - and that as a general rule, a woman is doing herself no favours by doing so. Even if it is her 'right'.

I know it probably sounds old-fashioned, and perhaps I am just too old to understand women much younger than me any more. But I think a world in which a woman is free to act explicitly in complete safety is not a reality - and never has been, anytime in history.

Some may say that in countries like Singapore you'd be safe to walk through town at night in your lingerie, knowing that if you were raped, your assailant would be possibly whipped, caned, or thrown in jail for a hell of a long time.

But it's also possible you'd be arrested yourself for public indecency. And in any case we reject, as a society, corporal punishment and overly censorious limits on our personal freedom.

So we have Girls Gone Wild, we have women making videos and PXTs of themselves that can be accessed for a lifetime, we have a hugely sexualised teen and tween culture, we have Bratz dolls and push-up bras for girls barely through childhood, and we insist throughout that this is the right and equality we've fought so hard to have as Western women.

What a shame we've been side-tracked onto this issue when there are so many more important ones awaiting our attention.

Instead of a march to defend how sluttily we should be allowed to be dressed, what about a march to demand safe towns that women and men, old and young, can walk through at night without being set upon?

"Take back the night" for everyone, in other words - and yes, take it back regardless of how they are dressed.

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Business columnist, with a political twist, for NZ Herald

Dita De Boni is a columnist, commentator and TV producer/journalist. She first wrote columns for the NZ Herald in 1995, moving to daily business news in 1999 for four years, and then to TVNZ in Business, News and Current Affairs. After tiring of the parenting/blogging beat for the Herald Online she moved back to her first love, business (with a politics chaser), writing a column for Friday Business since 2012.

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