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Once, on my way back from buying groceries, covered from neck to ankle, I was called a whore by a group of post-adolescent men. In their culture, I suppose, I looked like I was asking for it. I wasn’t wearing a headscarf; I wasn’t veiled. I wore color. I was obviously foreign. Hence I must have been promiscuous.

I wasn’t; I was a virgin. I sucked my cheeks in, and had I not been afraid I would have laughed out loud at them. They continued yelling at me, in French, as I walked away from them. Venomously disappointed that I hadn’t stayed, I suppose; they probably didn’t encounter many unveiled women. All that walk back to my hotel, men kept stopping to try to talk to me, ignoring my repeated rebuffs. Because by being out alone, even in broad daylight, even on populated streets, even to take a quick jaunt to the grocery store, wasn’t I just asking for it?

This was in Tunisia, a relatively liberal Muslim country, a few years ago. It gave me some perspective on the whole being-called-a-whore thing, though. And hence when anyone remarks about a girl: she was really asking to be raped, I react.

Yeah, I think women can dress in poor taste. Yeah, I think girls who get dead drunk and pass out in a stranger’s bathroom are probably not being as smart as they should be. Yeah, I’m not personally a fan of caked-on make-up. But what I deem caked-on make-up is probably pretty normative in the southern states, for example.

Here’s the reality of the thing:
Caked-on make-up is not consent (the Mary Kay ladies will tell you).
Hotness is not consent (the naturally beautiful will tell you).
Showing skin is not consent (the swimmers of the world will tell you).
Being flamboyant is not consent (the exuberant will tell you).
Enjoying a beverage purchased for you by another person is not consent (the business meetings of the world will tell you).
Kissing is not consent (the Latins will tell you).
Having a reputation is not consent (the tabloids will tell you).
Finding yourself in another person’s house, trailer, tent, or hotel room is not consent (the Jehovah’s Witnesses will tell you).

Wearing jeans and a baggy sweatshirt is not consent (the foreign girl in Tunisia will tell you). So I get the SlutWalks that have been sweeping the globe in recent weeks. The message we send by saying slutty women are “asking for it” is totally, and completely, offensive. It says that if I can find a girl who looks and/or acts “slutty,” or what is deemed to be “slutty” in my culture, she deserves to get raped. Because as a man, I’m just a wild animal, and outward beauty is an invitation to marr it. Because as a man, I can get away with manhandling women, if they’re the right (wrong) type of women. Everyone knows that women who may or may not have some kinship with Mary Magdalene are not worth anything!

Some people, of course, can’t fathom the idea that women in short skirts aren’t just asking for it. The same way that those Tunisian men couldn’t fathom that I wasn’t asking for it by not wearing a black veil.

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