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‘Hijabs, Hoodies and Hotpants’: Negotiating the ‘Slut’ in SlutWalk
Jason Lim, Queen Mary, University of London, UK
Alexandra Fanghanel, University College London, UK
The ‘SlutWalk’ movement saw feminist protests spread transnationally during 2011 to contest
discourses that blame women for being raped – discourses that involve judgements about
women’s embodied appearance and sexuality. The figure of the ‘slut’ became a contested site – its
connotative signifiers of dress (length of skirt, height of heel) and its connoted practices and
desires (‘excessive’ female sexuality) becoming variously reappropriated, deconstructed and
disavowed. Based on interview data with a group of young Muslim participants at the 2011
SlutWalk in London, UK, we consider the practices of deterritorialisation from dominant political
‘territories’ that allow the construction of feminist, Muslim positions of political agency and that
problematise the invocation of the term ‘slut’ in SlutWalk. We use Deleuzoguattarian ideas of
deterritorialisation and machinism to develop an understanding of how new modes of expression
are unfolded through the production of new configurations of bodies and their capacities. These
concepts suggest how a repudiation of the possibility of validating the subject position ‘slut’
might be thought not as a repetition of norms of appropriate feminine sexuality, but rather as a
rejection of a liberal framing of women’s sexual abundance in terms of ‘sexual freedoms’. Our
theorisation, then, suggests the concept of heteronormativity needs to be used alongside concepts
such as deterritorialisation. It also suggests the processes of deterritorialisation and
reterritorialisation by which feminist activism can become multitudinous and by which the
potential for a refiguration of what counts as sexual abundance can become opened up.
Introduction
2011 witnessed the transnational spread of the ‘SlutWalk’ – a specific kind of feminist protest
concerning popular rhetoric about rape. Sparked by a comment reportedly made by Toronto
police officer Michael Sanguinetti to some York University students – that “women should avoid
dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized” (Rush, 2011) – the SlutWalk protests contested
the assumption that women might somehow be complicit in their own experiences of sexual
assault. In particular, the discourses that Sanguinetti reproduces – reflecting broader sociocultural attitudes to sexual assault and feminine responsibility of the self – construct normative
femininity through the regulation of dress and embodiment.
In response, activists in a number of cities organised marches – SlutWalks – where women and
men were invited to dress in ostensibly sexually provocative clothes to protest against the
suggestion that the way women dress influences the likelihood they might be raped. By dressing
‘like sluts’, protestors argued they were drawing attention to the ludicrousness and
perniciousness of such ‘rape myths’. This protest was taken up with enthusiasm around the
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globe; in 2011, SlutWalks took place in over 50 countries in the Global North and Global South. In
London, UK, the site of our enquiry, an estimated 5000 people marched.
Possibly one of the more provocative aspects of the SlutWalk was in its name itself. In much of the
Anglophone world, the word ‘slut’ is deployed by men and women as a gendered and sexualised
slur towards women. That its contemporary denotation centres on the deviance of women’s
sexual promiscuity lays bare both a sexual double standard and the control exercised over
women’s sexual agency and pleasure (Attwood, 2007: 242). Within feminism, the term ‘slut’ has
become a site of tension between, on the one hand, attempts to reclaim the term in order to
assert an autonomous female sexuality and, on the other hand, wariness about the contemporary
commodification of female sexuality that almost obliges young women to revel in their sexual
‘freedom’ (Attwood, 2007). Referencing the term ‘slut’ in ‘SlutWalk’ establishes a terrain that is
about sexual practice as well as sexualised attire. By addressing how discourses about both of
these can be deployed in the service of controlling women’s sexuality, in particular its expression
in public space, SlutWalk asks participants to navigate some sort of relationship between and
around these ideas.
While the term ‘slut’ is used to malign certain expressions of female sexuality, representations of
Muslim women in majority Western discourse offer another contrasting figuration through
which female sexuality is maligned. While depicted as distinctly unslutty, Muslim women are often
constructed as victims of patriarchal oppression, violence and rape (Jacobsen and Stenvoll, 2010;
Phillips, 2012). A liberal Islamophobia presents sexual emancipation – what we might
understand as a freedom to express sexual abundance – as a colonialist cure for such patriarchy
and victimhood (Abu-Lughod, 2002; Kundnani, 2012; Petzen, 2012: Phillips, 2012). Perhaps in
reaction, an affirmation of Muslim identities in several Western contexts may be marked by a
disclaiming of precisely this formulation of sexual freedom (see Mir, 2009).
What challenges does such a political context present to Muslim women and men who wish to
participate in SlutWalk protests in places such as London? Between the contestation over Muslim
women’s embodiment and agency and the contestation over modes of embodiment that become
labelled as ‘slutty’, we examine how women’s dress operates heuristically in the SlutWalk to
mobilise a specific form of feminist rejection of ‘rape myths’, and how the sexed, sexualised and
ethnicised female body is figured in SlutWalk discourses. We consider more specifically how
young Muslim people negotiate their relationship to discourses of sexual rights and agency in the
SlutWalk movement. By drawing on interview data from the SlutWalk march in London in 2011
with a focus group of young Muslim participants, we examine how they negotiated various
competing political terrains to forge agency for themselves in SlutWalk through the mobilisation
of a ‘march within a march’ that they called ‘Hijabs, Hoodies and Hotpants’.1 We use
‘Hijabs, Hoodies and Hotpants’, as the participants explain later in the interview, refers to three diverse and
gendered items of clothing. A hoodie is a hooded sweatshirt worn by both men and women, often for sport but
also as leisurewear. Since 1997 (at least) ‘the hoodie’ as leisurewear has become a symbol of troubled or
suspicion-arousing youth sub-cultures UK (Nayak, 2009); a ‘hoodie’ can also describe a person read through
such stereotypes. Here the participants do not specify whether they are referring to a hoodie-as-person or
hoodie-as-clothing, nor to the gender of the ‘hoodie’ or ‘hoodie-wearer’. The word ‘hijab’ here refers generically
to veiling, although one of the participants (Saad) seems to invoke the usage of the term – widespread in the UK
– as a covering only for the hair and neck as distinct from a niqab that covers the face (except the eyes) as well
as hair and neck. More generally, the participants do not seem to use the term to refer to modesty in its spiritual
1
2
Deleuzoguattarian understandings of machinism and deterritorialisation to examine the
establishment and contestation of these agentic political and sexual subjectivities.
This paper presents a discourse analysis of our participants' various disavowals,
reappropriations and deconstructions of discourses of 'sluttiness' in the pursuit of anti-racist,
anti-Islamophobic, anti-sexist, anti-classist, as well as anti-rape politics. The first two sections of
the paper review the literature on the construction of Muslim women’s sexual agency in Western
contexts and the theoretical background for bringing together Deleuzoguattarian understandings
of machinism and deterritorialisation with queer understandings of heteronormativity. There
follow three analytical sections. The first two explore how our participants engaged in SlutWalk’s
critique of ‘slut’ discourses, in the process establishing their own political agency as Muslim
subjects by negotiating a positionality that places into question both discourses about the control
of women’s bodies ‘in the name of Islam’ and ‘Western’ discourses that pathologise Islam per se
as beset by problems around the patriarchal policing of women’s sexuality. In the third analytical
section, we consider how our participants nonetheless construct a particular type of abject ‘slut’
subjectivity in order to maintain a distinction between normative and non-normative female
sexuality. While such a construction might seem straightforwardly heteronormative, in a
discussion section before the conclusion we problematize this reading by suggesting that it
allows a deterritorialisation from Western liberal framings of sexual abundance in terms of
sexual freedom. By reflecting upon the analysis of the participants’ talk in the context of ideas
from the wider literature, we suggest that taking distance from the idea of sexual freedom not
only enables the participants to reterritorialise on to ‘new’ transnational Muslim identities
(Dwyer, 2008), but also opens up the question as to what sexual abundance itself might mean if
thought outside of Western territories of sexuality.
The construction of Muslim women’s sexual agency in ‘the West’
A discussion about a group of young Muslim people’s participation in the 2011 London SlutWalk–
and their negotiation of competing gender and sexual norms and discourses – needs to be
understood within a broader political context. This context is one in which ‘Western’ liberalism –
including many liberal discourses of feminism – becomes constituted in relation to stereotypes of
patriarchal Muslim communities characterised by the oppression of – and violence against –
women (Abu-Lughod, 2002; Kundnani, 2012; Petzen, 2012: Phillips, 2012). Through the
construction of Muslims as either ‘extremists’ – who reject enlightenment values of individualism,
freedom of expression, dissolution of religious authority, gender equality and sexual freedom – or
‘moderates’ who are unable to keep the extremists in check, Muslims are made to stand in as the
Other of ‘Western’ liberal values, and liberal values become understood as a defining feature of
the West, in particular, Europe (Kundnani, 2012). This set of constructions draws upon much
longer standing colonialist and Orientalist discourses suggesting that Muslims need to be subject
to a ‘civilising’ process in order to make them adopt supposedly superior Enlightenment values
(Abu-Lughod, 2002; Khiabany and Williamson, 2008; Kundnani, 2012).
It is Muslim women, in particular, who bear the burden of constructions that pit ‘liberal’ Europe
against an ‘unenlightened’ Islam. Much liberal feminist and queer discourse about sexual
sense, and use the term ‘modesty’ separately. ’Hotpants’ are a very brief pair of shorts, usually, but not only,
worn by women. They are ostensibly skimpy and ‘sexy’ clothing.
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emancipation inherits a colonialism whereby the most emblematic object of emancipation is the
stereotype of the oppressed Muslim woman (Petzen, 2012: 103) figured as a victim in need of
saving by a non-Muslim – often white and middle class – subject (Jacobsen and Stenvoll, 2010).
Such representations resonate with how the 2002 US-led invasion of Afghanistan was justified to
a Western public in part on the grounds that Muslim women needed saving from the patriarchal
oppression of a backward Islamic culture (Abu Lughod, 2002; Fluri, 2009).
Making such critiques of these discourses is not to deny the need to be able to challenge violence
and abuse against women within Muslim communities. However, while such violence and abuse
may take on certain inflections within Muslim communities – for instance, if perpetrators say
they are carrying it out in the name of Islam – it is important to distinguish between this and the
idea that the reason for such violence and abuse is Islam itself or the perpetrators being Muslim
(see Phillips, 2012). All communities – whether religious or not – suffer from violence and abuse
against women, so singling out Muslim communities can only have the effect of demonising them
and of detracting from violence and abuse against women in non-Muslim communities (Petzen,
2012: 110-111).
If ideas of sexual freedom and rights can resonate with colonialist discourses about ‘liberating’
Muslim women from patriarchal oppression, then it may be that we need to recognise that the
very appeal to sexual emancipation rests upon a Eurocentric vision of agency (Petzen, 2012).
Concomitantly, it may be argued that Eurocentric conceptions of gendered and sexualised norms
lie behind a failure to recognise Muslim women’s agency. Take the idea of ‘veiling’, for example.
Western understandings of the veil as a part of a system of restrictions upon women’s sexual
freedom derive from Christian understandings of veiling as a mode of seclusion from worldly life
and from sex (El Guindi, 1999: 6). Yet, El Guindi (1999) argues, such an understanding does not
resonate very well with Islamic understandings(p.6-7). Depending on the social and cultural
situation, veils can do a lot of things – from performing modesty (which cannot be reduced to the
idea of being secluded from sexuality), through a proxemics that acts out social status and
nuances in kinship (El Guindi, 1999: xvii), to being an embodied practice that can be both
subjecting and liberatory (Gökarıksel, 2009). Petzen (2012) notes the use of the veil as a symbol
of resistance against anti-Muslim racism, and Dwyer (1999; 2000; 2008) emphasizes how
British South Asian Muslim women make active choices in dressing, navigating between
parental expectations, markers of ‘Asian’ identities, their own desires to establish a relation of
belonging to contemporary forms of ‘Britishness’ and ‘modernity’, and self-conscious
engagements with new forms of transnational Muslim identity.
This paper, then, partakes in the interrogation of Eurocentric assumptions about what
constitutes women’s (sexual) agency advanced by the recent literatures discussed here. In order
to understand how a group of young Muslim people forged a relation to a feminist protest about
sexual violence while they also navigated a complex territory marked by conflicting discourses
about freedom, sexual norms and sexual abundance, we argue there is a need to reconsider
many of the presumptions made in feminist and queer thought about gendered and sexual
norms, agency, freedom and social change. We also contend that such an understanding can
only be developed alongside an engagement with real practices of sexual difference – as well as
racial, ethnic, religious and other forms of difference – as they emerge immanently from
territories marked by political forces and relations that cannot be reduced to the formulation of
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‘patriarchy within Muslim communities’. Rather, each territory is specific and striated by
multiple intersecting lines of force.
For example, the American Muslim women in Mir’s (2009) research often establish relations of
belonging to and a certain distance from a number of cross-cutting territories, for instance:
expectations about ‘Islamic’ values regarding sexuality, constructed in opposition to ‘majority’
American heterosexual norms (figured through the supposed ‘promiscuity’ of non-Muslim
American women); parental expectations that their daughters reproduce immigrant group
‘culture’; and the folding of Orientalist constructions of Muslim femininity into the stereotypes
of a ‘good’ Muslim women held by Muslim women themselves. Yet, in the face of such a complex
regulatory terrain, several of Mir’s research participants reworked or ignored prescriptions
regarding Muslim women’s sexual behaviour, which afforded them a variety of opportunities for
sexual practice. The relationship between young Muslim women and a sexually-abundant or
‘promiscuous’ female subject position, then, might need to be understood in the context of
attempts to stake out a viable subject position in relation to specific conjunctions of
territorialisation whereby the contested regulation of sexuality establishes boundaries and
meanings of ‘community’, ‘the West’, ‘Islam’, ethnicity, friendship, generation and so on. The
women in Mir’s study show considerable agency in resisting and subverting such regulation, and
sometimes even in deterritorialising from dominant modes of expression, desire and subjectivity.
An attentiveness to the complex practices and forces that enact sexual difference on such political
territories perhaps upsets conventional ‘majority’ ideas about what sexual freedom might mean.
Is ‘freedom’ the best or only concept with which to think about how to foster sexual subjectivity
and agency? A number of issues might be understood to confront any attempt by our participants
– a group of young British Muslims, the majority of whom were women – to establish their
subjectivity and agency at SlutWalk. Participation in SlutWalk places the participants within a
political terrain in which women’s exclusion both from public space – for example, because of the
policing of women’s presence through harassment (Pain, 2000; Valentine, 1993) or the
cultivation of fear of crime (Pain, 1997) – and from the public sphere – for example, because of
the ideological masculinism of constructions of ‘the public’ (Fraser, 1990) – makes it particularly
important that feminist activism is conducted in the public sphere and in public space. SlutWalk
not only directly addresses discourses that play on the heterosexist policing of public space, but
by appealing to the figure of the slut and thereby contesting sexual norms in public, it also works
to destabilise the very construction of the public-private dichotomy (Berlant and Warner, 1998;
Staeheli, 1996). More than this, the structuring of oppression in – and exclusion from – both
public space and the public sphere is not only gendered and heterosexualised, but also ethnicised
(Ruddick, 1996). Our participants traversed a terrain in which British Muslim women’s place in
public space is structured by contestation and policing of their embodiment – especially
concerning dress – and in which their place in the public sphere is structured by a
deterritorialised and reterritorialised sexual politics (Werbner, 2007). On top of this, attempting
to establish a feminist subjectivity and agency in the face of liberal discourses that position
Muslim women as oppressed and lacking agency (Petzen, 2012) is complicated by recent trends
towards what might be called a ‘subaltern counterpublic’ (Fraser, 1990: 67) in which attempts to
forge an Islamic feminism in a Western context draws explicitly on liberal rights discourse
(Brown, 2006). Our participants faced a complex set of political territories, indeed.
Deterritorialisation, machinism and heteronormativity
5
The idea of ‘deterritorialisation’ that we invoke is taken from the thinking of Deleuze and Guattari
(1988; 2004). Territories, for Deleuze and Guattari, are expressive – they express a qualitative act
of marking distance and difference (1988: 315). Territorial ‘machines’ produce social relations
and difference, for instance, by coding relations of ‘alliance’ and ‘filiation’ or through the
overcoding of territory by a State (Deleuze and Guattari, 2004). If power often operates through
the binary coding of social difference, producing differentially valued subject and object
positions, then one of the strengths of the idea of deterritorialisation is that it describes a
decentring and redeployment of power rather than a deconstructive negation of the code. Instead
of an attempt to contradict or revalue terms within a logic of the Other – ‘Western’ or ‘Muslim’,
‘oppressed’ or ‘(potentially) liberated’ – deterritorialisation is characterised by qualitative codes
becoming taken out of one context and rearticulated within another, not only allowing the codes
to function in new ways, but allowing new modes of expression altogether. As the codes become
reterritorialised in their new contexts, the potential for new relations and new modes of action to
become expressed opens up.
Deterritorialisation explicates how to find ways of expressing desire and subjectivity no longer
organised by dominant modes of expression, without resorting to negation. Such a conception
resonates with queer understandings of contemporary political territories in terms of
heteronormativity (see for example Warner, 1993; Berlant and Warner, 1998). As Berlant and
Warner (1998: 552) argue, “the givenness of male-female sexual relations [as] part of the
ordinary rightness of the world” expresses the way a whole range of practices, norms and
institutions have become consolidated into what becomes recognised as a ‘sexuality’. This might
be thought of as a particular kind of territory, one that marks the differences between bodies and
that provides a condition of these bodies’ functions – the expectations and conventions that
regulate gendered and sexualised practices and performances. Queer critiques of
heteronormativity share with Deleuzoguattarian understandings of deterritorialisation a
suspicion of negation through, for instance, anti-normativity, straightforward transgression or
appeals to liberation. Both approaches instead suggest the virtues of producing new modes of
expression and relation, (re)inventing practices, rearticulating desire.
Deterritorialisation might be thought of as elaborating some of the precise mechanisms and
practices by which a critique of heteronormativity can become enacted. By emphasizing the
importance of decoding and the transposition of codes, of the rearticulation of bodies and
substances with other assemblages, or of the play of difference involved in becoming expressive,
Deleuze and Guattari (1988) provide a vocabulary for the mobility, movement, play and difference
by which such critiques might be given efficacy.
If Muslims in general – and Muslim women in particular – often become racialised and othered
on the basis of sexuality within many Western discourses, then queer critique is well placed to
interrogate how sexual norms are deployed to achieve these political effects (Oswin, 2008).
Nonetheless, queer critiques – including the use of the concept of heteronormativity – run the
risk of universalising particular struggles, thereby reproducing a kind of colonialism, if they
assume that norms and structures of difference operate everywhere the same or in the same way
for everybody in one place (Martin et al. 2008; Brown et al, 2010). Paying heed to the intricate
play of territorialisation, deterritorialisation and reterritorialisation that compose a politics can
help foster a greater sensitivity to the precise and various ways in which sameness and
difference are produced and in which norms work to regulate the expression of desire,
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subjectivity and action. We place this articulation of a Deleuzoguattarian approach to
deterritorialisation and queer critiques (of heteronormativity) within the broader context of
efforts to interrogate how sexuality is deployed to produce racial, religious, ethnic, classed and
other forms of difference and marginality (Eng et al, 2005; Oswin, 2008). We also place it within
the context of queer critiques of a liberal framing of oppression and resistance (Oswin, 2008),
critiques that interrogate the production of a self-governing liberal subject that has been opened
to inhabitation by ‘queers’ through the parallel production of Orientalized terrorist bodies (Puar,
2006; 2007) and through a disavowal or forgetting of how race and sexuality are bound together
in a politicised structure of intimacy (see Olund, 2010). The resonances here with the critique of
constructions of freedom in relation to the figure of the oppressed Muslim woman are especially
pertinent.
Another advantage of the Deleuzoguattarian understanding of deterritorialisation is that it brings
with it the concept of machinism (Deleuze and Guattari, 1988; 2004). The idea of machinism
directs our attention to the processes of production – how difference, actions, expressions of
desire, subjectivities and subject positions, etcetera are produced. It is ‘machines’ that produce
territories and thus social relations and differences, cultural codes and functions, and different
modes of expression. Because production is an active, contingent and on-going process, thinking
through machinism asks what can be done to transform production – what are the potentialities
for social change? And because machines are always dynamic, their ‘subjects’ – emergent
assemblages capable of knowledge, thought, perception, intention, enunciation – are also always
undergoing a continuous process of becoming, constantly (re)territorialising and
deterritorialising. For Deleuze and Guattari (2004), machines are composed of desiring bodies –
bodies entering into relations with one another in order to do something. The political territories
by which social relations and differences are marked and coded need to be understood in
machinic terms as ‘territorial assemblages’ (Deleuze and Guattari, 1988) composed of active,
desiring bodies. It is in and between these desiring bodies – formed matter – that social relations
and differences are encoded. That machinism asks us to think in terms of the material and the
embodied directs us towards attending to the action of the body at the heart of deterritorialising
desires and relations. An understanding of the body itself (not just its surface) as cultural and
political (not just a material substrate for these higher-order relations) suggests a need to take it
seriously as a site of contestation and activism (Grosz, 1994). It is notable that this conception of
the body accords with Gökarıksel’s (2009) understanding of how – for Muslim women in
Istanbul – veiling works to produce new forms of subjectivity neither in relation to a gaze nor on
a body understood as a surface of inscription or a sign of the self, but rather through a
transformation of the material and affective body and its practices.
This paper presents a discourse analysis that examines the production of various kinds of bodies
and subject positions – feminine, Muslim, male, classed, British, Western – in our participants’ talk
at the London SlutWalk. Following Deleuze and Guattari (2004), we take a historically and
geographically specific but dynamic set of socio-political territorialisations and
deterritorialisations and ask what machines produced them. In particular, we also take a feminist
and queer politics concerned with the production and contestation of femininities in relation to
normative sexualities and connect it to an anti-racist politics that attends to the transversal
production of subjectivities, desire and difference in terms of the productive potentiality of
machines (Lim, 2010).
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Researching at SlutWalk
We participated in the SlutWalk in London in support of its anti-rape premises and curious at
what such a discursively-transgressive protest would do. As atheist, queer, feminist academics,
we recognised that our reading of the event would be inflected by our critical, if supportive,
positionality. We were aware that at a protest like SlutWalk, where a lot of store is put into how
people dress, the way in which we physically presented ourselves might affect the sorts of
conversations we might have. Though we explicitly positioned ourselves as feminist and queer
researchers in the information that we gave to participants in SlutWalk, we attempted not to
display any specific position either in support of, or against, the sexually-provocative overtones
of SlutWalk or discourses about ‘sluttiness’. As such, we did not dress as ‘sluts’ or otherwise
provocatively so as not to alienate those who participated in SlutWalk but objected to the
sexually-provocative nature of the dress code whilst still being able to approach participants who
had decided to dress in ‘slutty’ attire.
We conducted seven focus group interviews at the 2011 London SlutWalk, and this paper is
based on a close reading of one of these interviews. In this particular interview, we talked to a
group of young women and men who had just participated in the march and were sitting in
Trafalgar Square. Most of this group identified as Muslims and participated in a ‘breakaway’
march within the SlutWalk march called ‘Hijabs, Hoodies and Hotpants’. For most of the interview
there were six speakers who contributed throughout, with a further two joining the interview
midway through and leaving it later. A further five young women and men were sitting with this
group during the interview and listened to the conversation, but did not participate. Though
their presence will no doubt have influenced the course of the conversation and the non-verbal
dynamics of the group to some extent (as certainly our presence as older non-Muslim
researchers will have done, too), we do not consider their contributions any further in this paper
and they do not appear in our transcript. Instead we concern ourselves with the contributions of
the four females and two males who dominated the conversation that we had with them about
SlutWalk. Members of this group were between 15 and 16 years of age and lived in London. They
declined to provide information regarding their ethnic and national identities; while we cannot
attribute such information to the participants individually, it is important to note that the group
were ethnically diverse, including members whose appearance might be read as ‘West Asian’,
‘South Asian’, ‘East African’ and ‘White European’.
Contesting the rape myth
Like many people we interviewed, the participants in ‘Hijabs, Hoodies and Hotpants’ were
thoughtful in their articulation of some of its aims, particularly in terms of how they challenged
‘rape myths’ and what they termed a ‘culture’ of blame concerning women’s dress and practices:
Chaniya2: ...blaming a woman for what she was wearing and why she got raped is a ‘rape
myth’, and so is, like, why she walked by herself or in a dark alley or something, and
people need to know that these aren’t excuses for what a guy did to the woman.
2
All participant names are pseudonyms.
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Explicitly evoking the way ‘rape myths’ work to control women’s movement in public space,
Chaniya’s comments demonstrate how discourses about rape are spatialised as well as
sexualised. Together with the discourse of ‘rape myths’, the participants seem to invoke – and
critique – a representational framework characterised by an ideological narration of femininity
that obscures real female desire and thought. Such a framing allows the participants to develop a
strategy for critiquing ‘slut’ discourse through unmasking the contradictions in these ideological
narratives:
Saad: Like ‘Yes means yes and no means no’, that was one of the chants today and when
you think about it, that's exactly what it is, like, a woman is not asking to get raped like
the police officer in Toronto said. Where they’re… they said that if women dressed like
sluts, then they’re basically asking to get raped, which is just a lie.
While this line of critique is in keeping with the tenor of arguments offered by participants in our
other interviews, here the participants offered a further and more specific deconstruction of
mainstream discourses of blame for rape and thus employed this contestation of the rape myth as
a means through which to situate their positionalities.
Aishah: I mean, that has absolutely nothing to do with what you wear, and loads of
women that are covered head to toe get raped –
Saad: –Full burqa with a niqab or if they are wearing a miniskirt or even if, even if the
woman is... she’s like a sex worker and then, like, she’s on the street, and that's what she
does, she should not even get raped because it is her body, and she gets to choose what
she wants to do with it.
Liberal undertones of choice and agency infuse Aishah and Saad’s comments; dress is a choice,
rape is not a choice, the subject is agentic and can choose what she wants to do with her body.
Moreover, these comments mobilise a particular refusal of the collocution between the figure of
the slut and the way in which a woman might be dressed, a collocution which forms the basis of
this particular ‘rape myth’. So far, so SlutWalk. What becomes interesting here is the way the
feminine figure of the veiled woman emerges as part of the negotiation of sexual politics. The
Muslim female body is crucial in substantiating the claim that rape is ‘nothing to do with what
you wear’. Aishah and Saad reflect and deploy the positioning and symbolism of Muslim women’s
dressed bodies within ‘majority’ (non-Muslim) British discourse. Contrasted with the woman in
the miniskirt, the figure of the Muslim woman dressed in a niqab and/or burqa is offered as the
antithesis of the image of slut; if even women in ‘full burqa’ get raped, then the ‘slut’ discourse
blaming women’s provocative clothing for rape fails.
Aishah and Saad’s comments need to be understood within a discursive context in which Muslim
women’s clothed bodies have become a motif in the contested racist and sexist construction of
Muslims as an ‘oppressed’ Other to an exclusive and ethnicised vision of emancipated
Britishness (Dwyer, 1999: 11; Werbner, 2007, Petzen, 2012). Aishah and Saad’s mobilisation of
the image of a Muslim woman dressed in a “full burqa with a niqab” stands in tension with
normative ‘popular’ discourses in the collective ethnocentric non-Muslim British imaginary about
the supposed patriarchal control over women’s dress and sexualities. As Dwyer (1999: 18) has
suggested, the construction of the British Muslim woman presents a subjugated, subordinated
stereotype of asexual femininity (see also Petzen, 2012).
9
While deploying the figure of the veiled Muslim woman to contest discourses of blame for rape,
the participants also seem to express an awareness of the broader Islamophobic British discourse
within which such a figure is constructed. Their discussion thus moves on to deconstruct
Orientalist assumptions about the superiority of British and Western culture because of its
supposedly fairer, more equitable and more liberated treatment of women:
Aishah: You know that here in the West we laugh a lot at Saudi [Arabia] and how they
treat rape victims – how they have a, like, a blame culture… but really, when you think
about it, mostly, when you think about it... there is, there is not much of a difference here.
I mean, like, with all the comments that have been coming out that haven’t been making a
difference. Obviously you don’t go to prison here for being raped, but really the whole
blaming culture, even the way the law is, the way um... the number of people who actually
do get convicted. Just shows that there is here not much of a difference in the culture here
either, when you think about it.
Aishah identifies the terrain upon which stereotypes of femininity, Islam and ‘the West’ are
perpetuated and offers a contestation which situates the ‘rape myth’ beyond the
Eastern/Western, progressive/backward dyads. If the veiled body invoked to contest the ‘slut’
discourse is seen in popular British and Western understandings as symbolising the sexual
oppression of women, then Aishah’s latter comment seems to anticipate and undermine these
understandings by showing the commonalities between British and Saudi (taken as emblematic
of ‘Islamic’ oppression) treatment of rape victims. Within this conjunction, a machine producing
a very specific anti-rape politics can be seen to emerge. The conjunction of discourses about
rape, Islam, Britishness, the female body, the feminine body and the body of ‘(in)appropriate’
dress work together to allow a terrain to be produced where: (1) rape is not about dress; (2)
even Muslim women who are veiled get raped; and (3) (British) Muslim women are not
necessarily more oppressed by patriarchy than (British) non-Muslim women.
Islam and the policing of women’s bodies
Later in the interview, some of the participants again pick up on the policing of women’s
sexuality and the absolution of men’s responsibility for rape through the attribution of blame to
women. Here, though, we see the machine (introduced in the previous section) begin to operate
as they turn their attention to questioning the way such moral economies work within what one
of them terms ‘Islam’, but again the dialogue develops in a direction that problematises a
simplistic opposition between ‘Islam’ and ‘the West’ that would be understood in terms of widely
divergent gendered and sexual norms.
Daria: ...Listen can I say something? Can I say something? Right now, say in Islam, yeah?
A girl has sex with someone right? And she’s not, like, meant to, you know? She gets
stoned or something like this, you get me? Right. I am not going to say who it is ‘cause...
it’s gonna shock you lot [meaning her friends in the group], innit. But a girl who I know –
she’s been raped, right? And first of all she didn’t want to tell any of her family, so she
went to the school, the school got involved and then they brung the parents in. That girl’s
dad don’t look in her face no more. Don’t even talk to her. That's how bad it is. And he beat
her up. He beat her up and chucked her out because she got raped.
Interviewer: Wow.
10
Chaniya: Yeah, I know, I know...
Daria: And from that day, right? She don’t even get on with her dad. She don’t even talk to
her dad no more.
Chaniya: I know a lady’s mother who treats her daughter like shit because of her being
raped, and she calls her a whore and says ‘it’s your fault,’ and that’s her own mother, and
it happens, you know, it happens.
Nadiyah: I know someone who actually asked a man that raped her daughter to marry
her daughter ‘cause now her daughter’s worthless, so you have to marry her and like
really, I mean really… One thing I have to say, this is culture, this is real, this is culture.
There's a culture in society – I am to going to say it is religion because within religion
you… I mean, rape is unacceptable, but there is a strong, there is a strong side of culture
that says whenever a woman is touched, it’s always her fault. And these are the
backwards cultures we laugh at but, really, is the West that much different? No, we’ve
seen it really isn’t that much different.
There are several points we would like to draw from this passage. The first is about the
importance of the human body in the policing of women’s sexuality. Whereas the earlier
discussion of attributions of blame figured the female body in terms of its appearance, here the
body is figured in a more relational sense: through touching, not looking at women in the face
and physical violence. The idea of women only having value or ‘worth’ as long as their bodies
remain untouched (except by specific types of persons within strictly defined contexts) organises
and institutionalises a policing of women’s bodies and sexual practices through the family.
The second point is about how the attribution of blame relies on a conceptual slippage,
performed in the extract by Daria, from having (forbidden) sex to being raped, a slippage that
shifts the shame associated with the former onto the latter. This slippage situates judgements
about being raped within judgements about female sexuality. While the participants relate tales
that emphasize the construction of women’s sexual purity as the basis of their worth within a
particular familial culture and particular interpretations of Islamic teachings, the tales are used
heuristically to draw attention to the apportioning of blame, the absolution of the rapist of
culpability and how women are judged irrespective of their actual actions within broader
discourse.
Our third point is to situate the participants’ talk within a broader discursive context, or rather
within the operation of a machine that produces a territory for an anti-rape politics that
reconfigures ‘majority’ understandings of the relationships between patriarchy, the oppression of
women, ‘Islam’ and ‘the West’. The participants’ talk resonates with Phillips’s (2012) assertion
about the need to be able to call out violence against women where perpetrators say they are
carrying it out in the name of Islam while working against a discursive terrain that stigmatises
Islam as peculiarly oppressive and that singles out Muslim communities as particularly prone to
patriarchal violence. It may be noted that Daria problematically conflates particular instances of
patriarchal familial practices and values with ‘Islam’ (or ‘religion’). This conflation expresses a
broader discursive framing that polarises ‘Islam’ and ‘the West’ as two conflicting identities. Yet,
invoking such a discursive frame also allows Nadiyah to undermine it. Indeed, she explicitly
challenges some of the terms through which this opposition is produced – Western censure of
11
the supposedly ‘backwardness’ of ‘Islamic’ policing of women and particularly their sexuality. By
attempting to show how the moral codes governing sexual and gendered practices commonly
attributed to ‘Islam’ also structure ‘Western’ or ‘British’ ‘rape myths’, Nadiyah’s comment
produces an equivalence between the critiques offered by SlutWalk – alluded to through the
formulation “we’ve seen” – of mainstream discourses surrounding rape and critiques of the
construction of Western moral superiority through demonisations of ‘Islam’. It is important to
note that this articulation of SlutWalk’s critique of rape myths with a critique of discourses
condemning ‘Islam’ for its supposedly exceptional oppression of women and their sexuality is a
sense accumulated sequentially during the participants’ talk. Through articulating these critiques
– and through articulating them by means of public political protest – the participants also
perform an agency that belies liberal ‘majority’ discourses about the need for a colonialist power
to save Muslim families and communities from their patriarchal violence and control or to save
Muslim women from their victimhood (Petzen, 2012).
Here, we suggest that we need to understand these participants’ arguments within the context of
their attempts to negotiate a subject position within a context where mainstream discourse in
Britain produces only a limited number of potential sexual and gender subject positions for
young Muslims living in ‘the West’. Our participants seem to be trying to negotiate a position
outside of mainstream discourses of the ‘liberal’ West or ‘repressive’ Islam by critiquing the ‘slut’
discourses surrounding rhetoric about rape as well as the ‘Islamic’ regulation of women’s
sexuality, while at the same time – as we shall see in the next section – taking their own distance
from the sexual excess signified by the term ‘slut’.
Following a Deleuzoguattarian understanding of machinism, reterritorialisation and
deterritorialisation, we argue that the participants start to deterritorialise from the machines that
regulate women’s behaviour and sexual practices through the production of (normative) Muslim
feminine, sexed bodies and Western feminine, sexed bodies. The machines producing these
modes of femininity articulate, amongst other things, shame, the role of the family, and
institutions of power such as the police, the school and the judiciary. On the one hand, the
Muslim-woman-as-repressed is a form of territorialisation against which the figure of the
(implicitly ‘Western’) ‘slut’ in ‘slut discourse’ can be counter-posed. As the interview quotations
in the previous section show, the participants rework this organisation, taking the machinic
production of the desexualised Muslim woman and using it to demonstrate that even she might
be raped, thereby starting to deterritorialise and trouble the crude machinic production of the slut
as (un)dressed and ‘asking for it’. On the other hand, the Muslim woman in need of saving from
patriarchal Islam is an encoding of feminine sexuality that works to stake out the coordinates of a
racist, Islamophobic and colonialist political territory. Yet, the contributions of Saad and Aishah
(quoted in the previous section) and Nadiyah (quoted above) subvert this territory by mobilising
another machine that draws links with, and comparisons to, the joint ways in which the feminine
body is controlled and policed through rape discourses in both ‘Western’ and ‘Islamic’ contexts.
By comparing stereotypes of ‘slut’ with stereotypes of ‘oppressed Islamic woman’, and critiquing
them both, they collapse the distancing through which the territory is established – exposing the
fallacies that allow a policing of feminine sexuality and of racial, ethnic and religious difference.
Their critique effects a deterritorialisation that opens up towards a different terrain upon which
feminine sexuality and racial, ethnic and religious difference may be produced. As we shall see in
the next section, however, this process of deterritorialisation is far from straightforward.
12
The ‘slut’ as constitutive outside?
Against a critical framing of the ‘Islamic’ policing of femininity, these participants negotiated a
particular subject position which, whilst rejecting the supposedly conservative judgements of
those who condemned women as complicit in their own sexual assaults, also rejected the
concept of ‘slut’ because of the pejorative associations attendant to it. One of the ways they
managed this tension was by forging an enclave within the SlutWalk itself, which they called
‘Hijabs, Hoodies and Hotpants’:
Saad: And what we are talking about here at SlutWalk is not just rape, it is about any
kind of judgement that someone might, sort of like, if someone sees someone dressed in
a certain way, they shouldn’t judge them in any way, no-one should fall victim to
harassment, like sexual harassment or any sort of intimidation whether it be from, like, a
police officer for wearing a hoody, or if it’s from, like, someone on the street who doesn’t
like the way a woman in a hijab or a niqab looks, like no one should be victimised for
this. And that's why there was this group as well who organised a...march within the
march today. It was entitled ‘Hijabs, Hoodies and Hotpants’.
Hijabs, Hoodies and Hotpants was a small bloc within the wider SlutWalk movement that these
participants used to mobilise a critique of rape discourses, but also to tie this critique into a
wider contestation of racist, Islamophobic, sexist and classist discrimination, especially as it
takes place around the materiality of dress. At the same time, ‘Hijabs, Hoodies and Hotpants’
enabled them to distance themselves from aspects of SlutWalk they found problematic:
Aishah: We were going to go to the SlutWalk anyway, but we knew that there would be
some people who would be offended with the word ‘SlutWalk’.
Chaniya: Yeah, I don’t agree with the name. I don’t agree with the name at all. What are
you trying to say? That we – that we’re sluts?
Daria: The message is here that you can’t reclaim a word that's negative. The message is
here that you shouldn’t be victimised or that you shouldn’t be blamed for what you are
wearing. You are talking about, you know, more revealing clothes, and that means that –
and we are going to call that event SlutWalk, then that means that we think that.
Ryan: But we are not here to promote or in any way normalise or say it is good for women
to, you know, show more flesh or anything like that; you know, modesty is a beautiful thing,
like.
Nadiyah: ...being a slut is a state of sexuality, it is not a dress code at all. Even if a girl was
to go out wearing a crop top and small shorts and heels – big, plastic heels and whatever
it is you think – doesn’t make that woman a slut at all, so I don’t know why this is a
‘SlutWalk’.
Here, the problem of how women’s moral value becomes tied to feminine sexuality re-emerges,
and the participants appear to negotiate an apparently paradoxical position whereby they are
invested in the anti-rape message of SlutWalk whilst simultaneously rejecting the category of
slut – or rather contesting the collocution of the term ‘slut’ and material dressing practices. They
thus separate their public questioning of how appropriate femininity becomes figured through
13
assumptions made about women on the basis of dress from their investment in the figure of the
slut and what kinds of understandings of feminine sexuality it might herald, which becomes
placed outside of the ethico-political space opened by their questioning. By talking about how
offensive it is to be called a ‘slut’, they render it a subject position one could never desire for
oneself. One possible reading of these participants’ discourse – a reading we will problematise
below – is that the placing of the subject position of ‘slut’ as a constitutive outside suggests a
discursive normalisation of desexualised femininity. We want to see how this idea develops in
the two last points, made by Ryan and Nadiyah, in italics above.
The statements ‘modesty is a beautiful thing’ and ‘being a slut is a state of sexuality’ might
appear to distance the participants from one opportunity SlutWalk offers (even if it is not an
explicit aim of SlutWalk London) – that is, the possibility for expanding the space for the
affirmation of explicitly assertive, promiscuous or abundant female sexuality. Nadiyah’s point, in
particular, seems to express a contrast between, on the one hand, the critique of discourses that
read ‘sluttiness’ from women’s dress (here, Nadiyah’s attestation of this critique can be viewed
as a contestation of Ryan’s implicit invocation of such ‘slut’ discourse) and, on the other hand, an
assertion that ‘sluttiness’ is a ‘state of sexuality’. While the participants’ earlier critique of ‘slut’
discourses might be understood as a contestation of the representational attribution of
excessive sexuality to women on the basis of their dress, the statements under consideration
here address a broader understanding of female sexuality that is not about a ‘dress code’ nor a
status that is attributed. Rather, Nadiyah seems to be implying an understanding of female
sexuality in terms of practice, disposition and/or embodiment that – given Daria’s comment
about ‘negativity’ and Ryan’s comment about ‘normalisation’ – is excessive and may be
encouraged through normalisation.
What might seem to be implicit here is a presupposition of women’s always-already
desexualised ‘essence’:
Interviewer: So did you find the idea that it was called SlutWalk alienating for you?
Ryan: …in the, the, the public perception, most people when they hear the word slut, it is
not in a positive light, so the public perception of calling something SlutWalk can, you
know, not even, like, push some people away, innit? To be, like, ‘I would have supported
your cause, but you are trying to normalise sexualisation of the society’. Which, which,
you know, some people feel uncomfortable with.
The slippage from discussing the gendered term ‘slut’ to invoking the term ‘society’ is suggestive
of how women are often made to bear the communal burden of sexual morality and draws upon
public discourses and moral panics beyond SlutWalk around how excessive feminine sexuality
poses a menace to the ‘good’ organisation of society. Given this conflation of women and
‘society’, the rejection of the normalisation of the ‘sexualisation of society’ implies the
presupposition that women occupy an already-desexualised state to which the spectre of
‘sexualisation’ poses a threat. In this context, the term ‘slut’ is required for the participants’
discursive constructions – in particular, the problematisation of the association of ‘slut’ and rape
victim, and the rejection of the link between ‘slut’ and ‘dress’ – to work. In order for these
disassociations to operate – for femininity (especially raped femininity) to not be slutty – the
participants’ discourse requires the concept of ‘slut’ as a point of (im)morality from which
14
women can be distanced. Their discourse throughout the interview can be understood as an
attempt to retain the idea of ‘slut’ necessary to make the underlying moral distinction between
normative and non-normative sexualities (and femininities), while simultaneously critiquing the
idea of ‘slut’ in ‘slut discourse’.
Deterritorialised desire
Why might these participants have needed to retain this distinction between normative and
non-normative female sexualities? It would be easy to read this retention simply as a
recuperation of heterosexist and heteronormative discourses of appropriate and inappropriate
femininity that they otherwise seek to contest. However, we suggest there is something more
complex going on. To do so, we return to the ideas of machinism and deterritorialisation. The
concept of machinism invites a consideration of the production of bodies with different
capacities for affect, action, desire, subjectivity and agency. We argue that these capacities
become put into play through a process of reterritorialisation and deterritorialisation, marking
out distance and difference, becoming expressive and taking on different functions in relation to
different territories.
The participants’ rejection of the subject position of ‘slut’ not only produces a set of bodies –
female bodies that express excessive sexual desire and desexualised female bodies that do not –
but also produces a capacity among the participants to deterritorialise from discourses that
appeal to a validation of female sexual abundance. In the context of their earlier questioning of
the double standards characterising ‘Western’ judgements about female victims of rape in Saudi
Arabia and in the West, it might be suggested that a deterritorialisation from discourses
validating female sexual abundance might be a way of deterritorialising from the political
terrain of ‘Western’ liberalism – with its dualism of ‘Western’ sexual freedom in opposition to
the oppression of Muslim women (Abu-Lughod, 2002; Kundnani, 2012; Petzen, 2012: Phillips,
2012). Given the relationship between such liberal constructions and the rise of Islamophobia,
such a deterritorialisation would enable a reterritorialisation upon an affirmation of ‘new’
transnational ‘Muslim’ identities that cut across existing ethnic identities (Dwyer, 2008). Of
course, an identity is a concept and does not exhaust the endless variation of actual lived
practice, belief, representation and desire expressed by those who claim it. Rather, it stands for
something, for an idea. In this case, with sexual practice operating as a heightened marker of
belonging, the performance of being a ‘good’ Muslim through a constructed difference from
‘Western’ practices of sexuality (and femininity) (see Mir, 2009) might be understood as a way
of expressing a political allegiance through a staking out of a certain distance – and thus, in
these senses, as expressive and territorialising. So, by both critiquing ‘slut discourses’
surrounding women’s dress and rejecting the ability to occupy the subject position of ‘slut’, the
participants are able to produce a series of bodies, affects and modes of expression that enable
them simultaneously to establish a relation of belonging to the identity ‘Muslim’ and to foster
their political agency through activism in a public sphere. Such a seemingly simple outcome is
made complicated because of the need to stake out a certain distance from a number of political
territories – ‘Western’, ‘British’, ‘liberal’, ‘Muslim’ etc – that permit claims for belonging on these
territories, but on the participants’ own terms through the development of their own modes of
expression.
15
The performance of being a ‘good Muslim’, then, cannot necessarily be understood as
straightforwardly taking up a position in a disciplinary formation. Rather, the complicity with
elements of heterosexist discourse that it entails might be seen as a compromise in order to
navigate a complex political terrain – a compromise of partial reterritorialisation upon one
territory to allow a partial deterritorialisation from another: the crypto-Islamophobia of
‘Western’ liberalism. The partiality here is important. If a certain distance is staked out from the
hypocrisies of ‘Western’ liberal discourses, then it must be remembered that a certain distance
is also being staked out from discourses of the ‘good Muslim’ and especially from the quiescence
demanded by conventional constructions of the Muslim femininity. Moreover, if we accept that
identities do not exhaust the actual lived practices and desires expressed by those who claim
them, then we might also remember how several of the participants in Mir’s (2009) research
reworked and subverted prescriptions regarding Muslim women’s sexual practices.
Such an understanding also enables a re-evaluation of the relationship between ‘Hijabs, Hoodies
and Hotpants’ and the broader SlutWalk march. Rather than rejecting the premises of SlutWalk
per se, ‘Hijabs, Hoodies and Hotpants’ worked to deterritorialise the SlutWalk machine, altering
its production of subject positions and knowledges about rape and ‘sluttiness’. In this sense,
‘Hijabs, Hoodies and Hotpants’ might be understood as marking the limit at which the
production of these subject positions and discourses about ‘slut’ ceases to work – what Deleuze
and Guattari (1988; 2004) might call the ‘Body without Organs’ (BwO) of SlutWalk. SlutWalk as
a whole doesn’t stop working – only a small proportion of the protesters on the London march
came into contact with ‘Hijabs, Hoodies and Hotpants’ – but the potentiality of one of SlutWalk’s
virtual limits remains latent, haunting the movement. Yet, even as ‘Hijabs, Hoodies and
Hotpants’ marks a ‘BwO’, it is also a seed of potential desire, expanding the opportunity for
connection between feminist activists, Hijabis, hoodie-wearing young men and women, women
who dress in ‘revealing’ clothes, and what Aishah called the ‘conservative community’ who may
feel alienated by the term ‘slut’.
Indeed, eschewing the term ‘slut’ is not necessarily a rejection of sexual abundance per se, but
rather potentially reconfigures an understanding of what sexuality and sexual abundance might
become. The figure of the ‘slut’ encodes a particular problematic on a specific political territory.
The disavowal of an attempt to recuperate what has been a denigrated non-normative position
opens up the potential to deterritorialise from conventional (Western) framings of sexual
norms and their modes of expression. It takes flight from a liberal territory that opposes sexual
permissiveness and freedom to sexual repression while not necessarily turning away from
other ways of expressing sexual abundance. The participants’ resistance to what Ryan termed
the ‘normalisation of the sexualisation of society’ might be taken as a critique of the
conventional liberal framing of sexual ‘emancipation’ as the way of expressing sexual abundance
and agency. A rejection of the term ‘slut’, then, heralds a deterritorialisation that reminds us of
the real and potential multiplicity of sexual expression, and perhaps even that there are other
ways of desiring pleasurably than ‘sexuality’.
Conclusions
This group of young Muslim women and men encountered the London SlutWalk as a site
between territories. In order to establish their political agency and to participate in critiques of
‘slut’ discourses that attribute blame for rape to women based on how they dress, they had to
16
deterritorialise from various political terrains. Navigating between critiques of violence against
women done in the name of ‘Islam’ and critiques of discourses that depict ‘Islam’ as inherently
and peculiarly blighted by such patriarchal violence, the participants discursively produce a set
of bodies with reconfigured modes of expression that enable them to function differently in
relation to a new territory – one in which the policing of women’s sexuality and racial, ethnic
and religious difference is no longer sustained by the opposition between ‘the West’ and ‘Islam’.
Moreover, in deterritorialising from the political territory established by SlutWalk in which the
contestation of norms surrounding women’s sexual expression becomes figured through the
‘slut’ as emblem of sexual abundance, the participants are able to affirm a belonging to a Muslim
identity, even as they also deterritorialise from the implications of what such a belonging might
seem to entail in the terms posed by liberal ‘majority’ discourse in the West. This is an exercise
in staking out difference and in producing bodies with (reconfigured) capacities for particular
forms of affect, action and desire, which is why a Deleuzoguattarian framing in terms of
(de)territorialisation and machinism is useful.
We have also shown in this paper how these modes of deterritorialisation open up questions
about other ways of thinking about sexual abundance and its expression. It is only on the
territory set out by ‘majority’ SlutWalk discourses that ‘slut’ becomes the primary way of posing
the problem of women’s sexual expression. Given how the contemporary production of so much
of both normative and non-normative sexual expression is afforded through commodified and
mediatised ‘apparatuses of capture’ (Deleuze and Guattari, 1988), perhaps the participants’
rejection of the validation of the non-normative term ‘slut’ is less important than their rejection
of the ‘sexualisation of society’. While the intention may be ambiguous, what this rejection does
allow is a suspension of the very territory by which we come to know ourselves through
‘sexuality’ (Foucault, 1979).
More generally, however, we have shown how a queer analysis of the use of sexuality and
heteronormativity to produce political divisions of race, ethnicity and religion can be
complemented by a Deleuzoguattarian framework. In particular, a straightforward use of the
concept of heteronormativity risks reinstating the coordinates of a particular (in this case,
majority ‘Western’, ‘British’) sexual territory –not only its normative and non-normative modes
of expression but also a particular view as to what kinds of expression might circumvent the
problems arising from such an economy. An attentiveness to the precise practices of
deterritorialisation – and to the different political territories from which such
deterritorialisation takes place – can elucidate the more complex set of questions and potentials
for difference and for expression summoned through minoritarian political and ethical practices
such as those discussed in this paper. Indeed, we suggest that the questions opened up by the
participants’ deterritorialisation may just open the door a little towards thinking about how a
feminist political movement such as SlutWalk can become multitudinous.
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