I Spoke to 2,500 Sluts on Saturday: Why We Need to Start Talking About Consent, Sex Ed, etc.

I spoke to 2,500 sluts on Saturday.

The SlutWalk movement is taking the world by storm as what became a global series of protests and rallies to end victim-blaming and sexual assault. Inspired by a Toronto Police Officer’s comment that women could avoid sexual assault by not “dressing like sluts,” marches have been organized on various continents, in various cities, and by various kinds of people. Altogether, they have featured the world’s finest sluts. And when SlutWalk rolled through Washington, D.C., I had the unbelievable opportunity to be involved as a speaker.

To be honest, I almost turned it down. Or, I guess, I almost didn’t take it. My friend said something in a bar. “You’re talking at SlutWalk? Carmen, talk at SlutWalk.” But I didn’t know what to say, or where to start. I’ve been doing work on the issue of sexual violence for three years now, working intensely on campaigns as a partner, at organizations as an intern, and even by myself on my educational project (con)sensual, which I’m trying to launch nationally right about now, but I didn’t know what to say.

But in the end, I took it. Lucky speaker number seven. A part of me felt like I had to. I wrote a speech the night before the march, at 1 AM, eating Burger King with my friends. We were watching Celebrity Rehab, I think. Or the Jersey Shore.

Eventually, it was August 13 and I was speaking to 2,500 people who were covered in rain water.

I was standing at the Sylvan Theater, right in front of the Washington Monument. My name tag said “Carmen (Fucking) Rios,” and I had cut my shirt into a crop top tank top, and I was still wearing my aviators, and – I want to share that moment with you:

Hello, everyone! Thank you for coming to SlutWalk D.C., and the biggest wet t-shirt contest in history.

Now, it took me 18 years to learn that sex could be on my own terms.

Until then, my sex ed. had been standard: condoms, babies and birth control. Oh, and that video of a woman giving birth. I learned then that sex was something I would submit to, and probably not enjoy. And it would probably happen on someone else’s terms, because women don’t make the terms in sex ed. I also learned that women who didn’t follow those rules would be punished. I would be a slut. I would be without safety and without support.

It’s no surprise that that education didn’t get me far. Hell, I’m more surprised that I made it out alive and am standing right here, right now, in front of all of you. Because nobody in sex ed. told me how to ask for sex, or that I could. Nobody told me I had sexual rights. Nobody told me I deserved safety. And nobody told me about consent.

Consent is a powerful concept for our world, especially as it continues to struggle with victim-blaming, sexual assault, and misogyny. Because consent gets all of us talking about sex. To our partners. To ourselves. A world built on consent: no silence and no shame. One free from violence and coercion. One based in autonomy, respect, and power. A world where “no” is respected, and – more importantly – “yes” comes without consequences. Consent liberates us. It gives us a voice. A world built on consent is built on our terms. On our voices.

We’re all here today because we know our voices are important. We’re all here because we can’t sit down and be quiet. Because our voices are important and they need to be heard. Because we should be able to live on our terms. 

I started (con)sensual in 2009 because I wanted to get everyone talking. I wanted to hear every voice. And I still do. Because the time to dismantle rape culture and end our culture of shame is now. Because that time should have been a long time ago.  And SlutWalk belongs in D.C. because this is a city of loud voices – but not ours. We have watched Washington go silent on sexual violence, comprehensive sex education, our bodily autonomy, our human rights, and our safety. That is unacceptable. The voices in Washington should sound more like ours. 

So we must keep making noise, until that noise fills every school, until it fills every office, until it fills every life. Until everyone is free to speak up, and speak out, and until the world is ready to listen. Until we’re free to live on our own terms. The struggle to end violence belongs to everyone. And only with our voices can we all come together – in solidarity, and with respect, and on our terms. 

So let’s keep rocking, sluts. Because you look great – but I bet you sound even better. Thank you.

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Carmen spent six years at Autostraddle, ultimately serving as Straddleverse Director, Feminism Editor and Social Media Co-Director. She is now the Consulting Digital Editor at Ms. and writes regularly for DAME, the Women’s Media Center, the National Women’s History Museum and other prominent feminist platforms; her work has also been published in print and online by outlets like BuzzFeed, Bitch, Bust, CityLab, ElixHER, Feministing, Feminist Formations, GirlBoss, GrokNation, MEL, Mic and SIGNS, and she is a co-founder of Argot Magazine. You can find Carmen on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr or in the drive-thru line at the nearest In-N-Out.

Carmen has written 919 articles for us.


    I came up with my speech on the spot, haha.

    I’m so glad there’s a Slutwalk article here. That movement has become a huge part of my life, being one of the very few places that validated my experiences and responses. <3

  2. Carmen (fucking) Rios, you look and sound like one badass (and beautiful) lady. I’d like to be a little more like you!

  3. Carmen, that was AWESOME and so true!!

    By the way, your get-up makes you look like a feminist activist in the 70’s – how appropriate :)

  4. i am officially a little bit in love with carmen (fucking) rios. seriously, what an empowering speech. off to check out (con)sensual now!

  5. That was amazing, Carmen. This is a conversation that definitely needs to be had and I’m so glad that Slutwalk is doing it.

    And, not to lower the tone, but you are rocking the crop top and aviators.

    • thanks so much! i’m also planning to write more here on AS about consent. i feel like it’s about time the coolest queer ladies in the universe had a place to talk about it ;]

  6. Loved it. So glad you decided to speak; I’m sure you inspired thousands of others to speak up themselves.

    Also, that 2nd photo is just timeless. It could as easily have been from 1970 as 2011! You look like a bad-ass activist.

  7. Everything you said, every word of that speech, is what the world needs to hear. It’s badass and amazing and so necessary right now. So thank you for saying it!

  8. Carmen, you are so badass. We had our slutwalk this past weekend and I swear, it was one of the most rewarding, empowering things I’ve participated in. You really said what needed to be said and you look awesome.

  9. I like to learn at least one new thing a day. Today I learned that Carmen fucking Rios is exponentially more awesome than I previously thought, which was pretty fucking awesome to begin with.

  10. I had a dream last night where I was raped, and I spent the whole dream trying to prove that someone did it and put him to justice. I woke up without that happening.

    Your speech was phenomenal, Carmen. Sex-ed was a similar experience for me, I just never realized it. <3

  11. Carmen, what an amazing speech!
    I feel like sex ed reform is priority number one at this point.
    If only we could control the media we could do away with glamorized scenes of sexual violence. Woman tied up or sprawled out on the ground like they have just been pushed down are somehow expected to sell clothing. One step at a time and SlutWalks are an amazing first step. Thanks so much for spreading that message.

    For Women.
    For the Love of Women!

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