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SlutWalk celebrates its 10th year with radical joy

//SlutWalk Denver organizers gathered together a few minutes before marching through Cheesman Park on Sept. 18. Photos by Polina Saran | polinasarana@gmail.com

As Siren Sixxkiller ran around the pavilion at Cheesman Park on Saturday, she juggled greeting attendees and putting out the many fires that arise when arranging any public event. Sixxkiller is a veteran organizer of SlutWalk Denver, and she’s used to navigating snags like a last-minute change in schedule.

“The band canceled,” she said through her black face mask. “One of [the musicians] is sick. We’re kind of running behind.”

Minutes later, Sixxkiller officially kicked off the 10th annual event at the mic. Several dozen people wearing platform boots, lingerie and pasties gathered around as she went over the key elements of SlutWalk: Explicit consent for touching, hugging and photos is mandatory; attendees must wear their face masks unless they’re eating, drinking or taking photos; stay hydrated and have fun; and most importantly, if there is any type of inappropriate or unwelcome behavior, alert a SlutWalk organizer. 

Slutwalk returned this year on Sept. 18. And in a change from previous iterations, this year the revelry focused on one spot instead of the usual march.

The group was on high alert after the march was targeted by right-wing militias on Twitter last year—so much so that they didn’t release the location of the event until days before the event and specifically requested that attendees post minimal information on Twitter. 

“We’ve never had an issue before last year with that,” Sixxkiller said. “I feel like there was some weird, voyeuristic thing going on with protest culture last year.” 

The threat of harassment also had a minor impact on the decision to have a more stationary event than prior years. In an effort to reduce exposure and make the event more accessible, SlutWalk took over the white marble structure of the Cheesman pavilion—the pasties and pleaser heels juxtaposed against the floor-length blue, green and white dresses of the quinceañearas and brides celebrating nearby. At both celebrations, people laughed, smiled and danced as they took photos. 

The inspiration for the change of format happened last September at the height of the pandemic. Chrysalis House LCA, a sex-positive community and resource center, hosted a similar event called Joy in the Park. According to fellow SlutWalk organizer and Chrysalis House Co-founder Becky Taha’Blu, Sixxkiller loved the idea of taking up space in a radical and joyous way. From there, the idea snowballed. One of the younger members, Lily, suggested they do a carnival-type event, with games and crafts. Attendees sat around a blanket work station set up by Cut + Paste CO, cutting images from magazines like OUT FRONT to create collages. Others made SlutWalk sashes from pieces of ribbon and rhinestones. Laughs and compliments echoed around the columned structure. 

“I was like, ‘What if it’s radical?’” Taha’Blu said. “‘What if it’s extreme, aggressive, in-your-face joy, like you have no choice but to smile?’”

Another benefit of the static-style event was that the tabling organizations had an opportunity to actively engage with attendees, representing causes from the decriminalization of sex work to STD testing and awareness. In all, 12 organizations were present: Black Sex Workers of Colorado, Blue Bench, The Brazen Project, Chrysalis House, Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights, Denver Freedom Skool, Empowerment Program, Lysistrata, Positive Women’s Network, Rocky Mountain Sex Worker Coalition, Vivent Health and sponsor Keep Abortion Safe

Keep Abortion Safe Program Director Lorenne Gavish said she had her eye on sponsoring SlutWalk for several years before they made it happen. 

“I first learned about SlutWalk five or six years ago,” Gavish said. “It was clear that it was one of the very few, really visible movements that, first of all, centered sex workers, sluts, bodily autonomy and people who generally, I think, tend to be pushed into shadows in all of these movements. So it felt like a really radical, really on-point voice and movement. I found that really inspiring and was hoping to support that in any way possible.”

And, with the recent passing of SB8 in Texas, the timing and focus on reproductive rights and abortion couldn’t be more perfect. With the anxiety surrounding the collapse of Roe, Taha’Blu said it was more important than ever for SlutWalk to continue holding space for those who’ve had abortions, standing in “slutidarity” with them. 

“We are providing an open space to have the conversation,” she said. “A lot of the folks who decide to have an abortion are already shamed, shunned and othered. So we’re providing a space where they can open up and speak freely about it.”

With the recent events in Texas, the persistent criminalization of sex work and the rising trend of violence against women, nonbinary and trans folks, SlutWalk provides a safe haven. To many, the current political climate proves SlutWalk is still a necessary movement. 

Lee Harrington and Ev Evnan donned “Vaccinated Slut” shirts to the event. Harrington, a sexuality author and educator, said little has changed in the way of progress since the first SlutWalk 10 years ago. As a self-identified slut, he said it was important for him to show up for his community. 

“I’m transgender,” Harrington said. “I was assigned female at birth and socialized female, so [the word slut] was something that [others called me]; it was something that was used as derogatory language. However, it is also something that I’ve actively chosen over the last 20 years to make mine again to say, ‘This is not yours to use against me.’ How you want to read me has nothing to do with my identity or with how I want to walk in the world.”

For many within the community, self-identifying as a slut isn’t just about the shock value of the word: It represents the power one has over their body—what they choose to wear, who they choose to sleep with, what kinks they’re into and when they choose to have a child. It’s about taking ownership of their decisions; it’s about being in community with fellow sluts, regardless of work, race, class, ability, sexuality or gender. 

“For me, being a slut is about taking charge of our sexuality,” Evnan said. “As a trans person, there are so many times that people feel entitled to what’s between my legs. I reject that. To me, being a slut means that I say no to those experiences and I take a stand for the rest of my beloved trans community as we collectively say, ‘We are in charge of our bodies, and they’re not available for people’s public consumption without our consent.’”

More photos from Polina Saran below.

//Idesia McQueen, a member of Black Sex Workers of Colorado at SlutWalk Denver, which took place at Cheesman Park on Sept. 18.

//SlutWalk Denver attendees gathered around a crafting station hosted by Copy + Paste where they could create collages using magazines like OUT FRONT and sashes from ribbon and rhinestones. This year’s SlutWalk was a more stationary, carnival-style event in an effort to make it more accessible and avoid run-ins with right-wing militias. 

//In addition to the craft area and tabling organizations, SlutWalk featured a dance pole in the center of the Cheesman Park pavilion. Several dancers, including Destyni (pictured above) displayed their talents. 

//An attendee of SlutWalk Denver does a skateboard trick near the pavilion at Cheesman Park. Although the event was largely stationary this year, organizers did lead a mini march around the park at the end of the day. Last year, the event was branded as a “SlutRoll,” and marchers were encouraged to bring their skateboards, roller skates, bikes and wheelchairs in an effort to make it more inclusive and accessible.

 

 

 

 

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