I wasn’t expecting to sob.
I mean, I knew SlutWalk St. Louis would be an emotional and empowering day, but I had no idea how it would play out for me and the 600 others who attended.
The march kicked off at noon, and traveled down Manchester Road. The Riverfront Times captured it beautifully, take a look here.
Everyone was celebrating – in every pic taken of me, I look radiant, so happy. I felt like it was my birthday. I was with my people. It felt every bit as sex-positive as Pride march last month.
At one point, surrounded by cheering and dancing sluts, I looked over at my friend Lunamax and was surprised to see tears streaming down her face (click on her name to see what she was crying about).
After the celebration in the street, we all poured into Atomic Cowboy to eat, drink, and be merry. I ate a veggie burger and drank a couple beers and soaked up the amazingly positive vibe, not to mention the nice scenery. It was so awesome watching people celebrate their sexuality in broad daylight, guilt and shame tossed out the window.
After lunch, I ran home to change and regroup. I was due to present a talk at 5pm:
“Who, Me?” The Rationale of Rapists
Can something as traumatic as rape ever be chalked up as a simple misunderstanding? How come so many “rapists” appear baffled at the suggestion that they have done something terribly wrong? Kendra Holliday of Sex Positive St. Louis explores how an intimate encounter involving two people can leave one person in need of months of therapy and the other in need of a cigarette. Holliday delves deep into her own personal experiences in order to shed light on this gross discrepancy and discuss how we can get more minds to match up with the meeting of bodies.
I figured not many people would stick around for the series of talks that would go until 7pm, when the day would conclude with a body-positive fashion show and burlesque show.
I walked into the Fox Hole and was stunned to see it packed with people taking notes earnestly and listening with an open heart.
All of a sudden, it hit me like a SlutBus – I sank down onto a chair and started shaking and sobbing. Grief washed over me in waves.
There was no fucking way I could do this talk.
Yes, there was.
I grabbed David Wraith, who had not planned to speak that day. He opted to take a backseat out of respect to the women, but was there to play a supportive role.
I blurted, “David, I’m freaking out. I need you to sit next to me on the stage. I need you to do this with me.” He nodded without question.
I texted my partner, who had another obligation and couldn’t be there: I’m here in the room, it’s packed, wasn’t expecting people to stick around, I’m sobbing, thank god David is here.
I texted Lunamax the same thing.
They both responded: Deep breaths. You can do this! You are a strong woman!
Lunamax added: You could burp the ABC’s on that stage and people would still applaud with abandon. That room is full of people who love you!
We were up next. I grabbed a glass of water – a friend had told me a trick to keep from crying – if you drink water, you won’t cry.
I chugged water.
David and I sat side by side on that stage. You couldn’t tell by looking, but he was holding me up.
I told my story, which was so many other people in the room’s story. I felt numb, yet connected to everyone.
Then David told his story, which took my breath away.
(It will be posted on youtube at some point; I’ll share the link when it’s available.)
After our talk, I wandered off the stage in a daze, where people hugged me and a line was forming.
They all wanted to share their story.
I listened to as many as I could. It was heart wrenching to confirm how many people have been raped multiple times in their life, from childhood on. According to RAINN, 44% of sexual assault and rape victims are under the age 18.
I was so drained. As I walked out of the room to get some air, I ran right into my partner, much to my surprise. He had dropped what he was doing and came to be with me. He gently gathered me in his arms.
I felt so fragile, yet so strong. I was surrounded by love.
I wish all the SlutWalk naysayers could know what a healing and important event this was. I wish they could have been there.
Thanks to the women in Toronto and Brennan Peters in St. Louis, the movement has been launched. The discussions will be ongoing. I know SEX+STL and many other amazing local organizations will be offering educational and empowering workshops and events for women AND men.
We’re ALL in this together. We could all benefit from tools that will help us interact with each other and break down barriers.
St. Louis is undergoing a sexual renaissance, made possible by an age of empathy.
Replace the fear with love.