- She was all over me, so she was asking for it.
- She was drunk, so she must have have asked for it.
- She wore [insert literally any clothing you find attractive here], so she had to have asked for it.
- She answered when I said, “hello beautiful.” She asked for it.
If these statements seem crazy, it’s because they are. Still, I see them used every day as an excuse for sexual assault. Then people wonder why a girl walking down the street hears someone say, “hi there,” and finches in fear. Too often, it seems any acknowledgement at all can be used as an excuse for assault in the future.
I am not by any means saying this is logical. Certainly 99% of people saying hello are the street are reasonably kind people. An acknowledgement that one looks attractive isn’t really the opposite of a compliment either. We get mixed messages in this world, though. From a very young age, the female gender is taught to fear the male gender. More men than women in my life have told me that men are animals. Statistically, one in six women will face an attempted or completed rape. Those are scary odds. I bet very few people live in America who don’t know at least one person who has experienced a sexual assault.
While those numbers may be true, is it really worth the fear of men? There are other numbers which are just as true, but are rarely spoken of. More than 70% of rape victims know their rapist. Over 50% of rapes happen within one mile of the victims home. Turns out the average story is not about a drunk girl being taken advantage of. It is about a girl near her home, with someone she trusts and without the willful inhibitions of drugs.
Why is this not the story we are told? Why are school focusing on girls who wear leggings instead of the real problem. The way a person looks or acts does not mean they are asking for anything. Even if a person dresses to attract another, an onlooker has no way of knowing if they desire sex or something else.
This should all be really quite simple. No means no. If you are not sure a person is saying yes or no, clarify. A friend of mine once suggest colleges should promote sex consent forms. At first, I thought this was crazy stupid. Who would ever sign a piece of paper as a condition of having sex? Then I thought about why. Why would someone be turned off by being desired? Many men I know can’t get it up if they feel like the person they are with isn’t into the act. Someone trying to fight them off or not moving at all due to fear or drugs would be just as unattractive. But then, rape and assault isn’t so much about arousal due to physical attraction as it is arousal due to power (that’s a whole different blog, though).
The real problem with such an idea is the ease with which is could be foiled. All you have to do is forge a signature. If you make the pact with a finger print, that’s not hard to get once a person is incapacitated. Would recorded voice consent count if the person was drunk?
We’re probably far away from a definition of consent we can all agree on, but I think it’s safe to say most of us believe no means no. I kind of wish the mantra was yes means yes… but I don’t make the rules. We’d see a lot of improvement if we didn’t start blaming a girl for her dress and actions. Can’t a girl make out with someone without the intention of going further? Can’t she wear leggings to feel good about herself without fearing she’ll be assaulted?
My main problem with the argument about clothes is that it’s cultural. What is and isn’t attractive clothing differs depending on your opinion. Maybe one person gets turned on by leggings but the other gets turned on my ankles. What then? Are we going to tell all women to cover their ankles or are we going to tell men that the exposure of attractive ankles don’t give them a right to assault someone?
I admit that this whole post has been very heteronormative, but it’s hard to be otherwise in the context of current assault stereotypes. Once we let go of the idea that what you wear is not an invitation, we can start to focus on the real reasons. We can start to address assaults on all genders by all genders.
If we can let go of the idea that the victim must have some kind of fault in their attack and erase their fears that they will be condemned, perhaps more will come forward. Maybe men and women of all sexualities will speak out, no longer afraid they will be blamed.
Maybe we can finally start to blame sexual assaults on the assailants and not on the miniskirts.
Did you know that most sexual assaults happen by trusted persons and close to the victims home? Why do you think we focus on clothing even though it’s not an indicator of assault risks? Would you find signing a sex consent form before knocking boots arousing or tedious?