What Not To Wear

Recently, the chief of police in Toronto bemoaned in the media that women were getting raped due to what they were wearing when they went out. People rightly responded with horror to such total drivel and a new movement has appeared in response: SlutWalks, where women will wear "revealing" clothes and walk down streets en masse in protest.

This is to be applauded as a good response and it helps show up the nonsense the policeman was saying, because rape has nothing at all to do with sex. No, really. It involves something of a parody of sex, but it is actually a crime of violence and power.

Look at it this way: since when did any sort of sex involve beating a screaming, helpless person so severely that you break bones in their face? What sort of sex involves shoving jagged objects into a woman's vagina? Or biting the nipples off a man whose arms you've previously snapped? What sort of sex involves killing a woman in her 80s or a schoolboy? What sort of sex involves hypnotic or sedative drugs? Answer: none. That's not sex, that's violence. And it is perpetrated by inadequate people – inadequate men, most of the time – who feel the need to take their power by taking power away from someone else.

What a victim of rape wears is nothing to do with getting raped. It's to do with being in the wrong place in the wrong time, with being, horribly, a random victim or a chosen victim: being a victim of rape is the same of being a victim of anything else – bad luck, at the hands of an inadequate fellow member of the human race.

This doesn't suit the media. For them, rape is something women make up, or something they actually, secretly want. It's actually very sexual, downright sexy. Therefore, if you wear something "sexy", as they define it, you're bringing rape on yourself. You are, and the phrase burns my eyes, "asking for it". Yeah, because people are often "asking" to have a knife jammed up their anus.

Most people will never be raped, just like most people will never be a victim of any other crime. That also has nothing to do with what they are or are not wearing. So "dressing as a slut" has no statistical effect on rape whatsoever. Why would it? The problem here is actually in attitudes, and the media and lawmakers' belief that someone, somewhere should be regulating what women wear.

This is one of those famous slippery slopes. In Europe recently the media and lawmakers have been debating restricting women's right to wear the burkha. This garment bothers me: it is so easily a tool of a male desire to dominate women. But the next step from there is the debate the Canadians are now having: should women be prevented from wearing clothes at the other end of the spectrum? From there, the next slide down this terrible path is moving from restricting what women can't wear to restricting what women can wear. This all won't do – women should wear what they fucking well want to wear. As should men. It's nothing if not downright obvious that what you wear makes many statements, but "rape me" is not one of them. Ever.

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One comment

  1. I agree with you: I feel uncomfortable with any law trying to tell women what to do or wear. I can understand France’s logic, but in reality I fear it’s more an expression of prejudice than feminism. I think the confusion over the ‘asking for it’ message comes from the assumption that some clothing and make up is intended to have the effect of attraction, but the extension of assuming that it’s intended to welcome violence is perverse, and comes from the idea that men have ‘uncontrollable’ sexuality that women are required to control. As for male rape, naturally the assumption is that gay men deserve it, which is just as sad and wrong.

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