I was privileged to meet with two deans and the college president yesterday as an officer in my college’s honor society. We offered to carry out a project that benefits the college; however, prior to beginning that conversation, we brought the administration up to date on our current hallmark project which addresses how stereotypes hinder or inhibit creative human expression. The college president, a woman, immediately engaged our group of officers on the subject, as did the dean of students, another woman. We learned that the simple act of checking a box on an SAT form can influence a woman’s performance on that test because of the ingrained stereotype that women are not good at math. This led to discussions about how stereotypes lead to self-silencing behavior in women and self-censorship in general. And then the ultimate in stereotypes was brought up: does how a woman dresses signal that she wants sex?
What is a stereotype? Google defines it as “a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.”
Simply put: the stereotype that a woman dressed provocatively is signaling that she is ready for sex, and could even be asking to be raped, is what I want to address here.
If a woman is dressed provocatively, does that invite sexual advances that could lead to rape? Is a woman giving affirmation to sexual advances merely by how she is dressed?
Any person in their right mind who isn’t on crack will argue that how a person dresses does not signal sexual surrender or an open invitation to unrestrained sexual activity.
I will argue that a stripper wearing only a g-string (if those still exist) is not inviting sexual contact. She is expressing herself, making money, and providing entertainment ONLY (I do not in any way support this industry — it exploits women horribly). We all know that if you try to touch you will get bounced out on your ass. You can look, but you cannot touch. Okay?
So why, oh why, would any male or female believe that how a woman dresses signals sexual surrender?
Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) states that rape is defined as:
“Penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”
There are several factors that qualify sexual activity as rape including age of consent, capacity to consent, and willingness to participate. This might sound complicated but it really isn’t.
A woman has the right to say “No!” at any point during consensual sex. Any point!
A woman who is under the influence of or incapacitated by alcohol or drugs is not able to give consent. Don’t even think about it.
A girl who is under 18 is off limits. Simple rule. Each state has different ages of consent, so the best rule is hands off anyone under 18 years of age. Period.
I actually had a conversation with one of my sons about what constitutes rape. He wasn’t sure when it came to the “under the influence” issue. We discussed it and agree that it is a grey area. So I simply stated that that should mean no sex.
Back to the insane idea that a woman is in any way responsible for being raped because of how she dresses. Think about what this means for a second. Really think. Think hard, guys. Think, think, think.
Of course a woman is not responsible in any way for being raped because she dared to express her sexuality in her choice of fashion. Of course she isn’t responsible for the actions and behavior of a man who can’t control himself.
The issue of rape is complicated by better attempts to define it, to broaden its definition. When I was young I was taught (by male teachers and law enforcement officers, of course) not to resist a rapist, but to just allow him to do his thing and then he will “let me go.” I was told, and the literature supported this at the time (and probably still does), that rape is simply an act of violence against a woman, and has nothing to do with sex. It stems from a man’s need to control another person. That is why rapists will rape 80-year-old women. I have always had a difficult time with this line of reasoning. Of course it has something to do with sex. It is the ultimate violation against a woman: forcing her to have sex against her will.
Today, that is only one type of sexual assault. We have learned to define rape as any non-consensual sex, not just the violent assault perpetrated by one person against another person. We typically think of rape as this scenario: a woman is walking to her car late at night and a man with a knife subdues her, and then forces her to submit while he penetrates her. It is a violent, horrible act.
I agree that rape is very much about power. It is also about sex. It is very much about a man getting what he wants no matter what. And so I consider justifying any kind of rape as the ultimate entitlement mentality.
- A man buys a woman dinner so he thinks she should put out.
- A young woman shows up at a party wearing a low-cut top and a short, short skirt, gets really drunk and does a dirty dance. She must want sex.
- A politician is away from his family and convinces his intern to have sex with him. He is powerful and is denied nothing in his privileged life, even sex with a young intern.
- A woman dares to go out late at night alone. She is asking for it.
Okay, I threw in that example of abuse of power via sexual harassment, but as a woman, I can tell you it is akin to rape, emotional coercion leading to physical rape. If a woman is pressured to have sex by a person in power over her, it is rape, in my opinion (not legally or prosecutable, but rape nonetheless). It is a violation of one person’s will by another resulting in sex.
Come on, guys. It is time to move beyond this ridiculous kind of thinking. You can look, but you cannot touch. You are not entitled to any kind of sexual reward, ever.
We all know that rape has nothing to do with a woman’s behavior or how she is dressed. Rape is a complicated act of sexual violence perpetrated in a variety of ways against another person who either doesn’t give consent or is unable to give consent.
Men: you are not entitled to anything. Your wife is under no obligation to give it up. Your girlfriend can say she doesn’t feel like having sex, and you must be okay with that. The woman at the bar dressed provocatively is not signaling you that she is available to have sex with you. The young woman at the frat party who is fall-down drunk should be protected and not violated.
No one is ever entitled to sex, ever.