Does Provocative Dress Ever Cause Rape?
Some friends were discussing the “Slut Walks” that keep popping up, and someone asked whether provocative clothing ever plays a role in rape. Interesting that “provocative” is used to describe a style of dress, suggesting that clothes actually provoke something. Attention? Desire? Rape?
Women don’t cause rape by what they wear. Asking about correlation between clothing and rape is tricky, though.
To make clear, sexual assault is never the victim’s fault. Someone has to act to commit rape. No one forces that choice. If seeing an enticing woman led men to conclude, “I’ve got to rape her,” all men would be rapists. Yet few are.
And plenty of assaulted women are not dressed sexily, including women draped in head-to-toe burqas. Interestingly, veiled women are blamed, too: “He must have seen a bit of her ankle, wrist, hair, neck… Who could resist!?”
Strippers are the most sexually “provocative” of all, yet patrons manage to contain themselves. Yes, bouncers provide security, but they aren’t stationed with blinders blocking their sight. And who’s watching them? Male customers aren’t physically restrained. The men are actually controlling themselves.
Sociologists who have interviewed rapists, read their accounts and looked at the circumstances of their crimes have learned that they have a variety of motives. Here are a few:
Some rape to feel powerful, others gang rape to demonstrate their “manhood” (defined as powerful, dominant, violent, virile, and not gay) to each other and fraternally bond, some become aroused by sadistically bringing sex and violence together, others seek to harm an entire race, community or nation by using sexual assault as a political weapon, still others seek revenge against someone other than the rape victim. And some misread cues.
Let’s take a look at these mistaken cue readers. Here’s where it gets tricky because a correlation between clothing and rape is not the same thing as sexy clothing causing assault.
Rapists who misread cues believe the following: men are naturally assertive and women are naturally passive. There are “good girls” and “bad girls.” Bad girls secretly want sex but can’t admit it, so they trick men into forcing sex. How do these “bad girls” send cues (in these men’s minds)? By doing things like smiling at them, or making eye contact, or by showing a little leg or cleavage. So these men may see a low-cut blouse as a “rape me” signal. But while they also see a smile or eye contact as a sexual come-on, women are only blamed for the dress. Have you ever heard anyone say, “Never look at a man,” or “Never smile at a man, he may rape you!”
Women, if you think dressing modestly will protect you, it won’t. Most rapists don’t care about “cues,” and just in case you run into those who do, you better not look at, or smile at, any man either. Just to be safe.
Should you really have to live that way? Or should men choose not to rape? As most do?
The number of assaults will not go down if women make sure to cover up. The cue-reading rapist has decided to attack someone, and is seeking justification. He will rape and he will find something to blame other than himself.
By placing women in charge of his sexuality he abdicates responsibility (it’s her fault). How convenient for him!
And while different rapists have different ways of thinking, they are all sexist. At the least, they believe they have more right to a woman’s body than a woman does, herself.
Posted on September 26, 2011, in feminism, gender, psychology, rape and sexual assault, sexism, women and tagged feminism, gender, psychology, rape and sexual assault, rapists, sexism, sexual assault, Slut Walk, women. Bookmark the permalink. 209 Comments.