Why My Clothes Aren't Consent
TW: Rape, Violence against Women
Consent is abused in various places, by various people for various inexcusable reasons, often followed by the phrase ‘she was asking for it’. Consent is a verbal response given by both people involved that can be reversed at any time. A response that isn’t made under the influence of drugs and alcohol or unconsciousness. This means that what skin is on show, how short the skirt is or how lacey the pants are is not a form of consent.
Most girls and women will have experienced harassment, assault and inappropriate behaviour fuelled by what clothing they are wearing. A pair of shorts, a low-cut top or a short skirt is often referred to as ‘asking for it’ and in most cases leads to unwanted attention that is harassment. For some peculiar reason, society has built the idea that clothing can determine if you are a ‘slut’ or sexually active. When females become victims of sexual assault the perpetrator often concludes that it was the result of what she was wearing.
Throughout my life, there have been so many instances where I have been made to feel at fault for the unwanted attention I have received because of the clothing I was wearing. In school when you get told your skirt length is distracting for male students or male teachers. In the street when a tight dress means catcalling or car beeps. On a night out when a short skirt means I was asking for an unwanted hand. In all of these situations, I blamed myself and never thought that the other person should be held accountable.
I am referring to victim-blaming. When women experience forms of sexual harassment and assault, they are backed into a corner with victim-blaming. This is making the victim feel at fault for the harassment they receive. The most common being what they were wearing. The short skirt is used as justification for the behaviour. It sounds ridiculous writing this but sadly it’s the truth that most women face every day. It is important to remember that assault and harassment isn't your fault, and the perpetrator should be held accountable. What you are wearing isn’t up for question when talking about or reporting an incident unless it is being used for identification.
In a lot of instances, victims aren’t aware of their rights, which on top of the trauma leads to misjustice. Incidents are brushed off as unimportant. Recently whilst at university I had a friend leave my house and chased home by a group of men shouting gendered and vulgar language. When we called the police for help, her outfit was questioned, and nobody came out until the next day. It is systemic and we grow up believing that it’s the norm to be catcalled or the sexually oppressed gender, it isn’t the norm, and it is vital that we educate and call out this kind of behaviour. It takes courage and it can be scary to call out this behaviour especially if you are on your own. However, in instances where you feel ok to speak out do so and if not ensure you confide in someone who can perhaps speak for you or offer support.
This blog piece may be read as ranty and god forbid feminist (often used as an insult) but it’s educating, this is real life for women and those that identify as female. My skirt doesn’t mean yes!
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Cover Image and In-article image courtesy of Mia Sale (@shardstudios on Instagram)
A lover of Wilde and Shelley, and a guilty pleasure for 80s music. I believe chocolate and tea can solve 98% of my problems, I am always up for new challenges and learning new things!