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Dressing sexy doesn’t justify rape

Monday, October 22, 2007 | 3:34 p.m. CDT; updated 11:34 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

When women wear revealing clothing or costumes they do not invite someone to assault or rape them. When I read an article in which a professor of psychology is quoted as stating that wearing these costumes “can be an invitation to trouble”, I get a little riled up. Sometimes a woman likes to dress sexy for someone she is interested in, but that doesn’t mean she is handing out “touch me” invites to anyone she walks by.

In fact, it doesn’t even mean that she wants to engage in sexual activity with the person she wanted to dress up for. Individuals that assault and rape women will say the woman was asking for it because her skirt was too short. They will claim their actions couldn’t have been rape because she wouldn’t have been wearing a low-cut shirt if she didn’t want it.

Whether a woman is wearing a sexy gangster costume or a nun costume does not matter. So, please, don’t place the blame on victims, and don’t justify violence against women.


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Comments

Kevin Gamble October 26, 2007 | 11:24 a.m.

Firstly, the message in this letter is completely accurate and I support it. Sexual assault victims don't deserve to be assaulted, end of story.

To be fair to the professor, it sounds like he could have been making a comment about the context in which decisions are made, and not trying to blame the victim for a crime committed against them.

Perhaps it's like opening your wallet, pulling out a wad of twenties, and counting it in a showy way. Do that in a high-end restaurant at lunch, no biggie. Do it outside a bar late at night in a rough part of town, and even though you're perfectly justified in your behavior and don't deserve to be robbed, you could be considered to be "inviting trouble".

It doesn't mean you deserve to be a victim, but it does mean that we have to recognize the situations we find ourselves in and understand potential threats. Behavior has different meanings for different people, regardless of the intended message, which can lead to misunderstandings, and that's something to be mindful of. It's perhaps analogous to the old parable of the turtle and the snake. Is the message that the turtle deserves what it got, or that the nature of the snake should be understood--a warning to turtles to recognize the snake?

Finding a way to talk about these things when gender and power issues are thrown into the mix, along with a shameful history of crimes against women not being taken seriously enough by society, can be hard to do without someone taking offense. But better to be discussing the issue, as is being done here, than avoiding it.

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