I was on Facebook one day and saw that someone who I’m going to refer to as Bob had written on my friend’s wall that women should take “preventive measures” when getting dressed in the morning. I can’t recreate Bob’s argument in its entirety, but he tried to offer many different explanations for why women should dress strategically to avoid sexual assault. As you can probably guess, I wasn’t convinced one bit. This was just one of many posts on Facebook, but considering the magnitude of this person’s misunderstanding of the dynamics of male/female interaction and the subsequently frightening implications for both men and women, I feel that I must respond directly to some of the claims that were made.
Bob claimed that though VERY few men have sexually assaulted others, the few perpetrators do so because they are biological beings that have evolved to react to visual stimuli. In layman’s terms, people who have committed rape just can’t help themselves. Considering that a core tenet of Anglo-American jurisprudence is that we don’t punish people for things that they are powerless to affect, this train of logic nullifies culpability on the part of rapists. Does that then mean that in every single hard case — where the “slore” in question was wearing a little red dress, a shirt that was too tight, a low-cut sweater, was at the beach in a really hot bikini, or walking back to her room from the shower in a towel — the rapist should then receive a lesser punishment than he would have had she been dressed like she just stepped off the Mayflower? Or no punishment at all?
The effective mitigation, or wholesale decriminalization of rape aside, what form would these preventive measures take anyway? How far below the knees must a girl’s skirt be? How much arm can she show? How low cut can her shirt be? Can she wear makeup? Should she avoid wearing open-toed shoes in case (God forbid) some guy should have a foot fetish? Or maybe she should wear scarves and turtle necks because some guys are really into necks (I certainly am!). Apparently, I might just see a nice, juicy neck, fly off the handle, and go in for the kill! Or, I’m sorry — the rape. After all, according to this guy, I can’t help myself — I’m a biological being. I can only respond to visual stimuli. If I’m going for your neck, it’s because YOU showed it to me, and set off my fierce neck fetish.
I actually think Bob’s assertion offends women and men. It offends women because it imposes a dress code on them exclusively, and it offends me as a man because it condescendingly implies that, like a child — or rather, an animal — I am, at times, primitive and unable to control myself. Even if we pretended that Bob’s argument made sense, there are a lot of countries around the world where women have to go out in public wearing burkas, and guess what — rape still happens, because at the end of the day, contrary to popular belief, men aren’t necessarily attracted to short skirts and low-cut tops. We’re sexually attracted to women. At the end of the day, even though I like necks, I don’t have to see your collarbone to connect with the fact that you’re a woman. Sure — I see tons of cute girls with really nice necks when I’m out with my friends, but I would NEVER commit rape, and the fact that Bob feels the need to protect me from myself pisses me off.