Modest dress code and rape

The other day I talked to a friend about the sorts of messages women receive about avoiding being raped, and a modest dress code is definitely one of them.

I remember going to buy some clothes with my mum when I was around 15 years old and falling completely in love with a red miniskirt (bear in mind that in Spain in the ’80s ‘miniskirts’ were strictly on the knee). However, my mum insisted on my having one a size too big because, she said, “Luego pasan cosas” (afterwards things happen). I didn’t know what sort of things could happen to me wearing  that oversized miniskirt apart everybody laughing at me, but my mum seemed to have other things on her mind. Finally she bought the big miniskirt, and I decided it to roll it up whenever she wasn’t around.

In the ’80s’ , Grace Jones was an icon with her big shoulder pads and the image of a superwoman conquering and reaching high levels of achievement in her professional life. However, my puritan education did not leave a lot of room for lucubrations on miniskirts, tight tops and the meaning of being sexy at 15. My mum would have killed me if I’d dressed the way I see teenagers dressed these days, but of course that was long time ago when mothers could still lock the door and say: “I’m sorry, but you’re not going out to this party tonight because you slammed the door, and in this house we do ressssspectttttt and education”.

So I grew up with this stupid idea that dressing modestly was the right thing to do to avoid being raped, along with not getting drunk, being alert all the time when you go out and permanently vigilant when walking alone at night.  Later in my life, when I engaged in self-awareness groups, I was shocked to find out about the number of women who have suffered sexual abuse from their fathers, uncles, brothers or close relatives as children. So I learnt that women are more likely to be raped by someone they know than by a stranger.

If dress code doesn’t protect us from being raped, what is all this fuss about not dressing like a slut? You don’t need to scratch the surface much to realise that women are still perceived as sinners inciting men to do bad things.  Women get drunk and have this attitude, this way of dressing that is an invitation and a provocation, and it’s all women’s fault. Women are also whimsical and not very clear about what they want: when they say no, they might really want to say yes. None of this is new; we’ve heard it before. What is new is what Natasha Walker calls “the living doll” culture.

In a world in which being sexy and hot is very important, teenagers are getting the message that  you need to be sexy to be fashionable. I was shocked a couple of weeks ago when I watched a report by the BBC in which they showed a Primark T-shirt for little girls that read “Don’t even think about it”.  

However, once these little girls go for hot and sexy fashion, we tell them that if they are sexually abused or raped it’s entirely their fault. I don’t think I’m wrong in saying that there’s something perverted in a society that allows this to happen.

On the 4th  of June I’m going to Edinburgh for the Slutwalk, not because I think that wearing very few clothes will help women’s liberation but rather because I think that an industry cannot spend thousands of millions of pounds telling women how to be sexy and hot in all circumstances and after tell them that they are inciting rape by following this advice.

What I would like to see as part of the slutwalk movement is people rejecting or at least reflecting this sexy totty culture, which I detest greatly. We are not made just for others’ pleasure, we’re not dolls, or objects for other people’s recreation.

Because of my mother I’m too shy (also a bit old, I must confess) to wear a very short miniskirt, but I will try to be in Edinburgh on the 4th because I think it’s important. Don’t expect me to be very adventurous in what I wear: I’ll just be modestly dressed as mother taught me, but I’ll be there in body and soul.



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