The Misadventures of Quinxy truths, lies, and everything in between!

21Apr/1120

The Misguided (or Misunderstood) SlutWalk

During a safety seminar for law students at York University in Toronto, Constable Michael Sanguinetti reportedly said, “Women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”  Outrage ensued and the SlutWalk movement was born.  In various cities around the world women are marching to protest any suggestion that a woman's attire or choices can have anything to do with their victimization.

I really struggle to understand how feminism can vociferously refuse to acknowledge the role female victims of rape and sexual assault can play in increasing the likelihood of their victimization.  Such an admission would not mean no crime had been committed, nor does it stop the victim from being a victim.  It simply acknowledges the undeniable fact that choices we make impact the risks we face, which is the key message of a safety seminar.  Constable Sanguinetti's word choice may have been poor, but it's not the words people are upset about, I've seen enough debates about this topic to realize it's the concept that offends, not so much the words.

In every other realm these same SlutWalk participants acknowledge the relationship between victim action and victimization.  They surely would acknowledge that leaving a purse unattended on a car's front seat with the windows rolled down is not wise.  They surely would acknowledge that wearing flashy jewelry in the worst part of town is not wise.  They surely would acknowledge that going to bed with their home's windows open and doors unlocked is not wise.  If a crime occurred in any of these other situations a crime was still committed, laws were still broken, rights violated; the victim is still a victim.  So why the refusal to acknowledge the victim's potential for altering their risk factor when it comes to dress and behavior?

Women should be able to wear whatever they want wherever they want without being sexually assaulted.  Absolutely.  Throw anyone in jail who fails to understand this.  But just because they can doesn't mean they should, no more than I should walk around the bad streets of my town flashing bling.

Don't doom more people to victimization by discouraging the recognition of the deeply offensive reality within perpetrators everywhere.

Or am I missing something?

^ Quinxy

P.S. - Some clarifications and further thoughts follow, encouraged by the thoughtful arguments and perspectives of those who commented.  I'll include some pieces of my responses to them here:

...Every time I’ve tried to discuss this topic with a friend on the other side they seem to become very upset very quickly, seeming to respond emotionally rather than rationally. While I emotionally understand the strong desire to insist that a victim has no influence on their victimization, it seems logically flawed to start from that premise and attempt to build a logic outwards from it, which seems to be what is done. Blaming an actual victim after the fact is thoroughly reprehensible and wholly unproductive, but that humanitarian prohibition cannot be used as an argument against proactive prevention of victimization.

Victims should never be blamed for being victimized.  There is no disagreement here.  I reject the idea, though, offered by some that this tendency is in any way peculiar to the crime of rape, or peculiar to women. I’ve been robbed and had people say, “What were you doing living in that part of town?” And you know, statistically they were right. But they were being assholes for saying it. That’s where I could afford to live. And the crime was no less a crime just because of choices I had to make to live. The criminals (had they been caught) were no less guilty of a crime. I’ve got Crohn’s disease, an auto-immune disease of the intestines, and the first thing I’ve heard from many medically uninformed friends and relatives is, “Well, what did you think would happen with your diet (vegetarian, but light on vegetables)?” Anyway, I could go on, and on. It is fundamental to human nature that people want to restore a feeling of security when presented with someone else’s tragedy, and they achieve this by explaining to themselves how that outcome (rape, robbery, illness, etc.) couldn’t happen to them or their loved ones. They (friends, family, police, government, etc.) are assholes saying such things to any victim, and court system rightfully shouldn’t allow in such things as it has no relevance on the crime committed (with possible limited exceptions related to severity of punishment, I am not sure I agree with it, but the punishments our justice system establishes are based on things like premeditation versus crimes of opportunity and victim impact).

I think issues like this one become overly polarized, gender, color of skin, etc. shouldn’t define our response or interpretation.  Why can't we take the gender out of it?  Isn't that what we're struggling as a society to do?  Is it really relevant in this topic, to the point that we alter our logic completely?  It seems fair to say that while sex crimes are committed far more against adult females than adult males, in youth the victim gender divide is far less extreme. In absolutely all cases everyone should be able to agree that the children are completely innocent. So let’s imagine instead of women we were talking about children, would all the same empowerment arguments still work? Women should be able to go wherever they like alone, should be able to wear whatever they like, should be able to be anywhere at any hour, and should be able to associated with whoever they like. They have an absolute legal right to do all those things (as men do). Similarly, children should be able to roam anywhere within their neighborhoods they like, alone, without being assaulted or abducted, they should be allowed to wear whatever they like without being an object of a perverted individual’s lusts, they should be able to stay out until dark without the cover of night becoming an invitation to a crime, and they should be able to hang out with older children or adults without being taken advantage of or sexually groomed. But find me any parent who wants their child to exercise those rights, let alone one who wants to participate in a parade denouncing these basic precautionary tenets. Women are not children, obviously, but I’m not sure how that makes the advice any less valid. We all remain vulnerable, of whatever gender. There are tons of places in my city I shouldn’t walk, and things I shouldn’t wear (e.g., bling) or carry (e.g., laptop) in other neighborhoods. Is the solution for me to flaunt these common sense rules and exercise my rights anyway? I could, but it seems rather self defeating. And if I do the very first thing people might say to me would be, “What were you doing walking through that part of town with your laptop?” And if they do they are assholes, whether or not statistics back them up.

Rape is evil. I just hate that the message SlutWalk telegraphs is not that rape is evil but that modifying your behavior to reduce your odds of being victimized is anti-woman.  Even if attire/behavior were shown to be a risk factor for assault this doesn't mean women can't freely choose to exercise these rights, and if they chose they could always offset additional risk factors by taking additional precautions.  Why can't we discuss this topic and prove or disprove the correlation, instead of just declaring it a myth without any solid proof, that I can find, and plenty of logic to suggest otherwise.  (I argue my version of that logic in this post about how provocative clothing/behavior must correlate to higher incidence of sexual assault.)  I certainly applaud all efforts to educate salvageable men and court systems about proper views of women. I just don’t want more people victimized, and certainly not to have the problem made worse by the stubborn refusal to acknowledge that certain horrible men have fixed ideas.

Some discussions I've had with people on this topic have surprised me by seeming to imply that people who suspect a correlation between attire/behavior and sexual assault mean that all sexual assaults result from that attire/behavior.  And, aside from some monstrous news stories coming out of third-world countries, I've never heard that simplistic argument being expressed or that view held.  If there is a correlation between sexual assault and victim attire/behavior it is slight.  The vast, vast majority of sexual assaults are committed without any regard to any such things.  But just because it is much, much less significant doesn't mean it is not significant to those women whose assaults might have been avoided if there was a risk and we educated them about it so they could make more informed decisions.

The politically correct party line seems to be that:

- No suggestion of association between dress/behavior and likelihood of becoming a victim can ever be made because it erodes the legal status/protections of victims
- No suggestion of association between dress/behavior and likelihood of becoming a victim can ever be made because it erodes the personal choice freedoms of women

I disagree with these as I see neither necessarily being harmed by allowing women to be made aware of the specific risks that might be associated with these situations/assaulters.

On the first point, I do not see that such an erosion must occur. In every other area of law the courts are able to recognize that someone making a crime more likely to occur does not mean they were not victimized. Someone forgetting to lock their car does not mean they gave tacit permission to a thief to reach in and steal their laptop; the criminal if caught is still arrested and prosecuted. While the courts have behaved monstrously in the past regarding rape (and still do in many places in the world) they have improved considerably and are continuing to do so. I do not believe that their continued improvement requires women refuse to acknowledge the corrupted, disgusting, evil preferences of rapists.

On the second point, I do not see that the mere recommendation regarding modification of one’s attire is an attack on women’s rights. Each gender is subjected to various social, cultural, religious, and safety rules related to dress, and we are (varyingly) free to flaunt them all. It would be recommended that I not wear bling in a bad neighborhood. It would be recommended that I not wear gang colors in some neighborhoods. It would be recommended that I not carry a laptop bag in some neighborhoods. I could flaunt these or other rules, and sometimes may intentionally and unintentionally. But if someone wants to point them out to me in an effort to help make me aware of my increased level of danger, I don’t see harm in that. And let me make clear I am not suggesting women should ever be told, “Do not wear short skirts.” But it would seem not unreasonable to me if a college safety class for example said, “Wearing a short skirt may put you at greater risk under certain circumstances, you may wish to modify your behavior in those cases and walk with friends, wear a long coat, or otherwise exercise additional precautions.” It would be similar to how someone might advise me to cover up a fancy watch by rolling down my sleeves, put my laptop inside a non-laptop bag, etc.

But I find it difficult, without proof to the contrary, to disbelieve that the odds of a certain type of opportunistic rape occurring by a certain kind of rapist is not potentially altered by victim attire. I have searched the interwebs numerous times and found nothing substantial. I’ve found lots of studies related to jury impressions/perceptions, to victim impact, to case outcomes, but nothing that says anything like, “In a study of 10,000 rapes it was found that rapists used clothing as a selection criteria in 0 cases.” Obviously a study would come to a far more scientific conclusion, but I could find nothing to sink my teeth into, just lots of studies about how people believed this myth, but nothing saying, here is proof that this is a myth. The best I can find is responses similar to yours which say most rapes are committed by people known to them, most rapes are not about sex, most rapes are… And I understand all that, but I am trying to understand if dress has an impact in any rapes. Obviously if it has an impact in 1 in 100 rapes that is useful to know.

Now the reason I find it hard to believe a “normally” dressed woman has a slightly higher chance of being unassaulted is because of my own casual, disgusted observation of men. Men (though it is entirely and completely wrong) do react differently to a woman who is dressed conservatively versus provocatively. You see this everywhere. Here’s a stupid minor example, I was just somewhere two nights ago sitting outside at a cafe when a stranger next to me, who I’d earlier asked about the wifi password, prods me and says, “Look at that ass.” directing my attention to a provocatively dressed woman passing by. Several hundred women must have passed in the time I’d sat there and he’d said nothing (it’s down the street from a popular bar). Yet he felt comfortable pointing this one woman, and this one feature out to me, a complete stranger, because the woman was dressed that way. I ignored him, because quite frankly I don’t know what the hell I’m supposed to say to something like that; I don’t personally think of women on the street in those terms. I’ve certainly seen drunk guys in clubs/bars behaving as though a woman’s provocative dress was an invitation to be more amorous than I suspect they would if she was dressed “normally”. Given all this, I find it incredibly hard to believe, without proof and probably even a little with weak proof, that the likelihood of some class of rape (e.g., opportunistic, post bar/club, with neanderthal intoxicated male) is not impacted at all by provocative attire. It would be a vastly more interesting reality, I would like what you say to be true, to imagine that men could seem cruder to women dressed provocatively, could seem more amorous with them, could seem more aggressive with them, and yet were no less observant of sexual permission boundaries; that would be far more fascinating.

Comments (20) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Nicely nuanced argument.

  2. Thanks, Joe. It’s funny because I do genuinely want to understand the counter argument, perhaps there is some logical element of their position I’m missing. But every time I’ve tried to discuss this topic with a friend on the other side they seem to become very upset very quickly, seeming to respond emotionally rather than rationally. While I emotionally understand the strong desire to insist that a victim has no influence on their victimization, it seems logically flawed to start from that premise and attempt to build a logic outwards from it, which seems to be what is done. Blaming an actual victim after the fact is thoroughly reprehensible and wholly unproductive, but that humanitarian prohibition cannot be used as an argument against proactive prevention of victimization.

  3. It’s hard to understand if you’re not a woman, just as the umbrage against attacks on Affirmative Action are hard to understand if you’re not black.

    There’s a long history of blaming women for being the victims of rape – to the point that we’ve actually had to pass laws so that a woman’s past history cannot be used by defense attorneys. What rape victims have to go through is still pretty brutal, and I’m talking about what happens after the rape – in the hospital, if she goes, in the courts, if she goes.

    The idea that how a woman dresses affects her risks goes back to that concept – that she’s not a victim. It’s another way of brutalizing someone who’s already been brutalized. And the idea is usually pushed by men – men who still control most of the power in this world.

    Just as rape is not really about sex, but about power, so is the SlutWalk issue about power. It’s about standing up for the victims, instead of victimizing them more.

    For no other crime is the first question, ‘well, what did you do to deserve it?’ Think about that.

  4. I appreciate your comments, thanks for sharing them. I do respectfully disagree with some things you’re saying, not about the horrific injustices committed against women and African Americans, but about the degree to which we can and should allow that to color our present outlook and behaviors.

    Your last line says that the first question asked of someone who is raped is, “What did you do to deserve that?” I reject that completely. That is ludicrous. Has that happened? Sure. Does that still happen more often in some parts of the world? Sure. But even if I allowed that that was the most likely first question awful people would ask, I reject the idea that it is in any way peculiar to the crime of rape, or peculiar to women. I’ve been robbed and had people say, “What were you doing living in that part of town?” And you know, statistically they were right. But they were being assholes for saying it. That’s where I could afford to live. And the crime was no less a crime just because of choices I had to make to live. The criminals (had they been caught) were no less guilty of a crime. I’ve got Crohn’s disease, an auto-immune disease of the intestines, and the first thing I’ve heard from many medically uninformed friends and relatives is, “Well, what did you think would happen with your diet (vegetarian, but light on vegetables)?” Anyway, I could go on, and on. It is fundamental to human nature that people want to restore a feeling of security when presented with someone else’s tragedy, and they achieve this by explaining to themselves how that outcome (rape, robbery, illness, etc.) couldn’t happen to them or their loved ones. They (friends, family, police, government, etc.) are assholes saying such things to any victim, and court system rightfully shouldn’t allow in such things as it has no relevance on the crime committed (with possible limited exceptions related to severity of punishment, I am not sure I agree with it, but the punishments our justice system establishes are based on things like premeditation versus crimes of opportunity and victim impact).

    I think issues like this one become overly polarized, gender, color of skin, etc. shouldn’t define our response or interpretation.

    Here’s an analogy I like. It seems fair to say that while sex crimes are committed far more against adult females than adult males, in youth the victim gender divide is far less extreme. In absolutely all cases everyone should be able to agree that the children are completely innocent. So let’s imagine instead of women we were talking about children, would all the same empowerment arguments still work? Women should be able to go wherever they like alone, should be able to wear whatever they like, should be able to be anywhere at any hour, and should be able to associated with whoever they like. They have an absolute legal right to do all those things (as men do). Similarly, children should be able to roam anywhere within their neighborhoods they like, alone, without being assaulted or abducted, they should be allowed to wear whatever they like without being an object of a perverted individual’s lusts, they should be able to stay out until dark without the cover of night becoming an invitation to a crime, and they should be able to hang out with older children or adults without being taken advantage of or sexually groomed. But find me any parent who wants their child to exercise those rights, let alone one who wants to participate in a parade denouncing these basic precautionary tenets. Women are not children, obviously, but I’m not sure how that makes the advice any less valid. We all remain vulnerable, of whatever gender. There are tons of places in my city I shouldn’t walk, and things I shouldn’t wear (e.g., bling) or carry (e.g., laptop) in other neighborhoods. Is the solution for me to flaunt these common sense rules and exercise my rights anyway? I could, but it seems rather self defeating. And if I do the very first thing people might say to me would be, “What were you doing walking through that part of town with your laptop?” And if they do they are assholes, whether or not statistics back them up.

    Rape is evil. I just hate that the message SlutWalk telegraphs is not that rape is evil but that modifying your behavior to reduce your odds of being victimized is anti-woman.

  5. Apparently your filters don’t want to hear my follow-up.

  6. Quinxy yes I do think you are missing something and that is your message of choosing individual responsibility for personal safety loses effect when you’re couching your message in dangerous and arcahic rhetoric that a skirt length will somehow make a woman less vulnerable.

    A woman is walking down the street, it is 3 am in the morning, she has on a short skirt, high heels, both fashion of the day, she is alone, she is visibly intoxicated, the stretch of street she is on is dimly lit. It’s not the short skirt that give opportunity for rape but her continued isolation and intoxication.

    Any and everyone is potentially vulnerable when isolated and intoxicated and that is soley and squarely where any people who want to be vocal on this individual responsibility for personal safety gig should be focusing their messages.

    And while people who are the only ones who can make charges against rapists and who have attrittion rates in the low %s for prosecutions for rape and members among them still display entrenched views of dress and victimisation, public awareness campaigns such as SlutWalks will remain far from misguided and much needed.

  7. Viona

    I appreciate your thoughtful response. Let me see if I properly interpret one point you are saying. It sounds as though you are suggesting that dress has no impact on victimization. Given the nature of the attackers that seems impossible. Do you not believe that rapists (and those committing other forms of sexual assault) select their victims in part based on their (false) perception of their victims? Rapists cannot be relied upon to have proper views of women and the non-significance of attire, surely their views are about as corrupted as they can be. Surely it is more likely that a rapist “prefers” to target women who fit his own distorted vision of who “deserves” to be assaulted? This whole discussion exists because rapists have argued repeatedly, “Look at the way she was dressed, she was asking for it.” That is the way those twisted people think, and SlutWalks will not educated them. They are unrepentant, they are unsalvageable. Fortunately (most) court systems no longer agree with the rapists perverted vision, and pressure needs to be kept up on any that still do. But what I don’t understand is the seeming refusal to acknowledge the truth of the horribly distorted thinking of these men. I don’t understand why it’s okay and inoffensive for a woman to be advised, “Park in a well lit location (since rapists prefer to attack in the shadows).” But, it is offensive and misogynist to advise, “Throw a long coat over your short skirt for your walk to the car (because rapists are more likely to target women in short skirts).”

    I wish it wasn’t so, and I certainly applaud all efforts to educate salvageable men about proper views of women. I just don’t want more people victimized, and certainly not to have the problem made worse by the stubborn refusal to acknowledge that certain horrible men have fixed ideas.

  8. One follow up thought… I think my fundamental question related to the rejection of dress in the discussion of rape prevention centers around these:

    – Do those behind SlutWalk not believe rapists use victim dress as a victim selection criteria?
    – Do those behind SlutWalk accept that rapists do use victim dress as a selection criteria, but they believe a higher principle is involved and is so important to the women’s rights movement that it is worth the cost of additional rape/sexual assault victims?

    Since I can’t believe they would believe the first, since it seems (unless I am grossly mistaken) disputed by the statements of many rapists and fits in with their general perverse view of the world, I suspect the second must be the truth. Obviously securing many rights require horrible Hobson’s choices. The presumption of innocence and requirement that a person be found “guilty without a reasonable doubt” means a great many suspected rapists are set free and many of them do indeed rape new victims. We as a society have decided that as horrible as that outcome is, it’s worth it to save the innocent people who would otherwise be falsely imprisoned. The higher order principle seems most likely one or both of these two:

    – No suggestion of association between dress and likelihood of becoming a victim can ever be made because it erodes the legal status/protections of victims
    – No suggestion of association between dress and likelihood of becoming a victim can ever be made because it erodes the personal choice freedoms of women

    And this is where I disagree, I see neither as necessarily being harmed by being made aware of rapists preferences or by exercising extra caution to minimize likelihood of victimization.

    On the first point, I do not see that such an erosion must occur. In every other area of law the courts are able to recognize that someone making a crime more likely to occur does not mean they were not victimized. Someone forgetting to lock their car does not mean they gave tacit permission to a thief to reach in and steal their laptop; the criminal if caught is still arrested and prosecuted. While the courts have behaved monstrously in the past regarding rape (and still do in many places in the world) they have improved considerably and are continuing to do so. I do not believe that their continued improvement requires women refuse to acknowledge the corrupted, disgusting, evil preferences of rapists.

    On the second point, I do not see that the mere recommendation regarding modification of one’s attire is an attack on women’s rights. Each gender is subjected to various social, cultural, religious, and safety rules related to dress, and we are (varyingly) free to flaunt them all. It would be recommended that I not wear bling in a bad neighborhood. It would be recommended that I not wear gang colors in some neighborhoods. It would be recommended that I not carry a laptop bag in some neighborhoods. I could flaunt these or other rules, and sometimes may intentionally and unintentionally. But if someone wants to point them out to me in an effort to help make me aware of my increased level of danger, I don’t see harm in that. And let me make clear I am not suggesting women should ever be told, “Do not wear short skirts.” But it would seem not unreasonable to me if a college safety class for example said, “Wearing a short skirt may put you at greater risk under certain circumstances, you may wish to modify your behavior in those cases and walk with friends, wear a long coat, or otherwise exercise additional precautions.” It would be similar to how someone might advise me to cover up a fancy watch by rolling down my sleeves, put my laptop inside a non-laptop bag, etc.

  9. Kate, I sent you an email just asking you to please send me whatever comment it wasn’t allowing you to post. I have no filters set up, beyond an Askimet spam filter. No idea if that’s what you are referring to. Would love to hear your follow-up comments.

  10. Quinxy, two points quickly before I get some kip.

    Firstly statistically how a woman dresses does not increase her chances of being raped., ie a rapist in say the example you gave regarding the coat the motivation to rape is already present and is exactly the 3.00am/isolation rule above in action, and secondly a woman is more likely to be raped by someone known to her than by a stranger.

    .

  11. Perhaps there’s a miscommunication in one area. I am in no way suggesting that victim clothing or victim behavior or victim location has any impact on the vast majority of rapes. As you say, most rapes are committed by people known to them, most rapes are premeditated, most rapes are…, and the risk of rape could not have reasonably been altered.

    But I find it difficult, without proof to the contrary, to disbelieve that the odds of a certain type of opportunistic rape occurring by a certain kind of rapist is not potentially altered by victim attire. I have searched the interwebs numerous times and found nothing substantial. I’ve found lots of studies related to jury impressions/perceptions, to victim impact, to case outcomes, but nothing that says anything like, “In a study of 10,000 rapes it was found that rapists used clothing as a selection criteria in 0 cases.” Obviously a study would come to a far more scientific conclusion, but I could find nothing to sink my teeth into, just lots of studies about how people believed this myth, but nothing saying, here is proof that this is a myth. The best I can find is responses similar to yours which say most rapes are committed by people known to them, most rapes are not about sex, most rapes are… And I understand all that, but I am trying to understand if dress has an impact in any rapes. Obviously if it has an impact in 1 in 100 rapes that is useful to know.

    Now the reason I find it hard to believe a “normally” dressed woman has a slightly higher chance of being unassaulted is because of my own casual, disgusted observation of men. Men (though it is entirely and completely wrong) do react differently to a woman who is dressed conservatively versus provocatively. You see this everywhere. Here’s a stupid minor example, I was just somewhere two nights ago sitting outside at a cafe when a stranger next to me, who I’d earlier asked about the wifi password, prods me and says, “Look at that ass.” directing my attention to a provocatively dressed woman passing by. Several hundred women must have passed in the time I’d sat there and he’d said nothing (it’s down the street from a popular bar). Yet he felt comfortable pointing this one woman, and this one feature out to me, a complete stranger, because the woman was dressed that way. I ignored him, because quite frankly I don’t know what the hell I’m supposed to say to something like that; I don’t personally think of women on the street in those terms. I’ve certainly seen drunk guys in clubs/bars behaving as though a woman’s provocative dress was an invitation to be more amorous than I suspect they would if she was dressed “normally”. Given all this, I find it incredibly hard to believe, without proof and probably even a little with weak proof, that the likelihood of some class of rape (e.g., opportunistic, post bar/club, with neanderthal intoxicated male) is not impacted at all by provocative attire. It would be a vastly more interesting reality, I would like what you say to be true, to imagine that men could seem cruder to women dressed provocatively, could seem more amorous with them, could seem more aggressive with them, and yet were no less observant of sexual permission boundaries; that would be far more fascinating.

  12. It may or may not be the case that women (or men) are more likely to be assaulted depending on what they are wearing, but I think that misses the point actually!

    It is certainly the case that a man in authority advising women to change what they are wearing in order to avoid being assaulted, gives a message to other men that it is more acceptable to assault someone if they are ‘dressed like a slut’.

    This message is subtle, powerful, offensive and dangerous – and needs to be challenged – hence the slutwalk.

  13. Stephen

    I’m really trying to understand the perspective you are sharing (and thank you for that). What I find difficult is that if we were talking about anything else no one would suggest this logic was viable. I’ve been in safety seminars in college where someone in authority told me to keep the doors to my apartment locked, walk only in well lit areas at night, and keep my keys in my hand so I can sound my car alarm in case anyone suspicious approaches me on my way to my car. No one would suggest that these statements from someone in authority gives a message to other people in attendance or in the community at large that it is more acceptable to assault someone if they don’t lock their door, don’t walk in well lit areas, or don’t have their keys in their hand. So why is it that on this one specific point completely different rules apply and such a message becomes “powerful, offensive, and dangerous”? Obviously any lingering belief that men can assault (sexually or otherwise) women (or that anyone can assault anyone) needs to be vehemently challenged, as hopefully it is being and will continue being. I completely support any and every effort in that regard, but what this seems to amount to is nothing more than politically correct censorship. We can’t openly discuss what might be true (that out of context dress might correlate to some minority of sexual assaults) because society is too stupid to appropriately understand or have that truth explained to them, they’ll misunderstand it as permission to assault women (rather than as a targeted message which might reduce those specific correlated assaults). I don’t get that. Society is smart enough to understand the message that we shouldn’t let our young children wander off alone in a mall, without thinking we’ve just emboldened pedophiles to abuse our kids, but we can’t give a similar advisory to women because then we embolden abusive males. That does not make sense.

  14. Obviously many of you posting might entirely disagree with the topic, but I’d appreciate your counter arguments on my thoughts regarding why logically sexual assault incidence would seem higher as a result of provocative attire/behavior. (Again, only focusing on the small minority of sexual assaults where it could be.)

    http://quinxy.com/2011/05/11/why-provocative-female-attirebehavior-must-correlate-to-a-higher-incidence-of-rape-and-sexual-assault/

  15. Thanks for this Quinxy. I have very strong feelings on the need for judicial form and a changes in cultural attitudes to rape.
    When I first heard about the slutwalks I was under the impression they were in response to the tragically common ‘blame the victim’ attitude some police have, and was initially supportive.
    After reading in to the background and Angiunetti comments however, I developed almost the exact same view you have.
    I even found this post while trying to find counter-arguments and evidence of the ‘dress has no bearing’ argument, after a rather fruitless discussion with a friend supporting the walk.
    I look forward to any further specific arguments – there are so many people I respect who cannot answer my questions satisfactorily I feel I must be missing something.
    Thank you for taking the time to address the issue so thoroughly.

  16. Andrew,

    Thanks, I appreciate your comment. I’m sure the reason I have devoted a bit of thought and words to it is because the topic is such an undiscussable topic with so many with whom I generally agree and I suppose I wanted an outlet. And it feels awful feeling so misunderstood, or feeling like I am so misunderstanding. In this case I have yet to find in other people’s explanations anything which doesn’t feel hypocritical or at least wildly inconsistent, relative to how we behave in other situations (e.g., we can’t warn a woman that dressing provocatively may expose them to elevated risk but we can warn a man that wearing a Rolex watch in a bad neighborhood might expose him to elevated risk). And if none of the 230,000 sexual assaults against women every year in the US had anything to do with the assaulters’ twisted perception of provocative attire/behavior, that’d be great! I’d love to see some sort of proof, a study which disproves any relationship or a truly compelling psychological theory. Simply saying it’s a myth and offering no proof isn’t useful. If those who supported SlutWalk acknowledged that provocative attire/behavior could elevate risk slightly (if only because some misogynistic men felt more comfortable victimizing them, less likely to be prosecuted successfully) but that alerting people to that possibility would do far more societal harm than good, so be it; I could totally accept and (given evidence or a good argument) would likely agree. But just insisting provocative attire/behavior has zero correlation and can’t be mentioned at all to people as part of safety programs feels very wrong.

    As for the comments that sparked all this off, I think Constable Sanguinetti’s specific words (as reported) were offensive; his statement (as reported) was broad and could easily have meant, or at least been interpreted to mean, that women were largely responsible for being victimized. I obviously wholly disagree with any statement like that. But that doesn’t mean I agree with holding rallies to insist that the polar opposite must be true, denying that provocative behavior/dress can expose one to elevated risk. And I certainly don’t agree with people being so uncomfortable with the topic that we can’t try to rationally sort out fact from fiction.

    Obviously I may have it all wrong, but the logical argument I try and explore in my other post on this topic, Why Provocative Female Attire/Behavior Must Correlate to Higher Incidence of Sexual Assault, is that in every day life we see how provocative behavior/attire alters the interactions between men and women, making males more socially and sexually aggressive, so why would we expect it to not have any impact on sexual abuse, given that so much sexual abuse occurs in date rape-ish scenarios, often with alcohol/drugs involved? I would love to know what experiences other women have had, perhaps some see no differences in how men behave with/around provocatively dressed/acting women, but that would surprise me.

  17. As a woman, I fully agree. Also as a woman, I’ve always been amazed by some women who fail to notice the difference in the way they are treated by the world at large in different types of attire. I have always assumed it is usually due to either low brain-power on a given individual’s part or the result of a woman so desperate for attention that she fails to notice the negative attention that comes her way when in skimpy attire in the wrong setting.

    Here are my lines of thought on this issue:

    1. I think that some women I have known have felt that dressing provocatively in a risky setting was their way of rebelling and thumbing their nose at the misogynists of the world. However, rather than admit the greater risks they are undertaking by doing this, many seem to instead lie to themselves and bury the fact that they are more likely to be victimized. Some may see it as a necessary risk to undertake in order to push society towards changing this reality, but the general refusal to admit that there _is_ an increase in risk in certain situations has always puzzled me.

    2. A few women I know personally were “raised” to flaunt what they’ve got with pride at all times, have always done so, and are therefore acclimated to a constant stream of small harassments as part of their daily reality. Their mother(usually), taught them to act and dress in a provocative way at all times, yet they do not realize this is what they are doing. They fail to realize that their actions do anything to cause the actions of others because that is how it has always been for them, and it seems unchangeable(this is my theory). I think some of the refusal to see a possible connection to wardrobe and risk may stem from women like this. They were taught to be all sexy, all the time, and it is tied up closely with their sense of identity and self-worth. Yes, they have the right to dress provocatively, and be proud of being sexy. However, their fathers did not give them the “some men are scum” talk that mine did, and they were not taught to choose wardrobe appropriate to social time and place. As a woman who was instead raised to be much more self-protective and aware of risk, it has always amazed me.

    Such knee-jerk reactions are why I also usually avoid such topics, and why although I am absolutely feminist in many ways, I have refrained from joining any organizations, etc. They are too extreme.

  18. Thanks for sharing your perspective and the conclusions/interpretations you’ve made. I would be curious to hear how women who disagree with you experience men as it relates to provocative clothing. I’ve asked a few but not heard back. I have trouble imagining that their observations/experience of men would support the idea that the average male response to provocative females is unchanged from the male response to females of average dress/comportment. And if they agreed that men do behave more socially and sexually aggressively toward provocative women, as seems fairly undeniable, then how could that not lead to more sexual assaults, with so many sexual assaults occurring in “date rape” scenarios, where male sexual aggression can be involved, actively ignoring/stifling subtle to severe cues from women that their behavior is approaching and then has crossed into sexual assault.

  19. Thanks for this blog Quinxy, I agree with your comments. Furthermore I believe that women and men are equal but are very different. And these differences are not inequalities but must be there to protect the moral fiber of society. I feel as if larger society fails to recognize that what is appropriate for a woman isn’t always for a man and vice versa.

  20. John Doe,

    Thanks. I’d be interested to know what you’re referring to when you speak of protecting the “moral fiber of society”. I suspect I would disagree with you quite a bit there, but would certainly enjoy learning what you mean. I am not suggesting that women should dress modestly, only suggesting that if they don’t they may wish to take extra steps to be safer.


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