Rape & Clothing

Do girls dress for rape? Fashion does not occur in a vacuum. What are the qualities are the focus of contemporary women’s clothing design? The question almost answers itself. Women’s fashion, consistent with the rest of popular culture, is hyper-sexualized. It’s designed to bring focus to the physical attributes of a woman that will be most alluring and seductive to men. Its implicit statement is that a woman’s power lies in her seductiveness.
This is not to say, of course, that women invite rape by wearing certain clothes, or that rape is restricted to women who wear it. Girls wear the clothing of the day to fit with their contemporaries. They’re not conscious of the deeper implications. They’re just adhering to the cultural norms of their social group, pretty much the way all people of all cultures do. It would be helpful in the discourse about rape, however, to acknowledge that women’s fashion is born from a larger culture whose motif is rapaciousness.
If the clothing sends the message that a woman’s main attribute is her sexual allure, then the message to men to keep their distance is contradictory, at best, especially in a milieu in which every other form of domination is praised, admired and rewarded. Combine that with the predominant suggestion that women are restraining their lust only because of a weak timidity promoted by outdated norms of modesty, and men can easily construct a narrative in which they are heroically liberating women from their repression, their secret desire. Men know that women really want it.
So we’re going to have to dig a little deeper than just educating men that rape is never OK.

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