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Rape the sluts: the ‘Men can’t control themselves’ excuse

The clothes that a woman happens to be wearing at the time of an assault are often used against her in court, in the media or in her own social circle. I remember as an 18 year old being told by a girl I knew about a newspaper article which reported that a rape victim’s underwear was shown in court to prove that she consented. This was because the underwear had been manufactured with the words “Little devil” printed on the fabric. More recently an article in the Daily Mail sparked outrage for claiming that rape laws were too harsh and were catching innocent men; an example used was that a 19 year old attacked by two footballers had been drinking and had the top three buttons on her blouse undone, so it could not possibly be rape.

Another tactic in using clothes to victim-blame is claiming that if a man sees a woman wearing revealing clothes, he cannot help not raping her, or that the clothes themselves confuse men or constitute consent (a dress is a ‘yes’).

However, the assertion that all men are filthy, sexualised animals who can’t see a bit of cleavage without attcking a woman makes no logical sense. Firstly, men (and women) tend not to commit sexual assaults when there are witnesses around. This is why most attacks on women happen in the victim’s own home, in a dark or secluded area (an empty classroom, a car, an ambulance, a quiet street), in the attacker’s home or are perpertrated by the woman’s partner or family member. So, if men are really beasts who can’t control themselves, why can they control themselves when they know they’re likely to be caught? Why don’t we see men committing rape in malls, busy classrooms or crowded streets? Even when they do abduct victims from crowded places, how are they able to control themselves long enough to get their victim into a secluded area (remember the 14 year old boy abducted from a mall and raped in a toilet in Marks and Spencer’s?) How can Daddy control himself in the street and when Mummy is around, but suddenly he can’t control himself if his wife leaves the house? The myth that men can’t control themselves is just a nonsensical excuse.

A disturbing fact is that we don’t accept the ‘I couldn’t control myself because of my gender’ for any other crime or for any other gender. Try telling a judge that you couldn’t help knifing that person or nicking that wallet because you’re a man. Try telling anyone that you couldn’t help sexually assaulting that man because you’re a woman. So why accept that excuse for men who rape? The excuse should either be valid for all crimes and all genders, or it should be invalid for all crimes and all genders.

Another fact: we don’t accept the excuse for men who molest children or have sex with underage girls. But it seems that if you’re over the age of consent, it’s all your fault for leading him on and he couldn’t help it. If he really can’t help it with girls over 16, why is he able to control himself with a 15 year old? Why is it all his fault if you’re 15 and consenting, and all your fault if you’re 16 and not consenting?

Yet another illogical aspect of this excuse is: If men can’t control themselves, wouldn’t that mean that women also can’t control themselves? So why are only men deemed to be animals, and not women?

The tactic of using clothes to victim-blame, or even just to slutshame women ordinarily, is a dirty trick. You see, that outfit that Jenny is wearing that seems slutty to you isn’t Jenny – it’s an outfit. You’re judging Jenny based on what she’s wearing. If you had met her two hurs earlier she would have been wearing a business suit. If you were to meet her two hours later she’ll be wearing a frumpy, mumsy cardigan and worn baggy jeans.Later, when Jenny’s wearing her fleecey PJ’s, you might be wearing a short see-through nightie. So if Jenny is attacked at 4pm, she will be wearing a suit and will be seen as a victim (unless she knows the attacker). But if her attacker decides to lie in wait for her until 5pm and stalk her, by the time he attacks her she might be wearing a ‘revealing’ outfit. So it’s her fault for being dressed that way. And if the rapist instead chooses to follow her home and then break in, she’ll be wearing her mumsy outfit and be seen as a victim. Women have no control and no choice over when they are attacked or what they’re wearing when they are attacked. We don’t dress in the mornings or change our outfits in the day thinking that we might be raped, any more than men dress to be raped. We don’t think that men are dangerous animals who will leap at the first chance to attack us; we’re not paranoid. Neither are men. Judging women and victim-blaming on the basis of dress puts victims under the power of their rapist. The attacker chose when to attack; he has that control. The victim doesn’t. By victim-blaming, you are giving the rapist the power to make his victim endure shaming and make her testimony less believable. You are giving him the power to negotiate and influence the wider disourse around rape, as well as the opportunity to escape prison if the victim isn’t believed. By assuming womens’ dress causes them to be raped, we might even end up with a society in which men try to attack women who are dressed a certain way, so that they will get away with it – a self-fulfilling prophecy.

And if men are biologically compelled to rape if they catch a glimpse of cleavage, leg or belly button, how are they able not to rape when they see women in bikinis on the beach? Or naked women in nudist colonies? Or topless women on the beach? When I was 8 I once saw a naked woman at the beach, pulling her two young children in a rubber ring and covering herself with her other hand. Nobody tried to rape her or even noticed her or cared. In fact, I, an eight year old female, was the one who was staring the most.

This final argument comes with illustrations (yay!). In Britain, it is ILLEGAL to wear clothing in public that would display nipples or genitals. Strip clubs, nudist colonies and BDSM club nights may have different rules, but when you step out of these establishments onto the street, you will be charged with public indecency if you aren’t covering those areas. So how revealing can revealing clothes even be?

This woman is wearing a bralet and short skirt, but all she is revealing is a little of her belly.

This is the most revealing photo I could find of people who appeared on Snog, Marry Avoid. However, the two womens’ outfits, while being as revealing as possible without being illegal, are actually less revealing than a bikini. And neither of them are revealing their nipples or private parts, so the most sexual parts of their bodies are covered. So they aren’t revealing anything at all – the erogenous zones are covered up, leaving only the mundane non-sexy bits showing.

Really, anyone who believes that men are so weak, violent and bestial that they would attack these two women just because their tummies, legs and decolletage are revealed is an idiot.

A man wouldn’t be compelled to attack a woman walking down the street naked any more than a woman would be compelled to attack a naked man, or an adult of either sex would be compelled to attack a naked child.

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2012 in Feminism

 

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“Slut!”: When your sex life is deemed more important than your career, achievements and dreams

This evening I was watching BBC4’s documentary on theories about what existed before the Big Bang (which, as the documentary reveals, may have been a slow inflation, a bouncing back of a shrunken universe, or the other end of a black hole.) A female scientist appeared on the documentary, expounding a theory which I barely understand. I had a sudden realisation that her career, theories, achievements, childhood, dreams, hobbies and relationships could be completely negated by the word “slut”.

Because that is what the word slut does. That is what it means – that no matter what you’ve achieved, no matter the nuances and complexities of your character and personality, what is really important is what you do in the bedroom. Your sex life trumps your work life, family life and social life. It trumps everything you’ve created, like essays, blogs, stories, art. You could have a black belt in karate or be a world champion gymnast, a published poet, or have got a First class degree. You could have hobbies that make you very unique, such as base jumping or knitting. You could volunteer in a charity or be a human rights activist. But none of that counts for anything. No skill you’ve learned, no qualification you’ve earned or sport you’ve mastered is as important as how many men and under what circumstances and in which time frame you’ve had sex with. What you’ve produced with your brain, your drive and your two hands are meaningless compared to the activity around your vagina. It is that little part of you, your genitals, that are key.

Not your mind. Not your faith, politics or experiences. Failing that, not even a body toned and fit from regular excercise, dance or sporting activity. Not even something as meaningless as a face that is beautiful or a hairstyle that is on trend. Nope. Just what goes in your vagina. Not even the appearance, health etc of the vagina itself – just what goes in it.

That’s pretty sick. And disgusting. And woman-hating.

And the word “slut” is static. It assumes you’ve always been a slut and always will be. But in reality, your 14 year old self might be very different from your 23 year old self, and at age 35 you’ll be different again. At age 60 you’ll be different yet again. It’s very unlikely that, even if everyone could agree on a definition of ‘slut’ that the same individual would remain slutty from puberty until her death.

When someone uses words like “slut”, they are denying the whole woman. They are reducing her to slut, whore, tart, a two-dimensional sliver of a multifaceted and complex person. Nobody is just a ‘slut’ and nothing else. You cannot be ‘just a slut’; you will be a daughter, student, colleague, schoolgirl, dreamer, amateur writer, artist, musician. There is a tendency to assume sexually active female adolescents are sluts. However, they might go swimming, have a group of friends, skateboard, paint, go to dance classes, any number of things. Nobody is just a slut or a whore. Nobody is just a sex worker. Nobody is just a single mum. Nobody is just single and pregnant.

And that’s why slutshaming is so harmful and misogynistic.

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2012 in Feminism

 

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