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Dec 28 2012

Miniskirts and Rape

It was reported several days ago that Swaziland had banned miniskirts, bare midriff tops and low rise jeans for women because those clothes provoked rape, or at least made the crime easier for rapists to commit. The consequence could be six months in jail for a woman who breaks the new law.

We learned yesterday that Swaziland officials say it was all a big mistake.  There is no such ban, they say, but there probably should be, and women should not expose themselves to rape by wearing those types of clothing.

I understand the problem.  Rape is out of control in many African nations.  In South Africa, a study by the Medical Research Council found that 1 in 4 men admitted to having raped at least one woman or girl. There’s a huge outcry to address the issue and stop the problem.

Heck, rape is a problem just about everywhere.

But this approach is just logically wrong. If I leave my house unlocked and someone breaks in, should there be a law requiring me to keep my house locked at all times, making me the criminal if someone breaks in again?

You may say that rape is different because men just can’t control themselves when they see women in miniskirts, but let’s take my house analogy a bit further. What if I have a really nice house and you can see my expensive big flat screen TV and some other very cool stuff from the street because I have a nice big picture window. Does that make it my fault if someone robs me? What about all those law abiding people who could also see my stuff, but didn’t break in? Why was the visual of my stuff just too much of a temptation and, therefore, the cause of the robbery for one guy, but not for the others? It wasn’t. That would be blaming the homeowner, I mean, victim.

But just to drive a nail in the coffin of the argument that miniskirts cause or “provoke” rape, what about all of the women who have been conservatively dressed but were raped anyway? This by far represents the majority of rape victims worldwide. What provoked those rapes?

To be fair, if I knew I were in a place where there was a high incidence of rape, I would not be wearing revealing clothes anyway, not because I think miniskirts cause rape, but because being more conservatively dressed would make me feel more secure and because, if I were attacked, I wouldn’t want to make his job any easier. The more time the criminal has to spend fumbling with my clothes means I may have just a few more seconds to get free and get away.

So, if it’s not about miniskirts, what is it about?  Honestly, I’m amazed that we, as a species, are still having this conversation, but clearly we need to.

It’s about the violence.
It’s about the violent domination of women.
It’s about  power.
It’s about hopelessness and attempting to regain power.

Power is the need that is filled, if only temporarily.  Violence is the strategy.  Sex is the weapon.

Let me share a story to illustrate my point. It’s a pretty horrific story; forgive me for that, please. A 76-year old woman in Sacramento was raped in her home in November 2010.  I strongly suspect she was not dressed like a hoochie-mama. She couldn’t help much with the investigation because she had suffered a stroke.

In September 2012, he raped her in her home again. Yes, the same guy. They confirmed it with DNA evidence. Then they finally put in some surveillance cameras and, just a few weeks ago, he came back to rape her a third time, but this time, they caught him on camera. By the way, it turns out that he was a police officer. He’s not anymore because he was fired the day he was arrested.

Do you think it was all about sex for him? Or how suggestively the 76-year-old stroke victim was dressed? Unlikely. And it’s pretty obvious that she didn’t bring this on herself.

I applaud folks who are proposing solutions for the rape epidemic, especially in Africa, even if the ideas are not good ones. Taking rape seriously is an important start. But it’s time to move beyond the belief that women provoke rape.

To go back to my analogy, we would never say, “Well, the owner of that house (locked or not) is responsible because she has such nice stuff.” I may be stupid if I don’t lock my house, but that doesn’t make the robber less of a criminal.

There is so much to say on the topic in general that I’ll be sharing a few more posts with you on related topics like the difference between rape fantasies and real rape (nothing screws up a good rape fantasy like really getting raped…seriously) and that fine line between holding rapists responsible for their behavior and demonizing all men (the first is good, the second is not).

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic, Prowlers (not the topic about locking my house, but the one about miniskirts and rape).

For those of you moaning, “Why so serious, Kat?” Don’t worry. There’s always plenty of naughtiness to come.

10 comments

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  1. Lola

    100% agreed! Men are responsible for rape and preventing rape. Men have to “man-up” (as the new saying goes) and place responsibility of action squarely upon themselves. The miniskirt excuse is as bad as the “she was drunk” excuse. What?- men can get drunk without consequences, but women cannot?
    Rape is a crime. Crimes are committed by the perp., not the victim.

  2. luvinfunnc

    I agree totally. Not sure what to do about rape in general, especially in a continent filled with underdeveloped countries. I agree with the house analogy. It burns me up when you see on the news people breaking into cars. They talk to a cop and they say, you should have locked your doors. I always want to say, if you were doing your job it wouldn’t happen. No offense to the cops, but no one has a right to my stuff, no matter where it is. Oh well.

  3. Anonymous

    The new law should be that the rapist gets his testicles, no jail time.

  4. Anonymous

    The new law should be that the rapist gets his testicles removed, no jail time.

  5. the naked lady

    The whole thing is such a mess. There are women who dress absolutely whorishly, with NOTHING left to the imagination, and then bash men for viewing them as sexual objects. If you’re asking for it, then what do you really expect?

    Then there are women who aren’t dressed that way, yet become victims. That’s where it really seems that the man is just looking to dominate and exert himself violently. Like he’s got something to prove.

    I would hope that these new laws are based on the science of men’s brains, which we know are wired to respond significantly to visual stimuli. Maybe by cutting down on the enticement, they think it’s easier for men to control themselves? I’ve been out and seen really attractive men and had to look away because of what was happening to my body (I’m female)…so I kinda get that.

    But maybe it’s not about men and women at all. How about we just blame the fashion designers who created the mini-skirt and midriff-baring clothes in the first place, hmm?

  6. Anonymous

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h95-IL3C-Z8

    Enough said.

  7. All About Love And Sex

    Dress sexily or in mini-skirts is not a good ground for raping. Normally a guy who wants to reduce his guilty conscious to make the victim felt guilty will just push the responsibility for his action to the victim.

    In reality, women who don’t dress sexily even got raped, so this is just a lame excuse put up by rapist.

  8. Anonymous

    Agreed, December 29, 2012 8:10 PM. Men have to own their actions and women need to be mindful and not deny men’s hardwiring.

  9. HK

    The issue of a woman’s choice in attire precipitating sexual crimes committed against her is really just a distortion of a simple principle–what we wish was true of reality and what is true.

    A woman should be able to walk down the street stark naked if she chooses without any concern for rapists and their ilk. Controlling sexual urges is solely the responsibility of the potential rapist, and a woman can not be faulted for the moral lapse of her attacker.

    That said, revealing clothing may incentivize that same potential rapist into action. We know that rape is very rarely about sexual need/frustration, so it can be argued that the list of potential triggers for any given rapist is far too long to control for. Still, because rape is a manifestly sexual phenomenon, one can also reason that conservative dress lowers the probability of triggering a rapist.

    Every woman is ultimately responsible for her own safety. She should take steps to minimize risks wherever possible.

    Now, if a woman wearing a skimpy outfit is raped, can we ever say that it was her fault? Of course not. Again, the blame is entirely upon the rapist. I’m just saying that revealing clothing may represent an unnecessary elevation in risk.

  10. Kat

    Wow! Such wonderful, thoughtful comments! I think it’s interesting that we agree, in general, on whose fault it is or isn’t, but how do we stop it? Most conversations revolve around that risk level that HK wrote about. How can we prevent men from committing the act?

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