What Were You Wearing? A Dangerous Rhetoric Surrounding Clothing and Consent
But what was she wearing? Weaponized rhetoric used by perpetrators and society that denounces the blame and guilt on victims of sexual abuse. This dangerous narrative of victimization, owing to what she wears, reduces the perpetrator’s responsibility and, makes women complicit in provocative sexual assault. Though, people rarely hold the perpetrators of burglaries and murders accountable for their choices and behaviors. Therefore, it’s hard to comprehend the sheer callousness and lack of empathy that people exude over women’s clothing for being seducing and revealing.
Victim blaming is ingrained in cultural practices which starts from subtle patterns of discouraging little girls to not wear makeup such as lipsticks or kohl as it may tempt the opposite gender and can ultimately lead to molestation and rape. From the unpretentious humiliation of girls in their early ages to slut-shame an adult woman being dressed as sexually provocative shows the disregard towards the preparator’s accountability.
The normalization of men’s perception of consent based on women’s clothing reflects a narrow and misogynistic attitude that assumes a woman is provocative if her thighs or cleavages are noticeable. However, clothing does not rationalize sexual violence, as girls and infants wearing diapers and frocks are subject to sexual assault, as are women wearing abayas and shalwar kameez. Clothing is therefore not the perpetrator of violence, and women’s attire is only used as justification by predators to substantiate their atrocious acts. The perpetuation of such a Patriarchal and misogynist-driven narrative lies at the core of why people objectify the female bodies and glorify sexual violence, and victimization.
Hence, it is crucial to consider the cultural environment in which men perceive women’s sexual intentions, especially in light of the pervasive sexual objectification of women that reduces women to nothing more than their sexuality, creating them as objects for sexual lust, visual gratification, and objects of desire for the opposite gender. Consequently, publicly scrutinizing a victim’s dress as rape inciting and using language that objectifies women provides the offenders with a scapegoat to shield them from accountability for their wrongdoings, thus, victim blaming only serves to encourage assaulters to carry out heinous crimes and further embarrasses assault victims and discourages them to seek justice.