Opinions

Clothes can’t constitute consent

A RECENT TREND in criminal justice may be of interest to our female readers—or anyone amused by the ridiculous decisions made by some of our fellow human beings. Apparently, in some countries, if a woman is wearing skinny jeans at the time of a sexual assault, then her rapist is absolved of any of criminal guilt. Courts have ruled that skinny jeans are too difficult for an attacker to remove from a victim without her assistance and, it is thus assumed, the alleged victims must be aiding their attackers in removing their own clothes.

 

While I have heard from a few male friends that jeans don’t permit as easy access for sexual activity as, let’s say, a skirt or dress, the idea that wearing a certain article of clothing implies consent is both absurd and unfounded.
The increasingly popular skinny-jeans defence has been used in South Korea and Australia. The argument that a woman’s wearing skinny jeans means she cannot be raped was also considered in a similar case in Italy in 2008, but, the Italian courts ruled that “jeans cannot be compared to any type of chastity belt.”

 

At least the Italian courts have enough sense to realize it is possible to forcibly remove even the tightest pair of skinny jeans and an important legal judgment should not be made upon a completely asinine assumption. No member of the jury or legal counsel was present at the scene of the crime, so to assume an article of clothing was removed by the victim during a sexual assault is completely ridiculous—but I’m not a lawyer.

 

The repeated use of this defence adds to the all-too-popular inclination to chalk up sexual assault to women’s fashion choices. The many Slutwalks of this past spring in response to comments of this nature made by a Toronto police officer should have illuminated the fact that women and men will not allow the blame for these experiences to be placed on women and their clothing choices. The message evidently did not resonate with everyone, as some justice professionals still think wearing revealing clothing means a woman is DTF.

 

In response to an increase in the incidence of rape in South Brooklyn, N.Y. during the month of September, a member of the New York Police Department suggested female New Yorkers should stop wearing skirts to reduce their risk of being assaulted. This has resulted in an uproar, as there is no proof that women wearing pants are less likely to be raped than their gam-bearing counterparts.

 

This dismissive attitude toward rape suggests cops are just trying to avoid responsibility for dealing with increased sexual assault rates. While it may have just been a well-intentioned suggestion on the part of an officer, women changing their clothing does not equal problem solved.

 

Women should not be surprised if showing some skin brings them some extra attention from men. For some women, this may be their exact intention in wearing clothing that shows what their mommas gave them. Still, by no means does a woman showing some cleavage mean she wants to have sex with whomever she may encounter. We women have curvy bits and it’s our right to dress them however we please. Dressing provocatively does not automatically mean a desire for promiscuity.

 

For many women, the way they dress makes them feel powerful and beautiful: The exact qualities sexual assault can take away. It is our job as a society to ensure women are safe regardless of what they wear, and that when it comes to sex, yes means yes and no means no—no matter how tight your jeans are.

—Natalie Tremblay