Saturday 12 March 2016

Modesty, Common Sense and Rape Prevention

I originally wrote this post a couple of years ago when the events in the opening paragraph were current. Because of the controversial nature of this post, I opted to save it to my Draft folder for further consideration. And practically forgot about until today, when I opened my draft folder. Upon reviewing it, I decided to post it, with a few alterations.
This week at the Emmys, Aubrey Plaza wore a surprisingly demure dress. I say surprisingly because Red Carpet dresses are known for being anything but demure or modest. And there was criticism of her "Laura Ingalls" look. I don't even know who Aubrey Plaza is and I generally don't care about the Emmys. But I found it rather ironic that only a month ago the world was aghast at Miley Cyrus' definitely immodest behaviour at the VMAs. Now they're being critical of a woman's modest dress. Hypocritical? I think so.
But then I think there's a lot of hypocrisy on the whole topic of women's dress and behaviour and modesty and equality and sexual assault and...
Well, this is going to be a hot topic. And I know that there will be some who will heartily agree with what I'm going to say. And there will, no doubt, be many who will violently disagree. But I've been mulling it over for awhile and decided it's time to air my views.
Since I mentioned Laura Ingalls above, let's start there. I've read the Little House books. I've also read other biographical material on Laura Ingalls Wilder. I think she seemed like a pretty liberated woman. Progressive. Independent. Respected. I never got the impression that she lived an unhappy life or felt oppressed by society or held back by her marriage. Or having to wear too many clothes. So how and why did we get from this
Laura Ingalls Wilder
taken from 
to this (originally I was going to post a picture of Miley Cyrus in all her indecency here, but decided not to post something I regard as pornographic on my blog. It's easy enough to find those pictures online if you really want to see them).
And why?
I may have feminist leanings, but I'm not a radical feminist. Even so, if equality with men is our goal, how is that consistent with wearing less clothes? I won't deny that there were women who were oppressed and held back in Laura Ingalls' time. But there still are. Wearing less clothing hasn't helped. As a matter of fact, the less clothes we wear, the more crimes of violence against women have increased. That's certainly not liberating.
Yes, I know what you're thinking: here comes another lecture from someone who thinks that women get raped because of the way they dress. But that's not exactly where I'm going with this. Hear me out.
First I want to say at the outset that sexual assault is never justifiable or excusable. Men - and women, for that matter - are responsible for their thoughts and actions.
I have been distressed by the rash of stories of young women going to parties, getting sexually assaulted, having pictures taken of them and circulated on the Internet, and resultant suicides by some of these young women. And I am horrified by the vicious bullying, blaming and harassing of these same young women, even after they're dead. And I am shocked by the callous disregard that the perpetrators have demonstrated towards their victims and the sympathy shown towards the perpetrators. I am disgusted and angry and frustrated.
And then somehow I found the site, My Duty to Speak, where victims of military sexual assault share their stories. And I was disgusted and angered all over again.
And we have marches and protests and rallies and laws. But these heinous crimes continue. And increase.
And I ask: what can we do? Is there something that we as women can do to prevent this from happening?
Let me take a little side trip now to talk about health. Most of us want to be healthy. We don't want to die any sooner than we have to, nor do we want to be debilitated. The two major killers are cancer and heart disease. Scientific research has demonstrated that following a healthier lifestyle can help prevent both of these diseases. And preventing them is far preferable to treating them. But we make choices. We choose to die by how we choose to live. Yes, these diseases are not 100% preventable, but we can greatly increase or decrease our risk by our choices.
Could it be possible that the same is true of sexual assault? Is it just Russian Roulette? Or could we increase or decrease our risk of sexual assault by certain choices we make.
Let me be perfectly clear: I am in no way blaming the victim. The perpetrator is the one to blame. He, or sometimes she, made a conscious choice to engage in a heinous and inexcusable act, for which he and he alone must bear the blame and the shame.
But if there are things I could do that might help prevent it from happening, why wouldn't I?
As I pondered these cases of sexual assault, there were things that frustrated and puzzled me. And from these "puzzlements," I came up with a set of guidelines, choices that can be made that could help prevent sexual assault. Some of them seem so logical that it appears ludicrous for me to even write them down, but obviously they're not logical to everyone.
1) Don't drink alcohol. In many of these cases of sexual assault, alcohol was a factor. And yes, it is possible to have fun without drinking alcohol.
2) Don't party with people you don't know and fully trust.
3) Don't party with huge groups of people.
4) Never be alone with someone you don't know and trust well.
5) Don't accept a drink from someone you don't know and fully trust.
6) Don't "make out" with a guy if you don't intend to have sex with him.
7) Don't share a motel room and/or a bed with a guy if you don't intend to have sex with him.
8) Don't "come on" to a guy if you don't intend to follow through.
9) Don't pursue a career in the military. One in three women in the military is sexually assaulted. And if you still choose to enter the military, read and heed the rest of these guidelines. And maintain modesty and decorum at all times.
10) Don't walk unprotected in unsafe situations.
11) Don't share compromising pictures or intimate details of your life on the internet, or with anyone else you don't know and trust.
12) Lock your door.
13) Don't open your door to anyone you don't know and trust fully.
I'm sure these can probably be added to and expanded on. And I'm also sure that many people reading these will be shaking their heads and saying, these are unrealistic, they won't help, they won't make a difference. But what if they will? Wouldn't it be worth it?
Recently, one of my friends shared the following video on facebook:

Here's another one that elaborates a little more on that Princeton study:
So, we're back to clothing again. According to this study, wearing a bikini causes men to look upon the wearer as an object. Could I say that the less a woman wears the more likely she is to be treated as an object instead of as a human being worthy of dignity and respect? This is consistent with what is said about the effects of porn, that pornography subtlely undermines male respect for women by detaching a woman's personality from her body, reducing her to a mere sexual commodity. (Read more: If she's just a "thing," then there's really no harm done in using her to satisfy a man's lusts, is there? And would that attitude be transferred to other women who may be more modestly dressed? Could my dressing immodestly cause a man to look upon other women as objects as well. Note that the study did not say that the men chose to think of women as objects. It seems that it happened outside of their conscious thought. So this business of blaming men for being "animals" or "having their minds in the gutter" may not always be valid. Maybe what I'm wearing is short-circuiting his frontal lobe.
If, by dressing modestly, I can prevent a man from viewing women as mere objects for his sexual gratification, would he not be less likely to rape? As I mentioned previously, as women have worn less and less, crimes of violence against women have increased more and more. I know that's just circumstantial evidence, but it could be significant, couldn't it? Especially with the evidence of the Princeton study before us.
As I said before, I am in no way absolving the perpetrator of the blame. He made that choice to assault, so he alone is to blame. But we are talking prevention here. We are talking choices that we can make.
Years ago, I heard a story about a man who had a heart attack. While he was recuperating, he was given the diet and lifestyle that he needed to follow in order to avoid another one. But he said, "Nope, I'm not going to live like that." Yes, he was free to make that choice. And his choice made his risk of having another heart attack much more likely.
And we have choices. Perhaps the choices we make will increase our risk of sexual assault. Maybe, they just might decrease that risk.


To answer some objections before they are raised: No, I am not saying that we should start dressing like extras in Little House on the Prairie. I believe it is possible to dress modestly and still not look like a "throwback."
You may argue that a woman should be safe walking naked down the street or falling asleep drunk in a room full of men. But "should's" and "are's" are not the same thing. We live in a society where sexual assault of women is a very real threat. If there are some realistic things we can do to help prevent it from happening, why shouldn't we?
You may also argue that it's the men that perpetrate these crimes that need to change. I don't deny that, but what is the likelihood of that happening? How often is there no remorse displayed? How often do we see victim blaming instead: "It's her fault, she was asking for it." These men are not likely to change, barring a miracle of the grace of God. 
I know some of you will be angry and offended by some of the things I have said, but I will not tolerate abusive or profane language in the comments. I am, however, open to intelligent dialogue.
A blog is, after all, just someone's opinion. 

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