I read an article today that actually turned my stomach.
To sum it up, a high school in N.J has banned strapless dresses from their dance, because the principal claims that they are “too distracting to boys”.
I felt sick to my stomach reading this. Talk about a massive step backwards in progress of women’s rights. We fought for the right to vote, the right to wear jeans and show as much skin as we’re comfortable with and now we’re jumping backwards, toward the land of “cover up” because our society downplays rape victims and supports the rapists by saying things like “well, you shouldn’t have wore that or done this. You allowed that to happen”. It’s disgusting.
When I was in grade 11, I wore a shirt that showed a tiny bit of my mid-drift. I was called into the office and the principal told me to “never wear that shirt again because it was provocative and I was asking for trouble.
I was asking for trouble, by having a tiny section of my mid-drift showing. I straight up told the principal; “that’s ridiculous. If a guy can’t control his behaviour because he sees less than an inch of skin, that’s a problem he needs to own.”
The principal was taking aback by my blunt statement, but still told me not to wear the shirt anymore or I would be suspended.
I haven’t thought about that moment in a long time, until now. Until I read that article and thought about how stupid it is that we’re telling girls and women not to show their arms, shoulders, collar bone, etc because it’s distracting to boys and it’s asking for trouble.
But that’s rape culture for you.
I’ve never openly written about this before, because of the few people I’ve told that have reacted negatively and said I was overreacting, but I was raped. But I can’t call it that, because rape culture dictates that I asked for it. I went to a hotel to drink with a boy, and he ended up spiking the one drink that I had with something, so that I was pretty much blacking out and felt like I had no control of my body.
But, according to rape culture, that’s ok because I continued to “date” him. I “condoned” that behaviour, because I kept seeing him. I was young, I was confused, I hadn’t and honestly still haven’t come to terms with what happened because that guy assured me that I “consented”, although I remember saying no, more than once. It’s a confusing situation, and I didn’t “believe” it was rape until I told my husband about it and he straight up told me it was. He said “if a girl says no, she means no. It’s rape if it happens after.”
And it is. I’ve told that to many of my friends that have had similar things happen to them. It’s not your fault, you said no. That’s rape. And I mean it when I tell it to them, because its true…yet when it comes to myself I struggle acknowledging what happened.
Anyway, back to the strapless dress ban. One of my favourite paragraphs in that article about the banning of strapless dresses is this:
“Ms. Moffat’s comment about ‘distraction’ to the boys is particularly offensive because it suggests that boys are not able to control — or ought not to be required to control — their behavior when in the presence of girls wearing strapless dresses,” Nijenhuis said. “It is neither a woman’s nor a girl’s responsibility to control a man’s or boy’s behavior.”
Rape culture says that it’s the girls fault. She wore/did this or that, and so she set herself up for it. No. That’s false, and its insulting to men. It’s insulting to the ones who have control of their behaviour, who know that a woman’s body is off limits unless stated otherwise. It gives them absolutely no credit to men as human beings. It implies that men are stupid and impulsive, and that they cannot help acting on those impulses even when they are wrong.
We need to teach our young boys to respect women, to respect that they are not there for their entertainment. That their bodies are off limits, unless stated otherwise. That forcing yourself on a girl, ignoring her when she says no is wrong and her strapless dress didn’t “give you permission”. It’s a joke to tell women, to tell young impressionable girls, that they shouldn’t show a little skin or else boys will get distracted and may act upon those impulses. The impression that we are giving them is that if rape happens, it’s their fault because they dressed a certain way.
Even if a boy does make a move on a girl that he finds attractive, if and when she says no or acts hesitate, he needs to back off and respect that. And the majority of guys that I know and have known did that. They made moves, and if she said no or wasn’t comfortable, they stopped. Sure, there are ones who don’t know how to control their impulses, but we shouldn’t be punishing the potential victims here.
I hope that school realizes all this, and allows the girls to wear strapless gowns. Strapless gowns have been allowed in school dances forever, don’t go changing that “policy” now because you’re just supporting rape culture.