Friday, December 10, 2010

Asking for it

IMG_0273 Tonight, a Facebook friend posted that her middle school-aged daughter came home and told her about what her teacher said in her sex ed class: "How a girl dresses can send signals she wants to have sex."

But wait...there was more. Naturally, my friend was incensed by this remark and had a discussion with him...and yes, it was a male teacher. Here are some words of wisdom from this guy.

"If a girl dresses in a mini skirt with cleavage [sic], I mean, doesn't that imply she wants to have sex?"

In the course of conversation with my friend, she said that he mentioned fishnet stockings.

He tried this analogy on her: "You see a guy flexing his muscles on the beach scantily clad, doesn't that make you think he's trying to be sexy?"

I can't begin to tell you how outraged this made me. This is the typical "she was asking for it" attitude that far too many defense attorneys and self-righteous moralistic idiots have used for years. Rather than placing the blame solely on the attacker, it is somehow turned around to be all the woman's fault. After all, if she wasn't wearing those provocative clothes, that attack never would have happened, right? It's HER fault for dressing like a slut, not HIS fault for giving into his uncontrollable urges.

First of all, this is incredibly insulting to both men and women. Not only does it assume that women somehow "want it" if they dress provocatively, it assumes that men are such testosterone-laden idiots that they are incapable of controlling their urges and simply have to get all rapey and junk if they see a flash of leg or gaze down an epic cleavage. What century are we living in again?

Secondly, it shows the incredible ignorance concerning the crime of rape. It is not simply a sex crime; it is one of power, dominance, and anger. There are rape victims who are elderly women; there are those that are pre-kindergarten girls. These are not women who are dressing provocatively. Their only crime is that of being female.

For a public school teacher to espouse such horrifically sexist attitudes is just beyond comprehension, and leads me to think that he has his own issues with women and perhaps a fair amount of anger towards them. This is a mentality that I thought we'd put behind us, and I find it very disturbing that it is being spouted by teachers.

My friend's post generated a lot of comments. Most people were also appalled, and others didn't care for the guy's remarks but felt that some of us were being too hard on him. I don't think so, not by a long shot. Anyone who knows me, or if you've been reading me for a while, knows that I am not a man basher. I happen to like you guys and you'll never hear me saying "All men are [fill in the blank]." But this is simply unacceptable, a horrible lesson to young girls which tells them that they are the ones who provoke unwanted attention or even worse, actual attacks upon themselves, because of their dress or attitudes. It is also a horrible lesson to the young men in that class, telling them that it's not their fault if they have urges to go after a woman because she is wearing a short dress or a tight shirt, essentially forgiving them for any wrongdoing because "she asked for it." I am still stunned that a teacher said this!

Many of us have been subjected to harassment in the workplace or in our private lives. I've had two incidents in my career in which I had to deal with it. One was a coworker--not even in the same department, but on the same shift--who was apparently telling people exactly what he wanted to do to me, in very graphic terms. I can assure you that I never once encouraged this person, or led him to believe that we were anything but work acquaintances, but he felt that it was okay for him to talk about me to my other coworkers in very sexual terms. I told him to cut it out, and if he didn't, I'd go to my manager and discuss a sexual harassment complaint. That put a stop to it. The other incident was when I was drawing blood from a patient in Intensive Care. The patient was a hard stick, so the doctor who was in the room put his hands firmly around my waist, lingering, and moved me aside, telling the patient, "It probably doesn't hurt as much when they're as pretty as this one, does it?" I'm sure that my white lab coat was what really set him off. My fault for dressing so provocatively. I was so shaken up that I was...well, I was literally shaking when I came back down to the lab. I went to my manager and told her about the incident; she investigated and told me that there were nurses that had also complained about this doctor being inappropriate with them. It never happened again, so I didn't pursue it, but my complaint was on file.

Bottom line: any teacher telling impressionable young people that a woman's attire, no matter how provocative--and who is this guy to decide what is overly provocative, anyway?--is possibly an invitation to have sex with her is grossly negligent and verging on criminal. There is absolutely no excuse for such behavior or for perpetuating these myths that a woman is asking for harassment or rape because of her behavior or attire. I'm a big fan of fishnet stockings because they're fun and cute and they don't get runs in them. Those are my legs in that picture up there. Do the fishnets and/or the short skirt make my male readers feel rapey? Because I wear them, does that mean I'm putting forth an invitation to every guy to come onto me? That is crazy, stupid, and incredibly sexist.

I was reminded of the movie "The Accused," in which Jodie Foster's character gets drunk and stupid and ends up getting gang raped on a pinball table. This wasn't complete fiction. It was based on a real case. I found the rape scene one of the most horrifying and disturbing scenes I've ever watched in a movie. Any teacher who passes on such attitudes to their students has no place in the classroom. I don't know what my friend will end up doing, but I'm certain that she will pitch one helluva fit, and rightly so. I will be interested to see what comes of this; if it were me in that situation, and the teacher refused to see what was wrong with what he told his students, I'd be filing a formal complaint with the school board and doing my best to get him out of the least the sex education classroom. His moralistic, judgmental pronouncements on "what women want" have no place among our students.

It's odd, though...I had no idea that Mel Gibson was working as a teacher in northern Indiana.


  1. While I don't agree that women who dress provocatively are "asking for it," I do think they are looking for attention, and I think that it is naive of them to think that somehow they won't get any negative attention along with the positive.

  2. Paul, there is no crime against looking for attention. Rape and other sexual assault crimes are not about sex; they are about power. As Beth points out, victims may be old, young, attractive, unattractive. What the woman is wearing does not cause the offender to lose control and brutalize her. If a woman walks down the street as nude as the legendary Lady Godiva, you can look, but unless she invites you to do so, no one gets to touch her. Instead of worrying about how girls and women dress, as a society we need to be focused on why some boys and men have such an overwhelming need to attack females. They're the ones with the real problem.

    Beth, I'm so with yo. This teacher should not be teaching sex ed classes. His ideas are antiquated and dangerous for the messages that they convey to the female students and also to the male students.

    Saw the Jodie Foster movie and had the same visceral reaction. The real life case that inspired the film had a significant impact on how rape cases were treated in the court system, leading to some of the changes in how victims are treated in the legal system. For many years,rape was the only crime where the victim was looked at as possibly bearing some responsibility for provoking the crime.

    The person who goes to the bank machine at 2:00 am and withdraws $100 is never accused of provoking robbery by being out so late alone and flashing money. The person who leaves the car engine running while he runs into the post office is never accused of provoking the car thief into stealing his car.
    Get into a verbal argument with someone who pulls out a gun and shoots you and no court is going to entertain a defense that the victim provoked the shooter into killing him. Rape is a crime, period, and the fault lies with the perpetrator.

  3. I'm so glad I don't have kids -- well, human kids.

  4. My Mom and StepDad have this argument all the time. He constantly says she's asking for it too. Geeesh....I agree they are looking for attention of some sort, approval from their peers maybe...but not sex or RAPE!!!! BUT, have you tried to buy girls/teens clothes? You can barely comply with school length rules because everything is so freaking short or thin!!

  5. A lot of people respect me and my writing, so I'll use myself as an example. I was raped and one of the questions asked during pretrial had been - "What were you wearing?"

    So naturally I would have bit this teacher's head off, if I had heard his comments.

    In my case, I just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, an easy target. It had nothing to do with what I was wearing, yet the question did come up. What I wore/wear now has nothing to do with who I am as a person then or now. I most definitely wasn't asking for it.

    This question also came up in therapy once (I fired my therapist) suggesting how I dressed attracted the wrong kind of guys and was in part responsible for me getting beat almost to death.

    What this does is place the blame on the victim, not the source of the violence and hatred.

    I had thought in this day and age, we would be beyond judging a book by it's cover. Apparently, I was wrong. How a woman dresses shouldn't dictate an excuse for how she's respected, or give assumption to her moral standards, or violating her rights . (Hugs)Indigo

  6. There is nothing about rape that has to do with anyone 'asking for it'. As you said in your post, it is all about power and has less to do with someone dressing provactively as it does someone who feels (or is made to feel) inadequate in their life, acting on his frustration and victimizing someone else.

    Attitudes like the one of the teacher is enabled by the attitudes not dissimilar to 'CMP's comment contains... looking for attention means that it is okay to dehumanize and brutalize a woman. As far as being able to deal with uncontrollable urges, we all are from the apes... God may have made man, but he used the monkey to do it!

    Some are not as far removed from their lineage, it seems.

  7. I remember when I was a young girl (way back last century) that we would talk about things socially like that, about women "asking for it" and not really knowing what the "it" and probably just repeating stuff we heard. Totally could not imagine a teacher talking about stuff like that, however. Especially in context of a "sex ed" class.

  8. I agree that rape is a horrible crime of power and that women (and men) who are raped most certainly do not, in any way, ask for that treatment.

    I also believe that consensual sex between two people is a wonderful thing.

    But I do notice that in western culture, women's clothing shows more skin than does men's; yes, there are exceptions, but even conservative business attire accents or compliments the feminine form. I think it is disingenuous to completely dismiss that feminine attire and appearance does not convey some level of subconscious sexual attraction. this is NOT the same as "asking for it" by a long shot!

  9. So, here's me, a married (happy for the past 16 years and looking forward to at least 50 more...), father of a vibraint, beautiful 12 year old, husband to a wife who was sexually assualted, feeling that I don't know where to draw the line. From a personal freedom POV I'd say wear what you want and shoot the bastard if he bothers you too much. BUT, I'll not let my daughter out in anything I think might be provocative. Unfortunately for all of us, diviantes have rights, and if we shoot them we end up in jail. Not attracting idiotic from the idiot out there is a good strategy. Survival has no morality.

  10. It is a sad day when we accuse the victim instead of the perpetrator.

  11. Wow...the teacher is a jackass. Hard to imagine someone actually feels that way. Your post was dead on, no need to elaborate on my part.

  12. Beth, I sit with you on this one, no surprise I'm sure. Rape is about power, not sex. No one, male or female should have to feel that a mode of dress or a provocative behavior somehow means that another person isn't responsible for controlling themselves around that person and treating them with dignity and respect. The problem is that we have a world full of perpetrators who don't want to respect or show dignity to many groups of people. That's the real problem.

    Glad you referenced The Accused. Everyone needs to see it.


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