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 classroom...at 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.