This Is Not Consent

What I am about to say has practically been beaten into the minds of every woman on planet earth. However, I am finding an irresistible urge to repeat it yet again: clothes do not equal consent. As a woman, I have absolutely no difficulty understanding such a simple concept, but it seems that certain individuals in today’s society are still struggling with this basic principle. If the previous statement above is remaining somehow unclear, let me provide you with a rhyme to make it easier: the way we dress does not mean yes.

Ladies, remember all of those warnings and life-lessons about safety we have been given for as long as we can remember? You know, the advice about keeping mace handy, having keys poking out between each of our fingers when walking to our cars, never taking drinks from strangers, and for the love of God, staying away from all white, windowless vans. As I am sure you know, the list of safety precautions is growing longer every single day, but have you ever stopped to wonder why we are responsible for knowing this vast array of dos and don’ts? To properly answer this question, I will need to rewind a bit so that readers of all genders may also follow along.  

Starting at a young age, women are introduced to many different aspects of life. We are given dozens of dolls to play “house” with, musical instruments to perform imaginative symphonies, and creative novels to allow our imagination to run wild. Additionally, we are taught emotions such as love, happiness, patience, forgiveness, but most importantly, fear. At this point, I am sure you are confused — how can something so dark and sinister be linked to such blissful emotions? Let me tell you. For some odd reason, major influences such as family, friends, teachers, and social media operate under the assumption that fear is what will save our lives from suffering the worst crime imaginable: sexual assault. To accompany our fear, we are equipped with life-lessons that are supposed to give us the best chance of escaping the indescribable horror that we are statistically going to be forced to at some point or another. The fear of being sexually attacked is passed down through the generations of all women, regardless of their ethnicities, religions, social classes, and demographics. It is completely irrelevant to a woman’s upbringing or the stability of her home life, she will still possess the terror of being sexually attacked against her will. After years of hearing repeated hypothetical scenarios where an attacker attempts to strike, our minds are slowly perpetuated into a constant state of unwavering panic and paranoia—forcing us to seek refuge in the “protective tactics” we are told may “save” us. 

Personally, I find the installation of fear and a rundown of the running list of preventative measures to be absolutely revolting. Is that seriously the best we can do? Has society become so hopeless that instead of teaching individuals to understand and respect consent, we are simply throwing in the towel and telling women to fend for themselves? I do not wish to single out any particular race or gender, but I am absolutely tired of hearing men say that “feminists have gone too far.” Recently, I was having a discussion with a colleague of mine about feminism, and his ignorance was mind-numbingly painful. He asserted that feminists believe that if they walk around naked and get raped, that they are not at fault. He proceeded to ask me, “If you owned a bank, left all of the doors wide open without any security guards or cameras, and you were robbed in the middle of the night, is it the thief’s fault or is it yours?”

To most people, I am sure they would quickly assign blame to the thief since they willingly walked in and stole something that was not theirs, to begin with; however, that is not the underlying problem that I found with his hypothetical situation. Without any hesitation or mere realization of doing so, my friend had just compared women to banks — he compared human life to an inanimate object. The very fact that he attempted to assign the value and worth of a woman by equating her to a lifeless possession proves that feminists have not gone far enough. Needless to say, I ended the friendship without thinking twice.

In case it was not already clear, I am not a bank with the doors wide open. I am not an unlocked car parked in a bad neighborhood. I am not a purse left unattended or a dime lying on the ground. I am not a consumable good for the taking. I am a human being. If you cannot wrap your brain around such a transparent concept, then you should not even confuse yourself by thinking that your opinions are valuable or worth vocalizing in any way.

It pains me that our society is still so ignorant and close-minded to something so discernible. It does not matter what a woman chooses to wear, it does not change her right to refuse consent. How we choose to dress does not concern you or anyone else. It goes without saying that the more revealing a woman’s outfit is, the more attention she will likely receive; however, if someone were to act on their urges and desires, then it says everything about them and nothing about the woman they were staring open-mouthed at.

I am so tired of the men around me taking one glance at my outfit and interpreting it as a message that says “take advantage of me.” The clothing that I choose to sport on my body is not for anyone’s entertainment or pleasure. It does not give anyone the excuse to harass me or lay a hand on me. Society is so blind to this concept that we slut-shame and victim-blame instead of centering our attention on punishing the perpetrator. I dream for the day when a defense lawyer does not blame the victim who was raped. I dream for the day where judges do not ask the victims what she was wearing when she endured the excruciating pain of a monster forcing himself into her. We are not asking for it — we never were. Is that so hard to understand? 

To all of the egotistical maniacs that think we want your disrespect: think again. We have no intention of wearing a sign that says “NO” in bold, black letters. Our consent is given through our words, not something so trivial as our clothing. Our clothes do not imply that we want to be attacked. They do not insinuate that we love to be whistled at, cat-called, and even followed down the street when we are literally minding our own business. Are you so self-absorbed and self-serving that you are incapable of realizing that women do not dress for the satisfaction of your needs and desires? We do not need your approval. Our clothing does not give you permission.