Art featured by Manisha Yadav
Warning: This article includes topics regarding sexual assault and rape that may be triggering to those who have experienced sexual assault or had similar experiences.
This stigma associated with women has lasted since the dawn of time.
To the point that it has become an argument, a rebuttal — a blatant scheme to crucify the innocent. Something to weaponize against those who are only being shunned due to the prejudice that surrounds them as well as to measure their overall values and morals, so that their undeserved pain can be determined if worthy of sympathy or not
But sometimes, said morals and values are being viewed from a subjective standpoint. They don’t even bear that much relevance to the issue at hand, a lot of the time they’re not even morals and values, to begin with.
It’s nitpicking insignificant factors, an excuse for the mob to find a loophole for the perpetrator’s wrong-doings, to try and turn the tables around and make it seem like what had supposedly provoked the perpetrator carries the same weight as their crimes. But it’s not.
If it really did carry the same weight, the damages wouldn’t be reduced if done to anybody else, it’d still bear its immorality regardless of the circumstances. For example, you can’t say a woman was asking to be sexually assaulted because of the way she dressed, acted, or spoke. You can’t say she deserved what had happened to her, thinking the crime that was committed is on the same level of severity as her choices.
Because if it were shifted into any other circumstance where she had dressed, acted, or spoke in the same way but instead with her lover who would never harm her, the outcome would be different, she wouldn’t have ended up harmed. If she had dressed the same way around her close female friends, she also would not have been harmed.
Now, if you put said criminal in a different circumstance and applied what he did to either his friend, lover, or stranger, the severity would not be reduced any less.
The way a woman dresses or acts around a rapist will never carry the same weight as a rapist’s intentions and what he decides to do in order to act out on those intentions because they are not on the same level.
Wearing attractive or revealing clothing is not asking for it, displaying a certain type of behavior is not asking for it, being in a secluded area around the rapist is not asking for it, being intoxicated is NOT asking for it.
As long as verbal consent is absent in any sort of sexual activity initiated between either two people, no one is asking for it, it is coerced. Forced upon the victim regardless of what they were wearing or how the rapist chose to interpret their actions as either inviting or tempting.
This issue especially became prevalent upon the recent passing of Christine Dacera, a flight attendant in the Philippines who was found dead in a hotel room after attending a party with predominantly male guests, a lot of whom were her close friends.
The Philippine National Police branded the case as solved following the arrest of 3 suspects charged with rape and murder. However, there are still some major speculations considering Christine died of an aneurysm and that almost all of the male guests she was seen partying with have identified as queer as well as the lack of evidence proving said guests took part in her death nor was there any signs of struggling correlated to sexual assault. With that being said, the case has started to become a little bit blurry.
On one hand, that hasn’t stopped people from making extremely unnecessary comments saying that if rape did take place in the scene of the crime, it wouldn’t have been debatable as to why it happened, due to how with what Christine was last seen wearing and how she willingly decided to attend a party made up exclusively of men (you know, just completely disregarding the fact that these people were her close friends, and it’s only expected that you shouldn’t do what these men were accused of committing to a stranger let alone a friend. I don’t know, just my two cents) is that it’s no surprise she had ended up in the place she was found in.
When I tell you, that despite the countless times this argument arises whenever a story of sexual assault or rape happens, is that it never fails to disgust me.
Disgust as well mortifies me at how people could think this way. That as soon as a woman is brought forward about being sexually assaulted, people’s automatic response is to ask “Well, what was she wearing?”
As if that holds any kind of significance whatsoever. As if that held any weight on whether or not someone deserved to be killed or raped, because, news flash, nobody deserves to go through that. Ever.
Regardless of how the victim was acting, speaking, or how they were dressed, no one deserves to go through that. No one deserves to be shunned for how they came across, but instead, the only people who do deserve to be shunned and given consequences to are those who thought it would be a marvelous idea to commit sexual assault and rape in the first place.
You’d think with how far we’ve already progressed in today’s society, with it being 2021 and all, is that this is something we shouldn’t even have to debate about.
It’d be more understandable to debate whether or not Burger King is better than McDonald’s, but debating whether or not a girl deserves to be sexually assaulted based on what she is wearing? Really? That’s still something worth debating about?
Because if we look at the bigger picture here, this debate would have instantly been disclosed if everybody just set aside their prejudices, biases, and subjectiveness and for once, let it sink in that despite who the person is or what they were doing, is that no one deserves to be raped.
To set aside your conservatism and traditions, to set aside what you were led to believe on how a woman should act or dress. Or, in layman’s terms —
Quit your stupid misogyny.
This wouldn’t have been an issue at all, an argument specifically. But truth be told, this dispute is correlated to that of a deeper systematic issue that ties with sexism and how men have been granted power in all aspects of their lives since the start.
How women were taught to be more vigilant, more modest, and more demure at the expense of not being killed or disrespected by men as if the impunity that men have been granted with is women’s fault.
How women were forced to carry the burden of being cautious in their day-to-day lives instead of dismantling this “Boys will boys.” narrative in order to justify one’s ignorance.
That instead of telling girls to stop dressing or acting a certain way, how about you instead tell these boys to not be rapists? So you know, girls and women won’t have to adjust to societal conformity and restrictions in order to protect their well-being?
I tried so hard to figure out how this argument even came to be, why anyone would think this was valid. Of course, I know all of this goes back to a long-lasting patriarchal rule with men asserting their power and society perpetually allowing them, but I wanted to go way deeper.
As in the psychological kind. Of course, it’s no mystery why men would defend other men when they commit sexual assault, due to complicity and this unspoken pact between them that even despite acts of malice and violence, is that said perpetrator who initiated it probably had the right to do so as long as they are male.
“Because he’s a man, that’s my brother right there, and I’m obviously going to project my need for power onto other men despite the crimes that they have committed.” is what I would assume a man is thinking about when he decides to willingly defend either a male rapist or abuser.
Because isn’t that was abuse and sexual assault all stem from? The need for dominance? Because men have always been granted power, whether it would show discreetly or not.
By handing them power, it doesn’t always have to be direct handouts, the fact that you dismiss cases like this by blaming the women first is already giving men that advantage. You validate them, dismiss what their fellow men are doing. And as Abraham Lincoln said, if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.
Now, society isn’t primarily made up of men, now is it? Of course, women have just as much say in this than those of their male counterparts.
Now, this is where the narrative starts to become a bit depressing because you’d think that when a woman gets sexually assaulted, is that other women would stand up for her.
Defend her, console her, tell her it’s not her fault nor will it ever be her fault.
But sadly, that isn’t always the case. A lot of the time this ongoing stigma still continues because women also partake in the unwanted scrutiny of what a woman is wearing, what she was doing preceding the crime, as well as her relations with the man.
I tried so hard figuring out why other women would feel the need to think this way without feeling resentful and bitter because I couldn’t wrap my head around it.
For them to think in such a manner despite weighing the harmful implications of their words and the aftermath of what defending men like this would do to them.
In the end, as much as I hated thinking about it, all of this stemmed from women wanting validation from men. It always does.
Because in times where men question the credibility of a woman’s story when she steps forward about being sexually assaulted by asking what she was wearing or how she was acting or what location she was in, they’ll take these specific but rather irrelevant details in order to compromise a narrative that completely isolates other women.
How do they do that? By coddling them so they could get away with harming them in the end.
They will criticize the woman’s appearance just so that the rapist will walk away unscathed, and also so that they could shift blame by praising another woman.
So that acts of sexual assault will continue to be swept under the rug, and they do that by telling other women “As long as you don’t act or dress the same way, it won’t happen to you. Because this only happens to women with horrible values and principles, who think it’s okay to dress that way, ergo, if you don’t act the same and be a good girl. This won’t happen to you.” Basically implying that the victims are the villains here because of how they dress.
It’s the way other men choose to pick their biases and impose them onto women, and women, being forced to submit to the ways of patriarchy, will eat this up in order to obtain said man’s approval. To appear better in their eyes.
So of course, they’ll shun the victims. Blame her for acting and looking seductive because a woman’s sexuality is only seen as desirable if dictated by men.
And this starts to become more and more prevalent in all aspects of a woman’s life. Whether it be sexual assault cases, or when a man cheats on a woman, the woman’s first reaction is to blame the woman first for how she corrupted her partner…
Instead of blaming her partner for cheating on her, in the first place.
Only so that you avoid letting men take accountability for their wrong-doings because we’ve been taught even at a young age that a man’s approval is the most valuable of them all.
Even in circumstances that include literal death and violence, we still feel the need to let men walk away without being given consequences for their crimes, it’s because even when they’re wrong, they’re still right. It’s because it was imposed on us that a man can never do anything wrong.
It’s always either how a woman acted or how a woman spoke. It’s never about the man’s own voluntary actions, that of which he could’ve repressed and disregarded.
Because let me tell you, if all men had the common decency to just, you know, not rape and be complete neanderthals, even if I walk out of the door right now, butt naked, is that I will not be raped.
Gawked at due to mortification, sure, but not raped. Because my body, or any other woman’s body for that matter, is her own. A woman’s body is not a sin, it is just her body.
Rape would not exist if there weren’t rapists, and rapists would not exist if we just don’t validate them even when they’re clearly in the wrong and let them walk away from their crimes unscathed. Because unless what you argue about truly inflicted pain, whether a man or a woman, there is no need to include that irrelevant factor.
The only time anyone should come forward about how a girl shouldn’t dress a certain way if she is underaged, but aside from that? What gives you the right to say that a young girl and or grown woman’s body and looks and how she dresses is deserving of sexual assault?
That goes out for all victims. Whether you are a man or a woman, no one deserves to be sexually assaulted and murdered. Regardless of what you are wearing, the only person deserving of consequences and scrutiny is the suspect. No one else, just them.
No victim is or will ever be asking for it.