Yesterday it was announced by news outlets that a series of sexual assaults has been committed against women and girls in my age group in my neighbourhood over the past couple of weeks.
My heart immediately went out to the women who were attacked and I heaved a sigh of impotent frustration as I felt a little kernel of fear settle into my belly, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy my solitary walks home from Barreworks in quite the same carefree way for a while.
Inevitably, in came the emails and Facebook messages from concerned loved ones, kindly reminding me to be extra alert and aware of my surroundings and to protect myself and my girlfriends as much as possible.
In this particular situation, where it is known that someone seems to be targeting a specific demographic in a specific neighbourhood, it is helpful to be advised to consider taking any extra precautions that are possible.
But what exactly are the precautions to take against a man who approaches women from behind and assaults them? I’m lucky enough to live with a guy who is happy to meet and chaperone my walk home after dark and I can afford to shell out some money to take public transit most of the way home, and hopefully that limits my chances of being attacked by this/these particular rapist/s.
Not everyone is so lucky.
Fortunately, everyone’s favourite Toronto mayor’s niece has helpfully tweeted some positively foolproof advice for women hoping not to be raped: “Stay alert, walk tall, carry mace, take self-defence classes & don’t dress like a whore.”
Stay alert, sure.
At barely 5’2” I’m not sure how tall I can really walk. I guess I could dig out my platform heels?
I suppose I could carry mace, although it’s illegal to do so, and from what I’ve heard would be just as likely to harm me as any potential attacker.
I could (and have) taken a self-defence class, and sure, if I wasn’t paralyzed with fear I would do my darndest to fight someone off, but I have to admit, being smaller than some 10-year-olds, for me, successfully incapacitating a grown man would all come down to sheer luck.
Don’t dress like a whore.
Now that’s a tricky one. Are platform heels considered whorish? Probably by some. I guess I can cross “walk tall” off my list, then. Lipstick? A short skirt? A push-up bra? No bra? Nail polish? Ankles showing below my burqa?
And then of course there’s the fact that how you dress has NOT ONE GOD DAMNED THING TO DO WITH IT.
Rapists don’t lurk in the bushes waiting for a woman with just the right length of skirt to walk by. They attack people, regardless of what they are wearing because they want to feel power over another person or because they live in a society that says it’s ok to follow their basest instincts, to ignore a person’s right to be free from harm, where they know they’ll be forgiven because it is so commonly believed that by daring to leave the house and allow whatever random body part is fetishized in that particular region to show or almost show, a woman must secretly want to be attacked.
They will rape you because they are a rapist, because there is something wrong with them, not because there is something wrong with your outfit.
Don’t dress like a whore?
I’d be hard-pressed to imagine a more hideously ugly and just supremely stupid thing to say in the wake of such a disturbing wave of attacks.
So, to clear things up for any men who might be confused about how to tell if it’s ok to have sex with a woman, what you’re looking for is not, in fact, whorish clothing.
What you’re looking for is ENTHUSIASTIC CONSENT.
There is no excuse for rape.