Clothing can say a lot about one’s personality, their interests, or the mood they’re in that day. Everybody knows the feeling when you wake up and have to let every person know you’re a big uni kid now, and what better way than wearing your high school leavers’ hoodie. But nowadays, the extent to which we assume someone’s intention because of their clothing has become skewed.
Sitting in my high school assembly hall, I remember my principal pacing the stage. It was an assembly for all seniors but directed only at Year 13 girls, those “privileged” with being able to wear mufti every day. However, as women with “developing bodies”, we were supposedly abusing this right. He was referring to wearing a singlet in temperatures upwards of 30 degrees in a classroom with no air conditioning. I understand there was a dress code. However, that was not the issue here. The issue was that, as young women, we were told to cover our bodies because the boys will become distracted. As if at the mere sight of a woman’s shoulder, they will spontaneously combust. The male students’ education was being placed above the comfort of the females in school, and yet being taught the act of self-control is deemed impossible. The argument also assumed that the young men present couldn’t control themselves and were expected to react to the sight of shoulders. All heteronormative, slut-shaming, victim-blaming, microaggressive bullshit.
Not only is this belief the foundation for dress codes but is a mindset being drilled into school kids, thus repressing conversations surrounding sexual assault or rape, resulting in the normality of the issue. In today’s party scene, influenced by alcohol, drugs and sex, people are being pushed far beyond their comfort zone. As a result, when surrounded by and participating in factors that can blur judgment, a person’s outfit is seen to be more than enough consent to sexual advances and activities. I’m confident everyone is aware of the assumption that if a person is putting obvious effort into their appearance by either wearing makeup or donning their only button-down shirt, they want to pull. As if a person can’t dress up for themselves; they must be looking for a mate.
This instinctive thought towards fellow partygoers is becoming the sole influence of unwanted sexual advances. Rape culture is becoming normalised as a result of people being unaware of how problematic this situation is. “Look at her clothes, she was asking for it” has become an excuse used one too many times in a courtroom as men try to justify why they raped an unconsenting victim. A short skirt is not consent. A tight t-shirt is not consent. A piece of clothing is not equivalent to consent.