Sexual Violence Analyzed Through the Lens of Dress Code

They deserved it. They were asking for it. If they did not want to be touched, they should have worn different clothes. Too often in this world do people make excuses for their behavior when it comes to sexual violence. And dress codes, while thought of as combative of this idea, is in fact counter effective in changing this mentality. Dress codes do not protect women, rather tell them that their bodies are to be sexualized should they put on a shirt that exposes their shoulders or bra straps or wear pants that are too tight around certain parts of their back and legs. Instilling these rules in elementary school only propagates young boys to believe that it is the girl’s responsibility to prevent sexual violence committed against her, as opposed to teaching the young boys that consent is the only permission that they use to justify sexual activity with another person.

Dress codes being implemented beginning in students’ younger ages instills the negative practices to which women are subjected almost every day. According to Berkeley Political Review, “While dress codes are established in elementary school and continue in high schools, they tend to be more heavily emphasized during teens’ awkward, pubescent developmental stages. Supposedly gender-objective dress codes are enforced in a way that entails a double standard, which ultimately favors males over females” (Yeung). The enforcement of the dress codes in school are inherently targeted against women, and reinforces the assumption that “‘boys will be boys’- the belief that men are naturally more impulsive in acting on their desires, hence, it is up to the ladies to save them the trouble” (Yeung). The logical reasoning behind this is flawed in every manner. Can the fault be on women’s shoulders when they are victims of sexual violence because it was up to the victim to stop the act by wearing clothes that covered all aspects of their body? Would the same be said for a murder victim? Doubtful.

Distractions are everywhere, for both boys and girls. To tell girls they are distracting because of their gender that they were assigned at birth is degrading let alone teaching boys that it is okay should they have a lack of self-control. According to an article written on the Anti-Violence Project, “When schools tell students to dress a certain way so they don’t “distract” others, they prioritize one gender’s education over another, shame the students, sexualize their bodies” (Serena). Not only do institutions instill this mentality into younger boys, making them think that their lack of self control driven behavior is normal, but it also instills this mentality into people who are in charge of protecting victims of sexual violence. These kinds of arguments build and contribute to the ongoing societal validation of sexual harassment and assault–they make it okay for police to say, “You shouldn’t have been wearing that, what did you think was going to happen?” (Serena).

Rape and sexual violence predates the times when mini-skirts, crop tops, or other “provocative” clothing became popular. This proves that rape and rape culture is not influenced by the clothes that victims wear and instead stems from a disturbed mentality that sexual violence towards women carries no issues.


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