*Trigger warning*: The following article discusses the overall topic of sexual assault.
Whether you have been sexually harassed or catcalled in the streets, at home, or even at school, firstly know that it is not your fault and you were not “asking for it”. Secondly, your clothing choices are not a stand in for consent. Consent must be verbal, and should be communicated openly and enthusiastically by all parties involved. Consent cannot be given by individuals who are underage, intoxicated or incapacitated by drugs or alcohol, or asleep or unconscious. Therefore clothing is not a form of consent.
I personally have been affected by this backwards way of thinking dating back to when I was eleven years old. I remember being in middle school and being stopped on my way to class by male teachers to perform the fingertips test, to see if my skirt or shorts were longer than my finger tips. The sad truth is that I am not alone in experiencing this, millions of girls and now women can attest to being victims of dress code misconduct across America in public schools.
Naturally I took to TikTok to hear first hand stories from Gen Z and Gen Alpha on this topic.
This woman speaks on why dress codes and clothing policing is toxic.
I was horrified to see that because this girl was wearing ripped jeans, she was forced to put duct tape on her skin to cover the rips.
What educators, co-workers, bosses, or anyone in a position of power, especially those supervising minors, needs to remember is that clothing cannot be suggestive. Clothing does not imply that you are seeking attention, clothing cannot express any form of communication.
In my experience attending public school in grades K-12, and according to the NWA center for sexual assault, dress codes and clothing policing are mainly directed at girls and women and those who identity as female. The thought among administrators, and frankly our U.S. justice system is that if a girl or woman shows too much skin, it will distract the boys or men around her, and lead them to make sexual advances, based on her clothing choices.
But here is why this thought process is victim blaming, and holds no accountability for the perpetrator. If women can control themselves and show respect to the opposite gender, why can’t men? Statistics from RAINN, (rape, abuse, incest national network) show that every 73 seconds an American is sexually assaulted. According to NSVRC, (national sexual assault resource center) among those victims 1 in 6 will be women, 82% of which are minors, and 1 in 33 will be men.
Victim blaming is the idea that a victim was partially or fully responsible for what happened. This way of thinking sexualized our country’s youth and traumatizes them at such a young age when they should be focusing on education, not being removed from class and sent home for wearing a tank top and ripped jeans.
On change.org there are over 100 petitions to end sexist dress codes in public schools across America, if this isn’t a plea for justice from our country’s next generation of leaders, then I don’t know what is.
Clothing is not consent, not now, not ever. If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault, misconduct, or rape utilize the National Sexual Assault Hotline which is open 24/7 and free to use, https://www.rainn.org/resources.