Modesty doesn’t prevent sexual assault

LINCOLN, Neb. (U-WIRE) — Women, if you are worried about rape and sexual harassment, Cheryl Lavin has some advice for you.
Her article, “The Politics of Skin,” which ran in the April 18 edition of the Chicago Tribune Magazine, encouraged women to dress and act modestly as a way to protect themselves.
“Read the paper,” Lavin advised women. “Rising instances of date rape, stalking, sexual harassment. Do you have to be an old-timer to wonder if it’s time for women to cover themselves up?”
Lavin doesn’t think it’s fair of women to flaunt their skin and body parts in front of men because men, of course, cannot help but stare. And if they don’t want to be assaulted by men, they shouldn’t entice them.
Well, she can try to present this modesty “movement” as some friendly advice to women, but it’s really the same story women have been hearing for years. And offering it in the fashion section of the Chicago Tribune Magazine doesn’t suddenly make it trendy.
Blaming the victim is tired. Sorry, Cheryl Lavin, but men don’t rape women or harass them or stalk them because they become so turned on by them that they just can’t help themselves. And if you can find some kind of relationship between the way women are dressed and their chances of being sexually assaulted, then you’re probably the first.
Women can cover their bodies, cross their legs and shut their mouths, but that won’t make rape go away. Rape and sexual harassment are about power and control. And it is time to stop presenting them as women’s issues and start addressing the source of the problem, which is the men who commit these crimes.
It is common knowledge banks are packed with money, but just try to rob one and then use the defense that the bank was asking for it because it presented too much of a temptation. No jury would let an excuse like that slide. But it sure seems to work well in rape trials.
Like Lavin, many people think men just can’t control themselves once their hormones start raging, and women should know exactly what kind of behavior and way of dressing will arouse men too much.
It’s about time we start giving both women and men more credit. Lavin implies that all men are capable of this kind of behavior if enraptured enough by women’s flesh, but most men don’t rape. Obviously, men are capable of a little more thought and compassion than Lavin gives them credit for. At the same time, she makes excuses for the men who are raping, sexually harassing and stalking women.
Lavin may think she has stumbled on a new concept for women to advance in a patriarchal society, but no matter how she dresses it up, she is really just reinforcing the status quo.

This staff editorial originally appeared in Thursday’s University of Nebraska Daily Nebraskan.