Why clothes don’t equal rape: a reply to Maureen Messent

Someone was kind enough to comment on a previous post saying that I write in a calm and coherent way about feminism, “a topic that gets people a bit defensive”. I do try to avoid angry writing, because I’m keen to banish the stereotype that feminists are a bunch of ranting, frothing-at-the mouth manhaters.

However. As a feminist (never mind that, as a human), I sometimes encounter viewpoints so jaw-droppingly awful they provoke a visceral response in me. My two sure-fire routes to rage are 1) when people blame victims of sexual assault for their clothes/drinking alcohol and 2) when women bare their snarky claws and undermine other women. As I checked the news on my phone this morning, I had a delightful taste of both: a steaming pile of victim blaming, served up a deluded female journalist, Maureen Messent.

This article is truly the most hateful pile of crap I’ve seen this week, and that includes Nick Griffin’s Twitter feed. The contemptible human who wrote it manages, in only about 300 words, to undermine both men and women – all of humanity, in fact. In her twisted view of the world, women need to dress conservatively and not drink – otherwise, men (i.e. half of humanity) will predatorily pursue and sexually assault them.

I apparently have a much higher opinion of men in general than this woman, since I believe the vast majority of men out there are civilised human beings, capable of speaking to a woman in a tight dress without raping and pillaging her. The idea that women have to dress defensively, sartorially fending off an attack, is so breathtakingly insulting to men. It implies that instead of being rational people with their own thoughts and opinions, they are drooling gorillas, panting after then physically attacking the first woman who walks past in a short skirt.

A male student friend of mine was robbed of his phone walking back from the student union recently. He was alone, late at night, had a few drinks. Oddly enough, when he reported this crime no-one said to him “alone late at night, were you? Bit drunk? Well if you were drinking, that diminishes the responsibility of the man who robbed you. You should have taken better care of yourself”. The same logic applies to all victims of crime. Robbers, rapists, criminals of all kinds are on the look-out for an opportunity. So if a rapist is combing a bar looking for someone vulnerable, that means he’s a predator. It does not mean the victim (or intended victim) deserves to be raped.

Last summer, I was out for dinner and drinks with a friend when a man came up behind me in a bar and grabbed me by the vagina. I was wearing black jeans and a blouse, a bit see-through. I bought this blouse because it was similar to the one Lana del Rey wears on the front cover of her album Born to Die, and I thought it looked nice. My buying and wearing this blouse does not diminish the crime of the man who grabbed me. Maureen Messent would like to suggest, to me and other victims of more serious sexual assault, that this is my fault. Sorry Maureen, but I have this radical view whereby I think people who commit rapes are rapists, and the people who are raped are victims. Also, way to go, Maureen, for validating the small amount of men who commit these crimes. Because as long as idiots like you continue to publically blame victims of sexual assault, these predators are self-justified in their attacks.

“Of course there are sadistic men who leap from nowhere on sober and soberly-dressed virgins returning from evensong, but the majority – the vast majority – of women know their assailants.” – Maureen Messent


8 thoughts on “Why clothes don’t equal rape: a reply to Maureen Messent”

  1. The whole angry man-hating feminist stereotype is a classic case of patriarchal reversal: men think we’re angry at them because they’re angry at us for standing up to them. They claim that we hate them because they are projecting their own hate on to us.
    Women like Messent, who can’t or won’t understand the idea that women are oppressed as a class, angle for extra crumbs from the patriarchy by doing the their dirty work for them: in this case by trying to deflect blame away from those truly responsible.


  2. See, this? This makes me want to bang my head against the nearest available surface, because it’s so ridiculous that it should never have seen the light of day. Thank you for throwing the pretzel logic under a bus–I particularly liked how you compared rape to any other crime, and how you pointed out that no one really blames the victim of non-sexual assault or robbery for drinking. Excellent point, there.


    1. Thanks for commenting. I wasn’t going on write on this originally, but then changed my mind – think it’s important to call people out when they spout crap like this.

      This writer does seem to have a prediliction for peddling narrowminded vileness – this is an extract from another recent article: “Why aren’t the lunatic preachers, the mosque mutineers, the passive old imams all rounded up in times of terrorism and grilled until they can prove they are not implicated in treason?”

      Tolerant, yes?!



  3. Yes, this, exactly. First off, it’s not the 1920s, we’re used to seeing women in short skirts, it’s not madly provocative (whatever that means). Secondly, this idea that if a woman’s really horrendously drunk, she’s responsible for ‘leading a man on.’ What kind of arsehole wants to have sex with someone who’s falling down drunk? OK, someone who’s falling down drunk themselves, but I know that I’ve said ‘Nah you’re alright’ before when someone I fancied clearly wasn’t in a state to be making the right decision. And I would assume that men can too.

    On a lighter note, I really like your blog, good stuff.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s