Cath Elliott busts a rape myth
As part of the We Believe You campaign, our guest bloggers bust a different rape myth each day. Join Cath Elliot to find out why this rape myth is ridiculous and how it's holding victims back.
MYTH: Women provoke rape by their appearance or their behaviour
The idea that women somehow 'provoke' rape by the clothes they wear or the way they behave not only does a massive injustice to the survivors of rape and sexual violence, it's also a huge insult to men.
This ridiculous argument, if you can call it that, is one of the most prevalent of all the rape myths, and serves not only to police women's appearance and behaviour in the public sphere, but to place the blame for rape and other crimes of gendered violence firmly on the victims rather than on the perpetrators of these crimes. This rape myth is all about victim blaming: it's also a complete nonsense.
To believe that by going out dressed 'inappropriately' in short skirts and/or other revealing clothes, women manage to arouse men to such a state of sexual excitement that the men then have no other option but to rape, presupposes that men are no better than animals; it implies that they have no control over their penises or over their behaviour, and that they're ruled entirely by their knobs.
The reality of course is that the vast majority of men are perfectly capable of controlling themselves and of behaving appropriately around women, and that the only people who are responsible for rape are those men who make the conscious decision to rape - in other words rapists.
Rape is about power and control, not about sexual attraction, and so what women wear and how they behave is completely irrelevant. Women are targeted for their vulnerability, not for their attractiveness: in fact women of all ages, from the very young to the very old, are subjected to rape and sexual violence, so physical appearance doesn't even come into it.
This rape myth also implies that women invite rape and sexual violence: that women dress themselves up, put on makeup or whatever, and go out almost with the express intention of being raped. But as the recent Rape Crisis Scotland campaign makes clear, there is no such thing as an 'invitation to rape'. No woman asks to be raped or 'deserves what she gets,' no matter what she wears, how much she has to drink, or whether she flirts with a man or not.
There's also an implication in this rape myth that women have a means by which they can protect themselves from rape. So for instance if women provoke rapists to rape by going out looking and behaving like the Daily Mail's worst nightmare, then surely if they were to dress more demurely and not drink to excess they'd be safe?
Of course they wouldn't. The rapist made his decision to rape long before his victim chose her outfit, and whether she'd opted for a bikini or a burka, his decision to rape would have remained the same.
Rape myths are exactly that; they're myths, and they have no basis in reality. They help perpetuate a culture in which women are shamed for their appearance and behaviour, and in which they're blamed for the crimes committed against them. These myths do nothing more than get rapists off the hook, and condone the rape and sexual violence that is endemic in our culture.
So it's time to challenge these myths, and to send the message to survivors that no matter how you were dressed, or how you behaved, it wasn't your fault. We know it was rape, we know who's really to blame and, most importantly, We Believe You.