On Modesty

20 Jul

I just read a blog post written by a woman who was sexually assaulted by an acquaintance of hers while at a party. It’s called near naked, and it’s a very powerful read.


And it, of course, got me thinking. About being female and what that means in our society.

This woman was at a black-tie event, wearing a dress that she describes as “black, knee-length, well-tailored and a bit low-cut.”

The man came up to her and said, “I didn’t know you had that body under there. Why don’t you wear things like this more often?”

Okay, fine. 

Then he dragged her to a back room and attempted to rape her. She managed to escape, and then an hour later, he did it again. Luckily, her friend saw and was able to stop him as he was pulling her into the back room once again.

That is so clearly not okay. Ever.

She dressed in a revealing, form-fitting dress. He took that to mean she wanted sexual advances. You want to know something that people never seem to talk about in these sort of conversations?

She probably did.

I’m not victim-blaming in any sense of the phrase. I know that when I put on an outfit that I know I look good in, I do it because I want to look good. I want people – guys – to think I look attractive. 

That means I want to be flirted with, not that I want to be raped.

The woman who wrote that post doesn’t mention a boyfriend. I’m not her, but I would guess there’s a pretty decent chance she put on her dress and makeup that evening thinking maybe she would meet a guy at this fancy party. And obviously she would want him to think she looked sexy. Maybe she would even want to sneak off into a back room with him.

But not with this guy. 

So yeah, she was giving off a message with her outfit. The message that she wanted to be seen as a sexual being. From the greeting her assaulter gave her – “why don’t you wear things like this more often?” – she doesn’t usually dress provocatively. She wanted to show off her femininity.


We shouldn’t have to, in these arguments, act like women wear short skirts, tight dresses, low-cut tops with no intention of receiving attention from men. I would venture that 99% of the time, we wear them because we want that kind of attention. But we want it respectfully.

No one ever puts on an outfit thinking, “gosh, it would just be awesome if someone made unwanted sexual advances towards me today and then physically forced himself on me when I was clearly uninterested.”

Not once, not never.

Near the close of her essay, she writes, “In believing that I am a smart, strong woman, do I automatically forfeit my right to be proud of my body, to feel sexy, to feel wanted?”

I sure hope not.


2 Responses to “On Modesty”

  1. ianmulligan08 August 3, 2013 at 5:13 am #

    We all want compliments on how we look and I agree with you. As a man just because I see a woman wearing something someone might call provocative does not mean that she is looking for sexual advances. I imagine as a woman it takes an incredible amount of confidence to wear to something that is form fitting and low cut. In society women are judged so heavily on how they look and there is a constant onslaught of this is in the media. I think that a majority of the time a women will draw unwanted sexual advances. In attempt to look good, feel beautiful, sexy and confident they might draw unwanted advance.

    It is one thing to give a flattering comment and tell a friend or a woman how good she looks in whatever she is wearing. It is another to be sexually explicit and say something that makes your friend or that woman uncomfortable. Then to make an advance when it is not welcomed is unacceptable. Women want attention, respect and of course they want to be flirted with. As you said you put on the outfit to not only look good, but you want “people — guys – to think I look attractive.” Completely understood from my perspective where you are coming from. Sadly, a lot of guys just are not going to get it.

  2. Erin July 22, 2012 at 10:01 am #

    I meant to reply earlier but then got busy…anyways though awesome post! In my Psych of Women class we looked at research done on rape/sexual assault that found the vast majority of assailants don’t remember what their victim was wearing. The researchers went on to explain that they believed that attackers weren’t going after women because of how they were dressed, but instead they were simply taking advantage of situations where they could overpower them without others noticing. However, much of society continues to victim blame instead of looking at the real issue which is dealing with assailants. Instead of teaching “don’t get raped” we should be teaching “don’t rape”

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