Jeans or short skirt, we still wanted it

// 9 May 2010

Trigger warning – victim blaming.

An Australian woman saw the man she accused of rape walk free last week because his defence lawyer asserted that her jeans were too skinny for the accused to have removed them without her help. The jury accepted the argument that she must have been “assisting, collaborating, consenting.” It’s a sickening and frightening twist on the old short skirt defence, and completely fails to acknowledge that even if she had removed her jeans (which she denies), the removal of clothing is in not synonymous to giving consent to sex.

This really highlights what feminists have been repeating over and over again for decades: trying to prevent rape by limiting women’s freedom of dress, movement or association cannot and will not stop rape. Skirt or trousers, defence lawyers and rape apologists will still find a way to blame the victim, and trying to play by their rules cannot and will not keep us safe.

Comments From You

saranga // Posted 9 May 2010 at 6:36 pm

*feels sick*

Josie // Posted 9 May 2010 at 6:51 pm

Me too, saranga. With this news, and the verdict in the Jack Tweed trial, it feels like open season on rape victims. Sometimes it feel like we have made no progress at all. Lots more work to do…

Politicalguineapig // Posted 9 May 2010 at 7:01 pm

D*mn straight. This is why I urge women not to trust the legal system. Going through the legal system will ensure that the victims will be screwed. The only justice is the one you administer yourself.

aimee // Posted 9 May 2010 at 8:21 pm

Political Guinea Pig: I have a feeling that loads of people are gonna get rather uppity about your comment so before they do, I just want to say that I think you’ve got the right idea. Women are expected to be benign and non threatening and just take this shit. I think people need to start fighting back. If men are going to make rape a problem, we should give them a problem right back.

FeminaErecta // Posted 10 May 2010 at 9:48 am

I am also sickened by this, but don’t really agree with Politicalguineapig that you should take the law into your own hands, the justice system failed this woman, and many many others, but it is the justice system that needs to change and our efforts should surely be focussed on that, rather than advocating viglante violence.

Lou // Posted 10 May 2010 at 1:58 pm

Oh I agree with politicalguineapig… The system will just laugh in your face. Time and again, this laughter getting worse as gradually rape culture intesifies. Women have to take justice into their own hands. Even older women judges seem to penalise a young girl for ‘asking for it’. So much for the sisterhood -if you’re a young woman take justice into your own hands cos the world and its justice system hates you…

Feminists should take everything into their own hands.. Don’t look to the media or courts to be enlightened by feminism. Break the shakles off yourself – campaign in the streets, throw an egg or goo at a rapist who walks free – noisily disrupt the whole show of a comedian who makes a joke about rape by coughing all the way through.

Take the fight into your own hands.

angercanbepower // Posted 10 May 2010 at 2:01 pm

I hate to write what will inevitably be read as the pro-rape comment, but I do feel I need to point this out, especially because I’ve seen other blogs make this point:

‘…and completely fails to acknowledge that even if she had removed her jeans (which she denies), the removal of clothing is in not synonymous to giving consent to sex.’

This is true, but irrelevant. Whether or not she consented to removing her jeans is pertinent not because it indicates consent to sex, but because she told the court that she did not consent to removing her jeans.

Of course this doesn’t mean the idea that her jeans could only have been removed with her consent is reasonable. I find it shocking that a jury could rule on this basis alone (although as ever with legal issues reported in the press, we don’t have enough details to know if they did).

Laura // Posted 10 May 2010 at 6:49 pm

@ angercanbepower – That’s a fair point. But this defence has been used and no doubt will be used in different cases and different contexts, so I wanted to highlight why it’s shoddy regardless of this specific context.

Hannah // Posted 10 May 2010 at 8:22 pm

Whether or not she consented to removing her jeans doesn’t seem that relevant to finding out if she was raped, since it doesn’t take a huge stretch of the imagination to think that she might have removed them herself under threat of other physical violence. I couldn’t believe from the link that this excuse has been used in multiple trials – as a lot of you have said, can’t say it gives me much confidence in the legal system.

Shea // Posted 10 May 2010 at 9:10 pm

This is sickening.

And what garbage is this?

‘…and completely fails to acknowledge that even if she had removed her jeans (which she denies), the removal of clothing is in not synonymous to giving consent to sex.’

Its perfectly possible to remove jeans even skinny from someone even when they are struggling. Hell they do it in hospitals all the time! Is this the best they can come up with?!?

Actually I’ve heard this before. There was a case in Italy where the ruling was exactly the same, that the woman must have consented as she was wearing jeans and you can remove them without the wearers help. Total nonsense.

It just seems increasingly that any tenuous reason is permitted to excuse a rape.

Perhaps the only believable rape victim is a dead one.

Horry // Posted 10 May 2010 at 9:31 pm

I was sexually assaulted while wearing a long dress. My assailant (a stranger) was never caught, but when I made my statement the policewoman interviewing me did ask whether it could be “all that easy” to lift up such a long outfit – just because, she said, that’s the kind of thing they’d wonder about in court. So perhaps it is more common that you’d think. Frankly, I’ve no idea how easy or difficult it was for my attacker to push aside my clothes. I only knew what I’d experienced myself, and before the attack I’d never have thought it could be that hard to even move through sheer terror. It would seem to me very easy to do all sorts of things when someone is paralysed with fear. But as long as women are required to respond to something as extreme as sexual assault “normally”, I guess we’ll always be seen to be “assisting, collaborating, consenting”.

Politicalguineapig // Posted 11 May 2010 at 6:08 am

FeminaErecta: Yes, the legal system will change eventually, but we are living in the current legal system. I’d rather have justice now.

If enough women start taking the law into their own hands, maybe some bright young thing will goose the legal system so rape victims won’t have to go on trial anymore. But I don’t trust ifs or people all that much.

coldharbour // Posted 12 May 2010 at 5:08 pm

‘D*mn straight. This is why I urge women not to trust the legal system. Going through the legal system will ensure that the victims will be screwed. The only justice is the one you administer yourself.’

Hey P, sorry if I don’t trust you and your anti-rape revolutionaries because history has taught us many things about hegemonic violent movements to cure social ills. This is in fact is the same ethos (regarding countering oppressive violence) I heard from my so called ‘Republican minded’ friends when I was growing up. No one argued that the Brit’s weren’t responsible for terrorizing or brutalizing the Catholic community, unfortunately it does not take long for the violently oppressed to put on the violent oppressors clothes. What was once a morally noble anti-colonial movement soon became a collection of worthless thugs getting high on beatings. Once you start to use violence as a tool for change you start to become unaccountable, after all, if someone disagrees with you all you have to do is crush them with the first. As the late Howard Zinn said ‘One certain effect of war is to diminish freedom of expression. ‘. A great man indeed, still miss him.

Anna // Posted 29 June 2010 at 5:54 pm

One would presume that this woman was able to remove her own jeans unassisted at the end of the day, so why shouldn’t the attacker be able to do it without help?

It is, in fact, probably much easier for a second person to remove these type of jeans as it would involve a pulling and not pushing action, which is far more powerful. If I’m wearing tight jeans or long boots I often ask my boyfriend to help by pulling them off!

Not only is pulling jeans off easier but you would also assume that the average male is going to be physically stronger than the average female and this will also make their efforts more effective also.

Have Your say

To comment, you must be registered with The F-Word. Not a member? Register. Already a member? Use the sign in button below

Sign in to the F-Word

Further Reading

Has The F-Word whet your appetite? Check out our Resources section, for listings of feminist blogs, campaigns, feminist networks in the UK, mailing lists, international and national websites and charities of interest.

Write for us!

Got something to say? Something to review? News to discuss? Well we want to hear from you! Click here for more info

  • The F-Word on Twitter
  • The F-Word on Facebook
  • Our XML Feeds