Brittney Headshot.jpeg

The notion that clothing can determine consent is a harmful and dangerous myth that has been perpetuated for far too long. While it may seem like a simple idea, the implications of this myth are far-reaching and damaging. Not only does it suggest that someone's clothing choices can justify unwanted sexual advances or assault, but it also promotes victim-blaming and rape culture.


It is important to note that there is no evidence to support the idea that clothing correlates with an increased likelihood of sexual assault. Many studies, including these research statistics gathered by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN),  have shown that most sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the victim, regardless of what they wear. Furthermore, many victims of sexual assault were wearing modest or conservative clothing at the time of their attack, especially in countries outside of the United States. Eight out of ten adult assault/rape survivors know the perpetrator, and 93% of juvenile assault/rape survivors also know their perpetrator (according to the statistics given by RAINN*).


The idea that clothing can determine consent is particularly harmful to women, who are often judged and criticized for their clothing choices. People should be able to wear whatever they want without fear of sexual harassment or assault. It is not the responsibility of the victim to prevent their assault by dressing a certain way. The What Were You Wearing Exhibit, which debuted at the University of Arkansas on March 14, 2013, displays clothing that survivors wore during their sexual assault or rape, along with a quote from the survivor about the situation. Clothing displayed has included scrubs, sweatsuits, children’s costumes, workout clothing and jeans. To view some of the 2023 collection, visit this link


In addition to perpetuating victim-blaming and rape culture, this myth can also be used to excuse perpetrators of sexual assault. If we buy into the idea that someone's clothing can determine their consent, we are essentially saying that the perpetrator is not entirely responsible for their actions. This is simply not true. Sexual assault is a conscious decision made by the perpetrator, regardless of what the victim is wearing.


It is also essential to recognize that the harmful myth that clothing determines consent is damaging not just to women but also to men. This myth perpetuates harmful gender stereotypes and reinforces the idea that men are uncontrollable sexual beings who cannot be held responsible for their actions. By suggesting that a woman's clothing choices can justify sexual assault, we also imply that men cannot control their urges and are not entirely responsible for their actions. This harmful and damaging stereotype contributes to toxic masculinity and can damage men's mental health and well-being. We must work to reject these harmful stereotypes and hold perpetrators of sexual assault accountable for their actions, regardless of gender.


In conclusion, we must reject the myth that clothing can determine consent. Instead, we must hold perpetrators of sexual assault accountable for their actions and support victims in their recovery. We must also work to create a culture where everyone can feel safe and respected, regardless of what they choose to wear. By doing so, we can eradicate the damaging effects of victim-blaming and rape culture and create a world where sexual assault is not tolerated.

*RAINN cites all of its sources and statistics at the bottom of the webpage, where you can go through all the data yourself. 


(1) comment


Excellent response, Brittney. Thank you for the helpful commentary!

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.