Men will tell you that a short skirt makes it okay to touch a woman’s body. Men will tell you that a low cut shirt gives them a right to look at your breasts. Even more men will suggest that hanging out late on a weekend night, intoxicated, and in public opens a young woman up to be sexually assaulted by any guy who happens upon her. What most men won’t say is that these aspects of “toxic masculinity” are evidence of the pervasiveness of rape culture rather than an effort to keep women “respectable.”
In a recent interview with Rev Run and Tyrese Gibson for their new show on OWN, Amber Rose discussed how rape culture has socialized many men to believe that they have a right to sex with a woman based on her clothes.
Tyrese compared how a woman dresses to a basketball player who is “known for playing basketball.” He suggested that, when you see them, you can just assume they are down to play a game of b-ball. He also suggested that men who try to touch and grope women do so because of “an energy that creates that type of response.” This “energy” is apparently created by clothes.
Rev Run cosigned Tyrese’s words noting the popular respectable phrase, “dress how you would like to be addressed.” Both men were using respectability — the suggestion that clothing or some other outside characteristic should determine how one is to be treated by men and others — to justify the use of unwanted sexual and physical advances against women. It’s ironic, because they’d probably both agree with the phrase, “The clothes don’t make the man.” So, clearly, this is about more than just dressing the part.
Rose handled it well suggesting that this is precisely how society trains young men and women to interact. Her words were spot-on and can be seen in so many other situations. The most recent of which were an audience member telling actress and model Meagan Good to “cover up” to be a better Christian. Or, Warriors point guard Stephen Curry’s wife Ayesha Curry’s comments on Twitter about dressing “classy over trendy” and keeping the “good stuff” covered. These comments, while they seem small, are a part of the pathological commitment many people have to misogyny, sexism, and rape culture. They continue in a long line of thought which blames women for the abuse they face at the hands of men while never really holding men accountable for anything. This isn’t just about respectability. It’s also about power over women’s bodies.
These types of narratives uphold the idea that clothes not only give permission for men to pressure women into sexual encounters but also that they prevent it. This is how people come with the phrase, “well, maybe if she wasn’t wearing that revealing dress, he wouldn’t have thought it was okay to touch her.” The idea that clothing can do anything besides keep a person warm is silly. But, when interlaced with sexism, and misogyny, it is even clearer that this discussion is so much deeper than clothes.
Overall, I am glad Amber Rose made it clear that consent is just that: consent. That Rev Run and Tyrese Gibson were so clueless on the matter is evidence that rape culture isn’t limited by age, class, or status. This just makes it that much harder to dismantle.
Watch the interview below: