Clothes aren’t consent.

Charlotte Airey discusses the relationship between clothing and consent, and why it's more important than ever to pay attention to these issues.

Charlotte Airey
24th March 2021
Image: Ella Williams

Tw: Sexual Assault

There are a lot of stigmas when it comes to the way girls dress, and it is so infuriating. This rhetoric was recently reinforced with the Sarah Everard tragedy. Many people online were saying “she did all the right things; she was wearing these clothes”. The clothes aren’t the issue and there is no such thing as the right clothes. Clothes aren’t consent.

Their body their choice! Simple as.

Women are judged every single day for what they wear, by all genders of all ages. I personally hate it, and witness it daily. I have a bigger chest than most and it doesn’t matter what I wear, the clothes can’t hide it and I have women and men constantly staring at my chest every time I leave the house. With middle-aged women frowning at me as if it’s my fault? How is this behaviour acceptable? Society has sexualised women to such a high degree that no matter what they wear this stuff can happen.

We have all been taught from a young age not to expose skin, or to wear short skirts or short dresses, and not to expose our stomachs or shoulders either. Girls have been sent home from school for wearing a skirt that isn’t knee length because its “unfair on male teachers”. Looking back, do we realise how strange that is? We should be able to dress how we want. Obviously school uniform is different, but it’s still such an odd and harmful rhetoric to enforce.

Clothes have never been the issue, assaulters have always been the issue and always will be.

There is even an issue with ‘modest dressing’. Women who dress modestly will be called ‘frigid’. Muslim women who wear Niqabs, Hijabs, Burqas, Chadors or dupattas will be harassed and questioned especially, by people asking if they are being forced to wear that or questioning why they dress that way. Their body their choice! Simple as. Though there is certainly no issue with modest dressing, people can dress in any way they want to. But the harassment never stops.

AP Photo/Matt Dunham

I wish we lived in a world where clothes weren’t a part of whether you can leave the house and feel safe or not. I don’t even see why that is a part of society and a part of growing up. Clothes have never been consent and yet there has always been an issue with sexual assault. These issues have stood the test of time. Clothes have never been the issue, assaulters have always been the issue and always will be. We should not have to dress a certain way out of societally-instilled fear.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised or wish to speak to someone here are some helpful sites to visit, and please reach out: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/guides-to-support-and-services/abuse/sexual-abuse/ https://www.ncl.ac.uk/wellbeing/supportservices/sexualharassmentandviolencesupport/#svlos

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AUTHOR: Charlotte Airey
Politics Student @ NCL Uni

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