[TW for sexual assault, sexual harassment and victim blaming]
About two years ago, I was walking down the street with my then-boyfriend. I was wearing shorts and a tank top because it was fucking summer and it was hot and that's what you do when it's hot outside. As we were walking, some random dude yelled from the car, "You have a nice ass!" I expressed utter disgust and contempt, and as my then-boyfriend so lovingly mansplained to me, "Well, look at what you're wearing. What did you expect? Take it as a compliment."
In another incident, while I was studying abroad in London, I went to a beach-themed party in the student union. I wore a Hawaiian-print bikini top, a white button down shirt, unbuttoned halfway, and a pair of shorts. While dancing with a fellow student, he attempted to unbutton my shirt. When I told him no, he continued to do it anyway. I wound up asking two of my very good friends to escort me back to my room because I was afraid he was going to follow me; judging by what had just occurred, I already knew that he was hostile to the idea of consent.
In yet another incident, while I was walking to the train from my friend's house, some random guy whistled at me from his car and honked his horn while leering at me. I was wearing a tank top and shorts, again, because it was a hot summer day and that's what you do. When I told my current boyfriend, who wasn't yet my boyfriend at the time, he told me something similar to what my ex had told me, that I should take it as a compliment. Thankfully, at this point in time, he is well aware of why exactly it isn't a compliment, and I will reiterate the basic gist of it here: it is not a compliment because our clothes are not our consent.
I have heard SO many people say that if a woman dresses in what could be considered a skimpy or "slutty" way, she shouldn't complain if she is sexually harassed. Many men have stated that if a woman is scantily clad and refuses their attentions (aka harassment), then she is being a tease and she shouldn't dress that way, the idea being that she is dressing that way to get their attention and that, by doing so, she is automatically consenting to any and all sexual advances. First of all, telling women what they can and cannot wear, both via words and societal norms and "punishments", denies us the autonomy and agency to do what we wish. Secondly, it does not matter how a woman is dressed, nor does the reason she is dressed the way she is dressed; if she has not explicitly asked for a man's attention and/or if she has refused his advances for ANY REASON, then it is HIS responsibility to cease his behavior. Full stop.
What is particularly disheartening about this whole issue is that so many women blame their clothing for these incidents of sexual harassment that happen to them. As a matter of fact, I blamed my clothing for all of those events up until a few months ago. Even to this day, I still don't feel 100% comfortable going out wearing what many would consider a "skimpy" outfit without having at least one man around to "protect me." Unfortunately, that is exactly what society wants us to believe; it wants us to believe that we, and our clothes, are responsible for the behavior of the "men" around us (I place quotation marks there because I hesitate to call anyone who is hostile to consent a man). The idea is that men cannot control themselves and so it is up to us women to dress "appropriately" in order to help them control their erratic behavior; if we don't do so, then clearly it isn't the man's fault for misbehaving because he simply can't help it and we haven't done our job correctly. Unfortunately for society, more and more women are realizing that it is not their clothing that is to blame for sexual harassment; the people we need to blame for sexual harassment are the people who are hostile to consent. Just like the only common denominator in rape cases is a rapist, the only common denominator in sexual harassment cases is a harasser.
Keep this in mind: the people who don't have a problem continuing to verbally harass a woman are the same people who would have no problem with continuing to physically and sexually assault a woman long after she has said no. People who are hostile to consent in one arena of life do not suddenly agree with it in another arena.
This is exactly why sexual harassment is the fault of the perpetrators and not the victims. This is exactly why it should be taken more seriously.
And it is exactly why it shouldn't be taken as a compliment.