Abi Titmus has already released a sex tape so there’s little else for her to do than flash a shaved pussy where a paparazzi would take a photo.
Kim Kardashian’s bikini ass on honeymoon Read On…
Kim Kardashian’s bikini ass on honeymoon Read On…
Of course women can wear what they like, just as the women enjoying the “SlutWalking” craze say we can. (Thanks.) Nevertheless, the task of divesting female costume of meaning is a hard, probably impossible, one, because humans have used clothing to make signals to other humans for a very long time. Uniforms, for example, are an explicit signal. If I were to don an orange fleece and stand in Sainsbury’s, I wouldn’t be surprised if people asked me where to find the hankies. Uniforms exist to declare a designation that is widely, even universally, understood. They tell people what they have a right to expect from the wearer.
Professional attire does not necessarily consist of an actual uniform. But, mostly, people understand certain gear to be suitable for work – suits, or at least smart-casual, for the conventional office, protective stuff that you don’t mind messing up for physical activity, a thong and fake tan if you’re a glamour model, and so on.
Ah, glamour models. What is difficult is that it is women who tend to do sex work, and sex workers have adopted clothing styles designed to signal this very specific type of availability. When women wear similar clothing in a private and personal capacity, it pains them when it is presumed to be a sex-work signal, or at least a reference to a sex-work signal. Well, it pains them unless that is what they intended, which is sometimes the case.
In July 2003, Abi Titmuss, a stand-by-your-man girlfriend, started attending the, later aborted, indecent assault trial of TV presenter John Leslie. She wore wee vests and short skirts, inspiring some commentators to wonder what her angle was. Leslie’s friend, the late Daily Mail columnist Lynda Lee-Potter, usually a great one for preserving conservative dress codes, was Titmuss’s most ardent defender, insisting she was simply dressing as modern young girls do in hot weather.
Well, maybe. But subsequent events support my theory that Titmuss was dressing for future success in sex work in the media, and got what she wanted. Why? Because it looks like a signal was sent out, through the agency of her clothing, and read in the intended way. The message wasn’t: “Rape me.” It never is. Even linguistically, that’s an absolute non sequitur. But the message was: “I’m keen to be desired, drooled over, fantasised about, wanked over.” The message was received, understood, and lucratively acted on. Who was wrong? Titmuss for sending the signal? Her colleagues-to-be for picking it up? None of them. They were all consenting adults, with shared ideas about what they were doing and why. They talked the same sartorial language.
What’s more, they were all in the business of promoting that sartorial language: “Look! This is how women who want to be thought of as sexually available present themselves.” Sure, just as donning an orange fleece doesn’t put you on the Sainsbury’s payroll, wearing a wee vest and a short skirt doesn’t make you a presenter on Television X (Titmuss’s first big job after court). But, if you really can’t see how requests for hankies can be an honest mistake, then perhaps the orange fleece is not for you.
Pretty much anyone realises that explicitly sexual images of sex-working women are available to the impressionable young, even before they start to seek them out deliberately. The offering of guidance on how they should negotiate this is now a pre-requisite of responsible parenting. I asked my 13-year-old son if he and his friends looked at porn on the web.
“But you know this stuff has nothing to tell you about women in real life?”
“Of course. I’m not stupid.”
I don’t think he was saying this just to please me. Only a tiny minority of men and boys are unable to tell the difference between the cues of the sex-fantasy lexicon, and those of the sex-reality lexicon. The SlutWalkerssay: “Stop telling me – Don’t get raped. Tell Men – Don’t rape.” I’m sorry, but that’s facile. Rape is a crime, with a minimum five-year sentencing guideline. That’s one of the ways in which men are “told” not to rape. If there are any men out there campaigning for rape to be decriminalised, I’d love to hear from them. But my understanding is that men universally support the designation of rape as a serious crime. Which is not to say that controversy over the clothing issue is unproblematic.
People hate it when rape is compared to theft, and wearing sex-signal clothing is compared to leaving your door unlocked. Right, sort of. Just as an unlocked door doesn’t alter the act of theft, a short skirt doesn’t alter the act of rape. Except in criminal, aberrant, or vulnerable minds. Let me rephrase the SlutWalk slogan: “Stop telling me – Don’t have the misfortune to encounter a criminal, aberrant, or merely vulnerable mind. Tell men – Don’t have criminal, aberrant, or merely vulnerable minds.” Job done? I don’t think so. It would be just dandy if life were so simple.
It is widely thought that inappropriate exposure to sexual images is a Bad Thing, even though the definition of “inappropriate exposure” is widely contested. Much worry focuses on the effect of, say, raunchy pop stars on little girls, and the clothes that their influence, allegedly, makes them want to wear. This week, The Bailey Report advised that Something Must Be Done. I haven’t read the report, and I’m commenting only on how others have reported it. The degree of focus on what little girls wear has been marked. I’ve even read hints that dressing children in “sexy” clothes encourages paedophiles, in an echo of Canadian policeman Michael Sanguinetti’s SlutWalk-inspiring advice that: “Women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised.” No one should be saying any of this. What little girls wear does not create paedophiles. What big girls wear does not create rapists.
No well-adjusted person should be unable to tell the difference between pornography and real life. No well-adjusted man or woman should be unable to tell the difference between the perverted thinking of a potential or actual sexual violator and the thinking that produces reasonable, sociable assumptions. Sanguinetti certainly can’t. And policemen and women who can’t are a particular and crucial problem.
But men, generally, are not the problem. Considering the flood of fantastical sexual messages they are fed by the media, they show themselves to be notably resilient and sensitive. That unlocked door? Hundreds or thousands will walk right past. But some bastard might come along who won’t. Door locked, door unlocked, burglary is burglary is burglary. And only burglars, by definition, commit it.