Let me start off by stating the most obvious: rape is nobody's fault than the rapist's - and the death sentence for a rapist is letting him off easy, if you ask me, he should be castrated first. Choosing to pin a woman down and physically and emotionally violate her, to take from her by force, is the worst crime a man can commit and it takes an utterly heinous mind to make that choice, and honestly when someone goes 'oh maybe it was because of something she did' as though it was a justification of the act, I just get all:
Having said that, I realized something important today while talking to a friend in college. We were on the lawn soaking up the faint afternoon sunlight which is so rare this winter, and we started talking about what we could possibly do if hypothetically three men tried to attack one of us while we were walking down a pavement.
I live in Delhi - so this wasn't exactly the 'if you were on an island in the middle of nowhere'-sorta hypothetical situation. Women get raped all the time, women were being abducted and attacked in this city long before the infamous gang-rape case was blown up by the media. Because we were talking about what-we-could-do in reality, it all came down to real preventive measures. My friend raised the issue of clothing.
At first, I reacted the way almost every woman in my social circle would react to this - a woman should be able to wear whatever the hell she wants, why should clothing ever factor into a possible rape situation? The problem is with the man - it's with the culture - it's with society's mindset - it's with the law - etcetera etcetera. She agreed with all this too.
After a long discussion however, I came to realize something that hadn't occurred to me before. When it comes to real life preventive measures, and trying to make yourself least vulnerable to an attack - clothing does matter. Firstly, I am talking strictly in Delhi-terms here, because the problem is very real and current here, the stats are such that most girls I know feel there is easily at least a 40% chance they could get attacked on the way home today. Second, I am talking of rape by a stranger, not domestic issues. Thirdly, please don't confuse this notion with the notion that 'if women dressed conservatively, they wouldn't get raped' - these two are different notions, entirely. The terrible ugly bottom line is that women will get raped, and one woman would have worn a short skirt, the other a long unflattering gown, one would have been married, the other single, one may have been a teenager, another a child, another an old lady, one would have gone out with her boyfriend, another with her girl friends, another alone -- and rape would have had no logic and made victims of them all.
In the same vein, I think that though we can never reduce our vulnerability to these animals in the streets to a minimum zero level -- there are still precautions that, if you're lucky, could reduce your chances, at least by some degree. A psychologist (I spoke to one in particular, for a sexual-harassment project I was a part of) suggested that psychologically, a very drunk man (whose sexual desire is consequently at its peak... FYI, drunk men make a considerable percentage of rapists), or a man in search of forced-sex - in several cases, looks for an easy target: meek individuals, easy to overpower, and whose clothing looks easy to rip off (this last point along with other pointers is making the rounds lately on a popular Facebook post), and he also stated that little or scanty clothing can heighten and enthuse this drunk or violent, horny man's perverse cravings.
Now, this is obviously not an ideal solution -- far, far from it. You could dress like an ugly hobo and just bump into the wrong crowd - and because these animals are senseless, they could just rape you for the fun of it. There is no easy escape - and in the long run, the main root of the rape problem is made of societal mindset, culture and patriarchy. Fixing these problems is the ideal solution. But this is not an ideal world. It's end-of-days shit when children are being raped and women are gang-raped and others watch and do nothing. So till we, one day, hopefully, manage to tackle the true heart of this issue - it is important not to blind ourselves from reality with rhetoric. It's true that it does not even make sense to try to curb the potential victim's actions instead of the criminal's -- but shall I tell you what else doesn't make sense? The fact that Jyoti, the young medical student got gang-raped in a bus, and her male friend was attacked by iron rods - the fact that apparently (according to my Indian colleague), some of these men here in India, are more prone to sexually attack a woman because she is travelling with a man - a boyfriend or husband, because it suggests she is 'open' to sexual behaviour.
Till we manage to cage these animals, I think it is a very stupid thing to do to kid ourselves into thinking that wearing a low-neck blouse and small skirt and travelling by foot in the evening -- or even in the daytime if you're in a high-rape-rate city like Delhi -- does not at all affect your chances of being attacked by a horny, drunk savage or a group of them. Yes, it is completely fucked up that we - the women, should ever have to reassess our clothing, when the real problem comes from these rapists. But till we find a way, God help us, to get rid of rapists, to communicate with these wild, horrible creatures - don't be foolish. Don't be foolish enough to throw caution to the wind and think you are doing a great thing by exercising your freedom and liberality by wearing little clothing when you don't have to, in a city where girls fall victim at random every day. This is definitely no guarantee, and certainly not the fix to the rape problem, but it is a temporary preventive measure. I think this is a good wake up call for all of us, a necessary jolt to our repugnant society's senses: How did we get here? To this point where our daughters must wonder if their sense of wardrobe is more or less likely to attract rapists?