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Consent and Underwear

by Beth Divine 19 Dec 2018

The Irish court system is suffering yet another trial by media in recent days, this time because of the appalling case that has seen an underage (seventeen is legal, but not thought to be fully adult just yet) girl lose a rape case because the defending lawyers used the fact that her underwear was lacy and pretty as a sign that she ‘must have’ wanted something to happen… It is sickening and abhorrent that this should have been permitted into court proceedings at all, never mind to sway the result of the case. Although Ireland does, sadly, still seem to adhere to old, patriarchal notions about women, their behaviour and their bodies and who, exactly, should have control over these… (Psst, I’ll give you a clue, Irish legal system – all people should have control over their own bodies, how about that?)

Onto the specifics. The girl was out, met the man, he wanted sex. She said no, he said yes, and sex was had. Now, there is a misconception that rape must always result in injury and bruises, that if she just lies back, doesn’t say anything or very much, or even that if she asks that a condom be used, that it becomes consensual. No! I’ll say that again – no. Any form of sex where consent is not confirmed might be rape. For example: ‘I really want to fuck you!’ ‘Me too! Where can we go, I can’t wait?’ this is an example of clear and enthusiastic consent. Which, by the way, can be withdrawn at any point in the next minutes. ‘I really want to fuck you.’ ‘Omg, no.’ Walk away. Soothe your ruffled feathers with a soft drink, a dance with a mate, or head home and cry into your pillow. So far, so clear. Here’s another: ‘Hey, babe, wanna hang out?’ He means fuck. ‘Uh, okay, I guess?’ She does NOT know what he means, she is agreeing to spend clothed time with him, chatting, and maybe having a drink and/ or some food. Should he pounce on her, assuming consent – this is rape. And another: ‘Hey babe, wanna hang out?’ He means ‘fuck’ and she knows it. ‘Yeah, okay.’ They begin kissing and he is maybe a bit rough with her, does not have a condom, or does something that makes her feel very uncomfortable, so she says, ‘Uh, hey? Stop, I don’t want-’ It doesn’t matter how the conversation ends, as soon as she says ‘stop’, that’s it, consent has been withdrawn.

Please note, none of the above examples mentioned anyone’s clothing, appearance or anything else that is not a known and acceptable method of signalling intent to fuck! The knickers someone is wearing should certainly never be considered a sexual flag, because no clothing should be considered a sexual flag, but especially so because knickers are underwear. They are worn under other clothing, and what the knickers look like are between the wearer and herself! Wearing pretty, sexy underwear is not an indication of sluttiness, of willingness to be fucked, or of anything other than the wearers desire to wear those knickers at that time!

But even if the girl was looking to hook up at that time, there is nothing to say that that man, her rapist, was permitted to decide that he was the one who was going to be the hook up. That she is being blamed for the actions of this much older, presumably much stronger (physical gender differences cannot be denied!) and presumably much bigger man, just goes to show how much work feminism and equality have still to do.