All graphics by Hana Shafi, @Frizzkidart
According to statistics provided by SACHA, there are 460,000 sexual assaults in Canada every year. Only 5 % of survivors report to the police. The problem is a lot of people take sexual assault out of the conversation and they call it sex instead of rape. Women are blamed for not wearing enough clothes, criticized for provoking their attackers. For being too sexual. As long as sex itself remains shamed and stigmatized, women too will be shamed and stigmatized. Sex shaming remains prevalent and in turn, sexual assaults continue to fall within the norm of society. In fact, only 1 in 3 Canadians understand what sexual consent actually means.
Should sex be normalized and the female body more accepted, perhaps such negativity wouldn’t exist to the degree that it does. Think of sex shaming as the fuel and rape culture as the fire. Such shame normalizes rape. So take out sex shaming (remove the fuel) and diminish the fire. This can be done by identifying one clear difference… that sex is normal. Sexual assault is not. The human body is in fact sexy. A women’s body is sexy and she can own that without implying that she’s a sexual person. For example, she may go out wearing a low cut shirt that flatters her breasts because she likes the way it makes her look. This doesn’t mean that her intent was to sexualize herself. While there’s nothing wrong with being attracted to another person and noticing someone who is sexy, it is wrong to assume that said person’s clothing choices were for anybody other than herself.
Clothing doesn’t dictate consent. Society needs to understand that the length of a women’s skirt, even if it makes other’s uncomfortable, is that women’s decision. She has the right to dress and express herself in whatever way she chooses without receiving negative attention for it. A short skirt for instance, may accentuate a women’s hips and butt, assets which she is most likely proud of and is confident enough to embrace. She is sexy but she didn’t ask anyone to sexualize her. If she doesn’t associate her short skirt with words like “slut” or “whore”, why should you? By doing that, you’re only assuming that her clothing choice was a sexual one, that it somehow belongs to other people and not just her self. By using those words, you’re cultivating a rape culture around her clothes; affiliating clothing with sexual violence.
While it is important to understand that sexy isn’t always sexual, and that clothing is a form of expression warranting nothing other than flattery, it is equally important to accept that sexy can be sexual. In other words, it’s ok to have sex and be a sexual person. There are a lot of reasons that people don’t have sex, whether it be personal or religious, it ultimately boils down to comfort. It is necessary that those people recognize their choice to not have sex as a personal one, no less negative or positive than the choice to have sex. Again, using words like “slut” or “whore” to refer to a sexually active person enable sexual violence because they equivocate sex to the same negativity as rape.
The fact of the matter is this. Rape is an aggressive, violent act, carried out by threat against the will of the victim. It’s not okay, but sex is. Sex is a mutually consensual, pleasurable and enjoyable act. Whether someone has had sex once or has sex every day, with one partner, or with multiple, there’s nothing shameful about it.