December 2017
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fetishizing nudity: only I can give meaning to MY body


I recently overheard a conversation about how being "scantily clad" is a declaration that one wants sex, and it reminded me of being told that my clothing was "provocative" and more recently told that if I go naked in a public place, I am sexually harassing anyone who sees me, by drawing them sans-consent into my sex scene. In response to these ideas: "HELL THE FUCK NO."

The way a person chooses to cover or not cover their body is 1) not a declaration of any kind of desire 2) not inherently centered on the viewer and 3) not sexual in and of itself. People make these faulty and damaging assumptions because in our culture nudity is fetishized: that is, it is assigned sexuality. Thus "showing skin" is erotic: a sexual invitation or "provocation." It's not simply or inherently human to consider nudity erotic: if it were, the nudity fetish wouldn't vary according to culture. This is purely an individual fetish: one taught by culture but owned by each person. It being a common fetish doesn't mean that it is appropriate to assign other people's motives by, or to act on these assumed motives. If a group of people fetishizes tie-wearing, and they hang out with other people who say that tie-wearing is an invitation to choke people, that does not make it appropriate to assume that any person wearing a tie wants to be choked with it. Because people are never all the same; behavior and dress can never tell you anything unless the person who acts/wears explains those actions/clothing. Even if in all the world, there was only one person who ever wore a tie just for the look of it and everyone else wore it as an erotic choking device, you would still need to check with every person because choking a non-consenting person is a horrific act.

If my clothing or lack thereof provokes you, that's your fetish, not my behavior. When I go naked, I am not getting an erotic thrill out of it and I am not signaling a request for sex. I don't care what you think; you may call yourself aroused but you may NOT call me arousing (unless we have decided to have sex and are currently having it). You have the right to look away and the right to ask me to not be around you when I'm naked but you don't have the right to force me to cover my body. I wear clothes because the law will punish me if I don't (and occasionally for practical reasons), but I deeply resent this imposition on my bodily autonomy. Don't you dare assign my clothing (or lack thereof) any intention or meaning; only I get to declare my intentions.

Strange Children
Strange Children
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Comments
anrui_ichido ══╣╠══
dputiger ══╣╠══
Last time I checked...
"She was asking for it" is not a legal defense. The courts have been extremely clear on this one -- how you dress or where you dress that way is not an invitation.

With that said, we use how a person dresses as a measure of many things unrelated to sex. If you wear a yarmulke, burka, Catholic robe + collar, or any number of other particular types of dress, it heavily implies that you're affiliated with the religious faith in question. Wearing certain colors in the right(wrong) neighborhoods is a sign of gang affiliation. I might wear a suit and tie to work (which sends one set of signals) and old ratty canvas shorts + a T-shirt at home (which sends another).

You can take this back to ornamentation and evolution. Humans don't have fancy peacock feathers; we send signals via external adornment.

I agree 100% with what you've said regarding clothing NOT being an invitation, and consent not being something other people can take for granted. Sexuality itself, however, is only one thing people "dress" for.
belenen ══╣powerful╠══
spend a few hours checking by reading up
"She was asking for it" will not be accepted as a reason for raping someone: however, it most certainly IS used, constantly, to "prove" that what happened was not rape but consensual sex. In the courts, a victim's character and intent is scrutinized, and how a person dresses IS used as "proof" that they consented to sex. In court, victims of rape are re-victimized because we live in a rape culture, where consent is assumed unless verbally and vigorously resisted. No one asks someone whose house was robbed if they had kept their curtains closed so that passers-by would not know they had expensive items, and insinuates that if they didn't keep their curtains closed it was actually because they wanted to give their things away to the first person who came along -- yet that is EXACTLY what happens in rape trials.

Further, what happens in the courts is unimportant compared to the reasons that people rape. One of them is rape myths like "if a person dresses a certain way, it's because they want to have sex." Want to know why rape happens? ask rapists why they did it. They're pretty candid.

To understand rape culture, I suggest the anthology Transforming A Rape Culture. There are many other resources but that's the best starting point in my opinion.

We do in fact use the way people dress to assume things about them. However that does not mean that wearing clothing can EVER be predicted as any intended implication. You're conflating two things. Your assumptions =/= others intentions. If some people intend to send signals, others don't. If I wear a sleeveless top, it's not because I want people to look at my arms, it's because I hate the feeling of sleeves, and I like to feel air in my armpits. I'm not sending ANY signal. You might be assuming one, but that does not mean I'm sending one. In your gang example, the colors are ASSUMED to be sending a signal but that does not mean that the person is actually flagging gang affiliation.

These assumptions are always a problem, but it becomes a crisis when these assumptions lead to rape; in the case of the nudity fetish, they do.
dputiger ══╣╠══
Re: spend a few hours checking by reading up
There's several different threads of conversation here:

1) Rape / Rape Culture - Based on what you've written, I agree with everything in terms of how cases should be treated vs. how they are treated. I will check out the resource you linked, but I'm absolutely against the sort of scrutinization you describe.

I view what happens in the courts as extremely important. The reasons people rape tells us things about how they're thinking and why they think that way, but how rape is handled legally is an important component of changing how its perceived and treated by society in general.

As far as clothing and the conclusions that we draw, this is an enormously broad topic. The fatal flaw, again, is to assume someone is dressing to "Ask for it." But this is not in dispute. No one is asking for it, no matter how they dress.

I would say the following: Dressing and acting in a certain manner (in accordance with shared cultural understandings) can indicate interest in a person or encounter.

Signaling interest is never the same as consent, implied or otherwise. The line between the two isn't thin -- it's giant, and applied with a huge magic marker.

As regards your sleeveless top preferences: I'd assume you wore sleeveless tops because you wanted to wear a sleeveless top. If I discovered you hated sleeveless tops and wore them because it's the only tops you owned, I'd take you to the Salvation Army / Goodwill / TJ Max / Thrift Shop of Your Choice, and help you acquire something you liked more. If you were somehow restricted to sleeveless tops because of weight/size or some sort of skin issue, I'd go hunting on Google to locate something that would work for you.

The question of your armpits and their air-edness would not occur to me. :)
wantedonvoyage ══╣hackers╠══
Re: spend a few hours checking by reading up
I kind of want to take this to another level (and yes I know it's an ancient thread).

To me, even if you wanted to wear sleeveless shirts because your arms were particularly toned and you wanted to show them off on a warm day, that still shouldn't be read as an invitation to impose one's self on you. If someone has worked hard on hir physique and gets some validation from having people notice, to me that's all it is (it's freaking hard work, and in a sense your body is your "art"). I might comment favorably if I felt like it would be received favorably and not seen as aggressive, but there's no implication to me that anything further is "okay" just because of the amount of skin (s)he is showing.
imafarmgirl ══╣╠══
Well said.

And, I can't believe there are still people who think it's strange that I don't wear a bra when I am home and hang out in pajamas. Then, if I mention I take the pajamas off to sleep, it's like all hell breaks loose because lying in my own bed naked is something awful. I mean if I am doing that and I am alone I must be masterbating the entire time, right?

People are strange.

I keep clothes on when in public because I am modest and chicken.

At home is a different story.
camilleyun ══╣╠══
I know several women who wear bras with their pajamas to sleep. One has a husband who was very relieved to learn she does this. I never ever wear a bra around the house. I practically live in my pajamas because that is most comfortable for me since I am almost always cold. And I don't like people looking at me...with or without clothes on.
imafarmgirl ══╣╠══
No way would I wear a bra to bed. They aren't comfortable.
dputiger ══╣╠══
Wearing a bra to bed? This is actually a thing?

I mean hey, I've known people who wear corsets to bed, so I guess I shouldn't judge, but that just doesn't sound comfortable.
camilleyun ══╣╠══
Definitely a thing. My best friend is quirky so when she said she did it did not surprise me but then I started t hear it from other women. I had no idea it was a thing.
ladywind ══╣╠══
GODS YES, THIS.
Well put, O James.
xochitl ══╣mirror mirror╠══
AMEN!!
kmiotutsie ══╣╠══
I read an article recently about "de-sexualising the male gaze" but I didn't bookmark it. Wish I had.

When I ran the google search, different things came up if I spelled "sexualizing" with a Z or an S. Just in case you were gonna go lookin ;)
mmmmurgle ══╣╠══
"you may call yourself aroused but you may NOT call me arousing"

I LOVE this distinction. It really sums up the necessity of owning responsibility for yourself.
vatavian ══╣╠══
This reminds me of a science fiction story I read long ago. A woman was warning a man not to be titillated by what was about to happen. He replied something to the effect of "I'm not sure I can just turn that off." She replied "Well, titillate quietly then." It was probably Heinlein.
on communication, social justice, intimacy, consent, friendship & other relationships, spirituality, gender, queerness, & dreams. Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.
Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.