Women’s rights have changed in the years since suffragette Emily Davison ran in front of the King’s horse in 1913. We can now vote. We can now own property. We can now work once we are married without asking our husband’s permission and demand equal pay for that work. One right remains unchanged, the right to our bodies.
In the Western World, we pride ourselves on our forward-thinking attitude towards women in society. Some sneer that we are so developed that we do not demand that women cover their bodies from head to toe to escape the wandering eyes of other men. We openly embrace stores such as Ann Summers and Victoria’s Secret, yet are these stores doing us a disservice?
“You have to look at the way she was dressed. She was wearing a thong with a lace front.” Was the closing argument for the defence in a recent rape trial in Ireland where a 27-year-old man was acquitted of raping a 17-year-old girl.
She admitted being open to the possibility of meeting someone that evening. She put on her nice underwear, as many women do for a night out. Underwear can make us feel empowered, sexy and confident. And of course, if you do happen to meet someone, the last thing you want is for them to see the granny panties that you still own for those days of comfort, when the washing pile has taken over your bedroom and when mother nature makes her monthly visit. Let’s face it, we all own a pair like that. No, you want to feel empowered, sexy and confident, but does the thong speak louder than the word ‘no’?
We all pretend that we are a modern thinking society, but sadly facts tell us differently. Rape Crisis Scotland reports that while crime rates are dropping in Scotland, sexual offenses are increasing. With 1,755 rapes reported in 2016/2017 and 123 attempted rapes in the same time frame, many women are advised to modify their behaviour to avoid rape. Dress less provocatively. Don’t get too drunk. Don’t have your earphones in while walking home late at night. WE must modify OUR behaviour, otherwise if the worst happens, we were asking for it. She was so drunk she didn’t know what she was doing. What was she doing out walking alone at that time of night? She was wearing nice underwear.
Fashion historian Rosemary Hawthorne, aka The Knicker Lady, commented on the Love Island effect and the correlation of a rise in thong sales “Love Island was about having an outstanding form and having the confidence to flaunt it”.
Retailer John Lewis reported an increase of 72% of thong sales in the last year (80% in the Glasgow store) and not one pair of these came with a warning. ‘‘Caution: you may be raped.” So, who should be held accountable? The stores who supply the tantalising, frenzy inducing goods? The women that wear them? Or the men that simply do not understand? #thisisnotconsent.