“You were put on this earth to achieve your greatest self, to live out your purpose, and to do it courageously.”
I was walking down the boardwalk in my flip flops, bikini, and short next to nothing lace cover up. This attire is completely ideal since I was indulging in beach play with my 10-year-old son. Personally, I am happy with my body and I am in no way ashamed of it. So why did I feel shameful? Why did I immediately start to question if I was dressed appropriately to be walking around on the boardwalk? Every man that walked by me gawked at my body. The college guys walking behind me made sly comments amongst themselves “Oh damn she’s looking right” I heard as they rated me on a scale of 1-10. Similar to how one may rate their dinner or talent.
Earlier that day I had been wearing shorts and a tee shirt and did not notice the male looks and comments to this extreme. So, it is more than obvious that less clothing increased this behavior and added fuel to the fire. But I wasn’t doing anything wrong? Why did I feel some shame? I believe that most women have this type of complex embedded in them at an early age. For example, “you shouldn’t dress like that because it’s not ladylike” is a very familiar phrase. We’ve heard it throughout our childhood and now we may even still repeat it. I know I have repeated it. I obviously agree with wearing clothing and not walking around naked but why is this so one sided? Why are women told that they must dress a certain way or else it isn’t “ladylike” and then we have this automatic activation of shame inside of us when we feel violated or objectified. It appears that in some way our clothing acts as a protector against being sexually assaulted or raped. However; does that mean when I am wearing a bikini I am asking for it? No! This logic is absurd.
This behavior has become not only acceptable but normal. When I look around at other women walking in bathing suits I wonder if they are completely numb to it, notice it, or have just adapted. How would a man feel if men had been around him gawking and making crude sexual comments about his body? Beyond uncomfortable!
When women are victims of sexual violence, abuse and even rape they feel shame, guilt, and depression. The same type of doubt and guilt that a female may feel when she wears clothing that may be considered “inappropriate”. A woman may be fearful of what men may think or say and if she is making herself a target for being objectified in some way. We live in a culture where it has become normalized to treat women as sexual objects. Our youth is becoming very familiar to this way of life. You hear it in songs, commercials, magazine ads, it is everywhere. Women feel the need to protect themselves more often than men realize, on the street at night walking to her car, her drink at the bar, the man following her around the gym during a late-night workout session. Just because I am wearing my tight workout pants and sports bra doesn’t mean I am an open target for you. We can try to deny it but this is very real.
The facts are that in a rape culture the victim is to blame and not the rapist. Excuses are created to explain the rapist’s behavior, for example, “She was naked or barely dressed” or "She consented to being alone with him” one of the more common ones is “drinking”. These are all ridiculous excuses. On average in America (if convicted) sex crime penalties are 6-7 years in prison. However; there are several other countries in this world where rapist receives the death penalty. I am not suggesting death to these rapists but what I am saying is 6-7 years isn’t enough. There are several states in America where it is actually legal to rape your wife and receive no punishment for it. Honestly, robbery can get you up to 20 years but raping your wife is legal.
It is severe that we make a change and we start by teaching our youth. Unfortunately, I don’t know how much real change can come from those who are very much accustomed to this way of life. So, we need to instill it in our youth that “No Means No” always and in general and in life. We can’t stop the media or entertainment world but we can teach our kids and instruct them. We can control how we raise them. I believe we do live in a rape culture but we can change it. It is about time we experience some cultural change and reshapes our youth to view women in a new light.