While you've been sipping Antipodes in the sun, you may have failed to realise that we are in the sweltering grasp of summer's inevitable slut-shaming season.

That's right folks, as your summer festivities reach full swing so too does the familiar hand wringing, gasp inducing debate about young women's attire, or lack thereof.

It's a magical time when mostly well-meaning, but confused, self-appointed jurors feel it is their duty to ring in the New Year with slut-shaming - the cultural phenomenon that is policing and lambasting women and their sexuality.

Oh no? You don't like being the victim of assault? Well then, "Yoo hoo, Garçon! The lady will have a floor-length cape and only soda water from now on!" Come on, silly, it's that easy!


Although Liz Holsted's condemnation (which perhaps could be better described as How To Avoid Rape 101) of the relationship between alcohol, young women and their hemlines may not be surprising, it's certainly frustrating.

READ MORE: Women must take responsibility for their actions

In fact, what Holsted's comments represent is a hollow modesty war; sex-disparaging sexism in the form of worry about poor, loose, young women in short dresses.

Holsted certainly predicted my "howls of protest" and while the age difference between us is significant, age shouldn't be a factor in the discussion of what inspires assault. Every human should be totally aware of who is to blame in a sexual attack: the attacker.

Merely the fact that this conversation is ongoing, reignited by a member of my own sex no less, is a reminder that young women, young men, and sexual violence are routinely misunderstood.

Holsted proffers by dressing as "trash" women attract just that: men that will rape them because these women are, obviously, asking for it.

Hello darkness, my old friend. She suggests it's egotistic, risky, and ultimately naïve to dress "provocatively". Not only does this reinforce the age old evolutionary excuse that men can't control their own libidos, it places an unreasonable responsibility on girls for how men decide to react to them. It's a decision. Holsted is not alone in her observation that young women dress like they do for attention.

Attention (be it platonic or otherwise) is flattering, and it is not criminal to seek it out. What's important to remember is women have a right to pursue sexual attention from whoever they wish. Women have a choice to want attention from those they desire and deserve to be treated with respect from those they don't, regardless of how they dress or how many alcohol units they've consumed.


Holsted does, however, make a valid point when she highlights the danger of over-indulging in alcohol. The bleak scene she describes of women being refused drinks is certainly true to my experience however, it affects both sexes.

Boys enjoy a mistake-friendly culture that evades girls. Boys are perceived as dense and durable in mistake making, whereas giving girls the liberty for errors in judgement (falling over on dance floors and needing to be carried to cabs) is viewed as giving them liberty to be exploited.

Perhaps Holsted's article would thus be more relevant if it addressed New Zealand's binge drinking culture as a whole. She fails to mention the dangers young men face when consuming large amounts of alcohol.

Perhaps this is omitted because, speaking for my male friends, I know beyond a doubt that none of them would feel at the whim of sexual predators when walking home, even (provocatively) nude after a large night out. They don't feel the need to look over their shoulder turning down a side street... they don't need to. Yet these are the same friends who don't let me walk alone.

How then could they defend me against prosecutors if I was caught in a compromising situation? I mean, if I was "irresponsibly" walking home alone and intoxicated, would I deserve it?

Taking a self-defence course, aged 11, it seems even as a millennial I have not escaped the female raison d'etre: to protect myself from the calamitous event of sexual violence that I could never recover from.


It's hardly news that rape certainly happens even when the victim is fully dressed and sober. So why should clothes and intoxication make a difference? Why should I ever have to feel unsafe, naked and off my face or otherwise? Holsted's opining that "women take responsibility for their actions" is not only a particularly unflattering depiction of women's intelligence, it's victim blaming.

- nzherald.co.nz