Advertising: The real reason women wear provocative clothes

After the sad news of the suicide of Amanda Todd, a teenage girl in British Columbia who suffered an excruciating campaign of bullying both online and in real life (after some morally reprehensible douchenozzle talked her into flashing a webcam and then proceeded to blackmail her and ultimately distribute the pic), the subject of slut shaming has catapulted back to the forefront of my mind. And I’ve realized I have a bit more to say on the subject.

I often hear men complain that women are sending them “mixed signals” by A. wearing sexy clothes and B. failing to respond positively to the man in question’s sexual advances. I can’t tell you how many iterations of the following I have heard over the years:

“I just don’t get it! Why was she wearing a skirt that tight if she didn’t want me to put my hand on her ass?”

This concerns me on behalf of both parties: the men who are feeling frustrated and confused, and the women who are having to deal with unwanted advances. So today I’d like to help clarify the difference between simple physical presentation and actual indicators of interest.

What a woman wears on a date, or just out on the town, no matter how provocative, is not (necessarily) a statement of intent. She is not trying to convey to anyone in particular, “I want you to touch/fondle/squeeze/molest the areas I have emphasized.” Nor is it an incitement to attempt to initiate a sexual encounter.

  • What it is, is advertising.

Advertisement is an enticement to learn more about, and ultimately to offer something in return for a given product, in this case the intimate company of a particular person.

  • Advertising is NOT, I repeat, advertising is NOT an invitation to steal.

Simply seeing and desiring the goods and services being publicized provides no guarantee that you will possess the necessary currency to procure them. Capiche?

An analogy:

I’m strolling along on a sidewalk downtown and I pass a store window – a shoe store, let us say. And I am mighty impressed with the artful display in this particular window.  Breath taken, in fact. I stop, and I stare, mouth agape, at the oh-so-alluring flauntation of fine footwear before me. Let us imagine, in fact, that I am so overcome with desire to get my paws on a pair of these stunning little pedicure pedestals that I walk my shoddily-shod self on in.

Let us further imagine that I am flat-on-my-ass broke and couldn’t even afford a new pair of Payless pumps, let alone the kind of designer delicacies with which I find myself face-to-face once inside. So it will come as no surprise to any of us when the security guard stops me on my way back out, asking me just exactly what I think I’m doing trying to totter back out onto the street in a brand new pair of Pradas, still joined at the heel by their translucent plastic umbilical cord.

Now, what do you think that security guard would say to me if I tried to tell him that it wasn’t my fault, that I was entrapped into stealing those sexy sandals because their advertising was just too damned effective? That whoever did up that delicious little display in the window was just asking for somebody to come a-shoplifting?

I mean, what the hell were they thinking anyhow, dangling those freakishly fine shoes in the innocent faces of passers-by?!

I think I’ve made my point here. If a woman shows up to a date wearing an especially sexy/slutty/revealing/provocative outfit, the only information that gives you is that she wants you to find her attractive. Just take it as a compliment, enjoy the view, and make NO further assumptions. And that goes double for a woman you simply see out and about wearing something jaw-dropping. She put that outfit on to feel attractive, not necessarily to attract you in particular.

Happily, though, there *are* indicators that *do* betray actual interest on the part of a woman.

Here are some of the most common IOIs (Indicators of Interest). Keep in mind, however, that no single thing on this list is necessarily a sure sign that she is into you or wants you to make a move. If you notice several of these, however, and particularly those near the bottom of the list, you have a pretty clear indication that she would like things to move further.

If a woman…

  • - gives you a genuine, open-mouthed smile (not the polite, tight-lipped variety)
  • - makes an effort to maintain eye-contact with you
  • - aims/turns her body toward yours
  • - unconsciously fixes/caresses her hair while talking to you
  • - continually touches or draws attention to more feminine areas of her body (cheek, lips, collar bone, cleavage, hips, legs, etc.)
  • - licks/purses her lips frequently
  • - engages fully in conversation, gives long, detailed answers to questions rather than short, dismissive ones
  • - asks you personal questions
  • - responds positively to flirtation and innuendo
  • - steers the conversation toward sexy/sensual subjects
  • - voluntarily touches you, or allows her hand to linger after contact you initiated.
  • - responds well to your touch in a non-threatening area (i.e. shoulder, arm, hand)
  • - outright compliments you, volunteers that she is enjoying your company, or otherwise verbally lets you know that you and/or the interaction are to her liking (NOT in response to fishing on your part)
  • - suggests or takes you to (or enthusiastically agrees to go to) a more private area or even a different venue

… chances are, she is into you, and would like for you to move things forward.

I hope that clears things up. Now, go create some real interest, and stop relying on physical cues that aren’t actual indicators of anything aside from a sense of style.

And PLEASE, for the love of GAWD, don’t ever, ever shame a woman for what she is wearing, or not wearing, or claim that a woman’s outfit made you incapable of self-control. If you honestly can’t control your impulses around attractive women in revealing clothing, or simply prefer a more modest aesthetic…

Well, I hear Saudi Arabia is lovely this time of year.

15 Responses to Advertising: The real reason women wear provocative clothes

  • Carol says:

    Interesting analogy – I’m not sure comparing a woman’s body to a pair of shoes is the most effective strategy at getting people to take her seriously.

    • Ava says:

      Obviously I’m being a bit tongue-in-cheek here. But women are, IMHO, plenty capable of getting people to take them seriously without my help.

    • Homa Sapiens says:

      The author is comparing her clothing to a store window, and the desire to fuck her to a pair of shoes

      Neither of these things are her body– not her clothing, not someone’s desire regarding her.

  • NobleCaboose says:

    Personally, I have started wearing things simply for the pleasure they give to ME. I like statement necklaces because they remind me of Frida Kahlo (my hero). I wear pencil skirts because they make me feel like a BOSS, and I am more confident in them. I wear lace and ruffles, and fitted blouses because when I look at them, I feel relaxed and refined. I wear Malibu Barbie pink lipstick and liquid eyeliner because Barbie is a strong career woman who has HER OWN dream house and that’s the kind of woman I want to be. And I wear high heels because when I’m closer to eye-level with people who are taller than me (usually men) I feel less intimidated by them. So, if someone were to tell me I look sexy, while it’s flattering, I may gently remind them that it’s not why I dress the way I do. If I want to appeal to a man, I dress in jeans or sweats and a t-shirt with freshly scrubbed skin and start talking about how much I love Robocop and prog-rock. Because truthfully, that’s what the guys I like find sexy.

    • Ava says:

      As I said, “She put that outfit on to feel attractive, not necessarily to attract you in particular.”

      Now, obviously women choose outfits for all sorts of reasons, not necessarily even to feel attractive. But I’m making a baseline assumption here that we are referring to a certain kind of outfit, the kind that is *generally speaking* worn for effect, be it the effect it has on the woman wearing it, or the effect she hopes it will have on others.

      That outfit could, of course, have nothing whatsoever to do with a woman’s desire to feel or be seen as attractive. But I suspect my readers are intelligent enough to recognize the complexities involved and sort out the specific point I am making (that even if a woman IS dressing to show off her body, that STILL isn’t an invitation to molest or harass her) from the larger truth that each woman has her own reason for wearing what she is wearing, which may or may not have anything to do with a desire feel or to be perceived as sexy.

  • RollDdice says:

    I agree that no one has the right to molest or grope someone else, but you make it sound like men see some cleavage and suddenly leap toward the woman with groping claws extended.

    You conveniently ignore the all-too-frequent situation when women wear Jerry Springer Show level revealing clothing to attract attention and then loudly complain when they achieve their goal. When the hem and neckline of your dress meet, men will notice. Hell, women and low-flying planes will notice. If there are no comments or unwanted touching, it is *not*molestation, harassment or (and this is really insulting to anyone who has been ever been sexually abused) “visual rape”.

    So live in the real world. And stay away from shoe store analogies.

    • Ava says:

      There’s so much conflation and flat-out misconstruction of my message in your comment, RollDdice, that I’m not even sure how to respond except to say: read the article again. I make absolutely no mention of “visual rape.” Not even sure where you came up with that term, but it sure as hell wasn’t from me. Nor do I insinuate that most men are incapable of resisting the temptation to molest or harass a complete stranger. Quite the opposite.

      This article is intended to help clarify to BOTH MEN AND WOMEN that wearing provocative clothing is, well… provocative. Yes, women should absolutely expect that people will notice when they are skimpily dressed, or have the word “PINK” written across their ass or “SLUT” written across their chest. They should not, however, have to worry that because someone *noticed*, they therefore felt justified in crossing that woman’s personal boundaries or attempted to make her feel ashamed of herself. Paying someone positive attention is quite different than sexually assaulting them, as you yourself point out.

      The main point of my article is that even when something is intentionally worn to provoke a reaction, the desired reaction is usually for someone to offer something, negotiate, or simply appreciate what’s being shown. It is NOT to be called names, grabbed, or in any way treated as less than human.

      But since you say right of the bat that “no one has the right to molest or grope someone else,” then I’m not sure where we actually disagree. In fact, I’m pretty sure you just tracked in a bunch of bullshit you read somewhere else and wiped it all over my article. How’s that for a shoe store analogy?

      • Derp says:

        What RollDdice is trying to say is that there are women out there that want to get the attention of men purposefully, and then accuse them of giving them the attention they want just to make the man look bad. You did not cover that in your article, that there are butt holes out there that only wear those clothes to tempt, manipulate, and harass others. That is what this other person is trying to communicate to you. But you didn’t read what they were saying.

        • Rake says:

          That doesn’t happen Derp.
          .

          Or, rather, it happens so infrequently that it is not worth mentioning.
          .

          The thing that you and so many other men do not grasp is just how bad an idea it is to cast any sort of pejorative language, incrimination or blame against a woman who wears sexy clothing. Forget your clever reasons, it’s just not the thing to do.
          .

          Any attempt to do so will indicate a weakness on the man’s part. But much worse than that it will make “sexiness” have to go further underground.
          .

          **I like sexiness, I don’t want it underground.**
          .

          But to get there you need to drop your idea that “women dress sexy so they can be buttholes.” That is just crazy.
          .

          And you are in good company by being crazy.
          .

          This is the kind of crazy that most people do. In this case I would guess that it is a confirmation bias, with a strange kind of Pareidolia and a self-fulfilling prophecy.
          .

          But the thing is that those things are problems for nearly everyone on planet earth.
          .

          In this case though you are reading the writing of someone incredibly well educated and who’s whole job is to discern the truth in spite of all those logical fallacies.
          .

          Maybe you should question your ideas a bit and just try to learn something.
          .

          How about that?

        • Ava says:

          I agree with everything Cydian said.

          Also, I want to reiterate that I understand exactly what RollDdice and Derp are trying to say here. It’s just that I completely and utterly disagree. Let’s take a closer look at your joint argument.

          RollDdice says: “You conveniently ignore the all-too-frequent situation when women wear Jerry Springer Show level revealing clothing to attract attention and then loudly complain when they achieve their goal.”

          Derp puts it this way: “You did not cover that in your article, that there are butt holes out there that only wear those clothes to tempt, manipulate, and harass others.”

          So, you two contend that I did not cover in my article an important, common, and disturbing phenomenon: women who wear provocative clothing solely for the purpose of harassing men.

          Seriously, you guys? You honestly believe that there are women out there who are getting dressed to go out and thinking to themselves, “I can’t WAIT for some dude to comment on my cleavage in this dress just so I can rip him a new one! Muahahahahahaha!! Suckas!!”?

          But let’s say, just for arguments’ sake, that these women exist. That MOST women are actually evil Masterminds who want to make men suffer, and therefore wear skimpy outfits just to fuck with them.

          Uh… so what?

          Seriously, who gives a fuck? First off, You are under no obligation to play along. In fact, if you STOP playing along and pay absolutely no attention to what a woman is wearing whatsoever, not only will you win this imaginary ubiquitous power struggle, you have a MUCH better shot at getting laid.

          Secondly, if that’s as bad as it gets, having to deal with a woman “complaining loudly” about getting the kind of attention YOU THINK she was seeking by putting on that outfit (not that you can actually KNOW what she was aiming for, as I explain in my article)? Suck it the fuck up. If the worst that happens is that you look bad in public, then I have zero sympathy for you.

          Cause here’s the thing: Sexual assault is much, much, much, much, much, much much, much, much, much much much much much worse than that.

          If you think provocative clothing is manipulative: stop being manipulated by it. If you think women are harassing you: work on your frame control. If you think that women who put on skimpy outfits and then complain when men hit on them are obnoxious, don’t date those women.

          Problem solved.

          You’re welcome.

  • Wendy says:

    I very much enjoyed your blog post. But if you are trying to communicate this to men and not other women, a better analogy might have been a car dealership (selling Teslas or Maserati or Corvettes) or a high-end electronics store instead of a shoe store. Once the conversation turns to shoes, a lot of guys (especially the ones you are trying to reach) tune out.

  • bingo says:

    The analogy to the shoe was quite appropriate. You like the shoe you pay money and buy it :)

    • Ava says:

      Yes, although I’d like to clarify that “money” in this case simply means “value.” You offer something that is deemed valuable to the person who is doing the advertising. That could mean any number of things, and it certainly doesn’t mean that you have “paid” for sex by taking a woman out to a fancy restaurant, or what have you. It means that a woman who is advertising is looking for an offer that *she* finds valuable, and it is up to her to determine what that value is.

  • uk_guy says:

    What Rolldice and Derp said I have to agree with, revealing clothes are designed by manufactures for sexualization and presumably to get noticed (would you still wear those things if no one else was around to see you?). I think the confusion lies in that while undoubtably women want to look good, the aim is for them to want OTHERS to think they look good and lets face it, who doesnt want people to think that?

    But there has to be a level of understanding by women too, realizing that all too often it seems particularly on nights out that they paradoxically want the attention of men, and once they get it become defensive and accusational – which clearly sends us mixed messages. What exactly do you want?

    Ive been led on more than once by suggestive poses, gestures, facial expressions you name it, and when responded got something along the lines of “ohhhh stop it why are you coming onto me”. Let me use an anology even if its not ideal, if you were hungry and we sat there eating your favourite meal in front of you, that is not an invitation for you to suddenly grab the food off our plate – even if you did want some – but if we went to get a second plate and cutlery, you’d be forgiven for thinking we were going to give some to you, only to finish the meal and leave you with nothing. And I dont think “but we never said we would give you any of it” would be a resonable arguement for us…

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