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.

We are all Anita Sarkeesian

It has recently come to my attention that I have a secret agenda. So secret, even I didn’t know about it. Here I thought my goal was to help people, both male and female, learn how to create and enjoy mutually satisfying interactions with other human beings, yadda yadda yadda. Boy was I naive! Turns out, as a self-proclaimed feminist who focuses on ethical, respectful attraction artistry for all, and who teaches women (and men!), among many other skills, the art of rejection, my actual agenda has simply been

“to use the fact that [I] was born with a vagina to get free money and sympathy from everyone who crosses [my] path.”

And thank GAWD that’s been cleared up! Because now that I understand my true goal, I feel soooo LIBERATED!

I mean, all these years, I’ve been walking around with this freaking HOLE in the center of my body. As if that isn’t horrific enough on its own, the damn thing bleeds like a stuck pig for several days out of every month! Seriously you guys, the amount of money I spend just on overpriced pieces of cotton to soak it up is UNREAL.

Oh, and don’t get me started on the people wanting to stick stuff up there. That’s right, not only do I have a bloody HOLE in my crotch, but a frightening percentage of the people I interact with on a daily basis are barely paying attention to what I say because they’re daydreaming about shoving things up there. And all the various positions they’d like to do it in. And all the pictures they’d like to take to send to their friends while doing so. And so on.

Ever since puberty, I’ve been getting lectures on who I should and shouldn’t allow to stick things in there, and when, and how many times, and what will happen if I don’t take precautions against those who will try to stick stuff up there without my consent. Not to mention the (expensive!) precautions I have to take even with the authorized hole-stuffers to make sure I don’t get some sort of disease. Or a parasite. Or an unplanned wedding.

And all this time, nobody thought to mention that I could use this freaking thing to get FREE MONEY AND SYMPATHY??

Dude. I have so been wasting my life.

Wait wait waitaminute, stop the presses! I’m being told that the above quote wasn’t actually written about me. It was written about Anita Sarkeesian, who started a Kickstarter campaign to do research and ultimately create a video on “tropes vs women in videogames.”

Damn. I was really looking forward to all that free money and sympathy!

Guess I’ll have to settle for multiple orgasms and the ability to bear children.

And who was the originator of this brilliant bit of insight into the feminist psyche? The dude who made the “Beat Up Anita Sarkeesian” game in response to Sarkeesian’s Kickstarter campaign. The “game” was simply a photograph of Sarkeesian which players could punch, revealing photoshopped versions of Sarkeesian’s face getting increasingly bruised and bloodied. The repugnance of the game is, I should hope, self-evident. The violence depicted is so realistic that it was clearly not intended to be funny, or even fun. But even the statement that remains as a “eulogy” to the now-defunct game is a deeply disturbing attempt to make Sarkeesian into some sort of feminazi con artist:

“Anita Sarkeesian has not only scammed thousands of people out of over $160,000, but also uses the excuse that she is a woman to get away with whatever she damn well pleases. Any form of constructive criticism, even from fellow women, is either ignored or labelled to be sexist against her.

She claims to want gender equality in video games, but in reality, she just wants to use the fact that she was born with a vagina to get free money and sympathy from everyone who crosses her path.”

Now, given some of the responses I’ve been getting to my recent, admittedly more feminist-leaning posts, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see this kind of logic applied to me, or to any other woman who dares to speak out against sexual violence, or worse still, who makes her living essentially teaching sexual ethics.

To be clear: I have NOT suffered anything close to the kind of backlash to which Sarkeesian has been subjected. Still, I was unprepared for some of the feedback I received, i.e. “I thought you were on our side!”, “My sympathy is with the men,” and my personal favorite, “I don’t see what this has to do with dating […] I think your pusy [sic] is clouding your judgement.”

But in a sense, we are all Anita Sarkeesian. Because she has come to represent something much larger than herself, and much more terrifying to all these angry male gamers. No, not feminism, exactly, but the sinking cruiseship of male privilege that these dudes have been on board since birth.

Sarkeesian’s crime was to give them a glimpse of what it feels like when someone else is holding the console, creating the characters, calling the proverbial shots. And not just any “someone else,” someone who has different values, even directly opposing values, to their own. Feels pretty crappy, right fellas? Kinda scary, even? Sorta pisses you off, huh?

Well, be careful how and where you express those sentiments, or people might start to think you believe that you are owed special treatment from everyone who crosses your path, just because you were born with a penis.

I mean, I totally get it, guys. That thing must be seriously annoying. Constantly bugging you to shove it into the orifices of passersby, most of whom won’t give you the time of day, let alone take off their clothes for you? And then there’s that hideous, wrinkly-skin bag full of EXTREMELY SENSITIVE material just hanging out there like a big, red sign saying “KICK ME.” I feel for you, I really do.

But you gotta man up about it, otherwise you might just find yourself at the center of an online harassment campaign, waking up each morning to a fresh inbox full of hate-filled messages, photoshopped images, and hand-drawn cartoons depicting you naked with a Wii controller in your mouth, getting brutally raped by a video game character.

And if you dare to complain about the harassment? Expect to have your sense of humor called into question, even by people who sympathize with your plight.

Because seriously, what’s funnier than showing people who feel powerless and persecuted just how right they are?

Backlash of the Titans

Well, it’s been an exciting couple of days here at The Attractive Arts.

So that blog post Cydian wrote about rape culture? He cross posted it on another site, where it spontaneously sprouted a comment thread for the ages.

There was, of course, the obligatory defender-of-the-Masculine, calling himself “Naked_***,” who immediately started in with gems like this:

“We men should just declare National-Rape-Day where everyone fucks whoever he really wants. Get it out of our systems on that day, remind women what men are really like inside of their heads, and then the rest of the year, be the flaccid replicas of animals with excess testosterone that the women want us to be.”

Oh, and this little beauty:

“There are two types of animals on this world: predators and prey.

I am a predator, and hormones naturally coursing through my body make me that way. I will not apologize for this natural state any more than a lion would apologize for preying on a gazelle for dinner. My natural state is to mate with and impregnate as many women as possible. […]

Women who deny this fact about men are stupid / vastly misinformed.”

My favorite thing about that quote? The fact this His Nakedness is unaware that lions don’t actually hunt. Anyone who’s ever watched Nat Geo Wild can tell you that it’s the lionesses who bring home the bacon, or rather the gazelle meat. Chew on that, Naked Lion.

Anyway, suffice it to say that it was some of the most blatant rape-apologist bullshit imaginable. Unsurprisingly, a number of women immediately went on the counter-attack, myself among them. The debate raged on between Nakedthingy and various women, throughout the thread.

Meanwhile, man after man showed up to criticize Cydian for various things, roughly falling into 2 categories:

1. Those who were offended by their perception that he was calling them morons, lumping them in with rapists, talking down to them, etc.

2. Those who missed the joke and believed Cydian himself to be the kind of misogynist who thinks getting laid is the very most important reason to fight rape culture.

With the exception of Cydian himself, and one other dude who briefly chastised The Naked Douche early on, NOT A SINGLE ONE of these men felt the need to turn that all that righteous indignation against the actual misogynist asshat in their midst.

It was enough to make me wish I had created Naked_###’s profile as a test of sorts, to see how they would react when actually confronted by the kind of scary shit we women deal with on a daily basis.

Finally, when some jerkoff had the nerve to say that Cydian’s point was “obvious,” I had to speak up.

“Apparently it isn’t so obvious,” I wrote, “This entire comment thread is a case-in-point. Note how many men are spending a lot of energy attacking the OP for his tone (which is clearly intended to be funny/satirical), and how few of them are attacking the guy who is spewing a bunch of rape-justifying bullshit all over the thread (answer: 2).”

This in turn inspired a rather nasty backlash of angry men who felt that by pointing out what had just occurred (and no one could dispute that it had, the evidence was right there in front of them), I was personally calling out each and every man on the thread as being a rape apologist.

Some of their comments were reactive-but-rational, like the guy who pointed out that we women were doing a fine job of ripping Nakedface a new one on our own, and to butt in would have been patronizing “white-knighting.”

For the record: it wouldn’t have. There’s a big difference between fighting someone’s battles for them and giving a show of support so they know they’re not in it alone. Observe:

“Hey Naked Brute, you leave these poor women alone!” = patronizing.

“Hey Naked Guy, your argument is invalid” = not patronizing.

“Hey, [name of specific woman], you are spot-on in your critique of Big Naked Baby’s argument” = not patronizing. Supportive. And pretty damn sexy.

Then there was the guy who vehemently defended his choice to offer the author some constructive criticism (he was one of those who felt the article was itself misogynistic) rather than engage with a flame-thrower. Fair enough. Indeed, he was one of the most intelligent, well-spoken fellows on the thread, so I was deeply disturbed when he claimed that he felt Naked dude’s arguments were “self-refuting” and that to respond to his posts would be to give them undue credibility.

Ouch. Thanks for making all us women who felt compelled to argue against his offensive, dangerous, and frighteningly commonly-held notions feel like idiots.  Oopsie! Silly women, lending undue credibility to the pop-biology crap we’ve been hearing ALL OUR LIVES as the reason we must constantly be on guard so as not to arouse a sleeping dragon, blah blah blah. Good thing we have such smart fellas around to point out the real problem here!

What was that again? Oh yeah, that the author is talking down to rape apologists, using a harsh tone, and making a meta-joke about bro-culture that some of you found un-funny.

Whew, thank GAWD you set us straight!

And finally, there was the guy who went straight to the personal attacks, none of which were fit for re-print, here or anywhere, but which basically boiled down to:

“Shut up, you ignorant slut.”

Yup, no misogyny here, folks! Guess there was no reason for Cydian to have written that article after all.

Anyway, all that got me thinking about how often this same pattern plays out: guy goes out of his way to stand up for a person or group of people being persecuted, other guys descend on him like rabid wolves while completely ignoring, or even defending, the persecutor.

A personal anecdote from a recent social gathering at a friend’s home:

Guy who’d had one too many beers (henceforth OTMB) started giving a footrub to an attractive gal in a skirt (henceforth AGIAS). AGIAS had consented to the footrub, so all was good. At first. But then OTMB started moving his hands up her legs. She said, loudly enough for everyone nearby (myself included) to hear, “Woah, slow down there, Cowboy. That’s not my foot.” The interaction now had my attention, as well as the attention of a few other people, both male and female.

A couple of minutes later, I noticed his hands wandering up her leg again. I saw her attempt to physically move the hand, but OTMB persisted. Again, AGIAS chastised him in an increasingly impatient voice. I exchanged looks with some of the other women in the area. We could all tell that she was getting really uncomfortable, so even though I didn’t know her, I came over and said, “Hey, can I borrow her for a minute?”

He gave me the fuckoff look and said, “I’ve only done one side.”

“I think she’ll live,” I said. But he just kept going, and by this point AGIAS was starting to look frightened.

Just as I was trying to come up with a better exit strategy, a guy (also someone I didn’t know) intervened. He walked right up and said to OTMB,

“That’s it: hands off.”

He physically removed OTMB’s hands from AGIAS’s legs, giving me an opportunity to escort her to the back porch, where she thanked me profusely and asked if I knew who Mr. Awesome back there was.

I had no idea, so after she had regained her composure, we went back inside to find out.

Now, I didn’t necessarily expect that anyone would’ve handed him a medal in our absence or anything, but I figured he would at least get a few hearty pats on the back. Instead, we walked back into a shitstorm of epic proportions. He was surrounded by a group of angry men (including the host), telling him that his behavior was “uncalled for,” his manner too harsh, his intervention unnecessary. A few salient quotes I recall:

“You could’ve just told him to back off. You didn’t have to lay hands on the guy.”

“He’s a good guy, he’s just had a little too much to drink. He’s not some rapist.”

“It’s not like we didn’t see what was happening. We were watching to make sure things didn’t get out of control.”

All his detractors had different complaints/justifications, but all we could hear was:

“Dude, you are making us look bad! Cut it the fuck out!”

Meanwhile, OTMB was simply ignored. He was sitting on the couch, pouting, and drinking yet another beer.

At first, we were so shocked we didn’t know what to say. Finally, we (and a few other women), tried to intervene on his behalf. We were largely ignored as well, except by Mr. Awesome, who thanked us, checked in with AGIAS to make sure she was okay,  and then continued to argue with the other dudes.

Sometimes, this is what rape culture looks like.

It doesn’t have to look like a bunch of dudes sitting around talking about the bitches they want to fuck and high-fiving one another, and it doesn’t have to look like villagers throwing stones at a married woman who was raped because technically she was “committing adultery.” Sometimes it just looks like a bunch of men so busy with the all-important task of defending their own egos that they stand around arguing with the good guy while the bad guy is violating women right under their noses.

No, I don’t think every guy in that thread who failed to intercede is a rape apologist. No, I don’t think every guy who defended their drunk friend at that party is in favor of rape. But I think their behavior warrants consideration, mostly their own.

As I said to one of my more rational detractors:

“I never made mention of motives, as I have no way of knowing what those could be. All I know is that it happened. As to why it happened, that’s a question for you to ask yourself.”



Note: all quotes slightly altered to protect the identities.  I only changed articles like “the” and “a”