My personal blog as a 'grown-up' Goth and Romantic living in the Highlands of Scotland. I write about the places I go, the things I see and my thoughts on life as a Goth and the subculture. Sometimes I write about music I like and sometimes I review things. This blog often includes architectural photography, graveyards and other images from the darker side of life.

The Gothic subculture is not just about imitating each other, it is a creative movement and subculture that grew out of post-punk and is based on seeing beauty in the dark places of the world, and looks back to the various ways throughout history in which people have confronted and explored the macabre, the dark and the taboo, and as such I'm going to post about more than the just the standards of the subculture (Tim Burton, Siouxsie Sioux and Anne Rice et al.) and look at things by people who might not consider themselves anything to do with the subculture, but have eyes for the dark places. Goth should not be limited by what is considered "goth", inspiration comes from all places, the key is to look with open eyes, listen carefully and think with an open mind..

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Revealing Clothes, Unwanted Attention and Safety

Someone, somewhere is going to accuse me of being a bad feminist for writing this.

We live in a completely commodified society, where everything, including sex is a commodity. Until we eradicate the notion that women are objects, that sex is a commodity, that men are objects (objectifying men is not the answer to the objectification of women), and the sense of entitlement a lot of people have, there will still be a frighteningly high level of sexual crimes. The very language of referring to attractive body parts as "assets" is a testament to this commodification. Attractive bodies are used prevalently in advertising, promoting unreal stereotypes and distancing sex and attractiveness from its natural emotional context.

Dressing in a sexually provocative way, male or female or other, IS advertising your sexuality. That's why it's considered "sexy" in the first place. You might not be dressing that way to land a mate or impress the one you already have, but it's still a form of advertising. I'm not saying don't dress in a "sexy" manner, just be aware of the fact you are deliberately dressing to instil a reaction in others, and that the reaction is going to vary as widely as people vary, and that more eyes than just the ones you intend will be on you. Baring flesh and emphasising curves is provocative - it provokes a response, and that response will be varied. You will get some negative reactions. Remember, you are only in control of yourself, not of other people, even if you can affect them. Complaining that people are staring at your chest while you are wearing a low-cut top with a push-up bra and details that direct the eye towards your cleavage is a bit silly. Yes, it is rude to stare and people should have the common courtesy not to, but you do have the choice to wear something a little less cleavage advertising.

Earlier this year, huge debate spread about this topic, culminating in Slut Walk protests in major cities across the world. I understand the sentiment, that, like the famous placard said "Showing my legs doesn't mean I'll spread them" and that it is wrong to suppose that a woman who is scantily clad is "asking for it". But as Yasmin Alibhai-Brown stated in the Independent "to objectify yourself in defiance is still objectification." The protest does nothing to address women being defined by their sexuality, and about the commodification of sex, the equation of masculinity with dominance and the objectification of women (and increasingly men), which are the underlying issues.

There is also a current of defence for such behaviour as wearing virtually nothing in public and getting so thoroughly drunk that one passes out in a door-way somewhere with no knickers/pants on. Regardless of gender, acting like that is reckless and not particularly classy.  The only people acting like that will attract are the people not worth attracting.

One of my favourite internet writers, The Lady of the Manners wrote this in response to a teenager writing to her advice column about parental disapproval: "The Lady of the Manners (along with many, many other very articulate people) believe that women should be able to wear what they choose without the fear of sexual harassment, and that anyone who feels dressing in a certain manner is"asking for it" is WRONG. Sexual harassment and assault are very serious issues, ones that everyone needs to be aware of and help stop. But wearing “safe” clothing doesn’t keep women safe from rape; thinking that you can prevent rape by dressing a certain way does nothing, except lead to victim blaming and giving women who dress “the right way” a false sense of security." Wearing modest clothing is not a magical suit of rape-preventative safety, but dressing in a provocative way will attract more negative attention. About three quarters of rapes are committed by someone the victim knew. That leaves around a quarter of rapes perpetrated by strangers, and it is only some of that quarter that will be affected by the wearer's clothes. The major factor in clothes, from surveys on perpetrators, was how much effort and time it would take to remove them, not how attractive they made the woman look, but a short skirt and skimpy top are going to be easier to remove.

It is never the victim's fault that they were raped, as the blame lies squarely with the rapist, but that said, there are reasonable precautions that will reduce risk, and being aware of what is area appropriate dress, avoiding certain areas after dark, learning self defence and not getting too drunk to identify and avoid dangerous situations are part of that. Yes, in an ideal world those things shouldn't be necessary, but we're not in an ideal world. Statements like "but they dressed like a tart" are only a reflection of the rapists greed, sense of entitlement and lack of self-control. Also, dressing more modestly, being a man or being older are not protection against rape - elderly women are raped, males of all ages are raped, women in burkhas are raped! This is because rape is motivated by the twisted mind of the rapist, not the victim, and the characteristics for victim selection might be as simple as "alone". Also, rape is often driven by a lust for the exertion power as much as lust for flesh.

But that is only about the very worst kind of negative attention. Wearing provocative clothes can garner a lot of other, less violent, types of harassment which are while not as bad, are varying degrees of unpleasant.    Be aware of this, especially if you go out in public wearing things that are fetish inspired, burlesque-esque or particularly revealing. There is a belief in the non-Goth world that Goths, especially Goth "girls", are "easy", and that they will sleep with anyone/thing, so a lot of non-goths come on to young/young looking female Goths quite brazenly and rudely and especially if they are wearing a short skirt, high heels and a revealing/emphasising top (if I'm in Victoriana or a Rivethead outfit I get a lot less unwanted poor attempts at flirtation than if I'm wearing a short skirt and emphasising top) and sometimes regardless of if said female Goth is with their partner.  Also, if you wear fetish clothes in public, don't be surprised if people assume you're a professional dominant and either proposition you or give you hassle over their assumption.

Goth fashion has often borrowed fashion ideas from the realms of fetish and burlesque and is a subculture not afraid to brazenly sexual.  This is mostly fine when done in an age-appropriate manner and within the realms of certain clubs, but do not forget that you will have to journey two and from those clubs, probably late at night (or very early in the morning), and that even if the weather was warm during the day, it can be cold out. (Now I sound like someone's mother saying "you'll catch a chill like that!"). While Goth attire may LOOK brazenly sexual, Goth has always been a particularly Romantic and romantic subculture, and Goth relationships tend to be quite long lasting, and while Goth is a subculture more accepting of those who are polyamorous, in open relationships, etc. or into BDSM or simply have a different sexual orientation, because they are generally a bit less judgemental (but not always, sadly) it does not mean that we are ALL like that and the majority of relationships are exclusive and pairs.

This really depends on the specific Goth club and its usual clientele, but with some it is an unspoken thing that they are a safe space to wear fetish clothes and express varying levels of alternative sexuality without physical danger beyond accidentally getting you leash caught on something or being caught on somebody else's spikes. For Goth clubs to remain a safe space in which the patrons can fully express themselves, the other Goths ought to to respect each other's personal space. Here is the Lady of the Manner's advice, from ::this article:: "As to using clubs as a romantic hunting ground . . . sure, flirt with people. Look appreciatively (and/or longingly) at the attractive creatures wandering around the club. But make VERY sure that an advance would be welcomed. Don’t suddenly start touching the object of your desire unless you know that they won’t view such behavior as an affront. If they ask you to stop whatever you’re doing to or around them, don’t interpret that as them being coy or flirtatious. If their friends have to step in and tell you to stop, you have Gone Too Far, and should start apologizing profusely, then leave the club." and she had to write further on this point in a follow up article: "It is NOT friendly to go up and grope people you barely know; for that matter, it isn’t friendly to do that to people you DO know unless you have An Understanding with them. And don’t you dare try and fob the Lady of the Manners off with the excuse of “I’m just being friendly” or “They’re just overreacting.” The Lady of the Manners is quite serious about this; people are supposed to feel safe in their own subculture, and being pawed at by strangers or semi-strangers does not make one feel safe at all."

Also, before you go out scantily clad, consider your reasons. Is it because the club is rather warm and it's the best outfit for dancing without over-heating? Is it because you feel confident and attractive looking that way? Is it because you want people to look? While there is nothing wrong with being happy with positive attention, or revealing one's flesh because one genuinely feels comfortable that way (it's not like the human body is some sinful, dirty thing to hide away, like some would have believe), revealing ones flesh with the motivation for doing so being garnering attention, (sometimes including negative attention) is a sign of terrible self-esteem issues that need resolving in a better manner. Messing with the emotions of others by playing with  their desires is an even worse behaviour and generally considered not very nice. There are worse levels of self-destructive behaviour based on insecurities, but that's not what I'm writing about here. Yes, there is nothing inherently wrong with various levels of dress, but it is about context and motivation. Also, attractiveness is not proportionate to the amount of flesh revealed. Reveal too much and it stops being a mystery, there needs to be room for the imagination. If you reveal too much you look desperate and tacky rather than attractive. Also, beautiful and sexy are not synonyms, while it's fine to look sexy, don't feel pressured into believing that this is the only way to be "beautiful".

Today I read ::this:: article via Feminist Fashion Bloggers, and it pertains directly to this issue and is worth a good read. One thing that it is important to remember is that revealing clothes do not work like certain portions of mass media would like some of us to believe - most men do not have a Pavalovian response to revealing clothes, and those that do make the wolf-whistles at anything slender in a short skirt or suchlike are a minority, if a significant minority, and this behaviour has little to do with male nature and more to do with a society (or rather a subsection of society) where it is considered manly for men to show continual interest in sex and for them to objectify women. It is insulting to men as a whole to assume they are all like the worst Frat/Jock stereotype. 


  1. Word! (For lack of a better term at the moment.)
    How any times has one had to fend off beer-sticky hands trying to grope something and then hear the excuse that "he's just showing his appreciation"..? Bullshit. Harassment or rape is never do to appreciation - on the contrary. It is to do with the idea that these men (or women, for that matter) feel entitled to another persons body "just because they want it".

    This makes me think of something Lady Amaranth wrote about the photographers at Whitby Goth Weekend... I'll link it.

    (Also, I wish I had the energy and time to write such intelligent posts as yours!)
    // CeeCee (rockinroller)

    1. Aww, you write intelligent posts! I can't vouch for the ones in your home language, as I can't read them, but I'd assume they're even better. :) On Sundays I do get time to write, so I did spend all afternoon reading feminist articles before writing this!

      I've read that post by Lady Amaranth. It's about time someone spoke up about it. I hope that the article circulates amongst photographers. I'm thinking of circulating it at the camera club my partner and I attend, because it applies to any gathering of unusual people, festival, etc. My partner is a photographer, so we had quite an interesting chat about photographer etiquette. When he read through the article he was quite unhappy with the attitude of some of the photographers Lady Amaranth had encountered on forums.

      Lecherousness is not appreciative, it's greedy, arrogant and presumptive. Not to mention, rude and unpleasant. You do get lecherous women too, and just people with no sense of personal boundaries and politeness.

      There was a lesbian woman I met last time I went to a club, and she was nice to talk to, and I was happy with a friendly dance, but she was er... considerably shorter than me, about the right height to stick her head in my cleavage... which she did, partly because she was too drunk to stay vertical by this point. She wasn't exactly threatening due to the fact she was tiny compared to me, too drunk to be fully in control of her movements and more lacking boundaries than being forcefully aggressive, but it wasn't exactly pleasant, and I was there with my partner, and therefore not really interested in advances from anyone. I wouldn't say she was lecherous, just so drunk she didn't recognise my boundaries, so I tactfully introduced her to my partner, at which point she went off and danced with somebody else who seemed to be enjoying it a lot more than I had been.

      A lot of hassle comes from people who start with friendly, and then try and push mild flirtation too far, and don't heed the boundaries of where they've crossed the line. If I'm not interested, pestering me and getting nasty is going to end with the pesterer getting evicted from the club. I especially don't like being groped or pinched while I'm actually dancing with my partner. My partner tends to take exception to that too, as do I when people do it to him.

      I think the over-consumption of alcohol has a lot to do with it. I don't know about where you live, but un the UK the amount of anti-social behaviour (not just in clubs in regards to sexually motivated unpleasantness) has gone up pretty much in proportion to the level of excessive drinking in young people, not just because the harassing types are drunker, but because there are more people around who are too drunk to really put up much resistance to this behaviour so they think they can get away with it.

      Drinking is fine, it's just people should know their limits, the point at which they're too drunk to recognise trouble coming, and not drink themselves that far into drunkenness. People should also not be afraid to tell club staff if someone is being a pest. Clubs have door staff and security for dealing with people like that. Door staff should also be aware of the genre of the night the club is hosting, and keep out people who are clearly not part of that group, and are only there to cause trouble. Apart from the drunken lesbian, every other time I've been harassed in a club it has been by a drunken male who is not part of the usual scene. Goth clubs are not there for the amusement of drunken non-goths looking to pick up "hot death girls". Door staff should keep them out...

  2. Excellent post! I think accusations of "bad feminist" would be incorrect; "realistic feminist" is more accurate.

    From what I know, being scantily clad probably won't increase a woman's risk of rape, but it will almost certainly increase her risk of lewd stares, catcalls, rude comments, unwanted advances, groping and other forms of not-quite-assault. It shouldn't happen, but the reality is that it does happen and will continue to happen until there is a cultural shift toward respect for others.

    Of course the victim should never be blamed. Even the drunkest, most reckless person does not deserve to be assaulted. It's sad that rape victims seem to receive more blame and less sympathy than victims of other crimes. If a man is mugged, no one is going to say, "You deserved it because you were wearing a nice suit. You should have protected yourself by dressing like a bum for your walk home."

    1. Indeed - nobody "deserves" to be raped (not even the people who do nasty things themselves) no matter how scantily clad or drunk. I am not saying that a person is to blame if they're drunk, just that if you're really drunk it means you can look like an easier target to some, especially if you're so drunk you won't remember what happened in the morning, can't stay vertical let alone run away, etc. It's still not "their fault" though, and it really IS shocking that people still act like that, especially other women, even women theoretically there to support the vicitms... That is another story, and probably not one for the public internet.

      (My partner wears a nice suit, his work insists on it as a kind of uniform; black suit, white shirt, red tie. His winter gloves are black leather. The end result is that he looks like Agent 47 from Hitman, but with hair. )

  3. Yes, I agree that you're not being a bad feminist, just a realistic one. If modest clothing could stop harassment completely, we would all wear it. No, people shouldn't be judged by their clothing, but that's not realistic. Women should dress how they want, but be aware of the kind of attention that their going to get.

    1. Exactly, even women in burkhas or full Lolita outfits get hassled, and apparently Lolitas get "slut" yelled at them in the streets in some places. (the reasoning behind it is beyond me). Modesty is not a shield against harassment. The world is an imperfect place and we have to be aware of that.

  4. Absolutely spot-on! Being aware of the statements you make just by dressing a certain way is so important...and it's also empowering, so your feminism doth remain intact. =P Thank you for this insightful and thought-provoking post. =)

  5. Agreed, agreed, agreed, agreed 1,000 agreed.

    I can't tell you how many nails this post hit squarely on the head, thank you!

    Much Love


    1. You're allowed to disagree to, y'know :P

      But thank you very much :)

  6. Finally got round to reading this excellent article. The goth stuff was really interesting! I don't know much (anything) about goth subculture, but oddle despite the fetish wear I have never thought of it in a sexual way.

    1. Hello! Non-goths are perfectly welcome at this blog too :) It's nice to get perspective from outside the subculture, and perspective from non-goth people who aren't the rude people who accost us in the streets. Personally, I've had "whore of Babylon" shouted at me in the streets and been propositioned as a dominatrix in the supermarket, and things like that are what have stuck with me as the outside perception of Goth being that it is tightly linked with BDSM and fetish, as well as all the exposes in gossip magazines, despite the fact I am not actively aiming for a fetish-inspired look, I just like wearing leather.


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