34 Comments

Feed the FAQ: “rape apologist” definitions, clarifications and links

I’d like to get some wider input into this one.

The suggestion was made that we need a specific FAQ, and I think we do. This was my first take in comments answering that suggestion:

The simple answer is that a rape apology is any argument that boils down to the myth that rapists can be provoked into raping by what the victim does or does not do.

Such apologies feed off the old myth that rapists have no control over the sexual temptation they experience in response to the victim, therefore the victim could have avoided awakening the irresistible rape temptation by behaving differently. It’s classic victim-blaming.

Most people who make such arguments are not consciously intending to defend rapists. They are simply repeating arguments they have heard before and haven’t fully examined.

There are some excellent posts about rape myths and victim blaming around. I have linked to a few in this FAQ:
FAQ: What’s wrong with suggesting that women take precautions to prevent being raped?.

I know that can be improved upon, especially with some material on rape culture. Suggestions please, especially for links to good posts.

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About tigtog

writer, singer, webwrangler, blogger, comedy tragic | about.me/vivsmythe

34 comments on “Feed the FAQ: “rape apologist” definitions, clarifications and links

  1. I would also be sure to include an FAQ on rape denialism, which is different from rape apologism.

    I take the following from a thread on Feministing (http://feministing.com/archives/008281.html):

    “Rape denialism, noun, the ideology of denying or minimizing the prevalence of rape.

    Contrast with rape apologism, the ideology of denying the seriousness of rape.

    The rape denialist acknowledges the category “rape” and overtly endorses the view that it is wrong and grievously so. The rape denialist then attempts to construct arguments by which few or no rapes can be defined or verified.

    Because rape denialists acknowledge the seriousness of rape, they frequently make extravagant assertions about how rapists should be dealt with; often through torture. The severity of proposed consequences, however, can be pressed into service in (1) defining rape as so aberrant that only the non-functional mentally ill would commit the act; and (2) that it is quite rare. The rape denialist often seeks to exclude acquaintance rape of any kind, any rape not causing visible physical injuries, and any rape where the rapist or any other party could pay a money judgment in any civil action, usually on the premise (among others) that fabricated allegations are common. For this proposition, only anecdotal evidence is generally offered, often in the form of an aside about the Duke rape case. Before Duke, the anecdote of choice was Tawana Brawley.

    Rape denial and rape apology are conceptually separate, but are often simply rhetorical strategies employed by the same men. Properly understod, then, rape denialism is a special class of rape apology.”

  2. Good point, and good link. Thanks!

  3. [...] I need some input on an FAQ on “rape apology” for Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog. [...]

  4. Maybe also define “asking for it” as implied consent by what is being worn, or what is being consumed or the location etc etc.

  5. Besides blaming the victim, rape apologists make other excuses for rapists when they want to call someone who reported rape a liar but can’t.

    Rape as simple misunderstanding is one of the most frequent examples. As in, “I opened her bedroom door in the middle of the night and told her to let me know if she didn’t want me to have sex with her. Since she didn’t respond, I naturally assumed she was consenting.”

  6. abyss2hope brings up an interesting and useful point about consent. I think the issue of consent, namely that women are assumed to be in a constant state of assumed affirmative consent, is one of the foundations on which rape apologism exists. Maybe you could put a finer point on the issue of consent from a feminist perspective? (I imagine this might open up other issues related to consent, such as “no means no” vs. “yes means yes” and other misconceptions about what consent really is and does.)

  7. women are assumed to be in a constant state of assumed affirmative consent

    BINGO. Women’s default status is not “yes.” Rape apologists/denialists operate under the assumption that unless a woman shouts “no!” she’s consenting to sex. So basically if you ambush a woman in her bedroom and penetrate her before she has the chance to yell “no!” – it’s not rape.

  8. In response to SarahMC’s quote from Feministing: I found myself getting a little confused between people who make excuses for rapists, people who deny rape by redefining it, and people who minimize the seriousness of rape. For example: if a person objects that a woman raped while drunk is “gray rape” or not really rape, is that apologism or denialism? Also, in what category do we put rape humorists (cf. “Rape is Hilarious” on Shakesville)? Those are people who deny the seriousness of rape but don’t seem to be defending it, exactly, unless it’s by making light of it.
    I think this is partly clarified by defining apologism as “defense of rape” rather than “denying the seriousness of it”. . . although I think the original comment posted by tigtog did a nice job of explaining that apologists may not be intentionally defending rape.

    At the “women are assumed to be in a constant state of affirmative consent,” it’d be great to link to some of the blogs who define “enthusiastic consent.” There are lots… my very favorite is PortlyDyke’s A Modest Proposal.

  9. Sometimes a remark can be both apologism and denialism, it doesn’t have to be either/or. The “grey rape” idea in particular is apologising for the rapist (he was drunk too and it was a misunderstanding and he didn’t hurt her) and denying that it was really rape and saying that even “if it was wrong” denying the seriousness of it (she was passed out and wasn’t hurt and can’t really remember it, so it wasn’t that bad)

    I think it could be good to work on another FAQ on Consent in tandem with this one (noting that concentrating too hard on Consent for acquaintance rape issues risks minimising other important issues re rape), and publish them together with crosslinks. It could get too unwieldy otherwise.

    ETA: with respect to the point about these arguments often being unthinking repetition of tropes rather than a conscious intent to defend rapists, we’ll need to note reasons why these victim-blaming perpetrator-excusing arguments subconsciously appeal to people – they reinforce the status quo rather than question it, and questioning the status quo makes people uncomfortable:
    e.g.
    * the idea that “good/careful” women won’t get raped – for women the idea that as long as they conform to the norms they will be safe has a natural appeal – it’s easier to believe that raped women made an error of judgement/behaviour than to accept that you too are vulnerable to a rapist in sheep’s clothing anytime/anywhere
    * the “what could she expect/he couldn’t help himself” trope has a natural appeal as well – it removes attention from the power/punishment motive of predatory rape on to simple sexuality as a natural force of which women are the gatekeepers, thus reinforcing women’s status as the sex class
    etc etc (suggest more?)

    That might be another FAQ as well.

  10. I call it all apologism. I don’t see a huge line between denying and apologizing for it, because most of the denying is along he lines of “women are lying whores” and “just because she was drunk doesn’t mean she couldn’t consent,” etc. They’re intertwined but mostly the same thing.

    Things I would include:

    FBI stats on the extremely low rate of false rape accusations.

    That revoking a rape accusation doesn’t mean it was a false allegation. The same with identifying the wrong man as the rapist in cases of stranger rape.

    Consent once doesn’t mean consent always

    Consent to some sex acts doesn’t mean consent to all sex acts

    Why there is no excuse for refusing to stop when consent has been revoked

    Why it is insulting to demand explanations for why women don’t report (with stats on low conviction rates)

    The obvious of why rape is never a woman’s fault/a woman is never “asking for it”

    Why it is insulting and harmful to refer to rape as “sex”

    Why rape jokes are not okay

    How any non-consensual sex act or sexual touching is sexual assault, not just PIV penetration.

    The myth that sexual purity determines accusation validity, and the myth that raping a “promiscuous” woman (i.e. sex worker) is “not as bad” as raping any other woman.

    Why it’s harmful to focus on how WOMEN can prevent rape as opposed to how MEN, who are all but a tiny fraction of rapists, can prevent rape.

    Sorry no links. It’s getting late and I’m tired and probably even forgetting something. If for some reason you’d like additional help feel free to contact me, but I’m sure that you can probably handle things on your own :) Good luck!

  11. p.s. if it’s unclear SarahMC at el, I’m not trying to argue or debate you on the issue or anything like that. I’m pretty sure that we’re mostly on the same page on this one.

  12. Via Reclusive Leftist, this post at Feministing has a lot about how porn with forced, gagging blowjobs has normalised that act of rape as just part of sex, so that many men and many of the women they have sex with don’t see that act of violence as an act of rape.

    These sorts of normalisations then feed directly into rape apologism in situations where women have agreed to sex but not to violent sex: “it’s not that bad” and “everybody expects that in sex now” etc.

    I’m not sure how to work that in though.

  13. These sorts of normalisations then feed directly into rape apologism in situations where women have agreed to sex but not to violent sex: “it’s not that bad” and “everybody expects that in sex now” etc.

    I think this goes back to the issue of consent and what exactly that means. Rapists and rape-apologists seem to work with a particularly self-serving definition of consent, that saying yes (or not saying no, as the case may be) is saying yes to whatever happens during a sex act/session. This is reinforced by legal systems that don’t recognize the withdrawal of consent in the middle of a sex act.

    Porn, specifically the violent porn you’re describing, is hawt because it shows nonconsensual sex acts (or at least makes them seem nonconsensual via editing). It’s taboo to rape, and it’s taboo to be raped, and porn works within that framework of taboos to get people off.

  14. If you follow a thread of normalization, this post by Renegade Evolution has a pretty good guide to why porn sex is NOT representative of good sex for many people.

    I second L’s comment and I also think you’ve touched on the main point with “everyone expects that now.” That topic might not be an FAQ, though, but an FYI? If it’s an FAQ, it could possibly go under questions of sexuality… since the scenario you’re describing sounds like it plays into a heteronormative myth of men as aggressive and pleasure-seeking, women as submissive and pleasure-giving.

  15. Yes, I think there’s a Friday Feminism post rather than an FAQ in that whole area of “gray rape” and how it ties into the normalisation of porn sex. There’s been quite a few good posts on the issue. That discussion thread at Feministing was particularly powerful.

    Also, I think the FAQ will have to distinguish between acts which are ethically labelled as rape/sexual assault/coercion/nonconsensual sex, versus what various legal jurisdictions define as rape. As said above, many legal codes do not recognise the validity of a withdrawal of consent once sexual congress has begun, but it’s unarguable that sex after the withdrawal of consent is ethically nonconsensual.

  16. Renegade Evolution says she is not a feminist and in fact has wished for the bloody death of radfems.

  17. Also, I think the FAQ will have to distinguish between acts which are ethically labelled as rape/sexual assault/coercion/nonconsensual sex, versus what various legal jurisdictions define as rape.

    I think this is a great idea and would be a very useful resource, even for those of us already grazing the feminist pastures.

    Renegade Evolution says she is not a feminist and in fact has wished for the bloody death of radfems.

    That doesn’t mean that what she says in the post that tanglethis linked isn’t useful or true. I, for one, think a critique of porn coming from a sex worker/porn performer is particularly powerful (not to say that a critique of porn from a specifically feminist perspective isn’t, but Ren’s take on it shouldn’t be disqualified just because she doesn’t identify as a feminist or as a radfem).

  18. She’s actively hostile to radfems and has wished for their deaths. It’s a little bit more serious than ‘not identified as a feminist.’

    She’s sought out feminists repeatedly for support, attention and sympathy, and has been cruel and vindictive in response. She’s no friend of feminists, and I don’t think she should be coddled or endorsed. I for one am not likely to forget somebody wishing that she hoped radfems would die, choking on their own blood.

    Just because she’s a woman does not make her an ally. She’s no ally to the millions of trafficked women and children out there, whose suffering she ignores.

    Maybe we need a topic about women who use feminism and feminists when it suits them, and then goes back to hating them when they don’t. As a feminist, I feel tremendously conflicted about this, having defended Ann Coulter against sexist insults. But women who enable mens’ hatred of women and their fantasies of domination need to be addressed. If they’re not feminists, then maybe they should consider what feminism has won for them and what their lives would be without it. Either way, it needs to be addressed.

    Tigtag, you may think is ‘past flame wars’ but I’m sick of seeing feminists and feminism being used and discarded by people who don’t conceal their hatred of us and it. Why is that such a forbidden subject?

  19. Ginmar, noting that Renegade Evolution’s relationship to feminism is highly conflicted is important: like a lot of libertarians she finds the collective emphasis of radical feminism an affront. She is hugely combative and has written some vilely offensive remarks.

    However, as L says, that doesn’t mean that everything she writes has to be disregarded.

    Tigtag, you may think is ‘past flame wars’ but I’m sick of seeing feminists and feminism being used and discarded by people who don’t conceal their hatred of us and it. Why is that such a forbidden subject?

    Can’t conflicts and criticisms be discussed without actually resurrecting the past flame wars? It’s not the topic that is forbidden, it’s the flaming.

  20. Just because she’s a woman does not make her an ally.

    I didn’t say that any radfems should consider her an ally (I don’t think she’d want that anyway, for obvious reasons). I said that I thought that the post tanglethis linked is a useful critique of porn as a sex ed tool. I’m also not saying we should endorse everything she says. But, just as I don’t want to be written off because I’m a woman, for example, I don’t think *everything* Ren says should be written off because her views conflict with ours (not that the “radfem view” is unified by any means). I understand your anger with her, and I’m not looking to minimize that. I just don’t see the point of ignoring women who’ve obviously been alienated from radical feminism in one way or another. We’re not perfect. Shouldn’t we listen — with compassion — to what they need and what they think? This is not saying “Ren is an ally.” This is saying that, despite her disavowal of radical feminism, maybe we can still learn from her and her experiences.

  21. She’s been actively hostile to feminists for a good long while, and if I want to learn more about feminism, I’ll pick somebody who’s actually feminist. Her view of porn has proven to be self-serving before. My mindset is devoted to abolishing it, not wasting my time with those who make apologies and justifications for it.

  22. I don’t see where I flamed anybody at all. Ren Ev has been using radfems for quite a long time, even while she expresses hatred for us in rather obsessive terms. She contributes to the anti-feminist website that Daran runs with some of the very men who applauded when trolls tore down Hearrt’s website.

  23. ginmar, you brought up “past flame wars” and asked why discussing the topic of people “using” feminism was forbidden. I said that it wasn’t the topic that was forbidden, just the flaming. That is NOT an accusation that you were flaming here and now.

  24. “women are assumed to be in a constant state of assumed affirmative consent”

    It seems to me that it’s more that women are assumed to not have sexual desires of their own. This means that assent, when given, is assent to submit to male desires, not an declaration of desire itself. It also means that a declaration of desire is read submission rather than a seen for what it is.

    From this, we get the idea that any number of actions is “asking for it” – as if we are incapable of of actually asking for it. Because the absence of female desire leaves no room for nuance.

    Combine this with the assumption that women are lesser and exist to serve others, and you also get the idea that women shouldn’t be in position to say no. As if we are no more capable – or worthy – of making our wishes known than a pet dog is.

    That’s when you get the idea that women are in a “constant state of assumed affirmative consent.”

    I don’t think that all rapists – and certainly not all rape apologists/deniers/minimizers think this last part.* If they did, we’d either be worse off than we already are or there’d be fewer of such people. I think that the confusion of “I want” and “I submit” means that people have a hard time thinking about boundaries and acceptable behavior when it come to sex in a healthy way.

    *I get that culture argues this idea, so it’s a good think to discuss. But when it comes to explaining feminism, I think it’s useful to keep in mind what people are likely to be consciously thinking.

  25. It seems to me that it’s more that women are assumed to not have sexual desires of their own. This means that assent, when given, is assent to submit to male desires, not an declaration of desire itself. It also means that a declaration of desire is read submission rather than a seen for what it is.

    I think this is sort of six of one, half dozen of the other — it’s not necessarily more important than the assumed-consent aspect, and it’s not terribly different either, but it’s a different perspective on the same basic issue. My take on it is this: when I was assaulted (which betrays some bias on my part, but I’m also not looking to say that all rapes/assaults are the same or occur under the same circumstances), I was in a sexual relationship with the man who did it where we talked about our respective desires. In my reading of it, the assault wasn’t a direct result of him believing that I was incapable of wanting something, because we had talked about my desires and had even acted to realize some of them; rather, it was a result of him believing that consent to one sex act = no holds barred elsewhere. Which, to me, sounds a lot like a conflation of “I want” and “I submit,” as you said. My “I want this” was taken as “I want whatever you want.” So, he assumed that I was in a state of “yes” when he did

    Additionally, I think your example of women who “ask for it” by wearing short skirts/drinking/being in a dark alleyway/whatever else is not only an expression of this disbelief in women’s desires but also an illustration of a misunderstanding of what constitutes consent. To me, if women are considered to be “asking for it” by simply appearing in public, they are in a state of assumed consent to whatever happens to them. The issue of consent is problematic — most people (even many feminists) don’t know what it entails or how it plays out in reality.

    I agree that it’s a good idea to answer what people are consciously thinking. Maybe an FAQ to start with could be “What’s wrong with saying/thinking that rape victims were ‘asking for it’?” This would get into some of the victim-blaming, but it might also open up the consent issue for explanation and discussion.

  26. Hm, I didn’t finish a sentence. The end of my first paragraph should read: So, he assumed that I was in a state of “yes” when he assaulted me, and he also saw my “yes” to another sex act as submission to his desires otherwise, regardless of my wishes.

  27. This discussion, especially the last part, has been pretty interesting. Some thoughts:

    It seems to me that it’s more that women are assumed to not have sexual desires of their own. This means that assent, when given, is assent to submit to male desires, not an declaration of desire itself. It also means that a declaration of desire is read submission rather than a seen for what it is.

    I can relate to this.

    I’m not into having women “submit” to me, but I realize that at some level I can’t really believe that a woman might actually want to have sex (whether it’s with me or with Fabio), rather than doing it to be nice or because she feels obligated or something. No amount of reality-testing seems to shake this feeling. And if I feel this way, despite everything I’ve done to try to “re-educate” myself, and I think I’m probably more overtly “feminist” than most of the men out there, then I figure it must be in most men. Definitely in my generation (I’m in my 50’s), and maybe in most of the younger men as well.

    When I read (apparently) well-meaning men trying to say that this or that (often far-fetched) scenario isn’t really rape, or worry about false rape accusations, it sounds to me like a guilty conscience. I think that this guilt comes from the suspicion that the women they have had sex with, or tried to, didn’t really want it. And this suspicion is not surprising if they start out with the assumption that women never really want it, they just give in at some point or other. I’m not saying that they have actually raped anyone, by any standards, but that they may realize that their mindset is not much different from the mindset of one of those Evil Rapists.

    This ties in with the “rape != sex” statement somewhere above: from the victim’s point of view, this may make sense, but from the viewpoint of most men and of much of society, it doesn’t — rape differs from “normal” sex mainly in the means. Both involve a man getting a woman to submit to him. It’s like the difference between a legal and an illegal tax shelter.

    As far as the “she asked for it” line of argument: I think men who use this as a justification for rape are BSing, or at least rationalizing. The same guys who will say that “she asked for it” by being alone, or wearing a miniskirt, will say “she asked for it” if she’s wearing jeans covered with razor blades. Basically, “she asked for it” by being in a location and condition where he could rape her. It’s no different from a bank robber saying that the little old lady he shot on his way out of the bank deserved it because she should have gotten out of his way faster. At least the guy who says, “she was my girlfriend/wife, she is supposed to be available to me” has had some sort of grounds to believe she was willing.

    But when women (victims or not) use this sort of reasoning, I think it’s a way of believing that they have some control in a frightening situation. It’s like soldiers in a war who believe that if they wear a certain shirt they won’t get killed.

  28. I wanted to throw a couple more thoughts out there about the possible reasons behind rape apologism. I haven’t really fleshed these out, as I’m sort of in the midst of seeing them, but I think they’re interesting:

    1) The rhetoric of individualism. Not only does this lead to victim-blaming (every person is responsible for what happens to hir, even if zie’s not), but it leads to a lack of compassion, an inability to empathize with others, and eventually to apathy. The attitudes range from “If it doesn’t impact me, why should I care?” to “Why should I do anything about it?” to “Why are you complaining about something that doesn’t involve you?” to “Mind your own business.” This rhetoric not only blames victims but also isolates them by making rape a very personal “problem” that others cannot help in any way. Additionally, it shields the rapist from criticism because it reinforces the individualistic mind-your-own-business-and-I’ll-mind-mine defense that surrounds domestic abuse and other “private” crimes.

    Hm, seems a little shaky, like I’m trying to get at something else. I don’t know about #1. Any ideas?

    2) Splitting hairs on the definition of “rape.” Because of so much incorrect lay-usage of “rape” to mean anything from losing a video game (“I got raped, d00d”) to having money stolen/lost (“The bank raped my wallet when they enacted that new fee”) to practically anything else that includes something bad happening to someone else without their consent, the dictionary definition includes senses that aren’t at all about forced “sex” (example here). I’m not sure whether this exemplifies a culture that misunderstands/apologizes for rape, reinforces a misunderstanding/apologism for rape, or a vicious combination of both. As shown in this thread on LJ, rape apologism can be enabled by these dictionary definitions that pretty much legitimize (by reflection) the inappropriate use of “rape” in reference to non-sexual, non-rape situations.

    Anyway, I’m still thinking about this post/thread, for one.

  29. L – regarding #2

    It is interesting how on the one hand, rape apologists will get extremely defensive when you call something rape if it fits feminism’s definition of rape, but perhaps not the legal definition of rape in a particular place, but then on the other hand, there is a lot of minimizing of rape going on where the dictionary definition is expanded to not just include land and other properties that have been historically referred to as feminine, but practically any unpleasant situation – even if not everyone would agree that the situation was unfair.

    Granted, these aren’t always the same people, so it’s not like people themselves are always being inconsistent; but I rather doubt that they aren’t ever the same people. I rather suspect they often are.

    In some ways, the men that are using “rape” to refer to things that are non-sexual are adhering to the more historical definition of the word, because historically (at least since the time of dictionaries, anyway :) ) rape has been something that was perpetrated on men using women’s (and children’s) bodies. Rape was a crime against a man’s property, not a woman’s (or child’s) liberty. Even the rape of men was usually considered mainly an act against god and nature, not a crime perpetrated on one person by another.

    But that’s been the whole point of all the changes to the law over the last 150 years or so; that rape should be defined as a crime against the people whose bodies and liberties have actually been violated – not as a property crime. It’s unclear how consciously the people who toss the word “rape” around like it’s slang are trying to minimize rape, but I think on some level they are very aware that it’s a word that has a lot of power. That not only does broadly defining it minimize it’s power, but also that making the word “rape” about them makes sexual assault seem to be something it’s not.

    Or rather, they may not be aware of this, but they already think that sexual assault isn’t a big deal, and that it’s only a big deal when it’s about “their” women, and thus why they never notice what douchebags they are being.

  30. Even before the crime of rape was codified as sexual penetration of a woman belonging to another man, the term was used to refer to theft generally. Heracles’ 9th labour was the “rape of the belt” belong to the queen of the Amazons, and “the rape of Ganymede” was his abduction to Mount Olympus by Zeus. So it’s not really all that surprising that there’s been a return and re-emphasis of the theft meaning – it’s always been lurking there.

    That’s why I applaud the jurisdictions which have changed all their legislation to refer to degrees of sexual assault, as it is a less ambiguous term. However, “sexual assault” doesn’t have the pungency and evocative immediacy of the word “rape”, so in conversation outside the instances of court cases, I still prefer to refer to non-consensual sexual coercion as “rape”.

  31. P.S. re the rape/abduction of the boy Ganymede, the response of Ganymede’s father (the King of Troy) shows how, as Mickle said, the offence was considered to perpetrated against the father, not the boy himself. Zeus ended paying compensation to the father in the form of a team of magically fleet-footed horses.

  32. The same guys who will say that “she asked for it” by being alone, or wearing a miniskirt, will say “she asked for it” if she’s wearing jeans covered with razor blades.

    I actually doubt that. Not that I don’t think some rationalization will be sought, but I think people who use that particular “rationale” have actually convinced themselves a short skirt signals sexual availability. That, after all, is (at root) why they’re perceived as attractive, along with much else women do/wear/etc. that’s seen as attractive.

    Er, I just reread that paragraph. I’m not saying a woman who wears a short skirt does so because she wants to have sex with any warm body that happens to fall into her field of view, or even because she wants to suggest that’s the case; I’m just postulating that the association of “skirt=attractive” stems from an earlier association of “skirt=horny.”

    At least the guy who says, “she was my girlfriend/wife, she is supposed to be available to me” has had some sort of grounds to believe she was willing.

    I wonder about this one; I do tend to think my girlfriend will make it clear when she isn’t … interested (and we agree that “not interested” should be treated as “unwilling”). Is that the same as thinking she is supposed to be available to me? I think that attitude requires the belief that she doesn’t have desires of her own, as well as that I’m entitled to say she’s supposed to do anything.

    (Normally I wouldn’t ask, because the obvious answer is “we’re not here to be feminism 101.”)

  33. [...] With Roman Polanski having been arrested in Switzerland on an outstanding US arrest warrant, the rape apologists have been coming out in droves.  However, we here at I Blame The Mother care about [...]

  34. There is a case though in considering what women and men historically wore for clothes and for what purposes. Men’s breaches/trousers were for horse riding – true? No, not really, they were a development (that took off from 1760 in Western society) of hose, via breaches, popularised by sailors since 1580’s (since it allowed rolling up and wading to shore) and post-1789 revolution working class French citizens. Women’s long skirts were for modesty/hide hairy legs/ease of urination/prevent odours escaping if menstruating and frequent washing is not possible? No, not really either. Tunics were the norm and it was men who moved away from this. The question might be why women took to wearing longer tunics without hose (becoming gowns, frocks, dresses and eventually skirts)…

    So to consider skirts as being sexy because they permit sexual access is complicated. They were not designed for this purpose and I imagine few women choose to wear dresses/skirts for that reason.

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