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04 September 2012

Teaching against "Invited" Rape

I'm approaching my biannual lecture on sexual assault and rape. It can be a difficult one. When teaching rape, I've found that among the preconceptions that are tough to get students to question, the notion that women sometimes invite rape by dressing provocatively is particularly tenacious. I've decided to try this allegory to put this dangerous belief into perspective:
Imagine your parents decided to spruce up their home by renovating the facade and landscaping. Imagine that thieves subsequently break into the house and steal a lot of valuable items. Imagine the police officers tell your parents that it is their fault that they were robbed because they had enticed the burglars by making their home look so alluring. What would you think about this?
I'm betting that most students will get the point: an attractive home doesn't justify breaking-and-entering in the same* way that a sexy dress and makeup does not invite rape; no one invites rape.

* - There is a big risk, though, in that the metaphor further objectifies women by equating the female body to an inanimate building. I'm hoping that this problem, however, can be flipped and used as part of the discussion about the objectification of women and how that objectification contributes to rape culture. Does anyone have other suggestion on teaching about this concept without reinforcing objectification?


  1. This is not exactly the same thing, but it might also be useful for a discussion about gender and who gets to make choices.


  2. Thanks, Brent. I think that would work well. It's certainly powerful. The only reason I'm hesitant to use it is that I don't want to politicize rape or abortion for my "Republican" (i.e. "my parents are Republican so so am I") students.