How to treat and respond to someone dressed “slutty,” “provocatively,” or “sexy” comes up a lot during discussions I facilitate on street harassment and sexual harassment in schools (‘Well why do girls/women dress that way if they don’t want the attention?”). I address this issue in my book and briefly on my website in the section “How to Talk to a Woman.” The bottom line is, no matter how someone dresses, treat them with respect.
Caperton at Feministe broke the issue down further in her excellent post “So There’s a Woman Dressed All Sexy-Like: Your Role as Observer“:
“There’s a lot of ongoing debate about what, exactly, a woman is looking for when she goes out dressed all sexy-like (which is itself a subjective concept). Men (and women) get ideas about exactly what that woman wants, what she welcomes, how they should behave toward her, what her all-sexy-likeness indicates. And guys, in particular, can come up with a thousand excuses for publicly ogling a woman’s goodies–They’re right there; I can’t help but look. She’s doing it for attention–she wants men to look. If she didn’t want guys to look, she shouldn’t put them out there. They’re so ubiquitous, I hardly notice them anymore, and when I do I generally dismiss them with rolled eyes and an unladylike snort.
There is one excuse that, while common, is sufficiently uncommon to draw my attention: Some girls get their feelings hurt if you don’t look/whistle/comment/shout/grope. Seriously. Seriously? Your personal approval is paramount to them, and you’re doing them a service by sexually harassing them. They pass you by at a bar, ladypillows pushed up to their chin, and when you don’t hazard a pinch they look back at you with a single, crystalline tear rolling down their cheek. Your unsolicited grunt is really your generous way of seeing to their emotional health, you saint, you. (Whether the gentleman offering this service is the same one who wanted custody of our metaphorical dog, I shall not say.)
And so I provided him a list, albeit not a universal or comprehensive one, of things to do when you see a woman dressed all sexy-like.
1. Admire, if it’s your thing. I mean, why not?
2. Don’t stare. It’s rude. And it’s not like the view is going to change from minute to minute–generally, women don’t spontaneously disrobe or hyperinflate their breasts or turn into lizard-people such that you’d miss it if you turned away. The view ten seconds now will be pretty much the same as the view you’re getting now, so it’s safe to look away.
3. Keep your commentary–and your hands–to yourself. Some women truly are into it; many aren’t. Many really aren’t. It’s best to err on the side of not offending anyone.
4. Don’t assume she’s dressing for you. Maybe she’s dressed all sexy-like for the benefit of her boyfriend/girlfriend, and they just happen to be out in public where you can observe it.
5. Don’t assume she’s dressing for you. Maybe she’s dressed all sexy-like for the guy two barstools down from you, who’s taller than you and flashed a Rolex when he reached for his drink. Or maybe it’s for the guy next to you on the other side who’s shorter than you and wearing tight jeans and hipster glasses that you think look stupid. Or maybe it’s for the woman behind the bar. She’s allowed to be picky, and she’s allowed to not pick you. The fact that you’re sitting within sight of her all-sexy-likeness doesn’t mean she’s aiming it at you–just that she’s a shotgun and you’re within the spread.
6. Don’t assume she’s dressing for you–or anyone else, for that matter. Maybe she’s dressed all sexy-like purely for herself, because she likes the way she looks. Maybe looking all sexy-like makes her feel sexy, and that gives her more confidence or a little bit of a personal thrill. And yes, maybe her look is one that is also appealing to the more prurient gaze, but there’s a difference between wanting to look sexy and wanting to actively pursue interaction of a sexual nature. She gets to do either one.
7. Don’t think she owes you anything. Dressing all sexy-like isn’t some contract with the world that a woman will respond positively to all come-ons or welcome all (or any) physical advances. Even if she is dressed all sexy-like expressly so that people will look at her, that doesn’t mean she wants anyone to touch her or even speak to her, and she gets to do that. If you insist on seeing it as a transaction, think of it this way: She gets to dress in a way that makes her feel sexy, and you get to enjoy seeing a woman who’s dressed all sexy-like.
8. Be a nice guy (or girl), not a Nice Guy™. Review #5. Maybe she’s not into short guys, or tall girls, or guys at all, or girls at all, or facial hair, or muscles, or people who open with “Hey, nice tits.” People have their reasons–and you’re eyeing the woman who’s dressed all sexy-like and not the woman in the mom jeans next to her, so it’s not like you’re one to talk. Here’s a clue: If you find yourself saying, “I’m a nice guy, but no one will sleep with me! Women are only into rich/bad/hot guys. Shallow bitches, all of them,” you’re not a nice guy. You’re a Nice Guy™, and that’s why you’re single.
Am I leaving anything out? Moreover, at what point do you know that a male friend is just plain not educable?”Share on Facebook