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Women dress - Dazzling or Detrimental?
By Kapal Berita

18/10/2000 4:00 am Wed


I have just come across with this article. I hope it is not too late to share with you all. It is not by Nik Aziz though, but by an American lady which is not a muslim.


Dazzling or Detrimental? (Women and 'provocative dressing')

by Julie Riggert,
Iowa State University, USA.

They are seen every day; magazine covers explode with their pictures; television and movie screens constantly display them prancing around. Because provocatively dressed women are seen so frequently, many people might believe that their impact on others, especially males, is diminishing.

Surprisingly, this is not the case. Many researchers have shown that women who dress seductively, wearing very little attire or showing ample amounts of skin, are creating a harmful environment for themselves. This pattern of dress can encourage males to vent their feelings and emotions by acting out in violence, often in the form of rape.

"Male sex is hunting and scanning: boys hang yelping from honking cars, acting like jerks over strolling girls; men lunching on girders go through the primitive book of wolf whistles and animal clucks. Everywhere, the beautiful woman is scrutinized and harassed. She is the ultimate symbol of human desire" (Paglia 32).

Why is clothing so important and have such an impact on others? Clothing plays a significant role in the socialization process that leads to the development of one's self. It is seen as a "second skin" or extension of the bodily self (Sweeney 411).

Clothes' characteristics transmit information about age, sex, personality traits, socioeconomic status, values, political ideologies, etc. They may also indicate inter personal attitudes, such as, aggressiveness, availability, gracefulness, arrogance, etc. (Satrapa 159).

At times this form of expression may result with what some perceive as negative consequences. When strategically surrounded by clothing, many areas of the body may function like traffic lights, stopping and starting points that direct the eye to a further destination-thus fulfilling what Freud regarded as a major component of the sex drive, "the libido for looking" (Dyett 14).

After establishing that clothing is an essential aspect of appearance, it is now necessary to investigate its importance in forming first impressions. Frequently, the impression that a woman may be trying to portray isn't the same impression that is interpreted by others as seen in one experiment. Introductory psychology classes were shown one of two slides: one slide represented a female model wearing 'conservative' clothing while the other slide depicted the model in sexually provocative clothing.

Questionnaires were filled out indicating impressions of the female. The model in the sexy clothing was judged to be more attractive and sexually appealing to men; she was viewed more negatively with respect to age of first intercourse, sexual teasing, extent of sexual activity, using sex for personal gain, and faithfulness in marriage.

The sexy model was also viewed as more likely to be raped or robbed (Cahoon 65). Many people doubt that a woman's attire could drive a man to rape, but studies prove that clothing could be a major factor in motivating a male to act out in this manner.

An experiment done at Augusta College drew up the following results: the relationship between sexy clothing and robbery/rape supports the assumption that the culture views women who choose to be sexually attractive as being suitable objects for male aggression. Females who enhance their sexual appeal to males are viewed as somehow "asking for it."

In summary, the study seems to indicate that females wearing sexually oriented clothes are perceived by both men and women as being "more vulnerable to victimization and more responsible for crimes committed against them than are women who dress more conservatively" (Edmonds 446).

Arguments arise as to who is responsible for the rape: the provocatively dressed female, or the assailant. The opinions of some senior high school students were recorded in the following experiment.

Each student was given the same scenario involving a woman their age who was raped, and then they were to decide who was responsible for the behavior.

In order to investigate the influence of the victim's attire on the subjects' responses, the story was accompanied by either a photograph of the woman dressed provocatively, a photograph of the woman dressed conservatively, or no photograph at all.

Results found that the victim wearing provocative dress resulted in a greater likelihood that the subjects would attribute responsibility for the assailant's behavior to the victim for the date rape. Provocative clothing was also associated with a greater tendency for subjects to agree that the behavior of the assailant was justified.

Further, the results indicate that the subjects were less likely to make judgments of rape when the victim was dressed provocatively (Cassidy 319-323). This experiment showed that the impression the victim presented is interpreted as evidence for her willingness to have sex.

Everyone has his or her own opinion of who is responsible for the rape in a case similar to the one previously described, but what does the law say about a woman's responsibility for the actions of others as a result of her style of dress?

In 1986, the U.S. Supreme Court endorsed guidelines on sexual harassment, and in this decision it was said that evidence of a "woman's allegedly provocative conduct or clothing might be relevant evidence in some cases in determining whether she found particular advances unwelcome" (160 Johnson).

This decision supported the notion that victims of sexual harassment, as a result of their choice of clothing, should be held at least partially responsible for their own harassment.

As I reflect on the data that was collected from numerous experiments, including my own, I have drawn several conclusions.

First, it is important to state that no woman is ever safe from harassment and rape.

"By rating the provocative model as likely to provoke sexual harassment, subjects are able to dissociate themselves from a similar occurrence by stressing that the female provoked the incident and reasoning that if they avoid 'provoking' behaviors, such as dressing in provocative clothing, they can prevent sexual harassment" (Johnson 170).

Although no woman is ever completely safe from this violence, there are certain precautions that can be taken to minimize the amount of harassment that will take place.

As the studies showed, women who dress provocatively have a higher rate for getting raped and robbed for various reasons. As stated earlier, males are attracted to certain features on a female, and when a woman accents these features with her style of dress, it entices males to stop and take a closer look.

I am impartial as to whether it is "ethical" or not to dress seductively, but I do believe every person has a right to do with his or her body as he or she pleases. I feel it is never right to physically or emotionally harm anyone knowingly. Females need to realize, though, that they are putting themselves at a higher risk for violence when they dress in a sexually oriented manner.

Is the price a woman pays to look dazzling worth the detrimental effects it could have on her life? The decision is in her hands.


Cahoon, D. D. "Estimates of Oppostie-Sex First Impressions Related to Female' Clothing Style." Perceptual and Motor Skills 65 (1987): 406.

Cassidy, Linda, and Rose Marie Hurrell. "The Influence of Victim's Attire on Adolescents' Judgments of Date Rape." Adolescence 30 (1995): 319-323.

Dyett, Linda. "Desperately Seeking Skin." Psychology Today 29 (1996): 14.

Edmonds, Ed M. "Attitudes Concerning Crimes Related to Clothing Worn by Female Victims." Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society 24 (1986): 444-446.

Johnson, Kim K., and Jane E. Workman. "Clothing and Attributions Concerning Sexual Harassment." Home Economics Research Journal 21 (1992): 160-172.

Paglia, Camille. Sexual Personae. New York: Vail Ballou Press, 1990.

Satrapa, Andrea, et al. "Influence of Style of Dress on Formation of First Impressions." Perceptual and Motor Skills 74 (1992): 159-162.

Sweeney, Maureen M., and Paul Zionts. "The "Second-Skin": Perceptions of Disturbed and Nondisturbed Early Adolescents on Clothing, Self- Concept, and Body Image." Adolescence 24 (1989): 411-420.