Underwear is Not Consent
(TW Sexual Assault and Rape throughout article)
If there is any lace on your underwear or if it is a red thong, you cannot be raped.
If you are confused or enraged by the lack of coherent context of that sentence, then you have the same response that much of the international public did in 2019 when a Peruvian lawyer successfully avoided a guilty verdict for a rape case by justifying the incident with the color of a woman’s underwear.
In early 2019, a 20-year-old woman accused a 22-year-old man of rape. The victim recounts the incident saying she “fell unconscious at a party after being taken there by the accused who told her they were going to collect some official documents.” The next day, she woke up naked in the accused’s bed (Mitchell, 2020). A set of judges in Peru had acquitted the accused rapist because “the supposed personality (shy) represented by her (the victim) does not relate to the undergarment she used on the day of the incident… This type of women’s underwear is normally used on special occasions leading to moments of intimacy, which gives the impression that the woman prepared or willing to have sexual relations with the accused.” Rather than basing the court’s decision on the absence of consent, the validity of consciousness of the woman, or any legal elements pertaining to rape, the court somehow connected the dots between rape and the color of the victim’s underwear. The attire of women in no way provides consent for a woman to be sexually assaulted or even touched. This can and should be applied broadly, from incidents of social parties or raves to the golden rule of cosplay is not consent at conventions.
There are consistent incidents of violence against women in Peru regardless of the international developing social norm surrounding gender equality. Simply put, “social norms have yet to catch up with the legal standards” (Rochabrún, New York Times). In one event a woman was publicly doused with gasoline and then set on fire while boarding a bus because the man was “infatuated” with her but “she was not paying attention to him.” The entitlement of men to supersede the natural well-being and security of women for their own desires is rampant within Peru.
In another instance, Marcelo Rochabrún, an investigative journalist, depicts a scenario where a woman is caught running away on multiple cameras from her naked boyfriend down the halls of a hotel, pleading for help. Despite the medical report stating she was choked, the allegation of death threats, and video footage of the man dragging the woman by her hair, the lawyer of the boyfriend stated, “In our opinion, this is a domestic matter involving infidelity, the details of which I cannot reveal for reasons of gentlemanliness… Dragging her doesn’t mean he’s going to kill her, punching her doesn’t mean he is going to kill her.” This notion was then received by a panel consisting of two male judges out of three that they “had not observed in the accused hatred or rancor toward women” in regards to the charges presented against the accused of attempted femicide. When visual and diagnostic evidence clearly displays a lack of consent is present for the rampant extent of brutality against a woman and it is still legally disregarded, it becomes easier to understand why women continue to live in fear regardless of any legal or social change.
This precedent of brutality against women and lack of equality between the perceived binary genders is not only present in Peru but regrettably many other countries as well. Ireland for example had a similar incident regarding the initial underwear situation in which the defense lawyer of an accused assailant had argued, “Does the evidence out-rule the possibility that she was attracted to the defendant and was open to meeting someone and being with someone… You have to look at the way she was dressed. She was wearing a thong with a lace front.” The natural hostility against women is only fueled by the historical prejudice against them being associated as sexual objects, subject to the will of men. The lack of progressive understanding regarding the disconnected relationship of consent and one’s attire allows for these patriarchal decisions to exist within court systems. Director of the Cork Sexual Violence Sector in Ireland, Mary Crilly, summarized the incident as it is, “What a woman wears… is her business and does not indicate interest or consent… It’s never her fault… We’re allowing the perpetrators to get away.”
Mitchell Charolette, “Judge throws out rape case in Peru because alleged victim’s red underwear ‘suggested the woman was prepared she was willing to have sex,’ sparking national outcry,” DailyMail, November 2020, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8914001/Peru-judges-rule-rape-case-womans-red-underwear-signalled-willing-sex.html
Rochabrún Marcelo, “In Peru, Justice is Sexual Assault Cases Called a “Lost Cause,” The New York Times, May 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/06/world/americas/peru-metoo-sexual-assault.html
Safronova Valeriya, “Lawyer in Rape Trial Links Thong with Consent, and Ireland Erupts”, November 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/15/world/europe/ireland-underwear-rape-case-protest.html
Srivasta Abhinandan, “Judges Acquit Accused Rapist, SayVictim Wanted Sex As She Wore Red Underwear, MCGILLMEDIA”, April 2021, https://life.gomcgill.com/judges-acquit-accused-rapist-say-victim-wanted-sex-as-she-wore-red-underwear
Women in Peru, Project Peru, https://projectperu.org.uk/about-peru/women-in-peru/