Women who dress to show skin make themselves vulnerable to rape or sexual assault, and more often than not face harassment in the form of catcalls or at the very least hungry stares from men. Men on the other hand are not vulnerable in this way. Hence traditionally there have been no restrictions on how men dress and express themselves, but on women there have been restrictions.
Feminists want to point to these facts about men and women and cry inequality and differential treatment to genders.
They question, why women can’t wear what men can, and do what men do. Why women are treated differently. Then they answer it by labelling the society as “misogynistic” and “patriarchal”, or calling it the “man’s world”. It is a wrong answer to the ill-considered question.
The question is ill-considered because it is only externally directed and completely lacks internal self-scrutiny on part of the feminists.
I suggest a different question. Instead of asking why women can’t wear what they want to wear (which is clothes that show skin) and be as safe as men, we should be asking why women want to show skin.
Thinking upon this question would give us different answers than “misogyny” or “patriarchy”.
Anyone would agree that women show more skin than men. They wear short skirts, body tight jeans and transparent shirts, clothes with slits in strategic places, deep neck and sleeveless blouses. Hell, the clothing articles that look like men’s underwear are the norm for women’s casual wear.
There is no debate on this. It is settled that women are severely obsessed with dressing to show skin.
In the former question – why women are treated differently than men – the underlying assumption must be that men and women are the same, and the differences are only anatomical. For if it is accepted that men and women are different in major ways then the difference in their treatment is explained already. Feminists don’t want to admit that men and women are fundamentally different in their biology, and consequently they behave and respond very differently to various social stimuli and that may be the reason why they are expected to obey different norms or are treated differently.
Hence the different question that I suggest. Pondering over why women want to show more, way more skin than men would reveal the ways in which women are different than men.
If we look at the world as a sexual marketplace, women’s position is that of the seller, for they possess the resource called sex; and men’s position is that of the buyer, for they exchange their commitment and wealth to gain access to sex. It is sexual economics .
Think about it. Men are always ready for sex, but women will not give sex to just any man, and certainly will not initiate it. Men spend money and resources trying to woo a woman. Women wait for a worthy man before they decide to have sex. Most women expect commitment before giving sex to a man, whereas men love the sex free of commitment.
Thus, women are the gatekeepers of sex, and men are the gatekeepers of commitment. The easier and cheaper the sex, happier the men. Not so with women. Hence, more men than women would be ready for a one-night-stand.
Coming back to the point, women are the sellers in the sexual marketplace, and men are the buyers.
A woman’s urge to show skin is her “marketing strategy” to attract more men so that she has a larger pool of potential mates to choose the worthy one from to trade sex with. It does not matter whether the woman is single or in a relationship or married. Subconsciously, the forces are always active. Fundamentally, life is about men and women looking to procreate. The society and everything in it is immaterial in the nature’s scheme. Women would always display behavior that puts them in better bargaining position vis-a-vis potential mates in men.
This explains why men don’t wear cosmetics or show skin like women. They don’t have to. Men’s strategy to prove their worthiness to women is displaying masculine behavior and showing off wealth, not their bare body.
Now imagine a store where expensive and most attractive items are kept on display to lure more buyers. Is the store running the risk of getting robbed? Hell, yes.
Men’s stares are akin to window shopping (which might involve scheming to rob) in the sexual marketplace, and rape is robbery of sexual resource that a woman possesses.
Don’t want to be harassed or assaulted? Well, then don’t showcase your sexuality. It is not “victim blaming” but sensible word of caution. This is the reason why all traditional cultures broadly placed restrictions on women’s sexual expression.
The same line of thinking can be applied to understanding “discrimination” between the genders in many other areas. Drinking for example. Drinking is bad for both men and women. But in traditional cultures there is stronger stigma against women drinking than men. One of the reasons is because when a woman would lose consciousness as a result of drinking she stands to lose her resource. If the store keeper passes out with the doors open, the store would be robbed. Men are in no similar position. If they lose consciousness, the most they stand to be robbed of is the wealth that is on them at that time. What is more harmful and psychologically damaging: Getting robbed of little wealth, or getting robbed of sex (rape)?
Differences in men and women are the facts of biology. A mature and wise society would know the limit of blame that can be placed on men for acting according to their nature. Moralizing can help to an extent but it can not change people completely. And importantly, moralizing should be for both men and women.
Too much moralizing of men while allowing everything to women on the name of equality, and expecting the same treatment to both genders is trying to bend the nature which would destabilize the society by creating externalities and perverse behavior in the sexes.
1. Sexual Economics is a groundbreaking and vastly illuminating theory by Roy F. Baumeister.