When I came across an article yesterday about a young woman with large breasts who was not allowed to attend her prom, I had just finished working on edits for an upcoming indie I’m releasing this month that mentions rape culture. These two topics don’t usually go hand in hand in m/m romance, but I worked them into the storyline in a way that shows how one young man finds out how young women are often treated and victimized in our society. And it happens in an unlikely way sometimes.
The article about the young woman with large breasts who was turned away at her prom for wearing a dress that showed cleavage also surprised me for another reason. I read about the article on social media and there was a comment thread with men and women who seemed to agree that the young woman shouldn’t have worn a dress like that. They made it sound as if the young woman and her parents had done something wrong. In fact, many of the comments, from both men and women, were snarky and continued to devolve. And that bothered me because this sort of thing happens far too often.
I don’t know if straight men are ever objectified or victimized this way, but I do know I have been treated this way at various times in my life. When I was single the big thing in the 1990’s were cat suits. If you don’t know what a cat suit is, here’s link. Gay men wore them to nightclubs all the time for a while back then. In NY, at parties, when the clock struck midnight we changed into catsuits and ran to The Roxy. I had one of my own. And even though I wore the cat suit because it was something trendy and basically harmless (we all wore them for about five minutes), I never went out once when I didn’t have some obnoxious, aggressive guy coming on to me and suggesting that because I’d worn a cat suit I was looking for trouble. One night a guy even waited for me outside a bar, after I’d turned him down multiple times throughout that evening. He stalked me and followed me to my car, and I got lucky because a friend of mine came out to his car just in time. I never wore a cat suit out to a club again after that night.
The assumption is that because a person dresses or looks a certain way means they are doing something wrong, or doing something with the wrong intentions. In this case it’s a young woman with large breasts. She becomes the victim and she didn’t even know she did anything wrong.
Minder’s search for the perfect prom dress took her all the way to Canada, but when she showed up at the senior prom in her brand-new gown, she was told she couldn’t come inside.
“In my opinion, I feel that it is because I’m bigger chested and there is more cleavage that you can see, and there’s nothing I could really do about that,” she said.
According to the school’s dress code, strapless dresses are allowed as long as cleavage, midriff and lower back are covered.
“It was blatant from the start that the school was not being fair in how they were enforcing that rule,” said Minder’s dad, Gary Minder.
Minder’s parents have no problem with the rules, but say their daughter was singled out for having a large chest.
The article continues to explain the situation in more detail, and you can see a photo of the young woman in the dress.
For those who don’t know, this is how rape culture is defined. It’s a long article and rape culture isn’t the kind of subject that can be discussed in an offhanded way. And I’m not trying to do that now. But I couldn’t help wondering if what this young woman experienced wasn’t a form of rape culture as it is defined with regard to victimization and slut shaming.
Victim blaming is the phenomena in which a victim of a crime or an accident is partially or entirely attributed or responsible for the transgressions committed against them.  An example of this could take place when a victim of a crime, (in this case rape or sexual assault), is asked questions by the police, in an Emergency room, or in a court room, that suggests that the victim was doing something, acting a certain way, or wearing clothes that may have provoked the perpetrator, therefore making the transgressions against the victim their own fault.This is an example of victim blaming committed by the authorities. However, this could also occur among a victim’s peers.
In this particular case, the young woman is the victim and she’s being blamed because she was born with large breasts. And regardless of how innocent her intentions are with the prom dress she chose, the fact that she wore this dress and they made her wear a shawl suggests she was doing something wrong and wearing clothes that could provoke something illicit. And I don’t believe for one moment these were her intentions. And by penalizing her the way they did they are only perpetuating a subtle brand of rape culture in our society and sending out the wrong signals to other young people.
When I mention rape culture in my next indie release, Internal Desires, I do it quietly because this is a love story with a happy ending. It’s also an m/m erotic romance and I don’t want to disappoint my readers in that respect. But the way rape culture comes about in the story is a surprise to the main character because his intentions are actually as innocent as the young woman with large breasts I just mentioned above, and the hero of the story who doesn’t even know what rape culture is actually does the right thing for once. When I wore cat suits I wasn’t that lucky.
Win Free Kindles
An author I know is having a promotional event where she’s giving away three free Kindle e-readers. It’s a blog tour that’s taking place June 24th – 30th. Because I’m posting about it I’ve taken myself out of the running and I won’t be eligible. You can read more here. And here. And also here.
I’m a blithering idiot when it comes to blog tours, so I’m not going to attempt to give out details. But I’m sure most of you know more about them than I do, and when there’s a chance to win a free Kindle e-reader it makes things a little more interesting.
You can also read more at the author’s facebook page.