When harassers are confronted on their behavior, they often offer the same classic defense: “she wouldn’t dress that way if she didn’t want attention.” Of course young people want attention — often sexual attention. Very few (if any) want that attention indiscriminately from every post-pubescent male with a pulse. “We always behave as if it’s a really selfish, dangerous and ultimately naïve way for girls to dress revealingly,” Clementine Ford wrote in an email. “A young woman isn’t allowed to dictate what attention she wants, because that’s her making a judgment on the kind of men she deems good enough for her.”
The virgin/slut dichotomy has long meant that a young woman is given two choices: have sex with no one, or give it up to everyone. One key way to fight slut-shaming is to reiterate that girls have the right to want to turn on whom they want to turn on – and still be treated with respect and care by those whom they don’t. That’s only an unreasonable expectation in a culture that expects very little from men.