asking for it and enthusiastic consent

Rebecca St. James is clearly asking for it in that turtleneck.

I barely remember her from the bad Christian pop of the 90s, but apparently Rebecca St. James is still some sort of authority on modesty and whether or not someone deserves to be sexually assaulted because of what they are wearing. I say apparently, because Fox News had her on to discuss a recent spate of “Slut Walks,” which I would describe as a sort of updated “Take Back the Night” rally, in which women march wearing whatever they want, in order to make the point that being perceived as a slut, whether because of one’s clothes or other reasons, is not justification for sexual assault. It’s largely based on lampooning the very concept of the word “slut,” since it can’t be an insult or a justification if those to whom it is applied refuse to be shamed by it.

Anyway, back to Rebecca St. James, she of 90s CCM fame. This is what she said on Fox News (video here):

“I think there has to be responsibility though for what a woman is wearing,” St. James told Hannity Monday. “When a woman is dressing in an immodest way, in a proactive way, she’s got to think about what is she saying by her dress.”

“They’re asking for sex,” she continued. “They’re asking for sex if they’re dressed immodestly.”


What someone is wearing, whether or not they are drinking, what kind of neighborhood they are walking down the street it: these are not ways of consenting to sex. I’ll put it a bit more clearly:


St. James seems to believe that rape is an appropriate punishment for women who dare to dress in a way that does not meet her cultural standards of modesty. She also seems to take the very negative and insulting view of men that suggests they are sexbeasts who cannot control themselves in the presence of female flesh. And, possibly, she seems to hold the beliefs that women don’t really want sex, and are unlikely to enthusiastically, verbally, clearly consent to engage in it, and that sex is something men must convince or coerce women into having, either by raping them, or exchanging gifts and time (it’s called dating, romance, or maybe even marriage– since an engagement ring is the ultimate gift) in exchange for sex.

Here’s what I think. Sex is natural, sex is fun, sex is best (and should only happen) with someone who wants to be having it with you. Both men and women enjoy and desire sex. Sex should only be had with someone who very clearly, obviously, verbally has expressed that he or she wants to be having sex with you. It’s called a standard of enthusiastic consent, and it handily does away with slut shaming, and “gray rape” and other points of confusion about consensual vs. nonconsensual sex. You don’t have to wonder if someone is sending you signals by their clothing, or by where they happen to be walking, or by what they happen to be drinking. You’ll know.

4 Replies to “asking for it and enthusiastic consent”

  1. Here here! I hate when female modesty is tied to “keeping your Christian brothers pure.” My purity as a Christian male is dependent on my striving for purity, not the way a woman is dressed.

    I’d never heard the phrase “enthusiastic consent” before but I very much like it. Thank you.


  2. There’s a lot that’s messed up in that statement. I’m left wondering how anyone who is not attempting to avoid a prison term for rape would ever arrive at that statement.

    I suspect the drivers are twofold: first, Rebecca St. James presumably thinks that women should not dress in a sexually provocative manner. Second, the obvious recourse is cut off. Fundamentalist Protestantism is patriarchal to the point where the main thing a woman can do is marry and have children. There’s no room (as there would be in a tradition with nuns, say) to claim that defining oneself by sexuality and sexual relationships is just plain wrong-headed which would ultimately lead somewhere on the modesty issue (where immodesty would be self-insult rather than a crime against men). There’s no room because if a woman’s main and biggest role in life is to be married she is expected to define herself by a sexual relationship anyway.

    One would hope the obvious stupidity of Rebecca’s statement would cause her to reconsider the underlying reasons she would say such a thing. I’m doubtful that this will happen, though.


  3. I’m pretty sure bad Christian pop is the rule throughout the existence of Christian pop. Confining it to the 90s is overly restrictive, in my opinion.


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