Immodest Women are Asking for Trouble

This post stemmed from an ongoing discussion on Twitter, that started with the story of Dina, in last weeks Torah reading, who was raped by Shechem. I had heard a comment from a young person that was taught that Dina was raped because she wasn’t tznius (modest). I was outraged that they would teach the kids this in school and not expand on it, or explain than there is never a justification for rape. A couple of my twitterati have been duking it out for a few days already. Today’s back and forth just put me over the top. So I put this update on my FanPage.

“so ticked off. some men feel that women are at fault for sexual crimes committed against them, because they did not dress modestly. Why can these opinionated men not take personal responsibility for how they react and control themselves? Why blame the victim?!”

These were the responses, from both women and men.

ESP Say it loud and proud sistah!

LS wouldn’t you be at least a tiny bit upset at the person who placed a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie in front of your nose when you were on a diet????? yes, you ought to control yourself, but temptation makes it that much harder. and if it’s not for sale, don’t advertise!!

CED Men can’t control themselves, you know that Hadassah. ;) its amazing they can even get themselves out of the house in the morning.

LS nah, not so fast, CED. women are more susceptible to being controlled by their emotions.

AH no excuse for violating someone. blame [it] on them, the word victim has a [meaning]. jerks and cowards place blame on others for their own actions.

LS no good reasons, but plenty of excuses.

CED I was being fasecious LS. There is one thing to be emotional, quite another to physically attack someone.

CFK A man having such an attitude is sick, but a woman having that attitude? Well, I don’t even know what to say. Yes, men are human, but the last time I checked they were capable of self control just like us women. There is NEVER an excuse for sexual abuse. Period.

SJ these kind of men are not men they are PIGS!

DS The issue is not blame but degree of culpability. No one should ever be violated, no one should ever be attacked. But when certain groups try to cast all sexual misconduct with equal culpability, disappointing and wrong result ensue. Simply put, date rape is not the same as the rape of a stranger. Date rape lacks the extreme violence and usually the threat of life and limb that generally accompanies traditional rape. Date rape is a horrible act; a crime. But is it really just to punish a college student who, in the heat of lustful passion, when he was not thinking clearly, thought “no” didn’t really meant “NO G-d damnit!!!” the same way we would punish a predator who accosted a complete stranger, brutalized her, attacked her and violated her in the most profound and intimate way? There is a difference. Yet certain legal activists seek to equate the two. And yes in the date rape situation, there could be a mitigating factor of the victim seemingly giving off a signal that she wants sex, and some confused guy giving it to he, despite her protestations to the contrary. It’s a blurry line between rape and consent.

CAT a) There’s no excuse

b) It is the man’s responsibility to not rape a woman, never the woman’s. If he’s going to have sex with her, he should make damn sure that she *wants* to have sex. If there’s any doubt, the guy should keep it in his pants – drugs or alcohol are no excuse.

c) Women don’t give off ‘signals’ that over-ride a verbal “No”

I figured we could continue the discussion over here.

Please be respectful in the comments even if you disagree.

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  1. Ah, that blurry line. Now, I’d like to see him have that conversation with someone who has been date raped.

  2. Cam says:

    The other thing is where do you draw the line in terms of modest clothing. How low is too low for a neck line? How much leg is going to cause a guy to ‘SNAP’ and bust out and rape someone? Maybe women should just adopt the burqua?

    It’s just ridiculous. Women have to curtail their behaviour in order to be “safe” – don’t walk alone at night, don’t park in underground garages, don’t have a drink at a bar. And given that most sexual assaults happen in the home with intimate partners, I have to ask: Where does it end?

    • sheldan says:


      Women do not have to adopt the burqa; maybe it should be acknowledged that judgment needs to be made as to “how low is too low for a neckline” and such issues.

      I would agree with the question “Where does it end?” Ultimately, men do have free will and can decide, even with such stimulation, not to force themselves on someone who (even with provocative clothing) is not “asking for it.” Just a little common sense on both sides…

  3. The Law says:

    never a justification for rape. NEVER.

    I think that your person was being taught a Theodicy and not a plain justification. Unfortunately too many people confuse theodicy with justification and thus lose any sympathy for the victim. This was Rav Soloveitchik overall criticism of the study of Theodicy on a philosophical plane, as it can cause jews to become callus toward those suffering. If we turn around and say, “well they sinned so that why they got punished”, and we dont take an active approach to help them, then we have lost our love and compassion for our fellow man.

    In this case specifically, the theodicy is that Dina was a ya’atznit and therefore was not tzanua and therefore was raped. The lesson of the theodicy SHOULD have been to answer the question of, “how could this evil act have been allowed to happen, isnt God wholly good?” comes the theodicy to show that this evil act was punishment.

    To take the theodicy as a “well she asked for it” misses the point entirely. This is why philosophical theodicy should not be taught TO children and shouldnt be taugh BY children…

  4. People seem to forget that rape is an act of violence, NOT OF SEX. There is no excuse for it. Ever.

  5. frumgoth says:

    I read David Plotz’s “Good Book” and in discussing the story of Dinah he brings up an evangelical Christian friend, who also learned it as a “…cautionary tale about female modesty…”

    I think it’s terrible that fanatics, whether they be Rebbeim/yeshiva teachers or pastors in an evangelical church, will scare children by warping the story of Dinah this way.

  6. Daniel Schwartz says:

    Criticize it all you wish, but the facts are the facts. Alot more date rapists would be convicted if there were a specific crime for it, with different elements and a lesser sentance. Equating it with traditional forms of rape is asking a jury to acquit as people innately sense that the two are not the same; notions of political correctness notwithstanding.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I think what is interesting is how the inference is made in the first place – ie, Dina ‘asking for it’ in part comes from her being ‘like Leah’ who went out to greet her husband when it was her night with him. Given that the attitude toward marital relations is generally positive, it’s a bit striking that Leah would be chided for her excitement, yet this is considered (according to the commentary) a breach of tznius and it is presumed that Dina shared this lewdness as well.
    I did learn that Dina was, then, ‘asking for it.’ I don’t think there is a justification for rape. But I do think there is room to warn women to how they may impact men (which is something they generally want to do, but don’t necessarily recognize when they’ve gone too far) and enlighten them to the need for modesty in protecting themselves. It’s an important distinction that in recognizing women’s ability to tempt men you are not clearing the men but rather encouraging the women to keep themselves safe, and not let the allure of having men find you attractive override your sensibility.

  8. Mike S says:

    I agree that women should dress modestly, especially in the office. I cannot understand professional women who display their cleavage in public yet want to be taken seriously as professionals and judged only on their skills. Ditto for men in excessively revealing garb, but I see it less often. However, it is counter to the Torah and both morally corrupt and intellectually absurd to suggest that a woman’s dress can excuse, justify or even explain rape. No one who would say such a thing deserves to be taken seriously about anything. Nor would anyone excuse stealing someone else’s lunch just because it looked good and the thief was on a diet.

    When I was in college many years ago the fellow in the next room started living with a young woman (who had previously been with another fellow in the dorm.) I was awakened in the middle of the night by the young woman screaming “no, no don’t!” Fearing the worst, I ran for the night watchman who had the key, and we barged in only to be shooed out by the two of them who were having consensual relations. The screaming was repeated almost nightly for months; a check with the neighbors of the previous boyfriend indicated that she screamed similarly with him. So, unfortunately, yes, there are some women (or at least one) who will scream “no” while meaning “yes!” Nonetheless, if a fellow claims this is what is going on he had best be damn sure that he is right before he acts.

  9. must by anon here says:

    I don’t know, DS. My mom was raped over 40 years ago when a man drugged her drink on the first date. I think she thought it was a violation in the most profound and intimate way. I urge you to actually talk to a date rape victim and hear how the attack actually impacted her life.

    And Daniel Schwartz (don’t know if you are the same person as DS) approximately 99% of the women I know who were date raped never even contacted the police in fear of being judged for “asking for it.” None of them have ever pressed charges. I don’t know how much creating a new demi-rape category of crime would affect that.

  10. sheldan says:

    Yes, I think we can agree that both men and women should behave themselves. I have a problem with the idea that some women are “asking for it”; they should be aware of how they are being perceived, but that does not justify men not controlling themselves.

    I have read an excellent book by Dennis Prager called “Think a Second Time.” One of the chapters is called “Men, Women, and ‘Thelma and Louise,’” which basically talks about the relationships between men and women. Prager’s final sentence is telling–basically that when men and women don’t control their sexuality in public, there may be many victims.

  11. Anonymous says:

    After I was date raped in college, I couldn’t even use the term much less talk about the incident. When I finally tried to talk to someone months later about it, my male friend laughed in my face. I never confronted the guy. He didn’t understand why when he ran into me at a restaurant years later, I almost threw up and the entire table that was with me left the restaurant. Sorry if date rape is too complicated for some people but get this, if a girl says “No” and you don’t stop, no matter what you’re doing or what you’re wearing, it’s rape. I won’t even respond to the stupid post about the girl yelling “No, no, no” when she “meant” yes.

  12. Stunned by comments here says:

    What is date rape?

    An article for teens that is on the level of some of the readers here.

  13. Rainy says:

    I don’t understand why people try to justify bad behavior by palming off blame onto the victim? There is no excuse for rape. There is no difference between date rape and stranger rape. A woman who has been date raped feels terror, has been brutalized, has been violated in the most profound and intimate way. Her trauma and experience are not “less than” a woman who has endured a stranger rape. Ask me how I know!

    It doesn’t matter if I wear a short skirt or one that meets tznius standards, my skirt and everything underneath it belong to ME. Period.

  14. sheldan says:

    Rainy and Aliza: Right on!

    Mike S.: I don’t understand why women show a lot of cleavage either.

    Anonymous: The voice of experience says a lot more than I could ever say. Once the woman says no, it doesn’t matter how far things have gone, it will be rape. That’s it.

  15. Ellen says:

    Aliza is my favorite person.

  16. Gavi says:

    The way that parasha is taught in yeshiva is completely flawed (like many other things), without context, explanation, or separation of what is pshat and midrash…

    It’s kind of similar to why many people in our community cannot seem to distinguish between halacha, chumra, and minhag.

    Just accept that you will have to do a lot of deprogramming with yeshiva-educated children, or choose a different school system.


    Full discloure: I grew up in yeshivos, and God-willing, will give my son such an education – the benefits clearly outweigh the risks. However, I intend to choose a place which has educational values a bit more in line with my own…

  17. mekubal says:

    Here is the way that I learned this, and in fact the way in which R’ Yaakov Hillel explains it in his work Ascending the path. It was not Dina’s dress that was immodest as much as it was her behavior. She decided to flaunt her self in an inappropriate way in the wrong place.

    To put it in a different sense, if I were to go down and sit in front of the local crack den, and start counting a wad of $100 bills for all to see, in all likelihood I would be mugged. Actually having lived in Philly, if I were to do that on the Bus, in all likelihood I would be mugged.

    Now the question is who is at fault. Most people would assume that I bear some responsibility for making incredibly poor decisions. This is in a society with rule of law. Yes the mugger is ultimately at fault, however many people would see this as me having learned a vital lesson about common sense.

    Same could be said if I walked into a KKK rally or Neo-Nazi party wearing a giant star of David, Yarkmulke and Tzitzit flying. Yes the confrontation that would most likely ensue would be a hate crime. However, at the same time would I not bear some of the responsibility for what occurred to me?

    Or consider this. A man needs to ride the NY Subway to work everyday. Like most New Yorkers it is his only means of transportation. He has been mugged by the same group of thugs on the subway to work twice. Reported the incident to the police twice, and with no results.

    He decides to exercise his second amendment right to carry a firearm to protect himself. He is attacked again, he uses said firearm to protect himself, and fortunately for the attackers he actually kill no one. Wounds all four.

    Who is at fault? The muggers for attempting an act of violence for the man who sought to defend himself and his right to commute to work? A New York jury and subsequent appeals have found that the man was at fault. He should not have placed himself into a situation of known danger.

    Back to Dina. In an age where there was no true rule of law, she decided to go hang with the bad boys. To put her beauty on display before those that would have no qualms taking it by force if necessary. Is she a victim? Yes!!! She is a victim twice over. She is the victim of another person’s violence, and she is the victim of her own poor choices.

  18. Naftali says:

    Wasn’t there a movie about this topic starring Jodie Foster? I never saw the film, but I remember hearing about the film that dealt with this topic. I agree that men have to control themselves.

  19. frumgoth says:

    yes, the movie was called The Accused, and it was so disturbing – not about date rape actually but a gang rape that occured in a bar. I remember seeing it back in the 80′s and was really shaken by it.

  20. that comment about “traditional” rape makes me want to vomit. The fact is that date rape is a lot more common than rape by a stranger, so if anything is “traditional” it’s being raped by someone you know- in fact the common conception of rape by a stranger almost never happens. Date rape is not any less rape.

  21. Daniel Schwartz says:

    I’d like to make one thing clearer. In no way do I intend to suggest or imply that the victims of date of acquaintance rape in any way suffer any less than victims of stranger rape. Indeed victims of date rape probbaly suffer in ways not as poingnantly encountered by victims of stranger rape. Aspects of betrayal, self doubt, the pain of not being believed etc are all present in date rape and can bring on considerable pain. I deeply apologize if I came off as in some way discounting the impact of date rape.

    But at the same time, we have to be cognizant of certain facts. Rape convictions are notoriously hard to get; a prosecution of a date rape, even more so. Remember, all that’s needed is one juror to believe that the accused did not intend to rape his victim, and he get’s a mistrial and goes free (prosecutors rarely re-try defendants in such cases). Make the penalty for date rape a life sentance, like it is for stranger rape, and jurors tend to second guess themselves more as the stakes are higher. As I said before, the question is do we as a society want to bring more date rapists to justice even if it means imposing lighter sentances, or are we to stand on principle and allow the vast majority of offenders to go free? Might the victims of date rapae feel a bit more vondicated or at ease if their attackers sepnt at least some time behind bars? Making it easier to convict date rapists might encourage more arrests and prosecutions, which would have a deterent effect on society. From the perspective of protecting our daughters (and most date rape occurs during teen and post teen years when young women begin to assert their independance), the choice is obvious.

  22. Mike S says:

    I do not understand the term “date rape.” Rape is rape; like most crimes, the victim often knows the perpetrator–so what? Whe don’t distinguish “date robbery” from any other kind, although my brother the defense attorney has had to defend cases of people accused of robbing their dates, and one who was being tried for murder after shooting the date who robbed him. It was just called murder, not “date murder.” Agreeing to a date, or even to kissing and petting does not imply consent to anything else, and anyone who hasn’t figured that out doesn’t belong on a date.

    The society and court system, unfortunately, are sometimes not very good about this. While we might wonder at the sense of the fellow who flashed the wad of $100′s at the drug den, no one would think to offer it as a defense for the robber. The same should apply to rape victims. The victim’s poor judgement in agreeing to a date with the crook should not be an issue in court, or even in public opinion. Violent criminals (or non-violent ones for that matter) are responsible for their actions, period.

  23. Daniel Schwartz says:

    I think the term date rape originates in describing a scenario in which the peretrator meets his victim in a consensual non-threatening setting, and the sexual act occurs within the context of that setting or its immediate aftermath. While date rape involves non-consensual sex, it often will lack the shocking violence that accompanies stranger rape. Date rape occurs in the murkey grey area between seduction and a violent sexual attack. For me as soon as any violent coercion or its threat occurs, there can be no date rape. What constitutes “violent coercion or its threat” defies absolute definition and is situational.

  24. Mike S says:

    If the term “date rape” encompasses both overpowering one’s dinner partner or slipping knockout drops into her drink and seduction, the term is worse than useless. The fact that a rape occurred following a consensual dinner or even consensual kissing has nothing to do with anything. If anything, the context makes the violence more shocking, not less because there is a betrayal added to the violence. I do not see a “gray area” between seduction and rape. Either force was used or threatened, or it wasn’t.

  25. blork says:

    well, rape can be an act of violence…and/or sex…just depends…and women just don’t understand this – just as they don’t understand how visual men are – and how immodesty can rape a man’s mind – food for thought

  26. kisarita says:

    It doesn’t really matter what the rapist thinks its violence or sex. It matters what it means to the victim. And to the victim it is pure violence.

    • Daniel Schwartz says:

      Actually crimes are defined by statute, which are supposed to reflect communal norms of acceptable conduct.

      • kisarita says:

        Whether rape is a sexual or violent experience is not a legal question, it is a social, philosophical and psychological question. I am saying that we really need not give a damn whether the rapist is motivated by a violent or sexual impulse or what combination thereof.

  27. kisarita says:

    By the way their already is a term for rape accompanied by infliction of additional physical assaults, I believe it’s called aggravated rape.
    So yes, rape alone should carry a lesser penalty than aggravated rape. But it makes no difference whether it was on a date or not.
    Date rape is no less rape, however the problem is lack of evidence- it often boils down to he said-she said. “It wasn’t really rape, ” is not a legitimate reason for a jury not to convict. Lack of sufficient evidence is. But if there’s lack of evidence, than it shouldn’t be enough evidence to convict for a lesser charge either.

    I once was talking about someone I knew who had been gang raped. The girls were horrified. There was one guy who said, “But how do you know she’s not making it up?” I’ve seen again and again, a guy’s first reaction to a rape story- to deny.

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