We need a reminder of what consent means

Barristers, judges and juries — when a teenager who is still legally a child stands before you, having had the guts and tenacity to get this far, in a public court of law, because she says she has been raped, she expects that you will take into account the seriousness of her claim, the impact of what happened to her, and the strength and bravery required to go to court in the first place.

What she does not expect is for her underwear to go on trial.

Where are we, Salem?

A reminder. Thongs are not consent. Lace is not consent. Fancy knickers are not consent. Push-up bras are not consent.

See-through underwear is not consent. Basques, stockings, suspenders are not consent. No underwear is not consent.

Bridget Jones’ big pants are not consent. Being drunk is not consent.

Going home with someone is not consent. Inviting someone up is not consent. Smooching and canoodling is not consent.

Changing your mind is not consent

I can’t believe, after everything that Ireland has been through in recent years regarding women’s sexual and biological autonomy, that we are still coming up against this toxic drivel — that the barrister involved in the trial was a woman makes it even more horrifying. Maybe there should be a giant black and white poster put up on courtroom walls opposite every jury during rape trials which reads, CONSENT IS AN ENTHUSIASTIC AND UNEQUIVOCAL YES.

Has the barrister who suggested a thong was consent ever been inside an underwear shop?

Because that’s what women wear, love. Not all of us and not all the time, but unless you are sitting in a shop window in De Wallen in Amsterdam, thongs and similar do not signify sexual availability.

Perhaps it’s time for barristers to take a lunchtime tour of Marks & Spencers’ knickers department, to acquaint themselves with what women choose to wear under their clothing.

This would all sound farcical were it not for the reality that a 17 year old girl has effectively been put on trial for her choice of underwear. Can you imagine how hard it is for a young woman to report what happened, to go the guards, to tell her story over and over and over again, to strangers and to her loved ones?

To have to wait around for the court date. To have to give evidence. And to have it all thrown in her face because she hadn’t worn an actual chastity belt on the occasion in question. What kind of message does that send to young women? It’s your fault. You wore a garment containing lace. You are on trial here. You deserve no sympathy, because what happened to you was your fault. You made this happen. You might as well have assaulted yourself. The other party is incidental, peripheral, and deserves sympathy for being lured into a sense of false security by your wardrobe choices.

Are we back in 1980 again? Because I thought we’d evolved.

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