I am curious to know if women who dress provocatively are more or less likely to be victims of sexual assault. The best way to find out would be to conduct a study in a country where a considerable number of women wear more modest attire and a considerable number of women do not, and then compare the sexual assault statistics between the two groups. Conducting the study in the same country should reduce the influence of other variables, such as cultural differences or differences in reporting. A potential country to use for this study could be Malaysia, where many women wear the hijab and many do not. The study should also consider other factors, like the age of the perpetrator and victim, time, and motives.

I was unable to find any statistics about this topic. Although there are a lot of results for how people view revealing clothing and sexual assault, none of the results show a direct connection between the two. The one study I did find which had relevant results was called She Dresses to Attract, He Perceives Seduction: A Gender Gap in Attribution of Intent to Women’s Revealing Style of Dress and its Relation to Blaming the Victims of Sexual Violence and it surveyed respondents about whether they liked wearing revealing clothes and if they experienced four types of sexual victimization, then looked for correlations. This seems to be a complicated way of obtaining data, when a more direct way would be to look at the clothing worn by victims of sexual assault. The study also didn't focus on the causality between the two, as is clear from its title.

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    Even if you could show that what someone wears influences this what does that mean in the end? Are you suggesting that clothing get regulated in order to prevent people from harming others?
    – Joe W
    Jan 18 at 13:56
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    I am surprised the close vote is for "not related to politics". Not hard to find articles like this one theguardian.com/world/2008/jun/24/malaysia.religion?CMP=gu_com which clearly mark this as a political issue.
    – Allure
    Jan 18 at 14:26
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    This is a commonly used tactic to shift the blame to the victim by suggesting that the crime happened because of the clothes that they wore instead of the actions taken by the person who did the crime.
    – Joe W
    Jan 18 at 14:39
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    Just read the question a little closer and noticed study you linked is linking clothing to trying to seduce others which is a sign of the problem of tying to link clothing to actions of others.
    – Joe W
    Jan 18 at 16:02
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    Indirectly, one could try suss out if countries with strict modesty laws do much better (while taking into consideration factors which affect victims' willingness to report rapes) They don't really seem to do much better. In any case, this subject tends to be very contentious (c.f. slut shaming), not without reason: rapes are committed by men and the driving factor seems to be male societal views of coercive sex - what % minority of men think it's OK, not female "invitation" to get assaulted. So while there may very well be a nugget of good research to be had: high career suicide risk Jan 18 at 18:06

1 Answer 1


Sexual assault surely has a demographic profile, and that profile has clothing preference.

However, if you were to make affected demographic group wear different clothing, the correlation will likely go away. The same demographics will suffer the same amount of sexual assault, now clothed differently.

This is because correlation is not casuation.

When a cheetah attacks its prey, it is more likely to kill the slowest moving goat. But it is futile to recommend athletics training to a goat herd, because the cheetah will just as reliably catch the slowest of now-faster goats. The amount of goats eaten will not change. Individual running lessons may change outcome for a specific goat, but that does not suggest any policy changes.

  • Is there any data to support the claim that "The same demographics will suffer the same amount of sexual assault, now clothed differently"?
    – Allure
    Jan 20 at 0:43
  • There is data that most sexual assault actually happens when the perpertator and the victim already know each other, even if passingly, and at this point clothing is already irelevant.
    – alamar
    Jan 20 at 9:26
  • There is anecdotal evidence that some rapists choose victims who look quiet, meek, and unable to defend themselves. If nothing else, a stiletto heel is a better weapon than a ballet pump. So clothing choices may play a very indirect role, but it's unlikely to be the role that misogynistic politicians and police chiefs claim.
    – Stuart F
    Jan 21 at 20:31

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