Jury acquits accused rapist because victim wore skinny jeans

A jury in Sydney, Australia acquitted Nicholas Eugenio Gonzalez of rape charges following the use of the so-called skinny jeans defense. Gonzalez’s lawyer suggested the survivor would have had to have helped him remove her tight jeans, though she said this was not the case. The jury expressed belief that Gonzalez could not have removed the jeans without the woman’s help.

The skinny jeans defense has gained popularity in recent years:

In 2008 a Seoul court overturned the seven-year sentence of a man convicted of raping a woman wearing skinny jeans.

In the same year an Italian court upheld a rape conviction, ruling that “jeans cannot be compared to any type of chastity belt”.

Advocates were quick to decry the reasoning behind the decision:

The chairwoman of the National Association of Services Against Sexual Assault, Veronica Wensing, said a woman’s outfit should not be an issue in alleged rapes. ”Any piece of clothing can be removed with force.”

Pinning a rape defense on any article of clothing smacks of slut shaming and victim blaming. I think focusing on the skinny jeans is meant to suggest that the survivor was dressed provocatively, which in turn is meant to imply she must have wanted it. I also reject the notion that a rape could not occur even if she did help remove the jeans – this could easily be taken in the moment so that the action did not become even more violent or simply out of fear. The notion someone cannot be raped because skinny jeans are too hard to take off is just absurd, and I’m disgusted that it’s ever held up in a court of law.

Boston, MA

Jos Truitt is Executive Director of Development at Feministing. She joined the team in July 2009, became an Editor in August 2011, and Executive Director in September 2013. She writes about a range of topics including transgender issues, abortion access, and media representation. Jos first got involved with organizing when she led a walk out against the Iraq war at her high school, the Boston Arts Academy. She was introduced to the reproductive justice movement while at Hampshire College, where she organized the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program’s annual reproductive justice conference. She has worked on the National Abortion Federation’s hotline, was a Field Organizer at Choice USA, and has volunteered as a Pro-Choice Clinic Escort. Jos has written for publications including The Guardian, Bilerico, RH Reality Check, Metro Weekly, and the Columbia Journalism Review. She has spoken and trained at numerous national conferences and college campuses about trans issues, reproductive justice, blogging, feminism, and grassroots organizing. Jos completed her MFA in Printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute in Spring 2013. In her "spare time" she likes to bake and work on projects about mermaids.

Jos Truitt is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Development.

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  • Nik

    So, according to the courts, it should be impossible for my boyfriend to remove my skinnies without my help? We must be doing something wrong, then, because he has no problem.

  • Marc

    Nice. So if you were a low-cut dress, you’re a whore for dressily so sluttily and are asking for it.
    But if you wear a tight pair of jeans that’s hard to remove, then rape couldn’t have happened with consent.
    I guess women should just stay the hell home, according to the courts, because they’re fucked, either way.
    This, my friends, is the reason we need more feminist lawyers and judges, because left on its own, the system has proven itself to be clueless in dealing with rape.

  • paperispatient

    This ruling ignores two crucial points. Not all rapes involve physical force to subdue the victim. Verbal threat, intimidation, and coercion are all ways that a rapist can make someone comply; so even if we believed this crap that you can’t take skinny jeans off someone who’s unwilling, you can threaten and intimidate someone into taking off their pants, and that is not a consensual situation.
    Also, I had a discussion on Jezebel about how clothing removal does not equal consent to sex. I can be half-dressed and fooling around with a guy, and if I decide that I don’t want to have sex and I express that, he needs to respect that and stop. If he doesn’t, that’s rape. I may have helped him take my pants off or let him take them off himself, but I am entirely within my rights to change my mind – or to have expressed the desire to fool around but not have sex.
    Just two reasons why this is complete and utter bullshit.

  • zes

    Also a woman might voluntarily take off her clothes to… change clothes! Or take a shower. Or because she was too hot. Even if she took them off because she initially did want to have sex, she may have changed her mind because the guy turned out to have horrible backne/a weird penis, refused wear a condom, said something misogynistic or triggering or that reminded her of her ex/brother/dad, demanded a sex act she didn’t want to do, or she got her period or a headache, or maybe she just plain suddenly didn’t feel like it. And all of those, especially the last, are enough of a reason for another person to back off immediately without any questions asked or any pressure applied.

  • AThoughtyThought

    How did they go about deciding which articles of clothing are removable by force and which ones aren’t? I can tell you by experience (with consent, thankfully!) that skinny jeans most certainly CAN be removed by another individual. Shame on these courts!

  • redvsblue

    This just saddens me

  • sleepyface

    I really wish this surprised me. However, given my experience reporting my rape to the police I am not. In the course of interrogating me about the “incident,” one of the police officers asked me what I was wearing that night. I had been wearing skinny jeans. I was later told that I was mistaken in my report, and although I had not consented, I had not been raped, and should just go home.

  • Jeremy Edwards

    And I suppose if a mugging victim carried his or her wallet shoved way down inside a pocket, it’s not really a mugging–because surely a helpless li’l mugger couldn’t dig that wallet out without the owner’s assistance. (Or if the victim retrieved his or her own wallet in the face of a weapon or other threat, that means [s]he really *wanted* to be robbed, right?)

  • kt

    I’d also add, it’s not like the pants have to be all the way off in order for a person to get raped.

  • Adormidera

    Thank you, Australia, for depressing the fuck out of me.
    This is sickening. Is there anything the victim can do? Can she challenge the acquittal at all or is this just the end of it?

  • DylanW

    What an outmoded, misogynist notion of sex! I don’t know that the ruling was so much about “provocative clothing” as it was simply reinforcing the notion that if a woman gives ANY “objective” hint of consent, there’s a good chance the offender will escape conviction. Ugh.
    Also, I don’t doubt that the presiding judge in this case harbored puritanical notions of female chastity, it’s just not evident in the information provided in this article. He/she probably thinks women in pants caused the eruption in Iceland.

  • snowpiece

    So… Does this mean we can officially say that we, as a community, need to do more than just “Denim Day”?

  • belbo

    Hang on a second – this was a decision made by a jury after seeing ALL of the evidence which none of us had. The issue had nothing to do with how the victim was dressed and the idea that skinny jeans were provocative; the question was one of consent.
    In this case the issue at hand was not whether sex occurred, both defence and prosecution agreed it did, it was whether it was consensual. This was a classic he said- she said case and the burden of proof that the sex was non-consensual was for the prosecution. They needed to show that beyond reasonable doubt, which they were not able to prove. And that is the basis for our justice system in most Anglo-American nations.
    For all we know it may have been a case that the complainant was not reliable on the stand; none of us saw her give evidence. The only thing to come out of this story is that of whether the skinny jeans in question could have come off with or without consent, we don’t know about any other questions that the jury may have asked, nor any other evidence that was put to them or the judge’s charge to the jury.
    Sorry for the rant but it really pisses me off when people, especially women assume that because a woman says rape that AT LAW it is. And just to clarify he isn’t a rapist as the headline suggests; he was acquitted.

  • columba

    Adormidera, please don’t blame the entire country for this. I’m sure you wouldn’t like me to tar your whole nation with the same brush when one group of people do something stupid,