So, this came through my Facebook feed.
It makes a change from inspirational quotes, and home-made posters with quotes attributed to Einstein, but something’s not sitting quite right with me. This often happens with memes on social media. I shudder a little and I’m not always sure why until I think it through.
The person who originally posted that picture to Facebook annotated with:
“Very true,I’ve seen it in a prison doco,so bitchs it’s time to pull them pants up lol”
EVEN IF this nugget of fashion history is true — and I’m not sure it is — this sort of thing bothers me for the following reasons.
This ‘public service announcement’ reminds me of that whole ‘leggings are not pants’ campaign to get young women to stop wearing a certain kind of lower-body clothing. Most recently the fashion police have turned their disapproval towards yoga pants. Apparently some men think women wear yoga pants outside yoga class because they like to turn men on. The entire problem with this whole assumption is that strangers wear clothes for no reason to do with you. And the same goes for young men and their low-riding jeans. I can’t know the motivation for young men wearing their pants down low, but I suspect it’s entirely to do with fashion and the folk etymology of prison-sex is not helpful. Prison fashion does not equal general fashion. If so, we’d all be getting around in striped pajamas or green tunics or whatever. (I haven’t visited a prison lately.) I suspect the baggy pants fashion in young men has something to do with wanting to appear bigger generally, for the same but inverse reason that women generally prefer pants which de-emphasise size. It also leads to a more stereotypically manly gait, I suspect, in order to keep them up. Low-riding pants expose the band of your underwear, which considering the $40 price tag on a branded pair of men’s daks, at least mean you’re getting your money’s worth, if ‘money’s worth’ equals ‘showing the world how branded you are’. Whatever the case, we need to butt out of other people’s fashion choices. ‘Better dressed’ is subjective. This includes the fashion choices older folks find ridiculous. It will always be so.
Then there’s the trivialisation of prison rape. While this meme is ostensibly about ‘consensual’ anal sex and willingness to give it via pants signals, I don’t think it does a single damn thing to foster awareness of this serious issue in prisons: that a lot of sex is not in fact consensual. This fact won’t be fixed by wearing pants high. So this advice veers dangerously close to victim blaming, and reminds me of slut-shaming, and to saying, ‘Well if you’re going to wear such a short skirt you’re kind of asking for it, aren’t you.’
UPDATE: I had been trying to put into words another, niggling reason why this meme annoys me. Then I read the article ‘Men’s Rights’ at Reasonable Conversation, and a few sentences reminded me of the low-riding trousers meme above:
The act of male rape has been used for centuries as a way of degrading men because being penetrated is associated with…wait for it…being a woman. Prison rape is a gigantic problem as men looking to establish dominance over other men sexually assault them, but it’s not a case where men’s rights are being violated in some systematic fashion because of their maleness.
So, while rape is always very, very bad, the meme seems to be upholding this idea that penetration, especially anal penetration, is emasculating. A gender-switched analogue would be advice to women against showing cleavage, because this is used by hookers in red-light districts to show that they’re available for sex.