Last week in Cork, Ireland, a 27-year-old man was found not guilty of raping a 17-year-old girl, as reported by the Irish Examiner. In the defense’s closing argument, his lawyer asked the jury to consider the teenage girl’s underwear. “You have to look at the way she was dressed,” the defense lawyer said. She added that the alleged victim was “wearing a thong with a lace front.”
The man contended that the two had consensual sex; his lawyer used her “lace” thong as evidence that the teen was “attracted to the defendant and was open to meeting someone and being with someone.” The prosecution argued that the plaintiff was “quite clear she did not consent. She said she never had sexual intercourse before.” After an hour and a half of deliberation, the jury sided with the defendant.
The defense’s victim-blaming spilled over outside of the courtroom; according to BBC, Irish member of Parliament Ruth Coppinger held up a pair of lacy underwear in front of her colleagues on Tuesday, saying, “It might seem embarrassing to show a pair of thongs here, but the reason I’m doing it is because, how do you think a rape victim or a woman feels at the incongruous setting of her underwear being shown in a court?”
In response, men and women gathered in the streets of Cork on Wednesday to protest the idea that consent can be read into clothing, many holding signs with thongs or underwear hanging on them. Some placed underwear on courthouse steps, as seen (above) in photos taken by Fiona Corcoran, a local radio reporter. Coppinger also appeared to attend the demonstration, or at least tweet in support of them:
People are also tweeting photos of their lacy underwear or thongs with the hashtag #ThisIsNotConsent:
In Ireland, the fight around consent extends well beyond women’s ability to wear a lacy thong without the threat of harassment or assault. A spokesperson for Sisters Uncut, which organizes around issues of domestic violence, summed this up pretty well, told the Independent that the evidence used was reflective of “excessive gathering and disclosure of personal data” in rape cases. “It provides even more opportunities for this type of victim blaming.”