Yoga Pants and Rape Culture

god-created-yoga-pantsDuring reading week, I came across an article on my news feed from titled The Comfort and Sexualization of Yoga Pants. In the article, author hollypenny explores the increasing popularity of yoga pants and leggings, which have become widely acceptable to wear in public.

The author makes reference to a hypersexualized website called Girls in Yoga Pants and then to an article on The Good Men Project to make her point about the sexualization of yoga pants. She mentions two very important quotations from Nathan Graziano’s article in which he states:

“I have a hard time believing that—outside of the gym or the yoga classes—women wear yoga pants solely for comfort.”

“…baggy sweatpants are also comfortable, so I can only assume there’s more to it. There is an implicit game here—the age-old tease where women flaunt and men look.”

She then points to this comment posted on Graziano’s article:

“yeah honestly I have to admit this whole deal is more than a little alarming to me … when most of the girls in my daughter’s high school show up in very revealing skin tight yoga pants it seems to me like something has gone a bit off. … I guess I like that women feel comfortable in their own yoga skin and also that fitness is something that we all generally are more aware of. But I do ask myself repeatedly how it became okay to wear close to nothing to dinner or class or a movie? I am not a prude by any means. But what ever happen to a nice pair of jeans and a white t-shirt?”

hollypenny asks, “Are we all really too sex-crazed to the point where clothed, rounded bodily shapes are too much to handle?”

The Comfort and Sexualization of Yoga Pants prompted me to consider a larger issue that is often discussed in the context of social media and internet activism, and one that was not explicitly referenced in the article: rape culture. In Gendered Worlds (one of our GNDS 125 textbooks), the writer introduces rape culture with regards to the American legal system, explaining that “in rape trials before the feminist reforms of the 1980s, women’s actions, dress, and words could become implicated in the [case of a] rape. Often the rape victim herself was on trial, as rapists’ excuses and justifications– ‘she asked for it’ or ‘no really means yes’– blamed the victim for the crime” (Aulette and Wittner 125). My understanding of the term “rape culture” is that it involves the perpetuation and encouragement of a culture in which rape and victim blaming are not taken seriously. It also involves “slut bashing” or “slut shaming,” when women experience “bullying and harassment regarding [their] perceived sexual behaviour with the intent to shame, degrade and dehumanize the victim” (Tolmie). Dehumanization, according to our professor Jane Tolmie, is a factor in the objectification of women, or the idea of women as objects for male pleasure. Furthermore, the “degradation and dehumanization inherent in slut-shaming has shaped societal discourses on rape, abuse, and harassment. Slut-shaming is a consistent theme in the lives of women as the fear of ever being labeled a “slut” provides a method of social control against women living as sexualized beings” (Tolmie).

The idea that men would think that women choose to wear yoga pants in order to please them and the comments that hollypenny refers to in her article are perfectly in line with rape culture, slut bashing, and the objectification of women.

I think hollypenny's poll speaks for itself here.

I think hollypenny’s poll speaks for itself here.

Why should women and girls feel ashamed to wear clothing that makes them feel comfortable and confident about their bodies? As hollypenny writes, “How did it become ok to wear [yoga pants]? When we, women, decided it was ok. When we started practicing yoga and decided we would feel good in our bodies and our clothes while doing anything from yoga to running errands to sitting on the couch.” Many of the comments on her article support this argument. One user wrote,

“In all honesty, I never wear baggy sweatpants in public because they get in the way! […]

If I’m wearing skin-tight yoga pants […] I can move about without the burden of stepping on my hems. Plus, yoga pants look less sloppy!

I have never ONCE thought “oh, I’m going to wear the hell out of these yoga pants because guys LOVE it”. Get over yourself, guys.”

But is it okay to want to feel “sexy” as well? Another user wrote,

“I would like to have the option to choose that I wear yoga pants outside of a yoga class because they are easy & comfortable AND that they make me look sexy.

Choice number three: Both.”

Regardless of a person’s reason for choosing to wear yoga pants or leggings, whether they wear them for comfort or even to look more attractive, their decision should be respected by others. This means not making them feel ashamed for their clothing choices, not treating or viewing them as a sex object, and not calling them a slut.

One of my favourite comments on the article says,

“If yoga pants are sexy it is because they cover the toned legs of fit yoginis rendered beautiful inside and out by a regular yoga practice. ;)”

So what do you think? Do you think that despite efforts to increase awareness of rape culture and slut bashing, women should still make careful decisions about their clothing? Can you think of any strategies for increasing awareness and eliminating rape culture?

Check out these images for a better understanding of rape culture.

Works Cited:

Aulette, Judy Root, and Judith Wittner. Gendered Worlds. 2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012. 125. Print.

“The Comfort and Sexualization of Yoga Pants.” N.p., 21 Feb 2013. Web. 28 Feb 2013. <;.

Tolmie, Jane. “Eighth class: slides.” GNDS 125. Queen’s University. Kingston, Ontario. 26 Feb 2013. Lecture.



A Woman Dressed Like This Still Gets Raped. What’s Your Excuse Now?. 2012. JPEGY. Web. 28 Feb 2013. <;.

Don’t tell women what not to wear – tell men not to rape. 2011. Web. 28 Feb 2013. <;.

Hysj, Pia. STOP “SLUT”-SHAMING. 2011. Weheartit. Web. 28 Feb 2013. <;.

Modesty is the best policy. N.d. Pinterest. Web. 28 Feb 2013. <;.

Most people don’t know this, but on the 8th day, God created yoga pants.. 2013. Web. 28 Feb 2013. <;.

My rapist doesn’t know he’s a rapist. N.d. Culture Vulture (Tumblr). Web. 28 Feb 2013. <;.

Sexual Assault Prevention Tips Guaranteed to Work!. 2009. XY Online. Web. 28 Feb 2013. <;.

Slut-shaming and victim-blaming are strategies…. N.d. Pinterest. Web. 28 Feb 2013. <;.

Still not asking for it. N.d. Pinterest. Web. 28 Feb 2013. <;.


4 thoughts on “Yoga Pants and Rape Culture

  1. Even though there has been increased awareness of rape culture and slut bashing, I do not think woman should have to be concerned about how they dress. In the summer, when it gets hot outside men also wear minimal layers of clothing and flaunt their bodies, although others look, its not going to provoke sexual assaults. As equals, women should have the right to wear what they want to wear. When a woman wears yoga pants I think that they wear it because it is comfortable for them. In addition, in an episode of Law and Order that I watched recently a female news anchor is raped by her co-worker. This episode really bugged me because as the show went on the rapist decided to be his own advocate. I think this should not be allowed because it’s a form of torture for the victim. Furthermore, during the court case in the episode, the victim is slut shamed for having more then sexual partner and is made to seem promiscuous by the way she dresses. In conclusion, I think that both these acts were wrong because it portrays the victim as being the cause of the rape while putting no blame on the person who actually raped her.

    • What do you mean about being his own advocate? I don’t know if I’ve ever watched an entire episode of Law and Order haha, so I haven’t seen this episode.
      Yes, the concept of blaming the victim is pretty backwards… When is that okay in any other situation? Take murder, for example. You probably would not say that the victim was “asking for it” unless the murderer killed them as an act of self-defense.

  2. I too believe that women have the right not to be concerned about how they dress just like how guys do not worry if they are ‘showing too much skin’. However, in in the nature of our society I still would be uncomfortable in allowing a female friend dressed in a mini skirt walk around downtown Kingston in the middle of the night alone.
    I think there should be rape advertisements which clearly attacks ‘would be rapists’, although it probably would not stop a psychotic rapist from raping, however it think it would help society to form a negative image on rape with a proper focus on condemning the rapists not the victims. The reason why I think this is because rape is almost ‘glorified’ in the eyes of my generation, especially if you look at the reactions from 16 year old girl that got raped in Steubenville, a lot of people of my age was slut-shaming the victim and victim blaming her. Yes, she was at fault of drinking when she wasn’t of age, yes she was at fault for drinking to much and passing out, but how can she be blamed for some low-life taking advantage of her while she was passed out and raping her? Why isn’t the rapist at fault for violating someone when they didn’t even give consent?!

  3. It was especially frustrating that in the video they said something along the lines of “she’s so raped!” and that wasn’t enough for people to realize that yes, what they did was absolutely wrong. The issue of consent is interesting as well – that it can be difficult to decide whether certain situations should be classified as rape. Even when people are in a relationship

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