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Editorial: One more time for the back of the room: Clothing choice does not imply consent

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Clothing choices should never be interpreted as consent.

We can’t believe that in the year 2022, this still needs to be said.

Last week, State Sen. Julie Slama asserted Republican candidate for Nebraska governor Charles W. Herbster “touched her inappropriately” at the Douglas County Republican Party’s 2019 Elephant Remembers dinner.

Former Omaha Mayor and U.S. Rep. Hal Daub, who has endorsed Herbster, continued to support him Thursday and called the report “a political hit job.”

He questioned why Slama wasn’t willing to talk about it beyond a press release she issued and listed questions he suggested a reporter should ask.

“Did you ask her about where, when, what, why, who? Were you wearing a one-piece dress, a two-piece dress? What were the circumstances? How high, how low? I mean, how much examination have you done of her story?” Daub said.

While the allegations are still being investigated, we can say this: Daub is completely wrong to suggest that Slama’s clothing has anything to do with Herbster’s guilt or innocence in the matter.

Whether a person is female, male or non-binary, the clothing they wear should never be used as an interpretation of consent or be taken as an invitation for physical interaction — intimate or otherwise.

Consent is about communication and respect and clear boundaries.

A dress is not a sign of consent. Nor is a halter top, a bathing suit, a pair of shorts, sandals, a neck tie ... the closet list goes on.

In this day and age, when consent has been a widely discussed topic on a national level, it is disappointing that Daub — a former mayor and congressman, no less — would cite clothing choice as a justification for inexcusable behavior.

It is past time to do better.

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