David Linzee headshot

It’s summertime and school’s out, but a group of 14-year-old girls absented themselves from felicity awhile to protest next fall’s dress code at their Oregon school.

The code bans “halter tops, tube tops, backless tops/dresses, cut-offs, and clothing which exposes inappropriate areas, including midriffs.” The students stated that being called out for violating the code was body-shaming. They said they’d never seen a boy reprimanded for breaking the dress code.

This story, from Yahoo News, is typical of a lot of reports of protests against dress codes at schools around the country. We grownups might think dress codes are just a tool for hard-pressed teachers and administrators trying to keep the minds of easily distracted kids on their lessons. We’re wrong, say these self-righteous teens: evil sexist teachers are committing grave miscarriages of justice.

Let me suggest an alternative explanation. The boys are not being reprimanded for wearing halter tops, tube tops and backless tops because they’re not wearing them.

Of course, boys would bare as much of their bodies as they could get away with if it would win them more dates. But guys know that won’t work.

Go online and you’ll find numerous papers by psychologists and neurologists who have done studies and found that males are more prone to be sexually aroused by visual stimuli than females. You can wade through the scientific terminology if you want to, but let me boil it down for you: in male physiology, the eyes are directly connected to the groin.

Male physiology has been that way for a long time. During the eons when superior upper-body strength and social injustice made men the powerful gender, women had no choice but to make themselves attractive to men.

Women have other choices today, but looking attractive to men continues to be a popular one.

When we’re not solemnly debating dress codes, we know that this is true. A number of billion-dollar industries were founded upon the assumption that women would spend a lot of time, effort and money enhancing their looks, and these industries are not going broke.

Returning to the Oregon teens, one of them said that the dress code “induces rape culture because it tells guys ‘If she’s wearing short shorts, then she’s asking for it.’”

I’m a bit skeptical about the term “rape culture.” Its proponents often conjure up scenarios like this one, in which there are two characters: a female exercising her right to dress as she pleases and a male who is a sexual predator. Let’s bring in a third one, a representative of the vast majority of males who are not sexual predators.

We’ll call him Ned the Nerd. He’s a shy, awkward, pimply high school kid. Needless to say, girls aren’t wearing short shorts to attract him. They want to get a date with Brad the Jock, the handsome, popular captain of the football team. Through no fault of their own, the girls are unable to focus their display of thigh on Brad only.

Ned becomes collateral damage. An idle glance across the aisle sends him into a 15-second erotic fantasy, followed by a four-minute and 45 second reverie of despair because no girl will ever go out with him. Meanwhile he’s missing five minutes of algebra class. And considering how little Ned has going for him, he needs to do well in his studies.

As you’ve probably guessed by now, in high school I was a lot like Ned. Fortunately, I went to an all-boys school, or I would never have passed algebra.

A sexual predator cannot put the blame for his acts on his victim. That’s unquestionably true. I suppose you could argue that, logically, the Neds of this world cannot put the blame for their lack of mental discipline on their …

Oops. The logical chain breaks, because Ned doesn’t have a victim, except himself. At this rate, he’s going to flunk out. Can’t we have a little compassion for this poor, hormone-tormented kid?

Obviously an adult man has to learn to keep his mind on business, whatever women choose to wear. But we’re not talking about adults here.

A study that set out to debunk the myth that boys think about sex every seven seconds (which, based on my memories of adolescence, sounds about right) found that males think about sex 388 times a day. Females think about it 140 times a day.

Less than half as often, meaning girls are paying attention in class more than twice as much as boys. No wonder more girls than boys are getting into college.

So how do we give Ned an even break without imposing an inequitable dress code? I think the solution has long been obvious: uniforms.

Probably not the response the Oregon teens were hoping for. Grownups are so disappointing.