A TEENAGER’S lacy thong has sparked protests across the world.

A widespread outcry followed defence barrister Elizabeth O’Connell's suggestion that a girl’s underwear could imply consent.

During a trial in Ireland, the barrister asked the jury to consider the underwear worn by a teenager who said she had been raped.

In a final address delivered to the court prior to her 27-year-old client being acquitted of the crime, she said: “Does the evidence out-rule the possibility that she was attracted to the defendant and was open to meeting someone and being with someone? You have to look at the way she was dressed. She was wearing a thong with a lace front.”

It should be absolutely astonishing that such an argument remains admissible, that it has not yet been rendered obsolete through years of impassioned campaigning and common sense. But it’s just another high profile example of the kind of victim blaming and woman shaming behaviour that reverberates through the justice system and society more widely.

It speaks of an attitude to women and to sex that is outdated, sexist and that contains within it echoes of every hideous assumption that has tied sexual assault to notions of female agency for centuries.

A reminder for those who have somehow forgotten or remain resistant to this, be you barrister, dinosaur or other – the way that a woman dresses, conducts herself sexually or otherwise behaves does not exclude her from being raped or assaulted, does not mean she was “asking for it”. A dress is not a yes, as the saying goes, and a thong is not an invitation.

What would our society – the one, by the way, in which both the fully covered woman and the scantily-clad face condemnation - have us wear, should we wish to avoid pernicious assumptions in the courtroom and the columns? Chastity belts may still have a place in some of the more niche clubs but they don’t look great under a pencil skirt.

Experience tells me that by this point in my column, there will be some desperate to ask why I'm not speaking about this issue as it pertains to men. For clarity, and to highlight my point further, I don't speak about men here because what they wear when they are raped thankfully appears to be an irrelevance. I may be wrong but I simply don’t recall a single rape trial in which a pair of tight Calvins were waved at the jury as evidence of a man’s alluring behaviour.

A recent exhibition in Belgium displayed clothing that fitted the description of what victims wore when they were attacked, from pyjamas to tracksuit bottoms and t-shirts. Titled ‘Is It My Fault?’, it absolutely underlined the answer to its own question – no. It is not - is never - a victim’s fault that they were raped.

I don’t care if they changed their mind at the heart of an enthusiastic ten-person orgy in a footballer’s hotel room, were walking down an alley on their own, carrying out sex work or dressed from head to foot in Ann Summers’ skimpiest wares – unless she’s asking for it, she’s not asking for it. Consent matters. And, just for any avoidance of doubt, it can be withdrawn at any point.

The ever-looming threat of sexual assault has long been a tool by which female behaviour is traditionally policed. It is not our behaviour that needs to change but the attitudes of those who persist in thinking we had it coming.