A foodservice venue prohibits men wearing nothing but a pair of spotted boxer shorts, and perhaps a tank top (commonly called undershirts) or T-shirt, on the basis that it “is underwear” (what makes it underwear if it is not being worn underneath anything else)? 3 minutes later a woman wearing bright coloured, sleet and tight fitting yoga shorts without anything underneath them is allowed entry because the brightly coloured fabric of the yoga shorts suggests that it is intended to be worn as an outer garment.

A health club prohibits a man from entering the mixed sex sauna in boxers on the basis that it is not “proper swimwear” (and so “may make others uncomfortable), but women are allowed to enter wearing spaghetti strap thong-kinis that are much more provocative and revealing, because they are apparently made to be used as “proper swimwear”.

Is this indirect or otherwise sex discrimination, or is it otherwise unlawful?

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    1. Does the venue prohibit anyone from wearing nothing but boxer shorts and tank top or does it prohibit men and allow women? 2. Does the venue prohibit men wearing yoga shorts while it allows women to wear yoga shorts? 3. Boxer shorts have a risk of exposure that yoga shorts do not. 4. A rule that requires "swimwear" seems unlikely to be sex discriminatory if its effect is the banning of boxer shorts.
    – Lag
    Sep 14 at 13:51

1 Answer 1


The precise rationale will of course vary from one jurisdiction to the next, but I don't know of any sex-discrimination laws that would prohibit this.

What you're describing is not sex discrimination, because no one is being discriminated against on the basis of their sex.

Your hypothetical suggests three key facts:

  1. The establishment has a policy prohibiting patrons from wearing clothing it has categorized as "underwear."
  2. The man is wearing clothing that has been categorized as "underwear."
  3. The woman is wearing clothing that has been categorized as "outerwear."

The man has violated a policy; the woman has not. There is no indication that the establishment would enforce its rules differently if the woman wore what the man was wearing, or if the man wore what the woman wore.

It is not sex discrimination to enforce rules against men, nor is it sex discrimination to let women make decisions some random man doesn't like.

It sounds as though the man in question believes he has some right to decide whether women are allowed to wear "provocative and revealing" clothing.

If that is the case, he is not the victim of sex discrimination; instead he is the reason we have sex-discrimination laws.

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    If there's a special nuance you're interested in, it is most helpful to mention it explicitly in the question.
    – bdb484
    Sep 14 at 20:40
  • Under EA2010 it is arguably indirect discrimination by not treating the sexes equally. Sep 17 at 21:33
  • The point is, what is the purpose of dress codes other than to uphold a general standard of decorum? Certainly one of the principal purposes of dress codes is to make sure that people aren’t forced to view others dressed too seductively and salaciously. The issue is that because the culture and fashion markets have gradually started producing garments that are more and more provocative for women which have now become commonplace but would have been totally unthinkable only a few decades ago while men’s styles have not changed much, the contention would be that where law Sep 17 at 21:36
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    All interesting arguments. It seems you feel you already know the answer to your question, so it may be worth posting it as such.
    – bdb484
    Sep 18 at 3:48
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    However, please stop vandalizing my answer. If you disagree with it or just don't like it, you may downvote and encourage others to do the same.
    – bdb484
    Sep 18 at 3:50

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