“Schrödinger’s Rapist”? That’s you!

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The guest post on Shapely Prose about “Schrödinger’s Rapist,” although written fairly recently, has already become one of those blog posts or websites whose content is universal enough to have already become widely-read and well known. The first time I read it, I found myself nodding and silently cheering. I get it! I get it! Score another point for “male-privilege-gotcha”!

Several more read-overs, though, and I started to have some problems.

For readers unfamiliar, I urge you to go read the post. Regardless of any criticisms I may give it and no matter how many times I am about to ridicule it to shreds in the following paragraphs, it is a good piece worth taking in, especially for men who are new to the experiences of women and how that relates to gender equality, the Patriarchy, and rape culture. That said, though, the author makes several errors in judgment in both her tone and the implications of her post.

The guest author, Phaedra Starling, begins her post by addressing her intended audience, the Nice Guy(tm):

Let me start out by assuring you that I understand you are a good sort of person. You are kind to children and animals. You respect the elderly. You donate to charity. You tell jokes without laughing at your own punchlines. You respect women. You like women. In fact, you would really like to have a mutually respectful and loving sexual relationship with a woman. Unfortunately, you don’t yet know that woman—she isn’t working with you, nor have you been introduced through mutual friends or drawn to the same activities. So you must look further afield to encounter her.

Her intention is to help aid these apparently naive little boys in their quest for a fulfilling romantic relationship with a female. She concedes that they are probably nice, well-intentioned guys, and just wants to help them out, by explaining the shockingly terrifying world that females manage to navigate through, day in and day out. The trials and tribulations, the fears, the tears, and the pain. She wants you to understand that, no matter how rough you think your life, quiet and sheltered as you are, may be, it will never, ever, ever be as terrifically horrifying as the world that all presumed to have a vagina exist within.

So, you want to meet a nice girl? You don’t work with any, and you don’t have classes with any? You probably want to meet one, though, huh? Well, I see that you are left with public spaces. But– WATCH OUT!!– approaching a female in public is very, very difficult. You must approach her with great respect, as though she is made of only the finest, most ancient alabaster. Because she is. And if if you didn’t even touch her, if she breaks, it’s your fault!

So, go forth with caution.

Starling introduces Naive Boy to Oppressed and Scared Woman:

Now, you want to become acquainted with a woman you see in public. The first thing you need to understand is that women are dealing with a set of challenges and concerns that are strange to you, a man. To begin with, we would rather not be killed or otherwise violently assaulted.

She is dealing with challenges. And it’s true; women have to go through a whole lot of different and probably surprising (to men) shit just to go about a normal day. The Male Privilege Checklist already has it pretty well covered. But the women that you, Poow Wittle Boy, are about to encounter in public are different. They are uberoppressed! Starling explains:

When I go on a date, I always leave the man’s full name and contact information written next to my computer monitor. This is so the cops can find my body if I go missing. My best friend will call or e-mail me the next morning, and I must answer that call or e-mail before noon-ish, or she begins to worry. If she doesn’t hear from me by three or so, she’ll call the police. My activities after dark are curtailed. Unless I am in a densely-occupied, well-lit space, I won’t go out alone. Even then, I prefer to have a friend or two, or my dogs, with me. Do you follow rules like these?

She can’t even go on a date without making sure that she properly prepares for her own murder! That’s some heavy shit. And, just so you know, this is exactly what she’s expecting you to do to her on your first date; rape and/or murder her.

So when you, a stranger, approach me, I have to ask myself: Will this man rape me?

Do you think I’m overreacting? One in every six American women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. I bet you don’t think you know any rapists, but consider the sheer number of rapes that must occur. These rapes are not all committed by Phillip Garrido, Brian David Mitchell, or other members of the Brotherhood of Scary Hair and Homemade Religion. While you may assume that none of the men you know are rapists, I can assure you that at least one is. Consider: if every rapist commits an average of ten rapes (a horrifying number, isn’t it?) then the concentration of rapists in the population is still a little over one in sixty. That means four in my graduating class in high school. One among my coworkers. One in the subway car at rush hour. Eleven who work out at my gym. How do I know that you, the nice guy who wants nothing more than companionship and True Love, are not this rapist?

Fair point, Starling. The “one in six” statistic is actually rather modest, compared to the “one in four” stat I’m used to. The majority of women I know have told me about at least one sexual assault that they have been the victim of in their lifetime thus far. These are woman between 16 and 60 in age. An unbelievably huge number of women have been sexually assaulted. At least one in your “friend group,” I guarantee it. More than likely, more than one of your close girlfriends has been the victim of sexual assault.

What’s also true, though, is that in wartime, men are more likely to be seen (and treated) as combatants, rather than innocent civilians. No, Schrödinger’s Rapist isn’t about wartime, but it’s easy to see how this plays out in every day life. Men are more likely to be targeted as victims of random physical assault than women are. Are we, as women, likely to walk down the street and be raped or murdered? No. It’s been established that the majority of female rape and murder victims are raped or murdered by someone they’ve known for a long time, or someone with whom they are in a romantic relationship. But men are just as likely to be victims of random physical assault as women are of being raped or abused by their domestic partner.

Well, shit, what now? Should we try to talk about how being raped by people close to us is worse than being randomly assaulted and possibly murdered by a stranger? Well… no… that wouldn’t be very productive now, would it? Should we suggest we nevermind the stats about male-on-male assault? How about we just blame it on men being men and villianize all the men? Tell them to deal with it themselves, in-between stopping male-on-female violence? Wait, that doesn’t sound terribly productive, either.

But, now that we know that both men and women face scary challenges just by walking out the door in the morning, what do we do? How do we face life, and how do we treat the people around us, that we come in contact with every day?

Let’s start by summarizing the basic, hard to disagree with rules:

I set my own risk tolerance. When you approach me, I will begin to evaluate the possibility you will do me harm… you must be aware of what signals you are sending by your appearance and the environment. We are going to be paying close attention to your appearance and behavior and matching those signs to our idea of a threat.

What are our ideas of a potential threat? Probably everything about you. I mean, that’s what you have to think, because the way that Starling frames her argument, every single thing that a woman can possibly be afraid of is definitely something to be legitimately afraid of, all the time, and whether she’s correct or inaccurate, she’s definitely right, and you just have to deal with that. Sorry, but you’re a rapist. You just are. At least for now. RAPIST!

This means that some men should never approach strange women in public. Specifically, if you have truly unusual standards of personal cleanliness, if you are the prophet of your own religion, or if you have tattoos of gang symbols or Technicolor cockroaches all over your face and neck, you are just never going to get a good response approaching a woman cold. That doesn’t mean you’re doomed to a life of solitude, but I suggest you start with internet dating, where you can put your unusual traits out there and find a woman who will appreciate them.

Unless you’re Preppy Dude from the Burbs or Wall Street, just go online to date. You won’t make it in this big, bad, raping world. (RAPIST!) Good luck.

Are you wearing a tee-shirt making a rape joke? NOT A GOOD CHOICE—not in general, and definitely not when approaching a strange woman.

If you wear a tee shirt that has a rape joke on it, no one should need to tell you that you’re unworthy of affection. No; I’m actually serious. You’re a fucking idiot if you own a shirt with a rape joke on it. You’re a fucking worthless moron if you wear it, and you’re exceptionally stupid if you try to hit on a female while wearing it. Problem is, though, some women are also exceptionally idiotic and will not only allow you to hit on her while wearing a rape-joke-shirt, but she might laugh at the rape joke, then reciprocate your flirtations. But we can’t blame them; they’re just poor, helpless, blameless victims of the Patriarchy who aren’t yet aware of their precious victimhood.

The third point: Women are communicating all the time. Learn to understand and respect women’s communication to you.

You want to say Hi to the cute girl on the subway. How will she react? Fortunately, I can tell you with some certainty, because she’s already sending messages to you. Looking out the window, reading a book, working on a computer, arms folded across chest, body away from you = do not disturb. So, y’know, don’t disturb her. Really. Even to say that you like her hair, shoes, or book. A compliment is not always a reason for women to smile and say thank you. You are a threat, remember? You are Schrödinger’s Rapist. Don’t assume that whatever you have to say will win her over with charm or flattery. Believe what she’s signaling, and back off.

Hear that? Don’t Talk To The Woman! Just DON’T! Unless she’s looking you right in the eye, smiling, and commenting on your shoes, don’t talk to her! And even if she is doing all of those things, it doesn’t mean she wants to talk to you! Just DON’T TALK TO HER! NEVER SPEAK TO THE WOMAN!!!

If you fail to respect what women say, you label yourself a problem.

This, though, is the truth. It’s really fucking obvious when someone isn’t interested in you. Don’t make them give you 12 hints before finally reluctantly moseying away. Seriously. Because you do make yourself the problem at that point.

…Here’s the thing about that, though. I’ve rarely met a “normal” guy who doesn’t know how to take a hint. The people that I meet that can’t take a hint 15 times are the random assholes who are literally on a drug and alcohol binge in the middle of downtown on a Saturday night. They’re the random two guys at the party who no one can remember inviting, coked out of their minds, talking to everyone in the most obnoxious manner possible. In other words, they are the exact people one would assume to be that fucking clueless. Doesn’t give them a pass, but it also doesn’t make every male worthy of this assumption.

Starling ends with a very poignant and relevant point:

The fifth and last point: Don’t rape. Nor should you commit these similar but less severe offenses: don’t assault. Don’t grope. Don’t constrain. Don’t brandish. Don’t expose yourself. Don’t threaten with physical violence. Don’t threaten with sexual violence.

Shouldn’t this go without saying? Of course it should. Sadly, that’s not the world I live in. You may be beginning to realize that it’s not the world you live in, either.

Got it, then? I’m sure, though, knowing the audience Starling is speaking to, you’re obviously not the type to do any of that bullshit. And Starling probably knows that, because she already said so, in the first couple paragraphs of her blog post. So, too, do I, and the vast majority of women I know. So, too, do the vast majority of women you know. You’re not a damn rapist; none of us actually believes you are. But some rapists don’t look like what we’d normally picture rapists to look like, so there needed to be this post, where Starling speaks for all women and calls you all RAPISTS!!!

You are. I mean, obviously… we presume you have a dick, and if you have a dick, you probably want to rape us with it. All of us, all the time. And if you’re not a rapist, you should feel as guilty as one anyway, because we’re not going to bother treating you as though you aren’t a rapist (even though the vast majority of you actually aren’t, statistically), because it’s easier for us that way.

To be serious for a moment, though, to presume that all women really go through all this shit, all the time, and to insist that all males willingly accept the label of “potential rapist” every time they meet a woman? Who the hell…? Are you kidding? This is ridiculous. And I assure you, falsely accusing all men, the majority of whom are innocent, of rape is not something I am particularly interested in being a part of. No. Just, no.

So, in sum: All men are rapists, and all women believe they’re going to be raped ALL.THE.TIME.NO.MATTER.WHAT.

Happy dating!

(RAPIST!!)

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53 Responses to “Schrödinger’s Rapist”? That’s you!

  1. Schala says:

    I never ‘got’ this “I have to live in fear” thing, unless you have PTSD or serious trauma that triggers easily. I’ve been beaten up, many times, in many places (school, work, streets in broad daylight). The only safe place was my home, and that’s when I was good and behaving. I could be punished and it would hurt just as bad, maybe leave small marks.

    …yet I don’t live in fear

    Going out after dark is scary in a way, but not because I expect murderers and rapists to jump out of the bushes, more of irrational fear of what you can’t clearly see, the unknown (badly lit places can make trees pretty scary, that wouldn’t even raise my interest during the day – but trees aren’t out to kill me). I get a greater adrenaline rush during the night. I feel more like running (than during the day anyways), and have more energy. Yet I’m not feeling threatened. I also work better (read: faster and with more enthusiasm) at night, even indoors, in good lighting. I’m just a night bird.

    • April says:

      I will certainly not criticize the author’s right to be afraid and, as she said, we set our own risk tolerance, and we all have an obligation to respect another person’s right to be afraid and set their own boundaries or risk tolerance for their own safety. However, I take serious issue with her attempt to speak for all women when she describes all of us as though we believe every man who approaches us is a rapist. She also goes to great length to attempt to tell men that they should be okay with every woman possibly thinking he’s a rapist. (Especially if he has tattoos…?)

  2. elementary_watson says:

    You know, having recently become a single guy again, this article really cheers me up! Reassuring to know that there are women (feminist women, at that) who won’t consider me a rapist when I say “Hello” (and think that reaction would be way over the top).

    WRT “hints of non-interest (HONI): I don’t think Starling’s intended male audience (Nice Guys) has the problem of not getting HONIs, but that they see HONIs where none really are, and telling those guys that, yes, everything a woman does that doesn’t include looking smilingly at him is a HONI is pretty counter-productive; I guess it must be confusing for women that some men don’t get a “fuck off”, while others vanish from their company just because she looked somewhere else than his face for five seconds.

  3. Jim says:

    Schalla, I certainly get this”living in fear thing.” It’s dainty damsel in distress behavior. it makes some people feel feminine I guess. There’s adiference between real threat awareness and being Chicken Little.

    OTOH, approaching strangers on the street is stupid and generally wrong, whether you are a man on the make or a panhandler or a woman just trying to be polite. Because to me if you are a woman just trying to be polite, you are Schrodinger’s Hooker – not that that woukld call for the same kind of response as his rapist.

    It’s intersting that Phaedrsa negelected the most obvious piece of advice to these young men. “That woman you’re thinking of approaching? She is Schrodinger’s False Rape Accuser.” Which means there’s a vanishingly small chance she really is one.

    Excellent, excellent article, April.

    • Stephanie says:

      As a sexual assault and rape survivor, my fear is legitimate and is not for me to “feel feminine”.

      That comment is exceptionally insulting. Post traumatic stress disorder from a horrid event like rape can last a long time and indeed make you question the motives of others around you, ESPECIALLY if you feel afraid.

      Do I need to deal with that part of my life on my own? Yes. But it does not give you the right to mock women who DO go out their doors unsure and untrusting of others because of their own traumatic experiences.

      Not all women feel this way. But some do, and with just cause… so kindly don’t insult me for it.

  4. Motley says:

    Hmm. My reaction to Starling’s piece was a lot more mild, but I seem to be in the minority on that one; judging from the comments, both people who liked it and people who didn’t seem to’ve read it as a “YOU ARE ALL RAPISTS” screed.

    My reading (which I’ve come to think is not the one Starling intended) was that it was more of a simple how-to: “If you’re trying to meet girls in public places, be aware that many of them have really shockingly severe issues, and here’s how to avoid hitting the creepy-filter for [these particular] girls.” (The part I put in brackets isn’t stated in Starling’s post, nor do I think that Starling was even aware that she was writing from the perspective of a certain set of “messed-up people who have issues” and not “All Women Everywhere;” she seems to think she’s addressing “how to tell when it’s safe to chat with a girl” rather than “how to tell when it’s safe to chat with a seriously disturbed girl who lives a life of 3/4ths-imaginary terror.*”)

    *Not that being afraid of rape is imaginary, obviously, but that (like April said) if you treat all men as potential rapists, you’re going to be wrong most of the time.

    • April says:

      …nor do I think that Starling was even aware that she was writing from the perspective of a certain set of “messed-up people who have issues” and not “All Women Everywhere;” she seems to think she’s addressing “how to tell when it’s safe to chat with a girl” rather than “how to tell when it’s safe to chat with a seriously disturbed girl who lives a life of 3/4ths-imaginary terror.*”

      I think you’re right on. It is, though, part of what’s so frustrating about it. Some women have really good, understandable reasons to be afraid of strange men. Maybe they were abused, maybe they suffered a traumatic experience in the past that scarred them. And as noted before, she’s got the right to set her own risk tolerance level, and so does anyone else. But to lump all of us together like that, to make it seem like, not only do we all look at men and think “RAPIST!,” but we also think they should be totally cool with it, and walk on eggshells to even speak in our presence is just absurd.

    • Motley says:

      I think I’m still reading Starling a bit more favorably than that; though I might be seeing an “if” clause that isn’t actually there.

      The way I’m reading it is as more of a how-to: if you’re trying to get a good response from a certain type of woman in a certain type of place, here’s how. (“Some women have issues. Here’s how to avoid setting them off”). I don’t actually see a lot of implied ethical duty; I don’t think Starling’s saying that I really have an obligation to worry about a woman’s issues* about becoming acquaintances with potential rapists, but that if I want to become acquainted, it’s useful to know how to avoid coming off as a potential rapist [to women who have these particular issues].

      *I assume she’d be extremely hostile to the idea that women are obligated to give a crap about other men’s issues, and I’ll (for the moment) give her the benefit of the doubt and further assume that she believes that men and women are equal.

      But I might simply be reading it overly charitably. I’ll grant the possibility that Starling may mean to be addressing “all men” rather than “all men who are trying to start a friendship on public transit.” I just didn’t read it that way. (Though the comments seem to’ve universally read it that way… so I’m pretty much in the minority there.)

      In short, my only major problem with her is that she seems totally unaware that the particular issues she has are not an inherent aspect of being female; they’re her issues. But yeah, I might be overly charitable in that assessment. (Heh. Not something of which I’m often accused.)

  5. Jim says:

    Motley, that’s a good read on the character of the comments. The comments miss what is objectioable and problematic – they read the article as an accusation rather than as a warning, and that’s not what’s objectionable. What was so irresponsible and tin-eared as this self-appointed advisor’s use of very infammatory language and her insulting style of discourse. What’s tin-eared about her is that she seesm blissfully ignornat of the very real damage that false rape accusations have caused and continue to cause. That fits Martha Nussbaum’s definition of objectification and makes Phaedra a grade A sexist pig.

    • Motley says:

      As above, though: most of this only applies if we assume she’s doing more than simply warning about one of the pitfalls of approaching strangers in public.

      As to false rape accusations, I don’t think that’s so much a problem with Starling herself. I’m under the impression that the “acceptable” range of opinion on the topic within feminist dogma ranges from “false accusations do no significant harm and are vanishingly rare” to “false rape accusations never happen and are impossible.”

  6. Danny says:

    I have to say that when I first read that post my reaction was that this post is basically saying that women are justifiably afraid of being raped and assuming the worst about men is okay despite the fact that even though rapes happen the vast majority of men aren’t rapists. In order words women are afraid of men and if men (even the nice ones) don’t like it them fuck them.

    And honestly even though I’ve cooled off on that reaction I still partly think that is what they were trying to say in an attempt to put all the responsibility for being afraid of rapists on the shoulders of all men. Rapist or not being a man means you get a share of the responsibility to prove to women that you are not waiting to rape them. (Kinda like that writer of that post wants to set up a situation in which men must seek women’s approval or something IDK).

    • Jim says:

      “this post is basically saying that women are justifiably afraid of being raped and assuming the worst about men is okay despite the fact that even though rapes happen the vast majority of men aren’t rapists.”

      Yes. This. This is exactly how completely harmless civilians get shot up at checkpoints.

    • Caitlin says:

      Uh, what? You’re comparing women regarding male strangers with suspicion to *shooting harmless civilians*?

    • Desipis says:

      No, he’s saying that people who are prepared to cause a disproportionate amount of harm to others in response to a relatively minor risk to themselves are counter-productive to a civilized society. Treating men as “potential rapists” rather than human beings is counter-productive in that way.

  7. Desipis says:

    Danny, I read it as putting all the responsibility of women being afraid of men onto rapists. Or perhaps more accurately as putting the responsibility for women treating men unfairly onto rapists. As Jim points out I’m not sure it’d scale well when applied to all potential threats (shrodinger’s murder, shrodinger’s thief, etc) that other people represent. If we’re going to have a civilized society we need to give strangers the benefit of the doubt to a certain extent.

    That said I think the general idea of thinking about other people’s perspectives of ourselves when trying to understand their reactions is a good one. However, assuming all women are androphobic is not a practical way to approach life.

    • April says:

      That said I think the general idea of thinking about other people’s perspectives of ourselves when trying to understand their reactions is a good one.

      Indeed. This post, in my opinion, had a lot of potential, but went way overboard. There have been a few others online (oftentimes, many of the “privilege” checklists) that I thought have done a good job, or been eye-opening.

    • Desipis says:

      I’m curious as to what different peoples perspectives would be on dealing with ambiguous replies. If you can’t tell whether a response is a polite rejection, someone fearful of you who’s trying not to upset you or just someone uncomfortable with being open about their interest/attraction is it reasonable to:

      a) Assume it’s a rejection?
      b) Assume they’re just shy?
      c) Directly ask?
      d) Try to determine with further indirect queries?

    • Motley says:

      I think a lot of people never acknowledge that their own replies can ever be ambiguous.
      But I’d mostly go with D.

    • Jim says:

      Thsi kind of thing is context-dependent, in other words it depends on one’s culture. When you have two people speaking out of different cultures, with diffenrnet communicational stratgies, there may be no way to disambuiguate anything ther eon the spot. It may be necessary to learn the other culture enough to interpret the exchange.

    • April says:

      I would also say “D.” The only problem is that people who would choose “D” are the ones who Starling is addressing in her post. You just can’t win, I guess.

  8. A.Y. Siu says:

    Are we, as women, likely to walk down the street and be raped or murdered? No. It’s been established that the majority of female rape and murder victims are raped or murdered by someone they’ve known for a long time, or someone with whom they are in a romantic relationship.

    See? This is what I don’t get.

    The original piece made it sound as if 1. it’s quite common for a man to approach a woman on the bus and compliment her on her looks or try to chat with her, and then subsequently rape her, and 2. a woman talking with a man who is bothersome in a public place will in any way contribute to his raping her.

    The first part, as you quite rightly point out, makes no sense. As we all know, most rapes occur in either private or semi-private, and they’re usually date or acquaintance rapes. The goal of the rapist is to isolate you, even if by lying, and then force you to have sex with him. The goal of the rapist is not to harass you in public. He doesn’t want people later saying “Oh, yeah. I remember that guy harassing her on the bus.” He wants people later saying “Oh, yeah. She was flirting with him, and they were making out, and she dressed in some skimpy outfit. She was asking for it.” A guy harassing you on the bus isn’t about to rape you. He’s just going to be obnoxious and harass you. I’m not saying harassment is okay. It’s part of rape culture. I get it. But it is not rape. It’s annoying that guys think it’s okay to talk to women who clearly don’t want to talk back. It’s annoying that guys like to stare at strangers breasts and cleavage. This is annoying. This is harassment. It isn’t rape, though. And talking to these harassers doesn’t suddenly turn them into rapists if they weren’t rapists already.

    And that’s the second part. It almost sounds like victim-blaming. Oh, no… if she talked to you, you might rape her! So she’s not going to talk to you. Wait—what?! Talking to you doesn’t make you rape her. If you rape her, you decided to rape her. She didn’t do anything to provoke it by talking with you. So I don’t even see how this has anything to do with potential rapists. I think it has to do with just wanting to be left alone. Yes, if a woman on the bus is listening to her iPod, staring out the window, reading a book, or otherwise wanting to not be bothered, don’t bother her. I don’t see what rape has to do with it.

    • Desipis says:

      I think there’s a big difference between victim blaming and acknowledging peoples (rational or irrational) reactions to fear and identifying (reasonable or unreasonable) precautions they may take.

    • Jim says:

      Totally agree that last. So much of this is just decent manners in public. Don’t talk to strangers unless the circumstances really call for it – some kind of shared catastrophe, for instance. And certainly don’t approach and accost them, man woman or dog on a leash. Don’t harrass people for loose change. Don’t make loud comments into the air aimed at everyone. It’s not hard.

    • Desipis says:

      “Don’t talk to strangers unless the circumstances really call for it”

      Why is talking to strangers such bad manners? Surely there’s a place between not talking at all and not pushing a conversation onto someone who obviously doesn’t want it where polite conversation can exists. That attitude seems to me to be born out of the same irrational fear found in the schrodinger’s rapist’s post.

  9. Melissa says:

    I was with you until those last few paragraphs. The author did not call all men rapists. She didn’t falsely accuse anyone of anything. Telling someone NOT to rape is not the same as accusing someone of having raped already. They’re not even close. Not even in the same universe. If you were a parent, you’d probably tell your kids not to do hundreds of things every day, right? But you wouldn’t do so because you believed they had already done it. What if you were a supervisor in your workplace? You’d give a big orientation and tell people not to steal things, you’d give them a bunch of common-sense safety regulations, and you’d tell them all these things knowing full well that most of them never would have done those things anyway. Telling men “you really shouldn’t rape” is not the same as falsely accusing anyone of anything.
    In fact, her estimate of the percentage of men who ARE rapists at the beginning of the article is EXTREMELY conservative and low. So if anything, she’s giving the vast majority of men more credit.

    There’s also one major difference between male-on-female sexual assault versus male-on-male “other” violent assault. Part of the reason most men don’t live in fear of the latter is because they’re not TOLD to. They’re not told that if they get mugged and beaten up, it will be their fault. If a woman is raped by a stranger, having publicly rebuked his advances will be her ONLY defense in a court of law. If she was polite or friendly to him, the rape will become “her fault.”

    • Jim says:

      “Telling someone NOT to rape is not the same as accusing someone of having raped already. ”

      Let’s try a little experiment, Melissa.

      Don’t molest any children, Melissa. Keep your hands away from their genitals, Melissa.

      See how that’s not the least bit insulting or accusatory? Thought not.

      “They’re not told that if they get mugged and beaten up, it will be their fault.”

      See how privilege blinds? That is exactly what little boys are told about every instance when they are attacked, all their lives. “Why’d you let him kick your ass, you little pussy?” Oh, and when’s the last time a woman’s gender was called into question for being attacked?

      It’s a basic feature of the socialization. It informs men’s attitudes towards all kinds of attacks and accounts for a lot of the violent response womens so often deride in men. It accounts for why men truly ask why women think they should be able to go anywhere any time in perfect safety when men can’t, only to get told that’s victim-blaming. It’s because men aren’t use to “having people for that kind of thing” and don’t understand that particular mentality of entitlement.

    • April says:

      The author did not call all men rapists. She didn’t falsely accuse anyone of anything. Telling someone NOT to rape is not the same as accusing someone of having raped already.

      No, she didn’t actually come out and accuse anyone of rape (I think it was a commenter above who was talking about false rape accusations). She very heavily implied it, though, and gave a very distinct impression that all women do believe men are rapists until proven otherwise, which is ridiculous, and also goes on to act like men should be all right with that.

      In fact, her estimate of the percentage of men who ARE rapists at the beginning of the article is EXTREMELY conservative and low. So if anything, she’s giving the vast majority of men more credit.

      I’m reading it differently. If she believes that so small a fraction of men are rapists, then I don’t see the logic in advocating the notion that we assume all of them are.

    • Interesting blog entry April and it got me thinking about my own conduct with women in public. I don’t talk, approach, make eye contact or otherwise acknowledge unless first spoken to or approached.

      Why?

      I was raped by a woman and my trust level with regard to women I don’t know is almost zero. Is it fair of me to view women through this lens? No, but it is how things are for me since that woman decided to do what she did all those years ago.

      For instance, if I’m on an elevator alone and a woman I don’t know enters I will slowly and very self-consciously put space between us or get off the elevator altogether. Is it fair to her? Not in the slightest. I don’t react in this way because I think all women are rapists. I do it because I was raped and self-preservation trumps trust and friendliness.

      I find it interesting that some women think that all men, including a survivor of a female rapist like me, are potential rapists. I guess I’m doing the same thing as well, but from a place of personal experience and PTSD reaction rather than as a gender stereotype.

      Ugh. I need to work on that more.

    • I just want to clarify that I don’t think it is “right” for me to fear random women, but I wanted to explain why it is that way for me.

      I hope that makes sense.

    • ballgame says:

      There’s also one major difference between male-on-female sexual assault versus male-on-male “other” violent assault. Part of the reason most men don’t live in fear of the latter is because they’re not TOLD to. They’re not told that if they get mugged and beaten up, it will be their fault.

      There’s certainly a major difference between sexual assault and non-sexual assault, Melissa, but that isn’t it! The notion that men aren’t told it’s their own fault if they get beaten up is, well, just spectacularly wrong! Growing up, boys are very much on their own when it comes to dealing with violence. If they’re faced with a violent attack by a peer, and they appeal to an authority for protection, the ultimate outcome can be pretty awful in many cases. Even if the authority does intervene — a dicey proposition for a boy — the boy will usually suffer a huge hit to his reputation and likely face a greater risk of attack when outside the protection of an adult. If he faces an attack on his own and loses, he’ll certainly have the physical and emotional pain to deal with, though his rep may or may not suffer (i.e. he may get labeled a loser or granted grudging respect for “taking it like a man”). If he runs away, he’ll get called a coward and face being ostracized.

      In general the boy is given the (often empty) advice of being told he needs to “learn how to defend himself.” (At least, this was the rule in past generations; I suspect it hasn’t changed all that much.)

      Since vulnerable boys tend to be targeted for attack, most males learn the important rule is to not show vulnerability. Some may lose their fear (frequently by denying their own physical vulnerability, which often leads to high risk behaviors and poor self care), others will simply bury it or convince themselves they don’t feel it. But the net result of this socialization is that many more men are afraid to ‘walk the street at night’ than might appear … and yes, in many circumstances men believe that if they fall victim to violence, it’s their own fault.

    • Danny says:

      Many thanks ballgame.

      This is a shining example of why men need to be speaking up for themselves. If we don’t we’ll end up with people believing nonsense like that.

      Part of the reason most men don’t live in fear of the latter is because they’re not TOLD to. They’re not told that if they get mugged and beaten up, it will be their fault.
      The only people who believe that are men who buy into the “show no fear or you weak” mentality and people who are not men.

  10. Melissa says:

    “Let’s try a little experiment, Melissa.

    Don’t molest any children, Melissa. Keep your hands away from their genitals, Melissa.

    See how that’s not the least bit insulting or accusatory? Thought not.”

    Wait, whoa, why’d you answer for me? My answer to the question “see how that’s not the least bit insulting or accusatory” is absolutely. Yes. General exhortations to large groups NOT to do bad things are IN NO WAY individually accusatory. In fact, I recently had to take the company-wide sexual harassment training for all new hires at a new job I got. There were a lot of things I was told not to do. I was not the least bit offended by it. Nor did I think that my being required to take the same training as every other person at the company IN ANY WAY implied that my boss thinks I’m going to sexually harass or assault someone.

    “That is exactly what little boys are told about every instance when they are attacked, all their lives. ”
    Ok…which part of that relates to talking to strangers in public, exactly? You’re trying to draw parallels between disparate situations. Try an example with an actual similarity/parallel to what we’re talking about: specific actions of the victim being taken as proof in a court of law that ze, not the perpetrator of the crime, is at fault.

    That said, you do have a very valid point about the policing of masculinity. It isn’t what this conversation is about, but it is a good conversation in itself. It’s a perfect example of how patriarchy can be EXTREMELY harmful to men as well as to women.

    • Paul says:

      ““That is exactly what little boys are told about every instance when they are attacked, all their lives. ”
      Ok…which part of that relates to talking to strangers in public, exactly? You’re trying to draw parallels between disparate situations. Try an example with an actual similarity/parallel to what we’re talking about: specific actions of the victim being taken as proof in a court of law that ze, not the perpetrator of the crime, is at fault.”

      While it’s not a crime, what about any time a young child interacts with an adult male in public? Maybe other men don’t worry about these things like I have, but anytime a little kid says hi to me in the store where I work, there’s a split second where I wonder if my responding would be construed by paranoid adults as being “creepy” even if all I do is say “hi” back to him.

    • Paul says:

      Actually I can think of an example that actually IS a crime… well sort’ve: female on male violence, the prevalent response to which is usually “he must have had it coming”

    • Danny says:

      And you usually only get that “he must have had it coming” through the gritted teeth of people who have run out of ways to outright deny the existence of female against male violence.

  11. Jim says:

    “Wait, whoa, why’d you answer for me? My answer to the question “see how that’s not the least bit insulting or accusatory” is absolutely. Yes.
    General exhortations to large groups NOT to do bad things are IN NO WAY individually accusatory.”

    You are trying, but you still don’t get it. Stereotyping of a group can indeed be individually accusatory, and often with deadly results. Women have very, very seldomn been on the receiving end of vigilantism and mob violence, so it is generally not part of their experience.

    “In fact, I recently had to take the company-wide sexual harassment training for all new hires at a new job I got.”

    This is where you don’t get it. An apt analogy would have been if the had only the female new hires take this training, and an even more apt analogy would have been if they had all women in the compnay take the traing on a recurring basis, including people who had been with the company for many years. Because this business of young women distrusting men but not women is all about stereotyping.

    “That is exactly what little boys are told about every instance when they are attacked, all their lives. ”

    Ok…which part of that relates to talking to strangers in public, exactly?”
    The part where you said:
    “There’s also one major difference between male-on-female sexual assault versus male-on-male “other” violent assault. Part of the reason most men don’t live in fear of the latter is because they’re not TOLD to.”

    “Try an example with an actual similarity/parallel to what we’re talking about: specific actions of the victim being taken as proof in a court of law that ze, not the perpetrator of the crime, is at fault.”

    Okay, that’s easy – any case in which a man accuses a woman of raping him. And date rape is completely off the scope for male victims, not even accpeted as a case, enver gets to a court of law. Because men are presumed to always be asking for it, all the time. Sex is always the man’s initiative, always his fault. The women is “giving it up”, never taking.

    “That said, you do have a very valid point about the policing of masculinity.”

    This is so not about the policing of masculinity; that is just an instrumentality. In this case it is an instrument in demonizing men.

    “It’s a perfect example of how patriarchy can be EXTREMELY harmful to men as well as to women.”

    I know you are not trying to be patronizing, but PHMT is nothing but patronizing deflection, aside from the part where chivalry hurts men to the benefit of women, and that indeed is a huge part of the issue of rape and in fact informs the actual rape culture – see lynching, Scottsboro Boys, Innocence Project, False Rape Society and others..

    Teaching little boys to fight is not patriarchy, teaching little girls not to, and teaching them that the world is inherently a safe place and violence is anomalous and outside the natural order, is. That’s the real point about all this wariness. Women and men should be wary of all strangers, within reason, and rape is second or third or fourth on the list of threats.

  12. Friendly Butt says:

    I think it’s important to remember that many young women’s mothers grew up in societal structures that allowed for the marital rape of women as a right of married men. The article in question is guilty of betraying everyone, not just men or women, by means of furthering a fear based logic. This discussion spans waaaaaaaaaaay too many specific and non-specific demographic and cultural qualities and eras to have a one-answer-fits-all approach. When I was young I said “yes” to someone I did not want to have sex with after she exhausted me with coercion. It felt like rape, but I’ve never felt comfortable qualifying it that way based on my feelings only. I have no idea what she was thinking that whole time, and I could have been more direct about the rejection.

    I share this only to demonstrate, however anecdotally, that statics are fine until we forget there are people behind them.

    • April says:

      When I was young I said “yes” to someone I did not want to have sex with after she exhausted me with coercion. It felt like rape, but I’ve never felt comfortable qualifying it that way based on my feelings only. I have no idea what she was thinking that whole time, and I could have been more direct about the rejection.

      This is a very interesting and valuable reaction to what happened. I’ve been thinking about writing a post addressing this issue– considering the intention of the “rapist”– for some time. I actually did write one some time ago, but deleted it almost immediately afterward for fear of being misread as a rape apologist.

      The same thing happened to me when I was younger, too– consenting only after having been exhausted by coercion– and, while it did feel like rape, I was also tentative to call it that for the same reasons you cite.

      Being coerced into sex and consenting because you’re exhausted is certainly part of rape culture, though, as A.Y. Siu noted above. Whether or not it is “rape” differs with each individual circumstance.

    • Clarence says:

      April:

      At the risk of being considered a rape apologist, I will respond to what rape is.

      Rape is when, due to incapacitation of some sort, fear, or actual violence you are given no choice as to whether or not to have sex , or to have sex that had started, stopped. Any choice that is based on you being afraid of physical violence against you or anyone else you know is NOT a choice. Someone pestering you for sex, or threatening to break up the relationship due to the lack of it is not rape.

      Anything else, while it may be slimy, isn’t rape.
      I’ve often thought rather than trying to expand the definition of rape and the conditions under which it could be claimed and sometimes with limited or no success if feminists might be better off trying to define a new class of sexual crimes, not quite equal to rape in terms of stigma or punishment. But they never do.

  13. aych says:

    “Wait, that doesn’t sound terribly productive, either.”

    But that’s not the point, is it April?

    The point, my dear, is to score points against TEH PATRIARKEH!!111!

    You MRA sympathizer, you.

  14. Sam says:

    Hey April,

    my reaction to the Schrödinger article was a bit different from yours. I liked it. I mostly liked it for one reason: It was trying to be helpful instead of merely accusatory. Usually, feminists don’t like to address matters of dating although most inter-gender interactions usually have something to do with that, well, inter-gender interactions ;). Starling approached the subject from a point that is, I believe correct: If you want to get in contact with a woman, make her feel safe, if she doesn’t feel safe she won’t be talking to you. And she explains why women may feel unsafe. The same is done by a guy called Mystery who’s written a book and starred in a tv show about picking up girls – “by the age of 23, a beautiful woman has been approached a thousand times. Respect that, respect what she must be thinking when you approach her”. Starling writes about a critical issue in dating in feminist speak, and as feminists are unused to the usual dating guides language of “get you laid, and get you laid fast”, people not used to feminist-speak are likely to not correctly parse the Schrödinger’s post.

    There are very few people who can translate between feminist speak, pua-lingo, and normal language.

    See this comment I made at a similar feminist dating post –

    http://finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com/2010/06/11/feminism-friday-how-can-men-express-sexual-interest-in-a-feminist-way/comment-page-1/#comment-54822

    • April says:

      I suppose the original post was nicer, in comparison, to many other feminist takes on the same topic that are out there. When I read the post myself, I was surprised by what I considered to be the extreme condescension, especially in contrast to the meek and shy way that she described the guy in the post.

      On the other hand, being female, I don’t have the experience of approaching women I’m romantically interested in and doing it wrong, so I don’t have bad experiences to compare it with.

      I’ve read The Game, actually, shortly after it came out. I put it on my Amazon wishlist after reading a review of it, half disgusted and half intrigued, and got it from a male friend for Christmas. I ended up really enjoying it, even though many aspects ended up being pretty disturbing, in my opinion. I wish I still had it, because there are some things I’m itching to look up right now, but I lent it to that same friend when I was done and haven’t gotten it back. Go figure.

  15. machina says:

    I sort of agree with Sam; I think it was at one level genuine attempt to convey what’s going on in a heterosexual woman’s mind when a strange man approaches her. I also don’t think it’s actually accusing male readers of being rapists directly.

    On the other hand, the notion of rape culture, per Susan Brownmiller, is that it’s a mechanism by which all men keep all women under oppression. All women are oppressed because even those that have never been raped behave in restricted ways for fear of rape. Some of these restrictions are outlined by Starling. The reason, though, why men don’t restrict their behaviour going outside isn’t because they have nothing to fear, which Starling assumes to be the case outside of a war zone, it’s that men aren’t conditioned to be fearful, indeed they are conditioned to show no fear at all.

    The behaviours that Starling outlined are mostly maladaptive, based on a fear of stranger rape completely out of proportion to its prevalence. This is a feminist talking point! It should be obvious to feminists! And I think it is, but don’t think that’s going to get in the way of the ability to ‘Score another point for “male-privilege-gotcha”!’

    • Cessen says:

      I agree with April that the tone is condescending. I also feel like the post tries to push it as a male moral obligation to cater to women’s fear response, even when it has nothing to do with them. I mean, of course if you realize a woman is uncomfortable you back off. But if she gets uncomfortable when you have done nothing to reasonably make her so, it’s also not your fault.

      I could have been reading too much between the lines, of course. But I really feel like that was part of the implication of the article.

      I feel like the rapist-accusation part comes at the end:
      “The fifth and last point: Don’t rape. Nor should you commit these similar but less severe offenses: don’t assault. Don’t grope. Don’t constrain. Don’t brandish. Don’t expose yourself. Don’t threaten with physical violence. Don’t threaten with sexual violence.”

      I mean, if I tell someone, “Don’t eat this pie while I’m gone. Don’t eat it. Okay? Don’t cut a piece from it and put it on a plate. Don’t get a fork. Don’t dig a piece out with the fork and place it in your mouth. Don’t chew and swallow. Don’t do it. Sure that should go without saying, but… you know.”

      …if I go to such lengths to state this, clearly I think there’s a likelihood that they would eat the pie if I hadn’t said it in such explicit terms.

      So yeah, no explicit accusation. But an implicit one, and IMO her statements at the beginning where she assures you that she knows your a good kind of guy sort of lose credibility due to this bit.

      Either that or she just really sucks at keeping her target audience in mind while writing.

    • machina says:

      I agree that it has a condescending tone towards men. I don’t think it’s a great article for men for that reason. But really, I don’t think it’s that great an article anyway. It uses a poor metaphor (which was meant to be a reductio ad absurdum argument), fails to recognise violence against men outside of war, seems to reinforce the stranger rape paradigm and uses examples steeped in social conservatism (meeting in a church with your mothers, ffs).

      I said that “I also don’t think it’s actually accusing male readers of being rapists directly.” She is contradicting herself in stating that the male readers would never rape a woman and then implying that they potentially could by warning against it at the end, but she’s not actually calling them rapists. Potential rapists yeah, actual rapists no.

    • Danny says:

      I also feel like the post tries to push it as a male moral obligation to cater to women’s fear response, even when it has nothing to do with them.
      Oh you mean chivalry? Well they won’t call it chivalry because supposedly that’s all about men doting on women for the benefit of men. They actually mean that men should shoulder responsibility for women solely because of gender. Yeah…

      So yeah, no explicit accusation. But an implicit one, and IMO her statements at the beginning where she assures you that she knows your a good kind of guy sort of lose credibility due to this bit.
      Implicit all right. What is that that people say about things being harmful even if they are not directly in your face.

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  19. typhonblue says:

    They’re the random two guys at the party who no one can remember inviting, coked out of their minds, talking to everyone in the most obnoxious manner possible.

    This stood out for me for a really odd reason that may be totally OT.

    I’ve observed exactly this situation at a rave.

    There were two random peeps, completely stoned, approaching everyone taking a break against the back wall of the building we were in.

    The only difference is that they were female.

    At one point they approached my husband and myself and we talked to them briefly, then they went on to approach a pair of guys a few feet away from us. After a few seconds it was obvious that the guys in question wanted absolutely nothing to do with the girls.

    I’m not kidding, anyone even approaching sober could have read these guy’s body-language: Tense jaws, withdrawing as far as they could against the wall, not making eye contact.

    Yet these girls were persisting and persisting and persisting. Not just in continuing the conversation, but attempting to physically touch these guys who were obviously extremely uncomfortable. It got to the point where I thought maybe I should intervene.

    That’s the first time I’ve seen that sort of behavior. At least between complete strangers.

    • typhonblue says:

      Actually, come to think of it, I didn’t see any guys approaching women with such persistence and disregard for their physical boundaries the entire night. And there were a lot of drunk off their ass women there.

      Also, the men flashing thing… I actually wish women would get the memo that random strangers do not want to see their junk. If you’re wearing a skirt that could double as a rubber band, don’t dance on tables or lean way over, m’kay? Thanks.

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