liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
[personal profile] liv
So [ profile] cereta made an impressive and widely linked post about the pervasiveness of rape. The reaction to it has been really bizarre, and I want to talk about that and about a related issue: the one about women taking personal safety precautions.

Firstly, you probably don't want to plough through the comments to [personal profile] cereta's post unless you have a lot of time and a lot of emotional energy. There's some upsetting stuff there and some angering stuff there, along with a lot of positives. If you're really a glutton for punishment, you can take a look at what happens when the meme spreads beyond the tightly controlled conversation among people who mostly get it.

I am really struck by the fact that a post can be explicitly about the fact that not all men are rapists, and still get lots and lots of responses from offended men who feel unjustly accused of a heinous crime just because of their gender, (as well as the usual bunch of responses pointing out that men get raped too and that women can also be sexual abusers). I mean, what?! Cereta is looking for strategies for non-rapist men to use to combat rape, and stories of non-rapist men who went beyond the baseline decency of simply not raping people when they had the opportunity and actually did something active to protect vulnerable women from rapists. And somehow people see the keyword "rape" and feel compelled to jump in and say that it's unfair to describe rape as in any way a gendered problem. I'm starting to be tempted by the ludicrous conspiracy theory view that there's some secret fraternity of misogynists who want to make it absolutely impossible for anyone to make a simple statement like "too many men are raping women and that's bad". Of course I don't actually believe that, I'm not stupid, but it's hard to find a more rational explanation to some of the reaction to Cereta's (in my view very pro-male!) post.

To respond to the post itself, well. I can think of hundreds of occasions where a man had an opportunity to rape me and didn't take it. Let's take the first and most significant: I'm 17 and desperately naive. I'm in Oxford for interviews, and I have no mobile phone (they weren't common back in those dark ages!) and just about nobody knows where I am; my parents expect me home in three days' time, and other than that I'm off the radar. I meet someone and we click instantly, and suddenly it's hours later and we've talked ourselves hoarse and we're being thrown out of the JCR because it's midnight and the volunteer ushers need to go home. He suggests we go back to his room to continue chatting, and I have an instant flash of all the advice I've been fed my whole life about how agreeing to this would be little short of suicidal. But in the next instant, I realize that I am not willing to throw away the miraculous friendship of this stranger I've just met, no matter what the risk is. So I agree to go back to his room, and guess what? Not only does he not rape me, he doesn't even make a pass, because in fact he genuinely wanted to carry on the conversation and nothing beyond that.

I think I may have over-generalized from this positive experience, and concluded that all the safety advice I'd ever received was a load of crock. I want to be able to have male friends, basically, and I don't think that's compatible with going to elaborate lengths to make sure I'm never alone or non-sober (or, you know, asleep) in male company. And it makes me angry that going to those lengths should be considered a "reasonable" safety precaution to "prevent" rape.

Here's another story, which didn't happen to me but to another 17-year-old girl close to me: she was supposed to meet some friends in Paris, travelling there separately. And for various reasons she ended up stranded in Calais with no money and no phone, and decided that the least bad possible option was to try to hitch to Paris. The first guy who picked her up told her that she couldn't possibly stand there by the roadside, it wasn't safe, and suggested she come home with him and he'd give her a bed for the night and money for a train fare to Paris in the morning. The girl made a quick calculation and reckoned her chances were better with this guy than with any random trucker or loony or opportunist who happened to pass the junction, and went home with him. Apparently his wife was a little surprised by his bringing home a bedraggled and scared 17-year-old English girl, but the two of them did in fact make up a bed for her in the guest room and fed her breakfast and sent her on way to Paris safely the next day. Now, that's a man who did something beyond merely not raping her when he could have done; he actually helped her out, and took a not insignificant risk to do so. I'm sure it must have crossed his mind that she could have been a bait for dangerous robbers lying in wait just out of sight, or the kind of unbalanced woman who might accuse him of something nefarious even when he was completely innocent.

So, there are good men out there, and they quite possibly outnumber the evil men. (And yes, there are also some evil women out there, and when they are in the rare situation of having power over men some of them are going to take advantage of that.) But the problem is that you can't tell which are which. The people who responded to Cereta's rant with comments how all the stuff about rape and misogyny is irrelevant to them because they're sensitive and articulate and geeky, and obviously women only have to be afraid of jocks / frat boys / lower class men, make me possibly even more angry than the ones who just reflexively say "you're making sexist generalizations!" You. Can't. Tell. That's why people get raped, not because they are stupid or choose to put themselves in vulnerable situations with "obviously" skeevy people. It's natural to want to assume that most people you meet are decent human beings, and honestly, I should think the kind of evil rapists who make it obvious from the beginning that they're out to rape anything that moves are probably a lot less "successful" than the kind who pose as normal, reasonable people.

So, the other question I want to ask is, how should one respond to not being able to tell? It seems to me that men who have normative masculine gender presentations simply don't worry about it, they assume that if they stay out of prison and really dodgy dives they'll be perfectly fine. That's good because they don't lead restricted or fearful lives, but bad because it may lead to being excessively blasé about situations which are in fact dangerous. Men get beaten up by random strangers far more often than women get raped by random strangers, and while you can argue that getting beaten up is less bad than rape, it's still obviously undesirable. Women, on the other hand, often end up in a constant state of hypervigilance, taking "precautions" which are incredibly restricting, and being unable to relax in a lot of perfectly normal situations. Some genderqueer or just effeminate men are also hypervigilant, and not without reason, because they have the normal male risk of getting beaten up for no reason, and the risk of being beaten up or raped by homophobes. (Note: I am absolutely not saying that less masculine men are actually girls, I'm saying that they face many of the same risks and fears that women do.)

I've ranted before about the saturation of useless, contradictory, unattainable and ineffective rape prevention advice. I don't think that kind of advice prevents rape; sure, people should know about basic safety, but this kind of message goes way beyond "be streetwise and not stupid". What it does is make (some) women more fearful, because any time they wear nice clothes or get drunk or get into an intimate situation with a man or go out after dark or live alone or whatever, they are going to be reminded that they may be taking the chance of getting raped. As a teenager I had "self-defence" classes which taught me very little about self-defence and lots and lots about how much danger I was in in normal, unavoidable situations. Stoking that fear is an incredibly effective way to control women's lives, because although it's impossible to avoid all situations where rape might occur, it's possible to take precautions like, oh, making sure you have a male protector whenever that's possible, or avoiding activities where such protection might not be possible. It's the 21st century; anyone who says that women should be dependent on and subservient to men because of some innate gender determined traits is going to get laughed at. But if someone says that women should behave in a way which is tantamount to that, because unfortunate though it is, we live in an imperfect world and there are some evil men out there who might rape you if you don't follow your properly circumscribed feminine role, that's credible.

When I was composing this post in my head, I happened upon a fantastic essay by [ profile] rm on the topic of being escorted. It's partly about the evil pro-life movement attacking women using reproductive health services. It's partly spelling out why same-sex marriage is an important issue even if you don't "believe in" marriage, because marriage is part of how adulthood is defined in our culture. (I've changed my position on this question thanks to precisely that kind of argument; I used to think that SSM was just semantics and basically a trivial issue, and now I do think it's an important focus for gay rights activism.) But almost tangentially, [ profile] rm brilliantly skewers and dissects the effects of creating a society where women need male protection. Just mind-blowing.

The arguments around how women should "protect themselves" from rape are absolutely no different from the Mediaeval or theocratic means of controlling women's lives. If you behave like a nice girl, and don't step out of place and keep men happy, we'll protect you from those raping beasts out there. If you do anything that shows independence, such as, oh, travelling on your own, or taking a job which means you might have to be out after dark, or expressing your own sexuality rather than being passive and modest, then something nightmarishly bad "might happen" to you. Not that we're threatening you, of course, it's just that we might not be able to protect you any more if you're not feminine enough for our standards. (The threat of rape is also used as a pressure to make men conform to gender norms; if you're not "masculine" enough, you end up in the category of being rapeable, and that's much scarier than having to alter your gender presentation, right?)

A lot of the "safety advice" that is so much of a background assumption in society is not advice about how to keep yourself safe. It's advice about how to be sufficiently dependent and, yes, thank you rm, childlike, to have credibility. To have a chance that if someone does rape you you'll be seen as a victim and not a loose woman who brought it all on yourself.

I say to hell with that. I go where I want to, when I want to (and hello, I live at 60° north, after dark sometimes means 3pm here). I wear what I like, I live alone, I have male friends and sometimes even flirt with or seduce them. I'm not very interested in getting drunk or high myself, but I do believe that adults have the right to enjoy recreational drugs if they want to. I don't avoid parties or stay at parties I'm not enjoying because I can't find someone to "walk me" home. No, I'm not reckless; simply living a normal adult life isn't reckless.

Because some women who've touched on this issue have met negative reactions, I want to say that I don't think my refusal to be afraid makes me cooler or tougher than other women. It's an often-quoted statistic that 1 woman in 4 is raped during her lifetime, and even if that statistic is an order of magnitude too high, that's an awful lot of women dealing with the aftermath of trauma. And I think that the constant messages about how to "keep safe" actually have the opposite effect, they create an atmosphere of a warzone. I think it's a little analogous to what happened after the September 11th bombings; yes, it was a terrible atrocity and rightly shocking and horrifying. But the constant loop from the media repeating the footage over and over and over again and milking the tragedy for every last drop of pathos created an atmosphere where many people were afraid all the time. And that made them easy to manipulate politically and probably led to, for example, the 2004 US election result. The constant atmosphere of telling women they should be afraid, the forcing us to imagine being raped in every situation, and of course the far too prevalent cases where the threat is real, are what causes the fear and hypervigilance, not the fact that women are stupid and gullible and afraid of shadows.

What I'm asking is, if you see a discussion about what to do about rape, don't add to this warzone atmosphere by giving pointless advice about "safety". (Most certainly don't make stupid comments about how it's unfair to presume all men to be rapists, but I'm assuming you wouldn't do that anyway.) Even if you don't feel that you personally can do anything about rape, that it's too hard a problem for ordinary individuals to affect by making minor personal choices, don't make it harder for people who are trying to fight it to have strategy discussions. And yes, if you assume that women are like innocent children who need to be lectured on "say no to strangers", you are making it harder to have those discussions.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-06-08 08:01 pm (UTC)
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
From: [personal profile] kaberett
Thank you for this.

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Date: 2009-06-08 08:18 pm (UTC)
ephemera: (Smite)
From: [personal profile] ephemera
I was thinking recently, in a conversation about how London was 'scary' compared to a small town, that I'm not scared. The phrase that I used mentally was 'I mean, I don't do stupid stuff, but ...' and then I started thinking about all the precautions I *do* take, and that I take so automatically now that I don't even notice that I'm taking them, and the fact where I am still walking in less fear than so many women and it's almost mind blowing.

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Date: 2009-06-08 08:49 pm (UTC)
nanaya: Sarah Haskins as Rosie The Riveter, from Mother Jones (Default)
From: [personal profile] nanaya
Good post.

So, the other question I want to ask is, how should one respond to not being able to tell?

Well, I think actually pointing people to this post (or maybe printing out tailored versions and handing them out to people!) is not a bad start.

Myself, I would probably go for the tactic of calling the "but it's not mmmmmeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!" guys a bunch of self-interested fuckwitted cockbibs, but I don't know how productive that would be. I know what you mean re: the tendency to get conspiratorial about it all - the derailing tactics are ALWAYS THE SAME, it's as if they came from a manual or something!

Complete tangent, but are you still friends with the nice dude you met at 17?

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Date: 2009-06-08 10:26 pm (UTC)
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
From: [personal profile] lavendersparkle
I went to a self defence class last year which was much more helpful. The instructor didn't tell us not to go or do anything, instead she taught us some moves which can inflict pain upon or get out of being held by them. (Good advise like "If they're holding you like this it's a good idea to try to punch their kidneys and kick their shins until they release their grip enough for you to escape".) I think the main point was to get us used to the idea of fighting someone enough that we'd be less likely to freeze up and more likely to at least try to fight back.

I think one of the stupid things about most of the 'safety advice' is that it is based upon the false premise that the threat is out there rather than in our homes. Women mostly get raped by men they know quite well. Your chaperone is more likely to rape you than the random men you pass on the street on the way home. The fear of wondering around alone at night makes women less safe because it keeps us from leaving situations which are starting to get dangerous. (I'm thinking about situations like a woman performing sexual acts she doesn't want to because she's scared that if she doesn't the man she went home with will chuck her out and she's scared to be alone in an unfamiliar part of town at 4am on a Friday night.)

I think it's a mistake to make a big distinction between rapists and everyone else. I know people who've committed sexual assault and they're not evil monsters. They're people who've done bad things, just like everyone else. Heck, if I think back to how strongly I came on to some girls when I was at high school I wince. It's part of the same continuum. We live in a rape culture, just think of how many romantic films feature a scene in which one character (usually the man) kisses another character (usually a woman) against her protests and she melts into enjoying it really. That's cultural baggage which can come up and bite in the heat of the moment when you really want to have sex and maybe you're a bit drunk and really want her to want to have sex with you. That doesn't make rape OK but is does point out that even 'nice guys' should actually come to terms with how much of a potential rapist they are. It doesn't mean that they're a horrible evil person; it just means everyone should really think through their role in preventing rape.

As far as what women can do to prevent rape. Believe rape survivors and make it clear that you don't think that rape or sexual assault are OK. I have a friend who was physically abused by her partner and one of the things that prevented her from getting help was the fear that no-one would believe her. She managed to avoid one assault because some friends were in the same building and she told him that if he hit her she'd scream and everyone would know what he'd done. Men should not rape women because it's bad but failing that at least not raping women because you're scared everyone will think that you're an evil douche bag is something.

In terms of preventing one's own rape, it's a controversial suggestion, but I've found in some situations being prepared to use violence helps. It's not going to help if the rapist is willing to use violence, but if he's just a flawed person who's convinced himself that 'no' means 'yes' and punch to the face or a knee to the groin can help to snap him out of that delusion.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-06-08 11:01 pm (UTC)
leora: a statue of a golden snake swallowing its own tail. (ouroboros)
From: [personal profile] leora
*nods* I think for many cases why someone doesn't rape is less important than whether or not they do (same for abuse). So, not raping someone or not hitting them because you don't want people to dislike you strikes me as a big improvement over doing so. I'm totally for people using social disapproval as discouragement.

Something else I was taught, and have never had reason to use, was that instead of saying no, try mentioning rape. For many men the word "no" doesn't get through their heads, but "rape" does. Making it clear you view it as rape can be helpful. That seems a potentially useful thing to know and it sounds plausible. But it's a shame that "no" doesn't carry enough weight in our culture.

I do think you're right about people underestimating the threat of people they know. One of the things that annoys me is how much my emotional fears do not line up with my rational risk assessment. I was taught to be afraid of strangers and going out at night and all of that stuff. I have never been the victim of a violent crime by a complete stranger. I've had some things stolen in non-violent ways, but no violent crime. However, I've certainly gotten beaten up many times by people I did know (not any more; I don't let people stay in my life now if they do that sort of thing, but in childhood you don't tend to have good ways to escape). And all of my fears of random violence seem laughable compared to the damage poor health has done to me. But I don't generally get afraid of health problems, not in that really deep emotional way. Whereas I get nervous walking around alone at night in places where i have done so safely countless times.

I know that violent crime does happen, and sure, it might to me. But it's not nearly as high a risk as so many other risks I take. And it's so much less likely to harm me than so many other things I didn't fear have. But boy is it hard to undo that childhood programming at the emotional level.

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just to prove I'm not only after help

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Date: 2009-06-08 10:50 pm (UTC)
leora: a statue of a golden snake swallowing its own tail. (ouroboros)
From: [personal profile] leora
I think something people tend to forget is that sexual molestation and even rape aren't the end of the world in all cases. I don't want to trivialize it, because it's an absolutely horrible thing. But you can be raped and then continue on with your life. You can be raped and have a mostly good life.

When people are taught to take all of these precautions there tends to be no risk assessment involved. It's all just, you need to do this or else you might be raped. Raped! Oh my god, you cannot must not let that happen. Rather than, rape is really bad and you don't want that to happen to you, but maybe you should think about just how much you don't want to be raped versus just how much you don't want to live your life controlled by fear or constantly limiting your actions.

But the idea of actually considering rape to be a lower cost risk than something else seems unacceptable. But why should it be - if it is my choice? I'm not saying that gives anyone a right to rape me. Just that I have a right to do something that puts me at higher risk. It still would make the rape wrong. It still means the rapist should be found guilty for it. But I don't think it makes me any less sensible.

I don't like the way it seems like people have the notion that being raped ruins a person. I think that's tied into older ideas about virginity and purity more than the actual psychological harm of being raped. And I think it's likely to be more harmful if you are constantly told it should harm you.

There are a lot of things I used to be really, really afraid of. Horrible nightmare situations I used to worry about having happen to me. Now... most of them happened. And yes, they were horrible. But well... life continues. Good things even happen sometimes too. I wish people wouldn't view one bad thing, even something horrible, as the end of the world or the end of their life. And when people talk like that it just makes me think of people I know who I know were raped. They still have lives. I don't like the way it makes it sound like they're ruined. They're hurt, sure. But they still have lives, valuable, meaningful lives.

rape is not the end of the world

Date: 2009-06-09 07:12 am (UTC)
piranha: red origami crane (Default)
From: [personal profile] piranha
oh ghod, yes, this.

i have been sexually abused. for years, by my uncle, when i was a very young teenager. he stopped when i hit puberty (yes, he was a sick person).

but in comparison to the beating and emotional abuse by my mother the sexual stuff wasn't so bad; at least he was often nice to me. no, i didn't want to do the sexual stuff, but i also didn't lie in my bed considering suicide because of it. and today i am complete over the sexual abuse, but some of my mother's words about how was a worthless piece of protoplasm? they still hang around. sticks and stones may hurt my bones, but words can cut my soul.

and then, later in my life, i got to hear how rape ruins your life. i struggled with that because, well, my life hadn't been ruined. maybe it wasn't really rape. maybe i was broken because it hadn't affected me forever and ever. maybe i didn't find it horrible enough. maybe i secretly liked it.

no. the message that rape ruins your life is what is broken. it is just more crap along the lines of keeping women under control. you're no more damaged goods because of rape than you are if you were beaten and mugged. it's a terrible experience, and i don't wish it on anyone. but life most definitely goes on, and sooner rather than later -- if you let it and don't listen to the doomsayers.

my life is great. my sex life is just fine. i haven't been ruined.

Re: rape is not the end of the world

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Date: 2009-06-09 12:11 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
you probably know where i stand on this, because it's the thought that comes up most often when i read these sort of discussions. (Cereta's post is very very good, thanks for linking, for the likes of me that don't pay attention). i'm totally with you on the doing what i want when/how i want. And what i notice is that if you say "I do this dangerous (or perceived to be) sport for a hobby" or "I take unnecessary health risks like smoking/doing street-bought drugs" or whatever, people tend not to lecture you too much - they assume you already know the score. But i have many times experienced people - over-ridingly women - lecture me, sometimes even grab me or say they won't 'let' me go home/out by myself. As if i need to be informed that there is a risk.
And yes, i know that being raped is not like breaking a leg or the indirectness of an increased risk of cancer, say, but I say - we chose what matters to us in how we live and something that has always been extremely important to my enjoyment in life since the first years i felt like my own person, is the feeling of walking around a city at night, of choosing on whim to go out, of getting myself home. Going out with a big group all escorting each other is almost as alien to me as going to the bathroom in a posse at school, and you can imagine how that is with me. I wouldn't be who i am now if i didn't go home alone.

I disagree with you on the value of self-defence classes though. Yes those ones at school were pretty awful, but that was mainly teenage girls creating their own hysteria. i think that in general, and in more controlled groups, it can be very valuable in that it gives women who are otherwise afraid, a feeling of empowerment, confidence, and hopefully the ability to fight back more effectively. More recently i've done a bit of self-defence as part of general training, and while it was useful to illustrate some of the moves we were doing elsewhere, i didn't feel like i gained from it, but i know others did. i also didn't feel like i would be able to use it in a real situation, but assuming women don't put themselves at greater real risk because they think they're invincible, it isn't so much of an issue. and i don't think a few classes of 'how to avoid a punch and get out of a grasp' are going to make anyone think that.

I agree with you on the misplaced focus on personal safety in these discussions, definitely. It is the wrong message, and avoids the uncomfortable truth of the majority of rapists not being evil strangers but those we know the faces of.
On the other hand, i'm trying to think of those occasions when someone didn't take an easy opportunity to rape me, and there aren't that many. one time is the one and only time i passed out from drink, in the flat of a friend of a friend, and woke up on the sofa in the morning. i have often slept in unusual places but never otherwise done so drunk. i may pace the streets in the early hours, but i do so sober, looking unremarkable and wearing shoes i can run in. i'm convinced attire makes statistically little difference, but it makes me feel more capable, and i think that probably makes more of a difference.

It's an odd one, i can't help but be gender-blind in a lot of respects. i see people with varying characteristics, of which gender is one, and it tends not to define how i treat people. but i do know, having experienced first-hand that blurry edge of what 'regular' guys find acceptable in themselves, that men, in general, don't see us that way. part of their way of seeing us is what they would/could/might do to us, given the opportunity. i'm not explaining this very well. anyway although i know that it isn't reciprocal, the way i see other people, i can't help it. i've wandered down a little mental path and now it's time to bed. (i might come back to this...)

(no subject)

Date: 2009-06-09 07:36 pm (UTC)
leora: A girl in a garden on a swing. The setting is dusky and somewhat fantasyish. (reveries)
From: [personal profile] leora
I don't like walking around alone, but then, I am very weak. Actually, I walked around alone at night on campus all the time during college, but I felt safe enough there. However, I did make a decision in college that I wasn't going to be controlled by fear. There weren't a lot of places to hang out. So I did invite friends or people becoming friends to hang out in my dorm room. Which meant I invited a male to hang out with me in my dorm room, which was a single. I'd also go to their places and hang out with them. None of them ever raped me. None of them ever did anything to me that I objected to. There was a huge male-female ratio at my school, so I might get asked if I was interested by some, but they always took no for an answer.

For me, doubting every one of my friends, worrying that a rapist hides inside everyone I like, that's too much for me. I think that'd ruin my life worse than being raped would. I've been hurt by friends before. I know that sometimes I may end up misjudging someone. But if I let that change into trusting nobody... it just seems like a bigger danger and worse damage to rape.

I am small. I am weak. I have often been in situations with males who could have raped me had they chosen to. None of them did. Obviously, this doesn't mean that no males would. And had one of them, it wouldn't change that most of them didn't. I'm not saying it's not a risk or that doing so is absolutely safe. But I am quite pleased to say that these people passed that minimal bit of humanity. Normally I say much better things about my friends than simply: they didn't rape me. I usually take not raping someone as a standard so low that it isn't worth mentioning.

And yes, I was told about how it was dangerous to let men come to my dorm room. But honestly, my regrets about college are more the years that I wasn't social than the years that I was. I met some great people there. I'd have missed a lot out of my life had I not done that. Risk assessment - there is a cost and possibly a very large one to avoiding "dangerous situations". And hey, I was told that the life lived in fear is the life half-lived.

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From: [identity profile] - Date: 2009-06-10 11:35 am (UTC) - Expand

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Date: 2009-06-09 01:15 am (UTC)
cereta: Language is never innocent - James Berling (language is never innocent)
From: [personal profile] cereta
Thank you.

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Date: 2009-06-09 01:44 am (UTC)
403: Listen to the song of the paper cranes... (Cranesong)
From: [personal profile] 403
Some of the most polite and considerate random strangers I've met were the other geeks, freaks, and occasional homeless person that I encountered during "lunchtime" (2am) walks at my previous job, in a bad part of town. This has only done good things for my conviction that most people want to be nice, at least on some level, and will act as such if given the opportunity.

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Date: 2009-06-09 07:15 am (UTC)
piranha: red origami crane (Default)
From: [personal profile] piranha
i love your icon. :)

and i share your experience.

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Date: 2009-06-09 03:37 am (UTC)
azurelunatic: A glittery black pin badge with a blue holographic star in the middle. (Default)
From: [personal profile] azurelunatic
I think you've put your finger on something that's been causing me a lot of rage for many years. How dare you tell me to be afraid walking down the street in my own home town. How dare you tell me that I am taking insufficient precautions when I walk to the grocery store and have only a few times out of hundreds felt in any way unsafe. How dare you tell me that I am not physically strong enough to deck a grown man.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-06-09 09:42 am (UTC)
naath: (Default)
From: [personal profile] naath
Thank you.

I think the whole STRANGER DANGER safety stuff is hugely annoying; all my experiences with touching the edges of this issue in a personal way have been with problems with trust and communication (too much of the former, too little of the later). I think people need to be taught more thoroughly about consent, and about communicating about consent. Because when you realise you don't know enough, it might be too late to extricate yourself from a bad situation (at all or without violence).

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Date: 2009-06-10 12:16 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] neonchameleon
I am really struck by the fact that a post can be explicitly about the fact that not all men are rapists, and still get lots and lots of responses from offended men who feel unjustly accused of a heinous crime just because of their gender

... Of course, I'm not talking about all women, just the ones who are bitches.

... Homophobic, me? Some of my best friends are gay.

... There are black men and there are [censored].

In any other circumstance, such divisions of a different group into good and bad elements of that group is seen as bigotted. And with very good reason. There is far more logic and much harder rules for dividing men into rapists and non-rapists than the above categories (not by very much in some definitions). But the immediate emotional response of the target group is almost exactly the same and for exactly the same reasons.

(I can't add much to the rest of the post, but I hope that that's helped with that question).

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From: [personal profile] neonchameleon - Date: 2009-06-10 10:54 am (UTC) - Expand

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From: [personal profile] neonchameleon - Date: 2009-06-10 11:12 pm (UTC) - Expand

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Date: 2009-06-10 10:16 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I loveed this post.

Long story short: I linked to cereta's post on my FB- my roommate, without reading it, told me, 'it's not our fault you gals look in all the wrong places'. Needless to say I was livid so I wrote this blog entry of my own ( He didn't read that one either, but made the comments that "that 'where are all the good guys' crap is highly offensive to all the good guys out there" and "That bitter female 'there are no good guys around' BS is highly offensive to me!!!!!!!!!" [yes, really with that many exclamation points.] And then he boastfully claimed what a decent guy he was and how he hadn't raped any women. Sickening, basically.

It sucks, but I learnt from this experience that my room-mate is a complete waste of my time and space. I mean ... he didn't even READ them. What an utter lack of respect for me and all women.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-06-10 10:19 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Odd, the HTML worked in the preview ...

Date: 2009-06-10 10:42 am (UTC)
thecolourclear: my username over an iceberg  (Default)
From: [personal profile] thecolourclear
You. Can't. Tell. That's why people get raped, not because they are stupid or choose to put themselves in vulnerable situations with "obviously" skeevy people Uhm ... this about sixty two thousand times over.

Also: There's the original post, this post, this one just linked, this one on LJ ... do you know of any more? I think it might be nice to combine them all into one post- you know, like a 'keep the discussion going' sort of a thing, and it would be handy to have them all in one place. At the very least, I'd like to keep a list of all of them.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-06-10 02:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
i am preoccuppied with the thought that I am part of the problem.

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From: [identity profile] - Date: 2009-06-11 10:47 am (UTC) - Expand

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From: [personal profile] nanaya - Date: 2009-06-15 09:36 pm (UTC) - Expand

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Date: 2009-06-10 03:06 pm (UTC)
lnr: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lnr
Hi, I just wanted to say thankyou for this. I too am generally inclined to just get on with my life rather than acting on fears of rape, and sometimes I wonder if this is foolish, but I think you have some very good points here.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-06-12 03:14 am (UTC)
hatam_soferet: (Default)
From: [personal profile] hatam_soferet
I wonder if it's useful to say, anyone who has power has potential to rape. So when you are looking for strategies for non-rapist men to use to combat rape, the first thing is to find your non-rapist man. Most decent men want to be non-rapists, but men have power, and anyone with power is a potential rapist. So when you say of people You. Can't. Tell. if they're a rapist, I think perhaps one can say that even they themselves can't necessarily tell, because in the wrong situation, they might indeed become a rapist.

For instance, what about rape in war? Armies at war have a strange way of turning decent ordinary blokes into killers and, when unregulated, rapists. It's my impression that a country not crammed with rapists when at peace sees much more rape if it invades another country. War isn't a good context for discussions about safety, but it's illustrative of this one point, that rapists lurk wherever there is power.

So then safety partly involves being aware of power, especially of power imbalances. One thing would-be non-rapists can do is be aware of the potential rapist within; this is a reminder to oneself "I have power, and I have a responsibility to control that." Not just "Raping people is bad," but "Misuse of power during sex is bad, and I have power which I must control." For physical, cultural, emotional, and other reasons, men are very very often the ones with more power, hence (I think) gender imbalance in rape, but obviously sometimes women have the power, and perhaps recognition of this is what's behind the disproportionate amount of "men get raped tooooo!" protests - some degree of understanding that it's not about who you are, it's about what you do with the power you have.

Perhaps correspondingly, would-be non-raped people can also be aware of power imbalances? When I am walking down the street alone, there is basically not very much power imbalance, because there is no exchange of power going on, so I am not afraid. If I am in a rough area, there is power sloshing around, and I am little so it is necessarily balanced away from me, and I am more nervous. If I am tiddly at a party with people I know, there is more power exchange, in the form of social intercourse, so perhaps I need to be aware of the greater potential for power imbalance?

Maybe that extends to dressing sexy? If I dress sexy, I'm putting myself into a culturally powerless position, do you see what I mean? Because of the way sex is too often portrayed. Available for sex=property=less power. So then the more "available" I dress, as a cultural entity the less power I have? so that contributes to setting up a power imbalance? something like that?

I don't know - it's an idea I'm playing with. It definitely doesn't fit into tidy categories and won't work in all cases, but I don't think any solution would. ETA: seems to fit quite neatly with ideas about privilege, as well. Being aware of when you have it and are misusing it, etc.
Edited Date: 2009-06-12 03:23 am (UTC)

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Date: 2009-06-12 12:15 pm (UTC)
merrythebard: (Mountains (helenic))
From: [personal profile] merrythebard
Just... thank you. This is a wonderful post.

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Date: 2009-06-12 05:28 pm (UTC)
helenic: (Default)
From: [personal profile] helenic
Thankyou for writing this. I spent most of this morning absorbed in the discussion, and there is so much worthwhile stuff here. It also led to a very interesting and positive conversation between my partner and I, so thankyou for being the stimulus for that :)

(no subject)

Date: 2009-06-12 06:20 pm (UTC)
feanelwa: (Default)
From: [personal profile] feanelwa
Yes! I have been thinking this for a long time. Whenever there's been a case of sexual assault or harrassment in town, every authority figure makes up emails and posters about how you shouldn't walk around when it's dark on your own, you should take a male friend with you. That's EXACTLY THE DAMN SAME as living in Daddy's gilded cage like some kind of medieval princess and exactly the fear that these assholes want to make every woman feel like when they do these things. I will go where I damn well please. I am not struggling up through the ranks of people assuming I'm stupid and getting a PhD in physics only to cower in my house scared of the boogeyman when the sun goes down.

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From: [personal profile] feanelwa - Date: 2009-06-15 02:07 pm (UTC) - Expand

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Date: 2009-06-16 03:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Well said.

Because some women who've touched on this issue have met negative reactions, I want to say that I don't think my refusal to be afraid makes me cooler or tougher than other women.

I can't tell you how many times, in how many ways, I have tried to say that--and never once has it happened that not one person took it exactly that way.

I think you are wrong

Date: 2009-06-17 11:30 am (UTC)
aphenine: Teresa and Claire (Default)
From: [personal profile] aphenine
(Note: I am synergetic on LJ)

I really didn't like this post and find it objectionable. While I do broadly agree with the basic premise, that teaching women to be afraid of rape is wrong, I object strongly to the way this has been expressed and the route you took to justify this premise.

Specifically, I have two issues.

The first is that I dislike the fact that you tied the entire conversation to your identity as a non gender-conforming woman, however you are utterly dismissive of non gender-conforming men. While you do actually mention non-gender conforming men and some of the issues they face (a fact that I am profoundly grateful for), your whole discussion in dismissive of them and horribly skewed. This culminates in the most insulting statement of

Most certainly don't make stupid comments about how it's unfair to presume all men to be rapists, but I'm assuming you wouldn't do that anyway.

As a non-gender conforming male, it is a part of my identity that I cannot rape anybody and I lack those parts of masculinity that makes me an aggressor and initiator in sexual matters. As a result, it would take a concerted effort of will for me to do so and would have to overcome deep visceral reactions. In this sense, it is nearly impossible, and the nearly qualification only extends because it is impossible to escape being taught that I should behave in such a way and even pushed to behave so, yes, even by other women.

If I wanted to point that out in a discussion about rape and identity (in a discussion of rape only, I would not, for reasons talked about later), it should not only be permissible for me to do so, it should be my right. If it isn't, then you most definitely shouldn't have the right to make the argument you have. Yet you are making that argument and arguing in addition that I shouldn't have the right to do make a similar argument, a right you enjoy. I find that hypocritical.

Also, I would like to point out that while you are busy pointing out how you shouldn't have to be taught to be afraid, I would like to claim a similar right to being taught that I should inspire fear.

Like you in that regard, I had experiences in Oxford that were forming and based on people not following the usual advice. In my case, I was grateful that other women didn't run away from me because I was an evil man and I got to share female company, which I desperately needed.

I do not feel that that reaction by other people and its favourable outcome is a good basis to form an argument that women should not be afraid of men. I accept that I am a special case and that the vast overwhelming majority of people are gender-conforming. Therefore, I would presume it to be misleading to make such an argument in the first place.

While I have tried to give clear reasons why I have this issue with your post, this issue also permeates its emotional content (this is why I said I objected to your expression) and this affects my emotional reading of your post. Although you are trying to engage in a discussion, the terms and emotional content behind the terms you are using a dipped in your sense of identity and your dismissiveness of other identities that I cannot help but feel a desire to wipe the smug righteousness off your face and generally scream my disagreeable rage. Fortunately, I have (just :-) ) enough hard-won emotional awareness that I can instead write this comment, express myself clearly and query whether you are aware that your post might have such an effect on people and whether you have done so deliberately, either consciously or unconsciously?

The second issue I have is with this paragraph:

So, there are good men out there, and they quite possibly outnumber the evil men. (And yes, there are also some evil women out there, and when they are in the rare situation of having power over men some of them are going to take advantage of that.) But the problem is that you can't tell which are which. The people who responded to Cereta's rant with comments how all the stuff about rape and misogyny is irrelevant to them because they're sensitive and articulate and geeky, and obviously women only have to be afraid of jocks / frat boys / lower class men, make me possibly even more angry than the ones who just reflexively say "you're making sexist generalizations!" You. Can't. Tell. That's why people get raped, not because they are stupid or choose to put themselves in vulnerable situations with "obviously" skeevy people. It's natural to want to assume that most people you meet are decent human beings, and honestly, I should think the kind of evil rapists who make it obvious from the beginning that they're out to rape anything that moves are probably a lot less "successful" than the kind who pose as normal, reasonable people.

My issue is that my experience indicates that people can often tell sociopaths and avoid them, and you correctly mentioned sociopaths as a major cause of raping. Broadly, feminine people have a sense of whether someone is safe or not and, while this sense is approximate and can be wrong, I have found it very useful more often than not in keeping me safe and I must protest at anyone who encourages feminine people not to trust that sense as being someone who is making them more vulnerable.


Date: 2009-06-23 03:19 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
That's a really helpful and thoughtful way of thinking about this. Thanks!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-03-16 09:52 pm (UTC)
vkbar: (Default)
From: [personal profile] vkbar
I really like this post. Would you mind if I friended you?

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From: [personal profile] vkbar - Date: 2010-03-16 11:03 pm (UTC) - Expand


Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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