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Preventing Rape

Today’s rant began with a quote I saw on linked from Facebook.

If you’re promoting changes to women’s behavior to “prevent” rape, you’re really saying “make sure he rapes the other girl.” -@itsmotherswork

Personally, I think that’s a pretty powerful message. And then I read the comments…

The very second commenter responded:

If you’re promoting changes to children’s behavior to “prevent” traffic accidents, you’re really saying “make sure the other kid is hit by a car.”

The more I think about this, the more it pisses me off. It’s a piss-poor analogy that only holds up if you assume the driver is deliberately looking for kids to hit.


It’s not something that just happens. Do I want my daughter to have the knowledge and tools to try to protect herself? Hell, yes. But that doesn’t guarantee her safety, nor does it solve the larger problem.

A little further on, we got the argument that trying to teach people not to rape is a waste of time. After all, nobody ever read a sign that said “Rape is Bad!” and thought, Huh, I was all set to rape someone tonight, but now I won’t. Thank you, helpful sign!

If only we had information showing that education can be effective in reducing sexual assault and rape-enabling behaviors/attitudes, not to mention research on how debunking rape myths can increase bystander intervention, or that  “men who have peer support for behaving in an emotionally violent manner toward women and for being physically and sexually violent toward women are 10 times more likely to commit sexual aggression toward women.”

Then there’s the call for a “balanced” approach, the guy (and it’s almost always a guy) who wants to be reasonable and accepts that we can try to work with men, but still has to derail the discussion to make sure everyone understands how important it is to educate women about the steps they should take to protect themselves.

Balance? When you can’t find a single article or discussion about rape that doesn’t include comments on what she should have done to avoid it, or analyzing all of her “bad choices” that led to her being raped, or links to helpful tips of everything women must do to remain vigilant against rape?

We indoctrinate women at every step with rules they must follow if they hope to avoid being raped. But it’s like you see women as such foolish, helpless creatures that if we aren’t constantly telling them what to do and what not to do–if we devote even a fraction of that time and energy to educating men about rape and prevention–then they’ll all immediately start running naked through the streets shouting, “Here I am, world! Come and rape me!!!”

(Which the men will of course do, based on the other underlying assumption here that all those guys are just natural-born rapists, so there’s no point in trying to change anything.)

Rape prevention efforts have targeted women for ages. Yet sexual assault continues to be incredibly common. Weird, huh? It’s almost like putting the responsibility on women while failing to prosecute most rape cases, blaming women when men choose to rape them, buying into myths and excuses that minimize male aggression, and basically ignoring the vast majority of the people committing the crime isn’t an effective strategy for reducing rape.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.



( 44 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 1st, 2013 07:55 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
Mar. 1st, 2013 08:05 pm (UTC)
I agree with you completely.

This is a very triggery subject, as it should be, you may want to consider putting it behind a cut.
Mar. 1st, 2013 08:08 pm (UTC)
Done, thank you.
Mar. 1st, 2013 08:21 pm (UTC)
Thank you.
Mar. 1st, 2013 08:07 pm (UTC)
Thank you.
Mar. 1st, 2013 08:07 pm (UTC)
Men need to stop raping women.


And blaming the WOMEN is both stupid and insulting.
Mar. 5th, 2013 05:30 pm (UTC)
Love your icon, Mira Grant rules :)
Mar. 1st, 2013 08:21 pm (UTC)
but still has to derail the discussion to make sure everyone understands how important it is to educate women about the steps they should take to protect themselves

What I find especially insulting about this is the assumption that we haven't done or are not doing this already. It's as though I were just doing all that assertiveness training, verbal and physical self-defense, and yes, gun handling and shooting classes just for the hell of it. (I mean, they are fun, but...really?)
Mar. 1st, 2013 08:28 pm (UTC)
My favorite is the people who claim that if you don't dress in a "slutty" way, you're less likely to get raped. I've been mistaken for a prositute while walking alone often enough to suspect that the only way to avoid dressing like a "slut" is by being a man.
Mar. 1st, 2013 08:39 pm (UTC)
I have gotten catcalled wearing a gigantic shapeless woolen jacket that came down nearly to my knees, with the hood up, over baggy jeans and boots. I believe the message there was, "I suspect there is something female under all that wool! That's enough for me!" While some people have felt it was kind to try to tell me that this behavior was because I have a hotness that blazes like a thousand suns, I suspect that it is more that our culture is completely screwed up.
Mar. 1st, 2013 09:16 pm (UTC)
I suspect your suspicions are correct, for I too have been catcalled and propositioned on the street while wearing sweats and sporting a few days of stubble. Body language trumps beard? Who knows. . .
Mar. 1st, 2013 09:52 pm (UTC)
Yeah, one of my long-haired male friends has been mistaken for a prostitute from behind before. Long hair is apparently very slutty.

I actually had somebody try to push me into his car once, though. Judging by his behavior, I'm relatively sure he thought I was a prostitute although we were speaking different languages so it's possible he actually thought I was his long lost Aunt Matilda or something. Middle of the day, too. (Of course, since he backed off after I loudly told him to leave me alone, the people who think women could just avoid rape by behaving differently would probably count me as a success story.)
(Deleted comment)
Mar. 2nd, 2013 01:52 pm (UTC)
I got catcalled when I wore my binder out for the first time, and I'm pretty sure "squash your breasts as flat as they'll go" is... not exactly a sexually charged way to present yourself. I don't remember exactly what clothes I was wearing, but it was probably something along the lines of jeans and hoodie. Couldn't have been anything even slightly low-cut since. You know. BINDING.
Mar. 2nd, 2013 05:30 pm (UTC)
I've been catcalled while wearing overalls and with my hair tied up in a bandanna.

But I'm sure it was all my fault, anyway, because, you know, sluttiness. /irony
Mar. 1st, 2013 10:14 pm (UTC)
If dress equated to attractiveness-to-catcallers I'd never go running in shlumpy sweats again.
Mar. 2nd, 2013 01:20 am (UTC)
I'm sure that being told that the way she dressed could have prevented rape would have been of great comfort to the friend who was raped as a child by a male relative.

(Do I really need a sarcasm tag for this?)
Mar. 2nd, 2013 02:14 am (UTC)
I once was stuck working with a much older man whom I was getting INCREDIBLY creepy vibes off of. I spent hours figuring out what to wear before I had to go out to places where I knew I would have to be around him.

You know the classic movie pre-date montage where the teen girl is trying out outfits in the mirror, trying to find something cute and appropriate while the pop-song plays?

Imagine a grotesque parody of that where a nervous looking young woman is trying on increasingly ugly, shapeless, form-concealing outfits, eventually settling on the biggest baggiest T-shirt she can find and a pair of paint-stained overalls, hoping that THIS will send the message that she is clearly NOT romantically interested, that THIS is the outfit that will keep him from staring at her or touching her.

Then imagine that NEVER GODDAMN WORKING.

Not sure what I'd pick as the soundtrack for the outfit selection montage. Maybe something tense and uneasy from a horror film. Or just some really really sad piano.
Mar. 3rd, 2013 07:34 am (UTC)
Ah, yes. I am astounded that a middle-aged, very fat woman in a big winter jacket and baggy jeans can still get hit on and catcalled by random strangers.

It's really bad when I wear my cowboy hat. (Apparently a cowboy hat on a fat 40-year-old is equivalent to a bikini on a slender 18-year-old!) When I wear that I get a lot of "Yee-hah, cowgirl." To which my response is a disgusted, "Yippie kai ay, motherfucker." I don't know whether it's the language or the fact that I'm quoting Die Hard, but that usually gets a startled blink and quick retreat, and sometimes even an apology.

(I think it's the language. The older I get, the more people seem startled when I don't act like their mom. Is getting older supposed to make me forget how to do things I've been doing since I was twelve?)
Mar. 1st, 2013 08:40 pm (UTC)
For me, personally, I have been sexually assaulted multiple times. By more people than I've had consensual sexual partners, actually.

In most of these cases, I am pretty sure the perpetrator did not think he was assaulting me. In one case, I KNOW he didn't, because it was something I was able to talk with him about much later.

And that's why educating boys and men is so important. Because it doesn't matter how many times you teach someone that "no means no," when you have all these messages that teach men that no means yes if you keep asking, or yes isn't actually yes when you've emotionally blackmailed someone, or that if you get a no the first time, you just have to try a different tactic.

Four of the people who assaulted me were under 18. Two of them were under 15. One of them did it in spite of me saying no loudly and repeatedly, and he can go to hell for all I care. One of them told me he wouldn't be my friend if I didn't have sex with him. When you're a kid and you like someone, and don't have a lot of friends, that's enough to elicit a yes. And as awful as it is that he said that, he's grown up into a responsible and respectful man who would probably be mortified if he thought that he raped me. I've made my peace with him and don't see the need to bring it up to him today (we're still in touch), in spite of the fact that I spent years of my very young life feeling guilty and awful and ashamed and wondering what I could have done differently or how I might have gotten out of it. I spent years of my life dating everything in my head to before and after that moment, the way Christians date everything to before and after Christ.

The people who make these repulsive arguments are so often people who like to cast rapists as shadowy other" figures, as if they're monsters waiting in alleys. And while, sure, there are some rapists like that, most of them are our brothers and neighbors and friends and boyfriends, who never have to see themselves as rapists because they're not shadowy figures in alleys, because they don't attack women from behind the bushes, because they coerce consent and aren't raping someone who says no, or because they've learned that once someone's said yes, no doesn't mean no anymore.

So that's why, yeah, we need to work on educating would-be-perpetrators. Because I don't think a lot of them even realize what they're doing.

Edited at 2013-03-01 08:48 pm (UTC)
Mar. 1st, 2013 09:28 pm (UTC)
Jim, I saw that comment thread and almost jumped in, and just couldn't.

What I don't get is this: what is the harm in trying to educate men to be more aware of their behavior? Why is having a campaign targeted at men to encourage them not to rape a problem. If we can save even one woman from having to go through the experience in that manner, and from all I understand these campaigns to a lot more good than that, shouldn't we still do it?

Or to put it another way, where is the down side in making men more conscientious of their own behaviors. Why is promoting personal responsibilty to men such a bad idea?
Mar. 1st, 2013 09:32 pm (UTC)
"Or to put it another way, where is the down side in making men more conscientious of their own behaviors. Why is promoting personal responsibilty to men such a bad idea?"

That is a great question, one for which I have absolutely no answer...
(Deleted comment)
Mar. 3rd, 2013 09:36 pm (UTC)
Sex is evil, women are sexy, and therefore are an obstacle to holiness placed here by Beelzebub to tempt het men from The Path. The Path being a story that mainly het men get to be the hero of.

Sorry, if I'm not quite sensible here. Busy screaming. This makes me MAD.
Mar. 1st, 2013 10:38 pm (UTC)
Perhaps it is more socially acceptable to tell women they need to be sure they are not In anyway enticing men than it is to insinuate that men may be potential assaulters of women and need to learn not to be.

The fact that so many men are offended by the discussion sucks.
Mar. 2nd, 2013 12:57 am (UTC)
Or to put it another way, where is the down side in making men more conscientious of their own behaviors. Why is promoting personal responsibilty to men such a bad idea?

That's always my question, too. You'd think promoting personal responsibility to anyone would be, like, win-win.
Mar. 2nd, 2013 05:28 am (UTC)
When people start thinking about rape as something that men can prevent they start realising that there's something very fucked up about our society, and that's hard. So they cling to the idea that the analogies between locking doors and preventing rape are accurate for their own peace of mind.
Mar. 3rd, 2013 07:38 am (UTC)
The harm in trying to educate men about their behavior is that then certain men would be asked to think about their behavior. These are the same sort of guys who don't want to be in the room when women start talking about their periods, because Eeew! Icky!

I don't know who raises so many boys to be wimpy men with low thresholds of squick. These same guys can go out and bust heads on a football field, but biology and behavior is more than their widdle nerves can take.
Mar. 1st, 2013 10:01 pm (UTC)
Thank you for this. I agree that we need to target education towards men as well.

Ottawa did a campaign targeted towards men, "Dont Be That Guy". http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/story/2011/05/19/ottawa-campaign-sex-assault-posters-265.html

We need more of these types of campaigns.
Mar. 1st, 2013 10:31 pm (UTC)
I was just about to post that article as well. There are other kinds of awareness programs that do work, like the one in the article above. We need more of this.
Mar. 3rd, 2013 07:47 am (UTC)
That's a great campaign. Rather than getting accusatory and authoritarian and trying to clinically define rape, it does social engineering instead.

Fewer people drive drunk nowadays because of strong "This is not cool" campaigns. In the same way, the Ottawa campaign is a perfect counterpoint to the rape-culture aspect of "Any vagina that doesn't fight back is fair game."

Most guys are actually normal humans who will model their behavior by what is considered acceptable in society at large. If they're told that it's okay to stick their penis in a drunk girl, then they'll do it and not understand why they shouldn't. A public, repeated campaign saying, "No, actually, that's not okay," can counteract the bad messages and change their behavior. Humans are surprisingly simple creatures in some ways.
Mar. 1st, 2013 10:23 pm (UTC)
In college, there was some sort of assaulter on the loose and the women were told to stay inside. Well, why weren't the guys told to stay inside? It wasn't a woman making the problem. How come we were all supposed to change our lives?
Mar. 5th, 2013 05:35 pm (UTC)
Golda Meir, former president of Israel, made that same point when a rapist was on the loose - with the power to enforce it :)
Mar. 5th, 2013 05:36 pm (UTC)
argh. former prime minister.
Mar. 2nd, 2013 12:12 am (UTC)
I got nothin' but <3.

Thanks, Jim.
Mar. 2nd, 2013 12:52 am (UTC)
Oh, Jim. I learned from you that the first rule of the internet is to never read the comments, and yet there you go.

OTOH, this needed to be said. Thanks.
Mar. 2nd, 2013 01:23 am (UTC)
Thank you for this. *makes a note*
Mar. 2nd, 2013 01:43 am (UTC)
Thank you for this. Everyone needs to read this. And then act accordingly.

Edited at 2013-03-02 01:44 am (UTC)
Mar. 2nd, 2013 02:58 pm (UTC)
So if someone threw a brick through a jewelry store window and ran off with a bunch of diamond rings the perp could say that it was the jewelers fault for dressing his window with attractive rings?
(Deleted comment)
Mar. 3rd, 2013 10:38 pm (UTC)
Thank you. I agree completely. Telling the women she should follow safety rules not only blames the targets of this crime, but insults the men, as in the women have to do what they can to prevent rape because the men can't take responsibility for their own behaviour.
Mar. 3rd, 2013 10:44 pm (UTC)
Very interesting, I must say. A couple of things that would make it more effective:

Assert in plain words that rape prevention programs aimed toward men actually reduce sex crime rates. This fact is counterintuitive, and it's not well-known among the general population. Your presentation of this fact is in an ironic form that takes some rereading to figure out the general drift of what you're asserting, and after that, it's still not clear exactly what you're asserting.

Emphasize the Globe and Mail article, and deemphasize the rest. All the others are attitudinal surveys, or tallies of what crimes people are willing to admit committing. Both of those are going to be highly modified by the social context, and per se aren't nearly important as actual crime rates. Any further data you have about crime rates would improve the credibility.

As far as I can tell from the references, a significant fraction of rapes are not committed as one would expect of crimes (that is, away from witnesses) but in social settings where other guys are present. And the training programs seem to have as a strong component causing guys to police other guys, to curb other guy's instincts, which is a different question than curbing one's own instincts (and intuitively something you'd expect people more easily be convinced to do).
Mar. 5th, 2013 05:29 pm (UTC)
Look at any group of people at a party. All the men wear approximately the same sort of clothing as each other. All the women wear approximately the same sort of clothing as each other.

Its a party. Some men will have more or less to drink. Some women will have more or less to drink.

The clothing women wear to parties and the alcohol they drink are CLEARLY A SIGNAL that they want to be raped, and if any of them get home without being raped, they were just lucky.

Does that mean all the men at the party who haven't committed rape have done something wrong? Or unlucky?
Mar. 10th, 2013 12:49 pm (UTC)
Thanks Jim. Thank you so much.

I've been squirreling away articles on various topics, in order to counteract some of the worst grievances about many subjects, including rape and abuses against women. This post is a wonderful resource.

I also love reading your posts because so many of them say what I am thinking, but put it all in a thoughtful, neatly laid out format. Stuttering through a conversation about topics like this, KNOWING what you mean, but not being able to get it out is frustrating as hell. Reading gives me practice thinking and clearly expressing.

( 44 comments — Leave a comment )


Jim C. Hines

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