Sucks for me, too (just not as much)

In the wake of yesterday’s post, and the discussion that has been banging around about women’s safety on our streets, there has been an outpouring on Twitter of women discussing their means of staying ‘safe’ while out and about.

And so on.

This is all terrible, obviously. As I wrote yesterday, women have the right not to be terrified while they’re out and about. But, as I also said, there really isn’t all THAT much reason to be afraid.

We take risks in every small action we make every day. Get in the car? Could crash. Fly to Sydney? Could crash. Buy sushi? Could get food poisoning. Use a mobile? Could (maybe, maybe, maybe) get a tumour down the line. Smoke a cigarette? Cancer. Pop an E on a big night? Might be bad, and ODs aren’t pleasant.

The thing is, people (women too) take these risks on a daily basis, without MacGyver-ing up some protective solution. It’s fear of MEN that lead to this kind of crossing-the-street behaviour.

Then I read this piece, equal parts moving and terrifying. Money quote:

When you approach me in public, you are Schrödinger’s Rapist. You may or may not be a man who would commit rape.

If this is truly the attitude women take to every man they encounter, then there is a serious, serious problem. Again, I want to reinforce that women don’t have THAT much to fear. Sure, the stat in the above piece that one in 60 men are rapists may or may not be true, I’m not digging around data to verify something so unverifiable. But assuming it is, they most certainly do NOT go about raping each and every woman they lay eyes on.

The odds of attack are still small. I completely understand why women feel afraid (as discussed yesterday), but reading these kinds of things is starting to make me feel icky.

I’m not a rapist. The vast majority of men are not rapists. The odds that the men who ARE rapists are going to rape you is small. So why am I going to walk down the street to buy beer tonight feeling disgusted with myself; that every woman I walk past is considering me to be in some likelihood a violent sex offender?

It’s true that woman have it pretty rough when it comes to notions of safety. Fathers and the media, in particular, reinforce the notion that women need to be fearful at all times. But can we just lay off the idea that the solution is to be afraid of every man you come across?


25 thoughts on “Sucks for me, too (just not as much)

  1. You’re coming at this from the wrong direction, E. The problem is not that you (pl.) look like a rapist – the problem is that rapists look just like you (pl.).

    You’re also only doing half of the risk assessment calculus – the metric is not just how likely is it that any given man that I meet may be a rapist, the metric is also what are the consequences if my safety assessment of any given man that I meet is wrong? If I am wrong about him maybe being a rapist, then the only thing I miss out on is the possibility of an uplifting human connection that I’m not particularly seeking right now anyway, but if I am wrong about assessing that he most likely is not a rapist, then I end up raped. As a bonus, should I survive I will be interrogated by just about everybody I know on how could I have been so reckless and why wasn’t I much less trustful of somebody I didn’t even know.

    BTW, women are also assessing strange men they meet as Schrodinger’s Thief, Schrodinger’s Drunk Who Vomits On New Shoes, schrodinger’s Teller Of Long Boring Tales, and they’re also assessing every car for whether Schrodinger’s Hit And Run Driver is behind the wheel. Do those background safety checks upset you as much as Schrodinger’s Rapist? If not, why not?

    • Good points, and I understand the concerns women have, and I absolutely don’t want to underplay them. My wider point is that statistically, the odds of me being a rapist (or thief, or drunk, or whatever) are lower than several other things that we DON’T take particularly serious consideration of, and certainly don’t take particular precautions against.

      I guess I’m just trying to hammer home the point that a lot of the fear women feel is enhanced not by experience, but by inflammatory media (a la everywhere this week) and over-concerned parents who were raised on the same fear-mongering.

      That and I just hate the feeling I have right now that every woman is suddenly terrified of me (or I suddenly have the feeling that woman have always been terrified of me…).

      • Are you kidding me? Every woman I know has had multiple experiences of sexual harassment, aggression or rape. EVERY. Not just you know, once, a long time ago, but stuff that happens right now, every day. The media isn’t inflaming nothing, we’re speaking up about what happens so that people like you understand that abuse is a real and persistent part of our lives that we have to try to negotiate.

      • You appear to still be overlooking the consequences metric that I mentioned in my second paragraph.

        I understand that the feeling you have is not at all pleasant to experience, but I think you’re misunderstanding how these risk calculuses actually operate in practice. Just like a shopkeeper treats every customer as a potential source of positive outcome (i.e. a sale) they simultaneously evalutate them as a potential source of negative outcome (a theft). Casinos, schools, red lights – all of these places assume that most people will do the right thing, but take measures to monitor everybody in order to detect those who will do the wrong thing. People who have asthma attacks only once or twice a year still take a puffer with them on their daily outings.

        As the old saying goes “Hope for the best but prepare for the worst”.

        Every woman who is evaluating a strange man warily as a potential threat is simultaneously aware of and ultimately relying upon the fact the most men are not threats in order to take part in society at all. Believe me, if we weren’t hoping for the best while preparing for the worst then we’d never leave the house.

      • Fair enough. I’m certainly not trying to delegitimise your (and others’) concerns; just coming at it from a different angle. I imagine women have all been feeling this way forever, but right now (like, today), I suddenly feel like I’m being profiled for my gender.

        Again, I don’t want to demean women’s concerns or behaviours in any way, just offering some perspective on how such fears reverberate. Much like the media’s inflammation of fears has real-world effects on women.

  2. Not terrified, just wary. I get that it is unpleasant for you if some woman you may never see again thinks for a moment you might be a threat. But you can do things to reduce that. Cross to the other side of the street so you aren’t directly behind her, if you can’t do that stop walking to let her get a safe distance ahead. Call someone on your phone and have a chat to them. Just act normal and look like you are just trying to get somewhere. She will still be wary but at least you will know that you are doing your best not to come across as creepy.

    It’s not just that blokes are seen as a threat, because we know the stats. But we also know that if we are that unlucky woman then we will be the ones under the microscope. What were we wearing, why were we out at night, where had we been, what did we do, how did we cause this thing to happen?

    • Hi,

      I don’t disagree that you have concerns, and I’ve never really noticed this kind of behaviour, so perhaps I’m unthreatening (who knows?) but it’s more the way that the debate has turned has made this feel a bit like men are being unfairly profiled. So I guess this is more an abstract issue than anything I’m dealing with day-to-day.

      • I do not feel that it is unfair to profile men as predatory and possibly dangerous. Physiologically speaking, y’all are. And you are being profiled for your gender, which is justified. If that is uncomfortable to you, then you need to take steps to show men you associate with that misogyny in all its forms will not be tolerated – period. Men who “never really noticed this kind of behavior” are just as dangerous to women as SR. In situations where women are abused (in any way) by a man, all the other men standing around ‘not noticing’ are legitimizing his behavior and encouraging it to continue. In that threatening situation, the woman is given reinforcement for her lifelong conditioning that says men will hurt her. In order to systematically change this perpetuated downward spiral is for men to take a stand against the SR’s that really are rapists, and abusers, and harassers, and bullies and liars and thieves. When you can’t or don’t stand up to other men in defense of women, how can you expect me to not be afraid when I walk down the street alone?

  3. Speaking personally I have noticed that women are sometimes disturbed by my presence (not in a good way). I hate it when that happens because I have no intention of ever harming any woman. Nevertheless, I understand why it happens.

    I would like to be able to go about my business without inducing fear in any women I may encounter and that will only ever happen if we men take a zero tolerance approach to rape.
    Women have been fighting this battle alone for too long. It’s time for men to join the cause.
    It’s easy to take solace in the fact that we are not rapists, but it’s not enough. Most of us find rape abhorrent, but do we do anything about it?

    We probably all know someone whose attitude to women is questionable. Next time they say something that betrays that bad attitude, call them on it. Make it clear that you don’t share that view. You may end up alienating them, but you don’t need friends like that and it may make them think about their attitude. It may also save some woman from being assaulted in the future.

    • I don’t want to blame women for all this, though. It’s not a question of ‘calling them on it’. I’m not sure what the solution is – if anything, or even if a solution is required. I’m just concerned that the discussion has turned in a very gender fundamentalist direction very quickly.

      • ???

        Dai is not blaming women. Dai did not suggest calling out women. Why have you responded as if he did?

        I’ll restate his point to make it clearer:
        We (men) probably all know someone (other men) whose attitude to women is questionable. Next time they (those men) say something that betrays that bad attitude, call them (those men) on it.

  4. Perhaps these examples will give you an idea of the situations some women find themselves in. Note how reluctant they are to approach their very own boyfriends and other male friends to help them fix the situation, as they are concerned about the social consequences. This is a circumstance where men being proactive and observant helps a lot. This is where you, as a good man, need to pipe up and call out other men for bad behaviour.

    • Great call. Calling out bad behaviour is the hardest thing to do, the biggest challenge facing women in this circumstance is the flippant way many men treat violence to women. Even if it is in jest, it speaks to a lack of concern. The problem is the social repercussions of calling such behaviour out. Early days, I suppose.

  5. Here’s the problem: You treat every single encounter that women have had as Rape! or Not Rape: What’s the big deal?

    Let’s pretend that you lived in a world where about half of the population carried hunting knives on them at all times. It was just a thing that a lot of people did.

    Let’s say that from the time you hit puberty on people started randomly threatening you. Maybe you were 12 and walking home from school and and older gentleman pulled up in a car next to you and said “You have a pretty face, I’d like to cut it up” It didn’t happen every time you walked home from school. In fact it only happened once or twice, but you still looked over your shoulder to make sure you weren’t being followed and got a bit creeped out if you saw a car that looked like the one he was driving. You told your parents but they either shrugged their shoulders and said there wasn’t much to do about it, or told you that they were sure it wasn’t as bad as all that and you were just being dramatic.

    Say you have to frequently use public transportation as an adult. Say you don’t know anyone who hasn’t been threatened on public transportation. Say you’re standing in a crowded bus and suddenly you realize that someone behind you is poking your back, right near your kidney, with a sheathed knife. You’re tired of this shit at this point so you file a complaint. But you don’t know who it was because it was crowded and in that big crowd of people there is no one to back up your complaint. Besides, it was probably an accident, it was crowded, it’s not like you were actually Murdered, right?

    Lets say you’re on a bus again, and someone just slaps you in the face. Straight up. And says they’d like to stab you a lot. Everyone else looks away, like nothing is happening right in front of them. You file a police report and give them a description. The police look at you deadpan and say they don’t see any kind of mark where you say you were slapped. That they will probably never catch the guy that did it.

    Say you have a friend who actually did get stabbed. Right in front of a crowd of witnesses. There’s no way they can claim it was an accident. The guy gets convicted. He serves 6 months in jail, and then is out on parole or house arrest or whatever.

    Let’s say you’re walking home one night when a group of people with knives start trailing you. Talking just within earshot about how much they’d like to stab you over and over and over again. You call a family member you feel close to, because you are really freaked out by this. They say you should move to a neighborhood you can’t afford/quit your job/buy a car you can’t afford and none of this would keep happening.

    Say there are frequent news stories about people who were walking home and were suddenly violently stabbed. And people start sending you emails about how if you don’t want to be stabbed you should stay home, not have a job that requires you to work after dark, never go to public places after dark, never go hang out with your friends after dark.

    Let’s say that there is some commonality with all of the people who have assaulted you. Say they are all wearing Minnesota Vikings jackets. Not everyone with a Minnesota Vikings jacket assaults you, but everyone who has had been wearing one. You get a bit wary of people who are big fans of the Minnesota Vikings.

    Say you meet a new friend at college/work/wherever. Your friend seems pretty cool, you have a lot in common. You are meeting to hang out and your friend shows up in a Minnesota Vikings jacket and you flinch a bit. Your friend notices your discomfort and asks why. You feel like you can trust this person so you share your history of harassment, of assault, of public humiliation and fear. Your friend gets all defensive. You say it’s nothing personal, just a visual reminder of people who have hurt you. Your friend starts to interrogate you about every attack, asking for details over and over again, trying to trip you up. Your friend implies that you are oversensitive and scared of nothing, your friend points out that the number of people actually MURDERED is very low! (of course there are accidental stabbings, and stabbings where no one is arrested and “drunk stabbings” that happen because both parties were drunk and one party failed to clearly explain that they really didn’t want to be stabbed, so what was the assailant supposed to think? You can’t ruin someone’s life over a little stabbing, I mean, the victim recovered right?). Your friend pouts that they are feeling uneasy now, being a Vikings fan in public, what if people are acting wary of them? What did they ever do to anyone? Shouldn’t everyone just assume that they are fantastic until they know otherwise. Your friend asks you if you assume the worst of everyone in a Minnesota Vikings jacket, and doesn’t that make YOU the bad guy here?

    You may, at this point, begin to wonder if this person is actually your friend.

    tl;dr: most women experience frequent “small” assaults that aren’t “rape” and aren’t prosecuted generally beginning at puberty that create fear and anxiety in public places, and frequently even at home. Pointing out that the amount of (successfully prosecuted) rape is very rare has little to do with conversations about safety in public spaces.

    I think from your responses that you are engaging in good faith, otherwise I wouldn’t have written an extremely long comment that I thought would just be ignored or written off. But there’s not a good way to quantify the amount of worry caused by repeated assaults that most people (who don’t worry about this sort of thing happening to them) would rather ignore.

    • Wow, thanks for going to so much effort. I don’t think you’re wrong at all. I’m not going to write a massive response, but there is one place where this hunting knife experiment happens regularly – states in the USA where it is legal to carry a concealed weapon. In these places anyone may be armed to act murderously, but it remains against the law to shoot someone.

      There, as here, the majority of shootings (outside of certain areas – ghettos – where social factors lead to higher risk) happen in the home and are conducted by people who know one another. By and large, the assumption of rule-of-law overrides any risk of random assault.

      • You said, “the assumption of rule-of-law overrides any risk of random assault.”

        Does that answer your question regarding S.R.? The (plausible) risk of random assault (harrassment through rape to disfiguirement) overrides any risk of causing offence.
        At least to me.
        Thank you for responding to the comments above; most men I know don’t get beyond “she’s hysterical” responses.

  6. A woman knocked on my door two nights ago. She asked if a woman of a particular name I can’t recall lived at my place, naturally I said no. I enquired into the directions she was given and it was easy to see how she ended up at my front door, and before I could get another word she said “I should probably stop standing, outside the wrong house”. Which didn’t particularly offend me at all.

    Now this is a strange encounter in which i’m Schroedinger rapist that can’t avoided, the way she reacted to me was strange and unique.

  7. Pingback: Schrödinger’s Rapist: ever-reliable source of women being told that (yet again) we’re doing it wrong

  8. “The thing is, people (women too) take these risks on a daily basis, without MacGyver-ing up some protective solution. It’s fear of MEN that lead to this kind of crossing-the-street behaviour.”
    No. It’s actually the fear of potential PHYSICAL VIOLENCE (potentially leading to death and potentially involving rape) IN A SPECIFIC CONTEXT (i.e. a dark, deserted street at night).
    That’s quite a different thing. Try not to take it so personally.

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