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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Supply-Side Rape Prevention.

I've posted quite a few times (1, 2, 3, and more) on why the commonly given "rape prevention" advice is mostly ineffective, sexist, and often cruel. I'm well covered on cursing the darkness. In this post, let's talk about how to light a candle.

The usual feminist response to the rape prevention thing is something on the order of this perennial list--that potential rapists, rather than potential victims, should be responsible for preventing rape. And I agree, but the message has to go beyond "hey! don't rape people!"

A certain proportion of rapists are just monsters. They've got some kind of damage way deep down that's beyond the reach of polite society and well-meaning attempts at education and rehabilitation; their behavior and thought patterns are completely beyond the understanding, much less the influence, of decent people. All we can do is lock them up. I believe that "just monsters" make up a minority of rapists. The rest are people--people who did a horrible, inexcusable thing, but not an unfathomable one. They acted for reasons that made sense at the time, and it's possible for us to suss out what that sense was, and thereby figure out how to make it not make sense the next time.

Here are some steps--they're broad and philosophical and lack "who's going to do this and how" detail, but at least they go beyond "don't leave the house after dark!" or "remember not to rape anyone!"--that make sense to me. I'd love to hear more in the comments.

Redefine "rape" in the public discourse.
Jump-out-of-the-bushes stranger rape is largely the purview of the "just monsters." But it's also far, far less common than boyfriend-won't-take-no rape. When we call the second kind "gray rape" or "date rape" or mutter even more half-assed things about how it's kinda sorta violating her boundaries and kinda sorta not very nice, we let that boyfriend feel a lot better about himself. I've heard more than one rape victim comment that her rapist felt he was doing her a favor by protecting her from all the real rapists out there.

When we treat rapes between acquaintances and in relationships as rape-rape--in the news, in the legal system, in our conversations--we reinforce the idea that they're just as wrong and shocking as jumping out of the bushes. When we can call domestic violence "violence" without qualification, we send the message that people who do this aren't just sorta criminals. "You have no more right to your partner's body than you do to a random stranger" is a message our society needs.

This PSA (note: extremely violent video) is a great example of sending that message.

Redefine "sex."
What is sex, really? It's not a penis going into a vagina. Nor is it a penis going into an orifice. Nor is it the touching of sexual organs. Sex is the pleasure obtained from arousal and intimacy. Without that, it's a gynecologist appointment.

So sticking your dick in someone means nothing. Gets you nothing. Absent the arousal and intimacy, it's just an unhygienic gynecologist appointment. Not only is sticking yourself in someone not right to do without their enthusiastic participation, it's not even sex. Most of things a person would really want from sex that they couldn't get from masturbation--emotional comfort, ego reinforcement, social status, physical closeness--are not things you can take by force. I would like to spread the meme that rape isn't getting laid by unethical means, it's not getting laid at all.

Rewrite the sexual script.
The paradigm of "women trade sex to men for affection/favors/security/etc." is an extremely dangerous one. Because it posits that women never really want sex, it makes the bright line of "no, this time I really don't want it" fuzzy, as if this were merely a breakdown in the bargaining process. It makes women seem unreasonable or even greedy for refusing sex when they've been properly "compensated" (see also: PUA culture) and makes men feel that sex with a woman who doesn't want sex isn't fundamentally abnormal.

And this is why being extremely public about being an extremely horny woman is fighting rape.

Less frivolously (not that I think that's frivolous, actually) we need to get rid of the idea of sex as a tradeable commodity. Thinking about sex in terms of commerce leads to thinking about what you're "owed," and rape as a remedy for getting a bad deal. Better to think of it as an activity, a partner sport; nobody owes you the chance to be their tennis partner, almost nobody plays tennis for some secret ulterior reason besides enjoying tennis, and nobody really wants to play tennis with a partner who doesn't have their heart in it.

Stop blaming victims.
Not just because it's cruel and wrong. Because when you do it, potential rapists are listening. Saying "she was taking a big risk, being drunk and in that clothing" doesn't just hurt her and trivialize the crime against her. It also says "hey everybody, women who are drunk and dressed like this are up for grabs."

Treat men like people.
Very often, men are talked about like they're animals who can't control themselves sexually. Women are taught how to work around men like they're a force of nature, like they can never be trusted. Men are taught that it's in their nature to take whatever they can get when it comes to sex. Again, the problem isn't just that it's wrong, but that some men will take these messages to heart, and believe that decency isn't expected of them. (There's also a secondary problem that people who aren't men may believe they could never be rapists because that's a man thing.)

I would like to live in a world where rape is always treated as an exception. Where the phrasing isn't "a man lost control of himself and" but "a person decided to." Where it's believed that a man's natural instinct is to cooperate with others for mutual survival, rather than to spread the seed at all costs. Where anti-rape activism never falls into "men vs. women" but is quite clearly "society vs. rape." Where men aren't let off the hook when they rape, and also where men are credited with generally not wanting to in the first place.



There's a lot more to say on this topic. How do you convince people not to rape, without antagonizing or alienating them? How do you create a pro-man, pro-woman, pro-sex, anti-rape culture?

52 comments:

  1. I offer this only as a potential flaw, because I wish to strengthen your argument as a whole. I think you're really on the right track.

    Most of things a person would really want from sex that they couldn't get from masturbation--emotional comfort, ego reinforcement, social status, physical closeness--are not things you can take by force.

    It's difficult for me to say, because I've never raped anyone, nor engaged the services of a prostitute, but, from my position of ignorance and speculation based on cultural references and observation, I would imagine that you don't get many of those aforementioned benefits from patronizing the average street whore. And yet people still do. So... there must be some benefit to that over masturbation.

    This section of your manifesto may need expansion, Holly. :)

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    1. Well, what people get from your average street whore is none of that, you're right. But you do get a better sensation than masturbation. I haven't ever been to a prostitute, but I've had plenty of casual sex, and save for the ego boost, none of the benefits of close, partnered sex were there. Yet, it's worth pursuing for me because it irrefutably feels physically better than masturbation (emotionally is a different story, I know a lot of people who feel guilty about casual sex or otherwise don't feel ok with it, which is why we're not all banging each other's brains out all the time).

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  2. perlhaqr
    rape and prostitution...
    two very different things.

    great post holly...

    I agree that compensation based sex needs to be elaborated on. Although, lumping all sex that doesn't include sexual pleasure experienced by both parties as potential rape? That topic could get sticky pretty fast. Especially when dealing with workers for whom sex and intimacy is entirely compensated. Perhaps its best to look at issues of consent first and foremost.
    People consent to having unpleasurable, terrible, boring sex everyday. Totally sucks in a 'hopefully it will get better, maybe they should attend a few workshops'... but its not rape.

    ~lush

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  3. I would like to spread the meme that rape isn't getting laid by unethical means, it's not getting laid at all.

    I really like this, because I think it helps with one of the worst myths about rape, that on some level it's a compliment because "it means he thinks you're sexy!"

    No. It is not a compliment when a man rapes a grandmother, a child, a disabled person, a mentally ill person. Because rape is less about sex than it is about masturbating to completely disempowering someone else.

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  4. Get rid of coyness. Get rid of the "No" that means "Maybe," the "No" that means "Try harder." You know the one I mean. You might not do it, but others certainly do.

    It's fun to be pursued, but some men will interpret that as "Make me," and frankly, it's an easy and understandable misinterpretation.

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  5. Anon - This post is about changing potential rapists, not potential victims. Otherwise you get back into "women deserve it for being so confusing" or even "women who send mixed messages are fair game" implications.

    A better way to frame it would be that men need to start taking "maybe" as "no," and establish an ethos of "hey, if a chick wants to get with me, she's going to have to say so."

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  6. My take on rape prevention advice is 'it may be sexist, cruel and ineffective to tell people not to leave their drinks unattended, but if you don't give someone this advice because it's sexist cruel and ineffective, and they do end up getting drugged and raped in a way that could have been avoided if this advice had been available..."

    And then I trail off and leave the end of the sentence up to the reader. I believe that people should have this advice available to them, but also have the option to ignore it if they want.

    However, I did have an unpleasant discussion about this with my girlfriend recently (we still love each), and she did give me this epiphany. If you replace 'women' with 'people' and 'rape' with 'crime', any advice ends up being general advice with much less controversy and yet still gets the point across.

    I think my position now is 'pro general risk acknowledgement'. People should be aware of the drug called rohypnol and it's effects. People should check the expiry date on the fish dinner they're about to eat. People should consider having a supply of fresh drinking water available. People should consider learning some basic self-defense. People should be aware of how other people have become victims of crime in the past.

    People should be aware of things in general, because ignorance is a worse thing than rape prevention advice.

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  7. Anon - A better question: How can we convince more people that Roofieing drinks is not just criminal, but disgusting and pathetic and unmanly?

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  8. I especially like the 'treat men like people' one. I think we sometimes underestimate how heavy the burden of cultural norms and assumptions can be. From the outset of their first embarassing experiences of uncontrollable erections as teenagers, our society tells them: you'll always be struggling to control yourself. You'll always have a beast inside that you'll have to try to keep a leash on. Because you're a man.

    I agree it might help to close the gap to acknowledge that we all have dark impulses and it doesn't make us bad.

    That said, I do think we're already moving in the right direction, and I think society is becoming less binary in its perception and portrayal of gender.

    Good post - thank you.

    J.

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  9. To follow on from J's post, I'd like to acknowledge all the polite, self controlled and respectful men in my life. We should not let the very small minority that mistreat women, children, other men and pets colour our view of the vast majority of wonderful ethical men! Mistreatment of weaker beings, including rape, is not what real people do!

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  10. A certain proportion of rapists are just monsters. They've got some kind of damage way deep down that's beyond the reach of polite society and well-meaning attempts at education and rehabilitation; their behavior and thought patterns are completely beyond the understanding, much less the influence, of decent people.

    I always found the raping mentality quite difficult to grasp: how can a rapist quite obviously see that the girl doesn't want him and is repelling him, yet still not lose his erection? It seems to me this kind of rapist has some sort of kink: in some way, he finds rejection, fear, panic... arousing. A kink.

    When we treat rapes between acquaintances and in relationships as rape-rape--in the news, in the legal system, in our conversations--we reinforce the idea that they're just as wrong and shocking as jumping out of the bushes.
    This is indeed true. I note, however, that it bypasses the most important aspects of 'gray areas'. Because it's not always clear what kind of situation we're talking about, sometimes very different things -- the guy who just didn't listen to the repeated "oh no, please let's stop!" from his girlfriend, and the girl who felt angry because he didn't do exactly what she liked and decided it must be rape.

    The problem of "gray areas" isn't simple. Judging from what I hear, 'rape' already has many definitions, even in public discourse. I'm not sure this is contributing to clarity on the matter.

    I would like to spread the meme that rape isn't getting laid by unethical means, it's not getting laid at all.
    Here we are in 100% agreement. As I said above, I find it even hard to understand how an 'evil' rapist can even get anything at all from raping -- where's the fun? (Which is why I tend to see it as a kink.) The ones who fool themselves into believing that the women wanted it at least are getting laid in their imaginary dreamworlds; but the ones who know they don't and still go ahead...

    It makes women seem unreasonable or even greedy for refusing sex when they've been properly "compensated" (see also: PUA culture) and makes men feel that sex with a woman who doesn't want sex isn't fundamentally abnormal.
    I'm in basic agreement with you here, but I think there's an additional nuance. We may have sex with someone even when we're much less than 100% into it out of consideration for this person -- s/he is a partner to whose sexual satisfaction I am, to some extent, committed, so I may very well have sex with him/her even if I "don't really want it now" -- and that's legit. Sometimes I do play tennis with my wife because she wants it, not because I'm so much into it. In other words, there are legitimate reasons to do for someone something that you don't especially feel like doing right now for its own sake.
    This is of course a different situation than the one you mean -- but people sometimes confuse them.

    Where the phrasing isn't "a man lost control of himself and" but "a person decided to." Where it's believed that a man's natural instinct is to cooperate with others for mutual survival, rather than to spread the seed at all costs. Where anti-rape activism never falls into "men vs. women" but is quite clearly "society vs. rape." Where men aren't let off the hook when they rape, and also where men are credited with generally not wanting to in the first place.

    100% agreement here. Right on. I couldn't have put it better.

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  11. p. " I would imagine that you don't get many of those aforementioned benefits from patronizing the average street whore. And yet people still do"

    You would probably be surprised by how they will try to give fake versions of these benefits, even by the "me so horny" street whores. It seems that it pays to do that, which actually goes counter your argument: if men who take street whores didn't want these things said street whores wouldn't try to fake them, albeit very awkwardly.

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  12. I may misremember but I think it was Marty Klein who said he'd never seen a rapist who had a healthy attitude towards masturbation. So... instill kids with healthy attitudes about masturbation?

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  13. Hershele OstropolerJanuary 28, 2011 at 1:16 PM

    The most effective single thing I can think of that wasn't mentioned in the post: counter the meme that a man's worth is measured even in part by how many pussies his penis as been in, wthout regard for how the person surrounding the pussy felt about the whole thing, or if she was even aware of it (and especially the variation that gives extra points if she didn't like it).

    Jump-out-of-the-bushes stranger rape is largely the purview of the "just monsters." But it's also far, far less common than boyfriend-won't-take-no rape. When we call the second kind "gray rape" or "date rape" or mutter even more half-assed things about how it's kinda sorta violating her boundaries and kinda sorta not very nice, we let that boyfriend feel a lot better about himself.

    This is why I use "stranger rape" to mean stranger rape and "rape" to mean incidents in which the perpetrator is known to the victim.

    The paradigm of "women trade sex to men for affection/favors/security/etc." is an extremely dangerous one. Because it posits that women never really want sex, it makes the bright line of "no, this time I really don't want it" fuzzy, as if this were merely a breakdown in the bargaining process

    It also makes it easy for non-monster rapists and potential rapists (in the sense of having the mindset, not just the physical capability) to justify to themselves rejecting "enthusiastic consent" as a standard. If there is absolutely no possibility she's going to agree or even suggest it because she's horny, it gets much easier ro rationalize tricking her into agreeing, nagging her to agree, or not even bothering to see if she'll agree. There's no point in even seeking consent if it's a losing battle.

    * * *
    I really like this, because I think it helps with one of the worst myths about rape, that on some level it's a compliment because "it means he thinks you're sexy!"

    No. It is not a compliment when a man rapes a grandmother, a child, a disabled person, a mentally ill person


    And it helps with getting rid of the notion that people who aren't conventionally attractive women can't really be rape victims, that "you couldn't make anyone lose control like that," that "you only wish someone like that found you sexy enough to fuck."

    My take on rape prevention advice is 'it may be sexist, cruel and ineffective to tell people not to leave their drinks unattended, but if you don't give someone this advice because it's sexist cruel and ineffective, and they do end up getting drugged and raped in a way that could have been avoided if this advice had been available..."

    That is probably the only rape prevention advice aimed at women that I don't take issue with, because it's not difficult to not leave a drink unattended, and it doesn't keep you from having fun. It's (I think) different in kind from telling women "don't dress sexy, don't drink in public, don't leave your house alone after dark." It's advice I'd be willing to give men and it's advice I can easily follow for reasons other than simply not being a fun or interesting person.

    I agree with Holly that we should also go after this from the supply side, again, letting it be known that Roofieing a drink isn't "scoring," it's creepy and evil. But the costs of avoiding Roofies are fairly low.

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  14. @Hershele Ostropoler
    I'd say the other reason "watch your drink" doesn't get my back up - as well as what you said - is that it's prevention that's actually somewhat effective. If you watch your drink you're less likely to get roofied. If you never dress sexy and curtail your participation in basic social activity and always get a guy to walk you home, you're... just as likely to get raped as you were before, so far as I can tell.

    @Anonymous 11:29
    That's a good one to add to the list. I like it.

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  15. Regarding "watch your drink", there's a line/scene in Hard Candy (wonderful movie, IMO) where the male lead wakes up, tied up, and the female lead says something along the lines of, "That stuff they tell girls about mixing their own drinks, it's good advice for everyone."

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  16. The idea that rape isn't sex at all just rings falsely to me. However, it's not scoring, because rape is a red card foul.

    Absolutely treat men like people who can control their actions.
    In my head, I've tossed around the idea that rape /suspects/ should have confidentiality, because that can send a message that calling a guy a rapist is really damaging /his/ reputation, and no one deserves that without conviction. But then again, conviction is so hard to get. But it would also extend protection for the victim, since multiple people might know who the suspect took upstairs at the party, or who he said he scored with. In addition, if the rapist or their friends hassle the victim, it exposes them when they haven't already been exposed.

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  17. I'll totally go to the bathroom or kitchen or whatever and leave my drink. Maybe not if I'm at some really intense big party with a ton of strangers and people getting shitfaced drunk, but at your more average get-together where I know a bunch of people and it's fairly low-key, yeah.

    (Or when I do say "watch my drink" to someone, I mean it not as "make sure no one drugs it," but as "NO ONE BETTER TAKE MY DELICIOUS BOOZE AWAY.")

    I guess I'm just stupid? Or trusting? Or just don't really think of Not Getting Raped as a full-time responsibility of mine? I don't think my reasoning here is the important part. I think the important part is that I, the foolhardy drink leaver, exist. And I don't deserve to get drugged and raped. And I'd like to think about ways that imperfect women, stupid unsafe foolhardy women like myself, can still be safe.

    There's a lot of framing in bro-dude culture of Roofies as sort of funny, a prank you play on the girl. (Some people even think Roofies are aphrodisiacs rather than sedatives.) I would like to work on making it culturally unacceptable by reframing it not just as evil but as gross, as skeevy and pathetic, no more deserving of snickers or high-fives than whipping it out and jerking off on someone's shoes at a party. "Roofies are wrong and illegal" isn't quite the right message. We need "Roofies are only used by filthy unloveable trolls who can't get a woman."

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  18. The most effective single thing I can think of that wasn't mentioned in the post: counter the meme that a man's worth is measured even in part by how many pussies his penis as been in, wthout regard for how the person surrounding the pussy felt about the whole thing...

    FUCK YEAH. I can barely imagine how different the world would be if being a "stud" was about pleasing women rather than penetrating them.

    I read somewhere (I wanna say in the book "Promiscuities" by Naomi Klein but I wouldn't swear to it) that some ancient cultures believed that when a woman had sex with a man, she was giving him some of this miraculous mystical "life force" thing (something like that), and for a woman to share this was a blessing. If, conversely, you decided to take this life force without permission, you were violating a sacred agreement and eventually karma would reduce your life to smoking rubble.

    The updated version of this: if a guy at a party says he just got a chick staggering drunk and "scored" with her in one of the upstairs bedrooms and she's probably still passed out up there, ha ha ha, you go "DUDE WTF? That is RAPE and you are PATHETIC" and shun him instead of grinning and doling out high fives.

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  19. "I'll totally go to the bathroom or kitchen or whatever and leave my drink. Maybe not if I'm at some really intense big party with a ton of strangers and people getting shitfaced drunk, but at your more average get-together where I know a bunch of people and it's fairly low-key, yeah."


    Holly, I hate to break it to you (no, I don't, it highly amuses me) but you and I go to the awesome kind of parties. You know, parties with people we know and trust.

    It's apparently different when you go to a frathouse for a fratparty with the fratbros.

    (My girlfriend backs me up on this; amid the chuckles, she says it's a fair statement.)

    Leaving your drink at a party of friends is fine if your friends aren't total douchenozzles, whether you're male or female. Leaving your drink at a party of strangers, or if you're out alone at a bar, seems... different, because you're trusting strangers rather than friends.

    Then again, I trust strangers all the time, so maybe this is an is-ought fallacy (I don't remember the name for it). Damnit, now I'm thinking myself in circles.

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  20. Holly, most of what you're saying I've seen before, but it ALWAYS bears repeating (and you say it well) so thanks.

    Also, the PSA you linked to was very good and super distressing (but that was the point), the comments on the PSA you linked are fucking disgusting on the whole. I started out trying to thumb down the ones that were terrible and became overwhelmed after the first 3 pages of "that bitch had it coming".

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  21. Hey, FTW! As a self defense instructor, the greatest good I can do in the world is not to teach people how to defend against violence , but to help redefine the dominant (i.e. violent) male archetype. Re the perennial list, I agree that the message has to go beyond "hey! don't rape people!", and I feel that a little tinkering with it makes a useful tool to help men develop in the right direction.

    The biggest problem we had in rewriting it centered on a lot of resistance to the idea that “rape is about power, not sex”. I wish I'd said then what you said here.

    This is the list I hand out to students. Feedback is much appreciated.

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  22. TheDeviantE - Oh man, I do not read YouTube comments. My only comfort is that they're mostly just trying to be "funny," even if it's fucking horrible what they find funny.

    There's a certain breed of Internet 13-year-old (I like to imagine none of them are old enough to vote, at least) that enjoys saying the most offensive thing possible in any situation just for kicks. And they don't actually believe the specific things they're saying, they just think that "BITCH SHOULD HAVE GOTTEN RAPED WITH A CACTUS BY HITLER LOLOLOL" will make them look cool and tough, or something. You can't talk to them when they're being like that--they'll just think it's even cooler and tougher to say you should be raped with a cactus by Hitler--but I kinda think that they'll grow out of it. I hope so.

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  23. Uzza - I love it. Especially number V. The message that imperfect women, even frankly crappy-acting women, still deserve safety is one that often gets lost in these discussions. I think it's important to say that on occasion (not nearly as often as you think, but it happens), a woman may be deliberately and even maliciously acting like a total cock-tease, and so what? It doesn't take away her right to physical safety.

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  24. Hershele OstropolerJanuary 28, 2011 at 11:53 PM

    Or just don't really think of Not Getting Raped as a full-time responsibility of mine?

    "Don't go out at night" is a hardship. "Don't go to parties or clubs where there are going to be a lot of people you don't know" is a hardship, I have no social skills or social life and even I can see that. "Don't dress sexy" is a hardship. I cannot see "don't leave your drink unattended" as a hardship in the same way. I'm not supporting it to the exclusion of persuading people roofies are the tools of an inferior person and I wouldn't go all paranoid and "under no circumstances take so much as a sip from a glass you have at any point not had personal custody of." I certainly don't intend to advocate victim-blaming. There is so little vigilance, so little self-policing, so little action required, I am unable to see it as a big deal or a full-time responsibility.

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  25. Uzza, I love the list, but perhaps the link/url shouldn't be "Rape Tips"? Otherwise it is perfect and I have bookmarked it.

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  26. Just kinda jumping in here, but...
    I think something that should be communicated is that "feeling physical pleasure does not mean the act is wanted, enjoyed or appreciated". That is, if someone forces themself on another and the victim gets aroused, that doesn't change their "no" into a "yes". That doesn't make the experience any less traumatic or awful for them.

    I hear this all the time for the opposite situation, when a woman rapes a man. There's this misconception that "if a man gets hard, he likes what's going on, and secretly wants it," which is as wrong as saying "well she came, so she must have enjoyed the sex". Unbelievable as it is, many people genuinely do believe the emotional and psychologically brain is completely in control of the body's physical and sensual reaction.

    In my own experience (not gonna get into details, but..), my partner at the time completely misread my physical cues as meaning my verbal, "No, don't" protests weren't all that important. I was going through heavy emotions and guilt and all he seemed to focus on was "well her body's reacting, so it can't be that bad." And he wasn't a 'monster' of a person. He didn't beat women, or degrade them on a regular basis, or anything that would've made him glaringly misogynistic. He just assumed that my body would shut down, or that I would have the physical strength and focus to push him off me if I was "really" in distress. And to this day, I doubt he'd even see what he did as being "all THAT bad".

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  27. Hershele - A bad analogy:

    I hand you a white button and tell you "If I ever see you without this button, I might punch you in the nose really hard. I dunno. But I might." It's a plain little white pin-back button, nothing offensive on it, takes half a second to attach to your clothing. And you only have to do it when you think I might be aound. It's not a hardship. It's a simple step to protect yourself.

    Nonetheless, I doubt you would come to see this as a totally reasonable thing, and accept it as your own responsibility to protect your own nose in this way. You might feel just a bit of resentment, anger, even defiance. You might feel that perhaps my arbitrary nose-punching tendencies are my problem, even if you're not sure how to stop me.

    Even though, gosh, it's just a little button, how hard is that?

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  28. I agree with you about 99.9%, and the reason I haven't said anything to defend self-defense training for women is that it's not really important to what you're saying in the post.

    But that last comment--that analogy only works if the people advocating that women do this or that in order to maximize their safety are themselves threatening that [i]they themselves "might" rape them if they don't.[/i] It doesn't credit the idea that they (even if they're wrong) are suggesting that women do certain things to make rape by others less likely.

    You've sparred a little with Preacherman, for instance, for his talk about what women should do to keep themselves safe. I've always thought that neither of you really understood the vast gulf in your experiences that led you to see rape in very different ways (Preacherman fought in and later was a missionary in African civil wars and revolutions; I think he may have seen a lot of rape, and a lot of it probably was committed by strangers on strangers, whereas you work in American EMS and read American peacetime studies and statistics--so maybe you and he aren't always speaking on common ground.) But one thing Preacherman was absolutely NOT doing by saying women should dress or act in ways he thought were safer was threatening to rape them if they didn't.

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  29. Holly: I love everything about this analogy.

    Don:

    I don't think she was saying that the people who give this kind of advice are specifically threatening to rape anyone who doesn't follow it. I think they point is that even something as simple and easy as, say, pinning a button on is not the responsibility of the victim, and that perhaps the real problem is the people who actually commit the crime.

    Saying, 'well, you need to take reasonable precautions' makes sense if you're talking about dealing with forces of nature, wild animals, or other unavoidably dangerous situations. Rapists are not wild animals, though; they're people, and they're capable of controlling themselves. The onus for preventing rape is entirely on them.

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  30. One could say the same about theft, murder, arson, and jaywalking. (It's a TVTropes reference, sorry.) I take reasonable precautions against theft (keeping my money in inside pockets of my coat, for example), just as I would against getting my drink tampered with if I went to a frat party.

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  31. Hershele OstropolerJanuary 29, 2011 at 3:46 PM

    That's still a defense of "I shouldn't have to watch my drink or leave it in the care of someone I trust." And you shouldn't have to; my point is only that I can't think of an answer to the counterobjection "why would you want to?" whereas I can for the other tips. Not to mention I can see this as less ineffective, within its limited bailiwick, than the other tips.

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  32. Katherine---
    I agree; but I don't know how to change that.
    ??

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  33. [quote]I think they point is that even something as simple and easy as, say, pinning a button on is not the responsibility of the victim, and that perhaps the real problem is the people who actually commit the crime.[/quote]
    That part of the analogy is excellent, and I agree with it. It's a good way to look at the problem from the point of view of a woman who's tired of hearing questions about what a rape victim was wearing or why she was out so late or alone or whatever.
    The only part I'm quibbling about is the part where the person giving the advice is not a well-meaning person with whom you disagree--someone giving you advice he hopes will help keep you safe from other, dangerous people--but is actually the threat, and is giving you his "safety tip" as a veiled threat. That part of the analogy--the part where he tells you that if you don't follow his safety advice, he "might" attack you--is really unrelated to the point above. It isn't necessary, and it cripples a strong argument.

    In my mind, you're really arguing about two different things. One is about who "should" prevent rape and who "should" take the blame for rape. That's anyone who commits rape, no question. That's not anyone who is a victim of rape, no question there, either.

    But take the word "should" and the implication of blame out of the question, and the people suggesting all their safety tips are a lot less sinister.

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  34. "

    A better way to frame it would be that men need to start taking "maybe" as "no," and establish an ethos of "hey, if a chick wants to get with me, she's going to have to say so."

    @holly, and also making space socially, and the expectation that a person will step back and say "hey I am into you but I am not sure what you would like, could you tell me"

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  35. "A better way to frame it would be that men need to start taking "maybe" as "no," and establish an ethos of "hey, if a chick wants to get with me, she's going to have to say so." "

    Oh man! If only! I'm so tired of preaching the, "Dude, if she wants you, she'll say so" line because so many of the dudes that I talk to (and friends, mind, I don't think they have evil intentions or anything) regularly tell me I'm just deluded about this, that it doesn't work that way.

    And I also wish, and this touches on some of Clarisse Thorn's writing too, that there was space for dudes to be able to say, "Hey I'd like to have sex with you" without it coming out as creepy or threatening somehow.

    Because I think these things are related-- we frame male sexuality as inherently dark and dangerous, (re: that fucking Atlantic trashpiece) and then we have to find all these ways to protect ourselves from said dark and dangerous threat, and somewhere in the middle we lose a lot.

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  36. holly, are you honestly saying that you don't want young women to be given this advice? like if you had an inexperienced friend going to a big party for the first time, you wouldn't want them given the heads-up on roofie-using creeps?

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  37. And I also wish...that there was space for dudes to be able to say, "Hey I'd like to have sex with you" without it coming out as creepy or threatening somehow.

    I think it's totally fine for guys to say that, and I wish more of them would (I like people to be straightforward). It's not the words that are creepy, it's when they're said while the guy is leaning toward you and maybe panting slightly and you get the feeling he might wheedle at you if you say no.

    But I've had guys go "I would totally have sex with you if you were up for it" in a perfectly open, casual voice, and I was like "No thanks," and they said "Okeedokey then" and I didn't find anything icky or creepy about the exchange at all.

    I think the trick is to ask the question the same way you'd ask a friend if they wanted to catch a movie: there's nothing at stake, no huge ego thing on the line, you're just proposing a fun activity...and if they say no you'll just go to the movies with someone else, or alone (heh), or do something else entirely.

    The book The Ethical Slut has a chapter about about various sexual contexts and what we can learn from each; one idea in there rocked my world: that gay men accept each other at their word. If a guy asks another guy to fuck you and he says no, that means NO, not "I want to be pursued harder" or "I want to but I don't want to look like a slut" or anything else. Gay men treat each other like grownups with their own sexual agency. That's fucking awesome and I wish it was like that here in Straightland.

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  38. *if a guy asks another guy to fuck him.

    I'm sick and all the pronouns in my head are jumbled up with snot.

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  39. Anon - I think it will be many, many, many years before girls aren't inundated with this advice anyway. It's not a major short-term concern of mine that women will, oop, suddenly forget that they're at constant risk of sexual violence.

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  40. I take my own safety as a given without much thought and as a regular day to day part of my life, I'm sure we all do. I am a grown man, is that how it is for most guys, is it that way for most women? I think it would be unlikely that any of us would be a victim of crime even once a year, any crime. I think that the advice to watch out for your own safety and that of your friends is sound and practical. But also as a guy I've never had the thought that if I fell asleep drunk, or wore some revealing clothes, that I might get raped, and maybe that's a real difference or just my perception and I would guess its this way for most guys. Is it? Is it different for women?
    I remember being at the bar in my student Hall (in the UK its a block of student apartments) and my friend, a woman student and also a resident, was really drunk and almost asleep. One of her friends came rushing over to me to tell me that some guy was dragging her along the floor of his shared apartment and into his room. We rushed to his room where we found her halfway into his room and halfway in the hallway, she was practically out cold from alcohol. It was luck that he was only her size, so he wasn't able to carry her.
    Anyway he said he was going to put her in his bed and let her sleep it off, but they hardly knew each other and weren't in the same circle of friends. These are single rooms with single beds, would he have slept on the floor or squeezed beside her?
    Was he honourable, would he have taken advantage of her condition, who knows. And that's reality.
    To finish the story we woke her a bit and then I carried her to her own room in the same apartment as her friend who stuck with her, I think she puked. In that bar in our block she was around friends, where she lived, but she was still at some risk.
    I have been so drunk and tired that I have fallen asleep in a city center outside, in toilets, even in a strangers house that I could not recall how I got there. I think my biggest dangers were of being robbed, beaten up, but I doubted I would be raped. I was foolish for getting in that state, luckily nothing happened to me.

    As a *considerate* guy if I am walking late at night and there happens to be a woman in front of me going in the same direction then sometimes I cross over, roads in the UK are narrow so its not a big deal and I feel bad if I think that my walking behind might make her concerned. To me its the right thing to do.
    It's a bit like if I walk past some young guys with their hoods up late at night, if they say hi or nod I feel that they are friendly and no danger to me, but if they looked at me, then at each other, then made a nod or went to block my way, then I'd feel threatened. Perhaps rightly or wrongly, but wouldn't you feel the same way?

    My sister was in a pub with her friend and their boyfriends. The guys were near them but watching football or chatting to themselves. Anyway my sister and her friend both had their drinks spiked. Luckily her boyfriend spotted that both of them were looking drowsy and that something wasn't right. Maybe some dodgy guys thought my sister and her friend were on their own?

    Again that's reality, its awful but in future we watch our drinks.

    I think my point is we have to be practical and do our own protection as much as we can. We should reduce our exposure to risk, which includes watching your drinks, not getting too drunk, keeping an eye on each other etc. I'm not sure what effect clothing has, I would imagine that other things are bigger factors such as being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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  41. Okay, let's stop the constant circle of discussion about what potential victims are doing wrong. Even if you think you have points there, that's not this post. Let's talk here about how we can deal with potential attackers.

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  42. Great Post!

    "And this is why being extremely public about being an extremely horny woman is fighting rape."

    I found this part of the post very intriguing and I hope that perhaps it is true but there is a part of me that wonders if it could have the opposite effect. If a potential rapist knows that the woman they are with is sexual and horny, couldn’t “it [make] the bright line of "no, this time I really don't want it" fuzzy,” as well if the potential rapist believes her to always be horny and therefore she must not mean no. Could this give the potential rapist a feeling of entitlement as well?
    Thoughts?

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  43. Just because a woman is horny and wants sex. That doesn't mean she wants sex with you.

    Its kind of like being hungry and wanting dinner. Just because I'm hungry doesn't mean I will eat anything you place in front of me simply because its classified as food.

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  44. Hershele OstropolerFebruary 3, 2011 at 2:03 PM

    Politically incorrect analogy: Spiking a drink is like cheating on a test: it may superficially get the desired short-term outcome, but it doesn't reflect on you, and so there's no glory in it. Cheating on a test is evidence you're not up to snuff; spiking a woman's drink is evidence you're pathetic and can't get laid.

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  45. Now I want a t-shirt (or at least a button) that says, "Women have sex because they want to, not because you bought them dinner." The idea that sometimes, women want sex is almost as revolutionary as the idea that sometimes, men don't.

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  46. Sorry if this is a dead subject, but I know you've talked this thing to death without making much headway. So what the hell, right?

    As reasoning beings, we have a tendency to assign cause-effect relationships to everything. It makes the world less scary, and it's inculcated pretty much from birth:

    "Don't put that in the power socket, or you'll get electrocuted."
    "Don't cross the street without looking, you might get hit by a car."
    "Don't drink the things in bottles under the sink, they're probably toxic."

    A + B = C

    Causal relationships are important because they keep people alive. Unfortunately, they don't always hold. Sometimes you have variables "X" and "Backwards R," with outcome "Ampersand," and maybe the relationship, if it exists at all, isn't clear. But we apply the same old formula because we've been trained to at all levels of our development.

    Then we get such gems as:
    "She dressed like such and such and went to this place with so and so, and then got raped, so maybe she shouldn't have, etc."

    And throw in some confirmation bias and sharpshooter's fallacy, and you get your unfortunate implications. You get the idea.

    The reality, that the guy was just an asshole, never enters into the thought process at all simply because we typically aren't taught to think that way. Completely reasonable and well-meaning people fall victim to bad reasoning all the time, in all sorts of situations. If you could somehow teach the multitudes the pitfalls of faulty logic, you'd solve a hell of a lot more problems than just victim-blame.

    The good news is, it's not because people are insensitive assholes, it's because they're just...people.

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  47. Holly,

    I'm late to the party, but this is a great post, and it makes me think about some stuff I've learned relatively recently (in the last few years). You may already be familiar with the concept of "short term", "medium term", and "long term" approaches -- the idea is that in order to deal with various social justice issues, one needs to employ all three.

    In the case of, say, AIDS in Africa, examples might include:

    Short term: treat STIs, wag fingers.
    Medium term: encourage changing norms with peer education.
    Long term: empower everyone.

    I think the problem you're running into here is one I've observed in a lot of social justice contexts, especially gender (because I'm much more obsessed with gender), viz: sometimes it is crazy hard to ensure that short-term approaches are compatible with long-term approaches. For example, I saw an ad campaign in Africa that tried to encourage men to use condoms by capitalizing on gross stereotypes of masculinity. Medium term campaign that I would argue might actually be harmful in the long term.

    I don't have anything incredibly brilliant to add to the debate that you haven't already thought of, as evidenced by your excellent post. But I am hoping that perhaps this framework might help organize your thoughts.

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  48. I think this posting ought to be printed out and delivered personally by volunteers to all state and federal elected officials. (The volunteers would not leave the official's office until he'd read it and put his signature at the bottom of the page stating that he or she had read it).

    Men are taught that it's in their nature to take whatever they can get when it comes to sex.

    Actually, no. I once visited a woman who would have gladly taken me right then and there. Tempted as I was, I realized that she had some very serious emotional issues, ones which didn't surface while our friendship was still platonic. So, with a heavy heart, I refused her advances, knowing that I'd probably spared the both of us a lot of drama and pain.

    I agree with you 500% about rape not even counting as sex. But this just in: single people of both sexes like to deliberately and intentionally go out and meet like-minded people solely for the purpose of getting together and having "no-strings-attached" sex because even so-called "casual" sex fulfills physical and emotional needs that one's hands or a vibrator cannot.

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    Replies
    1. That's because you are a decent guy, by the sounds of it. Some guys... really, truly aren't even half as decent as you seem.

      And... that last paragraph... what? That... what...? I'm not following your logic here...

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  49. Hi Holly,

    Can you give another link for the PSA? It has been deleted and I don't even know the name to look for it.

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  50. @Anonymous: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ugTeOz7rsgE

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