White Coat Underground

Hey, guys, this one is for you

Sexual violence is a huge problem in the US.  Among college-age women, for example, 20-25% report an attempted or completed rape while in college.  Assault itself is prevalent enough to constitute a major public health problem, but add to that the sequelae—STIs, PTSD, fear, etc.—and sexual assault isn’t just a major public health problem; it’s one of our most common and devastating public health problems.

Given that most perpetrators of sexual violence are men, we have a target population for prevention.  Now, some might argue that focusing on preventing sexual violence by educating men is the wrong approach.  After all, why not teach women how not to get raped.  Right?

This common argument is one of the reasons we men need education.  So let’s take a few minutes, guys, and go over a few things, things I’ve spent a lot of time trying to learn and to understand.

The famously profane blogger Physioprof has a terrific post up. In his piece, PP describes receiving criticism from a colleague:

My immediate reaction to his e-mail was, “Fuck you! These specific aims kick fucking ass! And what the fuck do you know, anyway?” This is everyone’s immediate reaction to substantial accurate criticism. Having experienced this a fuckthousand kajillion times, it took me only about 100 milliseconds to sack the fuck up and feel extremely grateful for his penetrating insights. (emphasis mine)

This sort of reaction to criticism really resonated with me, as I’m guilty of similar reactions; I work hard to get past my own love for my strongly held opinions. I don’t always succeed, but I try to learn from people who know more than I do.  

When our attachment to our own biases actually harms others, we have a special responsibility to work toward breaking down our walls of ignorance, walls that are often built of our own needs and our own privilege.

This was made especially clear to me in Dr Isis’ recent post about sexual assault.  In the comment section, there was a predictable response from many (male) commenters who became very defensive (and often offensive).  I read many of the non-offensive commenters carefully, trying to learn.  It can be very difficult as a man to understand the sense of threat or fear experienced by women in many situations, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.  How can we men begin to understand the important issues surrounding sexual violence, thereby helping to prevent it?

It is important to realize that it isn’t about your feelings as a man, but your behaviors as a man.  When a woman says, “that comment about my appearance made me uncomfortable,” that is not your cue to say, “I didn’t mean anything by it,” or “you shouldn’t be offended by my harmless act.”  This isn’t about your discomfort. It’s about a woman feeling uncomfortable and maybe threatened.  You have no way of intrinsically knowing if your own act is “harmless” or “non-threatening”.  For all you know, the woman who you just patted on the back and gave a complement to got the same treatment from her rapist last year.  In fact, many rape victims are forced to share the same environment with their rapists and might be a little suspicious of an “innocent” glance or touch.  

But all of this is a bit too specific.  The point is, men need to man-up.  We need to take responsibility for sexual violence.  Women, who make up the majority of sexual assault victims/survivors, are not responsible for our behavior—we are.  If you say and do things that make a woman uncomfortable, this is not the time for you to hone your debate skills. You don’t get to decide if a woman feels threatened.  You just need to stop, and do better next time.

Comments

  1. #1 Maureen Lycaon
    March 3, 2010

    Well-put!

  2. #2 Rev Matt
    March 3, 2010

    Damned straight. Once you can step back and say “OK, this isn’t necessarily* an attack on me as a person, but a reaction to the way I said or did something. What can I learn from this? Maybe I should listen to the person I’ve upset.” You’re on the right path.

    *I say it this way because there’s always the possibility that it *IS* in fact an attack on you as a person either because the person you’ve upset believes they have cause to think you’re a predator or because you are in fact a predator.

  3. #3 badgersdaughter
    March 3, 2010

    This is a true post. I am a woman, and I try too hard to be fair. That means that sometimes I fail to protest when I need to, and I get run over… like the time an old boss at the company I worked for before my present job called me a “slut” because I was not willing to share information about my sex life with him, or to listen to him share his. (Why did he choose to call me that? He said I “must have something to hide.”) I thought I was handling the situation well simply by calmly telling him the subject was off limits, and that he couldn’t have meant to harass me, because I wasn’t attractive enough. But I should have raised holy hell with HR and got him charged with sexual harassment anyway. Now, I’ll give a male co-worker a lot of chances to learn to do better, but I do have a limit.

  4. #4 PalMD
    March 3, 2010

    BD, I’m so sorry that happened to you.

    But however you react is the right way to react. No one can tell you the right way except you.

    (I don’t think there is any need to give a male co-worker a lot of chances—they’ll take every one and ask for more).

  5. #5 Erin
    March 3, 2010

    I think self-defense is a useful tool for anyone, male or female, but to claim that the answer to sexual assault is to “fix” women is the equivalent of saying the way to combat racial intolerance is for blacks to look as white as possible. That’s not addressing the root of the problem and it does very little to forward public understanding of the issue.

  6. #6 Pen
    March 3, 2010

    This is more about men’s sexualised attitudes to women, but … one thing men often don’t think about is that women actually have lives. As a younger woman, I was often subject to wolf whistles, remarks, chat-ups, etc. Like most of us are. Boy did my tolerance for that drop the day: my grandfather died / I learned my mother had a brain tumour/ I was late with an important piece of work / I wasn’t sure how I was going to pay the rent or eat / I had a head cold / etc…. At such times I did not give a damn how I looked, and I wasn’t interested in the local sexually available men. Unfortunately some of them didn’t seem to have room in their imaginations for that fact.

    My advice to men is, consider whether you have a clue what is going on in that particular woman’s life before you assume your approaches, or even your casual remarks, will be welcome. If men could get this into their heads, I think there would be fewer problems with sexual violence.

  7. #7 PalMD
    March 3, 2010

    Thank you, Pen.

  8. #8 Erin
    March 3, 2010

    Also, I’ve noticed an odd phenomenon for any female on the internet. A friend of mine does a popular video review series, and the first comments she gets are always “I love how your hair looks!” or creepier “your breasts look great today”. Granted, it’s the internet, but I feel like many of these compliments are well-meaning but utterly ignorant of what that language means to any female. Certainly you don’t get males in the public spotlight getting compliments like “my, your penis sure looks great today George!” Getting compliments about your appearance before the quality of your work, especially when the focus of those comments is on sexualized parts of you, is extremely disconcerting. You wonder about your own self-worth and whether any interest in your work is about what you do, or only what you look like.

  9. #9 Akheloios
    March 3, 2010

    I’m a tall, well built man, and one day I was walking home, late at night, exiting a wooded area into a relatively high density suburban area. A council estate for those form the UK. I turned onto a new street, and a few yards, maybe 30 yards, was a woman walking ahead of me. I didn’t give it any mind, my house was in sight, and I’d soon be home and tucked up in bed.

    The woman however kept looking over her shoulder, made sure to walk into the bright patches of light under street lamps. All behaviour that confused me, until I realised that she was scared, of me. I’d come up from a wooded area, alone, in the middle of the night and come upon her alone, without anyone else around.

    I was terrifying her, the chance convergence of events had put me in the position of possible rapist/mugger/murderer.

    Now, we can talk about the relative risk of being a victim of crime, and how it was statistically unlikely that I would be a danger to her.

    That didn’t matter though, I was a possible threat, and she behaved in a completely understandable manner. I could have felt insulted that a woman had made such a snap judgement about me, I could call her reaction stupid, or accuse her of being hysterical. But that night I, for a short time, understood, slightly, as an observer, what it can be like for someone in a vulnerable position to feel real fear.

    I’m not sure what I could have done differently in the situation, I might have stopped, but I’m not sure anything I could have done wouldn’t have seemed suspicious.

    But one thing I haven’t done since, is blame women for being afraid or dismiss their fear as silly, or weak. I caused that type of fear myself, by a simple accident of two people’s paths converging, and saw how upset it made someone.

    Possibly my walking behind her, safely, without attacking her reassured her somewhat in the future, I just don’t, and can’t know.

  10. #10 Tony W.
    March 3, 2010

    Maybe this is common knowledge among women, but if not…

    My wife worked at a domestic violence shelter as an advocate for 3 years, so I ended up learning a bit about the pattern of domestic violence, which may include sexual violence as a component.

    What usually happens is the man will in the early phases of the relationship be very sweet, very romantic and usually won’t show any signs of the abuse to come.

    The next phase is to start cutting the woman off from any support systems she might have, whether they be friends, family, co-workers, economic, etc… The abuse usually doesn’t start in earnest until the abuser has severed these ties. The goal is utter dependence on the abuser.

    After the dependence is established is when it will get bad, really bad.

    It’s frighteningly sociopathic in how planned out it is. The abuser knows in order to perpetrate the abuse he needs to first win the woman then systematically make the woman totally dependent on him before he can reach his goal of abuse. The myth of domestic abuse is it’s a “crime of the moment”, but the patterns that exist before the abuse suggest otherwise — it’s completely premeditated.

    Know the pattern ladies because it’s not going to start with the sort of rude sexual comments and such that would prevent the initial ensnarement, it’s going to start with what you think is a really sweet guy that you can’t believe is so nice to you. If you notice a he is trying to cut off your ties to friends and family, get you in an economic situation where you’re dependent on him or if his sweet nature changes, you start to see the anger, this is when you run like hell.

  11. #11 Katherine
    March 3, 2010

    Thanks, Tony W, for implying that it is our responsibility to stop ourselves from being abused. Thank you for also condescendingly calling us ladies, and assuming that this pattern, and indeed all domestic abuse, only occurs against women (homosexual couples have the same rate of domestic violence as heterosexual).

    I wish you’d realise that perhaps it isn’t all that obvious to the person involved at the time, as it is very easy to blow off any particular incident as “oh he was just under stress that day” or some other such reason. It is very easy to say “oh well that friend of mine always winds him up, I should avoid that friend in future”. Until there is a pattern of abuse emerging, it is very easy to give your partner the benefit of the doubt. And by the time a pattern has emerged, it is very easy for outsiders (who have done nothing to discourage the view that it is ok for people to lash out physically or verbally when stressed) to say “but why didn’t you notice him abusing you earlier”?

  12. #12 Katherine
    March 3, 2010

    Thanks, PalMD, for bringing up the issue of PREVENTING domestic violence by changing potential perpetrators’ views and behaviours.

  13. #13 PalMD
    March 3, 2010

    @Tony
    I appreciate your recognition of one of the patterns of violence against women. I while I think I understand the sentiment behind the “know the pattern ladies” bit, really what I’m shooting for here is that MEN learn to recognize the pattern—not just in other men, but also in themselves.

    This is not meant as a personal attack against you—this is the whole point of the post–to recognize your own shit and not put it off onto others.

  14. #14 Zuska
    March 3, 2010

    I find very valuable the link that Pal has drawn between responding to criticism in the scientific arena vs. the personal. We are all taught that dealing with vigorous criticism is an integral part of doing science, and PP’s comments as quoted by Pal perfectly illustrate the process one has to go through in setting one’s personal feelings aside, to realize it isn’t personal, it’s about the learning to do better (science). Perhaps our male colleagues in science can think of this as a transferable skill, something they already have available that would be of use to them in personal interactions. If they can stand up at a conference and deliver a talk and survive the Q&A afterward, perhaps, just perhaps, they are equipped to not take it personally when a colleague criticizes their interpersonal interactions in the workplace.

    Of course, this does require some adjustment of expectations. They go into the conference expecting to receive some criticism. Many of them, on the other hand, seem to assume that their female colleagues’ bodies have been scattered about the labs here and there like so much pottery or houseplants, to enliven the scenery, provide restful vistas for the male eyes, and offer occasions for “clever” small talk. Hearing the voice of a female colleague protest a “compliment” may be as surprising to them as having a ficus plant suddenly speak up about its grievances.

  15. #15 Akheloios
    March 3, 2010

    “I think I understand the sentiment behind the “know the pattern ladies” bit, really what I’m shooting for here is that MEN learn to recognize the pattern—not just in other men, but also in themselves.”

    Tony W. has a valid point about sociopathy in men, and it’s manifestations in relationships. However, sociopathy is still very rare in populations. It’s much more likely to be an individual in a position of dominance abusing that position, rather than a planned campaign of social ostracism and abuse.

    I’m an Anarchist, and believe any power, responsibility, or authority should and must be earned, demonstrating that such power is required before being it is allowed to be exercised. Doctors, such as PalMD, have authority and responsibility due to years of education, and are still subject to strict controls by rigorous medical ethical standards.

    Unless prior consent by all parties is secured in a sexual situation, meaning only ‘yes means yes’, any sexual advances by any party (I’m gay, so it works for me if I’m prepositioned by another male or I preposition a male myself) should never advance any further than previously negotiated boundaries without explicit consent.

    As a species we’re already conscious at an academic level of r/K selection theory and it’s implications, and should educate our children that unsolicited advances are both an abuse of privilege and fundamentally immoral.

  16. #16 ginger
    March 3, 2010

    Thank you very much, PalMD – I rely on you for a balanced, sane perspective on the hot-topic stuff, and you’ve come through for me again. Thank you.

  17. #17 Isis the Scientist
    March 3, 2010

    Thank you, Pal.

  18. Thank you, Pal.

    As a survivor of abuse (domestic and sexual, same perpetrator in both cases.), I wish someone, ANYONE, had shown me just what my ex was doing. The grooming techniques differ from abuser to abuser, but Tony W. got the general pattern dead right. It starts with a pedestal, treating you like a goddess, making sure you’re comfortable with him, so you don’t notice, or just brush it off when “he’s having a bad day” or he’s “under stress” and gets verbally abusive. You think he’s only “looking out for you” when he decides who you can and can’t associate with, and your friends? Most of them say, “well, fuck you, too” and go on with their lives. All too few will stick by you, and try to help you. And when they do, well, HE gets upset and asserts more control. I couldn’t even have dinner with my parents without answering to the Spanish Inquisition! It’s not long after that, when you continue to assert your individuality, and your independence, that the violence starts. Disagree, and get slapped or kicked. Dare to say, “not tonight, I have a headache,” you get raped. “I don’t like anal sex,” is just an invitation to an ass-raping. Literally.

    And MEN have the fucking NERVE to wonder why we react with fear and distrust, when they make a “friendly” comment, or compliment us on our looks, or touch us — even innocently — unexpectedly!

    My greatest FEAR is now that I will be subject to another male’s unwanted attention, that I will be controlled, again. That, as lucky as I’ve been, I will end up dead, this time.

    I could barely hug my own Dad, because this ASSHOLE beat me down. I STILL end up shaking in fear when he gets upset, even if it’s not at me or something I did. And I can’t handle people standing directly behind me, or lurking over my shoulder — it’s something HE did, to “protect” me.

    And I still have nightmares where my ex comes back for me….

    So… Thank you, again, Pal, for pointing out that the problem of rape, of domestic violence, of all violence against women, is entirely on MEN to fix.

    Now, if only more men had the balls to admit they’re part of the problem….

  19. #19 Meat Robot
    March 3, 2010

    Something about this column and the responses doesn’t ring true. I’m always wary of broadly assigning any psychological property, good or bad, to an entire set of human beings arbitrarily.

    It seems to me that sexual and domestic abuse are fundamentally *human* problems, and all persons, regardless of gender, need to stand up *for* themselves and perhaps more crucially, stand up *to* themselves rather than letting their inappropriate actions slide by or remain minimized.

    The column, as written, seems somewhat like berating the people who showed up on time for the seminar because of the people who are absent or late. In other words, those capable of absorbing this advice are unlikely to need it, while those whose behaviours are egregious are unlikely either to read or heed.

  20. #20 leigh
    March 3, 2010

    thank you, Pal.

    another thing which may be helpful is recognition and discussion among friends. we are, like it or not, quite influenced by our peers and their opinions of us. i think if men examined their own attitudes, and observed the attitudes of others, and went so far as to *say something* to their friends and colleagues who might need to re-think theirs… perhaps that would be influential, too. creating an environment of safety and equality comes from the sum of many individual actions.

  21. #21 Mike
    March 3, 2010

    I am an assistant professor in the animal science/veterinarian medicine field. In my science classes, females make up 80 to 100% of the students. Based on the various settings, appropriate dress is important. for example, the safety protocols for working with farm animals requires that the students where long pants, long skirts and closed toed shoes. That means for every lab I must check this on each student. I feel very uncomfortable checking the legs and feet of the female students, yet I must. I would gladly take any suggestions on how to do this in a way that does not create problems for the females in my classes.

    On another issues, as a grad student, my dress was less than professional and did not properly match the various environments I was in. I had a mentor professor who bugged me about this, explained his reasoning and also complemented me when I was dressed appropriately or well. I found this mentoring to be very valuable and helpful for securing my current position. Based upon comments at Isis, if I were to mentor my males students as I was mentored, it would be acceptable. However, it would not be acceptable to mentor my female students as I was mentored. Is that the take home message that I must withold mentoring to my females students?

  22. #22 george.w
    March 3, 2010

    It’s hard to understand why law enforcement officers tolerate crooked cops in their ranks, who make the job harder by destroying the trust cops need from people. Equally mysterious why politicians run from strong ethics rules, since crooked pols undermine their position as well.

    So why do men tolerate abusive men? If you’ve ever chafed at being lumped into a category with rapists, it’s a reminder not to tolerate, not to encourage, not to accept harassing, leering or threatening behavior by other men. And to listen really carefully when someone calls you on your own behavior. Your balls won’t drop off if you cool it long enough to understand what someone’s on about.

    Stereotyping is wrong when women do it, sure, as when men or any other group. But even the worst negative stereotypes have their basis in live individuals who are tolerated and even encouraged by their identity group. As Gavin DeBecker says; men are afraid women will laugh at them, but women are afraid men will kill them.

  23. #23 Akheloios
    March 3, 2010

    “So why do men tolerate abusive men? If you’ve ever chafed at being lumped into a category with rapists, it’s a reminder not to tolerate, not to encourage, not to accept harassing, leering or threatening behavior by other men”

    Indeed, men should not tolerate abusive men. It’s an abuse of power, whether from political, social or physical power. Relationships should be considered only from positions of equality.

    Any person, no matter who they are, who takes part in a sexual exchange without the explicit permission of the other party(s) should be charged with and found guilty of rape.

    This means that if you are alone with someone intoxicated (unable to give proper and considered consent) by drugs or alcohol and have sexual relations with them, you are guilty or rape. This is the minimum standard.

  24. #24 anna
    March 3, 2010

    The best part of this column is the exhortation to men to stop and think a minute before judging a woman’s response to their actions/words. So much of our daily interaction is based on sexist holdovers that we think of as “politeness”, when in reality the new definition of these behaviours is “harassment” or “objectification”.

    The truth is that most men have not had the same experience of assault and sexual threat that women have had, statistically, and the burden is upon the men to prove themselves above the possibility of these events occurring. Yes, it takes work, and yes your feelings may be hurt, but as someone else pointed out before, comments about appearance are frequently preludes to abuse, and women may rightly panic. Enough of us have been raped and abused to make this a normal reaction to the most delusionally innocent remark from a man.

  25. #25 Nathan Myers
    March 3, 2010

    I have no advice to offer about how to be less threatening or to avoid threats, but I can offer this: if you see somebody threatening somebody else in a public place, use your camera phone to take a picture of the participants. It might be useful later. More importantly, for the participants to know that might be useful immediately.

  26. #26 History Punk
    March 4, 2010

    “Thanks, Tony W, for implying that it is our responsibility to stop ourselves from being abused. Thank you for also condescendingly calling us ladies, and assuming that this pattern, and indeed all domestic abuse, only occurs against women (homosexual couples have the same rate of domestic violence as heterosexual).”

    Shockingly Katherine, you actually have to take some personal fucking responsibility for personal safety rather than whine for a utopia where bad people realize that they are bad and decide to go good instead.

    For example, when I go to work in a nasty neighborhood, I have to options. I can do what you do, and whine whenever someone brings up the threat of violence and the need for self-protection, or I can carry a MP flashlight and demonstrate to the rabble that I’ll use it self-defense.

    Now, I am not that bright. I am learning-disabled and I was dense enough to enlist in the military despite having a free-ride to college. So, my decision might have been wrong. But, I recognized the signs that someone might be targeting me for a mugging or worse. When confronted by that individual, I tonked (*) him with my flashlight. I took his knife as my trophy and mocked them on my old blog. Guess what, nobody in that area fucks with me. I am safe because I took personal responsiblity for my safety rather than whine when someone made the suggestion that I might be at risk of harm and would need to protect myself. But I am sure your method works just as well.

    (*) Tonked is Border Patrol slang for the sound a military-style flashlight makes when you crack someone’s skull with it. More generally, it means to whack someone with one of the flashlights.

  27. #27 ginger
    March 4, 2010

    Mike the DVM, comment 21 – I’m going to assume that you really are asking for guidance, not just griping. So, for the safety onceover – just look down at the region between the knees and toes as rapidly as possible. It shouldn’t take more than a half-second to tell whether people are wearing pants and closed-toe shoes. If you don’t linger, if you don’t grin, if you don’t leer, you’ll be fine. A glance is all it takes.

    As to commentary. Well, nobody is really allowed to deal with matters of taste – it’s tricky even with friends and family, and superiors are doomed from the start. But you can certainly say, “We are professionals, and in the office I wear a coat, tie, and slacks; I expect you to dress to that standard when you have an office practicum (or whatever the situation is).” If you’re asked for more specifics, explain “office daywear – blouses and slacks, daytime dresses, closed-toed low-heeled dress shoes.”

    Beyond that I don’t think you can do that much. You will probably have someone show up in something too tight, which can’t really be helped. You really can’t say anything about makeup, either. Honestly, though, neither can a female mentor unless she’s specifically asked.

  28. #28 skeptifem
    March 4, 2010

    Well, you end up living in a weird unwinnable dichotomy when it comes to behavior as a woman in this situation, just like most others. The expectation that women treat every dude as a potential rapist is directly in conflict with the idea that they should be polite to everyone, too. If you don’t treat every guy like a potential rapist and you are raped, it will be brought up at your trial as proof that you wanted to be raped or were a slut, etc. If you are not disgustingly pleasant to dudes at all time your feminine lady card gets revoked, and you get shoved into unlikable/defective territory. Being married and staying home isn’t a defense either, because the idea that marriage is NOT constant consent on the part of women is very new to the law and the public as well. The psychological freak out that dudes experience when they imagine the possibility of prison because of prison rape is a good way to get a handle on the world of women. Before anyone dismisses that comparison as extreme, please look into the conviction rates for rape (sits around 5%), and that is just for the reported ones. Women have to pay for their rape kits in more places than alaska, and the kit might just sit around in a lab until they expire like thousands did in california. We all saw what happened to women who accused famous men of rape; or how the military gives rape victims a handbook on how to deal with being raped instead of investigating or charging their rapist (colorado airforce academy). We hear aquittals based on the kind of pants a woman was wearing. The reality we live with is that we are at the mercy of dudes and if they decide to rape us there is not much of a chance that anything will be done about it, in fact, it will reflect poorly on our character. But god help you if you ask men to help out with it. When you are born into a situation like this you just kind of take it for granted that not everyone walks around in this state of fear all the time, so asking for help doesn’t happen too much anyway. Unless you decide to be a permanent virgin who never drinks or dates anyone or walk alone someone will blame you for your rape. And we are expected to lighten up about the increasing frequency of jokes involving rape in popular culture.

    What everyone needs to learn about is a new vision of consent. One where consent is enthusiastically given. Currently consent is something women are said to give by default, they have to revoke consent in order for it to not be present. This doesn’t seem to apply to any other situation where consent is needed for a two or more person activity. This should be a part of sex education in schools. Media is saturated with the latter kind of consent, where sex is a thing that men must try to get out of women, where gaining sex is seen as some kind of victory in a group. Fooling women into sleeping with men is common place in many tv shows and movies, as a joke, usually to illustrate either how clever the dude is or how stupid the woman is. A model of consent where people are performing an act together out of a common interest (hopefully pleasure) instead of sex being ‘done’ to women makes ‘grey’ rape an impossibility, it makes victim blaming impossible. Trying to trick someone into doing something that they would otherwise not want to do would be shown for the sickness it is. Hell, there is a whole friggin subculture dedicated to that right now, with a show on vh1 (“pick up artists”). Dudes who stand by and watch while their friends display misgynist attitudes about rape and women are feeding into the problem. The unfortunate truth is that misogynist men will take a guys word about sexism about 100 times more seriously than a woman’s. My nigel is far more into feminism than most dudes, and I have seen the meltdown when he assures other dudes that yes, he does genuinely agree with my perspective on sexism. They usually just brush me off as unimportant and reactionary, but when one of their own sees a problem serious disturbance seems to result. So thanks, Pal MD. This does help a lot.

    Jackson Katz is an excellent resource on critiquing masculinity and preventing violence. He rightly points out that men should get involved with this on behalf of men as well. Though women make up the majority of domestic violence and sexual assault victims, men make up the majority of those who are killed by male violence. The anti intellectual flavor of contemporary masculinity simply cannot be good for anyone, either.

    http://www.jacksonkatz.com/

  29. #29 skeptifem
    March 4, 2010

    “Shockingly Katherine, you actually have to take some personal fucking responsibility for personal safety rather than whine for a utopia where bad people realize that they are bad and decide to go good instead.

    For example, when I go to work in a nasty neighborhood, I have to options. I can do what you do, and whine whenever someone brings up the threat of violence and the need for self-protection, or I can carry a MP flashlight and demonstrate to the rabble that I’ll use it self-defense.

    You don’t know what the hell you are talking about. You don’t know what a common sense measure means in this situation. What people percieve women to be doing when they ‘contribute’ to being raped is nothing like what you have to do in a bad neighborhood. What the hell do you suggest to women who go on dates? Who are married? Our clothes, our words, smiling at a guy, having been a sex worker ever, having a beer, being married to a man, not being a virgin, being alone with a man, etc are all reasons that are used as justifications for rape. Without forking over all the freedoms women won through hard work and activism there is not any way for women to reasonably ‘take responsibility’ for being raped. Chances are the cops wouldn’t ask you if you were making a donation to the mugger if you called the police post mugging, either. And if there was a trial you wouldn’t have to sit up there and over and over again deny that you just like giving money away to strangers, people in your personal life who you gave to trotted out over and over again to demostrate how you just give it away and really can’t reasonably be stolen from, and that you were really asking for it somehow. If you really do not understand how the situations are different you have serious problems. Doesn’t it bother you that personal bodily autonomy is given less consideration than dollars in someone’s wallet?

  30. #30 History Punk
    March 4, 2010

    ” Chances are the cops wouldn’t ask you if you were making a donation to the mugger if you called the police post mugging, either.”

    Actually, when I was mugged, the police assumed I was there to purchase drugs and that I had been robbed in the process. They questioned me about my reason for being there after I opened up my place of employment with the keys my supervisor gave me and introduce them to a fellow employee. They questioned me if I was drinking. They asked me about my car. Since then, they’ve questioned me about my presence there on the assumption that as a young white male in a generally black neighborhood with a drug problem I was there to purchase narcotics or to purchase sexual services.

    My mother blamed me for working in the area. She declared that if I had a “better’ education, the harrassment, destruction of my car, and other crimes committed against me would not have happened. My friends blamed me. Random people I told my stories to blamed me.

    The almost universal response to my being assaulted was for people to tell me sacrifice my job and my freedom of movement and association. Except for the friend who gave me the flashlight and said “hit them and hit them with this.”

    P.S.

    Also, learn to fucking read. My comment was about taking responsibility (not taking responsibility for rape) for personal safety rather than whine whenever someone suggests that you should. If you keep making reading for understanding mistakes like that, someone is going mistake you for a member of the Palin family. I’ll let you pick which one.

  31. #31 The Gregarious Misanthrope
    March 4, 2010

    PalMD,

    Thanks for posting this and inviting everyone in.

  32. #32 Katharine
    March 4, 2010

    Mike -

    Try looking at their feet and look for a hem.

  33. #33 madder
    March 4, 2010

    To PalMD’s comment at #4, I’d elaborate a little: the way someone reacts at the time was the right way to react, based on their feelings and assessment of the situation and the context that day. I’ve often seen people get stuck in a rut of second-guessing themselves well after the fact, and this can become counterproductive.

    If hindsight makes you wish you’d behaved differently, chalk it up to a learning experience and be better prepared for the next time– but don’t beat yourself up for making the “wrong” decision. The other person made the wrong decision (whether through malice or simple ignorance and thoughtlessness), not you.

  34. #34 Funky Fresh
    March 4, 2010

    PalMD,

    Thanks for posting this and inviting everyone in.

    Yeah, PalMD. Thanks for inviting everyone in as opposed to that bitch Isis who kept shutting up the d00ds.

  35. #35 PalMD
    March 4, 2010

    @FF,

    those d00ds needed some shutting up. And I’m fairly certain History Punk needs to re-read this post and hers a few times before he says anything else, because right about now he looks like a raging, misogynistic asshole.

  36. NPR has a story up today about the misperception that many rapes on college campuses are just a one-time “bad decision.” This is a myth, and these predators exhibit the exact same behavior as repeat rapists. They use alcohol as a weapon instead of guns/knives.

    Talking to women about rape and sexual assault is like talking to women about miscarriage. There’s a tendency to blame the victim. Also, once you start asking around, an alarming percentage of women have experienced it.

    Thanks Pal.

  37. #37 Sharon Astyk
    March 4, 2010

    You know, Meat Robot, this is a particular peeve of mine, when people say “oh, yes, but domestic abuse/rape are human problems that happen to both genders.” In absolute terms, this is true – it is important to remember that male/female, female-female and male-male relationships can all have sexual and physical violence in them, and that women can abuse men. It is really important, actually, that we deal with male rape, because it is an under-reported crime. That said, however, there are statistical differences that mean that women and men simply have totally different experiences of the world of sexual and domestic violence. About 7% of men have been raped, as opposed to more than 3xs that of women. Women live in a world where rape is always a possibility in a way that men simply don’t.

    I think getting men to understand what the world looks like to women is a really important basic project in male education – grasping that most of us never fully have the luxury of not having at the back of our head the possibility is, I think, really startling to a lot of men. I once was out with a friend late at night, doing something I’d always wanted to do, but that I wouldn’t have been doing were I not with a guy friend, and I happened to say “you know, it is neat to get to do this, because I’d never do it alone.” He was really startled – the idea that I would have to constantly think “is this a safe option for me” was a really new idea to him.

    I’m glad PalMD is taking this up – particularly given the rise in domestic violence (including marital and partner rape) that has accompanied our economic instability. Thanks!

    Sharon

  38. #38 catgirl
    March 4, 2010

    Thank you so much for saying this. Men are perfectly capable of controlling themselves, and it’s insulting to men to assume that they have no control over their lust or aggression.

  39. #39 catgirl
    March 4, 2010

    What usually happens is the man will in the early phases of the relationship be very sweet, very romantic and usually won’t show any signs of the abuse to come.

    The next phase is to start cutting the woman off from any support systems she might have, whether they be friends, family, co-workers, economic, etc… The abuse usually doesn’t start in earnest until the abuser has severed these ties. The goal is utter dependence on the abuser.

    I think there’s a very important point here that a lot of people miss. Very often friends of the abuser or even strangers will come to the defense of abusers, and we always wonder why. Well, abusers usually start out by being manipulative. If an abuser can manage to convince his own partner to stick with him while he’s treating her so badly, then it’s probably very easy for him to convince acquaintances that he’s really a good guy. I’ve known two abusers who were like this. They’re really good at manipulating everyone around them. And it certainly works in their favor that people would rather believe others are good and not bad, so it’s not that hard to convince them.

  40. #40 Dacks
    March 4, 2010

    This story from All Things Considered is sobering:
    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=124052847
    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=124111931

    The article showed how unwilling we are as a society to deal with the problem of sexual abuse. In the telling, alcohol was used as an excuse – the woman was drunk when she was raped, and the rapist was labeled as an alcoholic. This is not the issue at hand! We must look at rape as the crime that it is, without discussing drunkenness, revealing clothing or any other irrelevant topics.

  41. #41 Dianne
    March 4, 2010

    What usually happens is the man will in the early phases of the relationship be very sweet, very romantic and usually won’t show any signs of the abuse to come.
    The next phase is to start cutting the woman off from any support systems she might have, whether they be friends, family, co-workers, economic, etc… The abuse usually doesn’t start in earnest until the abuser has severed these ties. The goal is utter dependence on the abuser.

    Part of the problem may be that this is how men are taught that they SHOULD behave. Look at “romance” novels or movies, if you can stand it. Men are forgiven in this context for stalking and harassing as long as they are “romantic” about it. (I remember a preview I saw once…sorry, don’t remember what movie it was, in which the “hero” was trying to woo the relucant protagonist by breaking into her apartment and leaving flowers. All the protagonist’s “friends” spent their time telling her how crazy she was to reject this wonderful man.)

    Then there’s the isolation. I’m sure many men justify it to themselves by saying that their “protecting” their loved one. Keeping her away from people who are bad for her, saving her the drudgery of having to have her own bank account or job, etc. How could that be bad?

    Finally, comes the end game. How do romantic movies end? With the heroine and hero together, happy and without conflict. Doesn’t this mean that once the man has “won” the pursuit, convinced the woman to belong to him, that she should agree to everything he wants? Consider the traditional language of marriage with its talk of people becoming “one flesh”. Do you expect your pancreas to suddenly start having opinions and arguing with you? One might be excused for becoming impatient if it did, right?

    In the end, there’s a lot of creepy imagery out there about how men are supposed to behave in a relationship. This is not to excuse bad behavior on the part of men, of course, but maybe looking at media influences could help at least some men understand where their unconscious patterns are coming from and make it a little easier to change them.

  42. #42 The Gregarious Misanthrope
    March 4, 2010

    I’ve often wondered about the psychology of men who commit sexual assault. What percent are repeat offenders? Is there any common thread to their upbringing? Can you raise a rapist? I imagine you probably can.

    Anthropologist Underground had some info from the NPR story, but I still wonder if some guys end up committing a sexual assault without planning to ahead of time. If such a thing occurs, perhaps a part of sexual education could be for guys to understand the circumstances under which sexual assaults occur (if there is sufficient commanality) and maybe be able to recognize when they are headed down that road. More importantly, the guy’s friends should be able to recognize what it is going on and intervene. This recognition may be helpful even for the guys around the sort of repeat offender mentioned in the NPR story.

    This last part would require a change in how young men view sex and the idea that having sex with lots of women is somehow laudable. This was mentioned above. If the sole goal of a bunch of guys is to get their buddies laid, then they are creating an environment where sexual assaults are likely. Think of your stereotypcial frat house image. (Not impugning all fraternities).

    Given how often alcohol and drugs are involved, perhaps the new rule should be that if you are too drunk to drive, then you are too drunk to have sex. Consent becomes difficult to give or understand clearly, plus you start forgetting important things like protection.

    Lastly, while most of us have probably gotten the “No means no” message, I think it needs to be extended to require an explicit “yes.” Otherwise, as seems to happen sometimes, silence is assumed to be consent. Another change in attitude and law required.

    It’s going to be a long journey.

  43. #43 Coriolis
    March 4, 2010

    History Punk, the whole point of trying to push for changes in society is so we don’t have “bad” neighborhoods where people need to depend on themselves for protection. There are places in this country (and far more outside of it) where you pretty much have to defend yourself in one way or another – but that’s a failure of that society. And for women, those danger zones are extended to a much wider set – which is again something that we should be trying to fix.

    Of course as a practical matter the only thing one person can do on their own is to learn defend themselves better. But as a society our goal should be to stop having “bad” neighborhoods, rather then to try and teach everybody living there how to fight better.

    And I think Dianne really hit the nail on the head. Alot of actions that would be considered romantic between people who are actually interested in each other would be seen as creepy (if not worse) if there is no reciprocal interest. Of course this doesn’t apply to everything – i.e. from Dr. Isis’s recent example, I can’t imagine any woman would find a random guy stroking her hair to be anything other then assault.

  44. #44 History Punk
    March 4, 2010

    “Part of the problem may be that this is how men are taught that they SHOULD behave”

    Other than being really sweet in the beginning, men are rarely socialized now or ever to behave as you claim they are. Seriously, if I was to ask for a citation proving that men are socialized on a regular basis, “to start cutting the woman off from any support systems she might have, whether they be friends, family, co-workers, economic” would it to be a source from a remotely sane or competent source.

  45. #45 Dan
    March 4, 2010

    Most of this post made a lot of sense to me, Pal, good on ya. But there’s one thing I find a little puzzling.

    When a woman says, “that comment about my appearance made me uncomfortable,” that is not your cue to say, “I didn’t mean anything by it,”

    If I were to accidentally make a woman uncomfortable by something I said (although I hope I wouldn’t,) is it not entirely appropriate to assure her of your innocent intentions? I mean, obviously I should apologize and own up to it, but what’s wrong with saying, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean anything by it”?

  46. #46 catgirl
    March 4, 2010

    Dan, you can certainly explain yourself in that situation, if you do it in an understanding way, rather than brushing off the other person’s offense as trivial, unimportant, or over-reacting. You could say something like, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable. I never thought about it before, but I know I see why I should be more careful about doing that.” What you shouldn’t do is say something like “Oh, I didn’t mean anything by it so you should just get over it”.

  47. #47 The Gregarious Misanthrope
    March 4, 2010

    @FF

    I hope you weren’t trying to put words in my mouth. If you were implying that I was calling Isis a, well I won’t repeat it, then you are mistaken and I find the suggestion offensive.

  48. #48 NJ
    March 4, 2010

    Do you expect your pancreas to suddenly start having opinions and arguing with you?

    Apparently mine did. And damn those strips are expensive!

  49. #49 DiGz
    March 4, 2010

    Interesting point and something I spend a great deal thinking about myself. I reflect on my behaviour towards others, regardless of gender, and whilst my behaviour may come up lacking at times, reflections allows me to temper it.

    One thing I did want to point out is I am a man and I am a victim of abuse (physical and emotional) by a woman. Reading some of the comments above about the discrepancy between levels of abuse across genders was hard to take. If you’re abused, you’re abused and you need help. For me it was incredibly difficult to get help or be taken seriously because of the attitude that abuse of men by women is a rare, a non-issue (or worst still… a lie) and can, therefore, be dismissed. It gets even harder when dealing with the authorities. In fact, the whole system favours abuse against women (which I actually support because I do understand that the majority of physical abuse is against women and if there is going to be a bias it should be that way around) but it actually allowed my abuser to exploit the system against me and effectively enroll the state as an abuser. Again, I really don’t want to take away from PalMD’s point and I’m genuinely concerned about and sorry for the crap women have to deal with, but please don’t dismiss abuse against men. It’s real and just as painful.

    The other thing to bear in mind, is that my abuser was diagnosed with a mental illness called Borderline Personality Disorder. As I came to understand that, I realised that a great deal of abuse we see probably stems from that illness (estimates vary but as many as 1 in 16 folks may suffer from it) since the “Borderline” refers to the condition sitting on the border between neurosis and psychosis (there is a more nuanced understanding than that these days). That means that with all the best will in the world, folks can’t be convinced to change their behaviour through simple rationale, they need therapy, and in the case of BPD, years of it. And in fact, the worst thing you can do to a person with BPD is point out their inappropriate behaviour!

    Finally, emotional abuse is as bad as physical abuse but far harder to track and quantify. It’s possible that if emotional abuse was easier to measure the gap between men and women abusing each other would be lower, particularly taking into light something like BPD, which affects both genders (actually, there is a supposedly higher occurrence in women but there are mitigating factors, e.g., women are more likely to seek treatment than men).

  50. #50 anna
    March 4, 2010

    @History Punk #44

    The point you are misreading, again, is not that men are socialized to follow the steps of a typical abuser. The earlier post was merely outlining that behaviour pattern in classic abusers. What was implied instead is the socialization of men vis a vis acts of stalkerish behaviour disguised as “passion” and “devotion”, under the construct of women being prizes to win and then own.

    Why are you arguing the concept of men needing to accept the reality of their roles as preventers of abuse?

  51. #51 The Gregarious Misanthrope
    March 4, 2010

    @DiGz

    Your commentary hits home with me. My brother was in a similar situation. We lived in different parts of the country so I didn’t see him that much. When I called him (not that often) there was invariably some drama and he had to cut the call short.

    Unfortunately my reaction was to call less thinking that I’d spare him some wrath. I probably only succeeded in allowing her to cut him off from family like the scenario Tony W. outlined.

    It wasn’t until after the divorce that he revealed he had been physically abused. In one instance she kicked him square in the crotch while he was holding their baby boy in his arms.

    I suppose it is incumbent on all of us to watch for these signs in our own lives and in those of our friends and families. What a lonely and terrible thing it must be to be cut off from friends and family and to suffer that sort of abuse.

    Sorry, bro, I let you down.

  52. #52 Calli Arcale
    March 4, 2010

    Dan @ 45:

    If I were to accidentally make a woman uncomfortable by something I said (although I hope I wouldn’t,) is it not entirely appropriate to assure her of your innocent intentions? I mean, obviously I should apologize and own up to it, but what’s wrong with saying, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean anything by it”?

    Well, as a woman who hasn’t had to deal with much sexual assault in her life, I can say “I didn’t mean anything by it” is a bit of a minefield. Also, back off too quickly, and she’ll think you’re just trying to conform to her expectations, which is suspicious.

    It is certainly appropriate to explain yourself when you’ve been misunderstood. Just don’t overdo it. ;-) If it was meant just as a pleasantry, a sincere “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend” followed by a change of subject should be effective.

    Pal’s original post alluded to the tendency to sometimes focus on how women can avoid rape. (Oddly, we rarely focus on teaching *men* to avoid rape. We seem to prefer pretending it doesn’t happen, or that what does happen is so mild that men, who are tough, are not bothered by it. Men are victims of sexual assault, and their abusers are not always women. I suspect that most of the time that men are sexually abused, it’s by other men — and mainly heterosexual men at that. But I don’t have numbers to back that up. It’s a hunch, really, based on hazing rituals and such.) There is some wisdom in the defensive strategy — I can’t control any man’s behavior, but I can control my own, and that may give me opportunities to recognize hostile intent before it is too late. But that’s just about me. If we want to stop rape for all women (and men), then Pal is right — we need to focus on the rapists.

    Still, the mere logic of the defensive strategy is what has given rise to many of our species’ rules that women must observe. The rules oppress women, but they were created with the idea of protecting them. (This may be reflective of the way a lot of abusers actually believe they are doing right by their wives. They think they’re protecting them, and that they deserve the wife’s loyalty, service, and sex in return.) It is why women in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to go out without a male escort — his function is to protect her against rapists, which apparently the authorities of that nation must believe lurk everywhere. The chador and the burka fill the same roll — by concealing the woman, they make her less desirable. In theory; in practice, men who grow up thinking of a woman as a walking tent simply become attracted to walking tents. They know what’s inside the garment. They’re not stupid. Same for making women wear soft shoes and not speak; if they are not heard, they are less likely to draw the attention of a rapist. Child marriage is also intended to avoid rape; get the girl married before she draws the attention of rapists, so she will be under a husband’s protection.

    There are more extreme examples. Though the practice is thankfully dying out, in some remote parts of Cameroon, there is the practice of breast-ironing. Mothers iron the chests of their pubescent daughters to give them a flatter chest. This radical (and painful, and potentially deadly) cosmetic procedure is not intended to make them more appealing to men. It’s to make them *less* appealing, and thereby reduce rape. Even female genital mutilation is sometimes driven by a desire to prevent rape, by making it physically more difficult. (Apparently, the practitioners are willing to accept the obvious price paid in terms of relations with the husband.)

    The worst part is that none of these methods really work, for the same reason that a man is probably more likely to be assaulted by a straight man than a gay man — it’s almost never because the rapist is attracted to you. Either the rapist wants to humiliate you, or the rapist just wants to get off, in which case you’re little more than a blow-up doll.

    Individual women can take self-defense classes, keep aware of their surroundings, learn to spot an abusive relationship in the early stages, avoid sending mixed signals to dangerous people, etc. But in the end, these are reactive strategies, and only marginally effective. If we really want to end rape, we need *proactive* strategies, and that means somehow preventing people (male and female, gay and straight) from becoming rapists in the first place. There will always be failures, but we can seek to improve. Men who committed martial rape (rape as a military strategy) learn not to do that anymore; clearly if they can learn, any sane person can learn. And I think it’s very true that where this lies in our society is in condemning the attitudes that keep people from taking rapes seriously.

  53. #53 PalMD
    March 4, 2010

    If I were to accidentally make a woman uncomfortable by something I said (although I hope I wouldn’t,) is it not entirely appropriate to assure her of your innocent intentions? I mean, obviously I should apologize and own up to it, but what’s wrong with saying, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean anything by it”?

    I don’t know “the” answer to that, but a question to ask yourself is “what is the purpose of my explanation? Is it to make myself feel better or to make the other person feel better?”

  54. #54 History Punk
    March 4, 2010

    “Oddly, we rarely focus on teaching *men* to avoid rape. We seem to prefer pretending it doesn’t happen”

    If American culture has taught us anything, it’s that if you want to avoid being raped as a guy, you don’t to go prison.

    “Why are you arguing the concept of men needing to accept the reality of their roles as preventers of abuse?”

    I have zero problem with men being obligated even legally to stop violence. Hell, I am a fan over zealous beat downs and going back to the the death penalty for sex offenses like we did in colonial era. I also recognize that men lecturing, admonishing, and hectoring other men about their boorish and even proto-criminal behavior is not going to stop all men. Since pre-emptive viligante violence is frowned upon in America, women are thus obligated, like men, to some measure of personal responsbility for their safety. Now, perhaps in a GMO Utopia where all violent impulses are screened out, this won’t be necessary.

  55. #55 History Punk
    March 4, 2010

    “Still, the mere logic of the defensive strategy is what has given rise to many of our species’ rules that women must observe. ”

    Defensive strategies are a product of a world less ideal than we would like. In a perfect world, we would be able to conduct ourselves freely without regard to what others thought unless there was a risk of harm. In the real world, however, I have to evade crack addicts lusting for their next fix, alcoholics in varying stages of rage spoiling for a fight, and a dirty old man who eyes my ass as a scabard for his penis. Since Baltimore City police are legendary for their inability to bring about anything resembling law and order, I have to take defense measures and even concoct defense strategies to avoid harm. To do otherwise is to invite harm and victim blaming.

  56. #56 History Punk
    March 4, 2010

    “he looks like a raging, misogynistic asshole.”

    You would think that years of loyal service and a significant injury or two while serving in the greatest advancer of women’s rights in twenty-years (the USAF)* would serve to shield you from obtuse and barely informed allegations of misogyny.

    * The USAF provided most of the firepower for the operations that ended the Bosnian War, the conflict in Kosovo, and the operation that dispatched the Taliban. Hell, if the USAF had been listened to when it supported operations in Croatia in 1991, there might have been no rape camps in Bosnia and no rape as a tool of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo.

  57. #57 Vicki
    March 4, 2010

    And if you want to avoid going to prison, don’t be poor or non-white.

    In other words, that “how to avoid being raped” works about as well for men as the advice given to women on avoiding rape works for us. Maybe we should stop practicing and teaching that rape is not an unfortunate risk of imprisonment, but part of how the prison system is supposed to work. Just as men aren’t entitled to women’s bodies, they aren’t entitled to other men’s, even if the other men are prisoners.

    Also, if we want to improve the real world, we have to avoid being fooled by a claimed distinction between “utopia” and “the real world,” where “the real world” often means the worst aspects of that and any significant improvement is “utopia.” But this system I’m typing on is “utopian” by that standard. That most of us are still alive can be called “utopian.”

  58. #58 PalMD
    March 4, 2010

    HP, I think the point here was for self-reflection. The good you and I have and have not done in the past is largely irrelevant to the people we will encounter today and tomorrow. Previous good acts, or associations with them, do not, as you know, shield you from anything. It is a non sequitur.

    I do not claim that it is easy to man-up to the misogyny that you and I help perpetuate every day. It’s hard. But it’s worth doing.

  59. #59 Hipstermama
    March 4, 2010

    I just wanted to repy to Akheloios.

    Good post btw.

    When I was in graduate studies I had to walk home alone a lot late at night. One particular evening I was walking and noticed a man up ahead on the same side of the street walking towards me. I got very nervous with the thoughts in my head about my safety and whatnot. Then this man did something incredible which I will NEVER forget. He crossed to the other side of the street a couple of blocks ahead of me and waved. Once we were past each other I noticed he crossed the street again and carried on his way. I felt as if he understood my anxiety (although he couldn’t actually see it) and was trying to ease my stress.

    I have since told this to my step sons and when my own son is older I will inform him of this. This one small action on this one man’s part made me realize that the majority of men were not ‘out to get me’.

  60. #60 Jennifer B. Phillips
    March 4, 2010

    Individual women can take self-defense classes, keep aware of their surroundings, learn to spot an abusive relationship in the early stages, avoid sending mixed signals to dangerous people, etc. But in the end, these are reactive strategies, and only marginally effective.

    Excellent comment, Calli, and this bit is, for me, the most directly applicable to PalMD’s main message. Even if we made self defense and awareness strategies mandatory for all females over the age of 7, there would still be rapes. Most men will still be physically able to overpower most women, either through sheer brute force, the element of surprise, coercive threats (i.e. ‘I’ll hurt your children if you scream’) or some other means. While I certainly advocate teaching everyone the basics in self defense and personal safety, I worry that too much emphasis on this at the expense of educating society as a whole about sexual assault, may give some women a false sense of security and, even worse, an enhanced sense of guilt or failure when they are assaulted in spite of this training.

    When I was 19, a man broke into my home in the wee hours of the morning and attacked me. I was strong, fit, and had my wits about me, more or less, but I was caught by surprise and completely overpowered. I will never, ever forget the feeling of being physically dominated against my will. I was, physically at least, completely at his mercy. I wasn’t raped, but only just barely not, due just as much to the well-timed arrival home of one of my housemates as to my ability to talk my way out of an immediate and violent assault. Aside from a few bruises and shallow cuts, I had no physical injuries, but it took quite a while to work through the psychological effects, and it did not take me long to realize that this was going to be a solitary process. Most of my friends were brimming over with what they evidently considered helpful post hoc advice about “what I should have done”. My mother told me I made an easy victim because I didn’t “carry myself confidently”. I was in my own freaking home, in bed, but most of my ‘support system’ gave me the distinct message that I was at least partly culpable, i.e. that the responsibility was largely on me, even in these circumstances, to not be raped.

    This was over 20 years ago, but I don’t see that the burden of responsibility has shifted in any meaningful way. Sexual assault is not just a ‘women’s problem’–it’s society’s problem.

  61. #61 anna
    March 4, 2010

    @History Punk “women are thus obligated, like men, to some measure of personal responsbility for their safety.”

    So essentially you are now mansplaining to women something that has been pointed out to you ad nauseam, that is, that women already DO live in fear and apprehension, every moment alone a potential crime scene. You think we DONT look out for our safety? Where do you get off with that? As if the woman isn’t armed to the teeth she bears the fault of the rape? That’s the outcome of your assertion.

    Besides, I essentially don’t agree. The onus of the burden on society and men is to discourage and prevent rape, to eliminate the implied consent mindset, not to insist we equally share the burden of prevention lest we bring the blame on ourselves.

    Can someone get this guy to actually read the posts? Especially Zuska’s and Dianne’s.
    Maybe mansplain it to him?

  62. #62 History Punk
    March 4, 2010

    Anna, the technical term for what I have done is parrotting my ex-girlfriend’s positions on the matter.

    Of course, now Anna recognize the error of my ways. My girlfriend was a Bosnian Muslim, so clearly her attitudes toward the matter cannot be trusted in light of beliefs of feminists from the superior Western, Judeo-Christian tradition. For listening to her, I apologize. I promise to alert her to the correct i.e. your position.

  63. #63 PalMD
    March 4, 2010

    Dude, are you planning on fucking KILLING us with non sequiturs?

  64. #64 History Punk
    March 4, 2010

    “I do not claim that it is easy to man-up to the misogyny that you and I help perpetuate every day.”

    No shit because there’s no working definition that anyone can go by. It’s a label progressing toward the status the word fascist enjoys today which means “someone I disagree politically.” How can you work against something if that something has no fixed features or definition. To give an example, let’s take Playboy.

    According to one of the nice women who has been helping me with my thesis, magazines like Playboy are misogynistic. They objectify women, promote rape culture, and make them mere vessels for the sating the lust and reproductive agendas of men.

    My ex-girlfriend would tell you (and I quote) “That’s fuck your mother kind of stupid.” She’s Bosnian. They like to swear. A lot. Her view is that porno needs to be judge on an individual basis by its content. Violent, particularly rape pornography, is misogynistic. Playboy and similar magazines like Maxim, FHM, and Stuff to list a few are not. They are showcases of the pinnacles of specific constructs of female beauty. She even reads them for their news content. Her opinion, based on things like labor law and the story of the Rome poet Horace, is that women who promote this idea are pretty idiots who have been conned by ugly women into hating themselves, sold a false consciousness if you would, or ugly women, who realizing their failings have opted to alter the race course and attempt to get people to value things that are their strengths.

    Now, pretend that this coming Christmas, I subscribe to Maxim as a gift to myself for being a good boy this year. Have I committed a misogynistic act?

    So PALMD, I understand your difficulty in combating the plague of misogyny. You have no criteria by which to make a diagnosis. You’re a situation analogous to colonial doctors. Even if we transported all the medical technology available today back to 1700, it would be little difference in mortality rates. A blood pressure cuff is little use in treating someone if you have no idea what high blood pressure is.

  65. #65 delurkly
    March 4, 2010

    “Anna, the technical term for what I have done is parrotting my ex-girlfriend’s positions on the matter.”

    To paraphrase: I’m not sexist! Some of my best friends are women! See?! I dated a woman and she agrees with me!!

    I’m afraid that I don’t give two dog’s balls whether or not your ex-girlfriend’s opinion was based on labor law or Horace. Her sources, whatever their quality, don’t make the opinions you’ve been spouting sound any less like horseshit. And though your many personal stories may add a lot of color and history to the shit you’re spouting, it doesn’t change the smell.

    To say that women do not take enough personal responsibility for their safety is completely ludicrous. The women I know worry CONSTANTLY about their safety and plan very carefully where they are going and who they are going with. Very few of them wander dark alleys (or wherever your colonial era imagination thinks they go) unless they have no choice.

    But here’s a shocker for you. Only a little more than 50% of the world population is women. And so women are still going to get raped and live in fear unless men can man the fuck up, realize what they and other men do that is threatening, and accept some goddamn criticism.

  66. #66 Geekoid
    March 4, 2010

    What? Why do I need to “man-up”? Some scum sucking asshole does something wrong, and now I am in the wrong simply because I am a man?

    “I didn’t mean anything by it,”

    That is usually the mans way of saying ‘Sorry, I didn’t realize I was making you uncomfortable, I didn’t mean to.’

    The area of what makes a person uncomfortable is very grey most of the times. In fact it often depends on the charisma of the person involved. The good looking well dressed highly charismatic guy can get a way with a lot more then the ‘creepy guy’ can.

    You can see that in any office all the time.

  67. #67 PalMD
    March 4, 2010

    Thanks for the word salad, geekoid.

  68. #68 Zuska
    March 4, 2010

    History Punk, this idea about taking responsibility for personal safety – that’s brilliant. I am going to pass along that golden nugget of wisdom to the 10-year-old here in the Philadelphia area who awoke in the middle of the night just a day or two ago and found a strange man looming over her bed, attempting to undress her so that he could rape her. Her 72-year-old female guardian was able to come to her rescue and wrestled the man out of the room but he knocked her down and went after the girl again. The older woman went after him again and bit him on the arm and finally he fled the house.

    That 10-year-old was really lax on the job of her personal safety by going to sleep in her own bed, when clearly she should have been hyper-vigilant for night intruders.

    Or maybe I will just pass along to her this quote from you, which could serve as the motto of mainsplainers and apologists for the oppressor the world over:

    Now, I am not that bright.

  69. #69 PalMD
    March 4, 2010

    Yo, Zuska, the dude’s Bosnian girlfriend totally gets that, but you know, not all rape victims are 10 or 72. Some are right in between and can totally handle firearms or learn jujitsu or avoid going out where the bad people are.

    Z, she’s Bosnian!

  70. #70 V. infernalis
    March 4, 2010

    Hmm. My comment didn’t make it through moderation yesterday- maybe it was the links?

    Anyway, I just wanted to point out that men aren’t the sole perpetrators – and women not the sole victims – of domestic and sexual violence. Domestic violence occurs in lesbian relationships, and women do assault their male partners.

    I’ll grant that the numbers are lower, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

  71. #71 ginger
    March 4, 2010

    History Punk, you are confusing me. As far as I can tell, this discussion is about what men generally can do to prevent the sexual assault of women. I don’t really get where your personal dating history, military service record and mugging come into it.
    Look. Of course people need to take responsibility for their physical, mental, sexual and fiscal safety. But we also need to try to avoid becoming criminals if we’re all going to get along in this world. The difference between stealing someone’s checkbook and raping someone is that the rapist might actually try to argue he’s entitled to rape, which is NUTS but means it’s also possible we might be able to talk him out of that idea. (And I am using “he” here generally – women can and do rape men, women and children. It’s less common but it happens.)

  72. #72 Bexley
    March 4, 2010

    Can’t believe im wading in here

    Im pretty sure HP is being misinterpreted here. I dont think he is saying it is women’s responsibility to wander around heavily armed to fight off rapists which is what people are reading his comments as. I think his comments on using his flashlights were an analogy about taking precautions rather than actual advice that women should be going around with blunt objects to beat off attackers.

    I thought his comments sprung from Tony W’s post (10) on the patterns to look out for that may be a warning that a relationship is going to become abusive.

    I think HP was saying women should take some responsibility to watch for these warning signs and get out of the relationship while they can. I DONT think he was saying that women should be responsible for physically beating off assaults/attempted rapes.

    Admittedly Tony & HP are somewhat off topic since this post is about what men should be doing differently not women. Nor am I saying I agree/disagree with them since I have no idea how easy it is to spot these signs even if you’ve read up on them beforehand so I don’t know how realistic it is to expect people to pick up on them in time to get out of the relationship. I just don’t think HP is trying to make the point people think he is.

  73. #73 MonkeyPox
    March 4, 2010

    I just don’t think HP is trying to make the point people think he is.

    They “point he’s trying to make” is of limited relevance next to the point he actually is making. He is focusing on honing his debate skills rather than sacking up to understand something fundamental: the deck is stacked, and comments like his seem idiotic to those for whom these issues matter most.

    Really, I’m fairly certain HP is too wrapped up in his own “im not a rapist, my bosnian gf says so” stance to give a fuck about anyone else, and your apologia for him is fucking idiotic.

  74. #74 Daniel J. Andrews
    March 4, 2010

    Since I was a teen I was very aware of how I might scare a woman walking along a street by herself. If she was approaching, I’d cross the road so she wouldn’t have to walk past me. If she was walking ahead of me, I’d stop and pretend to be occupied by a chore (tying shoes, trying to read something under a streetlight, etc) so she could get well ahead of me. Part of that behaviour stemmed from a rough childhood where I was the one being attacked. I knew how I immediately got uptight when I saw another person so I just assumed other people also felt that way when they saw a bigger person walking towards them or walking behind them.

    On a more science note, where does that “20-25% college women reporting an attempted or complete rape while in college” figure come from? That seems unrealistically high, and it just doesn’t mesh with other reports.

    To find out, I clicked on Pal’s link, and he’s just quoting the figure in the source. That source then footnotes a paper by Fisher et al. 2000. When you search for and read that paper though the figure they give is about 2.5 to 3.5 percent.

    To summarize, the national-level survey of 4,446 college women suggests that many students will encounter sexist and harassing comments, will likely receive an obscene phone call, and will have a good chance of being stalked or of enduring some form of coerced sexual contact. During any
    given academic year, 2.8 percent of women will experience a completed and/or attempted rape
    .

    I’m wondering if a decimal place was accidentally misplaced?
    Here’s the paper (text file)
    http://www.ncjrs.gov/txtfiles1/nij/182369.txt

  75. #75 MonkeyPox
    March 4, 2010

    If you read further you can find the extrapolation:

    At first glance, one might conclude that the risk of rape victimization for
    college women is not high; “only” about 1 in 36 college women (2.8
    percent) experience a completed rape or attempted rape in an academic
    year. Such a conclusion, however, misses critical, and potentially
    disquieting, implications. The figures measure victimization for slightly
    more than half a year (6.91 months). Projecting results beyond this
    reference period is problematic for a number of reasons, such as assuming
    that the risk of victimization is the same during summer months and
    remains stable over a person’s time in college. However, if the 2.8 percent
    victimization figure is calculated for a 1-year period, the data suggest that
    nearly 5 percent (4.9 percent) of college women are victimized in any
    given calendar year. Over the course of a college career–which now lasts
    an average of 5 years–the percentage of completed or attempted rape
    victimization among women in higher educational institutions might climb
    to between one-fifth and one-quarter.[18]

    But this isn’t really about statistics, is it?

  76. #76 delurkley
    March 4, 2010

    If HP is honing his debate skills, he should start practicing tactics other than “appeal to authority”, which is his vocabulary, is otherwise known as “long winded and off topic stories about my life, which should TOTALLY explain to feminists why they are SO RONG!!!”

  77. #77 DiGz
    March 4, 2010

    #72 HP used the word responsibility re: precautions and you offered up the same word in your explanation. That’s the issue I have with HP’s argument, i.e., no woman should have to take precautions to prevent being raped, let alone be told she shares some responsibility for being raped. It’s the word responsibility that implies the blame. Forget rape for a second (hard I know) but I think blaming a victim for any crime is a dispassionate act. Sure, offering up advice on how you can avoid a crime, or could have prevented one, is pragmatic, but a criminal commits a crime, not the victim. But the issue is that most crimes also carry an emotional burden that the victim has to bear and in the case of rape that is an incredibly heavy one — no woman needs to hear that part of the reason she got raped was because she didn’t take precautions. In my mind that’s torturing the victim further and a crime in and of itself.

  78. #78 PalMD
    March 4, 2010

    In the excellent NPR piece that others linked to, the one about campus rapists and their tendency to be repeat offenders who harbor no remorse, there was the theme from the academics of wanting a “teachable moment”, and the talk of helping the perpetrator reform blah blah blah…
    It was interesting that in one part of the story, when a student called law enforcement rather than campus police, she got a much better response, one aimed at apprehending the rapist and helping the victim/survivor. When the real police came, the “teachable moment” was an 18 year prison sentence.

    I wish all law enforcement was that good with sexual assault, but…

  79. #79 DiGz
    March 4, 2010

    PalMD,

    if the rapist shows no remorse then clearly there’s a mental deficiency at play. Which: 1) means he needs locking up immediately; and 2) that if his mental illness is not correctly diagnosed and treated 18 years isn’t actually long enough. He will do it again.

    The latter is what you’d hope academics would be pointing out.

  80. #80 PalMD
    March 4, 2010

    I would argue that “mental deficiency” is a rather optimistic view. The effects of living in a patriarchal society with all the baggage that comes with it is the driving force, and our culture does not generally view rapists as “mentally deficient” but as “having had a little too much to drink” or “having been misunderstood” or “boys will be boys” or “she was asking for it” or…etc

  81. @HP — I’ve got a rusty chainsaw lubed up with habanero oil, if you’d really like to know what it’s like to be a REAL victim of crime. Mugging is nothing, that’s just material goods — having your fucking BODY, your most intimate parts, FORCEFULLY VIOLATED… now THAT is a CRIME.

    You think you were upset when you were (allegedly) questioned repeatedly about your presence in a “bad” neigborhood? Imagine how it feels to have your every action, your every word, called in to question, after you’ve had the shit kicked out of you by someone who’s supposed to protect you. When even the POLICE ask you if you did anything to provoke him? Or when you’re told “You can’t press charges because he has a tiny scratch on his chest.” Of COURSE HE DOES! He was damn near KILLING me, and I FOUGHT FOR MY LIFE! Or when you’re told that your wheelchair “isn’t a part of your body”, and that your partner FORCIBLY MOVING YOU AGAINST YOUR WILL, THEN PUSHING YOU FACE FIRST INTO A FUCKING POLE doesn’t count as assault because he “didn’t touch you.”

    FUCK YOU, History_Punk — You don’t know SHIT about REAL ASSAULT.

  82. #82 Dave Ruddell
    March 4, 2010

    It was interesting that in one part of the story, when a student called law enforcement rather than campus police, she got a much better response…

    Oh man, this is just so, so, correct. It should be printed out and given out to every student at orientation.

  83. #83 DiGz
    March 4, 2010

    PalMD,

    mentally deficient is a fairly loose term and I’d happily apply it to anybody that excuses rape with any of the excuses you listed.

    So to be precise, in the case of someone expressing no remorse because they genuinely don’t feel any then I’d argue that’s a mental illness based on my own experiences (none of which are academic!). I believe there is a category of rapist like this and they are likely to be serial rapists. They need to be treated for a mental illness, not just mindlessly locked up and let out as if time behind bars will magically erase their mental illness.

    However, I agree mental illness is not the only cause of rape and I agree that the “lads together” attitude towards rape from many men helps propagate it. And to the point of your post, the latter is something where us blokes can make a difference.

  84. #84 Jennifer B. Phillips
    March 4, 2010

    when a student called law enforcement rather than campus police, she got a much better response, one aimed at apprehending the rapist and helping the victim/survivor.

    YMMV, I suppose. Fayetteville’s (NC) finest were not impressive in their response to my assault. It took them 45 minutes to arrive, after my frantic 911 call during which my attacker picked up the kitchen extension and listened to the call (I had evaded him and barricaded myself in the bathroom with the telephone and a hot curling iron).

    Once they did arrive, they amused themselves with a continuous stream of racist jokes while collecting evidence and taking my statement (I am white and my assailant was black–which made not one damn bit of difference to me, ftr).

    They were keen to link my attack to a series of rapes in the area, and visibly disappointed when my account did not match this serial rapists’ MO. And after it was firmly established that I was not another data point in this case, they dropped me like a hot potato. It was hideous.

  85. #85 LizH
    March 4, 2010

    Even though this whole thing got hijacked by a couple of guys who don’t seem to get that what’s being asked of them is DON’T BE AN ASSHOLE TO WOMEN I still want to thank PalMD for writing the post. Every time I encounter a guy who gets it, and is willing to spread the word that the people who are most able to stop rape are the perpetrators, I regain a little faith in humanity.

    Cheat sheet for “Is This Appropriate to Say to A Woman”: Can I say this to a random guy I’ve never met before and not get punched in the face? If the answer is anything other than “of course not” keep your piehole closed.

    Honestly, guys, every time you’re not an asshole, and every time you make it clear to your friends you’re not cool with them being assholes, you make the the world a better place. And the vast majority of the comments tell me that the majority of the readers of Pal’s blog are good people. It gives me warm fuzzies :)

  86. #86 DiGz
    March 4, 2010

    LizH,

    Sorry, was this about not being an asshole? I’m not sure I’m capable of that!

    So following your logic, if a man has to ask if what he’s about to say to a woman is appropriate it probably isn’t because the question should always be: “Is this appropriate to say to a person?”, and if gender has slipped into the man’s question chances are his “little head” has formulated the question!

  87. #87 DiGz
    March 4, 2010

    LizH,

    Sorry, was this about not being an asshole? I’m not sure I’m capable of that!

    So following your logic, if a man has to ask if what he’s about to say to a woman is appropriate it probably isn’t because the question should always be: “Is this appropriate to say to a person?”, and if concerns about gender have slipped into the man’s statement chances are his “little head” had something to do with it!

  88. #88 DiGz
    March 4, 2010

    Sorry for the double pots, tried to edit my post mid stream… always ends in tears that.

  89. #89 Passerby
    March 4, 2010

    Remember the well-intentioned, but much maligned TV ad showing a frying pan with two eggs sizzling in it?

    Yeah, well, that is the your forebrain, after years of binge use of addictive substances. Doesn’t take much to remove risk and emotional control inhibitions, for victim and perp in a rape event. You see both permissive and promiscuous behaviors in young adults – fault for rape lies on both sides in many cases.

    In other cases, however, date rape isn’t so simple, and it is intentional action against a very aware female victim, where the male assailant will not take ‘no’ for an answer, breaking into mixed sex dorm rooms, or in the more violent cases, grabbing young women in dark corner, or remote areas.

    There are borderline cases, too, where male friends will assume that ‘friends with benefits’ is a totally acceptable situation to pose to a female friend. Here again, men can be amazingly deaf to a simple negative declaration. It isn’t ‘maybe’, or ‘I’ll think about it’, it’s an emphatic NO. In these men’s minds, they are looking for compliance, and so will press their suit, repeatedly. There is no concept of sexual harassment here for the male; they are genuinely deaf to an answer they do not wish to hear. They will demand, cajole, touch inappropriately, and, I would suppose if they are drunk or stoned in some cases, take advantage of a woman by force if necessary. Police intervention in the case of rape is often dismal, dismissed as ‘domestic dispute’, even where two people are not cohabiting or married.

    Some men — again, I am talking about those who have been substance abusers (drinking, smoking and drug use, such that brain damage to the reasoning centers has occurred) or are mildly deviant by poor social programming — will assume that if a woman is willing to be a friend, she must also be sexually interested in them.

    That is faulty reasoning. There are confounding factors of behavior if a woman is socially conditioned to be complaint, raised with aberrant role models of an domineering and authoritarian father and subservient mother. She may not be assertive enough to give a clear signal. Worse, she may give a less than cut-and-dried answer but will not take the step of appropriate physical behavior, to walk away from such risk-ignorant person, ing end the relationship and removing all doubt of a lack of interest. Instead, she will give such a man judicious ‘benefit of the doubt’, without realizing that it encourages a man with weak will and strong sex drive to continuing trying to get what he wants, sex.

    The man will whine about ‘mixed signals’ as a sorry excuse. Some are more devious in getting their way. While not date rape, a man who rolls his wife or girlfriend over in the midst of deep sleep at 2am to take advantage of a somnambulist state, where it may be difficult for the woman to come fully awake quickly enough to stop unprotected sex, is still performing ‘soft’ rape. It’s sticky, mixed reasoning what legally constitutes ‘marital rights’ and ‘consent’ of a mate.

    This happens, very, very frequently – much more than date rape – and is the cause of a helluva lot of unintended pregnancy. Ask 10 people if this is rape, and they will hedge, not giving a clear answer.

    But let’s go back to the eggs-and-frying-pan image. For the party-hardy males and females that have piss-poor lifestyle habits through their teen years, for all practical purposes, those eggs are your reproductive cells – damaged in their epigenetic methylation programming. There are indications that this worsens with age.

    And we wonder why there are so many epigenetically screwed kids born in recent generations…

  90. #90 Daniel J. Andrews
    March 4, 2010

    But this isn’t really about statistics, is it?
    For most people, it isn’t…and I don’t know if that is a good thing or bad thing. It can create a backlash even though the problem is is undeniable. On the other hand, sometimes disregarding numbers and instead bringing home the emotional impact is the best way to highlight and deal with a problem.

    The number itself is not the issue–the issue is that it even happens. That people are abused, sexually assaulted, taken advantage of, by bullies and cowards of all types angers me greatly (to put it mildly).

  91. #91 The Gregarious Misanthrope
    March 5, 2010

    Anyone read this over at Pharyngula?

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/03/injustices_and_ironies.php

    Here’s a quote from an allegedly religious pamphlet handed to a woman working at a drive-thru restaurant:

    “Scripture tells us that when a man looks on a woman to lust for her he has already committed adultery in his heart. If you are dressed in a way that tempts a men to do this secret (or not so secret) sin, you are a participant in the sin. By the way, some rape victims would not have been raped if they had dressed properly. So can we really say they were innocent victims?”

    Here’s the link to the news item:

    http://www2.tricities.com/tri/news/local/article/blame_the_victim_religious_leaflet_claims_ungodly_dressed_women_provoke_rap/42253

    Ugh. I didn’t know the Taliban was working Virginia.

  92. #92 History Punk
    March 5, 2010

    “FUCK YOU, History_Punk — You don’t know SHIT about REAL ASSAULT.”

    You say that, but it doesn’t seem to put the teeth back in my mouth.

    “Really, I’m fairly certain HP is too wrapped up in his own “im not a rapist, my bosnian gf says so” stance to give a fuck about anyone else, and your apologia ”

    Actually, I am not a rapist because I’ve never raped anyone. In fact, I am saving myself for marriage and to one up members of my family, I am (despite being heterosexual) saving myself for gay marriage.

  93. #93 History Punk
    March 5, 2010

    “History Punk, this idea about taking responsibility for personal safety – that’s brilliant. I am going to pass along that golden nugget of wisdom to the 10-year-old here in the Philadelphia area who awoke in the middle of the night just a day or two ago and found a strange man looming over her bed, attempting to undress her so that he could rape her”

    Bristol, before I tell your Mom about you using the internet again without permission, I just like to remind you that my ideas are, apparent to anyone with a IQ above room temperature designed for adults. If I had stated that people should had saved enough money to pay off their bills, I doubt you would have pulled out some story about a ten-year old who lost his home when it was foreclosed upon. No, you’d have enough sense to realize that is an appeal to emotion and just plain dumb. Of course, you thought that this was okay given the highly charged nature of the debate.

    Now go to watch your kid before the judge gives him to Levi.

  94. #94 History Punk
    March 5, 2010

    As aside, two weeks ago, I donated blood to the Red Cross. The person who drew my blood was new and not very good it. Worse, the staff was unattentive and distracted. I didn’t complain because I didn’t want to be a bother and I felt guilty about oversleeping my last appointment and they really need the blood because of an decline in donations due to the blizzards. My arm bruised from about my wrist to my lower shoulder. Most of it has healed but the elbow part is kind of dark still. Is there anything I should be worried about?

  95. #95 Brandon
    March 5, 2010

    Although I don’t approve of his tone, History Punk has a point. This comment thread has assumed a dichotomy where either
    1) Women have no control over their own fates and all we can do is politely ask the men to stop raping people
    2) Women who gets raped were asking for it by being so rapable

    Maybe we need to take a two-pronged approach. Obviously part of the problem needs to be handled male-side. And obviously absolutely nothing we can do will prevent 100% of all sexual assault in the future. But how is it being misogynist to state that some fraction of sexual assaults might have been prevented if the victim was better prepared to protect herself? This doesn’t mean that the victim “deserved it.” It’s just reality.

    It is a cold hard fact that the number of rapes in the future will be reduced, but not completely, if we teach people to have a buddy system, avoid dangerous areas if they can, and learn some self-defense. This has nothing to do with mine or your opinion. Simply stating this fact should not drive people into a rage. Don’t assume that because History Punk says something that ignorant people sometimes say, he is himself a bad person.

  96. #96 Brandon
    March 5, 2010

    That last statement is awkward. What I meant to say was, “Judge somebody’s statements by their own merit, don’t automatically try to assume the intentions of the person behind them.”

  97. #97 DLC
    March 5, 2010

    There’s quite a bit of broad brushing going on here.

  98. #98 skeptifem
    March 5, 2010

    Thank god dudes like brandon exist to explain the correct concerns to have about rape. I bet he has an ‘unbiased’ opinion because he isn’t subject to this fear 24/7.

    I am about ready to play misogny bingo here…

  99. #99 ginger
    March 5, 2010

    History Punk, I wouldn’t worry too much about the bruise remaining dark – bruises turn funny colours because it takes a while to break down the RBCs in the tissues, and as the concentration of heme under the skin drops the colour changes from blue-black to greenish to yellow. If you’d given platelets, and had fluid passing back in through an IV it might be phlebitis or an infiltration-related necrosis, but when the cannula is just outgoing the potential for injury is pretty limited.

    All that said, OMG you did NOT just compare being assaulted or raped to making financial mistakes. Really? Is that what you meant? Because honestly, although I said that we all have to take responsibility for our safety, I really do see a pretty important difference between any assault and financial problems, which is that you can’t be assaulted without someone else’s taking action.

  100. #100 Brandon
    March 5, 2010

    You can play misogyny bingo if I can play the “If a man disagrees with a woman then the man is a chauvinist” drinking game. And thanks for assuming I’ve never been attacked before.

  101. #101 Kierra
    March 5, 2010

    This comment thread has assumed a dichotomy where either

    1) Women have no control over their own fates and all we can do is politely ask the men to stop raping people Men who rape women are responsible for their actions
    2) Women who gets raped were asking for it by being so rapable

    Fixed that for you.

  102. #102 DiGz
    March 5, 2010

    HP,

    Re: #92… I really hoped the response you got in 81 would help you to understand the problem with your statement on women taking “responsibility” for their safety. Reading the content of wmdkitty’s post disturbed me and it’s clear that she is talking about a personal experience. It’s certainly an experience I wouldn’t want and I’m not sure I could cope with the emotional aftermath. Having experienced that I wouldn’t want to read on a website that I bear a responsibility for protecting myself from such an experience and, by implication, I’m in part to blame for that devastating experience. I’d think at best you’re being incredibly insensitive but at worst you’re taking a stance that helps propogate rape — on that basis I found wmdkitty’s response to you quite polite!

    I’m not claiming you’re advocating rape, and I suspect you’re a decent guy, but as has been said to you already your comments on responsibility imply that a victim shares some of the blame for being raped. Logically, by taking that stance you enable a rapist to claim that a woman was “asking for it” because if she wasn’t she would have tried harder not to get raped. Unfortunately, it is clear that attitude has become institutionalised and you can see the consequences playing out in the stories that are being told by women on this and other threads (which I find incredibly depressing). Rapists are often treated leniently because it’s implied that the woman invited an assault on herself in some way (I struggle to write a sentence like that because it seems so absurd!) which in turn means to some men that rape is a bit of a jape because “hey, women are asking for it anyway”.

    Please understand that folks aren’t trying to score points off you, they’re angry at you because you’re attitude is one reason why rape is not treated more seriously and we end up with the shocking figure that PalMD headlines in his post.

    Rape is the most abhorrent of crimes and no woman should have to protect herself from it. The fact that they do, means we have to work to stop it by changing attitudes, not tell women they bear a responsibility to protect themselves from it.

  103. #103 Kierra
    March 5, 2010

    But how is it being misogynist to state that some fraction of sexual assaults might have been prevented if the victim was better prepared to protect herself? This doesn’t mean that the victim “deserved it.” It’s just reality.

    While it may not necessarily be misogynistic to say that, it is completely unhelpful. While a particular individual woman may be able to reduce her chances of being raped by taking such “common sense” approaches, there will always be women that will be on the lower end of the “protecting themselves” curve. So telling an individual woman to “protect herself” merely shifts the rape onto another woman (ie the rapist will choose a different “easier” target who still falls into society’s rather arbitrary “she is asking for it” zone). This is not helpful if the goal is to decrease the number of rapes overall. We instead need to be trying to eliminate the “she is asking for it” zone where rapists are allowed to get off scot free.

    The reason that people are responding with anger to the suggestion that women should take “common sense” approaches to “protect themselves” is that we’ve heard that suggestion a MILLION TIMES. It is, in fact, the suggestion that is ALWAYS BROUGHT UP when rape is discussed. And it is OBVIOUSLY NOT WORKING. The fact that anyone could read this thread and/or Isis’ thread and not realize this fact implies that THEY ARE NOT LISTENING or that THEY ARE NOT TAKING WHAT WE SAY SERIOUSLY. And that behavior is misogynistic.

  104. #104 catgirl
    March 5, 2010

    Anna, the technical term for what I have done is parrotting my ex-girlfriend’s positions on the matter.

    Well, your ex-girlfriend is simply wrong. Just because she’s a woman doesn’t mean she’s immune to victim-blaming. Women are often caught up in it as a defense mechanism, so they can falsely reassure themselves that they are safe.

  105. #105 catgirl
    March 5, 2010

    But how is it being misogynist to state that some fraction of sexual assaults might have been prevented if the victim was better prepared to protect herself? This doesn’t mean that the victim “deserved it.” It’s just reality.

    No, you are completely wrong. Rapes would not be prevented by a victim’s behavior, only deffered. If one women wears a burqa, then the rapist will find some other woman to rape. If one woman carries a gun or never drinks a sip of alcohol, the rapist will find a more vulnerable target.

  106. #106 LizH
    March 5, 2010

    DIGz,
    Did you miss the part where I said that it sounds like most of the commentors here get it? Where I said that despite this thread being “hijacked by a couple of guys” . . .”the vast majority of the comments tell me that the majority of the readers of Pal’s blog are good people”?

    Seriously, I remember having this same sort of conversation ten years ago and getting mostly “of course she’s asking for it! Look at the way she dressed/where she was/that she was married/that she went on the date/that she consumed alcohol in a social setting!”

    At least here, on this comment thread, I see a definite change in the right direction. History Punk being the minority everyone is piling on, rather than one of many voices trying to shout down PalMD’s original point. Changing the way people think about the world is a slow process, but it is happening, and discussions like this comment thread help.

  107. #107 DiGz
    March 5, 2010

    LizH,

    sorry, I meant no offense. I was actually trying to be funny whilst making a point. Er… and I failed!

    With the comment about being an arsehole. I wasn’t implying anything in your statements, just acknowledging that I make mistakes. Although, in hindsight given the gravity of the topic on this the thread that was a little trite. Sorry.

    On the little head comment, I really do believe if as a man you have to ask yourself if a comment you’re about to make to a woman is appropriate, chances are it isn’t and the comment is a result of a man’s little head doing the thinking.

    Again, sorry for any confusion.

  108. #108 DiGz
    March 5, 2010

    LizH,

    and on this point, “of course she’s asking for it! Look at the way she dressed/where she was/that she was married/that she went on the date/that she consumed alcohol in a social setting!”

    I was trying to think of any other crime where some level of blame is automatically assigned to the victim. I can’t think of any, which is very telling.

  109. #109 Brandon
    March 5, 2010

    Rapes would not be prevented by a victim’s behavior, only deferred.

    That’s not necessarily true. Some self-protection measures ensure that the rapist will be caught in the act. It’s unlikely, but it might discourage the rapist from ever trying again. Even it that happens very rarely, it’s still worth it.

    And what kind of horrible thing is that to say? Would you walk up to a person who escaped rape and say, “Good job, you just sicced that rapist on somebody weaker than you.”

    In my high school, self-defense was a mandatory class for women. (Don’t ask me why it wasn’t for men.) The next year, a female classmate of mine was attacked one night. She escaped by punching the guy in the eye and running away. The next day, the police noticed a classmate with a black eye and took him in for questioning. I don’t know if it ever lead to an arrest or conviction, but please explain to me why she shouldn’t have taken those self-defense classes.

  110. #110 catgirl
    March 5, 2010

    That’s not necessarily true. Some self-protection measures ensure that the rapist will be caught in the act. It’s unlikely, but it might discourage the rapist from ever trying again. Even it that happens very rarely, it’s still worth it.

    Meh, I don’t think it’s worth it to wear a burqa and carry several weapons just on the tiny change that some guy might get caught and the even tinier chance that he will actually be prosecuted or punished for it. And as for hoping that he’ll learn his lesson and be discouraged, well he’s much more likely to learn the lesson to hide his crime better or to find an easier victim rather than to stop raping.

    And what kind of horrible thing is that to say? Would you walk up to a person who escaped rape and say, “Good job, you just sicced that rapist on somebody weaker than you.”

    Nope. Unlike you, I hold rapists responsible for their own actions. It’s not one woman’s job to protect other women from being raped by being a better target. It’s also not any woman’s job prevent someone else from raping her. It’s the simple truth that rapists rape and if one target is too difficult for them, then they’ll find someone else. Sorry, but it’s the truth and no amount of self-defense classes will make them stop until they are held accountable for their own actions regardless of the victim.

    but please explain to me why she shouldn’t have taken those self-defense classes.

    Only if you’ll first explain to me when I ever said that she shouldn’t have taken those self-defense classes.

  111. #111 DiGz
    March 5, 2010

    Brandon,

    Nobody is saying that it’s a bad idea for a woman (or man!) to take steps to improve their ability to defend themselves. It’s the fact that it’s seen as the “responsibility” of the woman to do so and if she doesn’t, well, she clearly shares some blame for what happens to her.

    You said this previously: “1) Women have no control over their own fates and all we can do is politely ask the men to stop raping people”

    Well, guess what? A woman has no control over their fate when it comes to initiating a rape. If they’ve learnt self-defence then they may be able to protect themselves but at that point they’re reacting to an event that they didn’t initiate, didn’t want and have absolutely no control over. I just can’t understand how anybody can think it’s a woman’s “responsibility” to protect herself from such an event. It’s just not logical. Think about it, let’s say a woman took self-defence classes but still ended up getting raped. Do we then say she wasn’t responsible enough in studying self-defence?

    As I said above, I can’t think of another crime where some level of blame gets apportioned to the victim automatically. Unfortunately, that reasoning is used to lesten the seriousness of the offence, allowing it to propogate and demeaning the victim in the process. And if it does go to court, blaming the woman is the standard defence, which not only gives the perp an out but also piles more emotional abuse on the woman and she ends up being victimised twice. (Which is one of the reasons so many rapes go unreported.)

    Imagine I leave a window open and get burgled… Whilst I might feel like an idiot and the police might point out measures I could take to prevent burglaries, including closing windows, nobody is going to start blaming me for the burglary. And if it gets to court, if the perp tried to defend himself by saying he only burgled me because I left a window open and, therefore, I share a burden of the blame, he’d be laughed out of court. Not so with rape, right? And think about that for a moment, in the case of a burglary all that was violated was a piece of property, in the case of rape it’s a person and that person has to live with the memories of that ordeal for the rest of their lives.

  112. #112 Vicki
    March 5, 2010

    Brandon–

    You’re the only person who has suggested that the response to someone who escapes rape is to say “well done, he’ll have to attack someone else instead.” In my social group, people say “well done getting rid of that creep” and “I’m sorry you had to go through that” about specific incidents. Yes, getting the thugs arrested and sent to prison would be better, but if the choice is between not being assaulted and being assaulted and then sending the thug to jail, most if not all women, and I’d guess most men, will choose not being assaulted.

    It’s not victim-blaming to point out that if I avoid drinking with strangers, the kind of lowlife who hangs out in bars, looking for women he can go home with or follow home and attack will still go to a bar, and will almost certainly find there a woman who has been drinking.

  113. #113 Isis the Scientist
    March 5, 2010

    All I can say is “wow.” Glad to see that some of the debate team came out to discuss Pal’s post.

  114. #114 Katharine
    March 5, 2010

    I am of the opinion that consent should be enthusiastic, which means that if she’s not utterly dripping with lubrication or he’s not harder than freaking metal alloy and either one is not looking at the other like fucking them is the first thing on their mind at that moment, then sex is out of the question and something is wrong.

    On the other hand, if she is gushing lubrication or he is hard as freaking rock and appears to be hungry for sex with the other person the way they are hungry for food when they need it something is extremely right.

  115. #115 Katharine
    March 5, 2010

    This also forces one to look at the person they want to have sex with as a person with their own desires and wants, which may or may not include fucking them, and I don’t know why anyone would ever want to have sex with someone who doesn’t want to have sex with them and feel or see them moan or even scream with pleasure when they orgasm because they think they’re glorious, intelligent, witty, and intensely arousing.

  116. #116 Katharine
    March 5, 2010

    And this is part of why I think rapists are only succeeded in their vileness and inhumanity by murderers.

  117. #117 Brandon
    March 5, 2010

    Unlike you, I hold rapists responsible for their own actions.

    You clearly didn’t read my post and had your angry reaction planned from the beginning. Good show.

  118. #118 bexley
    March 5, 2010

    Really, I’m fairly certain HP is too wrapped up in his own “im not a rapist, my bosnian gf says so” stance to give a fuck about anyone else, and your apologia for him is fucking idiotic.

    @Monkeypox and you are either too lazy or too stupid to actually go back to the bit of the thread I was referring to.

    At 10 Tony comments on the patterns that may be warning signals of an abusive relationship.

    At 11 Katherine criticises Tony for implying it is the woman’s responsibility to look for these patterns.

    At 26 HP replies to Katherine and says “” you actually have to take some personal fucking responsibility for personal safety”

    Given the earlier posts I assumed he was talking about taking responsibility for spotting & getting out of abusive relationships NOT fighting off assaults.

    Having said that he hasn’t confirmed that this is what he meant in his later posts (after my comment at 72) which is making me reconsider.

    HP – are you talking abou taking responsibility solely in the context of learning to avoid abusive relationships or are you also saying women need to be responsible for defending themselves from assault?

  119. #119 SKM
    March 5, 2010

    Thanks so much for writing this, Pal.

    I know how frustrating this kind of thread is. Thanks for taking one on.

  120. #120 Vicki
    March 5, 2010

    bexley–

    This thread is not primarily about abusive relationships, and that topic is arguably derailing. However, like rape, abusive relationships don’t only happen to adult women. Some of the people in abusive relationships are children. They may never have known any other kind of relationship. Even if they have, how is an eight-year-old going to get out of an emotionally abusive relationship if s/he is being raised by a single parent, or both parents are abusive, or one parent is abusing the other and the children?

    Not that there’s nothing worth learning to watch out for, but it’s easy to slide into victim-blaming here, to say “she should have realized he was cutting her off from her family” or “why didn’t she leave the first time X happened?”

  121. #121 bexley
    March 5, 2010

    vicki I think you misunderstand my post. I wasn’t saying I agreed tony’s (and maybe HP’s) point. only that i thought HP was saying something different (before he went off on a tangent about his ex gf) to what people thought he was saying.

    like I said originally – I have no idea whether the point is reasonable as I don’t really know anything about the topic. if I started giving my opinions id be probably wander into dunning kruger territory.

  122. #122 Tina H
    March 5, 2010

    I’m here from Shakesville, thanks for putting this up Pal.

  123. #123 nihiofkdi
    March 5, 2010

    Look, I really don’t care what the rest of my gender get up to, and I’m certainly not responsible for them. Let me look to my own actions, and fuck the rest.

    It’s kind of like saying: “Oh, it’s perfectly understandable that you were afraid that I was going to con you out of your inheritance with this suit I’m wearing because once someone wearing a suit did that to someone.”

  124. #124 SKM
    March 5, 2010

    Look, I really don’t care what the rest of my gender get up to

    Well, you are in plentiful company, that much is certain.

  125. #125 PalMD
    March 5, 2010

    I am an optimist, for some reason, and I like to think that since I am willing to learn (if always imperfectly), others may too.

    I would very much like to think that I can ignore “what the rest of my gender get up to” but since I don’t live alone in a cave, that’s not possible.

    If I am sitting in a room full of young doctors, they will see how I react to comments, stories, etc. If I go into a patient’s room with a young doctor, they watch how I behave with my fellow human beings.

    My daughter is a keen observer as well.

    One of the first things we men must understand is that. It is not enough to simply “not rape”. Seriously, what kind of measure of behavior is that?

    “Gee, guys, I’m a fucking great human being cuz i didn’t rape a bitch today! w00t!”

    No, being a good man means more than not assaulting a woman. I would think that should be obvious.

  126. #126 nihiofkdi
    March 5, 2010

    If there is this tribe of men, either it is joined by choice, in which case I never chose to be a part of it, or we are a made members by force, in which case I, being made a part against my will, choose to rebel.

    I don’t want to be a good man, in the same way that I don’t want to be a good Briton, or a good American, or a good citizen. I would like to be a good individual, but I will define what ‘good’ is for myself.

    Anyway, we are, I think, not so much ‘great’ human beings, but collections of thoughts and memories inching through a hostile and fundamentally absurd existence.

    As proved by this thread.

  127. #127 SKM
    March 5, 2010

    nihiofkdi, that’s nice for you. I’d like to un-involve too, sometimes (most times). But I am a woman, and society sees me as a woman first and foremost, and treats me as such. I cannot simply “choose to rebel”. I could in my mind, but it wouldn’t mean much as I was being attacked physically and held to a double-standard at work. I have learned the hard way that society does affect me, and in return I am obliged to affect it.

    Existence is indeed fundamentally absurd, and I must fight for even the right to inch through it.

  128. #128 History Punk
    March 6, 2010

    “Having said that he hasn’t confirmed that this is what he meant in his later posts (after my comment at 72) which is making me reconsider.

    HP – are you talking abou taking responsibility solely in the context of learning to avoid abusive relationships or are you also saying women need to be responsible for defending themselves from assault?”

    Bexley, I simply missed your post. There are a lot posts here, many of directing various levels of vitrol at me. You can take that as dodge, excuse, or explanation. Whatever.

    As for your question, my belief is that everyone has to take some measure, as much they are able to, for their personal safety. In the real world, the police are not always there, bystanders will frequently stand there, and some people are just bad for whatever reason. Before I lost my job last year, I worked in the greatest concentration of released convicted sexual predators in the Mid-Altanic region for which there was available data. They were not shy about what they did, or their desire to do it again. More importantly, they weren’t ashamed. Doing PALMD’s method of talking to them or Katherine’s method of declaring that women should not be told to take some personal responsbility will result in victimization. They threatened me until I demonstrated a willingness and ability to employ force.

    So, people need to set aside the idiocy that they should be able to do whatever they want, whenever they want, and expect not to come to harm. Everyone needs to learn the patterns of possible threats and either how to avoid them or deal with them. Yes, I think everybody should take self-defense classes.

    Now, do I find any moral failing in being unable to fight off an attacker? No. That’s stupid. However, I do find it from personal experience, a lot better to fight off an attacker rather than be a victim. The first time I was assaulted, it cost tons of money to fix my teeth, replace lost or damaged property, and so forth. Also, it wasn’t the best to be grilled by BCPD and being told it was my fault for being in the wrong neighborhood and that my drug use probably brought it on. Wondering if you got a disease because of fluid transfer, not pleasant. Nightmares? Grown men who have nightmares are not thought highly of.

    The second time around, smacking the guy with a flashlight, was a lot better.

  129. #129 The Gregarious Misanthrope
    March 6, 2010

    One of the central points of Pal’s post here was about criticism. Criticism is a fundamental part of the scientific method and in any endeavour where we seek to improve our performance, be that sports, work, or life in general.

    I have spent most of my life working in organizations where criticism, feedback, or whatever you want to call it, was not only expected, but necessary and usually welcomed.

    There are some very important basics for effective criticism.

    1) Make it direct. Joe whispering to Sue about Bob’s lousy PowerPoint skills isn’t going to improve Bob’s PowerPoint skills. Joe needs to talk to Bob.

    2) Make it timely. It’s all situation dependent, but there is a useful half-life to criticism. Like telling Bob you are firing him for his lousy PowerPoint skills when you never told him before he had lousy PowerPoint skills.

    3) Don’t make it personal. The criticism should be about a specific action, behavior, etc. not about the person. If you make it personal, the criticism will be viewed as an attack and will not be accepted.

    4) Don’t take it personally if your criticism isn’t acted on immediately if at all. Maybe you were off the mark (probably not, unless you were just being a jerk). Probably the person is taking a while to absorb it, or maybe they just aren’t going to change. That’s not your problem, unless you’re the person’s boss.

    5) Be ready for and receptive to criticism. Fight for feedback if you want it. Try to not to be defensive while receiving criticism.

    It can be hard to deliver and receive effective criticism. Physioprof was spot on. He’s gifted in needing only 0.1 seconds to get over himself. I know I need a lot more time than that, typically.

    ScienceBlogs commenters, I would say, do a very good job of providing good, fair criticism. Sometimes it’s hard to come to the realization that maybe your sh** DOES stink and that there is a good reason people are telling you so. I have been guilty of this, even if the face of very well-placed criticism (thanks, SKM). Learning IS a life-long process.

    In the spirit of directness… HP, man, I hope your current quietude means you’re absorbing some of the substantive criticism sent your way. I hope you realize, also, that in this marketplace of ideas, yours aren’t selling very well. Maybe some new product or at least new packaging (less extraneous packing materials, for example), I don’t know. Whatever you come back with, expect additional criticism and embrace it.

  130. #130 Mac
    March 6, 2010

    I’d like to say thanks, too, PalMD for putting up this valuable thread.

    I think there are certain simple (if incomplete) answers to the question, what will it take men to appreciate the fear and abuse women have suffered at the hands of men. A few come to mind immediately:

    “Black Like Me,” by John H. Griffin

    Or, make a man live in the reality that women face. I moved to a city for work and the first thing my employer told me was, “welcome to the man-rape-man capital of America.” I then received a briefing that could have been given to any woman, anywhere in the world, under different circumstances. And I am not claiming that I felt even 0.1% as threatened as a woman might under ordinary circumstances, but even that miniscule dose was an eye-opener to me. It made me start looking at the situation from a different perspective that I hadn’t considered before.

    Or, maybe as society evolves, and certain lifestyles become more mainstream, many heterosexual men may feel legitimately more threatened. I am sure I’m going to get flamed for saying so*, but look. I just read an article somewhere about how man-on-man sexual harassment is on the rise in the workplace. (*and for all you know, I may be gay myself)

    Consider the “don’t ask don’t tell” military policy. I’ve been in the service since ’97 and I’m convinced that a large portion of the males who object to gays in the military object because they feel threatened, and are afraid of being hit on, or assaulted by another male. Hey, guess what!!! maybe then you’d know what it’s like to be a woman in the military, every single day. Maybe repeal of DADT would become not just a victory for the LGBT community, but a victory for women, by unintended effects…

    But in closing I’d like to say how many times I’ve also been aware of men-on-men, woman-on-woman, and woman-on-man intimate partner violence and abuse. I have personally been assaulted by a controlling, borderline partner in the context of greater emotional abuse. In two different relationships. And it’s insidious and terrifying and you wonder how you got there. I was lucky that it went no farther than that. But we use labels like “men” and “women” because of what is statistically prevalent… but labels still suck and can be a disservice to everyone, no matter how convenient they are. People should be opposed to violence, abuse, rape, /period/. People should hold other people to moral standards of conduct, /period/. But maybe I’m just not pragmatic enough.

  131. #131 abyss2hope
    March 6, 2010

    Brandon wrote:

    Although I don’t approve of his tone, History Punk has a point. This comment thread has assumed a dichotomy where either
    1) Women have no control over their own fates and all we can do is politely ask the men to stop raping people
    2) Women who gets raped were asking for it by being so rapable

    The problem with this observation and the rest of Brandon’s comment is that it shifts the focus from men’s actions and reactions to women’s actions.

    Some men seem unwilling to talk about men’s violence against women, including how it impacts non-violent men, without shifting the primary focus to judging women.

    One man wrote that his only responsibility was not to be violent which leaves room for him to victim blame and to take many actions which contribute to the pervasiveness of violence. If not being a criminal is the only responsibility men have then this is the only responsibility women have as well.

  132. #132 Eike Scholz
    March 6, 2010

    Well,
    thats an interesting discussion. But fist of all, I’m skeptical about the reasonableness of the cited numbers. 20-25% of the collage age women … hm, whats considered attempted rape here? Is this consistent with the number of victims crimes or attempted severe crimes in the general crime statistics? It must be even higher than 20-25% for the group of reference. Is it really that insecure in the US?

  133. #133 PalMD
    March 6, 2010

    OK, big scholz, let’s say that the cdc’s extrapolation is off by a significant amount, say 50%. Is that a more acceptable level of rape?

  134. #134 Eike Scholz
    March 6, 2010

    PalMD,
    would you please reactivate your sense for the importance of intellectual honesty?

    Now if you exactly want to know, why I’m suspicious of such Numbers
    read the following:
    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/feminism-epistemology/

    You as a Skeptic, at least I think that you are one, should realize that there is a high risk of producing bad science with such a epistemological base.
    Now should I stop pointing that out?

    Further if you grossly overestimate such statistics you will likely get a lot of Innocent people in trouble.

    It is like with brest-cancer for example. To use an example with bogus numbers: Assume you have a test that produces a false positive in 1% of the cases. Factually this cancer occurs in 5% of the population. Now assume that in a Population of 1000 people you test all.
    There are actual 50 who have cancer but, on the other 950 you will yield 9.5 further false positives.
    So back to the society adequate numbers are important, if you want to avoid injustice.

    And now that will not reduce the severeness of the crimes, not at all – but it will help victims to be taken seriously.

  135. #135 PalMD
    March 6, 2010

    And now that will not reduce the severeness of the crimes, not at all – but it will help victims to be taken seriously.

    As a skeptic, I doubt any manipulation of statistics will fix that. The mistreatment of those who are raped is systemic, not based on inflated statistics but on a culture who places the blame for rape on the one who is raped.

    I really do want an answer…what percentage would be a good number of rapes? Which number would help the victims be taken seriously?

  136. #136 Brandon
    March 6, 2010

    The problem with this observation and the rest of Brandon’s comment is that it shifts the focus from men’s actions and reactions to women’s actions.

    You’ve completely missed my point. A number of commenters here want to shift the focus solely to the men. I think that’s stupid. We need a complete systemic approach. Teach the men how to properly treat women, teach the women self-defense. We have enough resources to do both. Any educational course of action we take which reduces the amount of sexual assault is worth it. To not do so because of some vague societal implications is absolutely irrational.

  137. #137 abyss2hope
    March 6, 2010

    Brandon,

    No, I didn’t miss your point. You seem to be hung up on the shift of responsibility from women to men when the reason for that shift is a shift from preventing victimization to preventing perpetration which necessarily requires more from men who feel they’ve done their fair share by not raping anyone.

    A true complete societal approach needs to be focused on the source of sexual violence which is perpetration and how people get to the point where they will commit acts of sexual violence and believe they will get away with that violence. This involves both men and women, but not according to your model.

    What you call a complete approach is not complete at all and is instead a mixed message approach which is often used by people who are potential jurors to explain why they couldn’t possibly convict certain rapists.

    There is nothing vague or irrational about my position. My position is in fact supported by the CDC. True prevention is primary prevention.

  138. #138 Brandon
    March 6, 2010

    I do appreciate you being more calm and rational than some people here. I would like to see this CDC report that says teaching women self-defense does not reduce their risk of being raped.

  139. #139 PalMD
    March 6, 2010

    That’s a very interesting hypothesis, Brandon. I’ve never seen one quite like it. It has a real ring of…fucking idiotic.

    How about a study that looks at whether explicitly educating males on how to recognize the privilege society gives them because of their maleness, and how that affects the other half of the population may reduce violence against women.

    Would you really want your daughter, who may be 100 lbs soaking wet, to gain a false sense of security by being told that if she would just learn self defense she could fight off a 220 lb frat boy?

  140. #140 Brandon
    March 6, 2010

    I am really starting to get sick of the idiocy here.

    I AM IN FAVOR OF EDUCATING MEN!
    I AM ALSO IN FAVOR OF EDUCATING WOMEN!

    If you have any science that says doing one of those is bad, please present it now.

    And I would want my 100 pound daughter to know tips to keep herself safe. Only a sociopath would disagree with me.

  141. #141 abyss2hope
    March 6, 2010

    Eike Scholz,

    I followed your link to the criticism of feminist research and nothing there discredits the numbers you reject and none of it shows that the surveys which you reject are a result of bad science.

    Some critics calling feminist research bad science is not the same thing as making credible or proven claims about crime victim surveys. Yet you go further and make an accusation of intellectual dishonesty because you are suspicious of those numbers. That in itself is sloppy methodology and makes your claim of an overestimation nothing more than speculation.

  142. #142 SKM
    March 6, 2010

    Some of us 100-lb daughters out here also have autoimmune rheumatic disease. Telling women with physical disabilities that we are responsible for learning to defend ourselves from men twice our size is not only especially callous, but pointless as well. The hour or so a day I spend on physical training is devoted to building and maintaining basic function, not sparring. High-impact training activities are against my Dr.s orders.

  143. #143 SKM
    March 6, 2010

    I AM IN FAVOR OF EDUCATING MEN!
    I AM ALSO IN FAVOR OF EDUCATING WOMEN!

    Good–this thread is about educating men. And rest assured–women get a constant barrage of tips on how to avoid becoming victims. Time to balance it out a bit.

  144. #144 abyss2hope
    March 6, 2010

    Brandon,

    You praise me for being calm and rational and then you demand that I “present it now” like a spoiled child.

    You say would want your 100 pound daughter to know tips to keep herself safe, but you provide no evidence that these tips would prevent her from becoming a victim of violence. Statisticly, the biggest danger to her related to sex crimes is from those she knows, not strangers.

    As an example, imagine you have family or friends staying in your home while your daughter is there, people you would trust with your life, and one of those guests is actually a rapist who assaults his victims in their sleep. How are your tips going to prevent your daughter from being raped?

  145. #145 Katharine
    March 7, 2010

    Brandon, regardless of whether the perpetrator is male OR female, the focus needs to be shifted TO THE PERPETRATORS.

  146. #146 Katharine
    March 7, 2010

    “And I would want my 100 pound daughter to know tips to keep herself safe. Only a sociopath would disagree with me.”

    In some situations, that 100 pound daughter, no matter what she does, may not be able to escape being raped with her life. It depends ON THE PERPETRATOR. Women, for one, are statistically not as physically strong as men.

    Part of the problem is society’s perception of femininity too. Go see the new Alice in Wonderland movie. It should be required viewing for everyone; it’s the most feminist film I’ve ever seen. The primary world-movers are women (both ‘kingdoms’ are ruled by queens) and the protagonist is a woman. Essentially, the positions of power in Wonderland are occupied by women who – and this is important – exist with men in a state of equality and being seen as independent, powerful persons.

  147. #147 Katharine
    March 7, 2010

    Femininity should not be equated to weakness.

    I find anyone who thinks sexism is sexy to be utterly deranged. I’m not sure I can even consider them human.

  148. #148 The Gregarious Misanthrope
    March 7, 2010

    Brandon,

    I don’t think anyone doubts that self-defense training can be useful for both men and women. But even mad ninja skills aren’t going to be enough with a gun at your head.

    I would also guess that most women are aware of the sorts of places usually associated with sexual assaults: dark alleys and seedy bars. But statistics show about 75% of sexual assaults are by people known to the victim. I doubt many of that 75% happen in bars and alleys.

    So while all this education and training being suggested would probably be of some use, I seriously doubt it would prevent more than 10-20% of assaults. No, I don’t have any stats to back me up, but it is a reasonable hunch based on the other factors and data available.

    Most of this thread has been taken up by some form of “women need to take charge.” But the big, ugly truth here is that no amount of “take charge” is going to deter a determined rapist. Women and girls aren’t 100% safe in their own homes. Not even from their husbands, fathers, or uncles. How f***ed up is that?

    Even educating men is only going to get us so far. Men brought up to believe women are basically their property or playthings or objects to be conquered, men that have seen that attitude played out in their own homes by their fathers, will be pretty much immune to anything the gym teacher has to say.

    I think we can look at the struggles against racism in this country for some lessons. It was (and is) a deeply-rooted problem, institutional in some areas. Not being actively racist personally was not sufficient. Having laws on the books was pointless if they were unenforced. Change had to come from many fronts. Laws. Courts. Schools. Churches. Media. Each of us. The struggle continues and will for a long time to come, but I think it is safe to say there has been significant improvement in the last 50 years.

    I don’t view my father as a racist man, but he was a product of his upbringing. He told racist jokes sometimes, and dropped the N-word occassionally. I don’t recall him ever actively discriminating against anyone and he certainly never pushed a racist mindset on his kids. I will admit to telling a few racist jokes in my youth, but it has been a long time. Still, stereotypes leap to mind sometimes. I will do my best never to utter a racial epithet in front of my kids or stereotype anyone. Perhaps no racist stereotypes will leap to their minds and the racist stain in my family will be gone.

    That is the sort of generational change the problem of sexual violence will require. I do wish it could be faster, now would be awesome.

    We have work to do now. We must become the change we seek. We have been given innumerable examples here of how actions we may have been raised to think of as innocent can be far from it. We are not automotons, we can think about our actions. If you are going to comment about a woman’s appearance, think about it, then think again, then think if you’d tell some guy you know as well as this woman the same thing.

    Don’t let the demeaning jokes and comments of others go unchallenged, at the very least don’t support it by laughing along. Sure it’s hard. If it were easy it would already be done.

    Think of how a sexual assault would affect your wife, or sister, or daughter. Then ask yourself what you would do to stop it. 1 in 6 women is sexually assaulted in this country in her lifetime*. If you have a wife, a sister, and a daughter, the odds are about 50% someone you love will be sexually assaulted. I don’t like those odds, do you?

    *http://www.rainn.org/statistics

  149. #149 SKM
    March 7, 2010

    And think about how a sexual assault would affect you. One of the problems is that boys are trained from a very early age not to feel kinship or empathy with girls, as empathy is a sign of weakness and girls are beneath them. Over time, that allows women to be viewed as mysterious aliens or worse–targets.

    We are not just of value as daughters, sisters, and wives–we’re people in our own right, just like men.

  150. #150 The Gregarious Misanthrope
    March 7, 2010

    @SKM

    Are you asking that I consider how I would feel if I were sexually assaulted? If so, I’ll admit I haven’t given it much thought, focussing mainly on the problem of sexual assault of women by men.

    Trying to wrap my mind around that idea a bit, I’d have to say I’d probably feel fearful, humiliated, and wracked with self-doubt. Based on the personal stories told here, previously pleasurable activities could take on ominous meaning, triggering painful memories.

    That sort of mental exercise would be valuable for most us.

    The other side of this is for men to imagine how a sexual assault of a family member could affect themselves and the whole family. Imagine your daughter not wanting to be alone in her room with you to read bedtime stories or be tucked in by you. Imagine you could no longer comfort her if she wakes at night. Imagine that hugging your wife and whispering an “I love you” in her ear triggers a panic attack over the memory of her assault.

    The relationships, the trust, the intimacy your family enjoyed could be shattered in an instant. Things would probably never fully recover.

    SKM, as to your idea that boys are trained to feel neither empathy nor kinship to girls, well, I can see that some boys are raised that way, but I don’t think you could paint everyone with the same broad brush. Any studies or stats on the matter would interesting. As I have stated before, our experiences and upbringing can change how we perceive things, it can be hard to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. I’ll have to think about what you’ve said some more.

    I would think that to attack someone you would have to dehumanize them, to feel no empathy toward them (a hallmark of most wars). So, yes, to prevent such attacks we would need to ensure that all of us view all of us as people and to be empathetic.

    I agree with you that women are people in their own right, just like men. But in order to get people (men in particular) to get some buy-in on this issue, it needs to be made personal. If you say to a group of young guys that women are people too and shouldn’t be sexually assaulted based on that alone, you’ll get a lot eye-rolling and remarks about feminism. If you try to get them to think about being sexually assaulted themselves, you’re likely to get a lot homophobic comments and false bravado. Now, if you tell them to think through the effects of sexual assault on the women in their lives and how that affects them as well, you’ll start getting some thinking.

    On the one hand, you have the academic discussion about women and their status as people apart from their roles (not such a problem on the male side) and the ultimate end-state of equality based solely on our individual status as people, but on the other you need more immediate implementation. For that you need marketing, which at base is not an appeal to reason, typically, but to emotion.

  151. #151 SKM
    March 7, 2010

    @The Gregarious Misanthrope, sorry to be unclear–my comment wasn’t directed at you personally; I was more agreeing with your comment to Brandon and expanding on it.

    And I totally get your marketing approach/appeal to emotion. And it is also worth thinking about why women tend to be defined in terms of the men around them. Again, this is not directed at you. I’ve learned from moderating a high-traffic blog that most people lurk; there are readers out there who are just starting to think about these things. We won’t hear from them, but they’ll start thinking.

    And of course not every boy is raised the same, and not every boy absorbs messages to the same extent. The same goes for girls. But the observation that boys are discouraged from empathizing with girls is not just my idea (see, for example, Allan G. Johnson’s The Gender Knot). It’s something we’re thinking about at lot in my family now, as my sister has an 8-year-old son.

    And now, I’m going to go do something fun, to distract me from your very correct point about al the stuff we have to do to “get some buy-in” on the idea that women are people!

  152. #152 Katharine
    March 8, 2010

    “If you say to a group of young guys that women are people too and shouldn’t be sexually assaulted based on that alone, you’ll get a lot eye-rolling and remarks about feminism.”

    1) Not all young guys are that way.

    2) If that’s their response, they have bigger problems.

  153. #153 Katharine
    March 8, 2010

    And as for repeat rapists, I think they forfeit their human rights the second time they rape. People that nasty should either be in an institution or dead.

  154. #154 Katharine
    March 8, 2010

    In addition, I find that it might be useful for some commenters on this thread to keep in mind that ignorance of the law is not an excuse; this, I think, applies more broadly to ethics, which means even if a person doesn’t know it’s wrong to rape, they should still get the full kick in the ass they deserve.

  155. #155 Calli Arcale
    March 8, 2010

    Katharine@114:

    I am of the opinion that consent should be enthusiastic, which means that if she’s not utterly dripping with lubrication or he’s not harder than freaking metal alloy and either one is not looking at the other like fucking them is the first thing on their mind at that moment, then sex is out of the question and something is wrong.

    On the other hand, if she is gushing lubrication or he is hard as freaking rock and appears to be hungry for sex with the other person the way they are hungry for food when they need it something is extremely right.

    While I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment, whether or not “she is gushing lubrication” may not be the right guideline. First of all, many women will eventually encounter a situation where they are very willing but their vaginas remain stubbornly dry (been there myself; fortunately, artificial lubricants are a convenient and simple remedy). Secondly, though there is a widespread belief that sexual arousal is voluntary, it actually isn’t entirely — it’s partly unconscious, for both men and women. It is possible for a person to become sexually aroused but still not want sex.

    So in the end, it comes down to words. Anyone desiring to have sex with someone else has the responsibility to make sure that other person wants them to do so, and must suffer the consequences if they judge incorrectly. Thus, it is in everyone’s best interests to be damn sure the other person really wants it, and not make any assumptions.

    Actually, asking for consent can be quite romantic. My husband and I still ask for permission every time, and . . . well, it’s still quite thrilling. ;-)

  156. #156 The Gregarious Misanthrope
    March 8, 2010

    @Katherine #152

    I could have explained my position better. I should have said “harassed” rather than “assaulted.” No, not all young men are like that, but as a group we are more prone to cadish behavior when younger, especially in groups. You have to target the message to the audience.

    @Katherine #153

    We have done a poor job in this country with sex offender laws. I think the failure was to recognize how likely people are to reoffend and devalue the likelihood that the first time they are caught is unlikely to be the first time they’ve assaulted someone.

    I think we are re-examining that now, but we have the issue of what to do with those who have served their sentences and are to be released but are likely to reoffend. I understand the impetus behind the civil commitment laws, but the civil liberties aspects bug me some. I would argue, though, that sexual assault is a special case here.

    Probably the way to go would be for life in prison with the possibility of parole only if there can be some manner of cure or control to prevent reoffense.

    Lastly, Katherine, do you write romance novels on the side? Cause that’s some vivid imagery you’ve provided.

  157. #157 Eike Scholz
    March 9, 2010

    @PalMD

    ok, because you insist, that I answer your rhetoric questions:
    A good total number of rapes is 0. But that is in reality not reachable.

    A good number, which would help the Victims to be taken more seriously is, an exact true number. An exact numbers would mean that everyone how claims to be a victim (and confirming to the inclusion criteria of the statistics) and is actually a victim.
    This of course is not reachable, too – in reality.

    Well I’m a Non-Feminist, but to cite a Feminist I respect:
    Title: “False rape claims hurt women”
    http://www.ifeminists.com/e107_plugins/content/content.php?content.455

    @abyss2hope

    Well first, this article is not a criticism, but an entry in an encyclopedia of Philosophy. From what I have seen in my gender-studies lecture, this article is neutral.
    Second I did not make any accusation of intellectual dishonesty until PalMD accused me, that I think, that there is a number of rapes, oh which I think that it is good or positively acceptable.
    Which is, first of all a non sequitur, second a straw man a and finally a tactic to shut down a discussion. Given that PalMD is a skeptic, he is either intellectually dishonest, or he has some serious problems with cognitive dissonance here.
    I don’t know, if that numbers are correct for the US, but I seriously doubt it.
    Now further if you think that a epistemic position that introduces an notion of “not all bias is bad”, where it is not bad, if it is consistent with the prior held Ideological believes, is not problematic, then you should inform yourself about confirmation bias.
    Well, finally: I live in Germany, and it not common here to blame the victim. The US might be different, but that different?

  158. #158 Jim
    March 9, 2010

    @ #9, stop, whip out your cell phone and start talking. Talk genially, loudly and effusively, as though you’re deeply interested in the conversation and don’t care that you’re outside or that anyone hears. Make it clear, artificially if you have to, that her presence is of no real consequence to you, that she isn’t the focus of your interest.

    It’s unfortunate, but if someone’s worried that you’re paying attention to them for the wrong reasons, your reasons can be as right as rain and it may do nothing to change their perceptions.

  159. #159 SKM
    March 9, 2010

    Make it clear, artificially if you have to, that her presence is of no real consequence to you,

    Bear in mind that some people actually do this to get attention. Add to that the fact that most people are not as good at fooling others as they think. Exaggerated, clearly phony behavior on the street at night is pretty suspicious.

  160. #160 S
    March 12, 2010

    I didn’t read all the comments, but to Tony’s credit – the things he said about abusers pattern is all true.

    And he does well to warn women that not all abuse is obvious from the beginning. I do wish that is something I had known once upon a time.

    That’s not really blaming women or telling us its our responsibility to not get abused, but knowledge IS power and women CAN try to avoid batterers.

    Of course it would be best if men were to not tolerate battering/abusive behavior in other men in the first place.

  161. #161 S
    March 12, 2010

    And –Thanks for posting this, nice to see a man blogging about this.

  162. #162 S
    March 12, 2010

    @ 157, ifeminists.com is NOT a credible or legitimate, true feminist web site.

  163. #163 Z
    March 27, 2010

    Pal, you and your readers might be interested to read this: Schrödinger’s Rapist: or a guy’s guide to approaching strange women without being maced.

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.