One Man’s Paranoia is Another Woman’s Sensible Security

One of my coworkers made the mistake of saying he wouldn’t mind helping me wash rocks last night, so I dragged him home and shoved a toothbrush in his hand. Fortunately for him, he doesn’t mind scrubbing dirt off of hand samples while blabbering on about various and sundry, or it might have gone very badly for him. I now have many sparkling clean rocks suitable for shoving under people’s noses and saying, “Look! LOOK! Look at how awesome this is!”

This is all to the good, but it’s an incidental detail having nothing to do with geology that I wish to discuss here.

People new to the apartment have a variety of reactions. Many are surprised by the number of rocks and books strewn throughout, and get lost wandering through libraries of stone and paper. Others are a bit overwhelmed by the art, especially when they poke their heads into the bedroom and realize that, yes, I am that much of a LOTR fan. Some get enchanted by the kitty, and have difficulties understanding they shouldn’t touch. No, especially if she’s being friendly and cute. That’s her “Oooo helpless naive victim!” routine, and there will be pain. Some have a combination of all reactions, in varying degrees.

And some are intrigued by the door.

First, it has a trick doorknob. It’s elderly and cantankerous and has to be wriggled just so in order to achieve a successful opening. Second, it’s got two heavy locks. There’s the usual keyed deadbolt, and then there’s another deadbolt that can only be operated from inside. It’s entertaining to watch people try to navigate that door. Even after they’ve become familiar with its quirks, they either forget to unbolt the top lock or end up stymied by the doorknob. They get out in the end, and I figure it’s good exercise for their brains.

I love that second bolt. When I saw it, I knew this was the place for me. It adds a nice layer of security. I can bolt myself in and rest assured that no one with the master key will barge in. I’ve never liked that about apartments, that some random people can just waltz in my door at all hours of the day or night. This way, I get to control when people enter my premises when I’m at home. I’ve used this to good advantage when they insist on doing inane inspections at the buttcrack of dawn and I’ve been all like, “You can come back in the afternoon after I’ve had my sleep, thankyoueversomuch.” They’ve no choice in the matter, and that has made living here much more peaceful on the day-sleeping front.

“Sigh.” Image courtesy Cordey/Flickr.

It’s also nice to know that if some genius manages to pick the lock, they’re still stuck outside. I sometimes wish someone would try, just so I could stand on the other side of the door watching them through the spyhole and laugh my arse off. I’d be kind enough to shout some encouragement to them, too. After all, if someone’s putting so much effort into something, no matter how ultimately futile, and entertaining you so well, you want them to know it’s appreciated. Alas, there have been no such attempts.

This place has window locks as well, and it’s clear that whoever put all this in place had a healthy regard for personal security. Why make it easy for some yahoo to bust in and grab what they want? the philosophy seems to have gone. Why run the risk of getting the shit sued out of us by a tenant because we didn’t spend a few dollars per apartment on simple locks? the management probably thought. Also, you can charge more per month for such features. Happiness all round.

So my coworker sees this hefty second deadbolt, stops, and says, “Somebody was paranoid.”

Ah. A tall young white male. Yes, of course. It hasn’t occurred to him yet that there are reasons other than paranoia to have two locks on your door. He didn’t grow up under the constant threat of attack, and if he was attacked, it would likely just be someone robbing the place who really has no interest in hurting the homeowner as long as stuff is obtained without a quibble. He hasn’t had to live with the daily reality that the next person you encounter may be the one who sexually assaults you. He hasn’t hunkered down behind one flimsy door lock and wondered what would happen if you had to rely on it for your safety. He hasn’t had someone slip past the single lock on the door and turn him into a statistic. That’s not his world. And so, in his world, two locks means paranoia.

In my world, two locks means sensible security, and really, the bare minimum, because it’s not like that second lock does any good when you’re out of the apartment. It won’t stop that particular kind of predator that watches apartments to isolate the one with the single female, and then decides one day that it’s time, and goes to lie in wait. This happens. It happens all the time, and is why I always lock the door when I leave, even if it’s just to walk down to the mailbox. He probably doesn’t do that. It probably never occurs to him that leaving the door unlocked for three minutes could sentence a person to death.

This, my friends, is what’s known as male privilege. The vast majority of men don’t have to contemplate the value of two locks. Virtually every female on the planet does.

One planet, two worlds. That’s us.

One Man’s Paranoia is Another Woman’s Sensible Security
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14 thoughts on “One Man’s Paranoia is Another Woman’s Sensible Security

  1. 1

    Middle class neighborhood privilege too. Growing up, our door had an iron rod “accessory”- one end went into a slot in the door, and the other went into an iron baseplate set into the floor. No cute little brass chain on the door for us! And of course I’m the one who used to carry a loaded pistol on my belt to walk the dog.

    Not to dismiss male privilege though. I don’t worry about that stuff now that I’m in a better neighborhood, but I’ll bet some of my women neighbors do.

  2. 3

    When I first moved into my current apartment, it had a keyed deadbolt and a keyed doorknob, both of which could be locked from the inside or outside. It gets really, really hot where I live, and one night after coming home from work + errands + quick bite to eat, I stuck my key into the doorknob lock, turned it, and was surprised when the key broke right off into the lock. I suspect that because it was an old key and a hot day, it decided it had had enough.

    I had to call the apartment manager to get help to break in to my apartment. The next day, they replaced my doorknob – with a plain knob. No lock. They didn’t want to bother with re-keying or issuing new keys. So now all I have is my deadbolt.

    I hate it. I’m asking them to change or allow me permission to install something myself. It makes me feel uneasy to unsafe, depending on the day.

    I once had a (straight, white) male friend come over to watch a movie, and he was astonished by the fact that I locked the door behind him after I let him inside.

    “You lock the door when you’re home?” he asked.

    “You don’t?” I asked.

    “No, because I’m there. I’m inside,” he said.

    “Yeah,” I said. “This lock isn’t just to protect my stuff when I’m not here. It’s to protect me when I’m here.”

    “Seems a little paranoid,” he said.

  3. rq

    We had an inside deadbolt like that on the apartment and I want one for the house. I love the feeling of extra security. It can be a pain when your parents are staying over and you decide to have a wild night out with your Husband-soon-to-be and your parents have closed the deadbolt and are sound asleep and really hard to wake up (yeah, yeah, we got in, banging on windows and calling all the phones).
    But that little feeling of security, knowing that it can’t be opened from the outside. Ah, that’s nice.
    (Feeling especially vulnerable since a recent encounter with a Creep who decided to photograph indoor bedrooms during an outdoor garden party, but that’s what you get when you blanket-invite the entire choir without knowing the newer members. Don’t worry, he got told. By me, severely, and uninvited to future events. Still nervous, though.)

  4. 5

    Dana: I have understood this, at least dimly, for many years. Having a daughter living with just a lazy cat on 117th in Manhattan for a year improved my understanding of this “paranoia” that isn’t paranoia. But you’ve laid it out to where I would have got your point when I was eighteen. Thanks for your clarity.

  5. 6

    When last I lived in Texas, there was either a state law, or a municipal ordinance requiring the deadbolt with no outside access on all rental dwellings. I was informed that this was specifically in response to predatory landlords raping their tenants. Frankly, I think these should be required in all rental properties nationwide.

  6. 7

    That’s nice but lock/s, doors, and door frames are a system. The system is only as strong as its weakest link. Most wooden doors and/or frames can be defeated with a quick kick. A friend was very proud of her three dead-bolt locks. They didn’t last three seconds when a fireman needed to get in. He kicked the door. It didn’t take a second kick. If you want to know how strong a system is talk to a firemen.

  7. 8

    I’m an able-bodied male, and I don’t see the point of a door if it doesn’t have a lock. And if a door has a lock, I’m going to use it. I’m a little puzzled by people who don’t.

    I also had a lot of college friends from New York, and spent some time in Manhattan there myself. I don’t think I’ve been in an apartment that didn’t have at least 3 bolts, some of which combined bars across the door frame, or retractable rods that would brace against the floor.

    But, yeah, having something hat can only be unlocked from the inside is nice, especially with landlords, cause those people are assholes.

    As lorn said, it’s not difficult to break down a door. Even some metal doors can be kicked open (instead of splintering the frame at the bolt, the whole door will flex enough to allow it to pop open).

    I’ve seen some brackets where you bolt them into the door frame (to the wall studs, not just the moulding), and can drop a short piece of 2×4 across as a medieval style bar. not the prettiest, and will most definitely increase the number of ‘paranoid much?’ comments you get, but will make it a bit more difficult/time consuming for someone to force their way in, and it’s probably not very expensive (and easy to repair/cover up come move-out time, remove the brackets, fill the holes with spackle/putty, color similar to the surrounds).

    Nothing is proof against someone determined, but that doesn’t mean available precautions should be ignored. They will still serve to prevent entry by an asshole landlord, previous tenant with a copied key, etc.. Even at the worst, they will still alert you to someone entering against your will, and buy you a little extra time to do whatever you need to.

  8. 9

    From my (female, petite, middle-class, Eastern-Euro background) the whole point of an inside-only deadbolt from the inside is to keep people from sneaking in quietly at night while you’re asleep and stealing your stuff. Picking a door lock or using a spare key is a quiet activity.
    When it comes to random strangers wanting to hurt people in their own apartments…. well, that’s a potentially very noisy activity anyway, so if they consider that level of obviousness acceptable, the having to kick in a door wouldn’t make that much of a difference really. To protect against that, you’d get way heavier equipment than just a deadbolt, e.g. the kind that Joe described, a kind of steel rod across the door, or door grills with their separately secured frame.
    Btw, I never quite understood why an attacker would take the risky option of invading a victim’s apartment, but I guess better safe than sorry.

  9. 10

    Hmmm, can’t help but wonder if a guy who is highly patriarchal would automatically assume a woman should always have extra security and so not make ‘you’re paranoid’ comments? With the flip side being that guys who have dropped the patriarchal attitude just think of woman (to some degree) as just like a guy and so treat them the same in terms of throw away comments etc, not realizing that equal is not same. i.e. men and woman equal but life issues we face are different, requiring different attitudes/responses/etc.

    Having said that all the above is a generalization based on how I think I would act if I was like either group, I’m certain lots of sub categories and other groups would be involved(assuming what I wrote bears any resemblance to reality of course).

    Any thoughts on the half assed hypothesis I have just pulled from a location lacking in sunlight?

  10. 11


    It’s my understanding that lockable keyed doorknobs do not actually provide much protection, especially in comparison with a good deadbolt. If you do get permission to install something yourself, an additional deadbolt would provide additional security better than a lockable knob.

  11. 12

    A landlord can say you´re not allowed to (professionally) change/add locks? How nice it is sometimes to live in continental Europe (though now I´m wondering about the laws in other countries around here).

  12. 13

    I agree with Improbable Joe that some of the perception of security vs paranoia has to do with where you grew up. I have never gotten in the habit of locking my doors, whether I am home or away. I also have no fear of being attacked (by humans – bears are perhaps another story) if I decide to take a midnight walk. I suppose that my lonely house in the middle of nowhere might be ideal for an attack, because nobody would see or hear anything, but it is so far out and the closest town so small that it seems to me highly unlikely anybody will ever bother.
    My husband (imported from the city, because the pickings around here were rather slim), on the other hand, compulsively locks everything, and carries a pistol when he goes for walks or if someone knocks on the door after dark.

  13. 14

    As I look back on it at age 65, I’m sure I’ve locked a house or apartment door before, but I don’t remember doing it – at least not regularly. At most of the places I’ve lived I promptly lost the keys to the door locks (I could lose a beach ball in a phone booth) and just figured WTF. I guess I always thought if somebody broke in on me, they were welcome to my shit – as the only things I have of any value are books – and I doubt if your typical burgler would be interested in a first edition of “Goethes Briefe an Frau von Stein” (Bütten & Loening, 1883).
    That said, I’ve never had to worry about being sexually assaulted. I hope this doesn’t sound prejudiced, but no matter how you look; how weak, strong, timid or brave you are, being sexually assaulted outside of a prison cell just isn’t in the playbook so long as you are a guy.
    Tangentially, now that I think about it, wouldn’t you love to see assholes like Todd Aiken have to spend a week in a prison cell with a couple of big, horney lifers, so he could learn exactly what ligitimate rape is?

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