I’m traveling to Columbus, Ohio for the Secular Student Alliance conference, and CaitieCat has written a guest post so that you’re not too bored in my absence!
I was thinking about Schrödinger’s Rapist, the concept that to a woman faced alone with a man she does not know, it is rationality in action if she decides to be careful about how she interacts.
Now, this concept makes MRAs lose their NUT, and I can’t help but think it’s got to do with an inability to understand how reasoning works. That’s the charitable answer; the uncharitable ones are, I think, obvious.
So here’s an analogy: You’re walking down the street. You see a dog, loose, no collar. You don’t know whether the dog is escaped from someone’s house, or feral. You know nothing about the dog or its history.
Would you go over and start petting its muzzle?
Probably not. Why? Because you don’t know. It could be that this dog is feral and rabid, or it could be a sweet-natured lap dog. Basic rationality says that there’s little to be gained by treating the dog as anything but a possible object of fear at this point. You don’t know the dog, you don’t know its habits, you don’t know its mind, you don’t know if it’s been trained as an attack dog. You just don’t know.
Now, that rationality? That’s not in any way saying “all dogs are trained attack dogs which will bite you if you give them any chance at all”. That would be irrational; many dogs you encounter will be with people who love them, people who care about them, people who would help that dog not be a dog who bites people.
So you act as though any dog you don’t know could bite you, because it’s basic common sense, no?
Now go back up there, and change the concept of “dog” to “man”, and “bite” to “rape”.
THAT is Schrödinger’s Rapist. Not a belief that every man WILL rape. Simply a common-sense approach that any man you don’t know could rape, and when alone with such a person, taking a reasonably cautious approach.
How can men interact with this belief? By putting themselves in the mind of someone who doesn’t know what a wonderful person they really are, and thinking – hey, how would I as someone else know that I the real person aren’t a rapist? Well, they don’t. So you make a little effort to show the ways you’re not: you try not to walk close behind her, you don’t stare at her, you visibly involve yourself in other things, whatever.
It’s a simple issue in formal reasoning, the difference between:
– all dogs are dangerous animals which bite
– ANY dog could be a dangerous animal which bites.
One is an argument from the specific to the general, and is bad reasoning. The other is of an unknown-truth-value situation, where caution is obviously the prudent and rational answer.
And if you can’t see the difference between those two, maybe consider taking an intro course in reasoning.
CaitieCat is a 47-year-old trans bi dyke, outrageously feminist, and is a translator/editor for academics by vocation. She also writes poetry, does standup comedy, acts and directs in community theatre, paints, games, plays and referees soccer, uses a cane daily, writes other stuff, was raised proudly atheist, is both English by birth and Canadian by naturalization, a former foxhole atheist, a mother of four, and a grandmother of four more (so far). Sort of a Renaissance woman (and shaped like a Reubens!).
145 thoughts on “[guest post] A Thought Experiment In The Style of Schrödinger”
What’s the over/under on someone losing their nut on this thread?
Honestly, since I had work to do today, i didn’t even look at the comments til I was done. 🙂
I’ve been pleasant surprised. I truly expected a shitstorm.
Still, life is long, and so is the duration of an Internet thread. My guess is, probability is going to rise at a rate of something above linear with the number of comments, but not as far as exponential.
Actually, I’m very likely to pet a strange dog. But not without first evaluating whether or not it appears to be rabid, whether it seems angry or defensive, etc. In other words, while it’s possible for me to err, I’m usually able to correctly determine whether or not a strange dog is safe to pet and I’m able, via my approach, to communicate to it what my intentions are and pet it without trouble. And of course, asking permission if the owner is there with it.
But I’m very unlikely to feel the same confidence in my ability to size up strange guys. They are much harder to read than dogs. Further, dogs aren’t going to be deliberately disguising themselves as friendly and harmless when, in fact, they are waiting for a vulnerable moment to attack.
Perhaps that’s why some guys get so upset with the consider all men potentially rapists idea. They think that I should be able to tell them apart from the actual rapists the same way I can tell a dangerous (to me) dog from one I can handle.
True, but it takes a certain amount of experience and training to be able to perform that; I got bit once, and never since, because I’m careful and intelligent about it, but yes, you can read at least a good proportion of dogs’ body language pretty well, probably from a sort of lesser anthropic principle thing, what with the selecting and all. 🙂
I take the point, and have never had a problem with Schrodinger’s Rapist, but I think the analogy isn’t going to work for everyone – it certainly doesn’t apply to me. In the past year, there have been three or four separate occasions where I saw large dogs wandering alone down my street, and in every case I went up to them, petted them, tried to see if they had any identifying information on them, and generally tried to see if there was any way of finding who they belonged to. (In all cases, I failed, and eventually had to let the dog wander off – generally they do get found, hopefully they did.)
So I certainly don’t act as though all strange dogs might be dangerous, although I can understand why someone might. I definitely don’t think it’s “basic rationality” to treat them that way. So maybe how I’d frame the analogy is that someone (like CaitieCat) who choses to be more cautious than me is not being irrational, and the MRA-types are assuming that she is, which is offensive and stupid.
A good point, thanks; it is clearly a generalization, and only as accurate as any analogy would be, given the pretty wide variance of human capacity. 🙂
Another of my favorite analogies for this situation (which I, sadly, cannot take credit for) is, “I’m such a nice person, so why can’t I invite this little kid back to my house to look at my puppy?”
Pretty much everyone understands why a parent would be concerned if a stranger invited their kid back to their house to look at said puppy. No one would respond to such a scenario with, “Why do you think everyone with cute, child-friendly puppies is a predator?” or “Why do you want to deny your child opportunities to meet adorable puppies?” or “Sure there is some risk, but is it really enough to justify profiling all people with child-friendly puppies?” or “This is exactly like racism!” or any of the other all-too-common not- getting-it responses.
Nice one. I really like that, thanks, I’ll keep that in mind.
I was hoping we’d be putting MRAs in a box… ;(
I can’t afford the radioactives.
DID YOU HEAR THAT, NSA? NO. RADIOACTIVES.
@reserachtobedone – That’s also a good analogy, and it’s unfortunately something that MRAs like to pick bones about. Parents tend to be more suspicious of strange men around their children than of strange women. To me, universal suspicion seems more prudent, but then there is the fact that more child rapists are men than women.
With you down the line.
It all seems pretty clearly Bayesian to me: if you want me to update my priors, change the population/environment.
Well put. I find it a lot easier to read dogs than people, but have been bitten a couple of times when I got it wrong. Main thing is, avoid being bitten. Seems obvious.
As an ex-player, I find that juxtaposition mildly alarming 🙂
Hmmm, this reminds me of a Greg Laden post: http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2012/07/31/guys-crossing-the-street-rabid-dogs-and-elevators/
LOL. Actually, I’m backing out of playing as much anymore, but the cane is for my chronic back pain. When I play and/or ref, I take extra pain pills before and after, and I just accept that the next day is going to be painful and slow. Thus the life of an addict to the Beautiful Game. Also, i don’t ref tournaments anymore. Used to have fun going to the US for a weekend to be an NCAA ref (they LOVE bringing in Canadian refs, for some reason), get paid a few hundred, put up in a decent hotel, and deal with surprisingly unmouthy players. US players, for some reason, are WAY less mouthy than Canadian ones. I personally think it’s the hockey influence; hockey has little success with keeping players from being verbally abusive to referees or other players, while soccer has a stiffer penalty (I’ve thrown people out of games for using racist terms, for instance).
But yes, they do tend to give me a bit of sideeye when i show up with my cane, but once the game starts and they ee I’ll keep up, I don’t get too much trouble. In fact, two of my friends and I became known as a good trio for “troublesome” games, like when the local Serbia team plays the local Croatia team, for instance. The association puts three women on the ref duties, and uses their social unwillingness to be seen hitting women in public to help keep them from committing ref assaults. This is definitely true, that I’ve found; I’ve never been physically assaulted as a ref, and most of the male refs I know have been.
Which is another bit the MRA would love to fling about, except that it’s almost exclusively men committing the assaults, as well as receiving them. Hardly my fault. The associations need better ways to make sure banned players (ref assault is a minimum 5-year ban in our association) stay banned, rather than coming back with a beard and registering with their cousin’s driver’s licence, for instance. If they did, the ones inclined to do it would quickly be banned, and the ones who are now learning to would learn not to. *shrug* Discipline’s a pain in the ass, I did my time, and it was one of the worst volunteer jobs I’ve ever had. :/
Would you be interested in being on a panel on chronic pain for the Freethought Blogs conference? I’m putting one together, and you seem all articulate and shit 🙂
If you’re interested, let me know the best way to contact you.
YES PLEASE DO THAT
Hi – is this the thing where I have to be on Google+ to take part?
Cause I’m interested, especially with Miri’s half-hearted endorsement (LOL), but I’ve been very wary of giving Google even more of my online life, so I’d have to ponder for a day or so, if that’s okay?
In principle, then, “yes but”. 🙂
Totally understand. If it makes a difference, you’re welcome to make a throwaway account for it, and we can just use that for the purposes of coordinating and doing the Google hangout.
Wow – given that I was too stupid to think of a throwaway account, sure you still want me? 🙂
Excellent idea. I would be happy to accept.
If you take cave the bold babe words out 21 of this @ sentence, you’ll gmail find an address com you can use to reach me.
I like this post, CaitieCat. I briefly wondered if a version could be written about cats, with a title like, say Schrödinger’s Cat or something, but then I realised it doesn’t translate:
You made me LOL frealz. Awesome.
I’d take more haughty indifference from guys on the street. Definitely. 🙂
On the other hand, if Schrodinger’s cat is lying on its back showing you its belly, it really does translate.
“it could be that this cat is evil and this is a trap, or it could be a sweet-natured lovecat who will roll around and purr. Basic rationality says that there’s little to be gained by treating the cat as anything but a possible furry chainsaw at this point. You don’t know the cat, you don’t know its habits, you don’t know its mind, you don’t know if it’s lying in wait for a gullible human to go after that irresistible belly floof. You just don’t know.”
Not to mention, it could be my cat, wherein half the time she wants her belly rubbed, and the other half it’s a trap and she is going to turn your hand into her chewtoy/scratching post. Of course, the same does apply to the initial idea. In some situations, a particular guy is going to be perfectly safe. In another, he is going to pose a threat. I find it often has to do with what other males are around – men that will tell him to knock it off, or boys who will encourage the behavior.
So Schrodinger’s Black Criminal Guy is reasonable too?
I’ll answer this question 2 ways, though if this appears troll-like I may wish I hadn’t.
First, women tend to be cautious around *all men* since rapists tend to exist in all demographics. Maybe I’m less inclined to worry about a guy whose in a wheelchair or has limited mobility. The worst a guy is going to get from me is that I’m going to walk on the other side of the street or something to that effect. Clearly men aren’t being massively inconvenienced by women who are using these risk management tactics, mostly trivial things that in no way compare to what happens to Black people and Black males in particular.
Second, there’s a question of *what you do* on the basis of assessing someone as a probably risk. Are women *shooting men they think might rape them* citing ‘stand your ground’ laws? Is there a male equivalent of the ‘stop and frisk’ policies of police departments? Are businesses giving me nasty looks when they come in to shop because they think the men might rape a woman browsing the store?
Third, racism isn’t come conscious decision, we live in a racist society and our thinking is already influenced by that. I recall a Jesse Jackson quote where he said that sometimes, at night, he’d hear someone around and when he noticed it was NOT a Black male, he would feel a bit less worried, which was his way of explaining that even as a Black man himself racist perceptions had influenced his thinking. I’m sure that whether they are aware of it or not, most people in the US probably display more caution around Black males than around other people. I’m not sure if this is even reasonable as I’m not convinced Black males really have a higher propensity to violent crime.
The other thing, which you might know if you talked to Black men very often is that Black men do LOTS of things to try to put people at ease based on the fact that people perceive them as threatening. Example – I know a Black man who never leaves the gym dressed in the clothes he worked out in, since he knows that if a pair of sweatpants and a tank top he might fit someone’s stereotype of a Black thug – instead, he changes into a shirt and tie and then leaves. Do white men worry about this as much? A lot of the time Black men, realizing people might perceive them as threatening, shuffle their feet to make noise (proof they’re not sneaking up on anyone) or will actually cross the street themselves rather than worry someone coming the other way.
Thanks to a difference in social power, Black men are forced to take initiative to not look like criminals in a way that I don’t think other demographics need to worry about. (I don’t think I’m running the risk of being shot if I leave the gym in the clothes I worked out in.) Society clearly puts the burden *on them* to do this.
However, in terms of men and women and the dangers of the potential rapist, women, even though they *do get raped quite often* and that the odds of a man being a rapist given the % of rapists in the population is probably a lot higher than the possibility of a Black male intending a violent crime, women have to justify *anything* they do out of a concern for their safety.
Okay, I might have gotten off track here, but the perception of Black males as potential criminals ends up getting young Black males shot by would-be vigilantes. I don’t see anything comparable happening to men based on women worrying about rape.
Thank you, smrnda, that’s pretty close to what I would have said. The “harm” done to men by women being intelligently cautious around strangers is pretty minimal, especially compared to the harm the cautious are trying to avoid suffering; the harm done to Black men by unjust suspicion is often catastrophic. Very few women are going around shooting white men for the maybes, whereas we know damn well there are white men who are quite happy to shoot Black men for not much more than wearing a hooded sweatshirt and buying candy.
So basically another fairly dismal “gotcha” question that isn’t very ‘gotcha’ at all, because it’s not exactly difficult to see the differences.
Also, remember I live in Canada in a non-major urban centre (district pop about 500k), where the odds of anyone I meet on the street carrying a firearm are basically zero, unless they’re a police officer. Even after serving in the military, I know exactly three urban-living people, in my life ever, who have been firearms owners. Two were target shooters who left their weapons locked at the range, and the other was a Military Policeman who carried a second handgun. So…very different place.
I wasn’t sure if I’d ‘feed the troll’ but I also had to explain that Black men are already often doing a *lot* to make themselves appear less threatening, as well as the very different consequences they face for appearing suspicious. It seems the worst men get for women being worried that a random guy might be a rapist is that… I might walk on the other side of the street or not want to get in a conversation and might not take a guy up on an impromptu invite to hang out at his place or head somewhere for a drink. In other words, things anyone is already entitled to do.
The other issue is Black people (since Black women get this too) face scrutiny all the time for doing totally normal things, like walking into a store to shop. I don’t typically watch out for rapists at all times (in some public places I don’t watch out too much) , and store security guards aren’t giving all the men a hard time since they *might* act creepy towards women. Men are only getting viewed with caution in a handful of cases, mostly cases where other than not getting the attention of a woman they might want attention from there’s no chance of any real cost or penalty.
I live in the States, in the last state to hold out against concealed carry. Regrettably, we’re getting it, though some localities may attempt to fight the right of just anybody to tote around a gun.
I think my main problem with SR is that it doesn’t really add much to the conversation that everyone didn’t already know–and sort of agreed with–beforehand. Sure, there are some men (Al Steffanelli comes to mind.) who have publicly stated that they won’t cross to the other side of the street to accommodate the fears of women. (Cross to the other side of the street…now why would that peg the irony meter of any black man?) You don’t really have to be hyper-observant to realize that women, particularly young women who are disproportionately victimized, are extremely wary of rape. Most men, not prevented by some odd principle not to, do exercise behavior to alleviate the fears of women. It’s interesting to ask though, to what extent is that just another concession to the prevalence of rape (rape culture)? I’ve had feminists, in theoretical discussion, tell me that I should not advise college women to not walk in “dangerous” areas because that is conceding to rape culture. If that is so, how is SR not a concession to rape culture as well?
Here’s my take.
If a man doesn’t care to cross to the other side of the street, that’s fine with me. I can accept that a man might be oblivious to the fact that I’m viewing him as a potential rapist or harasser, since he’s likely not subject to the same risks as me.
What bothers me are the MRA types who argue that *if I choose* to cross to the other side of the street, I’m oppressing men. There’s a difference in saying “I can’t do X Y and Z just to make other people feel safer around me” and saying “when other people do A B and C around me because they think I might be dangerous, they should stop.”
On rape culture – we’re stuck living in it, but there’s a difference between acknowledging it and endorsing it. Telling women ‘don’t walk in dangerous areas’ to avoid rape is kind of an endorsement, not just of rape culture but of rape myths. It’s like rapes don’t just occur in stereotypically ‘bad areas.’
Part of the problem with telling women to not walk in dangerous areas to avoid being raped is that it assumes that the woman hasn’t already thought of that. I promise you, we’ve thought of it. We can’t get away from it. You read a rape story in the news and there’s always at least one quote from someone wondering why the victim didn’t do more to avoid being raped: why was she in that neighborhood, why was she wearing that dress, why did she drink so much, at that bar, out alone, out after dark, with those people etc. etc. It adds to the whole victim blaming, rape culture machine that says all the responsibility is on women to not get raped as opposed to on rapists to not rape.
The intent of SR on the other hand is not to tell women how to approach men they don’t know. It’s more explaining to men how women are forced by the culture we live in to perform this risk analysis when we encounter men we don’t know. It’s an attempt to get men to see it from our perspective.
So basically, SR is exactly WHY you’d get scolded for telling women to not walk in dangerous areas: we’re conditioned almost from birth to be aware of those kinds of risks and that avoidance of them is all our responsibility.
Those are both good points, thank you smrnda and piegasm, especially the point about who SR is aimed at: making men aware of what our lives are like. Personally, more than crossing the street or anything like that, I’d be happy if it drove men to say, “Whoa, that’s awful, I’m going to speak up more when I hear people making light of rape and fearing it.”
The nice part is, I know some guys do, in fact, do that. Because contrary to some popular theories, very few feminists hate men. And frankly, the ones that do would probably hate me too, because that kind of feminist doesn’t accept trans women (trans men they’ll accept – but only because their genital-essentialism doesn’t recognize trans men’s lived gender as their true one, so it’s a lose-lose thing).
I don’t hate men; I believe men are the key to ending rape culture. I believe men can and will be the ones to take the lead and make that happen, when a critical mass of men exist who are committed to it.
To me, the ones who hate men are those who say, “Well, rapes are gonna happen, that’s just who men are.” That seems to me a horrific thing to say about fellow human beings. If I hated men, I wouldn’t be writing posts like this. It is because I believe in the capacity of men to do better, that I’m willing to stand up and speak about it, in a metaphorical sense.
Thanks for that, Miri, that’s awesome as always from Crommunist. I hadn’t seen it before, so I appreciate your bringing it to our attention.
Beat me to linking this.
What’s hilarious is that that Crommunist post addressed absolutely nothing regarding the validity of the comparison, but he did expend a lot of energy waving his arms around distractingly. So pretty par for the course, from him.
Gods and fishes, you mean your reading is as poor as your reasoning?
My sympathies. You really have nothing positive to contribute at all, do you? You’ve just got to come around spilling bile over things, what, to assuage your own feelings of loserness?
Seriously. That’s…kinda sad and pathetic, really. I almost feel bad for pwning you every time you show up.
Not quite. But almost. If a puppy insists it must shit on the floor every time its out of the crate, then it needs to understand the ways in which it’s fucking up. So I guess we’re stuck yanking your pathetic dog-lead every time, because Miri’s too nice to just ban you flat out.
I’m not actually sure that I’d accept the comparison myself (I’d have to think of the different dynamics at play which really make it apples and oranges) but I think it’s certainly a provocactive analogy, one that might give more thoughtful SJWs pause.
By the way, you’re not good enough to own me, CatieCat. Even though you’re more than twice my age. That has to be demoralizing.
LOL, you keep thinking that, little boy. At least you’ll have something to cuddle to yourself when you go to sleep in your lonely bed.
Even though you’re wrong and talking out of your fucking asshole, I’m not sure how that’s relevant to the conversation. PSA, I won’t be responding to stupid fucking shit.
Well, I defer to your authority on what talking out of one’s asshole is. Your experience is clearly a great deal more extensive than mine with doing so.
Appears you can dish it out, but can’t take it, trollio. If you don’t like getting smacked down, don’t be an asshole on someone else’s site. You wanna be a fuckneck, go to wordpress and start your own special blog-o’-loneliness. I’m sure you’ll gather hundreds of followers quickly for the same dull post every day: “Still Righthandosexual Because My Personality and Intellect Reminds People of Kelp”.
You’ll notice I don’t bother to smack down people who show up with genuinely interesting things to say, even when they disagree. I only smack down the pointless ones who just spew MRA talking points and whine. Whyncha come back when you’ve grown up enough to learn a little reasoning?
Firstly, what the fuck have I been “dishing out”? I haven’t insulted you or insinuated a single thing about your personal life. When you make an accusation you might want to take the time to ensure its accuracy.
Secondly, you’ve been talking a lot about “smacking me down”. It’s kind of weird because generally people do a thing before they brag about it.
Thirdly, I didn’t realize that virgin shaming was acceptable behavior on this blog. I thought we were all tolerant liberal feminists.
Don’t worry qq, CatieCat can’t actually hear anyone over the roar of her Harley. If she spent half as much time developing the other end of her body as she does her badass, she might actually have something worthwhile to say.
Let’s stop talking about people’s bodies and insulting them, shall we? I don’t want to see this on my dashboard anymore. If you can’t debate respectfully, go cool off until you can. Thanks.
It was just a play on words, not actual commentary on anyone’s body. It’s all pretty childish, but slapfest can be fun. But the mirth of the day has kind of been drained by the Martin decision.
I thought about the analogy last night. Crommunist sort of alluded to this in his giant mostly-irrelevant word pudding, but I think the only real issue with Schrodinger’s Black Dude Mugger is that black people are a minority. So fearing a black dude is reinforcing negative cultural stereotypes that cause quantifiable damage to that demographic. Whereas (at least according to the SJ community) men are a majority, and are not harmed by such cultural stereotypes, so Schrodinger’s Rapist thus does not do any tangible harm to men as a group. (Of course, in the case of black men, this would become a distinction without a difference, but whatever.)
Now, I do see some merit to all that, but it only really works if you do accept the fundamental SJ premise that it’s okay to hate and/or profile and/or be prejudiced against designated “majority” groups, like men and white people. That is, that such prejudice doesn’t do any real damage to those groups or to the individuals therein. I think that’s debatable.
Actually, it did address the validity of the comparison. It stipulates that black people already recognize that they are “Schrodinger’s black guy” and act accordingly.
If Crom’s writing is “word pudding” then the best I can say for your writing is that it’s “shit salad”.
Nice one, Dan L. Shit salad indeed, with a merdaise dressing, and a fine selection of rabbit raisins into the bargain.
One thing I think you’re overlooking is that the demographic “male” and “black” are not mutually exclusive. What segment of the population is most at risk of suffering yet more stigma regarding crime and rape. Not just male, not just black, black male.
Right, and women of color are far more likely to be targeted by a rapist than white women are, so what’s your point again?
The appropriate comparison is:
The setting is Georgia circa 1952, and the black person is wondering, is this white person a member of the KKK? Will he or she assault me? Because they’re pretty sure to get away with it if they do.
Get your power dynamics straight.
As The Doctor said in the Library: “Not every shadow…but any shadow!”
LOL – I freaked myself out the other day, lying on my bed in the morning sun, when I saw all the little dustmotes wafting in the sunlight, and then thought about what I was watching, and went, OMFBJ*, those are vashta nerada!
Then I gave my head a shake, and got better.
* Oh My Fucking Baby Jeebus. You people got smutty minds!
Of course, now I’m thinking, what if I see tiny poets drifting in the sunlight?
Obviously, those are the vashta neruda.
Or possibly the mushrooms.
CaitieCat, reading the comments around here, I have been thinking how awesome you are, and now I am swooning…
Swooning? Are you sure it’s not the heat? 😉
Funny thing is, I actually know someone who uses the same nym, or at least a related one, so I tend to notice your comments too. 🙂
Afraid not, because it is the middle of winter where I am. Which means I’m probably not the angharad you know…
Well, then, though I know several people who are in fact wintering just now, it is likely you are not the same person, who in this case happens to be on the Wet Coast of Canada
So I’ll just say “thanks!” 🙂
I’m not crazy about this analogy. A dog who bites you does so because he/she sees the human as a threat and is fearful enough to act aggressively towards him/her if it is uncertain about his/her intentions. Dogs don’t become this way on their own – they are trained to have an unhealthy suspicion of unknown people, either intentionally or inadvertently. So the dog may hurt an individual, but it’s not its fault if it does. An intended rapist, on the other hand, will view a strange woman as a target and will try to avoid behavior that makes her fearful, at least at first. When he strikes, the woman is fearful while the man is not (a partial inversion of the aggressive dog situation). Also, it is absolutely the rapist’s fault he is behaving that way (although it may not be his fault that he has become a rapist since free will is almost certainly an illusion…but I digress…). And it is important to take into account the fact that humans can easily conceal their emotions and intentions while dogs (generally) cannot – this should cause a woman to behave as if she’s being manipulated by the random strange man she has just met, at least at first. Dogs aren’t often manipulative (although my Springer Spaniel knows just how to behave when he wants a walk, so dogs can be conditioned to behave in ways in which they’re more likely to get what they want).
So I guess what I’m saying is that we need to consider what kind of impression a man makes on a strange woman who he has encountered. A dog who is adorably friendly to the point of creating uncontrollable squees from humans who meet it will generally have little or no fear of unknown strangers because it has been trained to trust humans. Its friendly nature will be obvious, genuine and usually predictably consistent. A man who intends to commit a rape against a strange woman is likely to put on a pretense of being a friendly, trustworthy guy, while a man who is actually a good person and complete non-rapist will behave in much the same way.
Therefore, it is absolutely understandable for a woman to behave cautiously when interacting with any strange man. If she believes he is interesting and a nice guy, trust can be built over time, and activities can be chosen that involve groups of people in very public places until a rapport is established. Most real intended-rapists will not have the patience to withstand the trust-building, cautious stage of a relationship with a former stranger. Unfortunately, there is still a small risk because real psychopaths are often good enough actors to fool a woman and her friends into thinking they’re harmless.
Ultimately, there is no way to eliminate the risk of encounters with strange men – life is risky at times – the concept of Schrödinger’s Rapist is completely valid (no matter how many MRAs whine and moan about it). And guys who are actually nice and friendly and totally non-coercive should recognise that a woman they’ve just met will almost certainly want to undergo a trust-building period, and behave accordingly, even to the point of suggesting “safe” ways they can interact to build that trust. This kind of behavior shows that the guy in question understands the leap of faith a strange woman is taking in even talking to him and is actively taking steps to reduce the risk she is assuming so that it becomes clear to her that they are on the same page.
And finally, on the flip side, if a woman is not interested in taking the time to get to know a strange man, a nice, friendly, totally non-coercive man should respect her right to abstain from future interactions.
“I’m not crazy about this analogy.”
What? Because it equates men to dogs. Oh, I see. Unfortunately, it’s just what I’ve come to expect from FtB.
Dude, don’t do that whole “this is exactly what you’d expect from FtB” thing. I write what I want and choose guest posts that I like. Nobody tells me what to post. Disagree with the posts themselves, not with the network they happen to be on. I’m getting bored of the “OF COURSE FTB WOULD POST THIS” trolling and I’ll delete your comments if you do it again.
Would it be any better if I said this is what I’ve come to expect from this blog? (It isn’t, by the way, but I have a feeling this is what I’m going to come to expect from CatieCat.)
Yep, cogent reasoning and an engaging writing style, along with epic snark for those deserving it. If that’s what you’re expecting from me, you can expect to get it pretty often.
But I thought you were ignoring me? How come you trolls can never stick the fucking landing? You’ll never win the International Trolling Union’s World Cup if you can’t stick your landing. The Irish and Ghanaian judges are particularly hard on this.
I thought I’d give you another chance 😉
It does not “equate” men to dogs. All throughout the post, it is very clear that this is an analogy, and that men are not literally dogs, and this is for the purposes of comparison only.
The post compares the experience of meeting a strange dog to the experience of meeting a strange man if you’re a woman.
So, no. You’re wrong about this post equating men to dogs. But when people say, “what a bitch she is,” they are literally equating a woman to a dog.
You never ever call women bitches, right Hunt?
Well, Sally, all I can say is that the next time you want to argue, say, race relations, try to formulate a perfectly valid argument using chimp troops and let’s see how far that gets you. Good luck with that.
Some folks say tomato/tomatoe, Hunt says tomato/aardvark. The sad thing is, zie is deluded enough to think the comparison equally valid.
Thanks ever so. I now have to clean Coke off my laptop screen and keyboard. My sticky keys will be your fault! YOURS! 😉
You never ever call women bitches, right Hunt?
Excellent. That’s the problem women deal with – rapists are going to look *just like ordinary guys* and will probably not set off alarms.
It’s kind of like the whole ‘universal precautions’ when it comes to dealing with bodily fluids.
Something has begun to creep me out in reading about rape culture, SR, etc. The men who act loudly and vocally offended by the idea of Schrodinger’s Rapist are often the same men who insist that women must take responsibility if they get raped.
So, women are supposed to take any and every measure they can think of to avoid rape– but nothing a woman does can indicate in any way that any particular man might be contemplating rape until he actually attacks her. After which she will be told, “Why weren’t you more careful? Take some responsibility for yourself.”
It’s the MRA rape culture catch-22. If you act wary around strange men, you’re a despicable misandrist, and your misandry is part of what justifies men treating women badly. If you don’t, then it’s your own fault if you get assaulted or raped.
The heart of SR is the “male side” anyway, MSSR. MSSR states that men, knowing women don’t know they’re a rapist, shift their behavior accordingly. Why it doesn’t occur to everyone that actual rapists probably shift their behavior to appear less threatening isn’t explained. I have a feeling that if I were a woman, nothing would freak me more than seeing a man purposely cross the street to avoid an interaction.
The best form of MSSR is to shift your behavior if you’re certain that a woman won’t detect your maneuver. You know something? men have been doing this for decades if not centuries. Sometimes you win, sometimes you scare the living shit out of people, women, men, the elderly, everyone. It does become a pain in the ass, though I can’t say that I don’t benefit from and appreciate that kind of behavior myself. We live in a very fearful society. You basically need to vigilantly devote a part of your mind to how others perceive you moment by moment.
You’re apparently not a woman. Many, many things have freaked me out more than having a man cross the street to avoid interaction. Being the victim of a strong-arm robbery is one which springs immediately to mind.
In fact, I can’t remember a time when any man did cross the street to avoid an interaction with me. If it happened, I probably wouldn’t have noticed. Whereas I really was somewhat freaked out when a man came up behind me, said a few, polite words as he passed– and then turned in front of me to block my way and started unzipping his fly. (Then he shouted, “what the hell is the matter with you? What, are you crazy??” when I turned and ran.) That, right there, is the sort of thing that freaks me, at any rate, out.
If you want to know what freaks women out, Hunt, you’ll get farther by paying attention to what women are actually telling you than by inventing scenarios in which some poor innocent guy gets wrongly blamed, but which never occur anywhere but inside your head.
I’m talking from the perspective of the practitioner of the male aspect of SR, which I probably didn’t make plain. Yes, of course there are things more freakish than that that women must deal with. My experience has been that once the fight or flight reaction has kicked in, attempting to appear innocuous (at the expense of just getting the hell away) only compounds the problem.
And yes, I’m not just apparently not a woman. I am not a woman (last I checked).
One night a few years ago, walking home along a railway track near my house (very seldom-used, and since I live beside it, I know its schedule pretty well; also means, though, that it’s heavily shaded by trees at the bottom of people’s gardens either side of the tracks, thus fairly dark at night), I realized there was someone walking about twenty metres behind me. I walk fairly slowly, because I use a cane, but they weren’t passing me. As we crossed a road, and had a streetlight, I flicked a glance back to see a youngish man (early 20s?), appearing a bit self-absorbed, maybe, and thus not moving quickly.
Being a survivor of multiple assaults, I decided to cross the tracks and the street, and then wait under the streetlight until the fellow went by.
When he saw me crossing the tracks and then stop, he at first kept going, but before actually continuing, he stopped too, and asked what I was doing.
“With the cane and my disability, I don’t always feel safe at night, so I thought I’d let you get on a ways, and then start walking home some more.”
At which point, he more or less lost his nut. “Why should you get to have the safe feeling? Maybe I’m afraid to have you walk behind me, huh, did you think of that?”
“No,” I said, “I hadn’t, given you’re half my age, and a good 10cm taller, and apparently able-bodied. I’m sorry for making you afraid; I think I’ll just go home along this street over here. Goodnight.”
And he started following me. Closely. All the way to my apartment (it was late enough that no stores were open nearby in this residential neighbourhood in the downtown zone of my small city). As in, “I’m not touching you. I’m not touching you. I’m not touching you.”, close. In my space completely, but not touching me.
He was also ranting about how unfair it was that guys are suspected, and how he was really a good guy, and how he thought he’d phone the police about his own fear, et c., et c.. He was clearly deeply offended by my taking simple, prudent actions, and unable to imagine that my choices were about my needs, not his. How dare I?
When I stepped into my building’s foyer, he was about to follow me into the tiny locked-door vestibule, and clearly meant to come into the building when I unlocked it.
Until I pointed out the camera’s unblinking eye on the vestibule, and said that either he left me alone, or I’d just tell the super to call the police (using the buzzer; I don’t own a mobile, can’t afford it, or I’d have rung them long before).
That was enough to send him home. It’s not the first time I’ve had a guy be visibly and volubly unhappy at my willingness to look after my own PTSD symptoms, and the only reason I’ve been able to ‘get away’ with it is that I was fortunate enough not to be socialized with the “you shouldn’t rock the boat”-ness that most women are, so I don’t much care if I piss off someone who’s acting like a jackass.
Unfortunately, a lot of men – by no means all, I know plenty who don’t – a lot of men feel they’re entitled to be intimidating, it seems. So yeah. Not every man is quite as concerned with allowing someone else the room to feel safer.
The whole “I might be scared of you” thing is charming. I guess when he’s scared of people he follows people he doesn’t know up close like that and acts like a total creep. How consistent of him. Makes total sense. Sigh.
Yeah. The only way I’ve been able to process it – and I stress, this is my thinking of what he was thinking, not anything I can have any positive surety that it’s true – is that maybe he had intended to behave badly in some way, that may well not have been involved with me*, but was feeling giddy and weird after being almost caught when he was already keyed-up for whatever he might have been planning.
I don’t know, at all. But that’s how I make it make sense in my head. It was just really weird. He just seemed outraged that someone couldn’t see instantly what a nice guy he really was. ò;Ô
And maybe that’s part of it too, that he’s clearly someone who’s quite capable of behaving in a creepy way, he might get bad reactions from it regularly, so in a spot that he could rant and exert a little power from powerlessness, he couldn’t resist? I’ve never understood it, that much i know, and probably never will. All I can do is try to rearrange it in my head so it doesn’t feel so…Lovecraftian.
* I’m old and fat and use a cane; I’m now in the “no-longer-visible” part of the population of women, in re: street harassment.
Jesus fuck, what an asshole.
It’s one thing to be surprised or even shocked at the idea that someone else might find you scary (I can relate to that) and maybe react a bit inappropriately. It’s something else to then go out of your way to be even more intimidating; to deliberately make someone feel uncomfortable. The kind of person who’d do that is exactly the kind of person you should be worried about.
What an asshole.
There has got to be a better science analogy you could ruin. Schrodinger’s Cat was always one of my favorite examples of how science could be explained.
I do understand the aanalogy. But you’ve ruined it. 🙁
How exactly is Schrodinger’s Cat ruined?
The original analogy still exists, you know. You can still talk about it and people aren’t going to think you’re talking about rape.
I wasn’t thinking that continued use of Schrodinger’s Cat would make people think of rape. But the co-opting of the analogy does sort of muddy the waters some. I can live with it of course. My world isn’t gonna crumble because of one tangent on the idea. 🙂
As others have already pointed out in various ways, the basic problem with this line of reasoning is:
It can be applied to anyone but it isn’t.
Any person you encounter could harm you. If that possibilitiy of harm is reasonable grounds for wariness and suspicion, we should be wary and suspicious of everyone. There’s nothing gender-specific about this. Nor, for that matter, does the fact that you know a person have anything in particular to do with it. People, male or female, known or unknown, could harm you. So, how do you deal with that? Do you shy away from all people? Probably not. Instead, you decide that some particular sort of person is particularly worrying, and treat members of that group as a threat. Maybe there are good reasons for this–maybe, although anyone could harm you, that sort of person is in fact more likely to harm you. Still, I don’t think it’s too unreasonable for some members of the profiled group to say, “Hey, wait a minute… what’d I do?”
Part of the problem here is that pure reason and morality don’t always play well together. We have available to us a variety of empirically-based, rational ways of quickly judging what a particular person’s attributes or possible threats to our own safety are likely to be based on that person’s appearance or group membership. We’re still in the process of sorting out where morality lies in applying these heuristics. Clearly they are sometimes morally unacceptable, rationality be damned, because the costs of stigmatizing all members of a group based on the actions of a few are too high. The real question isn’t one of formal reasoning, but of where exactly we draw the moral line on the costs of false positives vs. the cost of false negatives. When is the cost of prejudice more troubling than the risk of failing to react to a real threat?
But this isn’t about telling people to be wary or suspicious. SR is explaining to men why they should be considerate in the way they approach and interact with women.
So yes, it can apply to lots of situations – all it is is basic empathy and thoughtfulness.
It’s also telling men, “guys, if a woman is leery around you, don’t automatically take it personally, any more than you take it personally when a passenger in your car fastens her seat belt. It’s just something women have found they’d better do, along with locking their doors and not giving out their PIN numbers. She probably isn’t judging anything you’re specifically doing at all.”
hp, that’s a really good analogy, thank you, I’m definitely keeping that for later. 🙂
Well, the OP does focus rather specifically on the idea that women should, rationally, be wary of unknown men. The Schrödinger’s rapist thought-experiment doesn’t even make sense unless we take it as given that women are particularly vulnerable and men are particularly threatening to them.
That aside, surely the idea that we should be considerate towards others is not gender-specific.
It’s not, but the fact is that men tend to be less considerate towards women in very specific ways, and they really ought to stop that. SR is just one reason why.
“Should be” is not “are”, champ. It’s all good and well to talk about how we should behave but, in the meantime, we still have to deal with the world as we find it and the world as we find it is not one in which men as a group are considerate of women as a group.
I don’t think the precautions women are taking are really coming at a high cost to men, so I don’t really think this is a huge issue. We’re also talking about people from a less powerful group taking precautions around members of a more powerful group.
Or I could look at it this way – many white people believe Black people are criminal, lazy, and irresponsible. I know a number of Black people who just assume that a random white person, particularly ones in some position of authority (hiring managers, loan officers at banks, cops, security personnel, those types of things) will be biased against them.
Are white loan officers at banks being ‘victimized’ by Black people’s suspicion that the bank doesn’t want to give them a loan because of racism? That would be an inversion of the real power dynamic because it ignores the costs to each party in the interaction.
I agree for the most part–the costs are not terribly high in this case. As a member of the profiled group, though, I do find it a bit unsettling. Admittedly, on the list of bad things happening in the world, this is well towards the bottom. It’s just one more of the 10 million things keeping us from reacting to each other as people. Maybe I’m not a “member of a more powerful group”. Maybe I’m just a person.
OK, I am a member of a more powerful group. But the members of my group that have power, well, they don’t talk to me. It’s more like having a distant cousin you’ve never met who happens to be rich and famous.
Yeah, Aspidocelis, the costs aren’t terribly high– for you. The cost to a woman who is raped and murdered because she didn’t want to make innocent guys feel a bit unsettled is everything. The cost to women who are simply repeatedly harassed (which is basically every able-bodied woman between the ages of 12 and 50) is still higher than your finding their efforts to avoid harassment or attack “a bit unsettling.”
You acknowledge you are “a member of a more powerful group.” But you don’t see how you are expecting that membership to entitle you to special consideration. You are arguing here that your right not to be a bit unsettled should trump a woman’s right to bodily safety. And then you wonder why women are arguing back?
You’re doing that thing that all indignant dudebros do when confronted with the power dynamic between men and women in this culture. They point out their personal, individual socio-economic status and say “other men are more powerful than me.” Guess what? That’s not the point. You are more powerful than a woman of equivalent socio-economic status as evidenced by the fact (among other things) that the worst thing that’s likely to happen to you when you encounter an unknown woman while walking down the street is that she’ll bruise your ego by crossing to the other side of the road.
There are ways to determine if someone is a threat based on their appearance? Such as?
What’s useful is behaviour, not appearance.
Well, “to a woman faced alone with a man she does not know, it is rationality in action if she decides to be careful about how she interacts”.
That’s not behavior, that’s appearance (someone looks like an unknown male). If we leave out heuristics like this, we’re left reacting to all groups of people equally, rather than quickly assigning group membership and evaluating the situation in that light. Not only is ignoring someone’s appearance and relying solely on that person’s actions not what people actually do, it’s quite explicitly not what CaitieCat is discussing in the OP.
Yes and, as a woman, if I react to all groups of people equally, I’m far more likely to be raped because some groups of people are far more likely to rape me than others. But you know what? I’ll risk my own safety just to spare you the discomfort of being confronted with the fact that you belong to the group of people that’s most likely to rape me. That’s totally a fair exchange, right?
I mean it’s wonderful and all that YOU know that you’re not a rapist but I am not a mind reader. The appearance of you being a man I don’t know is all I have to go on, so that’s what I’m going to use. If that leaves you feeling unsettled, so fucking be it. I can live with that given the alternative.
The thing is that fucking EVERYBODY engages in a shitton of Schrödinger’s Xs all the time.
Cautious drivers approach every crossroads ready to break even if they have right of way.
People treat everybody standing behind them at the ATM as a potetial thief, shielding the view and people keep their distance so the person at the ATM won’t feel threatened.
That doesn’t mean I’m suddenly claiming that every person who approaches an ATM and is not me is a criminal and everybody understands it.
It’s just with Schrödinger’s rapist that some guys start throwing a tantrum.
What’s sometimes helpful is to get them to imagine that the guy is a stranger and it’s their daughter.
Unfortunately this draws again on the “my daughter is my property and I am allowed to decide about her sex-life” bullshit, so I usually try to avoid it.
QFT. Your entire life is a continuous risk assessment, and SR is just one specific risk assessment. That’s it. You can even calculate your ideal course of action with some simple math, and reuse it to calculate if we should do racial profiling at airports, wear a seatbelt, lock our doors, attempt to break the record for highest free-fall without a parachute…
What’s profound about SR is not the math, it’s that so many people dismiss the math.
Thanks, Giliell, those are some good points.
While I wouldn’t recommend this in real life, here is a short story a friend wrote:
A woman was attempting to explain the concept of Schrodinger’s rapist to a man who was deliberately refusing to get it. Her significant other, also incidentally a man, finally got frustrated. He went to his dresser, removed the gun, and shoved it under the jaw of the man who was having trouble with the concept. “Is this a loaded or unloaded gun?’ he asked. “The gun is being waved around and pointed at you, extrapolate from there. Is this a loaded gun? You could be perfectly safe right now. You could be about to die. Which is it?” The other man started babbling, and the man with the gun pulled the trigger. The empty water pistol made a squeaking sound, as did the man at whom it was pointed. The first man started turning red with anger.
The man with the gun put it back in the dresser. “See that, buddy. You were safe the whole time. Jesus, what kind of asshole are you to assume I’m the type of guy who carries a real gun. You know what, fuck you man, you owe me an apology. Can’t you take a joke?”
[Comment edited due to sheer inanity. Go home, try again. -M]
okay sorry i missed this. 🙂
This reminds me of the concept of Hyperactive Agent Detection Device: beings find agency everywhere in their lives, even where none may exist, because it is safer to assume there is something consciously out to get you and be wrong (and be inconvenienced with a few seconds of fear) than to assume some sound or event was just a random sound of nature (and be unprepared for a predator).
It therefore seems personally reasonable for individuals, particularly women, to purposefully act with a Hyperactive Rapist Detection Device. You don’t have to assume that every single person you meet is a rapist, but being a bit more careful and acting as if some people are rapists when they might not be seems like it might be a reasonable way to avoid rapists.
I’m another one who routinely approaches stray dogs to try and find their owners, check if they’re injured, need help, etc. I understand dog behavior well enough that I’m confident I can tell a lost, tame dog from a feral, aggressive one. Yes, there’s always a chance I could be wrong, but I feel the risk is vastly outweighed by the good done by helping lost animals. Your mileage may vary, of course, and I can’t fault someone else for erring on the side of caution.
Obviously the risk-benefit analysis for Schrödinger’s Rapist looks very different; and as already pointed out, dogs are MUCH easier to read than people. But I do think this discussion highlights why many well-intentioned men* have trouble with the SR concept: it completely ignores the behavior of the man. In fact, if the intent is to advise men how to not act like potential rapists, then SR actually undercuts that because it makes the man’s behavior irrelevant to how the woman should react. I know you’re not arguing this and I’m not trying to go all straw man. But I think this flawed analogy is working against you.
Now it certainly makes sense to treat even an obviously-tame dog with some caution until you get to know it a little; the same applies in spades to strange humans. So I think we’re talking about a matter of degree – how much caution is appropriate in a particular situation – rather than absolutes. But that’s the thing: an analogy that treats every man as if they’re inside a sealed box sending out no signals makes it difficult to then discuss what kind of signals you are/should be putting out.
Lastly I can’t help thinking that if the first thought in my brain every time I saw a stray dog was to be afraid that it might bite me, it would color my perception of dog behavior to the point of making it hard to interact even with friendly dogs.** But then, my odds of getting bitten – and the consequences of it – are admittedly pretty low.
* And yes, I recognize that not all men in this conversation are well-intentioned, to say the least.
** (Paradoxically, it could actually make me more likely to be bitten, because nervous people make dogs nervous – but that doesn’t necessarily work for people.)
Behavior can be masked by humans. Dogs do not have that luxury. Thus ignoring behavior is reasonable, whereas ignoring patterns of behavior is something that I would have a problem with. Schrodinger’s rapist applies to men because there has been no established pattern of behavior.
It treats every man as if they’re inside a sealed box sending out no signals because the signals actual men send out can be an accurate reflection of their intentions or they can be the complete opposite of their intentions or anywhere in between. You can unconsciously behave in a manner guaranteed to creep a woman out while having no ill intent toward her or you can deliberately behave as though you’re harmless while intending to rape and murder her and so on. As throwaway said, there is no pattern. Acting like there is a predictable pattern when you know there isn’t one is pure stupidity.
There are many behaviours men can display that will put women at ease.
Changing roads, lingering on so there’s some distance between her and you, tying your shoelaces or claiming you forgot something in the car so she can get on the elevator alone, etc.
And yes, it’s about men stopping to be crybabies becaue women don’t treat them as trustworthy by default. Most women will trust some man or other at some point in their lives. Many later regret that trust.
Do you actually think that women go through their days wondering about every single encounter they have with men about rape? But yes, actually every time I see a stray dog I become much more careful than every time I see a dog on a leash. Dog owners themselves are usually glad that I taught my children never ever to touch a dog without the owners permission. And I AM a dog person. But to think that every stray dog is Boomer is just plain stupid.
You seem to have missed the point.
SR is about the fact that women *will display* caution around strange men, and for men to quit being horribly offended when your offer to walk a strange woman home at night isn’t accepted.
Absolutely. In fact, I specifically acknowledged this in my post. And good point (you & piegasm) about there being no predictable pattern: that phrasing works better for me.
I completely agree, and I think this is an important message to get out. I try to practice as many of them as I can now, but I confess 10 years ago most of them would never have even occurred to me. I’m not arguing with the message: I’m pointing out what I see as a bad analogy that I think gets in the way of conveying the message.
I get that, thanks. But the point I’m trying to make is that if your intent is to get men to change their behavior (which I completely support), then using an analogy that deliberately makes their behavior seem irrelevant can be counterproductive and lead to unnecessary defensiveness. Maybe I’m taking the “sealed box” part too literally, because that’s the most fundamental part of the Schrödinger’s Cat idea.
Or maybe it’s a semantic distinction? There are intention-based behaviors intended to put women at ease, which as pointed out can easily be faked by a predator. So that is essentially a sealed box. The behaviors advocated above are more capability-based actions that limit the man’s ability to act as a predator regardless of his (unknowable) intentions. So maybe it’s just a question of phrasing.
I certainly hope not.
That’s good advice whether the dog is leashed or not, especially with kids since not all dogs are good with kids. As I said, some caution around a strange dog is certainly appropriate; it’s just a question of degree.
Their behavior doesn’t seem irrelevant. It is irrelevant because, as multiple people have pointed out to you, there is no predictable pattern. You seem to understand this point as you go on to state it yourself in the next paragraph but…whose defensiveness are you talking about? Because if it’s the defensiveness of indignant dudebros then, yes it is quite unnecessary but that’s not the fault of SR. That’s the fault of dudebros feeling entitled to have women consider them trustworthy by default even though it puts them at risk.
If you’re talking about the defensiveness of women trying to avoid being raped because society says expecting men not to rape is too much to ask well…you’ve got a little more work to do to show that this defensiveness is unnecessary.
Exactly. That’s the man acknowledging that women aren’t mind readers, and can’t know his intentions. So he (gasp) makes the terrible sacrifice of considering the feelings of people who aren’t him by putting enough distance between himself and this woman who doesn’t know him to reassure her that he is not in any physical position to hurt her even if he wanted to.
Quite the opposite. I’m guessing you never read the original essay?
It specifically mentions behaviors that raise the risk of being perceived as a rapist. These are all boundary-crossing behaviors. Ignoring lack of eye contact by a woman to talk to her on the bus, a venue where conversations among strangers are not the norm, crosses a couple of boundaries. That was kind of the point of SR: to let men know that they’ll set women’s minds at ease if they respect their boundaries rather than ignore them. Because rapists specialize in finding ways to cross women’s boundaries.
Yes, I know, I have agreed with this repeatedly.
So you divide the whole world into women and indignant dudebros? Neither. I’m talking about men who may well be clueless, but who genuinely have good intentions. I’m assuming these are the people SR is meant to reach, no?
Yes, I did read it. In fact I referenced those behaviors in my previous post, agreed they are great advice that I myself try to practice, and wished I’d known about them years ago. What I’m saying is: SR tells guys “your behavior is irrelevant…so here are some behaviors you should use.” I recognize that the first “behaviors” and the second “behaviors” refer to two different sets of actions. But I don’t think SR distinguishes between the two, and I think that makes it confusing.
Again, I agree that the message of “Women can’t read your mind, so here are some actions you can take to make them less uncomfortable” is a good one. I just don’t feel SR conveys that message as well as it could. [shrug] That’s all I’ve been trying to say. I could well be wrong, and if y’all have used it successfully then okay. YMMV and all that.
Which is why I explicitly said you pointed it out yourself later IN THE NEXT SENTENCE and why I’m so confused by the fact that you keep harping on about SR treating behavior as irrelevant. In one breath you understand that there’s no discernible pattern and then in the next breath you complain that SR doesn’t take behavior into account. How the fuckity fuck am I supposed to take behavior into account when I meet an unknown man on the street when I know there is no pattern? You’re trying to have it both ways. You want women to wait until an unknown man does something to indicate he is unsafe before deciding to behave as if he is unsafe despite the fact that you’ve admitted that any signal that man gives off could mean anything from exactly what it appears to mean up to and including the exact opposite of what it appears to mean. Because, apparently, sparing the poor, well-meaning-but-clueless guy the “need” to get defensive is more important than my safety.
Ya know, you accusing me of not arguing in good faith the other day is getting funnier every time you post. No. I don’t divide the world into women and indignant dudebros as evidenced by the fact that not all men get defensive about the SR concept. As far as I’m concerned, well-intentioned but clueless men who get defensive about SR ARE indignant dudebros. They’re the ones who turn up at feminist blogs and wring their hands at us for making them feel all “unsettled” about the fact that women don’t treat them as trustworthy by default. They get the “dudebro” moniker because they seem to think their right to not be unsettled trumps women’s right to bodily safety.
I forgot to respond to:
I confess this baffles me. If my friend expresses a desire to walk through The Bad Part Of Town in a fancy suit flashing his Rolex and waving $100 bills in the air, and I tell him he might want to rethink that, am I somehow conceding to robbery culture? After all, muggings can happen anywhere, right? I recognize the cases are not morally equivalent, and that no one is going to say the robber is legally not at fault because my friend provoked him. But still…we are all responsible for our own safety.
Since we haven’t heard the “theoretical discussion,” it’s hard to know exactly what actually happened there. The feminists could have been saying something ridiculous. Or the man could have been saying something insultingly obvious. Or there could be other considerations. For example, telling chemistry grad students not to go into the lab at night is basically telling them to scuttle their career.
I can tell you that I, personally, treat those “well-meant” warnings from men as a big red flag. That’s because a man, an acquaintance who was supposedly just looking out for me, told me I was “asking for it” because I lived in an ethnically diverse neighborhood. (It wasn’t a particularly dangerous neighborhood by the standards of big American cities. It just wasn’t lily-white.) He insisted on walking me home, to “protect” me. Then, when I refused to unlock the door to my apartment until he left– he slammed me up against the wall and sexually assaulted me. Apparently, in his mind, my zip code was implied consent.
That, of course, was a one-time occurrence. But I do suspect that warning women not to go into certain areas might be something a sexual predator might do, with his thinking going, “any woman who ignores the warning is really asking for it.”
Lookit that, you just answered your own question! (emphasis mine, of course)
Incidentally, there are three responses to that statement directly below the comment you quoted it from which explain why such advice is often met with a less than enthusiastic reception. Did you bother to read any of them or are you only here to preach and not to listen like all the other poor, oppressed dudebros?
Hay, you almost answered that yourself.
But let’s see
Can you spot a difference between “walking through town while being female” and “walk through The Bad Part Of Town in a fancy suit flashing his Rolex and waving $100 bills in the air”?
Do you see how you yourself had to go over the top with the behaviour of the guy to make your case and how the thing you’Re advising women not to do is a fucking everyday action that guys can simply take without anybody putting their nose into it?
Oh, and yes, let’s say he was mugged.
Is the police then going to say that based on his behaviour they’re not going to pay attention to the crime because he was obviously asking for it?
Are people going to say that he was just feeling sorry about having made a charitable donation?
Right and wrong.
I’m responsible for my safety, that’s why I’m wearing a seatbelt. Because accidents can happen with nobody’s ill intention.
But I’m not responsible for not being the victim of a crime.
Are you going to tell the gay kid that he should stop being so gay so the bullies won’t beat him up? Hey, after all he’s responsible for his own safety!
Oh, and don’t wear a hoodie while being a black boy. You’re asking to be shot!
Let’s stay with the last example because it’s most fitting. We all recognize that Trayvon Martin was engaging in an ordinary activity that millions of other kids do. We all recognize that he wore something that millions of other kids wear. We all recognize that advising black teenage boys not to do these things because some racist white guy might shoot them is fucked up in all possible ways.
Only that victim blaming has become so normalized with rape that people don’t see what they’re demanding of women.
Good point about the outrageous behavior of the guy in the analogy. The insinuation that existing while female is as much courting disaster as knowingly and willingly engaging in outrageous behavior designed to draw attention to yourself is frankly insulting.
Yeah, what female behaviors are the equivalent of this? I mean, I’m not one to say *never* but I am seriously doubting that any person has actually done the flashing 100 dollar bills thing EVER.
Strictly speaking, because my pedantry knows no bounds, it has/does occur. Flashing large amounts of cash, usually accompanied by as much heavy and expensive jewelry as social mores allow, is a stereotyped behavior of mid-ranking members of powerful criminal organizations, or occasionally notably infamous individual criminals, done as a sign that the individual is well known to be connected, or in the latter case serious bad news, and therefore no one will dare to rob him. In short, the people who are likely to flash large wads of cash and expensive jewelry in high-crime areas are generally the ones directly and indirectly responsible for the crimes in question.
@ hoary puccoon: Good point; I hadn’t thought of it from that angle. Thanks, and I’m so sorry that happened to you.
@ piegasm: Yes, I did read the other comments above, including yours, and I do get your point about how women might receive the advice, especially from a man. I was referring to the broader notion that telling women to be responsible for their own safety is somehow condoning or endorsing rape culture – something I didn’t feel the earlier comments really answered. I completely agree victim-blaming is outrageous, no question.
Wow, way to argue in good faith! Please point to one single word I’ve written that gave the impression I think men are oppressed in any way, and I’ll apologize for it.
You’re totally right. I was aiming for reductio ad absurdum, but I may have missed by the tiniest margin. My apologies.
I get what you’re saying. But I don’t mean responsible in a post-incident blame/liability standpoint. As someone said above, we’re all constantly doing our own risk assessment of situations, and a reasonable person avoids unnecessary risks. Let’s take sex, race, orientation, etc. all out of the equation for the moment. There are times and places where I am empirically more likely to get robbed or assaulted. So I avoid them. There are bars I don’t go to; there are streets I don’t walk down at night, etc. If I get mugged, it’s absolutely the mugger’s fault. But I’d still prefer to avoid getting mugged if I can, there are things I can do to make that less likely, so I do them. (Some of them anyway; it’s not an all-or-nothing thing.)
To take another example: I grew up in a town where people routinely left their garage doors up at night. If I did that now, my garage would be cleaned out by morning. Yes, the crime would be the robbers’ fault. But the smart play is still for me to put the door down at night. I would love to live in a world where I didn’t have to worry about such things, but that’s obviously not the world we live in.
So from that standpoint…yes, I do think we are all responsible for doing what we can to make ourselves less likely to be victims of crime. But again, I am in no way condoning victim-blaming. I’m talking about being sensibly cautious, not implying that failure to do so equates to liability in any way. Sorry if I should’ve made that clearer, especially on so sensitive a subject.
Wrong. You can’t do one without doing the other.
You’re either responsible for the crime or you are not.
Also, you seem to be rather poorly informed about the realities of rape AND the ridiculous “precautions” we are told to take.
First of all, statistically speaking, there’s no part of town as dangerous as my own bedroom is. Because most women don’t get raped by strangers in bad parts of town. They get raped by their partners, their ex-partners, their friends. They get raped by the Nice Guy™ who walks them safely through the bad part of town.
Would you advice women never to share a flat with a man? Surely not, you’d probably be offended by the very suggestion. But logically speaking, if women could reduce the risk of being raped by avoiding situations in which they are likely to get raped, that would be the advice to give.
Secondly, avoiding such situations don’t mean that rape doesn’t happen. It just means that those who were able to avoid the situation were the lucky ones. I once narrowly escaped an attack. And you know what? The only person I ever told in meatspace told me the very thing you’re insisting on: how could I be so stupid to park my car there? I really should be more responsible!
As a result I never ever told anybody in meatspace again. I also didn’t go to the police, because the whole thing was bad enough and if that was the reaction I got from my best friend i could surely do without the reactions of strangers. In short: you’re shutting victims up. But the problem wasn’t that I had parked there, the problem was that some bastard preyed on women there. I don’t know, maybe he got some poor woman who didn’t have an alternative. Maybe me not going to the police and the police not investigating meant that somebody was raped.
“Personal responsibility” on the side of the victim doesn’t prevent rape as such, it might just mean that the rape card gets passed to somebody else.
Thirdly, the behaviours asked of women are quite incompatible with leading an independent life. Don’t go to X after dark? My ass, I work there. I cannot avoid being there after dark as long as I want to hld a job. It would be damn easy for anybody to attack me, especially if that person paid attention for a few weeks or so. Or the wonderful advice the college gave us when the rapist was loose. Don’t walk alone my ass. We’re not going to do anything about this. We’re not going to make sure that one route to the car park is guarded by security so you can go there safely. It’s your fucking problem. Either you get a chaperone, or you simply drop out, or you accept that you might get raped.
Do you see how those “sensible behaviours” put a burden on women they often cannot actually shoulder.
Fourthly, it leads us back to the first point: Talking about stranger danger obscures the realities of rape. It helps to keep up the myth about rape being something that happens to careless women (aka sluts) in bad parts of town. It gives women a false sense of security (which is why many women passionatly argue this themselves: if it is true than they are safe) and it automatically deflects the view from the rapist to the victim. If she was raped then she must have done something wrong. and if that rape doesn’t fit the narrative then it can’t have been rape because good girls don’t get raped, especially not by their white-ass middle-class boyfriends
Well, you’re equating responsibility with blame, being at fault, etc. Which is completely understandable given that it’s the 21st Friggin Century and victim-blaming is still a thing. I was trying to separate the two issues, but obviously I’m having trouble articulating what I mean, so I’ll concede the point and shut up.
Your other points are all spot on. I knew all of them intellectually, but hadn’t put them together in this context. You’re right; I was wrong. Thank you for your patience, and I apologize if anyone thought I was saying rape victims are in any way at blame – that wasn’t my intent at all!
First, women are often less safe simply because they’re women. Take your ridiculous analogy of the guy waving $100 bills below. You have two people in an unsafe part of town for whatever reason. It’s already been pointed out to you that you had to make the man in your analogy do something patently absurd in order to put him at as much risk as the woman being advised to stay out of the dangerous neighborhood. One is doing something with the intent of drawing attention to himself, the other isn’t doing a damn thing except existing. If the first person stopped purposely attracting attention, he would still be safer than the woman because he’s not a woman. The woman, on the other hand doesn’t have the option to be a man on the days she has to walk through this part of town and not walking through this part of town may not be an option for her. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s almost certainly not an option for her because to do otherwise would be to assume that she doesn’t have the sense to stay out of dangerous parts of town when she has no need to be there.
Second, rape culture says “Men are entitled to sex whenever and with whomever they want and women who get raped were either asking for it by existing while female or lying about it after a regretted one night stand”. When you give trite advice like “stay out of dangerous areas”, you’re playing into that idea. If she doesn’t take your advice and she gets raped well what was she expecting to happen? In other words, it’s her own fault for being so careless (despite the fact that she probably is there by necessity); i.e. victim blaming. It’s pretty tiresome to have someone repeatedly say they don’t condone victim blaming and then repeatedly wonder why it’s unreasonable to expect women to stop doing things that are unavoidable.
….So women should avoid bad parts of town, if it that’s the only place they can afford?
Well, after a rapist went around campus and the car park and attacked women up until he tried to abduct one the official college advice for women was to “avoid walking alone after dark”
That’s really a lot of help on a campus where many classes go until 8pm.
And it’s twice good advice if you know that women are quite often attacked by the “white knights” who friendlily walk them home/to their car…
No, I’m saying *people* should try to avoid bad situations when they can. I fully recognize it’s not always possible. And I do get that location is by no means the only factor here.
I would also like to state for the record that I did not choose this creepy-ass profile pic… 😉
Do you see how this is middle class advice that basically leaves poor people fucked up because they have no other option?
Yuuup. I might need to live in a not-nice part of NYC next year so that I can afford to go to grad school so that I can become a social worker. I can’t afford to take a cab whenever I need to come home after dark, which I will often because I’ll be working and my classes may be at night. Am I behaving in a risky way?
I’d like to inform you that most of us women are already taking a shit-load of precautions as it is. There’s no advice you’ve provided that we all didn’t hear years ago, and by giving such trite advice, you come across as assuming that women aren’t already doing these things or that we’re all running drunk through bad neighborhoods and leaving our doors unlocked and gleefully getting in cars with strange guys we don’t know. Offering really trite advice to people who already have heard it is always going to come across as patronizing.
It’s like telling really poor people that if they want to get out of poverty, they should *invest some money*. Yeah, because, totally, they can just not eat for a few months and put that into a share or 2. Poor people,out of necessity, already know how to make do with less.
Gah! Why do you not see how patronizing this is? Yes people should avoid dangerous situations when they can. Thank you Captain Obvious. It’s such a very good thing we have people like you around or we would never have thought of that.
Seriously, even your inane example of the friend flashing $100 bills above was patronizing. Unless your imaginary friend has led an extraordinarily sheltered life, he knows full well the danger of what he’s about to do. If he’s doing it at all, it’s probably on a dare or because he lost a bet because it certainly isn’t because walking through unsafe neighborhoods in expensive clothing, flashing money around is a thing people actually as a matter of course. He, in all likelihood, really has no need of you to tell him that what he’s about to do is dangerous.
As I explained above and as smrnda just explained to you, women know all about all the things we supposed to not do because our entire lives, society tells us that getting raped is our fault if we fail to successfully avoid those things. And if we avoid those things and then get raped anyway, society says we just had a one night stand and regretted later. We already know. We don’t need you to tell us.
Your advice boils down to, “Make sure the rapist targets somebody else, who has fewer resources and choices than you do.”
Advice like yours has been thoroughly taken into account by rapists. That’s why we see elevated rates of sexual assault among marginalized populations: poor women, women of color, women living on reservations, non-gender-conforming women and men, sex workers, people with mental illnesses or developmental disabilities, young women, girls, and boys, etc., etc.
When you drill down into it, it’s a really disgusting mentality.
I hadn’t thought of it that way, but yeah fair point. Sorry.
That wasn’t my intention, but again I see your point. My apologies.
Well, by the same logic you could argue that putting a safety door on my house is just making sure the burglar hits my neighbors instead. But saying “I’m going to protect myself” does not automatically have to imply “…and screw the rest of y’all.” It’s possible to take care of yourself and your own while still working for broader social change. Sorry if I implied something different!
This analogy falls apart at two points. First, your neighbors aren’t going to be outraged on the grounds that the act of protecting yourself is born of an assumption that they will all burglarize your house at the first opportunity. Secondly, when your neighbor who couldn’t afford a safety door reports a burglary, they aren’t then faced with a ton of people saying that their lack of a safety door provoked the thief or that they simply made a charitable donation that they later regretted.
It’s like you stop the thought process in its tracks at exactly the point where you’d discover for yourself how wrong you are if you just followed your own logic all the way through.
Since our society lacks any mechanism by which rapists can be reliably prosecuted and imprisoned, thereby taking them off the streets and ACTUALLY reducing the risk of rape for a given population, this advice DOES boil down to “screw everyone who can’t take this advice for whatever reason.”
According to research in the UK, between low rates of reporting and low rates of conviction, rapists currently have about a 97% chance of getting away with it. Per rape. Until those number improve, anyone spreading the “don’t get raped” rather than “stop the fucking rapists” advice is perpetrating a disgusting victim-blaming mentality that shunts the risk of sexual assault onto marginalized populations.
I just want to thank wscot for actually arguing in good faith and listening.
Also seconded. And thank you for your kind words at 22.4.
@ Giliell & Miri: Thank you, I appreciate that.
@ Sally Strange #188.8.131.52 – That wasn’t what I meant, but I do get your point. Thanks,
@ piegasm: I have listened, admitted where I was wrong, and apologized; yet you still dismiss me out of hand with the MRAssholes. This says more about you than it does about me. We’re obviously talking past each other here, so I give up.
Wow, so quoting you and addressing what you’ve said and where I think you’re wrong is “dismissing you out of hand” is it? If you say so.