«

»

Jul 16 2005

Rape Spam

You know rape spam? I allude to those rape-avoidance-tips emails, the kind written by “the police department” and sent by your well-meaning friend, warning you to always look under your car for attackers (or up in the trees for ninja attackers!), and to stroll around town with your keys sticking out of your white-knuckled fist.

Like all these emails, the one I got today says “This information is invaluable to women who could potentially be victims of crime. I would encourage everyone to read this, and pass it on to those you care for. It is not intended to scare anyone.”

The subtext, of course, is:

“You should be scared shitless! You were born female, and rotten luck that is, because that means you are pretty much there for the taking whenever the fancy strikes, and nothing you can do will actually prevent some psycho shitbag from sexually assaulting you, and we really can’t help you by doing anything that will actually make a difference — like giving stiffer sentences to sex offenders or castrating known rapists with jagged bits of metal or suggesting to boys that a woman is not obligated to screw them just because she smiled at’em — so, just to make sure you feel like the entirely powerless speck of dirt you are, here are a few half-assed tricks we all know don’t work — like, ‘practice screaming into your pillow,’ or ‘never go out alone’ — but probably you ought to just be too scared to ever leave the house again, even though rape is most likely to occur in your own home by some violent perv you already know. Oh well! That’s the good old patriarchy, the social system of misogynist barbarians! Sucks to be you!”

Why don’t they just send out emails saying “Fuck it. You should just move into your panic room permanently and have done with it.” (No panic room? No problem!) Because you know ain’t nobody sending out emails to Dude Nation saying, “Hey, don’t rape any women today; that shit ain’t cool!”

To the growing list of activities women are supposed to avoid (such as being female in public after dark, or being female in your own bedroom between midnight and 2 AM, or being, you know, female) today’s email has added “being female while wearing a ponytail” (it’s used as a handy handle to grab you, bitch) and “being female in a grocery store parking lot” (chicks trying to keep cantaloupes from rolling out of those stupid plastic bags are asking for it loud and clear).

Also, you’re supposed to carry pepper spray at all times, and a large pointed object, like an umbrella, and never look into your purse or talk on a cell phone (like you’d even be able to, with your hands full of pepper sprays and umbrellas). Instead, look everybody you meet straight in the eye and say brightly, “My, but this is some weather we’re having!” And don’t forget to look in the back seat before you get in your car!

I, of course, take it a step further, cause we’re under seige, girls! I carry a 20-pound cannister of tear gas and a scimitar, and hire a sherpa to fumble with my cantaloupes for me, and look everybody I meet straight in the eye and say brightly “What the fuck are you lookin at, douche?” Before I get in my car I blast the back seat with a flame-thrower.

Rape is the floatie in the toilet of patriarchy.

41 comments

  1. deja pseu

    Twisty, have I mentioned yet today how fabulous you are?

    This can never be stressed enough: it’s men’s responsibility not to rape; it’s not women’s responsibility to avoid being raped.

  2. Anonymous

    Brilliant!

    Becker

  3. manxome

    You’re so twisty! I love it. I haven’t gooten one of these helpful little emails in a while, but I do remember getting spam a while back where the from: line read “rape”. Ooh, I should have opened that one right up!

  4. Emma

    Amen, sistah!

    There is a huge volume and permutation of emails which purport to be helpful to women, but are actually hoaxes of the very worst kind. Examples that I’ve personally received are Progesterex, the perfume one, and Slavemaster”.

    It would seem that these have been intentionally created and disseminated to engender fear in women. The fact that so many women uncritically forward them to their friends and colleagues (I received the ‘Progesterex’ email from someone I sit on a committee with this week) would perhaps suggest that women experience a massive amount of unarticulated anxiety about their individual safety and the safety of women more genenerally.

    Maybe if these emails were rewritten to accurately reflect the situation for women around rape, then it might provoke a little bit of soul searching on the part of men who currently forward these emails to female friends?

    For guys please take care of your girlfriend… Ladies, be more alert and cautious when having any interaction with men whatseover. Good guys out there, please forward this message to your ladyfriends. Boyfriends and husbands, take heed.

    Statistically, women are not safe from rape when with their male friends, with their male partner, or in their family homes. They are not safe in their offices, when asleep in their beds, or when they’re in their Pastor’s study. Ironically, only one in ten rapes take place outside, away from the home, so that masked stranger is pretty much not going to happen.

    Women, have you been cutting off your ponytail and carrying an umbrella through summer so you can avoid rape? Sorry, but you’ve been doing the wrong thing! What you should actually do to avoid rape is to move to a desert island with a bunch of other chicks. It’s the only way to make 100% sure that your male friend, partner, teacher, rabbi, boss, or neighbour won’t one day decide that he would like to uphold patriarchy by raping you. Save yourself a lifetime of questioning your own judgment, and wondering what signals you gave off, and go to ChickIsland today.

    Please! Forward this to everyone you know, especially the females, right now.

  5. Twisty

    Chick Island! Ha! Is that anywhere near Provincetown?

    Meanwhile, it occurs to me that I ought to have posted the text of the email to which I allude. It hasn’t got the kitcshy panache of a full-blown hoax, but it does use the time-honored patronizing tone of the macho male authority figure protecting his harem of inept, childlike damsels. To wit:

    The training section of the police department came
    upon this article recently. The information contained
    in the article is invaluable to women who could
    potentially be victims of crime. I would encourage
    everyone to read this, and pass it on to those you
    care for. It is not intended to scare anyone. Those
    that have been through the PROTECT course, or the CCW
    courses know that we constantly emphasize awareness of
    surroundings. This article reinforces that concept.

    Through a Rapist’s Eyes-
    When this was sent to me, I was told to forward it to
    my lady friends. I forwarded to most everyone in my
    address book. My men friends have female friends and
    this is too important information to miss someone. A
    group of rapists and eight rapists in prison were
    interviewed on what they look for in a potential
    victim and here are some interesting facts:

    1) The first thing men look for in a potential victim
    is hairstyle. They are most likely to go after a woman
    with a ponytail, bun, braid or other hairstyle that
    can easily be grabbed. They are also likely to go
    after a woman with long hair. Women with short hair
    are not common targets.

    2) The second thing men look for is clothing. They
    will look for women who’s clothing is easy to remove
    quickly. Many of them carry scissors around to cut
    clothing.

    3) They also look for women on their cell phone,
    searching through their purse or doing other
    activities while walking because they are off guard
    and can be easily overpowered.

    4) The time of day men are most likely to attack and
    rape a woman is in the early morning, between 5 and
    8:30 a.m

    5) The number one place women are abducted
    from/attacked at is grocery store parking lots. Number
    two is office parking lots/garages. Number three is
    public restrooms.

    6) The thing about these men is that they are looking
    to grab a woman and quickly move her to a second
    location where they don’t have to worry about getting
    caught.

    7) Only 2% said they carried weapons because rape
    carries a 3-5 year sentence but rape with a weapon is
    15-20 years.

    8) If you put up any kind of a fight at all, they get
    discouraged because it only takes a minute or two for
    them to realize that going after you isn’t worth it
    because it will be time-consuming.
    9) These men said they would not pick on women who
    have umbrellas, or other similar objects that can be
    used from a distance, in their hands. Keys are not a
    deterrent because you have to get really close to the
    attacker to use them as a weapon. So, the idea is to
    convince these guys you’re not worth it.

    10) Several defense mechanisms he taught us are: If
    someone is following behind you on a street or in a
    garage or with you in an elevator or stairwell, look
    them in the face and ask them a question, like what
    time is it, or make general small talk, I can’t
    believe it is so cold out here, we’re in for a bad
    winter. Now you’ve seen their face and could identify
    them in a line-up, you lose appeal as
    a target.

    11) If someone is coming toward you, hold out your
    hands in front of you and yell Stop or Stay back! Most
    of the rapists this man talked to said they’d leave a
    woman alone if she yelled or showed that she would not
    be afraid to fight back. Again, they are looking for
    an EASY target.

    12) If you carry pepper spray (this instructor was a
    huge advocate of it and carries it with him wherever
    he goes,) yelling I HAVE PEPPER SPRAY and holding it
    out will be a deterrent.

    13) If someone grabs you, you can’t beat them with
    strength but you can by outsmarting them. If you are
    grabbed around the waist from behind, pinch the
    attacker either under the arm between the elbow and
    armpit or in the upper inner thigh — HARD. One woman
    in, a class this guy taught, told him she used the
    underarm pinch on a guy who was trying to date rape
    her and was so upset she broke through the skin and
    tore out muscle strands – the guy needed stitches. Try
    pinching yourself in those places as hard as you can
    stand it; it hurts.

    14) After the initial hit, particularly unfortunate
    experience that if you slap a guy’s parts it is
    extremely painful. You might think that you’ll anger
    the guy and make him want to hurt you more, but the
    thing these rapists told our instructor is that they
    want a woman who will not cause a lot of trouble.
    Start causing trouble, and
    he’s out of there.

    15) When the guy puts his hands up to you, grab his
    first two fingers and bend them back as far as
    possible with as much pressure pushing down on them as
    much as possible. The instructor did it to me without
    using much pressure, and I ended! up on my knees and
    both knuckles cracked audibly.

    16) Of course the things we always hear still apply.
    Always be aware of your surroundings, take someone
    with you if you can and if you see any odd behavior,
    don’t dismiss it, go with your instincts. You may feel
    a little silly at the time, but you’d feel much worse
    if the guy really was trouble.

    PLEASE READ THEN FORWARD THIS TO EVERY WOMAN YOU KNOW,
    IT’S SIMPLE STUFF BUT — IT COULD SAVE HER LIFE.

  6. Andygrrl

    hey, you left out one the most important functions of rape spam: victim blaming! I mean, god, you stupid woman, didn’t you get the email? Of course you got raped! What did you expect? That’s what you get for wearing a ponytail/going to the restroom/jogging while female!

  7. Twisty

    I more or less regard the whole rapespam industry as victim-blaming.

  8. Anonymous

    We need to realise that all men are potential rapists and act thereafter. Please send the following link too all men you know and tell them that you’re now ‘protected’… ;-)

    http://www.femdefence.info/index2.html

  9. Emma

    http://www.femdefence.info/index2.html

    Or there’s always a good, old-fashioned chastity belt.

  10. Lauren

    All I get is the “hot rape – COME NOW!” rapespam and penis enlargement spam. Why can’t I get something at least marginally ironic?

    And no, this is not an invitation to send this shit to me.

  11. ae

    Literally crying reading this. The flamethrower in the back seat — absolutely priceless. I just use my Vagina Lasertata 3000 to throw flames. Actually, it’s the new VL3000-F model, but whatev. Sometimes you gotta pay to dance.

    P.S. Twisty, I love you.

  12. Winter Woods

    This is absolutely fantastic! Those emails are symptomatic of the larger rhetoric of rape terrorism, which keeps women terrified, off the streets at night and encourages them to believe you need a man to protect you, even if the man is a total dick. Thanks for this, it’s great. I used to have a housemate who slept with a large carving knife under her bed. But from now on, I’m going to leave my handy meat cleaver at home and step out the door without fear.

  13. kat

    What’s with all the reference to “easy targets”? There is obviously a very grubby victim-blaming subtext to all this- if you’re not ‘easy’ for wearing a short skirt you’re an easy target for not fighting “hard enough”, or having a ponytail (the horror!), or going out on a Tuesday when it’s a full moon or whatever…A very disturbing look at the sticky underbelly of rape culture indeed. There is no reference at all to fighting rape on a societal level, only the urging for we ‘ladies’ to restrict our own movements (’cause that worked just SO well at preventing rape in the past, in Afghanistan etc ad nauseam)

  14. Twisty

    I know! I know! The use of the word “target” is so freaky, too, like we’re all walking around with bullseyes painted on our backs.

  15. emjaybee

    Good point re: Afghanistan. Those women don’t go anywhere alone, and never wear ponytails…doesn’t seem to help much, huh?

    The perfume email started my love affair with Snopes.com. People have sent me a lot less spam since I started sending back snopes links. Many of them seem pissed about it too.. like they want the perfume rapists to be true, or something.

  16. Mistress

    Holy fucking shit– you are my new hero! I’ve been needing to hear someone say that so hard for Christ knows how long. I’m about to get on my stomach and start licking Twisty’s boots.

    I’m on both sides of the thing, having actually been sexually abused and being able to name at least a half dozen women who’ve been raped/abused at least once in their lives. My sister was raped at gunpoint at work and now my mother is unreasonable. She means well, though, because I live in a major urban area and I work late– sometimes I don’t get out until 2-3AM. It takes 25 minutes to walk home & I feel that it’s totally safe, especially since I look more intimidating than half the shady characters whose paths I cross, when I cross any at all. But Mom? Mom sends me those emails, she sent me pepper spray, a ‘personal alarm,’ she even tried to enroll me in a women’s defence class.

    But Jeezus tapdancing Christ! You can’t live like that! I refuse to be afraid for myself everywhere I go. Crime rates are down down down & violent rape is less frequent than arson in this city.

    Sigh. Someone needs to make Twisty an elected official.

  17. Mistress

    SHIT! HTML tags don’t work. That’s embarrassing.

    I’d still lick Twisty’s boots.

  18. Travelling Punk

    Twisty you are a bad ass!

    Those emails have always scared me. I am now making the decision to think they’re crap, and to follow the advice of the Twisty school of kicking the crap outta stuff.

  19. alphabitch

    In many years of being outside alone at unauthorized times — even though I had a waist-length braided ponytail for at least 30 years — I’ve only been bothered once. And not for rape, just some assholes stealing my groceries on my way home from work. I had a hat on; no way could he have seen the ponytail. I just hope they knew how to make ratatouille; all the ingredients were in the damn bag. At least the coffee was in the other hand & they didn’t get that.

    Nowadays, though, my hair is shorter. And most of the time when I am out walking alone late at night or early in the prime rape-time morning, I have a largish dog with me. And some plastic baggies, at least one of which is usually full of dogshit. It’s an amazingly powerful feeling and I highly recommend it.

    Sometimes, especially after reading one too many of those dumbass emails, I actually fantasize about how much fun it would be if a Scary Rapist menaced me and I had the opportunity to rub dogshit in his face. “Go ahead,” I’d say. “Make my fuckin day.”

    And yeah, the flamethrower is nice to have too, in case the bastard tries to hurt my dog.

  20. Marissa

    Personally, I always laugh at the whole, “Don’t go out at night!!!” thing. Statistically, you have about a 90% lower chance of being raped in public than you do in your own home. I feel that going out late every night is part of my rape-prevention program. Also, no men in my house***. Ever. Especially not ones I have history with.

    ***this is obvious sarcasm. Although the statistical thing is true.***

  21. Wordlackey

    I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen one of these spams before but I’ve certainly heard of them. Yeah, the one you’ve reprinted is certainly fear inducing and victim blaming. While I, well, I blame the patriarchy (and men in particular) for the spread of this attitude, I also think everyone should know how to maim or disable an attacker with their hands or feet if needed. (I’m not so keen on weapons since relying on them may foster dependence on them and over-confidence.) I think knowing some self-defense is a good skill to have in general. But this “live in fear” bulls**t is just another tool to tighten control on women.

    I did a review on a book titled “Loving to Survive” which is here: http://demiorator.blogspot.com/2005/03/book-loving-to-survive.html. The book has some interesting data on fear and insecurity among women and how it affects their behaviour. The authors’ main thesis concerns something they call “Societal Stockholm Syndrome” as it applies to all women in our society.

    Anyway, I’ve found knowing that only seven lbs. of pressure can damage a knee to be very good at shedding my fears of attack. And reading Hothead Paisan. But I’m a guy so I’m not the best example in this instance.

    I’d also like to add to the chorus of praise for your blog. Your sharp wit and humor are an inspiration to me, as well as your trenchant analysis. Love it all.

  22. TC

    I completely agree with all of the above. (Though I have never gotten an example of said emails. Does that mean my friends don’t care about me?) I do want to mention a great book along these lines that I found actually useful–The Gift of Fear, by Gavin DeBecker.

    His premise is that in any given life-threatening situation, there is a point at which the victim-to-be had an intimation that the situation was a bad one, and that people in general, and especially women, tend to ignore their feelings until things have escalated out of their control.

    Though I do agree that the most danger females face comes from inside the home, strangers do accost, do rape. Mr. DeBecker does not advocate living in a state of siege, but he does believe that individuals can be more aware of their environments and be more responsive to their gut feelings. It’s a good book, and not at all fearmongering or patronizing.

    Anyway, great blog. End of my seriousness.

  23. TC

    Me, again. Sorry, just a few more thoughts on The Gift of Fear. DeBecker also makes the point that there is a lot of fearmongering going on, and that one should ignore the mass media on violence, as it only distorts the real issues of violence. Living in a state of false anxiety has never helped anyone; listening to the real signals of one’s enviroment, be it a “creepy” guy at work, or a situation that just doesn’t “feel right” and responding in a proactive way can make a real difference.

    ‘Kay. Enough!
    /not getting royalties.

  24. sassycat

    I’ve had that e mail forwarded to me a million times, I always trash it and roll my eyes, because it says a lot about the sender.

    I’m really actually going to start a new one, for friendster, or LJ or e mail. It will read:
    COPY AND RESEND
    Girls, do you want to get raped? If the answer is no, send this to everyone you know, saying, hey, don’t rape me, asshole.
    Guys, are you a fucking scumbag rapist? If the answer is no, you MUST resend this to everyone you know.

    I hate most of that crap to begin with, but the rape ones are just stupid. Especially considering that the girls who cut off their ponytails and don’t dress alluringly will probably be called (gasp, the horror!) dykes.

    BTW, our local university holds a women’s self-defense class, but I know that the officers who run it–three female officers and one male–focus mainly on empowerment and assuring women that they are strong and smart enough to go out at night without being afraid. So, I can’t really say I have any qualms with that.

  25. Twisty

    “Living in a state of false anxiety has never helped anyone; listening to the real signals of one’s enviroment, be it a “creepy” guy at work, or a situation that just doesn’t “feel right” and responding in a proactive way can make a real difference.”

    This strikes me as the sanest possible behavior. They don’t call’em “instincts” for nothin.

    Also, I need to clarify, for the benefit of those who have never seen one, that what I have jokingly called “rape spam” is not actual spam, but more like a chain letter, or maybe a species of meme. It was forwarded to me, as these always are, by a good friend who actually cares if I live or die. It was not her intention to spread fear, and I don’t think it ever is, when people forward these. She lives in a crime-ridden neighborhood where muggings are commonplace and everyone’s on crack and her anxiety level is commensurate with that.

  26. fixed

    i think that when someone is confronted with either a real or imaginary (rape spam) situation, there are a couple choices: feel intimidated, like someone is trying to keep you down; or say fuck yeah, i’m strong, i’m going to kick a guy in the balls if he tries anything.

    it’s obviously a bad thing to make women feel like they shouldn’t leave the house, or have vaginas, but i do think that more women need to be encouraged to be strong, and it’s possible that these emails could do this. i have a few female friends that are strong in most ways- but not when it comes to men. they let them push them around, or they’re just not vocal about their opinions. when i was much younger and travelling in eastern europe, i was harassed numerous times. two guys followed us all around the city, waiting for us outside stores, etc; one guy- a train station official- grabbed my boob; one guy followed us onto a trail and exposed himself and tried to grab us. in the first case, we sort of ignored the guys, not wanting to make a scene, not acting upset, i guess just expecting that eventually they’d leave. they didn’t, and then i just couldn’t take it anymore. i stood in the middle of the street, pulled out my leatherman (no leatherwomans, unfortunately) and threatened to cut off their balls, very loudly. i yelled, actually. they left. and then i used the knife and yelling trick on the other two guys, and it worked. and it made me feel better about myself, like hey, women aren’t as weak as i’d been taught. later, in the u.s. i started going to the gym and got visible biceps, and learned to ride a fixed-gear bike really fast. knowing i have these capabilities makes me feel so much more confident in day-to-day situations. i wouldn’t date some of the men my friends date, because i know i don’t have to put up with their shit. i wish i’d known that in high school.

    i would love younger women to learn all this earlier on- why did it take me so long to learn that women can be strong? why aren’t girls learning to use their bodies for strength in junior high? i definitely think rape by a man is always the man’s fault, but can’t i also think that it’d be nice if women were taught early on that they can fix their own cars and take care of themselves physically? sometimes i worry that actions taken to encourage women to be strong are like blaming the victim, when i don’t think they should be.

    sorry for the long post from someone new…

  27. Aaron

    I’m surprised no one has posted the 50 Suggestions to Not Be a Rapist email that I’ve seen around. It’s a great list. I’ll post a link when I find it.

  28. Stuckupgirl

    I wrote my master’s thesis on women’s fear of rape and the ways in which it is a tool of patriarchal social control to limit women’s activities in the public sphere and keep them dependent on men they know, who, as you say, are the most likely candidates for the perpetrator role. The patriarchy has done a very fine job indeed, because research suggests that women (especially young women) fear rape above any other crime, including murder. My research showed that they don’t fear acquaintance rape though – just stranger rape, which is extremely rare.

  29. Sunya Harjis

    I’m probably asking the wrong question but: why isn’t “BUY A GUN, LEARN HOW TO USE IT, AND USE IT WHEN A RAPE IS ATTEMPTED ON YOU” anywhere on the list, or anyone else’s suggestions? See, it’s like the vagina stiletto, but without the internal discomfort.

    Or better yet: buy a gun, learn how to use it, decide that your life and health are worth protecting, and shoot to kill when you’re attacked whether by stranger or friend. I understand that this continues to put the burden on the victim, but women have got to decide at some point that they are themselves worth defending. The full extent of “don’t act like a victim” is and should be “be prepared to use deadly force if attacked.” Keep your ponytail and wear that short skirt, and if you’re lucky enough to live in a state where you don’t have to conceal your guns or knives, strap ‘em right to that pretty thigh of yours.

    Come and get it, boys.

    This is feminism too: men are expected to be able to protect themselves. When a man is raped…. most people don’t even believe it’s possible to rape a man, and he should have been able to protect himself anyway. In a truly equal society, we should have the same feeling about women: she should have been able to protect herself anyway. Why wouldn’t she be muscular, armed, and prepared? When women are the victims of violent crime SO MUCH MORE often than men, why do women insist on shying away from the free weights and the shooting range? Saying that men should control themselves more is all fine and good, but why would or should women wait for that?

    What women ought to fear most of all is the idea that there is something unfeminine about genuine self-defense – not just a kick to the groin, but a kick to the groin from the lady who squats 350 and benches 200. There is no reason WHATSOEVER to allow the patriarchy to continue holding its monopoly on physical force.

  30. BritGirlSF

    I have a former co-worker who sends me rape spam. She also sends me Jesus spam and Angels spam. Telling her nicely to please stop doesn’t seem to work. What’s the polite way to say “don’t send me any more !@$!@#$ chain letters goddammit!”?
    The funny thing is that I’ve committed every one of “how to avoid rape” sins and have never been raped, while women I know who live like quiet little mice have been violently attacked. The “advice” is bullshit.
    Oh, and on the subject of how rapists choose their victims (which is irrelevant anyway since 90%+ of rapes involve men the woman already knows) – I studied criminology in college, and perps of all kinds of violent crime choose their victims based on the same criteria. There’s no special criteria for rapists. Predators pick victims who look vulnerable, period. It has more to do with the way a person walks and how confident they look than with skirt length, hairstyle etc. The great irony is that more traditionally “feminine” women behaving in the way the patriarchy wants them to fit the REAL victim profile to a tee. Funny how that works, eh?

  31. Sarah

    “Or better yet: buy a gun, learn how to use it, decide that your life and health are worth protecting, and shoot to kill when you’re attacked whether by stranger or friend.”

    The big immediate problem I see with this is that rape is difficult to prove, especially when the attacker is a friend or partner/ex-partner. Rape has a notoriously low conviction rate. Murder, on the other hand, not so difficult to prove. Looks like a good way to get saddled with a life sentence, or in some parts of the world, the death penalty.

    Maybe you’d be more likely to get away with it if it was a random attack by a stranger, especially if he was a known rapist. But such cases are rare, and if it’s your own partner, in your own home, you really struggle to prove that you were raped, that you didn’t consent. And if you shoot to kill *before* the rape took place (and that would be the best time, no?) then it’s even more difficult to prove you were ever in danger.

    I agree about confidence and self-esteem, and the confidence and physical strength to handle yourself in such a situation. And I’ve got no wish to protect the lives of rapists, none at all. But I can’t help thinking that your solution would cause women more problems than it would solve, and shows a lack of understanding of the real situations women find themselves in.

  32. Sarah

    Also I don’t agree that women are the victims of violent crimes more often than men. I don’t have the statistics right here, but I believe the truth is actually the opposite. Women are more at risk of certain types of crime, certainly, including rape or violence from a domestic partner. But in general, I think it’s men who suffer the most violence, most of it at the hands of other men of course.

    The myth that women are more at risk than men when walking the streets alone, for example, is just another way we’re kept afraid and indoors. It just isn’t true.

  33. Sunya Harjis

    Wow, Sarah, I don’t even know what to say to your laundry list of guesses.

    Item 1: murder convictions. To be honest, I’m appalled that you would even think about the courts before you thought about protecting yourself. My god, let the justice system sort itself out later. You shot a co-worker? A friend? A husband? Oh yes there will be complications and things to prove in court, you’re quite right, but why on earth would you even let those things enter your consideration when you’re fighting for your life and your safety?

    This worrying about the legal consequences is remarkable especially in that it seems to suggest the consequences of not fighting back (and winning) are somehow less traumatic. I will take the DA’s two-year plea bargain sentence of second degree manslaughter before I allow myself to be raped or battered. PLUS: when women everywhere choose to accept violence towards them instead of defending themselves, they are not only leaving the perpetrators of that violence on the loose, they are also perpetuating the conditions that make violence towards women easy and safe in the first place.

    Item 2: violent crimes. Let’s defuse your guess-and-check methodology by restating the categories of violence: let us, instead of considering violence in amalgam, separate out the yolk of violence against perpetrators of violence (this category contains things like “bar fights where everyone is swinging”, “gang-related violence”, and “storekeeper shooting robber”) as being at best tangential to the discussion. Now we are left with the white of violence against non-violent victims, which category contains things like muggings, rapes, and an overwhelmingly large proportion of domestic violence.

    Crimes against women tend to fall more into the latter category. So instead of saying – as you find it so objectionable – that women are the victims of violent crime more often than men, let us instead say that women are the victims of so much more unanticipated violent crime.

    Item 3: the real situations women find themselves in. What do you think I am, a man? Don’t be silly. Battered women, afraid and indoors, should have guns and shoot their batterers. Women in danger of rape, afraid and indoors, should have guns and shoot their attackers. Bring the guns indoors.

    But as far as “real situations” go, I disagree with particular violence with women putting themselves into dangerous places and positions and trying to pretend that there’s no need to worry about self-defense. This is nothing like blaming the victim: it’s about getting women to think about their self-defense vigorously, seriously, and before anything bad ever happens. Take it for granted that a lot of men have a propensity for violence and do not love women in the abstract. Take it for granted that the cops can’t be everywhere, especially not in your bedroom. Take it for granted that women are at a physical disadvantage to begin with.

    Keep your ponytail but don’t get shitfaced with no backup around men you wouldn’t trust to take care of your pets. Wear that miniskirt but leave that fucker who tried to hit you for blowing a couple-three sawbucks on miniskirts. If you have a regular bar, club, or dancehall, make sure the manager or bartender knows you. Keep your reserve with men you know only casually and don’t put yourself in isolated situations with them. Do not assume and certainly do not act like you “owe” anything to male authority figures (like pastors, bosses, etc.), guys you have caused trouble for, or guys who are down on their luck.

    Is it fair that women should have to think about this stuff so much more than men? Fuck no it is not fair. But the flow of violence is so grossly one-way – men are violent to women repeatedly without fear of reprisal and often with the support of other men and institutions – that the idea that a woman could seriously fight back never even occurs to most men. Think about it! Even in movies and TV shows, the love interest can’t even fire the fucking gun until the hero tells her to: she has to be authorized by men to use force, even in self-defense.

    When that idea changes – when women are ready to responsible for their own well-being even in the worst situations and no longer expect to be saved or protected by others or even by appeal to reason, justice, or fellow human feeling – I can guarantee you that the rates of domestic violence and rape will drop.

    Your life, your pussy, and your physical health are worth protecting. They are worth protecting at great cost. All of you is worth protecting and you shouldn’t stop protecting yourself just because it’ll be tough to explain to the cops or your kids or the widow of your attacker. You shouldn’t stop just because it’ll make some situations awkward, or because it’s a pain in the ass to get certified for concealed carry, or because it’s a bitch to find women’s clothes that fit a well-developed bicep and you look less “feminine” that way. Protect yourself and encourage other women to protect themselves. To me there is nothing more essentially feminist.

  34. clew

    It’s a kind of feminism, Sunya, but it’s also an arms-race. I don’t want to blame either men or women for being weak, because it is not possible for no-one to be the weakest party: age will weaken us all, obviously, but so does being born frail, or doing anything outdoors that requires concentration.

    Another kind of feminism says that the ‘lawless frontier’ the patriarchy idolizes isn’t the only world we can build.

    OTOH, until there is a better world, I agree with you that many women would be happier and safer if many women were stronger and willing to defend themselves.

    On the third hand, and trivially, jeez Louise don’t assume the women you’re talking to put clothing above bicep development… way to condescend to the specific people who might agree with you.

  35. TeenageCatgirl

    Ooh, I’m glad I read all that. When I venture out now (within the sanctioned times, of course) I’ll be sure to shave my head first and wear a straight-jacket, since they’re fiddly to remove.

    Actually, I personally plan to impale anyone who fucks with me, especially if I know them.

  36. Cindy

    If all else fails, wear your burka.

  37. 7960

    I’m 6’3″ 225lbs. If I walk through the city at night I use common sense (walk with someone, know self defense, stay in lit areas, etc) to avoid getting mugged. If someone mugs me it’s 100% HIS FAULT for doing it, and he should go to jail, but to say I can walk outside with $100 bills taped to my naked body as I walk through an unlit park at midnight in june is dumb.

    If a woman is raped it’s 100% the rapist’s fault, but there’s nothing wrong with also telling women to avoid situations where it might happen.

  38. meowbaby

    Hi, first comment from a dedicated lurker
    Here is the text of one of those “Stop Being a Victim-Blaming Head in the Sand Shithead” email messages. Reality spam, I guess.

    —A lot has been said about how to prevent rape. Women should learn self-defense. Women should lock themselves in their houses after dark. Women shouldn’t have long hair and women shouldn’t wear short skirts. Women shouldn’t leave drinks unattended. Hell, they shouldn’t dare to get drunk at all. Instead of that bullshit, how about:

    If a woman is drunk, don’t rape her.
    If a woman is walking alone at night, don’t rape her.
    If a woman is drugged and unconscious, don’t rape her.
    If a woman is wearing a short skirt, don’t rape her.
    If a woman is jogging in a park at 5 am, don’t rape her.
    If a woman looks like your ex-girlfriend you’re still hung up on, don’t rape her.
    If a woman is asleep in her bed, don’t rape her.
    If a woman is asleep in your bed, don’t rape her.
    If a woman is doing her laundry, don’t rape her.
    If a woman is in a coma, don’t rape her.
    If a woman changes her mind in the middle of or about a particular activity, don’t rape her.
    If a woman has repeatedly refused a certain activity, don’t rape her.
    If a woman is not yet a woman, but a child, don’t rape her.
    If your girlfriend or wife is not in the mood, don’t rape her.
    If your step-daughter is watching TV, don’t rape her.
    If you break into a house and find a woman there, don’t rape her.
    If your friend thinks it’s okay to rape someone, tell him it’s not, and that he’s not your friend.
    If your “friend” tells you he raped someone, report him to the police.
    If your frat-brother or another guy at the party tells you there’s an unconscious woman upstairs and it’s your turn, don’t rape her, call the police and tell the guy he’s a rapist.
    Tell your sons, god-sons, nephews, grandsons, sons of friends it’s not okay to rape someone.
    Don’t tell your women friends how to be safe and avoid rape.
    Don’t imply that she could have avoided it if she’d only done or not done x.
    Don’t imply that it’s in any way her fault.
    Don’t let silence imply agreement when someone tells you he “got some” with the drunk girl.
    Don’t perpetuate a culture that tells you that you have no control over or responsibility for your actions. You can, too, help yourself.

    If you agree, re-post it. It’s that important.—

  39. Jesse

    Sunya: Although my instincts tell me to avoid getting into a physical disagreement with you, I do take issue with what you’ve said. Violence is a largely patriarchal construct – solving problems by shooting or hitting them tends to be less effective than one might think. Actually, it generally makes things worse.

    I think that everyone should be free and able to defend themselves, but I glean from your ‘tude that psychopathic homicidal violence isn’t exactly your last resort…

    You will not beat the patriarchy by fighting it physically. The war is one of perceptions, ideas and social progression. It requires our societies to be of a higher mind, a better understanding, a more enlightened awareness. If you see feminism’s central tenet as one of physical violence then I fear you are missing the point to say the least… men have been at war for millenia – men like it. If the patriarchy were personified, he would send you a gun for Christmas.

    Defend yourself, but go the baser levels, the more violent levels, as a last resort, not a first. The rapist needs to understand why it’s wrong so that he doesn’t rape in the first place, not be shot in the head so that you go to prison, the papers call all women hysterical psychopaths and your ‘victim’s’ brother takes vengeance against the evil bitches that killed his brother (which conveniently take the form of his battered wife who never knew you…)

    Concentrate on solving the causes of problems, not the symptoms of them. It’s far more effective.

  40. Flamethorn

    Jesse: Sunya’s comment is from Jul 22nd, 2005 at 7:43 pm

  41. PatriarchySlayer

    I actually had a roommate that was kind of like that. She never let boys in the house barely at all. I think it was less about rape than about “temptation”, but maybe a little bit of both. She assumed that no matter who it was, that if a man and a woman were alone in the same room together, (God forbid!) they were going to get it on, or get raped. Either way, some sort of sexual activity was going to happen.
    We also had rules that a man and a woman cannot lie down next to each other, and no boys sleeping over, etc. etc.

    Come to find out that this was her own issues imposed on us. I found it quite humorous at first. But then it just got irritating.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>