Dec 16 2009

Hugs, Twisty: jubjub birds et al

Correction Department
The Nashville Corrections Department, conveniently located adjacent to a Christian Science Reading Room and Balloon-A-Tune, is where you will find concerned rape preventionists Rita R. Reed and Benjamin F. Bean.

A propos of scaremail forwards:

[Dear Twisty,]


I was just the happy recipient of the following text message on my phone:

Please be aware and be careful….

National Gang Week is starting: This is their new target method. While driving on any roads, if you see a baby car seat sitting on the side of the road, DO NOT STOP! These are gangs targeting people, especially women, to stop their vehicle to help a baby. They make this baby look as if it has blood on itself or on its clothing. when you get out of your vehicle in attempt to help, the gangs will jump from their hiding spots. they have beaten women to near death then continue to rape them and other torture methods.


-Rita R. Reed. TN Dept of Corrections Central Dispatch. (615) 253-8182 (615) 401-6811(fax)

So, naturally, I shifted uncomfortably in my car (and wouldn’t ya know it, the only text message I get all week I end up reading while driving) on accounta being filled with the requisite dread that every woman is obliged to feel at all times. Once home, I set myself to teh Google and while I couldn’t find any Snopes entry on this particular one, I noticed a series of similar debunked messages wherein gang-members (read = BROWN MEN!) rape/murder/maim/etc. women, especially white women, especially mothers. Just another way for the patriarchy to keep us askeered and racist at the same time! Two for the price of one unsolicited text message!

Here’s the Snopes search, if you want to be sickened and entirely justified all at once. I know, I know: that’s your daily bread, sister.


– Woman.

Dear Woman,

Your text sample is a real beaut. A cursory Spinstanalysis:

The “please” capitalizes on the recipient’s susceptibility to bogeyman mythology by emphasizing the author’s solicitous concern: Please! I beg of you! If not for yourself, then for your children! Read this text message and take it to heart because you will die otherwise, and anonymous authors of text messages care.

The ellipsis — a four-pointer — portends a dark and foreboding situation urging the recipient to consider entering an undefined state of general awareness and carefulness. Yellow Alert!

No, make that an Orange Alert; “gangs” are involved. And although they are targeting “people,” they have a particular fascination for women. This means you.

So wait, now we have “National Gang Week”? Whence cometh this 411? Does the King of the Gangs send out a press release to Safety Mom Weekly? “Watch out, bitches! We will soon be attacking innocents on a roadside near you”? And what’s the protocol? Is it take a gang to lunch or else? And, really, a whole week? Mothers, secretaries, and women only get a day. Spinster aunts get bupkis. Breast Cancer Awareness — despite the fact that everybody in the solar system already oozes breast cancer awareness from every pore — gets a whole month, but you can’t expect the megatheocorporatocracy to deny itself 29 extra days to cash in hardcore on the golden eggs from that poor, sick old goose. As a matter of fact, the CEO of Pink Ink Inc, manufacturer of the ubiquitous pepto-pink pigment (the secret ingredient is panda fetuses), has banked enough to buy a private island in the Caribbean. He’s got an English valet with a better vocabulary than his, a pair of tickets on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, and a margarita machine.

Anyway, National Gang Week is “starting,” but the author omits to include the date, which leaves the end of National Gang Week sort of up in the air. And if the text message sender is to be believed, the object of this infinite National Gang Week appears to be that participating gangs must suddenly abandon the tried-and-true in order to implement elaborate and cumbersome methods of murder and mayhem. To wit:

A car seat with a bloody baby, placed by the side of “any road,” while multiple gang bangers, coiled like cobras in “hiding spots,” eternally await the random good Samaritan, hoping it’s a tenderhearted little woman they can torture, and not a cop? The scheme strikes me as a trifle busy. And passive, time-consuming, and comparatively unremunerative. Don’t they normally just rob you at gunpoint? Simple, but efficient. No bulky props, no waiting around. They don’t even really need the gun. I was once robbed at fingerpoint, of $3 and a Chanel lipstick. Lucky for me it wasn’t National Gang Week at the time, or I’d be singin’ soprano today!

It turns out that the gangstas of National Gang Week don’t want your money or your lipstick. Instead of dealing drugs, waging turf wars, and pimpin hos, these guys prefer to loll about on roadsides, luring women who take an inordinate interest in discarded car seats, beat them not quite to death, rape them, and torture them. I guess they’ve been watching Law & Order: Rape Cops, the TV show where it’s always National Gang Week.


According to Snopes, “National Gang Week” originated as an email hoax before jumping species to infest the cell phones of innocent blamers. Note the subtle differences between this email version and the text message.

Subject: FW: Driver beware
National Gang Week is starting: This is their new target method while driving on any roads, If you see a baby car seat sitting on the side of the road DO NOT STOP!!!! These are gangs targeting people, especially women, to stop their vehicle to help a baby. They make this baby look as if it has blood on itself or on its clothes, when you get out of your vehicle in attempt to help, the gangs jump out from cornfields or tall bushes. They have beaten women to near death, and then continue to rape them with baseball bats and other torture methods. This is not just a forward of information, it is within our area. If you do happen to see a car seat DO NOT STOP CALL THE POLICE IMMEDIATELY!! Please send this on to everyone you know.*

Benjamin F. Bean
State Of Tennessee
Department Of Correction
Central Dispatch
5th Floor Rachel Jackson Bldg.
320 Sixth Avenue North
Nashville,Tennessee 37242-0465

The syntactical and punctuation mishaps remain, but this Benjamin F Bean’s email is a bit more colorized, a bit more cinematic than Rita R Reed’s text message. In Mr Bean’s particular Bizarrohorrorwelt, the reader must not merely please be careful; she is ordered to beware (Admit it. The last time you were told to beware, you were whiffling through a tulgey wood, am I right?). Mr Bean’s gangs don’t just jump, they jump out of ominous tall bushes and forbidding cornfields. They don’t just rape, they rape with baseball bats. And what of the eccentric and somewhat sinister “This is not just a forward of information, it is within our area” admonition? Doth Mr Bean of the long, official mailing address protest too much that he is a reliable narrator? Happily, he remembers to close with the traditional “Forward this to everyone you know,” which beloved valediction — curiously omitted by Rita R Reed — is central to the scaremail terrorthodoxy.

My question is this: has a dude ever sent you one of these things? Because I’m formulating a hypothesis that fear-forwards of the rape-and-murder variety are the particular purview of women, both as senders and as recipients. I formulate this hypothesis in response to what I sense is the vague perception that these forwards are in fact sent by an amorphous entity known as The Patriarchy.


* The *About.com version has Mr Bean asking you to send this “onto” everyone you know. Ow!


Skip to comment form

  1. Kossack

    Interracial crime is way lower than same-race crime: http://www.jointcenter.org/DB/table/databank/crime/total.txt

    To paraphrase JS Mill in the least genteel way possible: you don’t beat the one you want, you beat the one you’re with.

    Which raises all sorts of interesting but unoriginal questions about media coverage of crime and governance as a means of furthering military-industrial domination through making the Us afraid of the Them.

    Except in this case, wow, the media is us — it really is disproportionately women forwarding this crap. To produce or reproduce their own femininity perhaps?

  2. norbizness

    There’s also LSD on scratch n’ sniff stickers.

    Also, in the words of a now-forgotten comic on Dr. Katz, people are often robbed in Italy by women throwing babies at them. When you catch the baby, her other kids rifle through your pockets. So if you see an airborne baby, KNOCK IT TO THE GROUND.

  3. yttik

    These must be rural gangsters, the Children of the Corn variety. A proper gangster in a decent city would have no lonely stretch of highway in which to lure women in this elaborate scheme.

    The fear forwards about rape prevention always come from other women. The myth of the rural gang bangers however, usually comes from law enforcement. We call it the Children of the Corn syndrome because it’s just gotten that stupid. Except for a few skinny white boys in baggy pants stealing Christmas lights and tipping cows, there are no gangs around her. What self respecting machismo wants to live in the middle of nowhere hiding in corn fields? Tagging the sides of barns? Even prison would be more appealing.

  4. Jill

    Interestingly, local news reported yesterday that there is “a serial rapist on the loose!” in Central Texas who targets single women between the ages of 65 and 91, assaulting them in their homes just before dawn. The dozen or so victims all live in rural communities, but in different counties. He’s here, he’s there, he’s everywhere! Beware!

  5. wiggles

    Ever hear the one where someone asks you the time and if you answer them their next line will be, “now give me your watch?” That this was a technique that robbers used. Because robbers can’t demand your watch without first asking you the time. I got that when I first moved to NYC as a young onion. It included no mention of any brandished weapon or other threat of force, just the warning that answering a simple question of a stranger could be a ploy for them to make hostile demands of you, which you will be obliged to oblige for some reason. It’s from the olden days before e-mail, when people still wore watches, and was dispersed via word-of-mouth. Looking back I think it’s rather quaint for its simplicity and lack of violence. “Brown people might speak to you on the subway! Be afraid!”

  6. rootlesscosmo

    whiffling through a tulgey wood

    That poem can be sung to “There is a Tavern in the Town.” The chorus “echoes” at the ends of lines (or couplets) get pretty good as the song continues through “-lumphing back” etc.

    With uffish thoughts for this brillig season.

  7. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    And AIDS-infected syringes in the coin-return slots of pay-phones. Oh, wait, pay-phones are obsolete.

    I want some of what Rootlesscosmo has been smoking.

  8. ambivalent academic

    The idea of a National Gang Week cracks me up. Is there a parade? A bunch of blog posts honoring gang heroes? Surely, CNN must run a special week-long series of reports running up to NGW. “Remember everyone, it’s National Gang Week. Please don’t forget to acknowledge your local gang members by greeting them with a face-full of pepper spray or a similar appropriate gesture. Just don’t stop for car seats on the side of the road until next week.”

  9. rootlesscosmo

    @Antoinette Niebieszczanski: my smoking days are long gone, but here’s a nice recipe, legal in all states, that may induce mild euphoria:

    2 oz. unsweetened chocolate
    6 oz. semisweet chocolate
    2 tbsp. (1 oz.) butter
    1/4 c. flour
    1/4 tsp. baking powder
    1/8 tsp. salt
    2 eggs
    3/4 c. sugar
    2 tsp. finely ground coffee
    1/2 tsp. vanilla
    6 oz. chocolate chips
    8 oz. walnut pieces (optional)

    1. Preheat oven to 350°.

    2. Line cookie sheet with foil; oil lightly. (Or skip the foil and use a non-stick cookie sheet, or–for easiest cleanup–a silicone sheet such as Silpat.)

    3. Melt chocolate and butter over hot water; stir until completely mixed and smooth.

    4. Combine flour, salt, and baking powder.

    5. Beat eggs with sugar, coffee, and vanilla on high speed; reduce speed and add melted chocolate.

    6. Add dry ingredients; stir just until blended. Add chips and nuts.

    7. Spoon onto cookie sheet; bake 8-10 minutes until tops are dry. (Caution: these burn easily.) Slide onto a rack to cool.

  10. Kathleen

    I can see how these get forwarded, but who originates them? I mean, who sits down and composes this stuff? I guess the same question can be asked about all urban legends, but somehow the ones that come in text form (complete with “official” addresses) feel more baffling, the lurid details are so concrete (the bloody child safety seat as “bait”) — somebody had to sit down and think that up. weird.

  11. Shelby

    Thanks Twisty & Hugs

  12. Jezebella

    Jill, yikes! I know you’re skeptical, but our South Mississippi serial-rapist-of-older-ladies was lately reported to be linked by DNA evidence to a a similar rape in central Louisiana. Perhaps he headed westward when all the old ladies in my county were given handguns for Christmas last year.

  13. jd

    Only my grandmother and aunts have ever warned me that I would be drugged at a gas station (I do not remember how that ridiculous one worked) so I could be later raped.

    Only women at work tell me over and over and over and over and over again that I should not walk home at night after work. One woman at work exerts strong social pressure to keep me from taking out the recycling (part of my job) after dark. The men at work want to tell me I can’t move around freely in the world as well. The men, though, are more resentfully aware of sexual harassment guidelines, so they keep their damn traps shut when it comes to telling me not to do things they do all the damn time without thinking once, let alone twice. The effort involved in their letting me as a woman move around freely is visible, though. Their mouths twitch with words that want to be spoken, primarily “shouldn’t.”

    One 50-something woman makes me watch her get in her car twenty feet from the door at 7:30 p.m. in a well-lit parking lot, because she’s been so terrified by very statistically unlikely dangers (she does not, however, move closer to work so she can avoid the freeway, which is actually much likelier to cause her a horrifying painful death than a gang member hanging out around our suburban office park). She gasped and I thought she might faint when I told her I walk all the way (six blocks) home every night after she leaves.

    I have been a reasonably attractive female for 20 years, and I have only ever been raped by a man I knew very well, never by a stranger. The “gang” that produced the rapist most well-known to me was extremely white and identified using the Greek alphabet.

  14. jd

    I had to look up the thing my grandma and aunt kindly forwarded to me. Burundanga business cards!

    I searched Snopes for “gas station” and found multiple supposed gang initiation rites involving violence against women at gas stations. Siccing women against brown men does seem like a useful diversionary tactic if you’ve got a white-dominant patriarchy to maintain.

  15. Orange

    1. We need to write our own hoax and start disseminating it! We would really do a beautiful job. Intentional misspellings and mispunctuation, hitting all the proper patriarchy-infused paranoia points, and making up a fake Authority Figure to sign it. Who’s with me?

    2. I deeply resent your “Orange Alert.” Leave me out of this!

    3. I live in Chicago. We have plenty o’ street gangs. And yet our poor benighted gangbangers must make do during Gangfest Week with nary a cornstalk or tall bush at the side of the street. Can gangsters hide behind bus stop signs or light poles? Because they’re going to have to be REAL skinny to pull that off. Maybe they can hide behind their raping bats.

  16. Cycles

    Dear Blamers,

    This was forwarded to me by a friend who said it happened to a Sunday School teacher at her church. It is one hundred precent true. Ladies, be careful and watch out.

    Linda told me that her friend at church has been the victim of a particularly wily type crime ring. Apparently this problem happens a lot, and it’s on the rise. They won’t talk about this on the news because they’re worried it would freak people out, which is why you may not have heard of it before. It happens like this. The gang members will spend time studying different types of victims, and create special brainwashing videos tailored to that particular type of victim. Suddenly these videos will spring up in the middle of the victim’s favorite TV program, sometimes without the victim realizing what’s happening. The brainwashed victim then gives the criminals money for things they don’t need. The criminals’ aim is to “lock” the victim into a frame of mind where she can’t live without the overpriced trinkets they’re selling, so she gives them more and more money. Warning: when the victims try to break free, the criminals make it look like the victim is a Communist. If you are attacked like this, do not try to get away. Hand over your money and walk away quietly.

    This happens all the time. Experts say it is a form of initiation into a gang that started on Madison Avenue but has spread across the nation.

    I know this is scary but I wanted to forward it because it can happen to anyone.

    Remember, ladies, self-defense teachers caution against trying to call the police if this is happening to you. The best way to stay safe in this type of situation is to go to a well-lit store and spend money. The crime ring rarely kills people who comply.

    Happy holidays, be sure to always carry a rape whistle, and please please please stay safe out there.

  17. Shelly

    I think you just described my boss. I work at a large, public university library. My boss and I get to work well before the ass-crack of dawn. If there is *anyone* in the parking lot when she gets there, she’ll wait for me or another coworker, so that she can walk in with us.

    I’ve been spooked by creepy assholes plenty of times, but it would not occur to me to hide from them. I can only imagine how scared she must be of the whole entire world. Damned Patriarchy.

    On the other hand, I have been known to take the dog with me when walking to the trash dumpster after dark. The dog is entirely useless–a psychological security blanket at best–but it’s damned hard to let go of that blanket sometimes.

    As for National Gang Week (capitalized and all official-like, even!), I am laughing too hard to be be frightened. I do wonder, though, if there’s a Hallmark card for that.

  18. Jonathan


    I can see how these get forwarded, but who originates them? I mean, who sits down and composes this stuff? I guess the same question can be asked about all urban legends, but somehow the ones that come in text form (complete with “official” addresses) feel more baffling, the lurid details are so concrete (the bloody child safety seat as “bait”) — somebody had to sit down and think that up. weird.

    I’m placing my money on the women-hating 20-something dorklings living in their mother’s basements. The dudes who are too dumb to write viruses, write chain letters.

  19. Jonathan

    I just got a look at Virgin Galactic’s spaceship-for-rich-dudes and remembered why I preferred publicly-funded spaceflight. The Space Shuttle at least didn’t have depictions of skinny spandexed blonds bending over on all three of the fuselages. IBTP for marketing space as a men’s club.

  20. Nolabelfits

    Every single fear mongering female targeted forward I have received has come from a “Well Meaning Dude”.

  21. AileenWuornos

    “There’s also LSD on scratch n’ sniff stickers.”

    Which ones, and more importantly, where do I buy them?

    “Every single fear mongering female targeted forward I have received has come from a “Well Meaning Dude”.”

    True that.

    This seems to be exactly like the article that appeared in the paper here warning school-leavers (meaning, girls leaving school) to be careful about how much they drank, who they were with blah blah slut shaming blah blah snore.

    Imagine if the people who wrote the superstitition letters/e-mails/xyz actually put that effort into educating d00ds to not rape womyn?

  22. Melanie

    A few years ago an email went around warning of “Gang Initiation Week” in Memphis. Supposedly the initiates would hang around street corners asking women for directions; anyone who responded to them would be shot. The women that I worked with printed out the email and hung it up in the break room, and one of them went out and bought a pink stun gun. It was quite surreal.

    As a side note, I find the idea of gangs having a rush week to be hilarious.

  23. Unree

    Aw, heck. I recognized the area code as genuinely Nashvillian. So there was nothing for a blamer to do but dial the number. A southern drawl spoke, after four rings:
    “You have reached the voice mail of Rita Reed. If you have received a text or e-mail in relation to gang awareness, it is not true.”

  24. Jenni

    My dad used to send me these types of rape prevention email forward things (and other stuff that he thought the women in his life should be aware of, it wasn’t limited to rape stuff), but he’s been ordered to check Snopes before sending any forwards anymore, so he’s stopped. Hope that helps with your thesis!

  25. Notorious Ph.D.

    I’ve gotten one or two of these “beware!” e-mails. In my case, they have always come from women. Well-meaning female friends who like to use the words “But you can’t…”, followed by whatever activity I’m manifestly already doing.

  26. magriff

    “I formulate this hypothesis in response to what I sense is the vague perception that these forwards are in fact sent by an amorphous entity known as The Patriarchy.”

    So what are the implications of your theory, Jill? As I read it, not “it’s bad for women to warn other women of danger”, or “it’s bad for women to be cautious”- we all know that we have plenty to fear (and I personally would never, ever tell a woman she’s being overly cautious because I don’t think there is such a thing). So, I’m curious about this. Flesh it out please!

  27. veganrampage

    Dear Cycles,

    Please tell Linda to tell her friend all she need do is change the channel from the Home Shopping Network when Adrienne starts her spiel about crystal doorknocker earrings.
    Indispensable utility ear wear it ain’t.

    Deepest sympathies,

  28. Twobees

    These “warnings” bear an uncanny similarity to the headlines and stories found in the bottom dwelling tabloids. Certainly they come from the same mindset. It seems plausible to me that there are people who decide that they can ‘one-up’ the headline writers and this is the crap they spew.

    The patriarchy has been enforcing its morality through oral culture from the beginning, and how ironic that it does so using outright falsehoods. Talk about the blind leading the blind*.

    *Although my experience with blind people has shown me that in fact they are often more perceptive than the sighted, not having to rely on the obvious visual clues the patriarchy employs to help us make the right choices.

  29. speedbudget

    We are supposed to take advice in preventing criminal behavior (of others, natch) from this guy?

    Also, I had a friend tell me in all utter seriousness that there was no way I could ever go anywhere on vacation EVAR since I didn’t have a boyfriend. She really couldn’t flesh that one out when I asked her why.

    magriff: Caution is not bad where it is warranted. Say, walking in a construction zone with no hard hat. One should be cautious. One does not need to be cautious, however, when the threats are amorphous or actually made up. At least, no more cautious than one is in normal daily activities. You know. Kind of like dudes.

  30. Taybeh Chaser

    “Siccing women against brown men does seem like a useful diversionary tactic if you’ve got a white-dominant patriarchy to maintain.”

    One wonders, is there a similar effort to convince men of color that women (of any race) are their natural enemies? Do they get scary e-mail forwards too?

    Unsurprisingly, if you look around on Snopes, you’ll find a number of other scare e-mail forwards, etc, demonizing men of color (sometimes simply “gangs”, but it seems clear enough who they mean) by warning the would-be street-smart lady about dubious new flavors of gang-related crime targeting (usually white) kids and women. With most of these, a moment of blinking and staring at the computer screen ought to be enough for the basic critical thinking faculties to kick in and reason to prevail (“Cornfields?!”). It’s enlightening to see how often urban legends serve to express and re-enforce bigotry and keep people irrationally afraid of one another. This may seem an obvious point to some, but this blamer hadn’t heard or read many of the common racially-charged ones before coming upon Snopes. Guess I must be relatively lucky in that my friends and family either don’t forward these things or think twice about forwarding them to me.

    I love the idea, advanced above, of starting a “fake” scary e-mail forward, misspellings and all. I’d like to see how far it gets. The author should then reveal the prank and see how many bother to forward the revelation.

  31. oldgoat

    Do they hide in a fake horse/Cadillac or something?

    Is true that gang-type activity does happen in some sort of cycle, at least in my hometown. Every year on Mother’s Day weekend there is a rash of burglaries… as in it goes up 1000%, and the police say its gang initiation week… if your car isn’t locked (small town) it WILL be broken into, but that is a local or individual gang. I doubt rival gangs send up the Gang-Bat-Signal and tell ’em to meet the Comissioner Gangland, we gotta go do the new rapewhitebreadwomen promotion this season.

  32. niki

    Throughout my North American life I suffered through various media interpretations of who was dangerous and when, but my travels have taught me many things about the folk that serve as scapegoats in the U.S. that run contrary to what I previously knew as truth. I’m not saying there isn’t bad shit everywhere, or that there aren’t particular countries that are very dangerous for women, but generally I now fear the intentions of the average N. American white dude pretty much uber alles.

    Down here in the S. Hemisphere it takes a while to shake off the fear of the solo honky traveler, even if you were raised in ‘liberal’ California.

  33. humanbein

    There is a vague and unscientific belief in my heart that the best defense against violence and rape is reacting to danger with confidence, intelligence, and in the heat of the moment, an iron-clad emotional allegiance to never being a victim. This is not say that this is to be used as “advice” about avoiding rape.

    A friend of mine who I admire avoided rape at the hands of a real insane maniac by frostily informing him to put his clothes back on, put the club back in the trunk, and drive the friend back to the highway. Though it has all the earmarks of a miracle, it has one telling emotional idea that makes sense to me: My friend did NOT play along with the fantasy of the cowering victim necessary for the rape to happen, and didn’t provoke a violent reaction by exhibiting the arousing conflict of anger or weakness defiant.

    I have often thought of this instance of terrible danger and my thoughts might be wrong, since I wasn’t there, but my friend is someone I’ve known for a long time and has a character congruent with my theory about this incident.

    On the contrary, when I was raped by a total stranger who initiated the rape by smashing his fist into the side of my head so hard he knocked me right down on the sidewalk, I was compliant and agreeable and tried to make friends and made it so easy for him that I die a little inside whenever I think of my innocent younger self trying to deny what was about to happen. If I had only been calm, fearless, confident and focussed on getting out of the situation, I tell myself NOW, it wouldn’t have happened.

    After putting these two experiences together, I have lived with my first impulse after surviving my rape ever since: This will never happen to me again, because I’m more against being raped again – or being any kind of victim again – than I’m afraid to die. I live with normal caution and an awareness of danger but without fear.

  34. Jezebella

    Humanbein, you are blaming yourself for being victimized by a rapist. Hear this: IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT. Not your fault, not your fault, not your fault.

    Whenever I hear a tale of a woman who avoided assault by being a badass, I feel some victim-blaming coming on. And, darlin, you just blamed yourself for being a victim.

    I know women who were tough, who mouthed off and fought back and consequently had the snot beaten out of them in addition to being raped; I know women who were unable to put up a fight, who froze up and waited for it to end. We all have probably been in near-miss situations, and escaped in all manner and modes of behavior.

    I’m not saying “don’t fight back, it’s hopeless,” I’m saying: if you don’t or can’t fight back, it’s still NOT YOUR FAULT.

  35. Jezebella

    Taybeh Chaser, “One wonders, is there a similar effort to convince men of color that women (of any race) are their natural enemies? Do they get scary e-mail forwards too?”

    I don’t know the answer to this, but MRA’s (who I assume are mostly white) do spend a lot of time telling each other spooky stories about the lying so-and-so who stole some guy’s sperm or lied about using birth control, got knocked up, and forced him to marry her and give her his gonads and all of his money. They pretty much operate out of fear of women’s reproductive power. They also claim that the power to give a man a boner is, you know, “power” in a quantity equivalent to running the planet’s governments and institutions. Us feminists scare ’em half to death. If only they’d be quiet and cower at home in fear, instead of lashing out in abundant asshattery.

  36. yttik

    There is something to be said for transforming fear into anger, humanbein. Fear can be incapacitating, and emails, movies, the whole culture has women soaking in it. If that email encouraged the woman to come out of her car swinging a tire iron and kick that car seat halfway across the cornfield, the whole dynamic would change. Assaulting pissed off armed women is a lot of work, even more work then concocting elaborate cornfield schemes to catch the vulnerable.

    Rape is never a victim’s fault, no matter how somebody responds. Victims do what they have to to survive and that doesn’t always mean fighting back. It’s just in general, when it comes to attitudes, there would be a lot less inclination to rape if rapists didn’t have so much fear working in their favor.

  37. Barbara P


    If someone decides to rape you, and you again act compliant, it will still not be your failure. Your friend’s story is interesting and maybe helpful in some ways, but it can never really be advice for anyone. I’ve heard stories where the woman acted friendly like you did and got out OK because of THAT. Again, interesting, but not exactly good advice.

    Here’s a scare-mongering email for you:

    Rape can happen anywhere, any time, from a man you know well or a stranger. There’s actually nothing you can really do as an individual to completely prevent it. No attitude you can feign, no device you can wear. Any warmth or caring or appreciation of babies that you show can be used against you in some way. Don’t trust any men ever, or talk to them.

  38. Barbara P

    Just want to add:

    You made it clear that you’re not trying to advise anyone about rape prevention, and my comment seems to ignore that you said that. But it seems like you ARE giving that advice to yourself, as in “next time, I’m going to go about this differently”. It would be thrilling and wonderful if it worked for you, but I fear the possibility that it wouldn’t.

  39. humanbein

    Thanks for the kind words!

    To boil down my feelings: We are taught to be victims, and we have to fight against it, and use caution, intelligence, and resolve to keep it at bay. This is why fear-mongering plays into the hands of the patriarchy: Fear makes us victims before we even suffer assault. The dudes who create these messages fetishize our fear.

    There have been a few threads about this and I have noticed some uncertainty about the double-edged truth that women shouldn’t live in fear, while it is rational to assume that women can be attacked anywhere and at any time just for being female. This is my take on it.

    I hope it doesn’t make any difference to anyone that I have male body parts, and so does my friend. As a student of radical feminists, I hope not. One thing I can sympathize with: It is so hard not to blame yourself, no matter how hard you try. I don’t, and then I do, and then I try not to, and then I do it again.

  40. Taybeh Chaser

    “I don’t know the answer to this, but MRA’s (who I assume are mostly white) do spend a lot of time telling each other spooky stories about the lying so-and-so who stole some guy’s sperm or lied about using birth control, got knocked up, and forced him to marry her and give her his gonads and all of his money.”

    Hahaha. Yeah, I’d thought about that one, though, as you mention, it is a “warning” aimed at all men of all races, united against the grasping conniving of womankind ;). I even remember reading about guys who go so far as to wash out used condoms or put something sperm-killing or pain-inducing (hot sauce, in one story I recall from a salon.com advice column, if that’s at all a reliable source) inside the condom in order to prevent baby-crazed money-grubbing harpies from stealing their precious seed. I have never heard of an actual woman stealing someone’s sperm like this, of course.

    humanbein–I’m going to echo everyone else who says not to blame yourself. In conversations with friends who have been lucky enough (luck is essentially all it is) to avoid being raped thus far, we sometimes tell each other how we would fight to escape and imagine ourselves acting in a tough, cool way. Because of the well-known statistics, news reports, and fictional media, and because of a lifetime of street harassment, groping, etc, I believe many of us simply expect a rape attempt someday, if it hasn’t happened yet. Talking about how we will hurt the eventual attacker seems to be a way to stave off fear and feel more control over our lives. But in reality none of us know what would seem right during an attack and none of us can judge a victim’s reaction. There are all these completely contrasting pieces of advice–fight, don’t fight, try talking nicely to him, act tough and confident. Sometimes, maybe, a victim is fortunate to be able to read a situation accurately, choose the most effective reaction, and escape unhurt, but it is not at all realistic or fair to expect you will be able to do that or should have been able to do that.

  41. wiggles


    one of them went out and bought a pink stun gun

    The Lady TaserTM! By Norelco!

    Taybeh Chaser:

    One wonders, is there a similar effort to convince men of color that women (of any race) are their natural enemies? Do they get scary e-mail forwards too?

    They get a lot of societal and cultural messages about how emasculating it is to empathize with women too much. bell hooks is the best at explaining it, imo.

  42. Agasaya


    Yes, being male likely does make it a different experience for you but it doesn’t invalidate the ‘victimization’ issue. You may feel more strongly that you should have put up a better fight than a woman could do – an unfortunate assumption of many men through strong conditioning. However, as a male you also presented a greater psychological threat to the rapist and he might have been more inclined to kill you had you not been compliant than if he’d chosen a female victim.

    Even if you had fought him off, you’d still be a victim of an assault, carrying with you the knowledge that every attack is different and a new outcome might be the result. A victim is a victim simply by virtue of the fact we came across a predator. Some predators wear suits and carry briefcases only to go home and victimize a family member. Others come out of alleys and knock you out.

    I am currently the victim of stalkers who follow me and vandalize my car and residences so they become unusable to me and make me ill (using chemicals which are very harmful to a severe asthmatic). Do they do this to men involved in precedent-setting litigation? Undoubtedly, although the police would likely listen to male victims whereas they won’t listen to me. Perhaps if I were male, they’d accept the evidence I’ve gathered about the perpetrators on my own and with the help of a PI I cannot afford to continue paying.

    I may not survive this. However, if I do, the victimization process remains in force. We need to stop judging ourselves based upon ‘how the other guy looked’ following any kind of altercation. The altercation should never take place at all.

    Survival is not equivalent to justice and there is precious little justice in the world. But there is a world full of survivors out there. That takes guts, living with the memories but also setting new precedents by telling others about it. That’s taking power and paying it forward. I’m still alive because others passed along stories to people like myself before they died.

    We’re all links in a chain. Grieving with you,


  43. zwarte

    I would like to return to discussions about Stanley, please.

  44. Rice

    Statistically, men are significantly more likely to be violently attacked by a stranger than women. Yet they manage to not live in fear, have fear shoved down their throats by everyone in their lives, and get sent forwards about being out late at night, drinking in clubs, stepping out to get the morning paper.

    humanbein, there may be that message of the double edged sword. But I refuse to accept that it is rational to believe I can be attacked anywhere and at any time just for being female. It’s equally not rational for me to believe that the minute it gets dark in the neighbourhood I grew up in and am completely familiar with, I am more likely to be raped, and yet I do think these things every time when walking home. I am more likely to be raped by a future partner yet I (irrationally, really) get into relationships, and irrationally fear an unlit street I’ve walked down a hundred times before.

  45. PatriarchySlayer

    It’s almost like the patriarchy is not only using rape as a form of control, but almost like a punishment. If you don’t do as we say, you’re going to get raped. That is why these forwards bother me so much. It’s not about protecting women, it’s about establishing the rules that women should live by, and if they don’t live by them then it’s their own fault if they get raped. It’s their punishment for not playing by the patriarchy’s rules.

  46. Jonathan

    The rape forwards are also providing camoflage and protection for the majority of actual rapists. They NEVER mention husbands, boyfriends, the dudebag buddies of boyfriends, or relatives who are always forgiven. They also NEVER mention the possibility of physical resistance. The writers of these forwards want the perps to get away unscathed.

  47. keshmeshi

    Or it could be a conspiracy on the part of people who want to attack babies in car seats without any meddlesome good Samaritans intervening.

  48. Jodie

    Both men and women used to send me those things. After hearing my diatribes (and probably tiring of them), they’ve all but stopped. Now I get ranty emails about the war on Christmas and that cross in some national par; however, nothing I say seems to stop those. It amazes me how members of the dominant religion make themselves out to be martyred just because someone else asks them to be fair.

    I seem to live the kind of life (travel to other countries, travel alone, going to the “bad” side of town that really isn’t any different from the “good” side of town) that makes people say “Aren’t you afraid X will happen?” I always ask them if they worry about getting killed in a car accident on the way to work. It’s more likely, really, than X happening to me.

  49. Jodie

    Oh, and rootlesscosmo? I’m going to be singing that all night (and probably all weekend) now! Thanks!

  50. Ron Sullivan

    There are some interesting reflections on this stuff (apropos of a different event) here by Teresa Nielsen Hayden at comments #536 and #546, and someone named Jacque at #553.

    These don’t contradict the general impression here; they do add to the Whydunit discussion, IMO.

  51. PandanCat

    Nobody’s ever sent me any of those scary rape forwards. I hope it’s because they know them things are wastes of electrons, not because they want to deprive me of valuable, life-saving information.

    I also love the idea of making fake email forwards. Unfortunately, anyone receiving something like that from me would already know it was a concern-troll joke.

  52. speedbudget


    I’m sorry to hear about your experience. While mine wasn’t as violent, I can begin to understand what you’ve gone through and are going through.

    But we need to remember one thing: Rape prevention is not our purview or responsibility. There is nothing you can do to prevent somebody from doing something to you. You can only prevent yourself from becoming the victim again and again.

    Rape prevention begins with the rapists themselves, and our society is loathe to admit that. I mean, it’s like doing hours and hours of arson prevention by telling home- and shopowners how to prevent arsonists from targeting their buildings. Just completely asinine.

  53. speedbudget

    ETA: By “becoming the victim again and again,” I meant to add by blaming yourself and finding ways you could have acted differently. It’s not your fault, and generally I trust people’s instincts. People will react the way their instincts tell them to, and that’s usually the right response. In your case, I don’t know how you could have thought things through or done anything differently after getting hit in the head.

  54. Jezebella

    One way to get people to stop sending you rape-spam of this nature is to reply-all with the URL for the Snopes debunking of it. I started doing that every single time I got one, and nobody sends them to me any more.

  55. Carolyn

    I was the city engineer of a small town in Kansas for a couple of years and still remember how adorable it was when the police chief insisted that our town DID TOO have gangs! Scary ones! For reals! I don’t know which was the stronger motivation, to prove that he was a real tough macho policeman just like the big kids in the city or to funnel some of that federal anti-gang funding.

  56. rowmyboat

    It’s so funny how so many somebodies think the gangs all get together to plot the downfall of God-fearing white women everywhere. For one thing, if you’ve got more than one gang in the same place, they probably aren’t on speaking terms, let alone planning joint exploits such as National Gang Week.

  57. Taybeh Chaser

    Jodie–I too travel to places many people tell me are dangerous, and have been known to do things like go to bars by myself or walk home after dark by myself if no one can come with me. I do ride in other people’s cars, but I’m scared to death of driving myself, and at 27 have yet to get a license (yay for anywhere with good public transportation). Fear is so often like that–kooky and inconsistant.

  58. Helen

    So, naturally, I shifted uncomfortably in my car (and wouldn’t ya know it, the only text message I get all week I end up reading while driving) (“Woman”)

    It’s ironic that while the apocryphal situation in the email forward has so far been responsible for exactly 0 deaths and injuries, texting while driving certainly has killed and maimed numerous drivers, peds and cyclists. <a href="http://ezinearticles.com/?Accident-and-Cell-Phone-Driving-Statistics-in-the-United-States&id=2949390&quot;. “Woman”, please don’t do it. Perhaps an email forward on this noxious practice would actually be useful. But then, that doesn’t single out women as the particular target of the behaviour-modifying text, does it?

  59. slythwolf

    My question is this: has a dude ever sent you one of these things?

    The only person ever to send me this crap is my dad. He used to send them all the fucking time, but cut it out eventually when I started hitting reply-all with a Snopes link.

  60. Tigs

    Sheeeeeee-itttttt. I have worked in both gang-related law enforcement and with gang members, and while there are indeed some obnoxious initiations, the vast majority of gangsters prefer to get jumped-in than to carry out said proposed initiation (interesting twist on the narrative, right?).
    Further, at this point, most gangs in American urban settings are well organized enough that they are more interested in money than anything else. If bloods start assaulting the whitewomen they know full well that business is going to be shut down, and that’s what they fear more than anything.

    I know of a young blood who hit a cop with a car during a get away. Not ten hours after the cops declared that they would be sitting on every corner until they found said child, the boy walks into HQ with a broken arm and asks to be locked up. It’s all about the benjamins.

  61. polly styrene

    Interestingly, I have never recieved a missive of this sort. Maybe because most of my friends are lesbians?

    However there must surely be a scholarly thesis somewhere on this type of urban myth as an agent of social control of women? Because that’s what this stuff is all about, let’s face it. Be scared women, and don’t do anything without a man to protect you, and be assured that all that acting independent will lead to certain rape and death.

  62. polly styrene

    Except in this case, wow, the media is us — it really is disproportionately women forwarding this crap. To produce or reproduce their own femininity perhaps?

    Yes I’ve noticed this as well. A work colleague told me to beware travelling on a certain train because a woman got raped on it late at night – and obviously the rapist is one train specific and can’t move about at all. Frightened = oh so feminine.

  63. Helen

    Oh, forgot to add my own data point – my last scaremail forward (it was the Dude Lying down on Back Seat of Car while I’m Paying For Petrol one), it was sent to everyone in my company by the Finance manager, who is a bloke.

  64. Laughingrat

    Re: Women being the ones to forward this, my Women’s Studies prof back in the day pointed out repeatedly that women are often given the shitty job of policing the Patriarchy’s mandates, especially where other women are concerned. Gossip, shunning, fear-mongering…all just tools in the P’s toolbox.

  65. Frumious B.

    The last time you were told to beware, you were whiffling through a tulgey wood, am I right?

    Damn skippy you better heed that advice, ladies.

    Nothing to add here. Move along.

  66. Amananta

    “One wonders, is there a similar effort to convince men of color that women (of any race) are their natural enemies? Do they get scary e-mail forwards too?”

    I don’t know about email forwards, but there is, to a lesser extent, a certain fetishizing of white women to men of color I’ve noticed. But I think the dynamic is different. Generally the impression I get is that white women are seen as dangerous to men of color not because of anything they might personally do, but because of what the white woman’s father-brother-owner might do to the man of color who is seeing her. This is sadly not entirely without justification.

  67. slythwolf

    The last time you were told to beware, you were whiffling through a tulgey wood, am I right?

    Damn skippy you better heed that advice, ladies.

    If you carry a vorpal blade at all times and possess the skill and/or talent to make it go snicker-snack, you might be okay.

  68. old

    Perhaps you could just list where women are unlikely to be raped. That’d be a shorter list. No lie I see in “women at threat of being raped in gas station, side of road.” Etc.

    But what does chap my hide is young women ridiculing older women–who are so dumb, you know, by virtue of being old, and having lived a life of the justifiabdle fear that comes from living while female.

    JD you’re an asshole.

  69. Woman

    This was the first such message I’ve received on my cell phone, but that’s because I have a firm “DO NOT TEXT ME” policy that most everyone follows except the woman who sent this to me, who, as I told Twisty, is a white woman with an abusive husband. She did used to live next door to me in my neighborhood, which is largely home to persons of color; she and said husband hied it out of here as fast as they could on accounta them being fearful of her being raped by the anonymous black man. Now they live in a house in some soulless suburb, which she described as “much cleaner” in her unsolicited texts. She sends me text messages periodically even though I never reply, but usually they are more benign than this.

    It was the baby thing that bothered me. That was a really evil way of getting my attention, kind of like using babies to sell toilet paper. I had to Google it just to get the mental picture of the bleeding baby out of my head.

    I think Twisty’s onto something. It’s kind of like how all the women in my family just won’t let go of the fact that I didn’t change my name when I got married, or how women did the foot binding and laced the corsets.

  70. Carolyn

    The impression I got as a white woman living in a black neighbourhood in New Orleans is that black men view white women as dangerous because all they had to do was look at me funny and I could snap my fingers and have their ass beaten up and tossed in jail for life. Which is still a perfectly reasonable thing for them to fear–I actually saw something like this happen in Oakland.

  71. Liz

    Beware! Men hate you. If you see a man, DO NOT be his wife. DO NOT be his daughter. DO NOT be his sister. DO NOT be his niece. DO NOT report to him at work. DO NOT supervise him at work. CODE RED!

  72. yttik

    Those emails serve the patriarchy well. The case of the missing Utah woman and the husband who is annoyed at being viewed as a suspect is a good example. We keep women focused on boogeymen that don’t exist so they stay home and spend more time with the one most likely to do them in.

    Of course nobody knows what really happened to the woman, but it always surprises me that people are so outraged when the husband becomes the first person the cops decide to investigate. I guess it’s always possible she was set up by rural gang bangers or perhaps sucked off the planet by aliens, but it’s unlikely.

  73. Enid

    You mean the husband who took his two small children “camping” in the snowy West Desert/Pony Express National park at MIDNIGHT the night she disappeared? The one who has yet to show the cops where, exactly, the three of them “camped”? Or are you talking about the OTHER guy, who just showed up at his ex’s apartment and shot her and their kids and himself, all straightforward-like?

    IBTP for every violent death; it all comes down to it.

  74. nails

    Missing utah woman is overshadowing a lot of important state news. Like all the politicians in utah getting together to oppose ethics review legislation to keep them in check, and energy solutions wanting to dump more nuclear waste in the state (waste “blending”? what?). Outside of ignoring women of color going missing, this story has been pushing other important to the margins as well.

  75. slythwolf

    You know, that reminds me, it is really starting to piss me off when I watch crime dramas and a woman is murdered and the first suspect is the husband and then, because of narrative convention and the show having to last 45 minutes instead of 15, it’s never the husband. When in real life it is almost always the husband. Come on, TV. Maybe once in a while, at least, start out thinking it’s the husband and then there can be evidence that it’s somebody else but then come back around to the husband again. Or maybe! Maybe the characters all know it’s the husband but they have to spend those 45 minutes proving it. Is that so hard? The second or third season of Bones spent how many episodes proving the guilt of a single serial killer when we all knew he did it and you can’t spend 45 minutes on one woman-killing husband?

  76. Hedgepig

    slythwolf, my pet hate is the child abuse version of what you describe. Every episode of Law & Order SVU in which a child is being abused they say “we’ll investigate the father, it’s usually the father you know”, then in the first “twist” the father is exonerated. Can we just have one episode where the perp actually IS the person statistically most likely?

  77. nails

    But… then dude nation’s feelings would get hurt! They don’t want to feel *bad* that violence happens to women. Feeling responsible for violence is our job, remember?

  78. Isabel

    “my pet hate is the child abuse version of what you describe.”

    During some of the high-profile “shaken baby” babysitter/au pair cases in recent years I was earning my living through child care. The increasing suspicion I felt under following these and other child care provider abuse stories was somewhat annoying and one day I looked up the statistics on shaken baby cases.

    In something like over 90% of cases the perpetrator was male, most commonly an unrelated caregiver such as the mother’s boyfriend, though not far behind was the natural father. Then a huge drop to the mother at a few % and then female unrelated caregiver was some barely registering proportion of perpetrators.

    Sexual abuse by caregivers was also a big concern, and still is, though I suspect the stats for that are similar.

    I didn’t blame the mothers though, for the stress over the suspicion and potential false accusations; we were just collateral damage. It was pretty obvious that the goal of the scare campaigns over child care providers was to make the mothers feel guilty for not caring for their own children. (Usually the mothers in the high-profile cases were ‘career women’ who didn’t have to work).

  79. Hedgepig

    Isabel: a-ha! “mother’s boyfriend” eh? Also ultimately the woman’s fault for having relationships with men who aren’t the biological father of her children!

  80. yttik

    Yes, in all those crime show dramas women have finally achieved equal opportunity as serial killers, pedophiles, rapists, and domestic abusers. Never mind that women so rarely rape and murder a string of young girls as to make it statistically invisible. In the rare event a man did actually abuse the children or murder the women, it’s entirely the fault of his enabling wife and his controlling mother.

  81. mearl

    I’d be interested to know where everyone on the forwarding wagon thinks the gangs get their supply of useful bait-babies. That goes for either the Cornfield Dwelling gangs or the pickpockets in Italy.

  82. Jezebella

    Hm, I was under the impression that there weren’t *actual* babies in those carriers, but rather bloodied dolls. Are we meant to believe they first steal babies for this exercise in gang-bonding??

  83. Comrade PhysioProf

    They flash their headlights at the babies, and if the babies flash back, then they get stolen.

  84. Squiggy

    I thought there were no babies or bloodied dolls, just live, bloody figments of the P’s imagination.

  85. speedbudget

    Perhaps they have craft classes before their lying-in-wait begins. I remember at girl scouting get-togethers, we used to have all kinds of crafts classes. Perhaps the gangs make papier mache babies during their Gang Bang Jubilee and then put those babies to use as a bonding activity and also as part of the Gang Bang Ball contest, wherein the team of gang members with the most victims gets the prize of the toaster oven and lifetime supply of Lean Pockets.

  86. Jezebella

    The skits are probably the best part of Gang Bang Jubilee. A close second? Making friendship bracelets in gang colors.

  87. oldfeminist

    I am late to the party, but…

    I think this might have come out of the Teevee show “Sons of Anarchy.”

    Gemma, the queen/matriarch/wife of the boss of the motorcycle club that is featured in this show, is driving down the road. A young woman approaches her at a stoplight, claiming her baby stopped breathing.

    Gemma is suspicious, because her gang is in a war with a rival gang, but she relents and goes to look. As she leans forward, she sees the baby is a baby doll. The young woman then whacks her over the head, knocking her unconscious.

    The matriarch regains consciousness in an abandoned warehouse, where she is raped and beaten by rival gang members.

  88. minervaK

    I always feel vaguely slimed when I get one of these emails (which, incidentally, has never been from a man). I always picture the woman on the other end as Scarlett O’Hara running through the cotton fields screaming, “THE NEGROES ARE COMING, THE NEGROES ARE COMING!!!” I think the slime factor is that sly wink of ‘you’re just like me’ coming from another woman, a confirmation that it’s ‘us’ against ‘them’ and that if I play this game with this woman, I become part of the Big Vagina in the sky or something. It emphasizes that sense of unease that keeps men in the role of predator and women in the role of victim, but assuming a sort of ‘victim sisterhood.’ I haven’t said that very well but maybe someone gets what I mean…

  89. Jezebella

    Heh, that makes me think of Penny Pingleton’s mom in (the original) Hairspray ducking and weaving down the block, clutching her purse, to rescue her daughter from the dance party at Motormouth Maybelle’s record store on the “wrong” side of town.

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