The other day, E brought my attention to an interesting article about the inherent fear women have for their safety, and how men can best acknowledge and deal with it. I won’t rehash the entire article, because it really is worth reading, whether or not I entirely agree with every point.
Essentially, the author takes two statistics – that one in six women will be sexually assaulted, and that one in sixty men is potentially a rapist – and discusses how this affects the everyday habits of women, down to how they respond to being approached by a strange man. What she’s saying is that women have bigger things to worry about than whether the guy is cute or has relationship potential: most importantly, will he rape her?
Some of it seemed a little hyperbolic to me, because I don’t necessarily live my life viewing every man as a potential rapist; but really the precautions she says she takes aren’t unreasonable, and are in fact what women are told to do. I know I rarely set my drink down in a bar-type setting, and don’t drink it if I’ve had to lose sight of it. Something that would have seemed like irrational an fear just thirty years ago – “I don’t want to lose track of my drink because it could have a drug in it that renders me helpless and vulnerable to assault” is just common sense and routine nowadays.
I don’t tend to think “One out of every sixty men is a rapist,” but really, that IS the flip side of the “one in six” statistic (and at colleges, it’s one in four, or at least it was when I attended). However, maybe I’m not the one for whom the statistic holds the most importance. From a man’s perspective, if one in six women are victims of abuse, chances are high that they will run into someone that really views them as a threat. It’s not a bad idea to be prepared for that possibility, so it doesn’t completely take him by surprise.
While I think that most women don’t consciously evaluate every man as a potential rapist, I find the subconscious implications more interesting. About a month ago, I told one client that low pressure is the key to emailing, because if any guy comes on too strongly it can be scary. He seemed taken aback, and I thought to myself, “Did I just say that?”
Honestly, though, it’s true. Even if we women aren’t viewing men as potential rapists right then, we’ve been raised with the statistics, the admonitions – and women in my generation were taught just as much about date rape as stranger-in-a-back-alley rape, so even acquaintances are suspect on some level. And really, maybe we’re right to worry more about acquaintances than that guy in the parking lot – there are endless tables of statistics at fbi.gov that really dispel a lot of misconceptions, including how many murders actually occur in a year and who commits them.
The Schrödinger’s Rapist article gives several tips for men, to help them avoid being perceived as a threat, to help them become more aware of how important boundaries can be. There’s one point, however, that I feel is most important, and probably one of the easiest behaviors for many to slip into, unintentionally: “If you fail to respect what women say, you label yourself a problem.” The author explains that after one so-so date, she’s still being harassed by a guy she met several months ago. A guy who can’t take no for an answer- for whatever reason – seems all the more likely to not take no for an answer in other situations.
And this is absolutely true. Yes, I understand that movies portray guys as “persistent” and “winning the girl” with behavior that would be called “stalking” in the real world. Yes, I understand some guys are just trying to be charming or memorable. But nine times out of ten, the types of “persistent” guys we women meet are actually creepy jerks. The odds are stacked against your charming gamble. That author isn’t the only one who has a story of a creepy guy who wouldn’t take no for an answer – we all have them. And they make us want to run away screaming.
Whether or not you agree with the author’s “living life as a potential victim” approach, the fact is that this mentality has permeated at least one generation of women on some level. As a man in today’s society, the last impression you want to give is that of some Neanderthal potential rapist. So check out the Schrödinger’s Rapist article and let me know what you think. Do you think the author is way off-base? Have you unintentionally ignored non-verbal signals? Did you just read the article because of the title? I want to hear your thoughts!