Dear Men, I’m Sorry for Thinking that You’re Rapists

alone at night

alone at night (Photo credit: Michael Speed)

Note: I want people to hear what people honestly think about rape culture, but overly aggressive attacks are not welcome here.  You are free to debate comments however much you’d like.  No ad hominem attacks and personal threats.   No cursing.  Keep it civil.  Check my comment policy for full instructions.  

I wrote a follow up piece, addressing some of the criticisms.  In Response to Dear Men.  In response to some of the responses I got, I decided that I needed to make this piece more approachable and more inclusive.  

Stop me if this sounds familiar.

You and another male friend are walking out of the movie theater.  It is late, nearing midnight, and most of the cars have left the parking lot.  You are walking by yourselves, talking about the plot and the mind-blowing ending of the movie.  About thirty feet in front of you you see a lone girl, walking back to her car.  She hears your voices, looks back, clutches her purse close to her, and walks faster toward her car.  Perhaps she pulls out a phone and starts talking loudly about where she is and that she’ll be home soon.  While walking as quickly as she can, she keeps shooting you nervous glances until she gets in her car and drives away.

You look at her and realize-she thought that you were going to rape her.  To you, this is ridiculous.  You would never rape anyone!  You respect women!  Rapists are evil, awful creatures!

You are livid that she could profile you as a rapist.

Why is that?  To put it simply, women are socialized to avoid rape and it is an issue that women are constantly, vaguely aware of.  We live in a rape culture, that blames women for their own rapes, asks them why they were alone, why they trusted that friend, weren’t their eyes saying yes, aren’t you sure that this wasn’t legitimate rape , why didn’t they watch their drink, what kind of pants they were wearingwhy were they drinking in the first place, why were they out at night, why were they therewhy were they out of the kitchen in the first place?

 We live in a world where we are seen as sexual objects first and human beings second.  So forgive us for being hyperaware of the threat of rape.  

Before you say that we’re overreacting, dress too provocatively, blame the media, use the word “feminazi” or ask how you are supposed to get a date, stop and listen.  We are taught that one in four women are raped or suffer an attempted rape in their lifetime.  Commonly cited statistics reveal anything from one in four to one in six.  A 2003 study by the United States Department of Justice found the number to be one in six.

The same study revealed that one in thirty-three men will be raped in their lifetime.  Yes, rape can happen to men, as well, and this is a case of our current system hurting men and women.  This system benefits nobody.  And that is a subject for another piece.  But this piece is about why many women profile strange men as potential rapists.  Because rape, at least according to the FBI, is a highly gendered crime, with 90% of victims as female.   In other studies, twelve percent of men will admit to what amounts to the legal rape, as long as you don’t use the “r-word.”

On the streets, going about our daily lives, women are often subject to a myraid of sexually charged micro-agressions known as street harassment. We are told to smile, we get sexually inappropriate looks, horns honked, catcalls, approving whistles, a glimpse into the special bond between street harasser and his hand and a series of invitations to examine various stranger’s anatomy.  If we refuse to engage these would be suitors, we become ungrateful, too-good, entitled, stuck up princesses.   These conversations go from, “Hellooo, sweetheart!” to “@#$% you, you @#$%^ing !@#$%!”  in about three seconds.  It is not a pleasant experience, nor is it a rare one. Many women have been dealing with street harassment since they hit puberty. There is no time that we are safe from street harassment.  We can’t even go to the grocery store without being harassed. While walking alone at night, in a potentially vulnerable situation, the presence of another, larger person may trigger these memories and existing anxieties.

In short, women, homosexuals, transsexuals and other persons of relative disadvantage have been dealing with sexualized threats and violence for many years.  They may know stories of friends and neighbors who have suffered rape, abuse, stalking, etc.  They have often taken self defense classes, and admonished to carry a whistle and a weapon.  But, in the end, each person chooses his or her own risk tolerance.

From a mathematical perspective, we know that you pose no threat to us, that you are statistically unlikely to rape us, mug, us or beat us up.  We know that men are the recipients of more non-sexualized, violent street crime and muggings.  We know that you are good men, who really have no intention of harming us.  And we certainly hate being uneasy or worrying about rape.  But we still are socially conditioned to be afraid.  Rape is a pervasive fear for women in our society, and even though we know that we will most likely know our rapists, it is easier to pin the nebulous fear on a stranger at night than those you trust.

Because we are in a position of discomfort and at a relative disadvantage, we are more likely to be at perfect ease with you in public.  You are bigger and generally more physically imposing than us.  Also, we are not socialized to fight, so fighting is not a natural response to a threat for us, and we are not always confident in our abilities to defend ourselves.  So you have two options.  You can choose to say, “Not my feelings, not my problem” and continue on your merry way.

Or you can realize that you don’t live in a vacuum, and your presence impacts other people.

Fortunately, this is easy to do.

1. Be aware of the space around you and the other person.  Is he or she alone?  Think, if I was a dangerous man, would a woman be safe with me in this situation?

Here’s how you determine that.  Assume that you suddenly were replaced with your evil twin, who immediately attacks the other person.  Is anyone around to come for help?  If the other person screams, will anyone hear them?  Are there any lights around, open stores which he or she can flee into?  If the answer is no, don’t label yourself as a threat.  Don’t invade the other person’s space.  Don’t stare at him or her.  Don’t try to hit on them.

2. Keep walking, just shuffle your feet to make them aware of your presence.  It would be frightening to see a person fifty pounds heavier and seven inches taller just appear behind you, seemingly out of nowhere.  You can also hum quietly, shuffle your feet, or say “excuse me.”  As a child, you were taught to say, excuse me so that people would move out of the way and not get hurt.  It was simple manners, to make the other person aware of your presence.  The same rules still apply.

3.  If you are waiting somewhere with a stranger.   Polite converstion is just that, polite conversation.  If you are making polite conversation with someone you are interested in pursuing a relationship with, read the other person’s body signals.  If they are merely being polite, it is not an invitation to flirt or a form of foreplay.   If your conversational partner is giving curt, one word answers and looking away or at his or her book, headphones, phone, etc, back off.

4. Be careful with elevators.  Elevators do not have an escape route, because if they break, you are trapped in a small metal box.  If you and another person are sharing an elevator at night, read the other person’s body language.  If she is not engaging you, don’t engage her.  Just get in the elevator, press your floor button first, and let her press the button for her own floor.  Or if you feel like being polite and pressing both buttons, push yours first.  Entering your floor first signals that you won’t follow her.

5. Some people are more afraid of elevators than others.  So observe the body language of the other person.  If they are abjectly terrified of you, of the elevator, of the whole environment, let them go first.   For a women who looks two steps away from a panic attack, let her go first.  I know that it’s not egalitarian, but she will spend the next minute or two waiting for the elevator alone, eyes frantically skimming the area surrounding her, headphones in, music off and keys jammed between her fingers, ready to attack the next person who invades her space.  The elevator will come and she will breathe a huge sigh of relief, hitting the close door button as fast as humanly possible.  The sooner she gets home the sooner she feels safer, so be a compassionate person and let her get in the elevator first.

Most women are really not afraid of elevators.  Most of us are as caustious in an elevator as we are walking down the street.  The only reason I’m writing about elevators is that there is no exit hatch, so a bit more awareness is called for.  We just want you to be aware that elevators have the potential to strand us in between floors with a stranger.  So, I’m not asking for chivalry, to protect the delicate, defenseless woman.  I’m asking for manners, to show some compassion for a person who looks like he or she will have a panic attack at any moment.  It goes both ways, I promise.  In the same way, if you are obviously frightened and I seem to be scaring you, I’ll be happy to let you have the elevator.  There is nowhere that I need to be so badly as to induce a panic attack in another person.

6. Don’t be that guy, that drunken aggressive jerk who harasses women at night.  We are already edgy, we already don’t know you, you’re acting really aggressive and horny, and the drinking has stripped your self control.  You are doing a really good job of convincing us that you might indeed rape us.

7. Don’t make sexually charged comments to a woman alone at night.  Just don’t.

8.  Tell your male friends that they too can avoid being profiled as threats if they show basic consideration for personal space and don’t act predatory.  Explain that all they “Heeey baby’s” make women less likely to trust men, and that how much that impacts you.  Tell your male friends off when they are drunkenly harassing people.  A simple, “knock it off,” goes a long way.

9. Don’t laugh at a rape joke, or make comments that a woman was “asking for it.”  These actions perpetuate the culture in which rape is trivialized, not taken seriously by law enforcement, and hurts both male and female victims.

Dear men, I know that you are not rapists.  I don’t want to think you’re a rapist, I hate every second of wondering if you’re a rapist, and I know that statistically, you are no threat to me.  I hate feeling guilty for having what my left brain knows is an irrational fear.

But at the time, it does not seem irrational, in the context of millions of sexually charged micro-agressions, and a culture that accuses me of asking for it.  With this framing my thoughts, I still feel a twinge of uneasiness when I see you pushing boundaries, especially when I am in a vulnerable situation.  If you follow these guidelines, you demonstrate yourself as non-threatening, and a good man.

Final Words: The statistics and critiques do not invalidate the emotions that people feel, especially in vulnerable situations.  This piece is about how to cope with the fact that for both real and legitimate and media induced fears that real people have.  It’s extremely rude to invalidate people’s feelings, to insinuate that they should feel differently than they do, based on a noramative model of what society “ought to be.”  I would like a society where I don’t fear rape, where I make equal pay to a man, where people don’t get beaten up for loving an adult with the “wrong” genitals.  I am fighting to make that society, and part of the way to become that society is to examine our current society, to figure out what needs to change.  That means, we need to talk honestly and honestly listen.    

So let’s fight for a fairer society, and in the meantime, as a part of that transformative process, please be aware of the impact your presence has on others.  

Thank you.

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70 comments on “Dear Men, I’m Sorry for Thinking that You’re Rapists

  1. Victor says:

    Edited to promote productive discussion.

    Your piece perpetuates this female victim mentality.

  2. TUA says:

    TL;DR – “Yeah, yeah, I know that Schrodinger’s Rapist is basically awful and comparable to racism, but you know what? I can live with that.” shame on you for endorsing it. You are what drives men away from feminism.

    • cafeaulait13 says:

      From your TLDR, I cannot tell if you actually read my post or not. I will assume that you did, but using TL:DR signals that you didn’t and that I shouldn’t take your comment seriously, for future reference.

      The Schrodinger’s Rapist analogy is problematic, yes, but the feelings of fear it expresses are indeed real.

      Most men are not rapists, most people aren’t criminals, but the difference between the two which invalidates the analogy is the way that society treats the crimes in the aftermath. Rape is one of the only crimes where the victim is put on trial. We, as a society, don’t ask if a mugging victim was “asking for it,” but we do ask about minority shooting victims and rape victims. So women act a certain way to avoid rape, and the Schrodinger’s Rapist piece does a good job capturing the sentiments women feel about avoiding rape.

      I have no intention of driving men from feminism. I want everyone to be compassionate and considerate of the other party’s feelings.

      In the interest of understanding, what other ways am I pushing men from feminism? (I understand why the Schrodinger’s Rapist piece is initially off-putting) but is there anything else that you find problematic?

      • TUA says:

        Sorry, that was my TL;DR summary of your post.

        Here are some more problems I have with this post:

        1.) Rape is not exclusively perpetuated against women. Men rape women, yes. But men rape men. And women rape men and women as well. Trans* people rape and are raped too. Rapists are people, not men.

        2.) Your “1 in 4 women are raped” is a statistic that is both dated and incorrect. Mary Koss, who conducted the survey, even admitted in 1992 that the questions about sex after consuming alcohol were misleading. Take that question out of her survey and the number drops to 1 in 9. If you take only the people who self-identified as rape victims, the number drops to 1 in 33. That doesn’t necessarily negate the rest, but it shows that the 1 in 4 number is hugely problematic and doesn’t accurately reflect reality. Plus, the survey was put out in the 80s. Come on.

        3.) The vast majority of rapes are committed by someone the victim already knew prior to the rape. It is highly unlikely that the person walking behind you on the street is a rapist. But did you know that men are much, much more likely to be victims of violent crime? You know, like when you’re walking in the dark and you get mugged? Or murdered (which happens to men at a much much higher rate than women) We are just socially conditioned to not show it. Men, statistically speaking, should have much more reason to stay inside at night, but we can’t for fear of being labeled cowards. I AM NOT trying to say that women shouldn’t be careful at night, or worry about rape or walking alone, or anything like that. I am saying that EVERYONE is scared walking alone at night and being the victim of a crime.

        4.) Your bullet point #5 really, really infuriates me. Sorry, but I will not let you take the elevator by yourself when I also need to use it, just to spare your anxiety about strangers (an anxiety that I share). I am not a rapist. I have done nothing wrong. I need to use the elevator just like you. Until I do anything other than exist as a male needing to use an elevator, it is plain wrong to assume anything else about me, and makes you pretty sexist.

        That’s just off the top of my head concerning your original article. Now, on to your reply to my comment.

        “Rape is one of the only crimes where the victim is put on trial. We, as a society, don’t ask if a mugging victim was “asking for it,” but we do ask about minority shooting victims and rape victims. ”

        While I agree that rape victims are often treated horrifically, and my heart goes out to everyone affected by rape, I feel that due to the way a rape charge or conviction can permanently affect a person’s life, that the trial should be as thorough as possible, whether the victim is male or female or trans*. And let’s not forget that when a man is raped, it is generally treated as a joke. “Well, you got laid, bro, nice job!” So many rape laws do not even allow for the possibility of a woman raping a man by enveloping his penis with her vagina or mouth or anus.

        “I have no intention of driving men from feminism. I want everyone to be compassionate and considerate of the other party’s feelings.”

        Then be considerate of a man’s feelings. Do you not see how Schrodinger’s Rapist shames men for being men? How it reduces all men to a very small subset of the human species (the rapist), no matter what the man in question has done or the content of his character? Do you really not see that? Schrodinger’s Rapist is not initially off-putting. It is off-putting entirely.

        “In the interest of understanding, what other ways am I pushing men from feminism? (I understand why the Schrodinger’s Rapist piece is initially off-putting) but is there anything else that you find problematic?”

        First, I want to apologize my ad hominen sentence “you are what drives men away from feminism.” That was not really my intention and no what I should have written. What I should have said was “This type of feminism is what drives men away from feminism as a movement.” And how? Well, aside from Schrodinger’s Rapist, I’ll give a few examples.

        a.) Opposing the creation of a men’s center, because it’s for men. http://www.vancouversun.com/McMartin+barricades+students+arms+over+centre/6669021/story.html Look at the difference in funding for women’s centers/organizations versus men’s. Do you not see how that ignores the issues that men face? That men are treated as though they don’t have problems, and if, somehow, they DID have problems, that they should just shut up and carry on with life? Just because “privilege” (which I also find problematic) exists for being a male doesn’t mean that women can’t have more privilege in other areas, or that all guys have the same amount. And it was shit like that, as well as “What about teh menz!!” and “Men can never experience sexism” that pushed me out of feminism and into egalitarianism.
        b.) Saying that feminism focuses on making everyone equal, but never fighting to get rid of the “benevolent sexism” that favors women and disadvantages men, such as in divorce court, child custody hearings, domestic disturbances (in many areas, the law is written so that it’s basically impossible for a woman to be abusive), criminal sentencing, selective service, etc.
        c.) It robs women of their agency. Women become nothing but passive victims, only ever being acted against. Never acting because how can they? They are nothing but oppressed.

        Sorry, but I have to stop here for now. Busy day, etc!

      • Emily says:

        I’m really curious to see your reply to TUA because those were the concerns that I had about your article, as a young, female humanist. I think you both have really excellent points, but he really nails you to the floor with the stats, and I’d love to see what you have to say about his widened definition of rape-The one that includes male and trans victims.

      • cafeaulait13 says:

        TUA did write interesting comments and I am looking forward to evaluating his arguments. I’m a student, so I’ll tackle his comments after class.

      • Haight says:

        “The Schrodinger’s Rapist analogy is problematic, yes, but the feelings of fear it expresses are indeed real.”

        The feelings may be real, but they’re not necessarily justified. Just because one has a burst of neurochemicals doesn’t need the rest of us need to indulge them. Just because someone feels scared, or angry, or sad, doesn’t mean they have a good reason to do so. *So* much of the discourse directed at men from feminism is telling them to restrain themselves, to not think of women as objects, to put a damper on their sexuality, that it seems quite hypocritical to not have women question why it might be wrong to peghole every man they meet as a rapist.

      • Peter says:

        What do you mean we don’t talk about if mugging victims were “asking for it”? With just about every other violent crime, we are taught to avoid the situations (stay out of certain neighborhoods, don’t show off your valuables, etc.). Why, then, is it not okay to tell women who are concerned to take equivalent precautions? While it is clearly not a woman’s fault if she is raped, and that is a terrible thing to think, just like the mugging victim walking down a dark alley can’t we contend that perhaps proper precautions were not taken to minimize risk?

    • Just a Man says:

      TUA pretty summed up in 500 words all that is wrong with feminism today. Good Job.

  3. Well written. I hope that many dudes will read this and follow the tips.

    • Sib says:

      The fact that you think men should follow this shows how little faith you have in humanity.

      • I have immense faith in humanity. However, I’m not so naive as to not recognize that there is a significant male population which, through lack of proper upbringing and/or intellect, embarrasses the human race. I didn’t think that I’d have to spell this out for you Sib. And before the bigots jump on me, I will make it clear that pointing out this specific male population on this specific issue does not rule out women with lack of upbringing and or intellect, and ignorant/stupid people in general. Talking about that would be irrelevant to this particular article.

      • And its good manners in general to give PEOPLE space. Even “as a male”, I’d feel a bit nervous if someone suddenly rushes towards me late at night.

    • Leah says:

      Concurred. I think Cafeaulait did a good job of explaining why Schrodinger’s Rapist is a societal issue and how and why to avoid certain behaviors that send off bad vibes. Part of the problem, too, is that women are blamed for being raped (why were you out alone) but also if they are fearful of potential rapists, as all the trolls on the comments have failed to notice. Thanks for thinking critically about the issue, Jonathan!

  4. Stuff and guy says:

    Edited for non-conduciveness to the discussion.

    4. This article is not about accusing people of rape. This is about how not to act like a rapist so everyone feels safer in our society. This article has nothing to do with the justice system and formal processes of accusation and the impacts on the accused and the victim. It is about walking down the street at night. That’s all.

    Okay well,

    “Acting like a rapist” is such an ill-defined term it actually makes me laugh. A good friend of mine was raped – by a physically fit Doctor with fantastic looks and really no classical motivation to rape whatsoever. Meanwhile, I was arrested for “acting like a rapist” because I walked home through my neighbourhood at night. When I was finally released I was told to “go buy a car and stop creeping people out” by the female officer that arrested me. I have come under fire dozens upon dozens of times for looking the wrong way, being in the wrong place, and generally being not attractive enough, willing enough to drop hundreds of dollars on nicer clothes, willing enough to either hit the gym or get plastic surgery and more just so I can change people’s perceptions on me based off my appearance. I like who I am. It seems to me the women of this world don’t, and the feminists love to exploit that and turn it into fear. The funniest part of the whole thing is that I’m gay. I am actually uninterested in women, and it usually takes my boyfriend and his lawyer dad to come in and rescue me.

    Oh, and until you’ve been physically assaulted by a police officer for deciding to read a book in a playground(it was just such a nice day out, and the playground was empty anyway) and had your nose broken, I don’t think that you will be able to write a piece on living as a man.

  5. Sib says:

    Edited to make safe for work.

    >she will spend the next minute or two waiting for the elevator alone, eyes frantically skimming the area surrounding her, headphones in, music off and keys jammed between her fingers, ready to attack the next person who invades her space. The elevator will come and she will breathe a huge sigh of relief, hitting the close door button as fast as humanly possible. The sooner she gets home the sooner she feels safer, so be a compassionate person and let her get in the elevator first.

    I AM SO TIRED OF BEING PORTRAYED AS A VICTIM ALL THE TIME!!!

    I DO NOT and WILL NOT live a life full of fear. Caution, yes. Fear, no. I am so sick of feminists forcing this idea on to people. The idea that I am a fragile, extremely delicate flower that will have a heart attack if a man so much as glances at me.

    And men aren’t gigantic monsters that I should be constantly afraid of! There are some bad ones who will rape you, just like there are bad women who think that fear-mongering is a solution to a problem.

  6. Boolean Parity says:

    Interesting post. The “One in four” claim seemed a bit strange to me, so I did some digging. I posted my response to a reddit thread that linked to your article. If you are interested, you can read it here http://www.reddit.com/r/Feminism/comments/12uq3b/dear_men_you_are_not_rapists/c6ybytw

  7. Sam says:

    Wouldn’t it just be easier to tell every woman we meet that we’re not rapists? Or maybe we could all get checked out at a doctors and given a certificate that we can show?

    • EJD says:

      Perhaps we could have a little cloth triangle to sew onto our clothing to show it?

      • cafeaulait13 says:

        EJD, I’d appreciate it if you didn’t make allusions to the Nazi’s. Rape is a behavior not a type of person. I’m not invading Germany. I’m not beating people up in public. I’m asking people to be aware of other people’s perceptions, and I will be working on a full reply to everyone’s comments tonight. Stay classy.

      • arby01 says:

        Yes, rape is an action not a type of person. However you acknowledge the racist argument problems with schrodinger’s rapist. It is that aspect that makes this “allusion” appropriate.

      • EJD says:

        Cafeaulait, if your piece was directed towards rapists, I would have no problem with it- I am not a rapist. Your piece, however, is directed at men. It is demanding that men, regardless of their actual behavior in regards to rape, accept that they ought to be profiled as possible rapists, because they are men. That IS targeting people.

  8. tiffany267 says:

    Thanks for the interesting article. I found it insightful, although I actually don’t really agree with the approach of the original article. Statements like “let her go first on the elevator”, though obviously made with the best of intentions, seem to me to perpetuate notions of feminine weakness which I feel are a huge part of the reason that women are abused. To be honest, it just reads a bit too chivalrous for my taste; I would have preferred simply: “Men, if you don’t want to be considered a potential rapist, don’t act like one.”

    I also wanted to say that I’m disappointed at the lack of civil discourse with commenters saying things like “the endless and unstoppable feminist propaganda train” or using unnecessary expletives.

    • cafeaulait13 says:

      I was debating between keeping it a safe space, but I thought that I would get civil discourse, from a men’s perspective.

      • Chris says:

        You are getting a civil discourse . While you may disagree that there is even such a thing as feminist propaganda (despite the fact that this article serves as an example of it to some degree or another) civil discourse is not defined by ideas we agree or disagree with . Ad hominems would be uncivil . Excessive profanity would be uncivil . Statements you don’t like are not uncivil .

        Now , to the meat of the matter .
        While you may not think there’s anything particularly wrong with telling men “not to act like a rapist” , let’s turn that around and try it on .
        What can you do so as not to seem to be the stereotypical bra-burning feminazi just begging for an excuse to throw some poor sap in jail on a false accusation of rape ?

        Well , let’s see : You could start by always telling men that they’re free to record all interactions via the media device of their choice . In fact , don’t even ask . Simply pull out your phone and start recording them so that they can rest assured that all the interaction can be entered into evidence to clear them of any false rape accusations .

        You should also wait until all men have left any room before you enter . Minimizing contact ensures that neither of you can rape or be falsely accused of rape .

        Always refrain from speaking to any men . Speaking to men leads to trouble and if he must be forced to admit that he had at some point in the past spoken to you , that may be enough for a jury to assume he had decided through the establishment of said relationship that you were a good choice for a victim .

        If you see a man alone in the park , don’t enter it . Consider his feelings here : If you’re in there , he’ll feel uncomfortable because you may call the police and accuse him of being a rapist . Just let him enjoy his time in the park . The park will still be there later .

        If you see a man in an elevator , wait for the next opportunity to use it . Again , it’s a minor inconvenience for you but he will feel relieved that he won’t have to worry about being falsely accused of rape .

        Now , while this is only a rough guide , it should give you a pretty good idea of what is required to put men’s minds at ease . The obvious lesson here is that the more you try to think of every possible situation in which you could potentially accuse a man of rape , the less you’ll have to worry about making men feel uneasy in your presence .

        So … does that sound ridiculous ? Good . It should because it’s just as ridiculous as expecting men to treat all women like goddesses just in case normal behaviour somehow makes them feel uncomfortable . You may not consider any of this unreasonable but I assure you , it is . If I’m going somewhere , I’m not putting my life on hold simply because anything else may induce a panic attack in some seriously paranoid women .

    • TUA says:

      ““Men, if you don’t want to be considered a potential rapist, don’t act like one.”

      But how does a rapist act? You cannot actually define that because there is no set mold of what a rapist is. Not only does it ignore the fact that all genders are capable and do rape, but it shames people who don’t fit into the basic societal expectation of what a “non-threatening person” looks like.

      • BS Ames says:

        The common action of all rapists is rape. She is saying that if you don’t want to be considered a rapist, then you shouldn’t act like one. All she is asking is for you not to rape anyone? That doesn’t sound so bad.

      • TUA says:

        @BS Ames

        That’s all well and good, but the article is about how to act BEFORE there is any inkling or hint of sexual impropriety. Sure, the common action between rapists is the rape. But that is ALL that rapists have in common with one another by default. How the rape occurs, what they were doing beforehand, etc., is all different.

    • TUA says:

      Also, I will apologize for my use of profanity in my earlier comments. When I am passionate about a subject, I sometimes forget decorum. I try not to, but hey, we’re all human.

  9. McIan Avelli says:

    How is what you suggest any different that slut-shaming? Why is it that it is improper to suggest women alter their behavior to avoid rape, but acceptable to suggest that men change their behavior to avoid appearing as rapist?

  10. EJD says:

    I understand the fear thing- I’m a large, bearded man, busk late at night in a college town and walk home around the time the bars close, and being on the autism spectrum, don’t always pick up on other people’s feelings right away. I know I make people afraid.

    That said- this is not a pill I can swallow. I prove myself not a rapist when I spend my entire life not raping anyone, ever, calling out slut-shaming and victim-blaming, participating in Take Back the Night, and educating my friends on consent. Now you want me to gingerly avoid any contact with women past 9 pm because I’m personally responsible for what other people inaccurately assume about me? Because I’m a big, bearded person with a penis, I’m the guardian of other people’s emotions and imputations? I spend five hours singing myself raw for spare change, walk home with a raspy throat and bruised fingers at 2 in the morning, sleep deprived, lugging a heavy guitar case, hoping I don’t get mugged, trying like hell to make the last bus home, looking forward to a day of soreness and pain when I wake up, and now you want me to stoop and bow and denigrate myself like I’m some sort of suspect of a crime I would never commit so that nobody else is made uncomfortable by my existence?

    No. I won’t be your boogeyman.

  11. PostPatriarchalMan says:

    I steer clear of women alone at night at all times. But not necessarily because I’m a great guy – I’m scared of getting maced or tasered in the crotch by some twitchy woman. Jeez.

  12. Kris says:

    Or how about instead of you going first on the elevator, since you are so affraid of being raped you let him go aone first because maybe he has somewhere to be other than being judged by you. How about we be rational and stop trying to make men do all the work here. learn a martial art or boxing. deffend yourself. don’t make normal men change their way of life so that you can have some sort of sense of security.

  13. s0m3customer says:

    You just gave me an incredibly good idea.

    Have you ever seen those livestrong bracelets, the yellow ones that people wear for donating to the livestrong foundation?

    I’ve got a better one, the “not going to rape you bracelet” (its a work in progress, I’m sure someone will come up with a better name). The basic idea is that you go to this foundation that interviews you, does an entire psych evaluation, does a criminal background check on you and then hands you a bracelet if you :

    A. are not a criminal
    B. are not a sex offender
    C. are presently not accused of violence or sexual offense
    D. have no propensities towards sexual offense

    They’ll have a watermark, or a cellphone radio embedded inside so that you can verify on the spot that its legit.

    The outcome? I can flash my bracelet at you in the night and you know that I’m one of the good guys, because short of that I think most guys would need to be wearing a badge or a fireman’s suit to get your trust based on what you just wrote.

    I’ve lived a good life, I don’t like being assumed to be a bad guy just because someone out there might be.

  14. I think that there are men who trawl the internet for comments like this just so that they can be outraged…

    • TUA says:

      Of course there are. There are people of all genders who trawl the internet looking for things to be outraged by. There are also men who stumble across articles like this and want to debate the philosophy of the post.

    • Emily says:

      And women who read a lot about feminism who end up here and end up outraged. Like this one! *holds up hand* Yes, there will always be trolls. Don’t assume the gender of those trolls, or decide that anyone who’s angry doesn’t have something useful to say.

  15. It just reminds me of passing an old lady on the street, who was obviously terrified that I was going to attack her. She had probably read about all the old ladies who had been attacked in that area, and knew that if I did decide to mug her she wouldn’t be able to defend herself, me being bigger and stronger.. ‘Just passing you, excuse me,’ I said. Out of courtesy and a desire not to prolong her moment of terror. If that old lady wrote a post about the etiquette of this situation I am sure it would not generate this level of argument.

    • Just a Man says:

      That happened to me once too. When I said “excuse me” the lady screamed and ran away. Which is weird ’cause I was wearing a suit and tie and was clean shaven. My point is: if you’re scared – there is no proper etiquette. And suggesting an etiquette is downright condescending and thus – the level of argument seen here (to which you ironically decided to provide input).

      • I’m not sure I get your point here, sorry if I’m being thick. Are you saying that if someone is scared anyway, there is no point in acting to reduce that fear? Would you walk right behind this old lady all the way down the street knowing this was making her think you were about to attack her? Or try to politely pass? Sure, she screamed and ran away – but I presume, as you didn’t chase her, the fear passed as soon as she was out of range. So no harm done.

      • All I mean, I guess, is that the fact that perceptions are socially constructed doesn’t absolve you of all responsibility for your own behaviour – whether male or female.

  16. TheVengeance says:

    I can’t empathize with the fear women hold when they’re near a man they don’t know who they find threatening, but I can understand it. I’ve been in a situation like the one you outlined; I was walking home one night and passed a girl who was clearly terrified of me. I also know many women who are terrified of strange men, particularly at night.

    That having been said, what I *don’t* understand is that very little seems to be done about it. Whenever I’ve been discussing this with women, I’ve always asked the same question – “Were you armed?” – and the answer is *always* no, despite being afraid of these things happening. You mention a woman gripping her keys as a rudimentary weapon; why doesn’t she just carry a pocket knife? I understand not having a gun, as that’s not always legal (for example, you work at a university), but some sort of weapon that illustrates you are willing to defend yourself and are capable of doing so. In contrast, every guy I’ve talked to who’s been mugged has immediately looked back on it and thought, “Man, I should have carried a weapon.”

    Your thoughts?

    • That’s interesting. Here in the UK, nobody would say that. You can be arrested for carrying a weapon. However, there are lessons you can take in self defence. The only people I know who have attended them have already been attacked. .

      • TheVengeance says:

        Thirty: Yeah, here in the US, we’re much better armed (We’ve gotta keep Canada in check! :D). What I don’t get is that the people who tend to be more interested in self defense, *even after being attacked,* are overwhelmingly male, in my experience. It leaves me confused, because I think women – correctly, in my view – are more afraid of unfamiliar people and surroundings.

      • arby01 says:

        “Gotta keep Canada in check..?”
        Damn. They’re on to us.

  17. Mammone says:

    Fear begets hate we are told. So when fear is projected; hate is received. When we are feared we feel hated.

    I was arranging a first date with a lady a few years ago that I met at the gym. I started with those common first date rules; meet publicly, minimal info, etc. I was blown away and delighted when she wanted to meet me at my house instead and go together. I found her lack of fear very intriguing and disarming. That relationship went a couple months and she ended up marrying a doctor two years later.

    I contrast that to another time where I was still on probation after three dates. I ended it there not because the sex was slow in coming (as I’ll be accused of) but because of how I was made to feel.

  18. Just a Man says:

    Good piece.

    I’ve read a lot of articles online about rape and your is by far one of the most honest and the fact that you are open to critique speaks volumes.

    So here is my view on the subject:

    - Rape is a criminal issue. It is illegal whether it is perpetrated by men or women, and has to be dealt with accordingly. Fear of rape is a social issue – there really isn’t much one can do about it to mitigate the fear.
    - This fear is, along with most stereotypes feminists go with, is socially constructed. Men are not by nature rapists just as Black people are not by nature thieves. Is is ALL social construct:

    Some women suffer postpartum depression. In extreme cases this depression leads them to drown their young infants in the tub. It’s a very sad situation but it happens more often than it should (1). But unlike the rape of women – men don’t fear this will happen. It’s a risk that men take when constituting a family.

    Now, put yourself in our shoes (men). Imagine if hundred of articles showed up online, if everytime you met a men’s activist, you were reminded that you could potentially go into depression a kill your children, how would you feel about yourself?

    “I’m not like that! That would never happen to me”. I’m pretty sure several women thought that years prior to the event. Now imagine a Man telling a Woman how to behave regarding postpartum depression, or telling other men on how to identify signs of postpartum depression, or worse: “If you see that your wife is going through a depression, grab your kids and runaway!” How would you feel? It’s condescending for women having men to tell them how they should behave in particular circumstances just to avoid certain fears.

    The same goes for men. Sure, we can all avoid making sexist remarks at a woman that’s alone at night, but please, don’t tell us how to behave so that you don’t have to suffer the fear of some socially constructed idea.

    Regards
    A Man

    (1) http://www.scpr.org/programs/patt-morrison/2011/08/25/20439/postpartum-depression-update/

    • cafeaulait13 says:

      Interesting critique.

      Interested in writing a guest piece on specific behaviors that women do that offend men?

      I’d love to write a parallel list for women. Want to write it or contribute?

      • Just a Man says:

        Thanks for the invite but nope. Technically I can’t, since I’m endorsed by the University of Kiel. They pay handsomely for all my research but I have to publish work exclusively for them. Sorry.

    • TUA says:

      “I’ve read a lot of articles online about rape and your is by far one of the most honest and the fact that you are open to critique speaks volumes.”

      YES. Thank you very much, cafeaulait13 (that reads so awkward, haha), for both posting dissents and discussing them. It is a VERY refreshing change of pace. I did not at all expect my first post to be approved.

  19. billywms says:

    Just because some people have bigoted views on men, doesn’t mean I should change my behavior.

  20. Joe says:

    Last I checked, I’m not a rapist – I’ll carry on as I am. If this makes people feel awkward – that’s a shame. I wouldn’t want it to become “the norm” or otherwise expected of me, due to being male, to follow social rules for those who get the heebie jeebies when someone from the other half of the population is near.

  21. 10bigideas says:

    Women are mostly assaulted by people who know them, within their own homes or the homes of people they trust. Sexual assaults by strangers in public places are incredibly rare. Posts like this (however unintentionally) perpetuate the myth that women should feel unsafe in public, and that they should moderate their behaviour accordingly. It would be more helpful to expose the myth of stranger-rape, and encourage women to feel confident doing whatever they choose.

  22. eli says:

    This article just shows how much we fail as human beings. To assume that every man is rapist unless proved otherwise is many ways wrong.

    But what is more worrying is that it creates environment void of emotion – where everyone is acting!

    I have many things to worry in my life, dear OP and you are telling me that I should worry how I behave when I walk down the street because some paranoid lady might think I will rape her? Get over yourself will ya.

    Yes, rape is real – but this article counterproductive and it just reinforces stereotypes on both sides : man are loud and aggressive – women are psychotic and paranoid. Sickening.

  23. rafael zeca says:

    At least you are open to criticism. Grats on that, but please, do think with an open mind on why your article is offensive to many people.

  24. “The statistics and critiques do not invalidate the emotions that women feel at night.”

    This one sentence sums it up quite nicely. You are saying that no amount of truth can dissuade you from spreading misinformation based solely on what you nebulously “feel”.

  25. anon says:

    ok so what pisses me off about this piece is the part where yo say

    “how many of these things do you do? that’s what i thought.”

    while i dont do any of the things a woman does to avoid being raped, i dont ALL of the things you listed in regards to making women feel safe. i will take the long way to my destination to avoid walking be a lone women. i will drastically speed up or slow down to avoid walking next to a lone woman.

    i DO do the things that you’ve listed. and i hate that although in reality im a virgin who was sexually assaulted as a child and my sex drive is practically nonexistent, im treated like a rapist even though i try my best to avoid making women feel unsafe,

    and i dont know if i even have to point out the hypocrisy here: you start off by complaining about how women are given guidelines for avoiding rape, and then you go on to give guidelines to men about how to avoid looking like rapists. double standard.

  26. Anon says:

    As a 6’4″ white male, I get this, a bit. However with the statistics of women being raped, you don’t break down random rape as compared to rapes committed by someone they know. I thought(probably am wrong) that upwards of 80% of people sexually assaulted/raped knew their attacker. I’m not dismissing the fear, that’s something that I don’t understand. I also understand taking every precaution to personal safety as I am prior military. I don’t know where I’m going with this. I just hate the thought that I might cause someone to fear for their personal safety simply by walking down the street at night. That’s not fair to me. But I understand the fear.

  27. Sara says:

    Do you mind if I write about the discourse on rape, MRA groups and reactions and link to this?

  28. Luke says:

    “What I don’t understand about Schroedinger’s Rapist is can’t it be applied to everything?

    Every plane you get into is either a CRASH or a SURVIVE, therefore, treat all planes as if they are a crash. All customers at a grocery store COULD be shop lifters, therefore, please try to signal to the store clerks that you have good intentions by having your pockets turned out at all times.

    Every girl I have sex with COULD give me an STD, she could be lying about being on birth control, could be going to cry rape after consensual sex, any number of things like that. Most girls, however, are normal people who aren’t out to do any of these things.

    Therefore, if I CHOOSE to be paranoid about any of these things, then it becomes my responsibility to act on that, not hers. So I choose to protect myself by wearing a condom – it isn’t on her to change her behavior to address my paranoia. If I want to feel paranoid, then I’m entitled to that, but I’m not entitled to her going out of her way to prove that she isn’t some monster, especially if she has done nothing to make me suspect that.

    There are more murders than rapes in America, yet I would of course be ridiculed if I expected every person I met to immediately prove their identity as a non-murderous person. If I want to treat every person as guilty before innocent, thats my choice, but demanding everyone around me to prove their innocence because I am paranoid and hateful…

  29. [...] recent post by cafeaulait13 discussing how men should behave around lone women late at night, to avoid being seen as a rapist, [...]

  30. [...] because I blog about my life, and that means I share my experiences with sexual assault, and write about rape culture, I’m not a [...]

  31. Leah says:

    So sorry for all the MRA commenters you seem to have attracted. When I post articles like this, I get the same comments. What I don’t understand is how they apparently didn’t read the article at all or your discussion of the issue of “women are blamed for rape” vs “women are blamed for being afraid.” I thought your breakdown of the issues of women not wanting to think random men on the street or dates are potential rapists but knowing that if they are wrong, they’ll be blamed for being assaulted was excellent.

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