Schrödinger’s Rapist: or a guy’s guide to approaching strange women without being maced

Schrödinger’s Rapist: or a guy’s guide to approaching strange women...

by Sweet Machine
Phaedra Starling is the pen name of a romance novelist and licensed private investigator living in small New York City apartment with two large dogs. She practices Brazilian jiu-jitsu and makes world-class apricot muffins


"Gentlemen. Thank you for reading.

Let me start out by assuring you that I understand you are a good sort of person. You are kind to children and animals. You respect the elderly. You donate to charity. You tell jokes without laughing at your own punchlines. You respect women. You like women. In fact, you would really like to have a mutually respectful and loving sexual relationship with a woman. Unfortunately, you don’t yet know that woman—she isn’t working with you, nor have you been introduced through mutual friends or drawn to the same activities. So you must look further afield to encounter her.

So far, so good. Miss LonelyHearts, your humble instructor, approves. Human connection, love, romance: there is nothing wrong with these yearnings.

Now, you want to become acquainted with a woman you see in public. The first thing you need to understand is that women are dealing with a set of challenges and concerns that are strange to you, a man. To begin with, we would rather not be killed or otherwise violently assaulted.

“But wait! I don’t want that, either!”

Well, no. But do you think about it all the time? Is preventing violent assault or murder part of your daily routine, rather than merely something you do when you venture into war zones? Because, for women, it is. When I go on a date, I always leave the man’s full name and contact information written next to my computer monitor. This is so the cops can find my body if I go missing. My best friend will call or e-mail me the next morning, and I must answer that call or e-mail before noon-ish, or she begins to worry. If she doesn’t hear from me by three or so, she’ll call the police. My activities after dark are curtailed. Unless I am in a densely-occupied, well-lit space, I won’t go out alone. Even then, I prefer to have a friend or two, or my dogs, with me. Do you follow rules like these?

So when you, a stranger, approach me, I have to ask myself: Will this man rape me?"

Please read the rest on Kate Harding's blog.

Views: 120

Replies to This Discussion

Wow, excellent. Thank you.

Hell, I'm married and I still take these precautions with men and professional housecalls -- I leave contact information, addresses, full names, phone numbers, previous criminal convictions (exclusively for housecall clients) and brief physical descriptions if I'm to go out with someone, both a physical copy and an e-mail copy to certain relatives and the husband. I check in after arriving to the location with said familial contact and then check back after I've completely whatever it is I'm doing.

Perhaps a bit crazy, but I'd prefer to not be one of those "missing, never found" sob stories.
You're welcome. Seemed very appropriate for this community.

Your precautions don't seem crazy. I've taken a lot of crazy risks in my life. The older I get, the more my mortality weighs on me. My cohabi-tater got me a cell phone a few years ago so that if I got sidetracked on another ADDventure, he could call and ask where I am, or I could call and tell him.
This strikes me as a valuable and cogent essay. I hope that it achieves wide readership, especially among men.
I'm going to be posting it in a few other places, and maybe send it to a few men who don't seem to understand the message of this essay.
That post was excellent. I found this especially accurate:
"If you fail to respect what women say, you label yourself a problem.

There’s a man with whom I went out on a single date—afternoon coffee, for one hour by the clock—on July 25th. In the two days after the date, he sent me about fifteen e-mails, scolding me for non-responsiveness. I e-mailed him back, saying, “Look, this is a disproportionate response to a single date. You are making me uncomfortable. Do not contact me again.” It is now October 7th. Does he still e-mail?

Yeah. He does. About every two weeks.

This man scores higher on the threat level scale than Man with the Cockroach Tattoos. (Who, after all, is guilty of nothing more than terrifying bad taste.) You see, Mr. E-mail has made it clear that he ignores what I say when he wants something from me. Now, I don’t know if he is an actual rapist, and I sincerely hope he’s not. But he is certainly Schrödinger’s Rapist, and this particular Schrödinger’s Rapist has a probability ratio greater than one in sixty. Because a man who ignores a woman’s NO in a non-sexual setting is more likely to ignore NO in a sexual setting, as well.

So if you speak to a woman who is otherwise occupied, you’re sending a subtle message. It is that your desire to interact trumps her right to be left alone. If you pursue a conversation when she’s tried to cut it off, you send a message. It is that your desire to speak trumps her right to be left alone. And each of those messages indicates that you believe your desires are a legitimate reason to override her rights."


It is truly scary when shit like this happens to me. And it has happened while single, married, and even when the person knows my husband. And yet, multiple men have said I'm paranoid/exaggerating because I'm armed most of the time. Well, hell yes! After you've known a couple of people that seem perfectly nice turn into creepy, stalkerish assholes you have to take things into your own hands.
I don't know what would have happened if I was unarmed when a supposedly nice guy (friend of friends/family, bio major while I was chem major, etc.) was hitting on me on a metal show, and followed me into the girls bathroom while I tried to escape him- because he wouldn't take the hint and leave me alone. My now-husband had bought me a scary-looking knife before going to intern for the summer, and it saved me. I took it out and and made the jerk get the fuck out of the bathroom.
I've gotten as a reply that it is dangerous because it's illegal. I honestly don't give a fuck if it is.
I think that the knife I carry, while legal back home, is quite illegal in NYS. But it is slim, it folds, and it fits almost anywhere. Under the incident's circumstances the knife wasn't legal because I was indoors in a bar (in PR).
My parents later gave me pepper spray and a taser, but the taser is illegal in NYS, and I've some people are used to being sprayed- it just pisses them off more. I carry the taser when I'm having a late night in the lab. I also gave it to a friend for a while when she had a stalker with what seemed to be an untreated case of a schizoid disorder. Thankfully, I've never had to use that one.
It is truly scary when shit like this happens to me. And it has happened while single, married, and even when the person knows my husband.

I am sorry to hear that this has happened to you.

The appearance of being another man’s property doesn’t keep them away. I haven’t been harassed in a very long time (I’m a semi-hermit living in a fall-out shelter with my cats and cohabi-tater), but I can remember being asked questions like “So, are you fair game?” Good thing I don’t have laser eyes, because he would have been toast. First, I deconstructed “fair game” for him, and then I asked him what would it matter if I was some other man’s property? I often used to point out that it didn’t make any difference whether I was involved with a man or not, that trying to find out if I was “fair game” was Doing It Wrong.

And yet, multiple men have said I'm paranoid/exaggerating because I'm armed most of the time.

Well, of course! This is because they are experts... on everything! Even things they don't know anything about.

You already know this, but you aren’t paranoid or exaggerating. I’m doing research on legally procuring a gun, and looking into learning how to handle it, just because I have a stalker who won’t leave me alone. I also learned that the one person I can always count on to defend me is... me.

After you've known a couple of people that seem perfectly nice turn into creepy, stalkerish assholes you have to take things into your own hands.

Absolutely! As I remember, statistics show that more women are sexually harassed/assaulted/raped by men they know. My own personal experience would seem to confirm this.

I encourage women to learn how to defend themselves before they get harassed. Self-defense should be taught from an early age. Women should also learn that they have a right to defend themselves. One of the saddest things I’ve seen was a woman who enrolled in the first self-defense class I ever took having to be convinced that it was o.k. to possibly hurt someone else in self-defense. She eventually just left the group, as she couldn’t bear the thought of harming her attacker!

This is one of the many damaging messages that so many women absorb through their indoctrination as "ladies". This is why I laugh when I hear someone say that we live in a “post-feminist” age.
My dad signed me up in personal defense classes when I was 14 because some old, creepy asshole in a pickup truck tried to abduct me when I was walking from the school I was tutoring in to my aunt's house a couple of blocks away. I saved myself by running to the first houses I saw and screaming for grandma. An older lady came out, yelled at the guy, and let me in her porch until the jerk was well away.

In that same school another tutor tried to force himself on me. Thankfully the teacher I tutored for heard something strange outside and got that jerk off of me. It doesn't help that I'm 5 feet tall and not that strong. The times I've tried to defend myself physically the punches just seem to "bounce" back from the creeps and do nothing! I took Judo later in college and sucked at it big time too. :(
Smart dad.

Also... yeah. Whatever you need to do to protect yourself.

Thanks for posting your personal experiences here. I'm sure there are some people who just aren't aware how common this is. Hopefully it will educate them.
Oh, these are what I consider to be the most "twistedly amusing" instances of harassment I've had. Some are not that cool. And I consider myself very, very lucky. I'm young, and still the number of raped friends and family I have can't be fitted on two hands. Only like 3 have reported their rapes/molestation.
I talk about my experiences because I believe that until we are all vocal about the abuse we've had to deal with the seriousness of the problem won't be acknowledged, and will still be considered taboo. Since I've haven't had to go through the worst of assaults it is easier for me to be open about it.
I never fully realized it before reading this blog post, but I believe I've always been unconsciously aware of this fact. For instance, when I'm in the street at night and there's nobody else around but a solitary woman walking the same direction, I'll always stop for a while and let her gain a 100-meters lead at least, just so she doesn't think I'm stalking her. I've always found this totally natural.

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