Advice on How Not to Advise Women Not to Get Raped
A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about Aaron P. Taylor, a blogger who claimed his 15 minutes of Internet fame by penning a manifesto entitled, “Advice 4 Women: How to NOT Get a ‘Deserved Raping.'" The post advised women on behavior they ought to avoid if they'd like to prevent men from wanting to rape them. Helpful, no? And yet, some readers of the blog of Aaron P. Taylor found this advice offensive.
Others came to Taylor's defense. And they're still coming. Earlier this week, a commenter on this blog, calling him or herself "Rational Reader," posted this response to my Taylor post (relive Rational Reader's other comments on this blog here and here and here):
Being able to emotionally detach one’s self from an issue and look at it analytically is such a wonderful ability. Unfortunately, it also seems to be one that the majority of commentators here do not possess, or at least are unwilling to utilize. . . . Saying that Aaron here advocates for, apologizes for, enables, excuses, condones, or blames the victim for rape is *logically* no different than saying a locksmith giving free advice on the best type of locks is an advocate, apologist, enabler, etc. of burglary. The only difference between the two is *emotional* and hence irrelevant.
I understand that Aaron P. Taylor and his supporters are trying to help women not get raped. Great! But guys: If those same women perceive you to be a condescending rape apologist, they may not be terribly receptive to your advice. Let's look at how you might better communicate your valuable anti-rape tips to the ladies, shall we?
1. Do not advise women on how not to get raped.
2. If you insist, try not to use rapist tactics in your rape advice manual. Let's be real: In giving women advice on avoiding rape, Aaron P. Taylor and Rational Reader aren't attempting to help women. Their goal is to exert a mental power over them in place of a physical one. Taylor wrote his missive after being denied by a woman in a club; Rational Reader pens five-paragraph essays in the comment fields of blogs he disagrees with. Taylor and his supporters don't disturb me because I think they're rapists, or that they support rapists; I don't think those things. They disturb me because they use the very same tactics that rapists use to control women. And that makes me upset because I—like so many other women—know that the most damaging effects of sexual assault are the psychological ones.
I may not know Aaron P. Taylor or Rational Reader, but I've known guys like them. They are smart. You are dumb. They are right. You are wrong. They are rational. You are an emotional. Rapists use these tactics, too, to make you believe that it is your fault. That you should have known better. That you liked it. That you're crazy. That it didn't even happen.
3. Understand the enormity of your task. Giving a woman advice on how to not get raped is not like giving advice on how to best fortify your door from outside intruders. Giving a woman advice on how to not get raped is like saying, "Accidents in the home are a leading cause of death. If I were you, I'd stay out of homes as much as possible." It's like saying, "The majority of murders are committed by someone known to the victim. Have you ever considered severing ties with all other human beings? Move quickly."
In other words, it's not helpful. Women can be raped at any time, for any reason—or for no reason at all. They’re raped by men they’ve known for years and strangers they’ve never spoken to. They’re raped by men they’ve denied sex to, and men with whom they’ve had sex many times before. Telling women how rape can be avoided by not dressing in revealing clothing or not dancing close to a man is not only condescending—it's inadequate to the point of triviality.
4. Educate yourself on rape and its victims. You'd assume that Aaron P. Taylor, Rational Reader, and other rape advisers know a lot about how rapes occur, who the victims are, and how they're reported. Just in case, though, here's some info. One in six women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. It's likely that your mother, sister, daughter, friend, or girlfriend is a victim of rape. In fact, it's likely that many of the very women reading your advice on how not to get raped have already been raped. But these statistics on rape and sexual assault are nothing if not woefully inaccurate, because being assaulted is so embarrassing, so confusing, so damaging, and so shameful, that many women never even talk about it. One reason for the underreporting of rapes is the psychological damage inflicted by the rapist.
So while your goal is merely to assert blog argument dominance, consider that you might also be causing a victim of sexual assault to relive the mental anguish of being violated and then discredited by a man on the subject of her own rape experience. This may render her uninterested in what you have to say. Victims of rape are familiar with having their ideas, experiences, feelings and positions on rape pushed aside or argued away. So when you reduce rape to a game that you must win—a rational argument that seeks to carefully discredit a woman's position on rape—just know that she may have heard those kinds of arguments before. From her rapist.