The Sexist

Rape Prevention Tips From Rapists: Stay Inside Or Die A Horrible Death

Ladies: want to know the secret to not getting raped? According to a rape prevention e-mail circling the Internets, all you have to do is always live in fear of being pulled into a van, violated, mutilated, and left for dead at any moment (also, cut off all your hair).

These rape prevention tips, like all trustworthy advice, came to me courtesy of a friend's ex-roommate's mom's yoga instructor. Some of the ideas here, culled from interviews with imprisoned rapists, are helpful enough—"be aware of your surroundings"; "go for the groin"; "if you are ever thrown into the trunk of a car, kick out the back tail lights and stick your arm out the hole and start waving like crazy." Others—don't wear clothes you can remove, stop helping babies, never ever drive anywhere—are more likely to keep women dependent than protected.

As we've seen before, targeting rape prevention advice at women can start off as empowering, and slowly descend into crippling—or worse, preemptive victim blaming. I don't know—maybe it's because I hesitate to take the advice of convicted rapists. But something tells me that it might be more worthwhile focus our efforts on the rapists who rape people, instead of burdening every woman with paranoia, hairstyle advice, and unnecessary umbrellas.

TIP #1: DON'T GROW OUT YOUR HAIR.

The first thing men look for in a potential victim is hairstyle.. They are most likely to go after a woman with a ponytail, bun, braid or other hairstyle that can easily be grabbed. They are also likely to go after a woman
with long hair. Women with short hair are not common targets.

Yes: rapists are administering hairstyle advice now. As a woman with short hair—I told my stylist to give me the 'Ol Rape-Proof Cut w/ Blow Dry—I find this tidbit a bit counter-intuitive (and vaguely insulting). I'm sure some potential rapists must consider us short-hairs too masculine, sexless, or gay to bother to grab. On the other hand, there are those rapists who think that a good forced entry is all we need to become real women. So, I don't know—wear a hat?

TIP #2: DON'T WEAR ANYTHING THAT CAN BE CUT BY A SCISSOR.

The second thing men look for is clothing. They will look for women who's clothing is easy to remove quickly. Many of them carry scissors around specifically to cut clothing.

Good thing I invested in a full wardrobe of rubber overalls this year. Sure, only wearing clothes that cannot be cut off—much less manually removed!—from your body may make you more resistant to heat stroke and/or drowning. Ask yourself: Do I really need to be leaving the house today?

TIP #3: DON'T STAY OUT LATE (DON'T WAKE UP EARLY, EITHER).

Men are most likely to attack & rape in the early morning, between 5:00 a.m. and 8:30 a.m.

So you should probably drop out of high school.

TIP #4: DON'T EAT. DON'T WORK. DON'T PISS.

The number one place women are abducted from/attacked is grocery store parking lots. The number two: office parking lots/garages. Number three: public restrooms.

Don't have a man to protect you? Think twice about performing every daily human function. Bonus: Fearing the grocery store doubles as a cost-effective diet.

TIP #5: DON'T LEAVE THE HOUSE WITHOUT A LARGE, PHALLIC OBJECT.

These men said they would not pick on women who have umbrellas, or other similar objects that can be used from a distance, in their hands.

Not raining? Try carying around a "similar object" everywhere you go—like a big lead pole, or a decorative cane. You know the old saying: better off carrying a useless decorative cane than sorry.

TIP #6: DON'T CARE SO MUCH ABOUT BABIES.

Someone just told me that her friend heard a crying baby on her porch the night before last, and she called the police because it was lat e and she thought it was weird. The police told her 'Whatever you do, DO NOT open the door.' The lady then said that it sounded like the baby had crawled near a window, and she was worried that it would crawl to the street and get run over. The policeman said, 'We already have a unit on the way, whatever you do, DO NOT open the door.' He told her that they think a serial killer has a baby's cry recorded and uses it to coax women out of their homes thinking that someone dropped off a baby. He said they have not verified it, but have had several calls by women saying that they hear baby's cries outside their doors when they're home alone at night. Please pass this on and DO NOT open the door for a crying baby.

What?

TIP #7: DON'T BE SO COMFORTABLE LIVING YOUR LIFE.

IT IS ALWAYS BETTER TO BE SAFE THAN SORRY. (And better paranoid than dead.)

Paranoid or Dead: The modern woman's dilemma.

TIP #8: DON'T BE SUCH A WOMAN.

As women, we are always trying to be sympathetic: STOP! It may get you raped or killed. Ted Bundy, the serial killer, was a good-looking, well-educated man, who ALWAYS played on the sympathies of unsuspecting women. He walked with a cane, or a limp, and often asked 'for help' into his vehicle or with his vehicle, which is when he abducted his next victim.

Our tipster tells us to stop being "sympathetic," but the real message here is, "stop being so fucking stupid." (Oh, and the old useless decorative cane trick? We invented that shit). It's not difficult to parse the real message in this advice—If you don't want to get raped, stop being a woman. And if you can't do that, live a life in complete fear of who you are. Stop growing your hair out—you tempt the rapists. Stop wearing skirts—you tempt the rapists. And then a little curveball: Stop doing anything too manly, either, like leaving the house without a man—you tempt the rapists. Just stop having a vagina to tempt the rapists already. Instead, live your life paralyzed by a fear of rape, because, as one tip says, it's "better than having them find your body in a remote location." Because, as women, that's our only choice: hate our lives, or die horrifically. Even the vagina spaceship sounds better than this.

  • jules

    I think I first got this forwarded to me a few years ago, when I was living in a really white-bread midwest sorority house. I found something interesting about "my sisters" who were forwarding this email. While they were wanting us all to be aware of the dangers of being raped in parking lots and alleys, they were ignoring a much realer possibility. The possibility of being raped, on campus, by a friend or acquaitance.

    None of the women I know have ever been raped by a stranger in an alley. Several have been raped and assaulted by guys they knew well. Also scary...

  • http://www.eythink.com Lindsay

    The third paragraph in your introduction is why I attended EXACTLY ONE session of a "self-defense class" being taught by off-duty cops at my then-local YWCA. Thanks, guys.

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/sexist Amanda Hess

    @jules --- that's a great point. and it's interesting to think about why rape prevention is targeted at the very rare stranger rape, as opposed to the more common acquaintance rape. i think that despite the sheer numbers, people don't want to acknowledge that acquaintance rape exists. they don't want to acknowledge that people who rape people are our friends and significant others and relatives. they don't want to admit that the problem runs much deeper than a few female karate classes to combat a handful of sociopaths stalking the streets. and they don't want to admit that women can't prevent rape by dressing more conservatively, or driving less, or keeping a male friend around them at all times. sure, that friend is a lot more likely to rape her than any stranger in a white van. but it's a lot easier to dole out condescending advice to women than to begin to tackle the problem of acquaintance rape.

  • Dave

    Way to be up on the times:

    http://www.snopes.com/crime/prevent/rape.asp

    What's next? Complaints about free AOL discs? Sharing the hamster dance site?

  • Wrack

    Wait a minute, Amanda -- now you're implying that women shouldn't be friends with men, because the friendlier you get, the more likely it is that convivial Dr. Jekyll is to turn into Mr. Hyde the Acquaintance Rapist.

    I mean, I accept that acquaintance rape is a more prevalent problem, and I think this is a great article, but if you targeted rape prevention at acquaintance rape, you'd still be pushing toward a population of women "paralyzed by a fear of rape" -- just this time, from their male friends/partners. Like you said before, shouldn't the focus of prevention be the (potential) rapists themselves... regardless of whether they assault strangers or acquaintances?

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/sexist Amanda Hess

    Wrack---I think we're in agreement here. Your sarcastic point---"the friendlier you get, the more likely it is that convivial Dr. Jekyll is to turn into Mr. Hyde the Acquaintance Rapist"---is exactly the sarcastic point I was trying to make, but maybe that got lost in the translation.

    Attempting to police female behavior---whether it's having friends, wearing skirts, or going out at night---is not an effective or reasonable solution. When I said "begin to tackle the problem of acquaintance rape," I meant just what I had said earlier---preventing rapists from raping. Focusing attention on acquaintance rape does NOT mean stopping girls from having relationships with men---it means acknowledging that ending rape is a lot harder than avoiding a couple of psychos. And the reason it's so hard is that we have to begin to focus efforts on preventing acquaintance rapists from raping, too---and to acknowledge that those people are our children, significant others, and friends. That's hard.

  • db

    To avoid rape... don't get drunk near penises.

    i've been hoping my employer (education) would let me talk to young men who might be at risk for rape. What does that mean? A shot in the dark... i'd guess folks who don't have a problem with giving a woman a few drinks. People with demeaning thoughts of women. People who think of sex as "some" which must be "got".

    Finding them is only half the battle. What to talk about? Enthusiastic consent? Pulling a Jimmy Stewart at 2am ("no, you're drunk... goodnight")

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/sexist Amanda Hess

    @db Really good question, and one that I can't begin to answer. But I'd love to hear from anyone who works with boys about good strategies!

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  • mdesus

    my super effective strategy to avoid raping a girl is finishing in my pants first.

  • http://www.safercampus.org/blog Ashley

    @db--check out the Mentors in Violence Prevention program (MVP). It's a great violence prevention program developed by experts in the field. No reason to reinvent the wheel.

  • jules

    @Dave: Amanda is not trying to say that this email forward is legit. Its obviously a bunch of bullshit tips. Her point is that someone wrote it, and people are still passing it around, to scare women into thinking that we're always going to be victims. The email is obviously old, low quality spam...but its still being circulated for its original purpose: instilling fear.

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  • http://www.hitselfdefense.com Thomas Farlin

    The article is a bit much (which I guess was your purpose). We are a company that teaches rape prevention techniques to women. No.. we don't want women to be afraid to step outside - we just want them to be alert in high risk situations (like parking lots, etc): forget the cell phone for a few seconds until you get to your car. Beyond the obvious preemptive approach - we want to suggest that women fight back if they find themselves in a worst case scenario. Empowerment! One of the other comments that holds very true is with regards to 'Acquaintance Rape' or 'Date Rape' - much more prevalent than 'Stranger Rape'. There has to be a middle of the road - and that starts with individuals who look out for their own safety.

    Take a look at the site: http://www.hitselfdefense.com

  • Mrs. D

    Thomas, I have a question for you, if you ever come back again...how much more likely is a distracted woman to be carjacked, mugged, or robbed in a parking lot than raped?

    Okay, you guessed it, that was kind of a rhetorical question...in 2007 (via the FBI's Uniform Crime Report), the forcible rape rate was 30/100,000 population, while the robbery rate was 147.6/100,000 and the motor vehicle theft rate was 363.3/100,000. While I know that the motor vehicle rate includes cars stolen while unoccupied/unattended, and the stats for all include both genders, the fact that there are nearly 5 times as many robberies (which are separated from burglaries in the crime reports, and defined as "Robbery—The taking or attempting to take anything of value from the care, custody, or control of a person or persons by force or threat of force or violence and/or by putting the victim in fear.") and over 12 times more car thefts make me ask "why the focus on rape?"

    Don't get me wrong, I think that rape is a terrible thing. But by focusing on RAPE prevention rather than CRIME prevention (you ARE much more likely to be robbed if you're gabbing away on the phone with no care for your surroundings), we're focusing on the one crime most frequently associated with a woman's sexuality. Would anyone ever say "she deserved it" to a woman who was smashed over the head with a rock and robbed, regardless of what she was doing? But people DO say that about women who have been raped.

    So Thomas, please alter your course to focus on CRIME prevention. Stop using rape as a scare tactic, it only strengthens what Amanda is arguing against here.

  • Jan

    Sweetie, this is so old. I'm embarrassed for you.

  • MrsS

    I think that this sort of advice is intended to put the victim at fault - essentially it states that living a normal life as a full-fledged adult is "asking for it."

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