The Sexist

Rape Analogy: The “Walking in a Bad Neighborhood” Theory

Last week, several commenters on this blog suggested that wearing a short skirt is like walking alone in a bad neighborhood—it's an unsafe behavior that makes women more vulnerable to sexual assault. I live in a neighborhood that has been dismissed by some as a "bad neighborhood." So when I see comparisons to sexual assault that go like this . . .

If I’m walking late at night in a bad neighborhood with few people around and someone sticks a gun in my ribs and robs me, I wasn’t asking to be robbed and I wasn’t consenting to being robbed. I was not taking appropriate precautions against getting robbed. I was robbed and as I wish to avoid being robbed, I will endeavor to not put myself in circumstances where a criminal will take advantage and rob me.

. . . it is obvious to me that the person floating this little analogy has not considered the reality of the person who cannot avoid these "circumstances." The person that compares sexual assault to getting mugged after "walking in a bad neighborhood" does not consider the mugging victim who lives in that bad neighborhood because he can't afford a place with less street crime. He does not consider the mugging victim who works late into the night so that he can pay his rent. He does not consider the mugging victim who does not have the means to fastidiously avoid his life circumstances.

More than likely, the mugging victim in this analogy has the privilege of avoiding bad neighborhoods. He lives in a good neighborhood, works in a good neighborhood, eats in a good neighborhood, hangs out with friends in a good neighborhood, and gets wasted in a good neighborhood. He grew up in a good neighborhood and will raise his children in a good neighborhood. If he ever does cross over onto the wrong side of the tracks, it is strictly a voluntary—and wholly avoidable—diversion.

Tell a Georgetown resident that he needs to stay in Georgetown to avoid street crime, and he can easily satisfy that safety requirement; tell an Anacostia resident that he needs to stick exclusively to Georgetown, and your common-sense solution becomes a lot less tenable. Upon hearing this strategy, the Anacostia resident will likely laugh his ass off; the Georgetown resident will have a more insidious reaction. He'll start to feel a little bit empowered about his own safety. He'll start to think that he has avoided being held up at gunpoint because he's made good decisions in his life, not because he was born into privilege. He'll start to feel a little bit superior to people who live with street crime as a matter of course.

Acting like a woman, in many ways, involves performing behaviors that are out of the ordinary: shaving your entire body, coloring your lips and cheeks, lengthening your eyelashes, extending your legs on high heels, "doing" your hair, dieting obsessively, waxing, plucking, padding your breasts, painting your nails, stuffing your tummy into tight spandex casings, wearing skirts and dresses and pantyhose and earrings. The behaviors associated with femininity occupy a strange space in our culture. While they are obsessively reinforced as "normal" behaviors for women, they simultaneously work to situate women as abnormal, different, "other."

To the average heterosexual cisgender man, refraining from performing these behaviors is just a fact of life. For women, these feminizing behaviors are enforced from birth, and are extremely difficult to avoid. And when women do refrain from performing these behaviors—when they don't shave their body hair, don't cinch their waists and inflate their breasts, don't teeter on high heels, don't wear makeup, and don't wear skirts, just like men don't—they risk being dismissed as "abnormal" women. In a culture where the privileged experience of the average heterosexual cisgender man is the baseline for "normal," women are seen as outsiders no matter how they act.

And so when a woman is sexually assaulted—no matter what she's doing—it's easy for the culture at large to insist that she's done something out of the ordinary to bring it upon herself. Because women's lives are out of the "ordinary." Because heterosexual cisgender men are born with the privilege of not being systematically targeted as victims of sexual assault. When you say that women who wear too-short skirts, or too-high heels, or too much make up are not sufficiently protecting themselves against rape, what you are really saying is that women who act too much like women deserve to be raped. When you say that women who drink with the boys, or have casual sex like the boys, or walk alone like the boys are not sufficiently protecting themselves against rape, what you are really saying is that women who don't act enough like women deserve to be raped. And what you are really saying is that women deserve to be raped because they're women. In a culture where women's behavior is viewed as alien, it is this attitude that qualifies as "normal."

When it comes to sexual assault, every neighborhood is a bad neighborhood for a woman.

Other rape analogies debunked:

* The "Natural Disaster" Theory
The "Stroll in the Jungle" Theory

Submit your rape analogies for analysis here.

Photo by luisvilla, Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0


  1. #1


    That's all.

  2. #2

    Amanda...YOU ARE AMAZING.

  3. #3

    Great, great, great article!

  4. #4

    Except the "cisgender" part.

  5. #5

    I hate to bite off of what Emily and Jules have already said, but dammit, Amanda! This is why I constantly read this blog. This particular blog is worthy of being e-mailed...

    Amanda, I keep saying this: smart women are so sexy... :)

  6. #6

    THIS. I am so glad @IAmDrTiller shared this link - I'm a new reader and probably now a devotee. It's so frustrating for me to hear people make these kinds of excuses. More often than the "walking in a bad neighborhood" thing, though, is the "well what did she expect?" response, to which I always reply, "So you think all men are rapists?" Because frankly, if you're going to say that the woman who dared to drink too much when out with her guy friends, the woman who went to a party with people she didn't know, the woman who let him into the house on the first/second/tenth date should've "known better," what you're saying is that men are rapists, and she should have known that and thus not allowed herself into the company of men. Of course the response is usually "No, men aren't rapists, I didn't say that," but it's cognitively dissonant to blame her for her rape if you don't also believe that men are rapists.

    And they say feminists are the man-haters. HAH.

    Thank you, again, for this. Off to read more of your wisdomly words.

  7. #7

    I wish I had articles like this in a dispensary in my brain that I could just spew out when others challenge me on these very matters because I can't seem to be so eloquent when such challenges arise. Well said. Thank you.

  8. #8

    Solid points.

    But, not for nothing, Georgetown isn't nearly as crime free as your article implies. It has more crime per capita than Mount Pleasant, for example. But Mount Pleasant isn't a neighborhood with the same baggage as Georgetown. And what's worse, PSA 703 (Anacostia) reported 602 crime incidents in 2009. How many did PSA 206 (Georgetown) report? 925. Yes, Anacostia reported 115 robberies to Georgetown's 41, but that's not exactly apples to oranges. (The numbers for Anacostia would be higher if you included all that part of DC that is on the other side of the river, but that's not geographically accurate, and it's kind of offensive anyway).

    All I'm trying to say is that I agree with the central point you're making, but you're relying on (and reinforcing) lazy and inaccurate stereotypes about crime and geography to make it.

  9. #9

    Actually, let me amend the stats since the true boundaries of Anacostia are really PSA 701, not 703:

    Total crime:
    Anacostia: 418
    Georgetown: 925

    Anacostia: 43
    Georgetown: 41

    Anacostia: 80
    Georgetown: 82

    I could go on, but I think my point is made: perception of safety and actual safety are two different things.

  10. #10

    The person that compares sexual assault to getting mugged after “walking in a bad neighborhood” does not consider the mugging victim who lives in that bad neighborhood because he can’t afford a place with less street crime.

    The person making the comparison does not have to consider the mugging victim's social status because that is not what is being compared. It is the situation that is being compared. One could also use the analogy of a person being hit by a car while crossing the street. A busy intersection is dangerous and there is an increased chance a person may get hit by a car. The point is not that the person who got hit is to blame, but that the situation itself incurs a certain amount of risk.

    It seems like you are pulling at straws with the "privilege' claims that since males are victims of the vast majority of assaults and murders, particularly random assaults and murder. People routinely blame victims because people believe that violence is avoidable and preventable. People will come up with any reason to excuse it, from blaming a woman's state of dress to blaming boys and men for possessing the "privileged experience of the average heterosexual cisgender man."

    People will excuse anything as long as it suits their needs, as demonstrated in your post.

    Because heterosexual cisgender men are born with the privilege of not being systematically targeted as victims of sexual assault.

    While I understand that as a feminist you may consider sexual violence against boys and men negligible, the fact is that 1 in 6 males by the time they are 16 will have experienced some form of sexual assault. Even if you may consider such acts excusable or as a feminist may take some personal gratification from them, there is no reason to deliberately misinform people about the currently accepted rate of sexual violence against males.

    Likewise, there is no reason to deliberately misinform people about the amount of violence against women. There is no evidence that women are "systematically targeted as victims of sexual assault." That unsubstantiated claim simply reinforces the myth that women are in constant danger or at constant risk.

  11. #11

    Reid, these lazy and inaccurate stereotypes about crime and geography actually do determine who will be blamed for being a victim of crime. If you're mugged in Georgetown, you can't be blamed for "walking in a bad neighborhood" because Georgetown isn't perceived as a bad neighborhood, no matter what the crime rates are. The mugging will be perceived differently. I agree that perception of safety and actual safety are two different things; I'm talking about perception.

  12. #12

    I'm trying to be open minded here because this is an issue I haven't devoted a lot of thought to. With that in mind, I'm forced to merely consider the logic of the arguments from an academic perspective. I'm having trouble seeing how the fact that some people live in undesirable neighborhoods and therefore cannot walk elsewhere is relevant to the discussion. Are we suggesting that the societal pressures upon women to dress in a certain manner are so strong that they are virtually equivalent to the relative immobility of one's socioeconomic position? That seems like somewhat of a stretch. There’s always a choice. In the case of wearing a mini-skirt, everyone lives in Georgetown and no one has to walk in the bad neighborhood…unless they choose to. Please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not the guy saying “You brought this upon yourself”; far from it. It’s the bad people who do the bad things. But make no mistake, The Scary Man will rape someone today just as sure as the lion will kill and eat the slow, sick wildebeest. It may or may not be the mini-skirt that makes him rape, but it just may be the thing that makes him pick you.

  13. #13

    Antimyth - the comparison is not to wearing a skirt. The comparison is to being a woman.

  14. #14

    Sorry, I was confused by the opening line:
    "Last week, several commenters on this blog suggested that wearing a short skirt is like walking alone in a bad neighborhood"

    My apologies

  15. #15

    Wow, just wow. This is amazingly insightful. I'd just want to add one thing. You focus here on privilege, the fact that many people can't afford to stay out of "bad" neighborhoods, and for most women, it's hard to avoid doing "feminine" behaviors like adorning oneself/wearing makeup. I'd just want to emphasize that since these allegedly "risky" actions are legal and morally unobjectionable by themselves, they don't need to be defended by pointing out that the person didn't have any choice. Even if they had 100% free choice, it's the criminal who committed a crime, not the victim who did something "stupid" by being victimized. For instance, let's say I could afford to live in a nice neighborhood pretty easily, but I choose to live in a "bad" one because that's where all my friends live/I'm saving up to go to Europe/I hate all the yuppie jerks who moved into my old neighborhood/whatever. That's valid in its own way, and doesn't make it less illegal to mug me on my block.

    Similarly, I'm in a graduate English program & move in pretty enlightened circles, so I could probably get away with not acting "feminine," without too many negative repercussions. (I know a lot of butch women who are popular and successful.) But I don't want to -- it's fun for me to wear short skirts, heels & makeup, and dress "sexy," so I do. The thought of doing things in a more utilitarian way doesn't appeal. And I don't think that makes it any less of a valid way to be. Just bringing this up because often, feminists defend sexiness & femininity solely by pointing out that "that's how women are expected to act." As if they were sort of necessary evils. Even if they were not at all necessary and totally avoidable, that doesn't make them any more blameworthy.

  16. #16

    Golly, I never realized feminists were supposed to find "personal gratification" in the sexual assault of males, Toysoldier. Thanks for the insight. I guess I'll have to start beating off while I read your blog.

  17. #17

    To be honest, I don't even understand what the "she was asking for it" argument is trying to say.

    Are some behaviors riskier than others? Yes. But all of that risk is because of the rapist/mugger/shooter, not the victim.

    Whether or not wearing a shorter skirt correlates with rape is largely irrelevant. Because (and excuse me if this sounds flip) the only that actually causes rape is rapists. Implying anything else is ridiculous.

  18. #18

    Thank you, and you are brilliant. Don't let the MRAs get you down.

  19. #19

    OK, I think it's funny that I submitted a comment and it got hung up in moderation simply because it contained a link to a comment I made on DCist wherein I complimented Amanda on being the best writer working for WCP.

    That said, here is the comment saved from limbo:

    I’m sorry, but the tone of your article makes it appear as if you believe there is little crime in Georgetown. In fact, your whole analogy rests on the idea that those who stay in Georgetown won’t get mugged and therefore will have their safety strategies reinforced by experience, despite the fact that the strategy is not available to Anacostia residents. In other words: Georgetown residents/cisgender men are born with the privilege of not getting mugged/not getting systematically targeted as victims of sexual assualts. The first half of that duality is simply wrong.

  20. #20

    While I agree with much of what was said, your little rant about women and what the have to do to be a woman is a crock.

    They do t HAVE to put on make up or diet obsessively, these are choices, they CHOOSE to do these thing. My fiancée shaves her legs and pits and thYself about it from your list. Does that make her less of a woman? I don't think so.

  21. #21


    In a larger sense, the "Georgetown" mentality parallels that of women who think they do everything right, don't engage in "risky" or "unladylike" behaviors, but still end up getting assaulted anyway--often by someone they trust. Because all of this "you should have known and not gotten yourself into that situation" is nonsense. A lot of the "traditional" situations (the big, scary stranger) aren't statistically as likely as acquaintance rape or date rape, just like people believe Georgetown is safer than it actually is.

  22. #22

    Thank you for an eloquent, accessible analogy.

  23. #23

    I understand the point that you and Amanda are making about the difference between the perception of safety and the reality of it, but that's clearly a different point than Amanda was making in the article.

    I quote:

    "He’ll start to feel a little bit superior to people who live with street crime as a matter of course."

    "He’ll start to think that he has avoided being held up at gunpoint because he’s made good decisions in his life, not because he was born into privilege."

    Do either of those quotes make sense if you believe that they aren't safer, they just feel safer?

    I think you and Amanda are trying to graft on legitimate arguments, but they weren't in the original article. I stand by my first comment that the logic of the original article is premised on a lazy and inaccurate stereotype.

    And I still think Amanda's the best writer on WCP.

  24. #24

    There are a couple of things that I think need to be pointed out.
    The first is that the point Amanda is mostly trying to make is that to a rapist it doesn't matter what a woman wears. Women get raped whether they're wearing a tiny mini skirt, pants, or a burka. Rape doesn't happen when normal, healthy thought patterns are involved on both sides. Rape happens because someone chooses to commit an act of sexual violence against another person. The clothes you wear aren't likely to stop a stranger/a date/a priest/an abusive partner from raping you.

    The second is that crime statistics are often highly inaccurate. This is mostly due to the fact that in poorer neighborhoods crimes are often not reported. Crime statistics about rape are wildly inaccurate because, as we all know, many people who have been raped never come forward or file a police report.

    Rape happens everywhere, from the most affluent communities to the projects.
    The cause of rape isn't affluent white men. The cause of rape is the need to do violence on another person. Blaming male privilege for rape doesn't get us anywhere, all it does is alienate the millions/billions of men who would never even consider committing such a heinous act. There's a big difference between being a man who unwittingly uses his privilege and being a rapist.

    It's important to remember that sexual violence is still violence, and that those who commit violent acts have no logical basis for those acts. It follows that there is no direct correlation between the decisions women make about their outward appearance and the likelihood that they will be raped.

  25. #25

    I want to know how short a skirt can be before it becomes justification for rape. Can I have a skirt 2 inches above my knees without being blamed? 3 inches? And who will wield the tape measure here?

    The analogy of the rich man displaying his money being responsible for his own mugging is a good one, too. That analogy tells us that a woman's "money" is her body parts that are exposed by short skirts. (Legs?) If she shows her "money" off, of course it's going to get "stolen," right?

  26. #26

    I'm not quite sure which I find worse, women continuing performing for the male gaze which is then held against them when raped/assulted or you using "cisgender" as a legitimate term for MALEtf approval.


  27. #27

    Actually, I live in a neighborhood really opressed by a high crime rate. My point is/was that you can never eliminate the possibility of being a crime victim. A victim of any crime, and that includes rape. No I do not believe rape victims "have done something that justifies their being raped." Never happens. Within the range of behaviors I do control -- and that control is limited -- I exercise caution and make choices the reduce risks. I also talk with my daughter about staying aware, keeping atuned to what threats there might be about in order to avoid becoming a victim of any sort of crime -- including sexual assault. Would you suggest it is inappropriate to offer such advice to my daughter or my son? Is that advice appropriate for avoiding mugging but not for avoiding rape? They are both crimes. Neither is a crime of passion.

  28. #28

    Jenn said: "It’s important to remember that sexual violence is still violence, and that those who commit violent acts have no logical basis for those acts." Almost, Jenn. What's important to remember about sexual violence is that it is a)violence and b)sexual. That is, there is a basis for the act, the desire for sex. Like there is a basis for mugging, the desire for wealth. If short skirts signal sexual willingness, then it is reasonable to hypothesize that women who wear short skirts are more likely to be raped. That doesn't "excuse" rape in any sense, it's simply a statistical conjecture. It may be true, it may be false. If it is true then there is a clear behavioral implication: wearing a short skirt increases the likelihood of rape. Ultimately, men choose to rape just as women choose to wear short skirts, so the blame for the action lies with the rapist who chose to value his desire for sex above her right not to consent.

  29. #29

    Feminist dude--not true. Rape is a crime of power, not of desire.

    And short skirts do not signal a desire for sex, at all.

  30. #30

    Seconding LeSidePositive--rape is not a crime of frustrated sexual desire, feminist dude, it's a manifestation of a desire to hurt and to humiliate, to take power from someone weaker, to terrorize. It's a beating that can include a penis, as well as hands, as a weapon. Men don't rape in order to "have sex" with beautiful young women who they couldn't otherwise be with; women of every description, including children and the elderly, get raped. Sex organs may be involved in the assault (on the part of the perpetrator or the victim), but that does not make the basis of rape sexual. Sex is a positive act between consenting individuals; rape is not sex.

  31. #31

    how can that be? there are numerous avenues for demonstrating power, only one involves sex. why would a rapist choose the one that involves sex if specifically does not want sex? you're argument is analogous to saying mugging isn't about money, it's about power. perhaps there is an element of the desire to exercise power to rape and perhaps that element is 90% of the decision. Nevertheless, whatever that remainder is -desire for sex, desire for money, desire for a free car- is what determines which mode of power to exercise. regarding the other critiques: 1. i'm fine with saying short skirts do not signal desire for sex, let me rephrase with "if they are perceived by rapists as signaling a desire for sex..." 2. i'm fine with saying consensual sex is a better kind of sex than forced sex, but saying rape "is not sex" is just confusing.

  32. #32

    Bracing and poignant as always, Amanda. Glad you're writing about these issues.

  33. #33

    Feminist dude, I suppose your heart is more or less in the right place, but you are spectacularly misinformed.

    Just for a primer, consult:

  34. #34

    Thanks for the link, LSP. Encouraging research into the subject is definitely the way to go.

    Feminist dude, many, if not most, of the men who commit rape are men who have access to sex--they have wives or girlfriends or have been able to pick up strangers for consensual sex. Frustrated sexual desire was not the reason that they committed rape, nor have elderly or infirm women been raped because they were hotties in short skirts. The choice of women as targets has implications way beyond assumed desire for sex in straight men, as does the use of aggression targeted towards women's sexuality. Please do read up and learn more about it, especially as someone who identifies as a feminist and, I assume, an ally.

  35. #35

    A couple of other reasons why someone would choose rape as their mode of power to exercise:
    1. It's one of the most harmful things they can do, one of the things that can make the victim the MOST helpless, and therefore it's one of the most "powerful" (so to speak) things he can do, and
    2. It's really easy to get away with.

  36. #36

    Let me clarify my stance and why I hold it in one more way. First, when I say rape is sex, I am certainly not saying that rapist and victim are "having sex." "Having sex" implies both parties are willfully engaged in the act of sex; the woman is having the opposite of sex. She is engaged in resistance to sex. The man is forcing sex upon her and doing so successfully. In this sense rape is sex, to say otherwise is to radically redefine the word "sex." I will take it one step further. To say rape is not sex, but rather just an act of violence, is demeaning to women and anti-feminist. It implies that rape is ordinary crime, or ordinary hate crime, or ordinary power crime. It is not. Rape is special in the sense that a woman's right to control her sexuality is special. Sexual autonomy is more sacred and more vital to feminism per se than, for example, the right to control one's purse, one's hemline, one's makeup, or, arguably, one's vote. To deny that sex has occurred is to deny that this sacrosanct right has been violated and thus lower the status of rape from extraordinary brutality to ordinary brutality.

  37. #37

    Rapist often have mental problems, going back to childhood, when they felt "repressed" by a woman (or in some cases a man) and they now must prove their "manhood" by forcing sex- via intercourse. Sometimes they use an object, sometimes it's violent- it is rarely about just getting sex and hey baby you looked good in that short skirt. There is a whole unit of law and psychology dedicated to this. 1:4 women will be sexually assaulted by the time they reach adulthood, and 1:8 men- and they numbers rise each year. Blame media, tv, or whatever you want, but it is frightening and there doesn't seem to be any direct cause for it. It would seem at this point prevention may be the better route.

  38. #38

    Oh- and severe punishment for those who hurt the babies. Severe.

  39. #39

    Feminist dude--to define sex as an act occurring only between consenting individuals and rape as assault is not only not radically redefining sex, it's at the heart of existing laws against rape and is the way many people (who are not you, apparently) already define it. I understand that this is not your understanding of the word. That's part of the difficulty many of us experience in discussing the severity of rape, this apparent lack of understanding that rape is not just "sex she wasn't in favor of." To believe that is what diminishes one's understanding of the horror of rape, not classifying it as not-sex or as the heinous assault on personhood that it actually is. Calling rape sex does not serve to make it seem moor horrible; in the minds of many, it serves to make it seem less so.

    I don't expect you, as a self-identified "dude", to understand how rape ranks in the hierarchy of things you're putting forth as being of more or less consequence to women and/or feminists, so I'll just tell you that, again, you're exhibiting a lack of understanding and a tendency to cultiate assumptions to the degree that I again recommend that you immerse yourself in the research and literature and gain more understanding of the subject before undertaking to explain to women how thinking in line with your current POV is in their own best interests.

  40. #40

    The brilliance of this article, beyond words. I've worked with a rape relief shelter and safety is all perception. What she wore or didn't wear are tired reasons for this viscous act. A high percentage of perpetrators are actually trusted people: uncle, father, mother's boyfriend, acquaintance. I contend, if a stranger wants to hurt someone they will do it somehow, whether you wear a short skirt, no skirt, or live in a good/bad neighborhood.

  41. #41

    I actually think we're close to agreeing, CC. Let's agree that definitions are arbitrary. I define sex as "the coupling of sex organs" you define sex as "the consensual coupling of sex organs." All our definitions flow from these preliminary ones. Fine, not important. What's important is what specifically makes rape a "heinous assault on personhood" in a way that, say, mugging isn't? My argument is that it is, specifically, the violation of the right to sexual autonomy. That is, in fact, thinking of rape as "sex she wasn't in favor of" goes much further in understanding the horror and brutality of rape than thinking of rape as "assault she wasn't in favor of." Of course assault and violence are part of it, but those are part of ordinary brutality and ordinary assault on personhood. What is the element of rape that makes it an extraordinary assault on personhood that ordinary assaults on personhood are missing, if not the violation of sexual autonomy? p.s. let's not do the 'you couldn't possibly understand' routine, we're having a good debate here. i remind you that we fundamentally agree that rape is a heinous assault on personhood, we're only debating why. (unless i'm misunderstanding our discussion entirely)

  42. #42

    *sigh* No, FD. No, we can't agree to disagree, no, definitions are not arbitrary, and, no, you are not getting it and don't seem likely to. Yes, your male privilege matters, in this discussion, and is an important part of why you aren't getting it, so I'm not setting that aside.

    Rape is not sex, and it's not made more heinous when it's viewed as unwanted sex. For many, starting from the base assumption that rape is sex means, to them, that rape can't be all THAT bad--after all, women have sex they're not in the mood for all the time, right? And sex feels good! It's enjoyable and natural! So maybe her issues with what happened are more about her attitude toward sex than any actual damage that was done to her. And, maybe, since it's sex and we all like sex, she actually, in some small way, wanted it! Encouraged it! Was asking for it! This is the way the minds of many of those who want to think of rape as sex work, the progression from A to B to disgusting C. After all, sex can't be ALL bad, right?

    But assault can be, and torture definitely is. That's what rape is; it's a form of torture, it's a method of inflicting immense damage on another human being. That, in itself, is more than horrific enough to rank rape as one of the most reprehensible crimes possible; discussion of sexual autonomy needn't enter into it to make that entirely sufficient point. Rape is torture. Torture is heinous and an enormous crime against personhood and deserves commensurate punishment. For too many, anything identified as "sex" will never be seen in that light and will never be punished accordingly. Because guys want sex, right? And other guys, normal guys, can identify with that desire. It's far harder for anyone to identify as wanting to commit torture or thinking that torture is sometimes justified and still expect to be seen as a decent human being.

  43. #43

    Let's get to the bottom of this. Do you think rape and non-rape torture are equivalent? If not what separates rape from non-rape torture? My answer is: the non-consensual coupling of sex organs. The next question is: what's so bad about that that is unique and different from, say, waterboarding? Both involve heinous crime against personhood, both are terrifying, but only rape is a violation of _______ (I'll let you fill in the blank). Let's not let the tone detiorate further with "you don't get it" - that's the point of a debate, right? I get it, but I disagree and here's why. Just like you get it and you disagree, here's why.

  44. #44

    FD, I agree with you that rape is definitely a violation of sexual autonomy, and an assault on personhood. Yes, that violence is made more horrible by the fact that the method is sexual, but that is a totally different thing from calling the action itself sex.

    This may seem like a subtle distinction to you, but to victims who get faced with the attitudes CC described (head on over to the most recent Polanski thread if you want to see some examples!), this can contribute to them getting demeaned and silenced.

  45. #45

    FD, without more insight into what is damaging about rape beyond "I said no and he didn't listen," you aren't ever going to understand. You're looking at rape from the perspective of a complete outsider and trying to take an impersonal, philosophical, political view of it. The damage done by rape is not about feminist ire at a violation of a woman's civil rights; the damage is bone-deep, soul deep, and you cannot understand its impact from where you're standing. I can't boil down rape's inherent damage to every victim for you, and I'm not going to share info that personal about my life with you. If you've never been raped, never been close to someone who was raped (or close enough for her to share with you to the degree that I'm talking about) and never studied any of the available literature on the impact of rape on its victims, then you aren't going to get it. PLEASE do the research, look up the info, immerse yourself in the stories of those who have survived rape if you actually do care. It's the only way you're going to gain any sort of understanding.

    I can't tell you how waterboarding compares to rape, as I've never been a victim of waterboarding. I do understand, from what I've learned through investigation, that waterboarding and other forms of torture are horribly damaging and scarring to the victims beyond a "I didn't want them to do that and they did it anyway" level, as is rape. Having one's "no" disrespected and disregarded is a part of the devastation of ANY form of torture; it certainly isn't the only part, and, often, isn't the largest part. That's something you aren't ever going to be able to relate to without a better understanding of suvivors' experience.

    I'm not sure, but I think you're trying to maneuver me into saying why I think rape is the worst crime that could possibly be committed without my having said that I believe that to be true. Or maybe you're trying to insinuate that you're a better feminist than I am because you say that it is? Crimes against personhood aren't quantifiable in that way; every crime and every victim/survivor is unique. It's not possible to paint this kind of crime with those sorts of generalities. I don't know if what I or what others in my life have experienced is any "better" or "worse" than what any other person who has experienced torture went through, and I'm not going to attempt to guess. You shouldn't, either.

    Please, just, do the research. I'm not going to continue this with you because I think I'm pretty much repeating myself, at this point, and without better grounding in the issues I don't think you're going to have anything to say about it that I'll find valuable. Please, really, try to get informed.

  46. #46

    First, thank you for the lively debate, I will conclude with my final thought after one quick point: You know nothing of my personal relation to rape please do not suppose that you do. You know nothing of the depth to which I have studied and/or experienced the issue, please do not suppose that you do. I have afforded you this courtesy, or at least I have tried to. My final thought is this: saying "rape is torture" is "sufficient" is not only insufficient, but it is both anti-intellectual and anti-feminist. Anti-feminist because it supposes there is some substitute for the truth that will elicit a "better" response than the one that the truth elicits. This in turn supposes that you or I are able to define an objective from which to define "better." You're arguing, I think, that calling rape a kind of sex elicits an attitude that it can't be so bad and that if we side-step the fact that rape necessarily requires the coupling of sex organs and sloganize truth with "rape is torture" then we'll have a better outcome. This may indeed be true from my definition of "better" and from yours. But feminism to me is about intellectual honesty, it's about putting in the hours of debate and discussion to explain why the truth is important and why the truth is always better than a slogan and why a slogan is never good enough. Feminism is about freedom and logic and about treating women and men with respect, not condescending to either group by implying that the truth is too confusing for them and some quasi-truth is actually a lot better for them. That's anti-intellectualism and anti-feminism at its worst and most dangerous. Good night, thanks again, FD.

  47. #47

    thanks for writing this amanda.

  48. #48

    FD, if you're so misinformed that you think desire for sex is a prime motivator for rape, and it's similar to the motivations for stealing a car or wallet, you can see that we don't really get the sense that you've studied the issue very much.

    By the way--all rape IS torture. It's not a slogan--it is a basic fact of how much suffering the victim experiences. (Not all torture is rape, of course, it's one of those squares vs. rectangles things.)

    You say:

    "You’re arguing, I think, that calling rape a kind of sex elicits an attitude that it can’t be so bad"

    Yes we are. Did you look at the Polanski thread like I recommended? Here is what someone says about a man who drugged and raped a 13 year old girl who repeatedly said no:

    I can asure you that what Roman Polanski did in America
    would not be punished in The Netherlands.
    I know a man who used to live in my neighborhood who
    had a threesome – two minors at the same time.
    --Don Heckers

    And on the "Stroll in the Jungle" thread:

    "What bothers me about these two questions is that they assume that consent is not given because the desire did not exist. If the man holds the woman down but she doesn’t say no to him in some way during the entire act — if she doesn’t express her lack of consent — then how is he to know that he’s acting contrary to her wishes?" --John Dias

    "even during the act [she] may have been trying to decide whether they enjoyed it or not. Deciding after the fact that they didn’t want to, or didn’t prefer being held down, still does not necessarily constitute a moral crime "--John Dias

    "One can argue about the older person taking advantage of a minor, certainly, but explain to me how the actual physical act of this is considered normal in one circumstance, while a life altering traumatic experience in the other?"--Rob

    There are numerous other examples in the comments on this site, but I won't paste them all here. But, I hope this will let you see how dangerous the "rape is a form of sex" attitude can be.

  49. #49

    FD, think about this scenario for a second. Wynona Ryder got caught shoplifting. Do you think its because she really wanted the stuff and couldn't/didn't want to pay for it or do you think it was deeper than that? Plenty of individuals shoplift when they have the money right there in their pockets. The "obvious" reasoning isn't always the right one.

    You CAN'T look only on the surface of a situation.

    Personally, I don't think anyone could find an individual crying, bleeding, or struggling to be sexy no matter what clothes they have/had on. It just isn't. What is motivating the individual has got to be the emotional response they are eliciting from the victim. That is a POWER issue.

    I am going to guess where you are stuck is about the fact that the man gets a hard-on so he must be sexually aroused. Here is an interesting fact. Rape victims sometimes achieve orgasm from the event. Does that mean they wanted it? no. Does that mean they enjoyed it? no. That is how our anatomy works. Our body is made to respond in certain ways whether we want it to or not. Same as a mans sleep cycle can give an erection without him actually desiring sex, a rapist can achieve a hard-on in order to commit the rape without having a sexual desire for the victim.

  50. #50

    What I think is important to point out here is that the sexual nature of rape cannot be ingored when we try to better understand the problems of rape and assault, and I think a fair number of people who work in advocacy, intervention and prevention would agree. Rape most certainly is about power and domination, there is no denying that. However, I think when we say that statement without considering the complexities behind it (sexual complexities included), we simplify the crime and the various ways in which rape and sexual assault are committed, and furthermore, we is confuse people (victims and perpetrators included) who really do think that rape is just about sex.

  51. #51

    I was this article mostly impart because I have used a similar metaphor before. Which I found strange because I didn't realize that other people used the "walking alone in a bad neighborhood" metaphor.

    I think what "Father and a Man" said is touching my thoughts on the matter, but he didn't explain it as well as he could. I'm a little disappointed that no one has replied to his comment.

    Living in a bad neighborhood means one is surrounded by crime. Young women especially will be constant targets of sexual assault. I think the clothes that a woman wears is not the most important factor here.

    As Father and a Man (FaaM from here on out) said "Within the range of behaviors I do control — and that control is limited — I exercise caution and make choices the reduce risks." If a young woman attends a club or bar by herself and then walks home in a dangerous neighborhood by herself, then she is putting herself at a greater risk. If she calls a cab, or goes to the club with a friend, she is reducing the risk.

    I was robbed at gunpoint several years back. I was with my girlfriend at a lookout point in a park after hours. Afterwards, the police informed me that one of the reasons parks are closed after hours, is because they are prime targets for crime. I am now aware of this danger. If I was to go to a lookout point (after hours) this weekend, I would take some extra precautions because of the extra risk.

    In that same sense, a woman who who goes to a club alone and then walks home alone through a bad neighborhood should take extra precautions.

  52. #52

    That was some poor grammar in the first paragraph.

    I meant "I was emailed this article"

  53. #53


    You're arguing semantics. Why? What is your point in doing that? No, not your semantic point about crime rates, but your point in even doing it? I know what it're just another man trying to poke holes in an article on rape not being the fault of women. So, STFU and don't rape anyone.

  54. #54

    Chauvinist Pig,

    What I don't think you understand is that in your situation this was one place that you went to voluntarily and out of your normal routine. It isn't exceptionally difficult not to go to a lookout point after hours. It would be nicer if you could, but how much does that abstinence really impinge on your life? The difference with women and rape avoidance advice is that we are expected to be "taking extra precautions" and avoiding really mundane social and civic activities, and "reducing risk" practically EVERY MOMENT OF OUR LIVES. I seriously had a security officer tell me that I should *never* go out alone--even in broad daylight, he said so explicitly. How am I supposed to get to school? To eat? To engage in any activity that my next door neighbor doesn't also want to do at that exact same moment?

    That said, of course, what happened to you was in no way your fault (and, frankly, I don't think the policeman was being entirely appropriate), and as a society we shouldn't make people just accept that certain activities aren't open to them because we--collectively--don't have the willpower to invest in resources to stop crime. Crime is not some force of nature that can't be stopped: look at NYC's Central Park in the 1970s versus today. It used to be off limits to all but the most daring, now people bring their toddlers and play frisbee, because the city made it a priority.

    We need to stop acting like we're helpless against all kinds of violence, and actually invest the resources to give people a reasonable expectation of safety. It is simply not okay that someone who is weaker or "a target" needs to abstain from the opportunities and activities available in his/her community. This applies whether it's providing adequate security for public places, funding for crime labs to test all rape kits, university judicial fortitude to expel rapists, et cetera, et cetera.

  55. #55

    LPS, it is just as false to assume all crime is stoppable as it is to assume all violence against one's person is preventable. Safety is something we all want, but it does not always occur because people are not controllable in that fashion. So while it is unfortunate that people occasionally must take precautions in order to protect themselves, it is reasonable to suggest that people take those precautions because every sidewalk, park, front door and traffic stop cannot be protected at all times nor is every crime wholly preventable.

  56. #56

    Sure, it's not really possible to entirely eliminate crime, but it is quite possible to significantly reduce it. When feminists talk about how we want the focus to be on keeping rapists from raping rather than on keeping women from engaging in "risky" behaviors, we're not claiming to believe that it would be possible to eliminate 100% of rape in the world...but wouldn't things look a lot different if we eliminated 90% of it?
    And you're still missing LSP's point a little bit...we're not saying that the idea of being careful about one's own safety is a bad thing. We're saying that the general "keep yourself safe" rules are VERY different than the "don't get raped" rules aimed specifically at women. Sure, there are some things that even men are encouraged to avoid in order to lessen their probability of being victimized by a criminal. But for women? In order to follow the "rules," we have to never be alone unless locked into our homes with at least one lock AND an alarm system on each door. We're never allowed to be alone with a man. Ever. (Even if he's our father, brother, or husband). We're never allowed to drink. We're never allowed to flirt. We're never allowed to dress in anything that that isn't nun-like. I could go on. The point isn't that caution is a bad thing. The point is that "caution" as women are told to adhere to it is not the same as "caution" for a reasonable person. (reasonable person=, of course, man)

  57. #57

    Living in a bad neighborhood (linked to one's socio-economic status) and wearing a short skirt are two very different things. At a fundamental level, it's like comparing apples to oranges. What we're really talking about is the particular behaviors of people -- women and men -- that subject them to being victims of crime, or even accidents.

    Wearing a mini-skirt is by no means an open invitation by a woman to be raped, but "good" neighborhood, or "bad", it may well make them a more probable target. Extending this to a crime like auto-theft, choosing to leave your keys in the ignition, whether in a "good" neighborhood, or "bad", is a choice that increases the probability of your car being stolen. Similarly, driving a particular make/model car will likely make it a more attractive prize for a criminal. It's an exercise in ignorance to think that engaging in particular kinds of behaviors at particular times and places will not have some impact on the probabilities of crimes occurring.

    As depraved and amoral as it is, a rapist is never thinking about a woman as a woman (or even as a human), they are thinking about women as discardable sex objects. Anything a particular woman has done to magnify the typical rapist's perception of her as a sex object is likely to increase the likelihood of them becoming a victim. Can that really be denied/ignored?

  58. #58

    Melissa, the advice given comes from hyper-vigilance, part of which stems from older social norms that consider women more deserving of protection and safety than males and part of which results -- and I know you will disagree -- from feminists claiming women are in constant danger of rape.

    For instance, a large of portion of the posts on this blog frame women as being in immediate danger of sexual assault at virtually every moment in virtually every place by virtually every male. It is not surprising that some people will take that and run to extremes with it.

    That narrative needs to be stopped because it just creates paranoia, and that paranoia tends to result in the unrealistic, hyper-vigilant, typically bad rules you mentioned.

    One way to address that is to stop framing women as being in imminent danger. Another would be supporting practical safety advice. Those things will help the situation, both in terms of quelling unnecessary fear and in terms of prevention. However, one cannot challenge ridiculous rules while promoting the paranoia that prompts those rules.

  59. #59

    I agree that it's totally possible that some people have taken bits and pieces of feminist discourse out of context and constructed these rules. We try to make the fact that rape is common public knowledge, and yeah, some people might take that and turn to "hyper-vigilance." You're right about that.
    However, I can't see the idea of feminists backing down as being any sort of solution. After all, such rules couldn't possibly stem from any real arguments people have heard from feminists. Yes, rape is common, but the types of rapes that the "rules" protect people from are the least common type of rape. Not getting drunk, wearing short skirts, or walking alone at night won't protect wives from their husbands. It won't protect college kids from the people they thought were their friends. And it won't protect little boys. There is very little potential victims can do to protect themselves from the types of rape that are the most pervasive...except to never interact with anybody, ever. And, for that matter, to never be a child. Impossible. So, in order to make any reasonable dent in the number of assaults that happen, it is essential for prevention efforts to center around the actions of perpetrators more than around the actions of victims.
    In short (and yes, I know I do tend to ramble on), although you might be right that SOME people may be more victim-blamey about prevention because of feminist efforts to spread awareness of the prevalence of rape, such people would have to take our arguments totally out of context in order to make such logical leaps. There is no reason to stop spreading a truthful and valuable message just because some people might take it the wrong way. Especially since, at the same time, we're putting out articles like Amanda's, actively fighting against the people who DO take these ideas out of context.
    And, as a sidenote, I'm fairly certain that victim-blamey "safety tips" existed before the anti-rape movement.

  60. #60


    I don't know what universe you live in, but the risk of rape to women *is* unacceptably high. One in six women will be raped in their lifetime (and before you mention the one in six statistic for boys, that is sexual abuse of all forms, and for girls it's one in FOUR). And have you read the groping articles? Are you honestly trying to claim that women are NOT in significant danger of assault? And the articles on groping here are about what services you can access, NOT telling women to abandon essential aspects of their lives.

    And, it's not feminists who are telling women to be hyper-vigilant: I have never had a woman I would describe as "feminist" give those spiels about all the things you can't do and how much danger you're in. It's always uptight school administrators, security officers who have never thought about following that advice themselves, and very establishment media commentators. Have you noticed that all these articles here on The Sexist are bringing up these rules are SAYING THAT THEY'RE WRONG?! I know I had to explain satire to you like eight times, but I didn't realize your reading comprehension was that bad.

    And you are absolutely, completely wrong to believe that society says that women are "more deserving of protection and safety." Not even close. We are told that we are weaker, more delicate, more helpless, more emotional, fundamentally dependent, easy targets, inherently sexually enticing, unnatural to want to have a social life, more easily "sullied," likely to be "irrevocably" damaged, and lots of other hogwash. Whatever chivalry (which is VERY patriarchical, NOT feminist!) says women are "deserving" is taken away amazingly quickly--you drank alcohol? Not "deserving of protection [or] safety." Did you read the horrible things that people wrote about that 15-year old rape victim in Richmond? You wore a short skirt? Nope. You walked alone? Ha! You spoke to a man? What, you didn't know you just gave up your bodily autonomy at "hello"? You had sex before? No longer deserving. Not only that, but basic legal protections start to evaporate if we are not "perfect" by patriarchical standards. Police officers won't pursue cases and rape kits won't get tested, and juries (if it even gets that far) can be persuaded that you "were asking for it."

  61. #61

    Melissa, I do not think people take feminist positions out of context. I think people take them at face value. The feminist message about sexual violence against women has been around for a little under 40 years, so the argument that feminist hyper-vigilance about sexual violence against women (as demonstrated in LSP's above post and on this blog) has had no effect is a little preposterous. That said, the point is not that feminists should not talk about sexual violence against women, but that they should not promote and encourage paranoia. As an advocate for male victims, I am familiar with how legitimate concerns can easily turn into hyper-vigilance. While about sixth (more likely a fourth) of boys are at risk of sexual violence, most boys will not be assaulted. While there are women and men who prey on boys, the majority of people do not. It is an important issue (that feminists do not support) and should be discussed, but hyper-vigilance about the "epidemic danger" leads to policies such as a recent British decision to ban parents from supervising their own children at playgrounds and to situations like men avoiding children out of fear of being accused of sex abuse.

    The same applies to the feminist message. Similar feminist ideas like the above create the false impression that women are in imminent danger at all times, which in turn will lead people to believe women's only option is to avoid anything that could lead to sexual violence, which often results in people creating "tips" for women.

    The point is not to avoid the topic, but to discuss it rationally and without promoting fear. By asserting that women are in constant danger, feminists actually give credence to suggestions like "don't wear miniskirts" or "don't flirt" because the message is that nothing can really be done to prevent sexual violence against women. Likewise, dismissing valid, practical advice does a great disservice to those you want to protect. I cannot recall how many men my age heard the "stranger danger" talk in school, yet never thought that it applied to women (for obvious reasons) or men who abused them. That kind of misinformation coupled with hyper-vigilance just perpetuates the problem.

  62. #62


    You have utterly failed to address my point that it's NOT feminism that's making these statements. It's well-established, traditional, status-quo thinking put forth mainly by men. Women have been told we're in constant danger and not fit to go out in public for a LOT longer than 40 years.

    Your statements that feminists don't support preventing child abuse is absolutely, totally false. (see next post for abundant detail)

    HOW do feminists give credence to "don't wear miniskirts" and "don't flirt"?? We say over and over again that these are NOT acceptable attitudes and that they do NOT prevent rape. Just because we want to focus attention on a serious issue does not mean that we're endorsing every crackpot theory that anyone has ever had about it.

    YOU are taking feminist positions (rape is a serious issue) out of context (saying we advocate hyper-vigilance). YOU DON'T EVEN UNDERSTAND WHAT THE FEMINIST POSITION ON THIS ISSUE IS!!! Or, really, any issue for that matter. I remember on the "Stroll in the Jungle" thread when you repeatedly asserted that feminists don't think women need to ask for consent, when we told you OVER and OVER again that we think consent is required for everybody.

    You are so wrapped up in your misperceptions and prejudices that you can't even understand what people are saying to you.

  63. #63

    Here's the National Organization for Women on sexual abuse of young boys:

    "Familial sexual terrorists are the most heinous, destructive form of sexual predators in our society. Familial sexual predatory behavior is a silent epidemic in our country and all across our globe. This silent epidemic continues, due to the victim's level of shame, self loathing, basically non existent self esteem, and the mistaken belief usually held in the victim's mind of personal responsibility associated with the crime of familial sexual terrorism perpetrated against themselves by members of their own family. The statistic is 1 in 3 females and 1 in 5 males, 20% of our children will be sexually preyed upon before they reach their l8th year. This statistic begs the societal question," Exactly who does our society think is committing these crimes against our most vulnerable, innocent citizens, our children?""

    and another chapter:

    "California National Organization for Women is writing to request that you enforce Damon's right to trial and basic right to live free of abuse, by prosecuting his named abuser, his father.

    Damon has repeatedly made credible disclosures to mandatory reporters and others of the sexual and emotional abuse he has suffered at the hands of his father, and still the perpetrator of his alleged crimes has gone unpunished."

    More from NOW on the protection of children from abusive parents:

    "They are not the only ones. This month, the NOW Foundation joined other leading organizations working on family law and family violence in a complaint filed against the United States with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The complaint charges that U.S. courts are failing to protect the life, liberties, security, and other human rights of abused mothers and children by frequently awarding child custody to abusers and child molesters. PAS is one predominant strategy being used by lawyers to place children in such danger. A recent Newsweek article noted the finding of a Harvard study that in custody cases involving documented spousal abuse, 54% granted custody to the batterer, and parental alienation was used as an argument in nearly every single one."

    Here's Salon's Broadsheet discussing the abuse of children by women:

    "The response on Perry’s message board was immediate and overwhelming -- an outpouring of support and a devastating number of similar tales. On and on it goes, for hundreds of posts: “I was sexually abused by my father and my aunt.” “Mine was spousal abuse.” “I do remember things that I just have not told anyone, and it's hard, because I don't think anyone will believe.” “What's a little molestation when it comes from your own older sibling right? I haven't mentioned this to anyone and I constantly try to push it to the far corners of my mind to escape it.”

    Though other celebrities, notably "Precious" producer Oprah Winfrey, have come forward in the past with their own stories of childhood abuse, Perry is unique. He’s easily the most famous man to talk about being molested, and he’s forthright about being abused by both a male and a female. Though accurate data is hard to come by, the Lucy Faithfull Foundation estimates approximately 15 percent of sex abusers are women. "

    I could go on, of course, but I think I've pretty definitively shown that your assertions are utter hogwash.

  64. wrongsideofthetracks

    I grew up in a bad neighborhood. Comparing women's clothing to poverty is offensive. Shorts skirts are optional no matter how many times you write otherwise in a blog. For real, I think my wife owns 5 times as many pants as she does skirts. And of the skirts she does own, only a couple are "short" and are never worn outside our home. Very few of you seem to understand risk minimization. I guess all of you leave your front doors open too. What a weird thread.

  65. #65

    Wrongsideofthetracks, I don't think YOU understand risk minimization. At the very least, you seem totally unaware of the fact that not wearing a short skirt DOES NOT HELP in any way for the majority of situations in which women actually face sexual violence.

    Also, stop acting like we should have to give up our rights to express ourselves and present ourselves as we see fit. Whatever your wife likes to wear is incredibly irrelevant. Women have many different preferences and reasons for how they appear, and it is not for you to declare what is optional and what is not.

  66. #66

    Whether or not wearing a short skirt makes a woman more likely to be raped is disputable. I'd say improbable.

    What the short skirt IS likely to affect, however, is whether or not she will be blamed for it if she is raped, and whether she'll be able to have any success in the criminal justice system.

  67. #67

    I have always wondered just how many men who use the "women who wear short skirts had it coming/weren't being smart" argument enjoy going out and seeing women in said short skirts? How many of them would pout and rail on feminist culture if tomorrow every single woman at the singles bar (or in the library, or on the street) was wearing baggy pants and turtlenecks?

    For the record, I dressed as the Silk Spectre II for Halloween this year. The outfit involved thigh-high boots and a leotard. Pretty sexy business, and I admit I wore a skirt over it for the journey from my house to the subway station (out of respect for my orthodox Jewish neighborhood, not out of fear). However, once on the train, I ditched the skirt and stood there on a train full of people, only a quarter of whom were also in costume.

    Did anyone touch me? Catcall me? Assault me? No. And this was on a subway line in NYC that is actually notorious for groping. Lots of men saw me, and none of them assaulted me, yet I was as uncovered as I have ever been in public. This proves to me that rape is clearly not about sexual desire (because, damn it, I looked hot! I'm sure I inspired some sexual desire that night!).

  68. wrongsideofthetracks


    Do you know what happens to the chances of a statement being true when you use the phrase “DOES NOT IN ANY WAY” as you just did?

    To use Amanda’s skirt example again, let’s say length didn’t help in the MAJORITY of incidents, but say 49%? What then? How about 13%? Suppose you could reduce risk in 3% of the circumstances by means other than an article of clothing? What then? What percentage makes it risk minimization??

    I would bet that you don’t leave your front door unlocked do you? But it is your right. This is not a discussion about the first amendment so please spare me the “right to express” tirade. I’m sure plenty of “fighting” words are protected speech, but they can also get you in road rage incidents. Please focus on whether something is crime prevention or is not crime prevention.

    As for “optional” being subjective… I think not. I was born in poverty. I ate in poverty and I slept in poverty. Let me know when 17% of American females are born in short skirts, eat in a short skirts and sleep in a short skirts… and not by choice. I will surely petition Noah Webster on your behalf.

  69. #69


    Your idea of "risk minimization" is to tell women to lead repressed, shut-in, uneventful lives. Not acceptable.

    Here is some information on how your advice is not only repressive, but is also totally bogus:

    Utah State University Sexual Assault and Anti Violence Information

    Myth: Rape victims provoke the attach by wearing provocative clothing

    - A Federal Commission on Crime of Violence Study found that only
    4.4% of all reported rapes involved provocative behavior on the part
    of the victim. In murder cases 22% involved such behavior (as simple
    as a glance).

    - Most convicted rapists do not remember what their victims were wearing.

    - Victims range in age from days old to those in their nineties,
    hardly provocative dressers.


    Arizona's State Plan on Domestic and Sexual Violence

    Like domestic violence, rape is a crime of power and control. Myths
    that rape only happens to young, beautiful women wearing provocative
    clothing perpetuate the idea that rape is a crime of passion, when in
    fact all women are vulnerable to rape, regardless of age, race, class,
    education or physical appearance. Research also shows that 60-75% of
    rapes are premeditated and motivated by aggression and hatred, not

    Prevention Pathways

    Most sexual assault victims are wearing regular clothes like blue
    jeans or pajamas when they are assaulted, not provocative clothing.


    The ONLY thing that actually IS affected by the victim's dress or behavior is whether or not insensitive self-important idiots like you blame her afterwards:

    Amnesty International in a national survey

    34% believe women who flirt can be blamed if they are raped and 26%
    say if a woman is in sexy clothing she is partly to blame

    WOMEN who flirt, get drunk or wear sexy clothes are asking to be
    raped, according to a shocking new survey.

    More than a third of people - mainly males - believe girls trying to
    chat up men are partially or totally responsible for being attacked.

    A quarter reckon a woman wearing a provocative outfit is at least
    partly to blame - especially if she has been drinking.

    One in 12 thinks she is a natural target if she has had a number of
    sexual partners.

    And a third believe she is responsible to some degree if she has
    clearly failed to say No.

    The disturbing attitudes towards rape and rape victims were uncovered
    by Amnesty International in a national survey to promote its Stop
    Violence Against Women campaign.

  70. #70

    Great article. As an aside, I find the "bad neighborhood" analogy to be very telling - though doubtless unintentionally. It's nothing short of an admission that we live in a rape culture. What this analogy says is that the whole world is a "bad neighborhood" as far as rape is concerned. Makes you wonder what the person making this analogy will say if confronted with this argument...

  71. wrongsideofthetracks


    A short skirt increases both chances of receiving unwanted sexual attention and the chances of being not believed should something bad happen.

    I am not telling anyone how to live their life. That is up to each individual. But I refuse to pretend there is no such thing as risky behavior when it comes to rape or any other type of potential crime. I truly wish I had your luxuries while growing up. I survived with practicality, not political stances. If you were born into my life you would have been either a constant victim or dead by now.

    "Most convicted rapists do not remember what their victims were wearing."

    Only about 6% of rapists ever serve a day in jail… so can you tell me what the other 94% of rapists were NOT convicted actually remember?

    "Victims range in age from days old to those in their nineties"

    Yup, but 35% were between 18 and 24 and 75% between 16 and 39. Seems like plenty of opportunity for “provocative dress” and other risky behaviors in that group.

    "rape is a crime of power and control."

    “Rape is a crime of power and control” is a political statement, not a fact.
    Most crimes occur for varied reasons. People kill for…

    1. Hate
    2. Revenge
    3. Greed
    4. Opportunity
    5. Enjoyment
    6. Peer Pressure
    7. Jealousy

    People also rape for many of those same reasons.

    For the record I am not a “rape apologist”, but it is obvious that you are a “risk denialist” Women can and should take reasonable precautions to cut their risk and are foolish if they engage in activities that enhance that risk.

    P.S. I grew up with a guy who was/is? a career criminal. Often times he would decide to steal a purse from a woman in heels, because in his words” they have a hard time running away or after you.” Go figure! And thank god he never ran into Feministbitch on Halloween. As I remember he never had nearly the self control of the men in New York.

  72. #72

    We're not saying that taking precautions to keep yourself safe is inherently a bad thing. We're saying that the "advice" given to women about rape prevention goes FAR beyond the level of "reasonable precautions," especially since many of behaviors women are told to avoid in order to "not get themselves raped" are the exact same behaviors that are practically mandated in order to be deemed sufficiently feminine. (Amanda says it much more eloquently than I just did.) Is it bad to say that women should take the same precautions men do in order to make them more difficult targets for criminals? I don't think so. But the second you start talking about how women should be MORE careful than men, and start laying all sorts of restrictions on women's behavior that you'd never dream of laying on men...that's when it becomes a problem. I've never heard of a (straight, cisgendered) man being warned to not dress a certain way lest he become the victim of a crime. It's extremely rare for a man to be warned not to drink in order to keep himself safe from crime. I've never once heard the whole "watch your drink" thing directed at men, either. In short...try to understand the difference between taking reasonable precautions in order to keep yourself safe and the no-win situation that women are placed in. It's a big difference.
    Besides, context has a lot to do with it, too. I can't speak for anyone else, but I'm really not offended when someone tells me that wearing heels puts a woman at greater risk because it limits her ability to run away...but I'm terribly offended if someone says those same heels are a risk factor for any reason related to sex appeal.
    And I'll reiterate a point that's been made a lot of times already: All of the "rape prevention" behaviors in the world wouldn't do anything to protect against the vast majority of rapes, where the victim is a child and/or the rapist is an acquaintance--even a significant other, a spouse, a family member, or a close friend.

  73. #73

    Bravo, LSP, for eloquently and patiently repeating what needs to be said here.

    I'm regularly amazed at how blinkered so many people can be, especially those that try to undermine feminism by blaming it for the things it opposes. Head-shakingly absurd and if it weren't so damn depressing and common it'd be funny.

  74. #74

    "I am not telling anyone how to live their life. That is up to each individual. But I refuse to pretend there is no such thing as risky behavior when it comes to rape or any other type of potential crime."

    So if someone steals your car, I lack sympathy and the blame is on you. For owning a car, obviously. You ran the risk, you're partly to blame.

    Women are not chosen as victims of rape because they wear provocative clothing, just as men that are raped aren't doing so either. You're holding the victim partly responsible for the crime, and not only does it make you look a HUGE prick, but it's intellectually indefensible in any way. Pretending otherwise doesn't make it so.

    "I truly wish I had your luxuries while growing up. I survived with practicality, not political stances. If you were born into my life you would have been either a constant victim or dead by now."

    Internet Tough Guy. Dick-measuring on the web. Laughable and pathetic.

    "“Most convicted rapists do not remember what their victims were wearing.”

    Only about 6% of rapists ever serve a day in jail… so can you tell me what the other 94% of rapists were NOT convicted actually remember?"

    I don't think a lack of data means what you think it means.

    And even IF the non-convicted 94% remember when their victims were wearing (a BIG if), it only shows that stalking and assaulting a person makes you very observant about your victim. Which is to be expected from someone who is setting out to rape someone, I would assume.

    "“Victims range in age from days old to those in their nineties”

    Yup, but 35% were between 18 and 24 and 75% between 16 and 39. Seems like plenty of opportunity for “provocative dress” and other risky behaviors in that group."

    Again, data without context means fuck all, and making such assumptions is intellectually dishonest at best. "It's not that we live in a society the expects women to be weak, acquiescent sexual objects and encourage men to take advantage of them; it's the miniskirts!" Your ignorance boggles the fucking mind, I swear.

    "For the record I am not a “rape apologist”"

    Like when someone prefaces a comment with "I'm not a racist, but..." you make it blindingly obvious what you are with this simple statement.

    Now fuck off back under the rock you crawled out from.

  75. #75

    I got mugged. In my neighborhood. And, depending on who you ask, it's either a good neighborhood or a bad neighborhood. Wearing a short skirt does not entitle another person anything. Walking down a street does not entitle another person anything.

    I fucking hate Americans sometimes.

  76. wrongsideofthetracks

    “We’re not saying that taking precautions to keep yourself safe is inherently a bad thing. We’re saying that the “advice” given to women about rape prevention goes FAR beyond the level of “reasonable precautions”

    Since even the “short too skirt” example (Amanda’s choice) caused so much denial, pardon me if I don’t believe you know what a “reasonable precaution” is. Check out what the “sufficiently feminine” means to a FeministBitch…“The outfit involved thigh-high boots and a leotard. Pretty sexy business…I’m sure I inspired some sexual desire that night” I had no idea such outfits are mandated for the women of New York.

    “But the second you start talking about how women should be MORE careful than men, and start laying all sorts of restrictions on women’s behavior that you’d never dream of laying on men…that’s when it becomes a problem. I’ve never heard of a (straight, cisgendered) man being warned to not dress a certain way lest he become the victim of a crime.”

    Lol. Do you know any men? Growing up we avoided certain athletic wear and colors because of gangs. Most of my adult peer group is careful of the jerseys we wear during football season. We choose attire that makes us fit in rather than be a target. We travel in packs often and drink with” buddies” for safety as well as camaraderie. We are aware that metrosexual attire can get you gay bashed.

    And so you can understand the rule of “MORE” careful…

    Minors > Adults
    Woman > Man
    Solo > Group
    Unarmed > Armed

    Women are weaker than men on average. Deal with it.

    “And I’ll reiterate a point that’s been made a lot of times already: All of the “rape prevention” behaviors in the world wouldn’t do anything to protect against the vast majority of rapes, where the victim is a child and/or the rapist is an acquaintance–even a significant other, a spouse, a family member, or a close friend.”

    Well, I’ll reiterate that this thread is about assault and WOMEN… ie adult females.
    And ask once again, what percentage reduction would be good enough for you to actually start listening to prevention techniques? Because the “vast majority” threshold you wish to set is absurd. If you could cut 10% of breast cancer incidents by changing certain eating behaviors I’m sure you would.

  77. #77

    hi, I'm new here and was thoroughly impressed by your article. I also like how the discussion (which at times was incredibly obtuse) has continued to use analogies. To me, this indicates just how traumatic rape is even to imagine that we continue to use analogies to talk about it. Analogies can be double-edged sword though and can easily obscure the issues.

    For example, the "leaving your house door unlocked" one. You might be able to argue (just might) that if you left your front door wide open exposing all the desirable things you have in your house, this may be construed as an invitation for someone to come in and help themselves to your TV, for example. If this someone also happened to be your friend/relative/acquaintance (as most rape perpetrators are), they may even be able to write it off as a misunderstanding (but I thought you said i could borrow your TV). This is if you see rape as stealing. And wearing a skirt as "putting goods on display".
    However, if someone (complete stranger or most intimate friend) were to walk in through your wide-open front door and assault you, your wide-open front door (short skirt) would never be considered a mitigating circumstance. If you invited your friend/new next-door neighbour/cable guy into your kitchen for coffee and were assaulted, your friendly behaviour (flirting) would never be considered a mitigating circumstance.

    Also, I thought the discussion about "rape being a form of sex" was ridiculous. I can just see the new dictionary entry for sex: sexual intercourse, also rape. or even worse, a dictionary entry for rape: see sex. (If you can't see why that's wrong, I'm not even going to try to explain it.)

    Last but not least, about the "short skirt". Even if this were a valid, not to mention effective, way to prevent rape, where would you draw the line? At the knee? At the ankle? Or at the burka? One of the main arguments used to support imposing a dress code on women in Afghanistan, Iran and such is that it prevents rape.

  78. #78

    Saying Rape isn't a sexual act is the most ridiculous thing I've ever read. It is in in its very nature an act involving sexual organs that sure looks an awful lot like intercourse. The whole debate about whether rape is sex is such a distraction to the matter at hand that I can't believe you guys are mincing words over it, but then again, look at me go. There is a reason it is called sexual violence. SEXual violence. I'm sorry, but if a male sex organ enters a female sex organ, that's sex. It has absolutely nothing to do with whether it was forced. No one in their right mind would say "they had sex" when someone was raped because even though rape is a sexual act when you you say someone had sex it SOUNDS consensual even though that may or may not be true. The term having sex doesn't imply consent at all, it's merely a description of the most basic mechanics of the act. That's it. To assign any other meaning is to misunderstand the word. You can have sex without it being rape, but you can't be raped without having sex. At least not in the classic sense of rape.

  79. wrongsideofthetracks


    I assume the last paragraph was addressed to me.

    I don’t believe in imposing nor banning burqa’s, but I don’t forget that clothes send important, and/or loud messages either. Unlike the French, Muslim fundamentalists and so many people on this thread I don’t flip flop on the topic when it’s politically convenient. From an officer’s uniform, to a lab coat, to a streetwalker’s clear heels… it’s obvious that clothes, like a picture, can be worth a thousand words.

    As for provocative dress, the whole “I should be able to wear what I want, wherever I want” smells of Veruca Salt, not of civility nor common sense… nor survival.

    My opinion of skirt length... let’s play the too short game, shall we?

    If you need to keep pulling the bottom down
    If the hotel staff thinks you are there visit a “client”, not to stay
    If the valet snaps pictures when you get out of the car
    If your boyfriend says, “you aren’t wearing that out are you?”
    If men that would otherwise be reading the paper, stop to stare.
    If other women look at you with sour faces
    If Human Resources needs to call you into the office about “appropriate attire”

    You are not exercising your right to expression. You are wearing a skirt that is TOO short!

    Once again, no single technique is going to prevent every rape. Rapes happen for a variety of reasons, but any who woman deliberately communicates “Look at me. I’m sexy” ie. don’t you want to have sex with me?”, but is merely dressing/acting the part of “receptive” is increasing her chances of being in a situation where she will be taken advantage of.

    A married friend of a friend’s wife was recently assaulted by a guy she met on one of those “cheater” websites. After sexting this guy for days and having him drive several hours to meet her at a hotel, she got a sudden case of the “guilts” while making out naked in the bed with him. Obviously he wasn’t interested in stopping so late in the game since he assaulted her. The incident of course went unreported, because she felt like it was partially her fault, she would have to tell her husband, and she knew the chances of conviction were low.

  80. #80

    nTruant, although your argument that anything that involves the physical act of intercourse is "sex" whether or not it's consensual does make sense on a certain kinda answered your own doubts about our feminist definition with this phrase:

    "No one in their right mind would say “they had sex” when someone was raped"

    'Cause, you see, people say that all the time. The next 10 times you read news coverage about a rape, count how many times the word "rape" is used verses how many times they call it "forced sex" or "unwanted sex" or say something like "he had sex with her while she was unconscious." It's one of those things that you don't notice it until you notice it...but when you notice it, it'll horrify you.

    Is your argument that any event where a penis enters a vagina is technically "sex" semantically sound? Maybe. The argument can certainly be made without making you look ridiculous, at least. But it's dangerous to conflate "sex" with "rape" in language considering rape is downplayed as "sex" soooo frequently. (Also, see what LeftSidePositive said earlier about the whole "if rape is sex, and sex is good, then rape can't really be that bad" point)

  81. #81

    This issue seems to be a misunderstanding between advice relating to an unfortunate reality (that it is an irrefutable fact that women who dress in a way that confirms female stereotypes will open themselves up to stereotypically male responses, such as ogling, fantasising and at the most extreme, rape.)

    I'd assume most people who would advise a woman not to wear certain provocative dress are not intentionally applying responsibility to the woman for being raped, but are afraid that there may be men around who would commit action of an extreme male gender-type; that of a sexual predator, and rape her. It is not the fault of the woman, it is the fault of the situation that this can happen, and it is much easier to advise one person to be less of a target, than change the environment in which there may be men who would target someone in a sexual attack.

    To be honest the short skirt issue could most likely be a matter of practicality. It's much easier to rape someone who is not wearing very much than it is to rape someone who is wearing a full length coat with buttons and zips. (Please don't see that as being through personal experience :D) It's about creating barriers to what a rapist wants, rather than blaming a woman for acting like a woman.

    Anyway, both of these extreme gender roles are crimes of our society: convincing men that masculinity is synonymous with power, aggression and sexual dominance, so much so that he has the power to rape; And convincing women that femininity is synonymous with acting submissively, and dressing their bodies in a pseudo-sexually childlike way. Rape is naturally an extrapolation of these gender roles.

  82. #82

    "I’d assume most people who would advise a woman not to wear certain provocative dress are not intentionally applying responsibility to the woman for being raped"

    I get that you understand this on an intellectual level, but in practice, that's often not the way it plays out. Think about it. How many times have you heard someone look at a woman and say "look at her outfit! It's like she's asking to get raped!" How many times, after someone was raped, have you heard people say "well what did she expect, with what she was wearing?" Or women who have been raped who DO blame themselves based on what they had been wearing at the time, or who have said things like "I guess I'm partially responsible"?

    Even though there are well-meaning people who dole out the "don't dress too sexy lest you get raped" advice, who wouldn't dream of blaming the rape victim if that does end up happening...those people aren't a majority.

  83. #83

    Exactly, I'd agree with you that people saying those things are wrong in saying those things. But then those people are making reactionary statements. They are internalising and rationalising the things that they see. Something like rape seems so horrendously irrational that people try to apply some kind of rationality to it. The fact is the most visible rationality is most likely wrong. They don't want to look any deeper. They see the clothing issue and settle on that.

    Of course there are deeper issues here than just the clothing. It is an issue that shouldn't be dismissed though.

  84. #84

    Clothing has nothing to do with being raped. Neither does being flirty. There was a rash of 65+ year old women who were raped during robberies here in New York. Most psychs believe it's a power thing. Anyway women should carry pepper spray to help even out the physical power part of it. There's no telling when or where we could be sexually assaulted, or even why.

  85. #85

    and maybe people of colour should go for those skin-bleaching treatments to avoid being discriminated. Because it's so much easier to bleach the skin of a minority than it is to change the attitude of the discriminating majority.

    and that black guy walking in a white neighbourhood at night - well he was just asking to get arrested, wasn't he?

  86. #86

    Melissa wrote: I’ve never heard of a (straight, cisgendered) man being warned to not dress a certain way lest he become the victim of a crime.

    Then perhaps you have not been in any major American city, particularly not in working-class, non-white neighborhoods. It was and continues to be fairly common for boys and men in such areas to be warned against wearing certain colors, certain popular clothing, hats or shoes, or certain accessories in order to avoid being the victim of a crime.

    Even though there are well-meaning people who dole out the “don’t dress too sexy lest you get raped” advice, who wouldn’t dream of blaming the rape victim if that does end up happening…those people aren’t a majority.

    I disagree. The majority of people who make those sort of comments typically are well-meaning and as a result do not consider their comments as blaming the victim. In most instances there is no malicious intent, just a sincere (albeit occasionally distorted) belief or perspective. As Gareth said, people try to rationalize the assault and simply latch on to the most obvious (to them) "cause" that allows them to maintain their worldview. It ranges from blaming women's clothing to blaming "teh patriarchy." Of course, this type of rationalization applies to all views, so even those who object to victim-blaming can and often do distort the actual situation despite being well-meaning.

    As for the current issue of whether rape has anything to do with sex, my experience suggests that it does as there are thousands of ways to hurt people and gain power over them without involving any genitals. It is not likely just about power, but likely about the power to use someone for sex.

  87. #87

    "And when women do refrain from performing these behaviors—when they don’t shave their body hair, don’t cinch their waists and inflate their breasts, don’t teeter on high heels, don’t wear makeup, and don’t wear skirts, just like men don’t—they risk being dismissed as “abnormal” women."

    I for one can attest to the fact that even if you are always jsut seen as "one of the guys", even if you are a tomboy with no overt sexuality, even if all of your life you could care less about what anyone thinks about your personal appearance-it won't stop this kind of thing from happening to you. I was raped and molested. I've been a "tomboy" all my life. I've always been just "one of the guys", because I was raised with guys. So what's the reasoning there? Was I "asking for it", or
    bringing it upon myself just because I have a vagina?

  88. #88

    "You are not exercising your right to expression. You are wearing a skirt that is TOO short!"
    It doesn't matter. Nobody has the right to force someone else to have sex with them. I don't give a shit if the person is laying naked in your bed, if they don't want to have sex, it is not okay to have sex.

    It's basic fucking common sense. Respect and decency. If a man was wearing an outfit that made him look particularly attractive, and was provocative-would it be okay for someone to go up to him while he was alone, and fuck him? No? Then why is it suddenly okay for a man to do that to a woman?

    I'm not saying that you can't typically get a general grasp of someone's personality from the way they dress. Yes, if I saw a woman dressed like a prostitute, I would think she was a prostitute; if I saw a woman dressed like a police officer, I'd think she was a cop. What I'm saying is that it doesn't matter how they dress, no one is just allowed access to someone' body just because they are comfortable with showing it off.

  89. #89

    Even if we assume that rapist choose their victims by how sexily the woman is dressed, if I choose to not dress provocatively, it doesn't stop the rape from happening. It still assumes that rapists will rape, but shifts the predation to another woman. How can we, then, say that our rape prevention advice has been successful?

    Diana Scully interviewed a large number of convicted rapists and found that at the time of their crime most of them had recently had a fight with a woman other than their victim, their wife, mother, female boss. Rape, like lynching, is a crime designed to terrorize an entire group of people. Rapists want women to limit the scope of our behavior, and giving a woman rape prevention advice is as useless as telling a Black person in 1940's Alabama how not to get lynched, there is no way to prevent a crime that is not about you personally.

  90. wrongsidefofthetracks

    "Diana Scully interviewed a large number of convicted rapists and found that at the time of their crime most of them had recently had a fight with a woman other than their victim, their wife, mother, female boss. "

    I thought rape was about power and control, now it's about displaced revenge? Make up your mind!

    Drunk males on college campuses across America do not rape their dates because a female professor gave them a C... or to scare the "coeds" into sobriety.

  91. #91

    "I thought rape was about power and control, now it’s about displaced revenge? Make up your mind!"

    I don't believe you really can't see the connection between those things. I call bullshit.

    "Drunk males on college campuses across America do not rape their dates because a female professor gave them a C… or to scare the “coeds” into sobriety."

    Some do. Some don't. Trying to pin one single motivation on every rapist in the world is a little simplistic, don't you think?

  92. wrongsideofthetracks

    "I don’t believe you really can’t see the connection between those things. I call bullshit."

    At a certain level many things are about power and control, but that's like saying many things are made of atoms.
    If as bellacoker says, most convicted rapists attack because they got into an argument with some other female, why not say rape is about "scapegoating"?
    You call bullshit. I call politics!

    "Some do. Some don’t. Trying to pin one single motivation on every rapist in the world is a little simplistic, don’t you think?"

    It was rhetorical... and meant for Bellacoker, but I see you are starting to understand. Awesome! Human motivation is a complex issue. "Rape is about Power" is a bumper sticker not a scientific explanation.

  93. #93

    But since you seem to understand that "power" is a complex and somewhat amorphous concept, then you can probably agree that it's hardly a simplistic "bumper sticker."

    "Rape is about sex," however, has a pretty specific meaning and some pretty specific implications. Damaging and dangerous implications, I might add. This is what we're arguing against.

  94. wrongsideofthetracks

    "But since you seem to understand that “power” is a complex and somewhat amorphous concept, then you can probably agree that it’s hardly a simplistic “bumper sticker.”"

    No. Power is a simple concept. Because "power" can take different forms does not make it complex. "Rape is about power" IS simplistic, like most political bumper stickers.

    "“Rape is about sex,” however, has a pretty specific meaning and some pretty specific implications. Damaging and dangerous implications, I might add. This is what we’re arguing against."

    That rape is SOMETIMES about sex does have pretty specific meaning and some pretty specific implications.

    For one, it implies the need for legitimate discussion about drugs, arousal, physical strength, body language, romance, foreplay, sexual frustration, consent, competition, erections, teasing, winning, "women's prerogative",sexiness, porn, assertiveness, dress, and male libido is way past due.

    Secondly, it implies that if America is ever gonna reduce CERTAIN kinds of rape then we are gonna have to improve the sexual behavior and attitudes of the entire species, not just men and not just women!

    Finally, it implies that the strategy of "Rape is about power" ain't working, and it ain't gonna work.

    That you believe these implications are damaging or dangerous does not make it any less true. In the end I don't think avoiding the truth is helpful.

    You would think people that really care would be willing to listen, but unfortunately they prefer politics over results.

  95. #95

    I didn't say that rape is about displaced revenge; I said lynching in the South wasn't stopped by teaching African Americans more effective ways to avoid being lynched.

    It was stopped by non-lynchers recognizing that this was not a crime against individuals, but a way that some White people controlled the freedom of most Black people through random acts of violence. In the same way, some men control the freedom of most women through systematic acts of violence. That violence isn't sexual because the crime is about sex, it is sexual because the rapist can't think of a way to more effectively terrify and control women.

  96. #96

    That violence isn’t sexual because the crime is about sex, it is sexual because the rapist can’t think of a way to more effectively terrify and control women.

    That seems improbable, particularly given human creativity when it comes to hurting others. The main reason why the argument that rape is solely about power and specifically about controlling women is that rape is not limited to female victims. It is also not limited to adult victims or to male perpetrators. When one considers the myriad of ways in which rape occurs, it becomes far more complex than "rape is about power."

    The other issue is the phrase "rape is about power" begs the question "power to do what?" The problem with that question is that there is no easy answer. Sometimes people want power in order to protect themselves. Sometimes they want power to hurt those who hurt them. Sometimes they want power to hurt others so that others know their pain. Sometimes they want power to hurt those they hate. Sometimes they want power to force their views on others, and so on.

    However, the one thing that is clear is that those who rape must do so for a sexual reason because they could exercise power over people in many other ways. There is a specific reason why rapists choose sex as their method, and I suspect that for each person who commits rape the reason is likely unique to them.

  97. #97
  98. #98

    Rape is a horrible crime against women and what they are wearing, saying or doing has no relevance to that fact! Nobody has any right or reason to force themselves on another person!

  99. #99

    Let's get something straight here--rape isn't just about force, isn't just about attacking, isn't just about torture. There's an entire spectrum of behaviors on the rape scale from just "he didn't give her time to say yes or no" to "he did stuff so horrible I'm not gonna spell it out here for fear of triggering someone and oh, by the way, he beat the shit out of her and left her for dead, and that's not even getting into the rape-murders." To define rape as overt violence and torture in the sense of striking someone and/or causing someone deliberate pain is to minimize the other forms that rape can take.

    In my case I was drunk and so was the guy and he just sort of reached out and grabbed me. I was young, I was inexperienced at handling men, I was in a situation where I could not just pick up and go home (I was in military training in a strange town and drinking underage besides), so I felt it better to just go along. Given a clear choice I would not have had sex with him.

    I'm not angry about it now and I have no idea, 17+ years later, where I'd even begin to have him prosecuted. I don't remember his name and he was a foreigner and for all I know, he went home. But what happened that night messed up my sexuality for years while I scrambled in vain to reassert control and call my own shots. I'm lucky someone didn't rape me again, or give me HIV, or worse.

    And he never hit me, never called me nasty names and the next day, in fact, he was even sweet to me. But you better bet that as soon as he dropped me off where I wanted to go, I got the hell *out* of there and avoided him like the plague from then on out. And that took some doing because he worked at a place where I had to go to purchase personal supplies and such.

    I certainly could have avoided the incident entirely by not going along with him in the first place and especially not getting drunk. But a friend of mine who was with us (she was married and I was supposed to be her "chaperone" because all she wanted to do was drink) did the same things I did and he never laid a hand on her. To say that certain behaviors "increase the risk" is to say that behaving in certain ways sets up a powerful field of gravity around your person that FORCES a guy to rip your pants off and do things to you. That's ridiculous. For all that men keep coming up with these stupid pseudoscientific reasons why they need to be in charge of everything while women should just go home and pop out the babies, they sure are helpless in the gravity well of a skirt that is three inches too short. If it's that difficult for y'all to take some responsibility, maybe it's time the women took over. Just sayin'.

  100. #100

    awesome article.

    bottom line... whatever we wear, wherever we go, whatever we do... A rape can not and will not happen unless there is a rapist present.

  101. #101

    I think the fundamental problem with the rape myth involving short skirts is just that there is no such thing as "incitement" to rape. A person who wants to exercise control over another human being and violate him/her sexually is going to do that on the basis of opportunity, desire, and vulnerability. Also, the myth also defies data showing that most victims of rape know their attackers, most women who are raped are not women who are walking down the street scantily clad. Also, do the people who buy into the short skirt myth think that children shouldn't look so cute and rosy cheeked in order to avoid child predators? Honestly... it's the sickness of a human being who could violate another person, don't blame the victim.

    One criticism of this piece, I've never felt pressure to wear make-up or dress a certain way. The pressure on women to look unnatural isn't really relevant to your argument here, it's not representative of all women. If you're trying to say rape is unrelated to appearance, you shouldn't try to defend the way some women dress.

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