The Sexist

Vintage Victim-Blaming: Feminism Causes Rape, and Other Crime Prevention Tips

robertferryExplanations I've heard, in 2010, for why rape happens to the people it happens to: Women don't lock their doors, women wear revealing clothing, women wear sexually suggestive footwear, women take the stairs, women walk outside alone, women drink too much. What I don't generally hear stated aloud is the assumption behind most of these victim-focused approaches to ending rape: Women get raped because they go around thinking they're equal to men.

Back in 1977, though, Venice, Fla. police chief Robert Ferry was happy to spell this all out for his fellow victim-blamers, in a column about rape prevention for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The article is called "Rape Most Often Crime Opportunity," and it's all about how women "get" raped, because they're stupid like that. Also: Feminism.

He begins:

Rape is far more often a crime of opportunity than premeditation, due to the obvious physiologic involvement. Adult women are cognizant of this fact, yet allow situations of potential attack to develop, seemingly with little thought of avoidance. Why?

Translation: Even I, a man, can not begin to explain why women's brains are so feeble, causing them to get raped so much. Nevertheless, I will try.

All people, men and women alike, dress to be their most attractive. The basics of human nature demand notice, admiration, in varying degrees from those around us. But, rape victim case analyses often indicate many women go overboard in the attainment of these commonly desired goals. Example: the night worker who dresses in peekaboo blouse, see-through skirt, with accompanying cosmetic signals of unattachment, when she knows she must wait 20 minutes for her midnight bus ride home in a questionable neighborhood.

Translation: While rape case analyses always indicate that rapists "go overboard" in their attempts to forcibly rape people, it's much more fun to draw caricatures of slutty women's libbers who confuse and arouse regular Joes through their "cosmetic signals."

Don't many sexual attackers come through open windows late at night? Some do, but how would they gain entrance if common sense precautions were taken by the women alone? One woman was attacked in her third floor bedroom by a rapist who climbed up to her unscreened, open window, using a ladder from her own garage that had been left unlocked. the only way she could have made it easier would have been to leave a key in the front door lock.

Translation: I think rape victims are both dumb and easy, but I have replaced "vagina" in this sentence with "front door lock" in order to protect the delicate sensibilities of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune readership.

The "new morality" and deepening convictions about women's liberation have without doubt done much to increase the frequency of forcible rape.

Translation: Women cause rape!

Law enforcement is in agreement with women having equal rights, but we dislike seeing women place themselves in situations of high vulnerability to criminal attack, when setting out to prove they are equal.

Translation: Law enforcement officers agree that women should have the right to cause rapists to rape them.

Some common sense rules for preventing sexual attack are worthy of every woman's consideration:

- Dress for the occasion or social situation you anticipate.

Translation: Carefully plan your "cosmetic signals" to not scream "rape me!"

- Don't be 'too nice' to strangers, at your door or at social gatherings when knowing you will leave alone.

Translation: Be a bitch! Then read my follow-up column, "Why Go To A Party When You're Just Going to Be A Goddamned Bitch to Everyone?"

- Avoid flirtations, unless ready for any eventuality.

Translation: Never flirt with olde-tyme Venice, Fla. police chief Robert Ferry.

- If you live alone, list only your initials in phone directories and on mail boxes.

Translation: Don't be a woman! If you are a woman, don't let anyone know that you are a woman!

In this listing, it is not the author's intention to oversimplify by presenting only the most obvious. However, since a large percentage of sexual attacks against women involve a seeming disregard of the most common methods of prevention, it was felt utilization of limited space in this manner would hold the most potential value for all readers.

Translation: I am finally wrapping this up now, you dumb sluts.

It may come as a surprise to some that forcible rape, especially where juveniles are the victim, is all too often committed by a close family friend or relative. Baseless trust in all people known to you should not be awarded automatically, on the grounds that "nothing has ever happened before." This particularly where children are concerned.

Translation: Even if you never wear makeup, go by your initials, avoid parties, never flirt, don't take the bus, cover your body adequately, and lock your vagina, you may be raped by a close family friend or relative. This is also your fault, even if you are a child.

So. The victim-blaming "tips" I hear in 2010—all those helpful crime prevention strategies presented as "common sense" for women to follow in order to avoid rape nowadays—don't explicitly blame equality between the sexed for rape. But 33 years later, the solution for reducing sexual assaults against women hasn't changed: Tell them to stop moving about the world freely, and then blame them when they do.

  • Jess

    Honestly, even owning a ladder is really asking for it.

  • Emily H.

    "It was felt utilization of limited space in this manner would hold the most potential value for all readers." Auuggh, that sentence. When I used to teach freshman composition that's exactly how the dumbest students would write (passive voice, the word "utilize" everywhere) when they were trying to sound smart. That's how you know someone is an idiot.

    ...and damn, what an entitled attitude. This person has given exactly zero thought to how difficult it would be to go through life following all the strictures he prescribes as "common sense" for women.

  • Amanda Hess

    What I'm really confused about---AMONG OTHER THINGS---is how entering a woman's garage, retrieving her ladder, positioning it under her window, climbing up it, entering a third-floor window, and then raping a woman is explained as some sort of "physiologic" response to stimuli ostensibly offered by the woman acting too sexy in the rapist's vicinity? She was alone in her bedroom three stories up!

  • K

    "her unscreened, open window"

    Screens! That will stop them! Why haven't we thought of this before?! This man is clearly on to something.

  • kza

    @ Emily
    "When I used to teach freshman composition that’s exactly how the dumbest students would write"

    That made me crack up.

    @ Amanda

    Bring back those post where you go back and make fun of old ass newspaper that are sexist they were funny as hell.

  • цarьchitect

    Avoid flirtations, unless ready for any eventuality.

    I believe that this is the plot of the upcoming film "Killers," starring Ashton Kutcher as either a CIA agent or a rapist. Not sure, though, but anything could happen.

  • PD

    Man, and to think I've been leaving my ladder collection just frigging propped right up against the side of my house! Basically, I've been doing everything wrong! Clearly the only reason I've avoided being raped thus far is because I'm completely undesirable as a woman! Thank you for clearing that up for me, old-timey Venice, FL police chief Robert Ferry!

  • Saurs

    I love this post so hard.

    "accompanying cosmetic signals of unattachment"

    So I guess chicks who wear wedding rings (or promise rings, or friendship bracelets, or those little Chladaigh rings people used to trade one another in the fifth grade) are never raped. Maybe by their husbands, but all other dudes know to back off, this lady is owned by somebody who might get angry with you!

    Depressing how marriage is marketed as a thing every sensible woman needs to enter into in order to avoid bad things that apparently only befall single women -- childlessness, spinsterhood, owning too many cats, rape, murder, affronts to one's honor. The whole fucking world is far too heavily invested in getting dudes laid and getting them wives, particularly by convincing women that sex with dudes is fun (generally not) and that marriage is a legitimate livelihood.

    "Law enforcement is in agreement with women having equal rights, but we dislike seeing women place themselves in situations of high vulnerability to criminal attack, when setting out to prove they are equal."

    Where "setting out to prove [one is] equal" = being alive.

  • Acebojangles

    Kind of a waste of an article. Why bother satirizing this document? It's not ridiculous enough for you?

    Making an already ridiculous document more ridiculous doesn't say anything worth reading.

  • Shinobi

    It's funny because I didn't read the intro very closely and then I thought you were satirizing a brand new blog post I read last week.

    It's funny because it is not.

  • kza

    What a waste of a comment on a waste of a blog post. It's like Baba O'Reilly but with a blog instead of teenagers.

  • groggette

    sex with dudes is fun (generally not)

    Hey now! I know I can't be the only one who legitimately enjoys sex with men.

    But then I also think being a childless spinster cat lady is a viable career and I'm already 3 for 3 before 30.

  • Saurs

    @ Hess, in #3

    I guess he's suggesting men can't plan their boners, they just sort of happen (generally the fault of the nearest woman / animal)?

    I'd love to go back to '77 and explain to Ferry that a lot dudes totally plan when they're going to masturbate. I schedule my masturbation around interesting t.v. all the time, although since I'm a woman, my masturbation routine probably involves icky stuff, like fluffy bunnies and chocolate, or summat.

    Anyway, that's all by the by, because rape so often is about revenge, anger, and frustration. John Gardner, local rapist heartthrob of the moment, claims he raped two young women at gunpoint and then murdered them because he was angry at the world and "hurt the wrong people." Local television reporters have feebly tried to translate that non-sequitur into a Freudian complex re Gardner's mother (who has also been blamed by the young women's parents, for reasons unknown*). Witty liberal dudes had, like, a year-long hard-on in 2008 over the prospect of "punishing" Sarah Palin with rape. Pr0n is rife with revenge rapes, revenge fucks, sports fucks, all of which are about, in addition to inspiring seriously creepy boners, shaming and defiling women who've been "bad."

    Meanwhile, Ferry, in a bit Amanda has not commented on, ends his victim-blaming tirade with a warning to women and children who have been raped that if they don't come forward, they should take responsibility for the women their rapists will attack in the future. Even though, like, Ferry has just gotten through saying they're responsible, anyway, 'cos they're fucking ladder-owning, cleavage-sporting, feminazi whores who shouldn't have been walking around in that kind of neighborhood, anyway! Classic bullshit.

    *Not actually unknown. Moms, wives, the nearest chick around are always to blame when dudes freak out under the patriarchy. They weren't nurturing enough! They dumped me! She cheated on him! Filthy, filthy, selfish women, allowing their male relatives to go off and commit these terrible travesties.

  • kza

    "Hey now! I know I can’t be the only one who legitimately enjoys sex with men."

    Google gay if you want to see some people who also love men. Hard.

  • Jeannette

    I, too, love this post so hard. Articles like this one provide the basis for the thinly-veiled victim blaming still prevalent today, so I think it's totally relevant (and cathartic!) to rip these notions to shreds with our wit.

  • Saurs

    groggette: that's definitely my extremely limited personal experience there, talking.

    personal shit
    Sex with dudes is fine, and some are even pretty good at it and do not at all approach the task at hand as though their penis is supposed to be trying to kill whatever lady they happen to be with (if they happen to be with a lady, that is), but, I don't know, really. I'm fairly comfortable stating that most men harbor fairly banal and, in this culture, commonplace misogynistic feelings and attitudes and are, therefore, probably not any good in bed, because they think women (or anyone else with them, for that matter) are sex-toys, because they don't understand that women enjoy sex, or because they enjoy taking out their aggression on women through physical pain or emotional manipulation and control. I dated a radfem dude for a while whose entire repertoire was what, in our seriously pornified culture, is considered sissy foreplay -- kissing, sucking, tickling, hugging, snuggling, touching, teasing kind of sex. It was, genuinely, a grand fucking time and totally fun and exhilarating, and the only other people I've personally known who engage in that kind of reciprocal sex (not simply as an overture to penetration, p-i-v or otherwise) have been women. Not that every woman is completely invested in a mutually satisfying experience, but few men socialized in patriarchy grow up to realize, fully and completely, that women want to have a good time to if they decide to sleep with you, and, of course, what a "good time" constitutes in the first place.
    /personal shit

    And groggette? If you like cats, try throwing a couple of rats in there, as well. Being a crazy rat lady has served me well for nearly three decades, and I highly recommend it.

  • WowSeriously?

    "It’s funny because it is not."

    You don't put much thought into things before you do them, do you?

  • kza

    I think that most girls don't let guys know what feels good and I'm not sure how else they're supposed to know.

  • squirrely girl

    kza - i think a lot of women don't let guys know what feels good because they've been socialized to not talk about sex, they don't want to hurt his feelings, and/or because they don't actually know what feels good because they have so little experience with deriving pleasure from their sexual organs... just a few thoughts

  • kza

    @ squirrely

    Probably true. I don't think I had really enjoyable sex with anyone until we communicated about it openly. It actually be in mens interests to facilitate more open talk about sex between men an women. I'm much happier not acting like a fucking jack hammer on top in bed. Speak up!

  • K

    I totally agree that most girls (in this case I literally mean, young girls who are still new at sex) have been taught that being vocal about their sexual needs is "slutty" and that things will "just happen" if they wait long enough. Those teen dramas drive me crazy with the classic scene of the door closing and the girl all dewy-eyed the next day saying "it was perfect!" NO IT WAS NOT! Sex with virgins BLOWS! I know, I've got two V-cards.

    For me, personally, I really did think that female orgasms were something incredibly rare and difficult to achieve (re: that scene in Mallrats where they look at the camera and assert that the female orgasm is "imaginary", that time my animal behavior prof likened a certain physiological response to "the male orgasm" because women, like, totally don't have those, etc, etc) All this despite the fact that I was a regular masturbator from the age of 12.

    However! In my experience, this reticence to be communicative during sex evaporates pretty quickly after you achieve orgasm with another person for the first time. And for the record, I'd also like to say that every guy I've been with since college has been very concerned that I get off, often and thoroughly, before they do. (Except one, who came in 10 minutes and then fell asleep. I did not call him again.) The guy I'm with now often *can't* get off unless I do. In conclusion, sex with men is great! But practice makes perfect.

  • Mandy

    He also suggests that women traveling the highways alone not stop roadside to rest unless at an official reststop. Because nothing bad ever happens there.

    I particularly enjoyed his assertion that women who do not report being easy sluts, I mean, being raped, do an injustice to other rape victims AND THE RAPIST. What a burden, being a rapist and not being reported. And shouldn't rape victims stop being so self-involved and think of their rapist's well-being? And why wouldn't a woman who has just been violated this way not want to report it, with compassionate, progressive-minded people like Capt. Ferry at the helm?

    Also, this is the 9th in a 13 part series? I wonder how many robbery and burglary victims are responsible for their own victimizations. Is it all victims or just rape victims that are too stupid to live?

  • Mandy

    Oh, and I have one of those "little giant" ladders that extends and folds in, like, 75 ways. Somehow, I feel that would make me even more responsible for my own rape.

  • Amanda Sullivan

    Loved it. Laughed out loud at the incomprehensible - now sharing.

  • Amanda Sullivan

    oh and this is my favorite:
    “Why Go To A Party When You’re Just Going to Be A Goddamned Bitch to Everyone?”

  • groggette

    I actually used to have a couple pet rats in high school. Those guys were awesome! I'm a little too lazy right now to deal with more than my current 2 cats but I wouldn't be suprised if I end up with rats again sometime in the future.

    Re: sex with men
    I definitely get where you're coming from on that, I just hate all absolutes (see what I did there?), especially when it comes to my beloved sex. My experience is much more in line with K's but I still suffer from the dreaded bad sex from time to time as well.
    So in conclusion: Sex is great! Sometimes. Also, sex sucks! Sometimes.

  • Jess

    Meanwhile, Ferry, in a bit Amanda has not commented on, ends his victim-blaming tirade with a warning to women and children who have been raped that if they don’t come forward, they should take responsibility for the women their rapists will attack in the future.

    Like Linda Hirschman!

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  • Saurs

    groggette: definitely. I suppose I've been spoilt by radfem websites where we don't, every five seconds, have to remind other readers that we're not talking about all men, just some men, but you're absolutely correct. Sex with .01% of dudes is probably always awesome, all the time. In all other scenarios, like anything else, it's a case by case sort of deal.

  • Melissa

    The scariest thing is just how much this sounds like EXACTLY THE SAME STUFF we're hearing every other week even now. If you had said that this was written in 2010, not 1971 or whatever it was, I would have believed it.

  • Cassandra

    This is a list of how to avoid raping someone, from Bust Magazine.

    Sexual Assault Prevention Tips Guaranteed to Work!
    1. Don’t put drugs in people’s drinks in order to control their behavior.
    2. When you see someone walking by themselves, leave them alone!
    3. If you pull over to help someone with car problems, remember not to assault them!
    4. NEVER open an unlocked door or window uninvited.
    5. If you are in an elevator and someone else gets in, DON’T ASSAULT THEM!
    6. Remember, people go to laundry to do their laundry, do not attempt to molest someone who is alone in a laundry room.
    7. USE THE BUDDY SYSTEM! If you are not able to stop yourself from assaulting people, ask a friend to stay with you while you are in public.
    8. Always be honest with people! Don’t pretend to be a caring friend in order to gain the trust of someone you want to assault. Consider telling them you plan to assault them. If you don’t communicate your intentions, the other person may take that as a sign that you do not plan to rape them.
    9. Don’t forget: you can’t have sex with someone unless they are awake!
    10. Carry a whistle! If you are worried you might assault someone “on accident” you can hand it to the person you are with, so they can blow it if you do.

  • Jessica

    This actually is how most men think about rape, even those who "respect" women. That's not to say all men think this way, but many , many men defend this kind of approach to preventing rape. That it must be the woman's fault, and definitely not the rapists. The only times rape even makes the news is when it's a pretty blonde girl, or a child under 12. Considering 1 in 6 women are raped in this country, and considering the amount of coverage rape receives, there is no way in hell that the news actually reports about the real rape in this country, the everyday rape that is still an issue in this country. I just hope that the women who fight for our rights and fight against stereotypes and especially victim-blaming, will be able to come out on top in the end and be able to expose victim-blaming and male privilege beliefs for that they are: a degrading mind-frame towards women that defines a woman as something to be used at their will, for their pleasure, and whatever else they deem fit for us to do besides getting their rocks off however they like and never reciprocating and expecting the woman to do whatever they ask, please them, and stay faithful, while they continue to live their lives constantly blaming and underming women for incredulous and insanely unjust reasons.