A Lady’s Guide to Precautions

There is a certain argument that pops up a lot of the time when a news story comes out about a woman being assaulted. The media has a tendency to judge whatever activity she was engaged in when the assault occurred, and based on the merits of that activity, decided whether or not she deserved to be assaulted. For instance, Lauren Spierer was a 20-year-old woman who disappeared from Bloomington, IN in 2011. The night of her disappearance, she had been drinking at a bar with friends. Because she had been engaged in something illegal that night, many people, either directly or inadvertently, put the blame on Lauren for this turn of events. If she hadn’t been drinking with people she didn’t know, they said, she might not have vanished.

The same arguments cropped up during the Steubenville rape trial. The girl in question was drinking underage with a bunch of boys she didn’t know very well. If she hadn’t taken those actions, it was stated, they would not have been able to take advantage of her.

The victim-blaming side of this particular coin is obviously problematic. It should be no secret by now that bad people are always out there, and even if you spend your entire life locked away in a castle’s highest tower, you may come into contact with them. Our choices as women are not ever to blame for rape or abductions. Rapists are the only ones to blame. Nobody ever “deserves” to be raped, no matter how foolishly they were acting. Stupidity, in fact, is not a crime, nor is it even a moral conundrum. Even people with no common sense deserve to be protected and defended. (In no way am I saying that a woman who goes out drinking with people she doesn’t know is stupid – I am merely stating that there are innately unintelligent people out there, and they deserve as much respect as anyone else.)

However, the other side of this coin is an even blearier lens through which to look at this issue. This is the side that pronounces that we as women should not have to take precautions against assault because sexual assault is not our fault. Let me be clear: This is absolutely true. We should not HAVE to take precautions. In an ideal world, we would not have to take them. But people seem to be under the impression that because rape is bad, we should ignore the fact that it exists and cease all conversation on it.

The fact is, there are rapists in the world. There shouldn’t be. But there are. They are fucked up human beings and they should be in jail. But they’re not. And I personally am not going to stick my head in the sand and pretend otherwise. I know I have the right to wear short skirts in public. I know I have the right to let a stranger buy me a drink. I also don’t want to be assaulted. So there are certain things I do that I believe are small ways to keep yourself a little bit safer.

I’m not saying you are a bad person if you don’t do these things. If you never do any of these things, you are still a good person and don’t deserve to be raped or blamed for your assault. These are merely helpful hints to use when you are out with people you don’t know. Take your safety into your own hands. Don’t depend on rapists to not be fucked up monsters.

Instead of saying “you shouldn’t” or “don’t,” I’m going to phrase these as suggestions based around what I like to do. To be clear: Take my advice or don’t. You are entitled to structure your night out however you want.

sneakers

1) I like to keep a few choice objects in my bag when I go out, including my cell phone, a nail file (excellent weapon) and a pair of extra shoes if I am wearing heels. If I need to walk somewhere in a hurry, sneakers are probably going to be more comfortable.

cell

2) I never let my cell phone die. If you feel uncomfortable somewhere and need to be picked up, you need to be able to contact a friend. If something happens to you, you need to be able to dial 911. Having a dead cell phone in this day and age is  the 21st century equivalent of your plane crashing in the forest and having nothing to start a fire with. Similarly, I memorize at least a couple of important phone numbers. If I lose my phone, I’ll still be able to contact my mom, Domino’s pizza, and your mom. BOOM!

Man and woman at a bar-1493046

3) It’s best not to leave a bar or any other place with a guy (or girl) without telling at least one friend your date’s name and where you are going with them. And if your friend is leaving with someone, be a creepy stalker. Get their name and address, preferably straight off their license. Who cares if you seem weird? It’s all in the name of having a great, safe night out.

alone

4) Ideally, I don’t go out alone. Partying is usually more fun with some friends anyway, so the more the merrier. When you’re heading home, you could try to surround yourself with other people; take a taxi or a bus, not the darkest alleys you can find. If you see a policeman or other public service figure, take note of their location and make sure they notice you. They could come in handy.

jail

5) Take this with a grain of salt, but: don’t do illegal things. I fully support the notion that sometimes, life is just better on the wild side, but if you are lighting a nursing home on fire with your street gang – that’s right, you still don’t deserve to be raped. But the circumstances will be muddled due to the fact that no one involved is going to be honest about where you were or what was happening. People may not be willing to incriminate themselves to defend your story, so often it’s best to just avoid doing stuff that you’re aware is wrong and shitty to do.

Once again: even if you go out alone and completely naked with a stranger, unarmed, with a dead cell phone, you don’t deserve for anything bad to happen, nor should you be planning on it as a default. It is very important to emphasize that sexual (or any other) assault will never be okay, no matter how romanticized or mainstream it becomes. But look at it this way: A group of Boy Scouts does not plan on being mauled by bears when they go camping, nor do they deserve that kind of fate. But neither of those facts will stop it from happening, because bears are stupid, violent creatures, especially after a couple of Natty Lites. That’s why the Boy Scouts are always prepared with a clear head, quick action and some bear mace.

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8 comments

  1. Your post makes the distinction between causal responsibility, and moral responsibility, that is “You need not accept moral judgment for having been accepted but your choices placed you in a position where such an event has the possibility of increasing it’s statistical likelihood”. I have heard feminists claim that this argument is a rape apologetic. How would you respond to this charge, were it levelled at you?

    1. Excellent question! I would respond that rape apologists argue that the person was somehow “asking for it,” which is semantically impossible since rape is, by its very definition, non-consensual. I would then point to the first 632 words of this post, which state ad nauseum that I do not believe that rape is anyone’s fault but the rapist.

  2. Incidentally, my previous comment read “for having been accepted” where it should have read “for having been assaulted”. I was clumsy with my spell-checker.

    I have an issue with your argument. I do agree with it, but viewed from the perspective of persuasion I think that it fails to address an essential fact: that the arguments promulgated by feminists are themselves apologetics for their ideology, and that as per habit, they accuse those who counter them as being apologists, that is: they project. So when responding to nonsense with sense, the argument will fail to persuade those who don’t cleave to reason.

    One of the blogs that I frequently read, only due to it’s ranking is “FinallyFeminism101”, which is notable for attempting and failing to make sense of the nonsensical. The author claims that endorsing the prevention of rape is a example of a rape apologetic:

    […] a rape apology is any argument that boils down to the myth that rapists can be provoked into raping by what the victim does or does not do.

    Such apologies feed off the old myth that rapists have no control over the sexual temptation they experience in response to the victim, therefore the victim could have avoided awakening the irresistible rape temptation by behaving differently. It’s classic victim-blaming.

    Most people who make such arguments are not consciously intending to defend rapists. They are simply repeating arguments they have heard before and haven’t fully examined.
    https://finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com/2008/01/22/feed-the-faq-rape-apologist-definitions-clarifications-and-links/

    Note that by this definition that you (we) are absolved of ill-intent of the so-called apologetic, and simply relegated to being either a fool or a dupe.

    She then follows up with this counter-argument:

    FAQ: What’s wrong with suggesting that women take precautions to prevent being raped?

    Short answer: Because it puts the onus on women not to get themselves raped, rather than on men not to do the raping; in short, it blames the victim.

    http://finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com/2007/03/15/faq-what%E2%80%99s-wrong-with-suggesting-that-women-take-precautions-to-prevent-being-raped/

    I could, and probably will when inspired and energetic put these though the meat grinder, but I’d like to know your thoughts on the matter.

    1. Actually, you’ve alerted me to a major inconsistency in my article, which is that most of my “tips” are not related to prevention; they are related to handling a situation that has already occurred. For the fact is, there is no one magic key to preventing an assault. It often comes down to complete chance. Someone carrying a katana and wearing cleats is just as possible to be chosen as a target by a psychopath as someone with one leg whose BAC is .3.

      However, consider this analogy:

      People often put security on their house: locking their doors, having an alarm system, getting a dog. People who do these things are protecting themselves more efficiently than those who leave their front door open when they leave the house. Since theft is a less personal issue than assault, we have no problem telling that person they could have been more careful. They weren’t asking to be burglarized, but they did not use all the tools available to them for the purpose of their safety.

      My article is more akin to installing security cameras. Cameras won’t prevent someone from entering your house without your permission. But they can help bring justice after the fact.

  3. Good catch, I missed that as well.

    I also have used the lock and key analogy. The typical counter-response is “…but that we need to protect ourselves [women from rape] to begin with is an indicator of cultural and institutional misogyny, so not only are you blaming the victim, but you are proving Patriarchy!”.

    I’ve found a very simple way to counter this, which is to go for the argument’s jugular: “Are you claiming that being born into a female body justifies the revocation of your adult human responsibility for your own safety?”

    What makes feminism particularly pernicious is that most of it’s apologetic rely on presuppositional framing. I’ve found that if you start with the assumption that the individual you are speaking to is a mature, self-responsible adult who owes duties as well as enjoying benefits, and you lock into that frame, most feminist arguments crumble.

    1. I don’t consider feminism to be an argument, more of a philosophy.

      But just because I’ve posted this article on a website that I write for female readers doesn’t mean it’s necessarily feminist, either! After all, men are sexually assaulted, too. Being born into any body comes with a natural instinct to protect and defend that body. That’s all I was trying to get across.

      1. > I don’t consider feminism to be an argument, more of a philosophy.

        I agree. Feminism is a collection of movements and ideologies that use arguments. If I bring it up, it is that it is currently an area that has my attention at the moment.

        > But just because I’ve posted this article on a website that I write for female readers doesn’t mean it’s necessarily feminist, either!

        Yes, I also agree. You were discussing what I call The Locked Door argument, which is one that is making the rounds right now, especially among, but not exclusive to, feminists. I did not take you for a feminist for a simple reason: your article promotes personal responsibility of the individual. Mainstream or Radical Feminists do not.

        > After all, men are sexually assaulted, too. Being born into any body comes with a natural instinct to protect and defend that body. That’s all I was trying to get across.

        And I think you hit the nail on the head. We’re in agreement. To be honest, I find it refreshing. Plus I think that you write well; not only do your articles flow well, but you’re clever with words. Cleverness always adds a bright spot to my day.

  4. […] her article A Lady’s Guide to Precautions, Alge […]

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