Ned Williams is still confused about why I think Kay Brooks is being heartless and ridiculous and victim-blaming. He says
But I’m still having trouble understanding your point about not being able to prevent rapes, as if any efforts to avoid being a victim represent a concession to rapists or are not wasted effort. I don’t think that’s true, and I think it can be deterred. I think that rapists are as cowardly and self-preserving as any other perpetrator (perhaps they are the worst), and I think they can be deterred.
And I’m bringing this up again because I want to be absolutely clear, plus discussing it over at Say Uncle’s after I was no longer blinded by rage helped me shape my position into a good analogy.
Before we get to that, though, I want to ask Ned and all of you who are still “Well, why can’t we just say that she shouldn’t have been in the park?” to answer this question.
Let’s just say, hypothetically, that you were at the State Capitol and you were going to Germantown. It’s the middle of the night. You think you’re the only person on the street, but a creepy guy comes out from behind the Supreme Court building and asks you for a light. You find him very creepy. He walks off, seemingly towards 8th Avenue, which is a fairly busy street, and the only busy street that goes from you and Germantown.
You want to avoid him. And you want to stay safe. But you also don’t want to seem like a paranoid freak. Does cutting through the park really seem like your worst option?
See, here’s the point I’m trying to make. There is nothing a person can do to 100% avoid being raped. There are things you can do to lessen your odds of being raped, but that’s all you’re doing–playing the odds. And often, no matter how prepared you are, no matter how sounds your judgment has been, bad things still happen.
Because victims are not in control of the situation and even when you try to do what seems like the best thing, bad shit can still happen to you.
Over at Say Uncle’s, I likened it to Poker–a poker game you have no choice but to play. Yes, skill is useful. Yes, knowing how to read people is useful. Maybe you don’t want to play at a table with folks who are out of your league, but, if you don’t, how do you learn?
But here’s my point: Sometimes, no matter how good you are, you get dealt a shitty hand. And no one in their right mind would go up to a poker player who had an ace, king, queen, and jack, all spades, and an eight of diamonds and start berating him about all the ways he fucked up because the dealer didn’t throw him a ten of spades. That’s just the luck of the draw.
Here’s the other thing. We can prevent rapes. But not with magical thinking like “I’ll just stay out of the park!” We can prevent and reduce rapes by teaching boys and men that it’s a bullshit cop-out way of being in the world, going around just doing what you want to people without consideration of their feelings. But that has to be a constant and ongoing message and it has to be coupled with a specific message about sex, which is that it’s no good unless everyone is game.
And putting any of the responsibility on the victims is just bullshit. I mean, please. Why are we even talking about tapdancing around putting responsibility where it lies? Is there something particularly scary or hard about saying, “Folks, do not go around raping other people. It’s evil to force yourself on others”?
Why are we letting rapists off the hook, even a little bit?