"Schrödinger’s Rapist"

"When you approach me in public, you are Schrödinger’s Rapist. You may or may not be a man who would commit rape."

I think what I got out of the post, which is pretty much summed up by the above quote, was best described in the comments- "this post is not an instruction manual to women on why they should regard every man as a rapist; it’s a rejoinder to the scads of men who think women owe them conversation just by being in public." Which is something I can agree with. I definitely see a lot of men day to day who believe that women ought to positively respond to their interactions, and get pissy when women don't play ball with male privilege. And yes, there is a good possibility that every day I'm brushing shoulders with a guy who can and will commit rape or a form of sexual assault.

However, I also had three big problems with the rest of the entry, as much as I liked that quote.

1) My #1 issue was also summed up in the comments quite well- "You know, if you replace “man” with “young black male”, and “rapist” with “mugger”, and substitute the appropriate statistics, you’ve got yourself an argument you’d see on Stormfront. Is it OK for me to go with “Schrodinger’s mugger” and assume that any young black guy I see on the subway is a mugger until I know otherwise? Because assuming that any man could be a rapist is about the same mentality."

This hit the nail right on the head with what made me recoil from this post.

I think the point about Schrödinger’s Rapist is a good one. You don't really know one way or the other, and have to be prepared for both possibilities. I think fear is a reasonable response. I don't think I would want to take it as my own, however.

People make good points about the rapist situation being the oppressor scaring on the oppressed, instead of the mugger situation, which is the oppressed scaring the oppressor, btw, so I know it's not an altogether well-constructed argument, but anyway...

While I know that the men I walk past day to day could be rapists, I am not terribly fearful about that. I walk on my own late at night. I respond politely and succinctly to comments on public transit when asked polite questions, and am excellent at making my boundaries clear. I walk with my head high, alert, but not on guard. I would say I act in awareness, risk assessed awareness, and feel confident that I can take care of a bad situation. I don't give a flying fuck how much male privilege they think they have, they're still not going to make me into a victim, or fearful of becoming one.

Perhaps this confidence is, in part, due to my work, and the fact that I've had one or two times where things went pear shaped. My guard was down. But I was able to go from 0 to 90 in about 10 seconds, and what could've escalated didn't because of trusting my instincts. Because I've been in that situation, I can trust myself to react the way I need to in times of duress.

In other words- yes, the cat might be dead, but it might also be alive, and he might not be a rapist, and chances are better that he isn't than that he is. I mean, do whatever you need to do to feel safe. Seriously. I just don't think being afraid makes you safe, I think it makes you anxious, and therefore victim-y, and therefore more at risk. If you're waiting for a guy to prove he isn't a rapist (or maybe that he is someone to watch) then you are always reacting to others- not generally a position of control or strength.

Which leads to my #2 issue.

Women being afraid of rape and men wanting to be supportive and compassionate about that fear has led to an awful lot of men not wanting to initiate conversation, or speak up for themselves. Yes, ok, male privilage, but patriarchy hurts EVERYONE. Mono is, actually, one excellent example of this. He is uncomfortable with masculine energy, in himself or around him. He struggles to balance making a move and not wanting to be creepy, as many men do. And it's very, very hard.

I totally empathize with this. Dating women has given me an appreciation for how hard they (and I!) can be to read. What works on one girl (grabbing her hair to pull in for a kiss) makes another girl homicidal, and there's no way to tell unless you fling yourself over the cliff with the attempt. I remember trying to read Hysteria, and how hard that was sometimes- initiating play was a toss up, might be just what she wanted, or might make her annoyed, and not initiating (which was often the passive, safer move) either led to, well, nothing, or her asking me petulantly why I didn't DO anything with her. There was no consistent answer, no way to tell that was guaranteed, and there would be hell to pay if I guessed wrong! No wonder I have to initiate all the time in bed, as does Miss V, my girlfriend. It drives her insane, feeling like she always has to take the next step, but I know why- many nice guys read stuff like the above article and, scared they might be acting too creepy or being too aggressive, fall back as much as they can.

And so the girl types into her laptop about how the cute boy is ignoring her... and all because both feel more comfortable with fear-based non-action than, say, communicating.

And it all sort of cumilates into point 3.

3) Some men really are assholes, but most men, I think, are just badly socialized.

Now, a few women discussed this, and said "it's not my responsibility to teach them". No, it isn't, you're right. However, either the lesson will be taught, or it won't, and frankly I feel that in teaching these social lessons I am providing a loving mirror to their behavior, both giving them the opportunity to reflect on it and also the chance to do something differently. I would LIKE to live in a world without Schrödinger’s Rapist, and by saying "hi! you're in my personal space, can you step away?" or "don't touch me without permission, that's not ok" I am politely advocating for myself without being a pushover, asking for what I need directly before backing it up with angry girl energy. And yeah- some guys are pushy, and you will need to push back. But in my experience at work, and running/being at sex parties, a lot of guys really don't reflect on male privilege. This Schrödinger’s Rapist dilemma is a great place to potentially start that conversation.

This especially gets to me because, as is pointed out, most rape is committed by men already known to the women. So, men you trust, basically, men you've let this guard down with. Is it the OPs desire to we look at all men as basically incubating potential rapists and not trust any of them ever? I don't think that solves it, frankly, it just makes women more scared and men, in reaction, more scared (or, in the case of the abusers, more predatory).

In my experience, women react positively to men who are a little arrogant, men who push against women's passivity. This isn't going to show guys that being that way is a bad idea. I try to say "no" and "yes" often and directly. When I can, and do, say both comfortably and with confidence, they both have more power, more meaning. I think stating your boundaries clearly and bluntly and being comfortable following them up with whatever you need to get them met is far more effective than not trusting anyone- something supported by another commenter, who said "I’ve learned to say “no” every single time I want to, and to know that I have the skills and wisdom to have a better-than-average chance of backing that “no” up if it isn’t respected- which, 99% of the time, it is."

Someone else posted-
"It is vital that we address the behavior of men who believe that what they want is more important than what women do not want simply because their motives are positive. Highlighting that this attitude from non-rapist men mirrors the attitudes of rapist men should be a wake up call to men who don’t want to hurt women and who don’t believe women’s feelings are less important than their own."

This is really a good point, I think, and I think that the only way to get that to become a widespread idea is by communicating. That's part of the issue, I think- how do we educate guys on this? Especially if we don't feel it's our responsibility to educate them and there's not really anyone else doing it? I'll definitely say- as a sex worker I make sure to teach as much of this stuff as I can to my clients, so they get it! But people who do that are few and far between.

It's up to every woman to decide what her comfort level is, and what she's willing to risk/not risk. I can only speak for myself. For now, I choose to give everyone a neutral level of trust, and be alert but not anxious. That stranger may be Schrödinger’s Rapist, but I'll be ready for whatever outcome.

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