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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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51 Responses

  1. JBL55
    JBL55 June 21, 2013 at 10:43 am |

    [Williams' comments] serve as a good reminder that none of us is immune to misogyny when we live in a culture that’s swimming in it. I don’t think Williams is a bad person or a cruel woman-hater. I think she’s a woman who lives in a woman-hating world.

    Yep — when you’re swimming in the sexist waters of a misogynistic society, it can be hard to recognize when your coping mechanisms have blinded you to what should be deemed unacceptable.

    I can remember blaming women for their own rapes — it was what I was taught, that it was up to me to make sure nothng bad happened to me. I suppose it’s a way of feeling in control. Then I learned better. I hope Serena does, too, and that it doesn’t take an assault to do the trick.

    It’s more convenient, though, to imagine a rapist as a scary stranger rather than a classmate, a friend or even a romantic partner.

    The same myopia applies to child abuse. People would much rather believe that children should be protected from strangers than grapple with the reality that children are in more danger from trusted adults they know, sometimes within their own families.

    the more we hold women accountable for the assaults they suffer rather than the men who assault them, the further away we are from a world in which rapes are uncommon and universally condemned.

    Amen.

  2. MH
    MH June 21, 2013 at 1:01 pm |

    Yes, but…

    To me, the reason I don’t walk alone at night if I can avoid it is the same reason I lock my car when I park it on the street and I lock the door to my house. Its not my fault if some person commits a crime against me or my property. Still, there are criminals in the world – and I will do what I can to prevent myself from becoming a victim.

    Of course, that’s not always going to work. Sometimes a car thief will break your window. For many women, their rapist is going to be someone they know. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do what we can to avoid the inconvenience of having your car broken into or the anguish of being raped, to whatever extent those things will work.

    Blaming the victim afterward is a completely different can of worms, though – in part because, no matter how many precautions we take, someone is going to be the victim.

    I’m finding I’m not quite eloquent enough to parse this out as well as I’d hoped. I guess what I’m trying to say is that we all take precautions to avoid all sorts of negative outcomes, but sometimes those things will happen no matter what we do – that doesn’t make it our fault. That also doesn’t mean we stop taking precautions.

    Does it suck to tell women not to go outside at night, drink too much at frat parties, etc? Yes. But if your daughter’s university told her to do the opposite, would you feel like that was really responsible? I guess the message should be two-pronged: A. Don’t be a rapist, but B. Some people are going to ignore rule A and be rapists – try to avoid them.

    1. Iris
      Iris June 21, 2013 at 1:37 pm |

      You simply help to promote victim blaming when you tell women that THEY should be making sure that they don’t get raped. So much of the time rape victims are given so little sympathy because people think that THEY should have been going about their lives differently.
      Rape is wrong. We (society) should keep sending out that message without any little qualifying statements.
      If we keep putting the burden on women to take precautions not to get raped, we will always be blaming them and not putting the blame fully on the rapists. We simply reinforce and help to perpetuate the culture in which people feel comfortable saying ‘Well I know rape is wrong but she must have done something wrong, or she wouldn’t have got raped’

      1. a lawyer
        a lawyer June 21, 2013 at 5:48 pm |

        This is a pile o’ %$!

        The harsh reality is that you cannot perfectly accommodate rape victims and potential rape victims at the same time.

        In theory, any advice you give–even relatively neutral advice like “consider giving a police report” or “consider getting a rape kit promptly to preserve evidence” is going to be upsetting to SOMEONE. There will always be someone who didn’t do what you are suggesting: that doesn’t make it invalid. Truth is truth, and too many people throw the “victim blaming” accusation at any discussion of rape prevention. It’s ridiculous.

        Obviously the blame rests on the rapist. Obviously you can use all the safety measures you can think of and still get raped, because society sucks. The blame always rests on the person who does something illegal.

        But it is also obvious that there are things people can do to reduce their chances of happening to be the particular target of a particular rape. Why on earth do people seem so damn intent on shutting down the discussion? Since when are the potential feelings of rape survivors automatically more valuable than the feelings of everyone else that might benefit?

        I mean this seriously, because I have daughters. Do you suggest that I should not teach them that it is a really really bad idea to go to jock parties? That I should not teach them to avoid getting shitfaced drunk in a house full of boys, because they have no way of knowing what the boys will do in response?

        Damn right I will. And damn right I will talk openly about rapes with them. And I will also, in some situations, talk about what people might have done and what the different outcomes might have been.

        Is that victim blaming? Should I not tell them that the Steubenville assholes might have been willing to rape an unconscious girl but wouldn’t necessarily have raped a fully conscious one? Should I avoid using it as an example to avoid supporting “rape culture” in your view? Should I hope that they figure it out on their own? Is that such a delicate topic that it can’t be discussed outside a private room?

        Bullshit. Your perspective is so incredibly protective that it makes rape prevention more difficult.

        1. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune June 21, 2013 at 6:33 pm |

          AL, while I agree with you in principle (yes we should talk about the things that rapists use to figure out who’s easy to prey on), I really really really REALLY do not think there is any way to discuss rape in the context of any given rape that doesn’t constitute victim blaming.

        2. tigtog
          tigtog June 21, 2013 at 7:58 pm | *

          I find that the conventional “Don’t do this, don’t do that” sort of rape “prevention” advice doesn’t actually prevent any rapes – it may allow some persons to avoid some rapists (probably not the ones who use workplace or other “innocuous” social connections to groom their victims), but the rapists whose temporary target avoids them will just target somebody else. Making no real difference to the total number of rapes is not good enough.

          Teach your daughters and your sons how to protect their friends from sexual predators, which involves learning how to spot them and not allow them licence to operate unimpeded in their social circles. Teach them the cognitive skills they will need to actively bypass the Bystander Effect. This will naturally teach your daughters and your sons about boundaries and the predatory testing/crossing behaviours which are a warning flag for themselves as well.

          Make it a lot harder for the sexual predators to hide in plain sight in normal social circles, and everybody wins.

        3. Past my expiration date
          Past my expiration date June 22, 2013 at 7:26 am |

          Obviously the blame rests on the rapist. Obviously you can use all the safety measures you can think of and still get raped, because society sucks. The blame always rests on the person who does something illegal.

          It should be obvious. But it isn’t. If it were obvious, we could maybe have a different conversation.

    2. Karak
      Karak June 21, 2013 at 3:18 pm |

      I would call this “managing the storm”. I live in tornado alley. You can get in your basement, hide in your tub, but if the twister comes and rips the house out of the foundations, it’s not your fault.

      My mom told me her friend refused to participate in anti-rape behavior on the grounds she shouldn’t have to pretend to live in fear to be a worthy woman. She drank as she pleased, walked where she pleased, as pretty much acted like a straight cis man when it came to her decision-making. I asked my mom what she did, and she said she had kids, and was therefore more afraid. She told me both her and her friend were just trying to survive, and both choices were good, and I should do whatever I wanted.

      1. Alexandra
        Alexandra June 21, 2013 at 5:26 pm |

        My mom told me her friend refused to participate in anti-rape behavior on the grounds she shouldn’t have to pretend to live in fear to be a worthy woman. She drank as she pleased, walked where she pleased, as pretty much acted like a straight cis man when it came to her decision-making.

        This was my attitude for a number of years, and it had its perks. I stopped acting like that after being groped a couple of times and having a guy solicit me for prostitution… I’ve just stopped doing a bunch of things I used to enjoy, including going out dancing in clubs alone, because it is too hard as a woman.

        1. Computer Soldier Porygon
          Computer Soldier Porygon June 23, 2013 at 10:51 am |

          I had something of the opposite reaction after being assaulted by a stranger when I was walking home alone lat at night totally shitfaced. Like, I became more afraid but I didn’t alter my behaviors at all, because I felt like if I ever was just like, ‘hey, can I crash here / get a ride / whatever’ I would just never have the strength to do it again. So I made myself take the same route over and over again, all jumped up and nervous but I kept doing it. I don’t know why that was my reaction, really. I felt really fucked up over the whole thing but I also felt like there had to be a way for me to ‘win’

      2. Hina
        Hina June 23, 2013 at 2:00 pm |

        This is why rape is a crime of terror. Its just sad that some people don’t see anything wrong with women having to live in terror and even encourage it by giving rape prevention tips. Safety tips given to both genders and tips to help protect their property aren’t the same as safety tips that are only for women to protect their bodies.

        The point is these rape prevention tips have been around for centuries and they don’t work! You can keep saying we need to tell boys and men to not rape but we still have to tell girls and women to be careful. That’s just useless advice! Every girl has heard these rape prevention tips for years, from their parents, schools, college, church, peers yet it doesn’t change anything.

        Just a few years ago the state of Pakistan was really dangerous due to terrorist attacks. You could warn people to not go to certain places but the truth was no matter where they went or what they did no one ever knew when or where the next attack could be. Instead of being terrorized by the terrorist most people chose to live their life the way they wanted to instead of living in terror and staying away from simple things like going to the movies or shopping mall. That was a way of showing the terrorists that the people weren’t afraid and the people will not let the terrorists rule over them. Another thing that was done was going after the terrorist groups and targeting them and stopping them from recruiting more terrorists.

        1. Donna L
          Donna L June 23, 2013 at 2:56 pm |

          Apropos of absolutely nothing, Hina, I just wanted to say that I love your name. My maternal grandmother’s maternal grandmother’s maternal grandmother was named Hina. She was born around 1740 and died in 1777. It’s not a name one sees very often.

        2. Donna L
          Donna L June 23, 2013 at 3:01 pm |

          I should amend that to say that it’s not a name that I see very often! It was not an unusual name among Jewish women in what is now Baden in Germany, 250 years ago.

    3. Bloix
      Bloix June 21, 2013 at 5:29 pm |

      There’s a time and a place. It’s one thing to educate your children to avoid dangerous situations of all sorts. It’s completely different to say what WIlliams said:

      “I’m not blaming the girl, but if you’re a 16-year-old and you’re drunk like that, your parents should teach you — don’t take drinks from other people.”

      “I’m not blaming the girl.” Okay, that’s fine. Now – stop talking. You’ve said all you need to say. Don’t let the next words out of your mouth be blaming the girl.

  3. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune June 21, 2013 at 1:28 pm |

    As a parent of a girl-type person, most of our advice to her isn’t the stereotypical stranger-rape shit, it’s things like how to deal with someone you know/trust getting invasive, how to deal with the aftermath of not being able to stop it, not being intrusive into others’ space, what healthy expectations are for friend-space and boy/girlfriend-space and how healthy boundaries between partners and friends look. Be wary of friends who don’t take your no for an answer about anything because they will likely not take no for an answer in everything, stay away from misogynists because they are more likely to be creepy people. Etc, etc. Basically, it’s predator-watch strategies, not rapist-watch strategies in specific. It seems more likely to cover what she’ll have to deal with, as a pre-teen, than “what to do if a dude grabs you in a dark van”. Which isn’t to say we don’t give her safety protocols for that either, but.

    I don’t see that kind of advice as victim-blaming, to be honest. No one gave me fuck-all in terms of Predator Avoidance Advice, and I blamed the hell out of myself for years anyway. It seems to me that presenting that advice as “here are some warning signs, know that you’re human and will probably miss them at some point, and know that you are absolutely entitled to have your boundaries respected even if you ignore all these warning signs, and never fear to call out when those signs get tripped” is pretty healthy.

    I’d love to live in a world where I don’t have to tell her – or any other kid – about things like “it’s not okay for people to do X to you” and “this is how a person who might do X to you is likely to behave”. But that would have to be a world in which X doesn’t happen. I tell my kid how to figure out which politicians are dirty, how to handle bullies, how to deal with discriminatory teachers and how to avoid sexual predators. It doesn’t make it her fault that the government sucks and people are assholes and teachers are unfair. And if you’d agree with that statement but not where rape is concerned, I’m kind of left wondering why I’m supposed to jeopardise my kid’s health in order to score Hypocrite Feminist Points on the internet.

    I really resent this notion that it’s somehow unfeminist to warn a small vulnerable person about shit that can traumatise them for life. Are most current-day rape tips victim-blamey and objectively unhelpful? YES. Is the act of analysing any victim’s behaviour inherently victim-blaming? YES. Is the act of making anyone feel like the onus to avoid victimisation is on the victim perpetuating rape culture? YES. But I view giving my kid information about red flags to be on the same level as giving her information about traffic safety or non-sexually-abusive friends. Telling her to stay on the sidewalk doesn’t mean I’m going to tell her it’s her fault for getting hit crossing the road.

    1. amblingalong
      amblingalong June 21, 2013 at 2:06 pm |

      And if you’d agree with that statement but not where rape is concerned, I’m kind of left wondering why I’m supposed to jeopardise my kid’s health in order to score Hypocrite Feminist Points on the internet.

      That’s just way too much common sense for the blogosphere.

      At least it’s not Tumblr.

    2. Lolagirl
      Lolagirl June 21, 2013 at 2:19 pm |

      ITA

      It’s a difficult balancing act, arming little people with the knowledge they need to be responsible adults as well as to help them hone their ability to spot potential dangers lurking in the corners of their lives. Kids often have a difficult time understanding that bad people who do bad stuff exist. On the flip side of that, they are also often inherently narcissistic until they grow and learn how to respect others, others personal bodily autonomy, and develop empathy for others and their feelings.

      I think there is room for teaching children what I would call street smarts as well as teaching them that they have the right to have their own bodily autonomy respected and unassailed. All without an underlying message of victim blaming should bad things befall them. Because I agree that thus far the prevailing social message has been that victims must have done something to bring about their victimization. That parents have to combat such social messages most definitely makes the task of raising little people into adulthood all the more challenging.

    3. A4
      A4 June 21, 2013 at 2:26 pm |

      A good differentiating factor that I see is whether or not the advice is about developing someone’s subjective judgments and viewpoint about the actions of others and preparing them for the world as you’ve experienced it or if it’s about establishing “objective” guidelines that are convenient and useful only for someone wishing to compare a victim’s behavior before and after an assault to an “ideal” performance.

      The former encourages the development and empowerment of one’s own instincts and judgment and faculties of observation. The latter is not about skills but about performative rules: where to walk, what to carry, what to wear.

    4. Fat Steve
      Fat Steve June 21, 2013 at 3:41 pm |

      I don’t see that kind of advice as victim-blaming, to be honest. No one gave me fuck-all in terms of Predator Avoidance Advice, and I blamed the hell out of myself for years anyway. It seems to me that presenting that advice as “here are some warning signs, know that you’re human and will probably miss them at some point, and know that you are absolutely entitled to have your boundaries respected even if you ignore all these warning signs, and never fear to call out when those signs get tripped” is pretty healthy.

      But you are speaking “as a parent of a girl-type person” speaking to that specific person. I believe the victim blaming accusation is valid if the advice is given randomly and unsolicited.

    5. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune June 21, 2013 at 4:12 pm |

      @amblingalong IKR? I’m surprised there’s four comments agreeing with me, I kind of expected to be given massive amounts of shit.

      @Lola

      I think there is room for teaching children what I would call street smarts as well as teaching them that they have the right to have their own bodily autonomy respected and unassailed.

      Yes, I definitely think there is. And we do try to educate the kid on both fronts – how not to violate boundaries and how not to have her boundaries violated. (I’ve known way too many innocently-boundary-crossing women who were horrified to find out they’d been inappropriate, to ever not teach a female-assigned kid that stuff just because she is one.)

      @A4 – exactly. I think “what to look out for” and “what is not okay for you to experience” are a whole other conversation from “what not to do if you don’t want to experience bad things”. Proscriptive advice is rarely any good.

      @Steve

      But you are speaking “as a parent of a girl-type person” speaking to that specific person. I believe the victim blaming accusation is valid if the advice is given randomly and unsolicited.

      Yes, unsolicited advice is always shitty. (Personally, I’d love to see less of it in the world on all fronts – why don’t we try trusting people to know wtf goes on in their lives?) And in the case of sexual things, almost always creepy/intrusive/blaming. But the thing is that I’ve seen people argue on feminist fora that any advice at all is victim-blaming and that no one should have to account for rape culture and predators in their behaviour at all. Which, yes, okay, that’s ideal, and I would also like for governments to help people and for the check to be in the mail, but I’m not going to base my behaviour on those premises and I’m sure as fuck not going to like being accused of being a party pooper for it. I’m just very tired of hearing blanket statements being issued by people (though I am not pointing to this article, btw) that seem to take no account of parents’ needs.

      1. M Dubz
        M Dubz June 22, 2013 at 5:49 am |

        I think the important thing about your advice is that you’re teaching your kid both how to spot predators and how not to be a predator herself. That non-predation advice is sorely lacking, and I think it’s the only way that we as a society are going to end rape culture.

      2. Angie unduplicated
        Angie unduplicated June 23, 2013 at 11:33 am |

        Advice is no more victim-blaming than a defensive driving course would be to a commuter.

    6. Alexandra
      Alexandra June 21, 2013 at 4:26 pm |

      This is exactly the sort of advice which I wish I had received as a girl, and which I am grateful to feminist communities for providing me with as an adult.

    7. Lolagirl
      Lolagirl June 21, 2013 at 5:59 pm |

      Something that I think goes hand in hand with this discussion is the necessity to teach kids to listen to their own personal judgments on stuff. I don’t necessarily like using terms like go with your gut, or listen to your gut feelings, because I think that can lend itself to personal prejudices and gives a false sense of security. I think the message has to be more nuanced, along the lines of, do you know these people, and how well, how familiar are you with your surroundings, and so on. Ultimately, I hope to teach my kids to be able to assess a given situation and their personal comfort level with the situation at hand, and most importantly help them feel empowered to gtfo if they don’t like any aspect of what is going on around them.

      Because pat recommendations like don’t walk down the street after dark or don’t leave your drink unattended doesn’t necessarily empower a person to think critically and think for themselves. And they still leave a victim feeling responsible for their own victimization if they did anything to run afoul of the “rules.”

      1. the_leanover
        the_leanover June 21, 2013 at 6:56 pm |

        Yes, exactly this. There’s such a huge difference between equipping someone with useful tools and knowledge to help them do what they need to make they themselves feel safer, and saying ‘this is how to be safe’. Rhetorically it’s a difference between asserting rights and limiting rights: to tell a girl ‘if someone is doing XYZ and it is making you uncomfortable, you have a right to do what you need to get yourself out of that situation and politeness be damned’ is almost the exact opposite of telling a girl ‘well, obviously theoretically everyone should have the right to walk down the street alone at night/drink and have fun at parties, but in this world if you exercise those rights you are putting yourself at risk, so don’t’. I tend to think the problem with standard ‘rape prevention’ tips such as the latter is not only the victim blaming thing, but the fact that they functionally ask women to limit their own rights and freedom of choice in a way that men are not expected to do. And please nobody give me the ‘but it’s just making women aware of the dangers!!!’ spiel; there isn’t a woman in the world who isn’t already acutely aware of that shit, and every woman has a right to forge her own balance between freedom of movement and peace of mind. Yes, some of us will still get drunk and walk down the street alone at night. A campaign saying ‘DON’T DO THAT LADIES’, or a mother constantly policing those choices, does not make us safer. It only serves as a relentless reminder that we’re supposed to be living with more fear and more timidity and more concessions to fear, for no other reason than being female. And that, ladies, is sure as hell not feminist.

        1. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune June 21, 2013 at 9:00 pm |

          Everything you said in your comment.

          The way I look at it is: rape is like a flood. (I’ve got floods on the mind, so sue me, lol.) You can Do Everything Right and still wind up with a house underwater. But being coached on evac procedures is flood coping mechanism, not flood blaming mechanism.

          I also like to think of it as – am I discussing perp logic or victim behaviour? If what I’m talking about is how rapists work, how rape culture works, how rapists think and behave, then that’s probably a good thing. If what I’m talking about is how victims are acting and how they should be talking, that’s probably a bad thing.

        2. Angie unduplicated
          Angie unduplicated June 23, 2013 at 11:35 am |

          Add: checking the survey to see if you’re in a flood plain.

      2. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune June 21, 2013 at 9:04 pm |

        pat recommendations like don’t walk down the street after dark or don’t leave your drink unattended doesn’t necessarily empower a person to think critically and think for themselves

        Yeah, the recommendations are pretty ridiculous. We’ve actually been taking some steps to deal with the alcohol question, and I’d like some feedback on that from other parents.

        1) We’ve been allowing the child tiny tastes of alcohol (a sip of wine, etc) as of her 12th birthday so that she recognises the taste and feel of alcohol, and hopefully it will be harder to give her spiked drinks and get her “accidentally” drunk by someone else that way. We’ve made it clear that should she desire to try more-than-tasting quantities of alcohol in a few years, enough to get tipsy on (let alone drunk) she will be drinking with us and under our roof, thus hopefully taking away the Forbidden Fermented Fruit effect.

        2) We have discussed Drunk Logic and Drunk Inability To Context from the perspective of “getting drunk means inability to do X, Y and Z clearheadedly and impairs ability to think enough to parse G, H and L”. Also “how to recognise if I am too drunk to X”. (Eventually, at around Party Age, we plan on allowing her drunk-amounts of alcohol, so she recognises that feeling too.)

        3) We have made it clear that predators zero in on people who are incapacitated in whatever way, and that she should watch out for her friends if they are drinking, and ideally make her friends stop hitting on someone who is drinking/drunk if she sees them do it.

        3a) We have ALSO, every single time, pointed out that we are not going to shame her for drinking if/when she does, and we are always there to pick her up if she needs to get out of somewhere, and that her drinking is no excuse for anyone to do anything with her – in fact, her drinking is an automatic “no”, as we’ve framed alcohol as an innate consent-remover, so if anyone does anything to her while she’s drunk/drinking, it is automatically never her fault. (And we also pointed out that she should not be making moves on people who are drunk, since she does not know if they are able to consent or not.)

        It seems to me like this is a much better way to navigate the Alcohol Conversation than “don’t drink or you’ll get raped!” or whatever creepy-ass line they feed kids in school nowadays. It’s not ideal, and ideally I’d love to be all ‘RAAAAARRR BE PERFECT INNOCENT CHILD 4EVAH’, but it’s a lot more realistic than “never get drunk ever between now and when you retire” IMHO.

    8. JR
      JR June 21, 2013 at 8:20 pm |

      it’s somehow unfeminist to warn a small vulnerable person about shit that can traumatise them for life.

      Oh, that’s what Serena Williams was doing. She was being helpful. She wasn’t saying it was all the mom’s fault that her daughter got raped on TV. So that’s alright then.

      1. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune June 21, 2013 at 8:47 pm |

        Yes, clearly I was talking about Serena Williams. That’s why my comment referenced her repeatedly.

        Or, you know, it wasn’t even a little bit about her, so how about you take your snark elsewhere? I suggest “relevance”. It’s a place you don’t know, but I guarantee you’ll love it! ^__^

      2. Combray
        Combray June 22, 2013 at 9:40 am |

        There’s a difference between teaching your kid about surrounding dangers, so that they can learn to make informed decisions, and saying “she should/shouldn’t have done x” to or about someone who has already been raped. Only the latter carries the assumption that the victim could actually have prevented the assault with her own actions and places the responsibility on her. That’s victim blaming. Telling your kid to be careful is not, if it’s done with the understanding that no matter what choices she ends up making, it’s never her fault if someone decides to assault her.

    9. Jamie
      Jamie June 23, 2013 at 2:14 pm |

      how healthy boundaries between partners and friends look.

      This is why this doesn’t feel like the rote “KEYS BETWEEN YOUR HANDS DON’T GET DRUNK LADIES” things that campus cops hand out. Because you’re addressing the reality that most rape and abuse isn’t perpetrated by strangers. Your advice is actually useful. It’s not about women staying inside with all their skin covered and their legs crossed, terrorizing them. You’re talking about what’s actually going on. That’s why no one’s going “HOW DARE YOUUUU.” And that’s awesome.

  4. a lawyer
    a lawyer June 21, 2013 at 6:00 pm |

    That’s what Serena Williams’ comments come down to: an assumption that rape happens because a woman makes a mistake. She’s hardly the first to make that argument. Even people who claim to want to end rape and advocate for safety do the same things when they tell girls and women not to walk outside alone, not to wear particular articles of clothing, not to drink too much, never to accept a drink from anyone else, and on and on. That advice doesn’t just put the onus on women to avoid normal behavior like walking in public or going out with friends; it fundamentally misstates the reality of most rapes, which are disproportionately perpetrated by someone the victim knows, usually in her home or theirs.

    This is not true. In fact it is dangerously false.

    It is true that most rapes are not “violent stranger rapes.”

    However, it is also true that a VERY sizable percentage of rapes (especially including acquaintance rapes) involve alcohol, drugs, or both. Seriously: how dare you even suggest that the link between alcohol and rape is anything other than dangerous? That is ridiculously thoughtless. It’s not a myth, it’s reality.

    1. Alara Rogers
      Alara Rogers June 21, 2013 at 6:35 pm |

      I actually posted an answer to your question without recognizing that I was doing so because I did it before you posted. :-)

      Advising *people* not to get drunk because any number of bad things might happen to them, from consensually cheating on their SO to waking up with a Sharpie mustache on their face to aspirating their own vomit, *is* a good idea. Advising women not to get drunk because they might get raped contributes to rape culture. There’s a link between alcohol and young men dying in stupid ways, but no one tells men not to drink too much because they might decide to do something reckless and end up dead. There’s a link between alcohol and ruining your friend’s mom’s carpet with vomit, but no one tells men not to get so drunk they puke. No one, in fact, tells men not to get shitfaced drunk at all, even though lots of bad things can happen to very drunk men. Nor does anyone tell women not to get shitfaced drunk because they might hit on their best friend’s boyfriend and seriously piss her off and lose her friendship; they tell women not to get drunk because they might get raped.

      You see the connection here? Lots of bad things happen to people who drink. But the only people who are ever advised not to drink, constantly, by damn near everyone, are women, and only because they might be raped. So when a guy wakes up after a night of drinking and finds his wallet missing, his friends might laugh about it but they won’t act like it wasn’t a *crime*, they won’t refuse to help him find his wallet, they won’t refuse to loan him some cash because it was his own fault his wallet got stolen. This kind of thing does happen to women, *because* they are so constantly advised not to drink because rape that when they do drink, and if they are then raped, they are told it’s their own fault, they’re on their own, what did they expect, and people act like it wasn’t even a crime committed against them. I cannot count the number of times I have seen people seriously argue that if we can hold someone’s bad decision making against them because they drank and drove and got into an accident, we can hold someone’s bad decision making against them because they drank and fell unconscious and someone raped them… like the second involves committing a criminally negligent act with serious risk of harm to others like the first one does. Like there’s any equivalent at all.

      Women who are raped are treated as if anything that they did that led to the rape which doesn’t fit the socially accepted script for What To Do So You Don’t Get Raped was itself a criminal act. And that is why it is wrong to tell girls “Don’t drink, you might get raped!” But it is perfectly okay to tell girls and boys “Don’t drink to the point of unconsciousness, it’ll make you feel sick and you’ll make yourself vulnerable to any number of predatory people who might want to steal from you or assault you and you might ruin your clothes, or someone else’s expensive carpet, and actually people have been known to die from drinking to unconsciousness, so don’t do it.” Because there, you embed the advice about not getting raped with advice about lots of other bad consequences of drinking too much, many of which disproportionately affect *men*, and you don’t tap into the cultural thing that says that “if there is a thing that women do that increases their risk of rape, and a woman does it, and gets raped, she must have wanted to get raped.”

  5. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers June 21, 2013 at 6:21 pm |

    The advice “don’t get shitfaced drunk at parties” is actually good advice that should be given to everyone. The reason it contributes to rape culture is that it’s only given to women, in the context of “well, you got shitfaced drunk, you should have expected to get raped” or “don’t get shitfaced drunk so that you don’t get raped”, rather than “don’t get shitfaced drunk so that you don’t alienate friends by saying something stupid, vomit all over the bathroom in the house of someone you barely know, wake up with no memory of where you put your pants and when you find them there’s no wallet in them, wake up and discover someone has drawn a mustache on your face in Sharpie marker, die from aspirating your own vomit, or get raped.” And then tell this to men. And when men throw up all over the bathroom tell them “That’s disgusting, you’d better clean that up; you shouldn’t have gotten shitfaced drunk last night.” Because seriously, drinking to the point of unconsciousness is bad for everyone who does it, but we only ever tell women not to do it, and only because they might get raped, not because they might be loudmouthed obnoxious drunks who hurt other people’s feelings or because they might puke on someone’s mom’s expensive carpet.

    The rest of the anti-rape advice that is usually given out is horrifically bad, because it boils down to “live in fear, trust no one, obsess over the amount of skin other people can see on your person, keep a curfew, curtail your own activities”. And most of it is an out and out lie. Like, don’t wear short skirts. As if no woman in a long skirt or a sensible pantsuit was ever raped. Don’t go to bars *at all*, as if no woman was ever raped in the safety of her own home.

    Other parts of it actually would help prevent rapes, but the mindset they evoke is unhealthy. Don’t be alone with male friends. Well, there are plenty of women who discovered too late that they could not trust their male friends, and following that advice would have helped them to not be raped, but on the other hand if all women followed that advice, men and women couldn’t have good platonic friendships and most likely this would contribute to rape culture by further dehumanizing women to men. Don’t go to sleep in a house with a man in it. Again, this is advice that could genuinely save some people from rape, but at what cost to the psyche of those who follow it? Does it actually do us any good to live in fear of all men and assume that every man you know might rape you if he has the chance? I don’t really think so. Besides, what stops your roommate from letting in the man who’s going to rape you after you go to sleep because *she* trusts him? Are you also going to not trust any women ever? How are you going to have a healthy life that way?

    There is advice that I do think is ok to give. Advice based on predator theory, how to spot these assholes ahead of time. Advice about what is ok for other people to do to you and what is not. Advice about how to avoid being manipulated into doing things you don’t want to do and then convinced that somehow you did something wrong and gave signals that you wanted them. Advice about backing up your friends, male and female, and making sure they have your back too… so if you *are* too drunk to head home from a party, one of your friends will drive you so you don’t have to sleep at a stranger’s, or crash with you so you don’t have to sleep at a stranger’s alone and isolated.

    But that’s not the kind of advice people give. And any advice is toxic if it’s given in the context of “I’m not blaming you for what happened to you, but how could you have been so stupid as to do X when you know that doing X could get you raped?” Which is, basically, the only context the kind of “advice” people like Serena Williams are handing out is ever given in. Once a person has been raped it is too late to tell them what not to do. At that point you need to reinforce that what happened to them was wrong, that it was not their fault, that the rapist has full culpability, and giving *any* kind of advice about “how, in hindsight, you could have avoided that rape” is always going to sound like victim blaming.

    “I’m not blaming the victim of that hit and run by the drunk driver, but really, moms need to tell their kids to look both ways before crossing the street, because crosswalks won’t magically protect you from drunk drivers.” Do people actually say this about dead kids who got hit by drunk drivers? (Probably some Republicans do, but I bet Serena Williams wouldn’t.) “I’m not blaming the victim of that knife attack, but really, he was out late at a bar in a bad neighborhood. Didn’t his mom teach him to keep regular hours?” (Pretty sure I’ve never heard that one.) “I’m not blaming that guy who drowned in a flood, but seriously, why did he not know how to swim? He lived near water, why didn’t his mom teach him better?” (Never heard that one either.)

    It’s not *just* raped women who get the “I’m not blaming the victim, but…” Gay people get it, trans people get it, black people get it all the time about their circumstances of poverty, people who get shot in Texas get it for living in Texas, abused women get it… it’s human nature to blame victims who we cannot empathize with, and it fucking sucks and it’s asinine and the only way we’ll ever get rid of it is a, hammer on people that victim blaming is wrong and b, hammer on people that they should have some fucking empathy for others, even those who make life choices that we would not have made for ourselves.

    1. Past my expiration date
      Past my expiration date June 22, 2013 at 8:08 am |

      “I’m not blaming the victim of that hit and run by the drunk driver, but really, moms need to tell their kids to look both ways before crossing the street, because crosswalks won’t magically protect you from drunk drivers.” Do people actually say this about dead kids who got hit by drunk drivers?

      Alas, people actually do. See the case of Raquel Nelson, for example here: http://dc.streetsblog.org/2012/09/11/georgia-prosecutor-continues-case-against-raquel-nelson/

      1. pheenobarbidoll
        pheenobarbidoll June 22, 2013 at 8:11 pm |

        That didn’t stop an all white jury from convicting the African-American woman of vehicular homicide last year.

        And here’s the reason. Racism and misogyny often utilize the same tactics.

  6. DouglasG
    DouglasG June 21, 2013 at 7:31 pm |

    What surprises me is there isn’t much of the usual anti-Serena and pro-Serena commentary (generally, the anti- side is much worse) making the rounds.

    It’s interesting how little any of the five greatest women players of open tennis (since 1968) have in common.

  7. Bloix
    Bloix June 22, 2013 at 6:50 pm |

    “no one tells men not to drink too much because they might decide to do something reckless and end up dead.”

    Someone on this thread has never heard of automobiles.

    1. Fat Steve
      Fat Steve June 22, 2013 at 8:08 pm |

      “no one tells men not to drink too much because they might decide to do something reckless and end up dead.”

      Someone on this thread has never heard of automobiles.

      People tell men (and women) not to drink and drive for the safety of others.

    2. pheenobarbidoll
      pheenobarbidoll June 22, 2013 at 8:08 pm |

      Anti drunk driving campaigns aren’t gender specific. They tell EVERYONE to not drive drunk. Anti rape campaigns ONLY tell WOMEN to avoid drinking. They don’t tell men to avoid drinking in order to avoid assault or murder by strange rapey killer. They don’t tell men to avoid drinking in order to prevent someone else violating them. They don’t tell men to avoid getting so drunk they rape a woman, either.

      1. Alara Rogers
        Alara Rogers June 22, 2013 at 11:08 pm |

        Right, and they also don’t tell anyone not to drink! They tell them not to *drive* while drunk.

        Hell, if anti-rape advice had a “one of your friends should be the designated predator-warning-system who will stay sober so that if some asshat tries to get you alone or comes after you while you’re unconscious she can call the cops”, it would be *slightly* more palatable than what we do get, which is basically “if you don’t want to get raped, don’t drink.”

        Advice about not drinking and driving is harm mitigation. “We know you’re gonna drink. We’re not going to bother telling you not to. We’re going to say, don’t drive if you’re drunk, and if you need to get home in a car, it would be a good idea to have someone agree to stay sober so they can drive.” The equivalent, if anti-drunk-driving messages were phrased like anti-getting-raped messages, would be, “Don’t go get drunk because you might drive and then you could DIE!” And they would only be aimed at men, because it would be taken for granted that of course women can drink all they want and will never be in danger of driving. Except it’s worse than that, because drinking and driving is a choice people make, and they can choose not to make it, whereas drinking and getting raped is by definition not ever someone’s choice.

        You can’t even *make* “don’t drink and drive” advice as stupid as “don’t drink, you could get raped” advice.

        In our society, both men and women are told, don’t drink and drive. They’re taught all sorts of realistic strategies for how they can drink, and still avoid driving. People who drink and drive are blamed, because it is a conscious choice to drive after you’ve been drinking, but drunk men who ride home with a sober but horribly overtired friend who gets into a car accident because he is actually too tired to drive are not blamed for the accident on the grounds that if he just didn’t drink, he could have been the one driving and then the overtired guy wouldn’t have been at the wheel!

        We do not blame people for bad things that are done to *them* because they drank. Unless the bad thing was rape. And they were female. Then it was totally their fault for drinking.

  8. Bloix
    Bloix June 23, 2013 at 9:39 am |

    Right, Fat Steve. Parents don’t worry that their teen-aged sons will wrap their cars around a tree. They only worry about total strangers.

    Alara Rogers- So you think that parents don’t tell their 16-year old sons not to drink. Really, you really think that?

    1. pheenobarbidoll
      pheenobarbidoll June 23, 2013 at 12:16 pm |

      They don’t tell their 16 year old sons not to drink or else they’ll be human trafficked into the sex trade, and it’ll be their own damn fault because what did they expect.

      They don’t tell their 16 year old sons not to drink or they will be mugged and killed in the parking lot and it will be their own damn fault because what did they expect.

      They don’t tell their 16 year old sons not to drink because some strange man will follow them home and rape them, and it will be their own damn fault because what did they expect.

      Unless trees are known to be sentient beings with free will and make the decision to jump out in front of drunk drivers with the intent to cause a wreck, then worrying that their drunk teen son will wrap a car around a tree is IN NO WAY the same as anti rape advice and you damn well know it.

      1. Fat Steve
        Fat Steve June 23, 2013 at 1:51 pm |

        Right, Fat Steve. Parents don’t worry that their teen-aged sons will wrap their cars around a tree. They only worry about total strangers.

        I think I made it clear in my response to mac up thread, that I am referring to general unsolicited advice, such as what pheeno referred to as a drunk driving ‘campaign,’ in her response to you. As far as I am concerned, parents can give any advice they like to their own children. Some parents are overprotective IMO, but that’s not for me to say. That doesn’t mean this overprotectiveness should be echoed in anti-rape campaigns.

        1. pheenobarbidoll
          pheenobarbidoll June 23, 2013 at 5:03 pm |

          And parents giving advice to their children aren’t preparing a mental checklist to show how their child failed to prevent rape.

          Unlike most of the unsolicited anti rape advice handed out by society at large. It’s not given with the intent of protecting women, it’s given with the intent to damn them for non compliance.

          The government is not my parent. Society is not my parent. Juries are not my parents. There’s no comparison.

  9. LemonDemon
    LemonDemon June 23, 2013 at 10:15 am |

    “We do not blame people for bad things that are done to *them* because they drank.”

    ….yeah we do. Drinking culture in America is backwards at best.

    1. Angie unduplicated
      Angie unduplicated June 23, 2013 at 11:45 am |

      Drinking culture encourages reckless behavior in men. Thi is why the standard Drunk Southern Male epitaph, subject of regional commentariat jokes, is “Hey, hold my beer and watch this!” Google: fraternity butt chugging wine, Virginia frat boy shoots bottle rockets from his anus, for examples. It’s as close to rape culture as you can get without actually raping. This is in education, elsewhere it’s worse.

      1. Alara Rogers
        Alara Rogers June 24, 2013 at 2:46 pm |

        Encouraging reckless behavior in people is actually the *opposite* of what rape culture does to people.

        I don’t, at all, think it is a good thing that we encourage men to drink and behave recklessly, but it is important to note that if we *encouraged* women to drink and behave recklessly, then we would talk about women who got raped as the result of behaving recklessly as if they were brave-but-stupid… not just stupid, which is what we currently do.

        Men are honored for being recklessly stupid. They are also mocked for it… but the honor is still there. Women are not honored for being recklessly stupid, *and* women are also mocked for being overly cautious.

        It is also, once again, important to note that most of the reasons we warn anyone not to drink, to the extent that we do, in fact, warn anyone not to drink, revolve around things *they* might do because they are drunk, not things that might be done to them. “Don’t get drunk because you might drive into a tree”, not “don’t get drunk because you would be unable to take the wheel of a car and therefore the designated driver might drive you into a tree.” “Don’t get drunk because you might get into a fight,” not “Don’t get drunk because you might get rolled and robbed while you’re unconscious.” “Don’t get drunk because you might do something dumbassed,” not “Don’t get drunk because a criminal might do something bad to you while you’re vulnerable.”

        To the extent that we bother to advise men not to drink, at all (and yes, we do advise teenage boys not to drink, but we acquit cops of raping ADULT WOMEN who they walked home from a bar when she was too drunk to walk herself, because “she should have known better”), it’s all about “what you might do because you’re drunk,” not “what someone might do to you.” And I think it is telling that the people arguing that men do in fact get “don’t drink” messages equivalent to what women get are *still* not grasping that women are HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT OTHER PEOPLE DO TO THEM when they are drunk; men are only held responsible for what they themselves do. It is appropriate to hold a woman responsible for not drinking and driving, or not drinking and hitting on her best friend’s boyfriend, or not drinking and then publically pissing on her friend’s lawn. These are things we hold against men, rightly, because they are things that people choose to do when drunk that they should not do. But what we hold against women is the fact that they got inebriated at all, and it made them vulnerable. Not what they *do* because they are drunk, but what someone else did to them.

        So encouraging men to drink and engage in reckless behavior is in every sense the opposite of what rape culture does to women. We may laugh at men who drink and do something dumb, but we are contemptuous of men who are too cautious to drink. We encourage men *to* drink and *to* do stupid things, themselves, that could harm themsleves or others. Falling asleep in a stranger’s house is perfectly safe and harms no one as long as there isn’t a rapist in the house. We are contemptuous of women for drinking to the point where we will acquit their rapists in the face of obvious and overwhelming evidence, simply on the grounds that the woman was drunk and therefore had it coming. We are also contemptuous of women for being cautious. There’s no light-hearted self-directed mockery like there is from men toward themselves; it’s nasty mockery toward someone who is thought of as “other”, someone who can’t be empathized with. We don’t tell funny stories about the wild escapades women get into when they’re drunk, we tell Aesop fables about bad things that happen to drunk women and why they deserved it. And if a man is too cautious to get drunk, he’s a pussy (a woman), but if a woman is too cautious to get drunk, it’s because women are cowards and prudes. On the other hand if she wasn’t too cautious to get drunk, then she’s stupid and she deserved what she got.

  10. Funty
    Funty June 23, 2013 at 5:33 pm |

    The men aren’t getting that kind of advice directed at them for the same reason I’m not attaching one of those tiny little water bottles to the side of my fish tank.
    They are already swimming in it.

    It’s part and parcel of the masculinity that they learn. Masters of their own destiny and all that.
    It’s all there under, “No one and no thing is gonna keep me down. So I will be avoiding all circumstances I may have to submit through, in the most manly and self reliant manner I can muster. Raaaghhh!!! Masculinity fuck yeah.”
    We could be here all day naming the examples.

    Until someone will point out how readily they’ll drop that code to blame our dreaded, whorish woman parts for making them do it.

    Which is pretty suspicious and makes me think it’s all a complete con.

  11. Anomalous
    Anomalous June 27, 2013 at 4:08 pm |

    “an assumption that rape happens because a woman makes a mistake. She’s hardly the first to make that argument. Even people who claim to want to end rape and advocate for safety do the same things when they tell girls and women not to walk outside alone, not to wear particular articles of clothing, not to drink too much, never to accept a drink from anyone else, and on and on. ”

    I don’t exactly agree with this statement, is encouraging people to lock their doors victim blaming? is encouraging people to install burglar alarms victim blaming? Telling people not leave their valuable possessions in their car, or leave their wallet on the table? Whislt nobody should steal or assualt anybody, the simple fact is you shouldn’t trust just anybody.

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