Women, Vulnerability, Rational Precautions And The Men Who Refuse To Believe

[Content note: gendered violence, sexual assault, sexual harassment]

Highly Recommended Reading: They Have To See It With Their Own Eyes: Men and Violence Against Women by Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

Miri’s post quotes from a post by Madeleine Davies on Jezebel that relates a history of her male roommate’s vociferous disapproval of her personal safety precautions, where he called Davies ‘cowardly and weak’ for taking a taxi home from work late at night rather than taking the short walk, and how he only years later conceded that she had had a rational reason to feel unsafe once he had directly witnessed (and intervened on behalf of) a woman being assaulted in a lonely area late at night. Miri adds some observations and analysis then goes on to draw some conclusions:

That it was not enough for Davies’ college roommate to know that their classmate had been murdered by an intruder to understand Davies’ fears honestly terrifies me. That a woman had to get attacked right in front of him in order for that to sink in is horrifying. And as Davies points out, he was not some anomaly. This is common.

I’m going to go out on a limb a little here and then solidify that limb as much as possible. Men who refuse to take violence against women seriously until it happens right the fuck in front of their faces are as complicit in this injustice as men who commit violence against women. This is not to mean that they are as individuals just as bad or just as sexist or whatever. It just means that, without their silence, their ignorance, their shrugging shoulders, this situation could not continue as it is. It cannot continue without the participation of men who commit violence, and it cannot continue without the participation of men who shrug it off or blame the victims or accuse them of “overreacting.” Both of these are gears have to turn in order for it to continue.

I myself have noted in the past that I don’t hear of any of these disbelievers in the rationality of women’s precautions deciding not to Stop, Look and Listen for oncoming traffic before they step out onto a pedestrian crossing, because after all the possibility that a car won’t stop is so minuscule given that #NotAllDrivers are irresponsible or reckless or likely to be distracted by a wasp sting, so taking such precautions would be “cowardly and weak”, amiright? All the Decent Drivers out there are being terribly insulted by the irrational over-wariness of pedestrians every single day.

At this point I’m also going to quote from Miri’s netiquette guidelines for her post, and note that they apply here too:

Moderation note: No, I did not discuss violence against men in this blog post. That was a deliberate choice. It is not the subject of this blog post. Do not turn the conversation in the comments section into a conversation about violence against men. Do not insist on reminding me that men can also be the victims of violence.

You are, however, welcome (as always) to draw analogies to other axes of oppression, because these dynamics play out in all of them.

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4 comments for “Women, Vulnerability, Rational Precautions And The Men Who Refuse To Believe

  1. Clytemnestra's Sister
    June 4, 2014 at 8:37 pm

    That a woman had to get attacked right in front of him in order for that to sink in is horrifying. And as Davies points out, he was not some anomaly. This is common.


    I recently had a male coworker whinge to me about not liking Key West, because (his words) “I don’t like those dudes checking out my ass.”

    I told him, “Get the fuck over it.” Then I told him how I’ve had to deal with dudes doing stuff to me all the time, starting with getting molested by a neighbour when I was a mere 9 years old. How I couldn’t walk to the post office without getting catcalled. How I had a creeper living downstairs from me, and how I have been groped multiple times, and how once my brother (with whom I shared a flat) stopped a man who was following me into my flat and threatened that man with serious mayhem if he ever followed me home again. Each new story I told, I kept getting, “but how do you deal with it?”

    He’d never even stopped to think about what it’s like for women-type people. Never. And the more instances I pointed out, the more and more he dug in, and the more he whined about having men creep on him, and I kept telling him, get over it. Welcome to my world. Now get on with it.

  2. AMM
    June 6, 2014 at 8:56 pm

    I’m reminded of the people claiming we live in a “post-racial society.”

    IMHO, a big part of this is privilege: they don’t want anything to impinge upon their privilege to not be aware of just how privileged they are. So they go “la la la I can’t hear you” when ever someone tells about how the less fortunate live so they can continue to deny it.

  3. Elea
    June 11, 2014 at 4:13 pm

    My boyfriend used to think I was silly for always asking him to walk me home and deliberately arranging my social plans to make sure I wouldn’t have to walk alone after dark.

    The reason he thought it was silly is that he’d read the (true) statistics that say that women are much more likely to be raped on a date, than by some stranger who attacks them from the bushes. So, he reasoned, my fear of strangers attacking from the bushes was really a misinformed media-fed paranoia, one of those things where people overestimate the risk of certain highly publicized things while underestimating other far more likely dangers.

    Fortunately, he came around when I quoted to him the items from the police blotter in which there were regularly reports of women having been attacked by strangers while walking home alone at night in our neighborhood. But a lot of men DON’T come around when you explain, and that’s extremely upsetting. The last thing you need is to be made to feel like there’s something wrong with you just for taking reasonable precautions to keep yourself safe. And then, if I HAD walked home alone and gotten assaulted, half my acquaintances would’ve thought it was partly my own fault for doing something that stupid! You can’t win.

    • Katerina R.
      June 25, 2014 at 4:27 pm

      Wow, that is… an impressive level of bullshit. I think I’ll illustrate my point with this xkcd comic:


      Maybe, just maybe, the way the balance of rape is skewed heavily towards acquaintance rape is BECAUSE so many women take precautions whenever possible during the more OBVIOUSLY dangerous situations where taking precautions doesn’t require being a mindreader and a prophet. Most rapes being acquaintance rapes in situations where the victim trusted the perpetrator and didn’t think she NEEDED to take precautions doesn’t mean it’s safe to run around willy-nilly. God, as much as some people dislike maths, they need to be forcefed basic understanding of statistics here.

      ( don’t mean to imply that ‘taking precautions’ is an actually effective strategy, by the way, because that is both victim-blaming bullshit and doesn’t follow logically. There’s nothing to suggest that the frequency of rape is actually reduced this way instead of merely shifting from one type of circumstances to another. Because yeah, I don’t think someone who’d have no problem assaulting a stranger would suddenly feel squeamish about coercing sex out of their girlfriend or taking advantage of a drunk friend.)

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