For Those Who Don’t Understand Schrodinger’s Rapist

It continually astounds me how many people don’t seem to understand the basics of the Schrodinger’s Rapist analogy. Being that my blog has been getting some traffic from people who don’t get it, I thought I’d take a stab at elucidating the idea. If you haven’t read the original post, go there now, and I’ll wait here while you finish.

Okay, good. Now, the Not-Really-Getting-It responses to this analogy are generally along the lines of:

  • You think all men are rapists! (incorrect)
  • You think all men are potential rapists! (correct or incorrect, depending on what you actually mean)

The “all men are potential rapists” bit is not saying what many people seem to think. It’s not saying that you in particular, Dear Reader Who Would Never Rape Anyone, might rape someone. It’s saying that an unknown person in public that you have no information about could potentially be a rapist. That is what you, Dear Reader, are when you approach a stranger in a public place. To that stranger, you’re an unknown. You know yourself out to ten significant figures, but a random stranger can guess out to one or two at best.

Imagine a friend asks you to play a game of Russian roulette. Serious Russian roulette, with a six-shooter and a single bullet. If you say no because you don’t want to die, is it appropriate for your friend to object by arguing, “What, do you think all of the chambers are loaded?” Of course not, because that’s not the point, is it? The point is that one of them is loaded, so each turn of the game you play could potentially kill you.

In this Russian roulette scenario, you, Reader Who Would Never Rape Anyone, are an empty bullet chamber. But not all of the chambers are empty, and on a given turn, the people playing the game have no idea whether the chamber that’s lined up to fire is you or one with a bullet in it. Until the gun is fired, Schrodinger’s Bullet. This is analogous to the type of situation Schrodinger’s Rapist is describing.

If you still think the most reasonable response to Schrodinger’s Rapist is that it’s ridiculous because not all men are rapists, I have made a list of other arguments you ought to be comfortable making, to illustrate the point.

  1. You’re about to have sex with a new partner. That partner asks you to get tested for STIs beforehand. You respond with, “What the hell? Not everyone has an STI, you know!”
  2. You get bitten by a wild animal. Your friend suggests you get rabies shots just to be safe. You respond with, “What the fuck? Not all wild animals have rabies, you know!”
  3. Your friend advises you to wear a seatbelt. You respond with, “What the shit? It’s not like you’re going to get in a crash every time you drive, you know!”
  4. You want to have sex with a new partner, they want birth control to be used. You respond with, “Seriously, do you think women get pregnant every time they have sex?!”
  5. Your friend suggests you get a flu shot. You respond with, “Jesus, do you think everyone gets the flu every year?!”

Does it make sense now? Schrodinger’s Rapist is not an argument of personal accusation, it’s an argument of statistics and precautionary measures. It’s an argument from trying to make the safest decision while not having all of the information that would be ideal to have. Not everyone has an STI, but a new partner could potentially have an STI, which is why people get tested. Not every wild animal has rabies, but the one that bit you is potentially a carrier of rabies, and it’s better safe than dead. Not every car trip ends in a crash, but every car trip could potentially end in a crash, which is why you wear a seatbelt. Not everyone gets the flu every season, but there is a chance that you could get it, so you get inoculated.

If everyone could see a random stranger on the street and just know, “Oh, that one’s not a rapist”, then the whole analogy would break down. The same way Russian roulette wouldn’t make sense if you could look inside the gun before pulling the trigger. Obviously in the real world, though, we don’t magically know who’s who. A random stranger cannot magically tell that you, Dear Reader, are not dangerous, the same as they cannot tell which chamber has the bullet, which animals have rabies, which car trip will end in a crash, etc, etc. In short, the salient point is that just because you know you’re not a rapist doesn’t mean everyone else does*.

Now, this blogger entreats you, implores you, can we at least move on to criticisms that actually demonstrate an understanding of what they’re arguing against? They don’t even have to be good ones, I promise, I just want them to be a nonzero level of relevant.

For a discussion of the claim that Schrödinger’s Rapist doesn’t make sense because most rapes are committed by someone the victim knows,  or because rape isn’t common enough to justify this type of risk assessment, see the follow-up to this post, For Those Who Don’t Understand Schrodinger’s Rapist, Part Two.

For those who think that the racism analogy is appropriate: You should read these links (Shuffling feet: a black man’s view on Schroedinger’s Rapist, Being Cautious of Men Versus Being Cautious of Blacksrelevant Reddit conversation), and then you should acquaint yourselves with the relevant statistics: crime statistics by racesexual assault statistics by Stop Street Harassment, sexual assault research by Hollaback.

* Which we hopefully all picked up back in the concrete-operational stage, if Piaget is to be believed, yes?

Sidenote: Many comments on this page have not been approved. For the curious, there is a commenting page that explains why some comments do not get approved.

Sidenote 2:  Another excellent analogy: Consider the Bank.

156 comments on “For Those Who Don’t Understand Schrodinger’s Rapist

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  3. Could this be based in our evolutionary development? Along the lines of the triune brain theory in the sense that it is a conflict between our most primitive reptilian eat, sleep, and procreate brain versus our neo mammalian logic, reason, and social brain? As modern as we are that some or many have difficulty overcoming our most primitive? As wrong as it may be, that these primitive instincts lurk in the background and we are subject to them.

    • There are two questions here. The first is whether or not our evolutionary development plays a role in whether or not rape happens. The answer to that is yes, but it’s not a very interesting answer, because the answer to that question is yes for every single type of human behavior that exists, from fleeing danger to being astronauts to having Tumblr blogs. The second is whether or not we are “subject” to that evolutionary development in the sense that these primitive instincts make rape an unavoidable side effect of our evolved brains. Given that there are mountains of evidence for the immense role that cultural conditioning plays in things like this, and for our own ability, as a species, to hack our own internal programming in ways that massively change our behavior, I feel completely comfortable saying that I think the weight of the evidence is heavily, heavily against this idea.

  4. Rape/sexual assault and sexism are terrible, terrible things that women have to deal with daily (not just women, I know, but women get it more often than men do). I think that everyone should be taught that no means no, not just as a part of sex education, as a part of everything. Of course everyone is taught that murder is A Bad Thing but there’s always going to be a few bad apples.

    While this post won’t change the minds of those bad apples it could enlighten a lot of men who, for some reason, fail to understand this.

    I have to say I don’t like the name Schrodinger’s Rapist, as even his cat-in-a-box thought experiment is misinterpreted by most people without a grasp of physics and knowledge of the man himself. However, I believe it makes a lot of sense, seeing as someone either is, or isn’t, a rapist regardless of whether the box is opened.

  5. This is an interesting theory and way to reduce potential risks of engaging/meeting new people. A lot of complaints coming from males feeling victimised about a females rights to feel/behave this way. It’s important to remember that this isn’t necessarily a measure just for females based on male rapists. There is still female on male, female on female and male on male rape that does occur. In essence, a man who has in his past been raped by a female may be using this measure as a means to reduce the risk of this reoccurring, however small that risk may be. Statistics will show that majority of rape occurs when a male rapes a female but that doesn’t mean other situations should be overlooked.

    As a male it’s difficult to completely comprehend the situation from a female view. In saying that, every person has the right to protect themselves and take precautions. I say person as it relates to both sexes. There is no sexism in this blog just because majority of the responses will be women, or because the post is aimed more towards women. It’s based on statistics and the fact that it will more likely occur to a woman.

    It might help some males with perspective if you put your sister in this situation, or another female close to you. I’m sure you wouldn’t complain that they were protecting themselves or taking precautions.

    This was an interesting read! The comments at both ends of extreme were very entertaining.

    • Great comment, I feel the main article failed to differentiate between taking precautions as opposed to blocking everyone out, which is where a lot of the negativity has come from (myself included).

  6. Thank you for this ! As a heterosexual male of light stature, I often feel uncomfortable around gay men, especially in contexts like clubs, when they are drunk and I’m alone with them in the toilets, etc. I’ve been called homophobic for talking about this, I know that the idea that homosexual people are all sex-maniacs etc. is a complete stereotype, and that most of them aren’t rapists, it’s just a risk which does exist and which I refuse to take.

    I fully understand that women might have this fear when it comes to men, and would in no case feel insulted by it’s expression either.

    • I want to start out by saying that, as I have said in other comments on here, you absolutely have a right to your fear and your comfort levels, and you have a right to act in accordance with them.

      That said, I also think it’s important to examine where those fears and comfort levels come from. Every woman I have ever talked to about harassment has experienced it, most of them experience it on a highly regular basis, and many of them have experienced sexual assault, and this is just restricting the list to the people who I have had specific conversations about this stuff with. The statistics about this stuff bear out their accounts on a larger societal scale. I haven’t had conversations about the particular apprehension you express in this comment, but knowing that that type of narrative is most commonly put forth by conservative homophobes, and also having spent a fair amount of time in gay bars, myself, my overwhelmingly strong impression is that you’re talking about a situation in which the level of risk is massively different from that which women face in the situations I describe when talking about Schrödinger’s rapist.

      Have your comfort levels, and enforce your comfort levels — that’s something I think everyone should learn how to do well. But do also take the time to examine them and ask where they come from, which ones help or hurt, etc.

      For the record, yours is a tricky comment to respond to, because this is absolutely the hard part of issues like this: it’s hard to say “think about where these feelings come from”, without sounding like “your feelings are wrong and bad”, and I’m doing my best to walk the line as well as I can. Shit be complicated.

      • The big difference here is that the woman is held responsible for not preventing an assault on her – it goes something like: “what that man did was horrible BUT [insert justification here such as her clothing]”. You, as a man, would never be blamed for being raped by a homosexual man and thus the requirement to protect yourself is in an entirely different context. Indeed, you could go to a club dressed for and with the explicit goal of having sex with a man, and yet, if you were raped, you would have no blame because the social construct we live.

        • I’m not sure that’s true. A friend of mine one day decided he wanted some e. He asked a random group of black guys (no issues with racism there at all) and showed them his money. They took him to a dark alley, beat the crap out of him and took his money. Everyone called him an idiot, and said that doing that was stupid. However, that doesn’t in any way excuse the guys who beat him up and took his money. I view some of the rape stuff the same way. Some of it is sincerely trying to give the victim tools that would enable them to prevent being in harms way, even if it shouldn’t be their responsibility. Now, some of it is very, very misguided (oddly enough wearing revealing clothing is actually negatively correlated with rape, not positively… girls in revealing clothing tend to be the focus of attention, rapists often try to target girls and women who are not the centre of attention). That doesn’t mean it’s blaming… and it doesn’t mean that none of it is blaming. Look at the individual case, and respond to it appropriately.

          When I taught women’s self defence I tended to focus on other forms of prevention, like basic self defence, not being in a vulnerable position with someone the student was less sure of, and not blaming themselves for what happened whether or not they had followed that advice. I also knew a number of women who were comforted by the idea that they had agency in this, as it meant they didn’t have to be victims, they had steps they could take to protect themselves, even if those steps were not foolproof. When I was victimized myself I had to go through that same process.

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  8. I love the way you explained this fear I have. Social anxiety makes it even harder when people approach me, even the guy from my class made me stutter and my legs tremble.
    In my city there’s been a lot of women getting grinded on full subways during rush hours and even guys masturbation on them, since it gets too full most don’t notice what’s happening. The police found a facebook page called “Encoxadores” which means grinders and there’s voyeuristic shots from under girls skirts and people boasting about how they felt up someone.
    It’s sickening to think that any man I meet could be one of these monsters but I have to; it scares me even more that, if anything serious happened, I’d be asked what I did or what clothes I was wearing instead of getting help to imprison the actual wrong-doers.

  9. This brought me to tears. Thank you for writing it. Thank you for understanding. After stumbling across your other post (which made its way to tumblr), it made me realize that an ex boyfriend of mine was and still very much qualifies as “schrodinger’s rapist.” While he never raped me, he also never had any concept of my desires to be left alone, specifically post break up. He would show up to my dorm room unexpected in fits of rage/emotional states that some would say were dangerous to himself and those around him…he would do this after I explicitly stated my wishes to be left alone. His violation of my autonomy and his entitlement in acting however he desired makes him a prime example of a Schrodinger’s rapist. Despite never having raped anyone, he is dangerous. He is a threat. But the thing is…could I assess this the first time I befriended him? The second? The third? No, I couldn’t. I did not realize the gravity of the situation for about 6 months.

    To those objecting to the Schrodinger’s Rapist argument: I ask you to try to empathize with those who perpetually live in fear that a male’s intentions may not always be good. These women do NOT want to live like this….I do not want to live like this…I wish more than anything that I felt safe being in my dorm room during the day without keeping it locked. I wish I didn’t have to avoid places on campus. But you cannot undo something that has haunted you for a very long time. We are the sum of our experiences…and when our experiences are bad, it becomes the basis of such of our fear.

  10. Dear editor of this ResearchToBeDone newspiece,

    I’m a 25-year-old heterosexual virgin male and a socially inept individual with only a couple of friends. Right now, the prospects of trying to meet women just for harmless chitchat makes me totally terrified, in particular due to the “all men are (potential) rapists” stanza.

    Here, in Spain, there are a couple of law gems called “Ley de Agresion Sexual” (sexual assault law, transliterated) and “Ley contra la Violencia de Genero” (law against gender violence, transliterated). which define that sexual assault and gender violence is only perpetrated on male-to-female scenarios.

    It’s incredibly sexist and inconstitutional, since an article of our constitution states that all Spaniards, without regard for their gender, are equal before the law. What’s even more WTF is the fact that women are starting to learn how to use those laws against men and equal acts in a female-to-male scenario are severely minimized to the point where there is no interest in investigating the case and prosecuting the guilty parties.

    This has gone to the point where I cannot trust women anymore and, of course, being that I had a 50% chance of being born with a Y chromosome and hitting the cosmic jackpot, why would a female stranger ever trust a potential rapist.

    The patriarchy has been the one who created these cookie-cutter role models we’re in right now, but I thought the goal of feminism was to promote bilateral gender equality, not simple women empowerment (probably a misconception on my part).

    Anyway, how the hell can I trust and be trusted in this fearful society?

    • A lot of people seem to see the Schrödinger’s rapist analogy as this idea that all women are afraid of all men all of the time. The reality is that the analogy is an explanation for why some women are afraid of some men in certain types of social situations. It isn’t a suggestion that everyone should be afraid all the time. The original Schrödinger’s rapist post, if you’ve read it, is in large part a post about a few of the things that you probably shouldn’t do if you don’t want women to be nervous around you.

      My follow-up post, For Those Who Don’t Understand Schrodinger’s Rapist Part Two, goes into a bit more detail about this distinction. I didn’t address it in the post you’re commenting on because I wrote this post as a response to one specific vein of objections to the original analogy.

      The goal of feminism is to promote gender equality, and the empowerment of women is one very important ingredient in that equation.

      Trust the same way that women do. Pay attention to social contexts that create particular power dynamics. Pay attention to people who throw out red flags that may signal that they don’t have respect for your autonomy or boundaries, and be wary of those people. For your own part, make sure you are placing a high priority on respecting women’s autonomy and boundaries. Also, maybe this post will help.

      • Thanks for the explanation.

        However, I have decided that it’s not worth it to pursue a romantic relationship, given my extreme social ineptitude and nerdiness. My heart is stone and I renounce all worldly pleasures.

        • I just realized that “worldly pleasures” sounds wrong at so many levels…

          My apologies, I was talking about social interaction…

          • I think perhaps talking generally to any women you might encounter, in shops, railway ticket offices etc would help you a bit. Women are people. Men are people. When you can talk about the weather or the price of petrol to the woman at the supermarket checkout, or at the bus stop, or to the female optician, just as a person, you will gradually reduce your social ineptitude. Politeness is the key.
            If you have family nearby, perhaps they will help you, too.

          • I think you are exactly right. I think the vast majority of men should not engage in social interaction with women. We shouldn’t talk to them, we shouldn’t seek to have any type of relationship with them. I think it would be safer all round.

            Maybe even have segregated public spaces.

          • @Biggsy

            I approved your comment because I think it is one of the best examples I’ve ever seen of how ironic it is that so many people who dislike the Schrödinger’s rapist analogy accuse women who speak out about this stuff of having “victim complexes”.

            It doesn’t get much more victim complex than reading a post about understanding women’s perspectives as implying that men shouldn’t be allowed to interact or even exist near women. Bravo, dude. When you’re done being so emotional about this that you can’t think straight, come back and read the post again and see if you can’t parse what it actually says instead of what your victim complex thinks it says.

  11. Alright, here is what I think about this from a unique perspective that can understand from a women’s pov but still disagrees with the whole thinking I could be a rapist thing.

    I was raised by a severely abusive mother. I have in the back of my mind towards females are “shrodinger abusers”. But that would be unfair.

    Also women seem to disregard the feelings of men on this matter. We have feelings too, just as much as you. But in this society we can’t express it so it’s often disregarded due to it’s limited expression.

    I respect a woman whom can come out of her shell and greet me as a human being. I don’t like that I say hi to a woman and she gives me that look. The look that is guided by this principal. It is unnecessary. And it hurts.

    Women have to fear physical attack. Men have to fear emotional since you women are way better at it than men since it is more developed. It is equal.

    What I do to alay my own fears is to try and treat women like humans. Greet them, talk to them, as people. And treat it like gaining a friendship. Then if that friendship goes into something more, cool. I am a gentleman, please don’t use the example of boys and apply that I could rape you onto you. It is fear controlling you.

    • Let me get this straight: you think that the fact that women can hurt your feelings by giving you “that look” is equivalent to women having to be afraid of physical assault?

      Think about that. Do yourself a favor and really, really think about that. Because the fact that that equivalency even occurs to you betrays such a monumental lack of understanding and perspective that I don’t even know how to put it into words.

      I sincerely hope you are trolling, although I have to say that if you are, the fact that you think this is an appropriate subject to troll about is similarly distressing and I hope that one day you realize the scope of real damage that is done by people who engage in trolling with respect to issues like this.

      • I couldn’t disagree more with this whole article and thread. There’s a difference between not trusting someone you don’t know and living every second of your life fearful that someone is going to rape you on the way to work, and forcing that very narrow minded opinion of yours on others is very distasteful. The part on not approaching someone on the train because they have no escape route, what an absolute joke. Having a Schrodingers outlook on life (taking it as literal as the author of this article anyway) will leave you very bitter and lonely.

        By all means I can understand how a past experiences may make someone feel uncomfortable in certain situations but I’m fairly confident that anyone receiving professional help to recover from such fears will be encouraged to slowly get over them (within reason of course). This article achieves nothing but create fear in the readers, scaring them with statistics.

        To be honest, in reading this article and your replies to other comments, I can’t help picturing a very angry, self-righteous woman who forgoes the very principles of equality feminism is meant to preach. If you’re going to preach these theories of distrust, why target them at males in particular? Who’s to say the lady who sat next to you on the train yesterday wasn’t carrying a knife in her bag? Don’t bother throwing more statistics at me on male/female crime rates, it’s people like you that give feminists a bad name.

        • Writing about a perspective is the same as forcing it on other people now? Okay, sure.

          Leave me bitter and lonely? For one, this is stuff that I, personally, don’t generally have to worry about on account of the fact that people with beards don’t generally get hit on in this way. For two, the people I know who agree with this post are not any more uniformly bitter or lonely than any other group of people I know, so it seems your prediction has failed on the balance of the evidence there.

          I love people like you who assume I’m a woman; it makes your attempts to stereotype me look that much sillier.

          • I am still 80% sure you are female, and now 100% sure you are someone I hope not to meet nor have time for. I appreciate you want to make your opinion public, and the majority of people who bother to reply/comment (the ones you approve anyway) seem to support your view. Closing the window and laughing at you like most the people who read this article do, would have been more worth my time than trying to reason with you.
            All the best.

        • “I am still 80% sure you are female”

          Well, I appreciate your determination to demonstrate your dedication to ignorance, then. I suppose I should thank you: I can share this with people who’ve met me in real life and we can all have a good laugh at your expense.

          “Closing the window and laughing at you like most the people who read this article do”

          Funny thing: of the two of us, I am the only one who knows what the actual statistics are on how many of the people who read this article go on to read part two. What is it with you and your determination to imply that you have knowledge that (A) you couldn’t possibly have, and (B) I actually do have?

          Words of wisdom: think, then speak.

          • “What is it with you and your determination to imply that you have knowledge that (A) you couldn’t possibly have, and (B) I actually do have?”

            Fair call you have access to these statistics which I don’t. Nice one, you’re a hero. What you don’t know is the number of people in my office I’ve had read this article over my shoulder, with not a single person agreeing with you and the ones that have, have only to a very slight extent (as I tried to say in my earlier post). I might add without predisposing them to any of my opinions, only what is written here and throughout other comments. You’re right, I have limited information, I am only going off the statistics I do have at my disposal. On a side note, I don’t mean to insult your writing, you write well, I just heavily disagree with this point you seem to worship. The only reason I’ve chipped in is because you don’t appear to have taken one of the responses against your views on board and have instead chosen to fight a losing cause like a child throwing a tantrum.

            What I should have added earlier is that these statistics are going to be heavily biased in your favour. You would be very naive to believe you are winning an audience, you are rather receiving support from a very small percentage of the population who already share these disturbing interests and habits. These small percentages of people are the ones that actively seek out blogs such as this, as they share the common interest. Your opinions on this topic seem to encourage people, telling them they are right to fear anyone unfamiliar, they cannot trust anyone (male or female as it should have originally been worded). I am only here to say, by supporting this opinion, you have an overwhelmingly larger chance of forgoing a positive experience as opposed to being raped or killed. I read that last sentence back and can’t believe I have to fight so hard to make my point, this is ridiculous. No doubt you will resort back to your “tantrum” coping mechanism of straight up disagreeing and not taking anything in your stride. You won’t get anywhere in life without taking others opinions into consideration.

        • “What I should have added earlier is that these statistics are going to be heavily biased in your favour. You would be very naive to believe you are winning an audience, you are rather receiving support from a very small percentage of the population who already share these disturbing interests and habits. These small percentages of people are the ones that actively seek out blogs such as this, as they share the common interest.”

          I suppose you have evidence to back this up? This isn’t just you getting carried away with your own personal biases about who would read and take things like this seriously? Because you seem very sure of the armchair psychology you’re doing on the people who agree with the post. Particularly as, again, I have access to information you don’t: the testimony of people whose opinions have actually been changed based on blog posts like this one.

          “Your opinions on this topic seem to encourage people, telling them they are right to fear anyone unfamiliar, they cannot trust anyone (male or female as it should have originally been worded).”

          From part two (you should read it, it might help you understand what the analogy is actually saying): “First, the original Schrödinger’s rapist post is not actually about fearing every random stranger. It goes into detail about doing an analysis of particular red flags when making a judgment call about a random stranger, and using that analysis to inform a risk assessment. Two specific examples of red flags that Starling mentions are ignoring signs that a person doesn’t want to be disturbed (they’re reading a book, have headphones in, aren’t making eye contact, have their arms folded, etc.), and wearing a shirt with a rape joke on it. Both disregard for boundaries and appreciating sexist humor correlate with likelihood to rape, so these are not unreasonable red flags, and they do put the guy in question in a higher risk category than “random stranger”. If you accost a random woman in public who has given no indication that she is interested in interacting, you are associating yourself with a higher risk category of people than the average stranger — the category of people who are either oblivious to or unconcerned about other people’s boundaries.”

          “You won’t get anywhere in life without taking others opinions into consideration.”

          You think I haven’t taken your opinion into consideration? Here’s the thing: I have, it’s just that you weren’t there when I did. Literally nothing that you have said in your comments is an original idea. There was a time when I had more patience for people who reiterate points that have been made many times before them, but after a while it just gets tiring for the same reason it gets tiring arguing with creationists who spout how “Evolution is just a theory” without stopping to consider that maybe someone somewhere has already made that objection and that maybe if they just googled around a bit they could find the many, many responses that have already been written in reply.

          It honestly just gets old. At some point, you lose patience with people who expect you to explain everything to them step-by-step and think that calling disagreement “tantrums” is a rhetorically impressive way to make a point. If you’re genuinely curious about understanding what this analogy is actually saying, then read my “part two” post linked at the bottom of this post, and then read the links in it, and then Google around for answers to the things you still don’t understand.

          I don’t have the time or inclination to explain things I’ve already explained any further than I already have, so don’t expect further responses from me on this. You are back in the moderation queue, and further comments with more blatantly unfounded assertions or requiring explanations of things that have already been explained elsewhere will not be approved.

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  13. Here’s why your russian roulette analogue doesn’t work: if you’re playing russian roulette you know you have a one in six chance of being shot on the first trigger pull (the odds go up with every trigger pull) because you know for a fact that one of those chambers actually has a round in it (the rules of the game dictate that there must be at least one chambered round), walk into any public space and you don’t know for a fact that anyone in that space is actually going to rape, sexually assault or harm you or anyone else in any way.

    As for Schrodinger’s rapist, I’m going to continue to pay exactly the same amount of attention to it as I have always done, none. It’s my experience that the mind-set of the blogger responsible for Schrodinger’s rapist is not universal or even applicable to the majority of women, it only describes a small and very paranoid subset of this demographic group. As such I’m not going to moderate my behaviour towards an entire group because a small percentage of that group thinks I should, you don’t get to define men and you don’t get to speak for half the world’s population simply because you have a vagina.

    • “Here’s why your russian roulette analogue doesn’t work…walk into any public space and you don’t know for a fact that anyone in that space is actually going to rape, sexually assault or harm you or anyone else in any way.”

      Personally, I wouldn’t find Russian roulette that much more enticing if the rules were “There is a pretty decent chance that there is a bullet in the gun, but you don’t know for a fact.” If that makes a big difference for you, then, uh, I guess I hope you never have too many chances to play Russian roulette, or, you know, do statistics or anything.

      “As such I’m not going to moderate my behaviour towards an entire group because a small percentage of that group thinks I should”

      You don’t have to. We’re just explaining why some people might think you’re creepy/a dick if you don’t. For the record: you also don’t have to brush your teeth, comb your hair, develop a satisfyingly firm handshake, be patient when waiting in line at the post office, or bathe yourself. Be true to who you are, I say, and if other people don’t respond well to your smelly limp fish handshake, well, those people don’t get to define you, amirite?

    • “It’s my experience that the mind-set of the blogger responsible for Schrodinger’s rapist is not universal or even applicable to the majority of women, it only describes a small and very paranoid subset of this demographic group.”

      I can assure you that you are extremely wrong about this. I would comfortably bet a million dollars that if you surveyed any group of women about 80% to 90% of them would indicate that they experience the fear and paranoia described in that article on a daily basis. Those men who aren’t willing to recognize this are the ones setting off our internal alarms.

  14. Pingback: Schrodinger's Rapist |

  15. Pingback: Privilege, or Why Douchebags on Dating Sites don’t Bother Me | Frangipani

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  17. Amazingly well explained. How can some not get it after that perfect explanation is just beyond.

    It’s amazing the level of male privilege displayed sometimes. Dude, back the fuck off. My safety takes precedence over your ego. Also it’s sad that tons of men have such an heterocentrist view of women.

  18. Pingback: Openbaar vervoer blijft mijnenveld voor vrouwen | De Zesde Clan

  19. Hahahaha, this is so funny.
    We have women who are ready to be cautious and be in constant fear, and then we have men making fun of THAT.
    I mean the FACT that a women is choosing to live in fear of being raped by a stranger is BAD ENOUGH FOR HER. She may miss out on her Mr. Charming just because he has a tattoo; but that is a fucking risk the girl is willing to take. Fellow guys who are complaining do you know why? Maybe its because even if the probability is very small; rape is SO BARBARIC for women that they would prefer to miss out on a Schrodinger Prince Charming. Why are the GUYS complaining I just don’t get it? So a girl may think of me as a Schrodinger rapist. SO WHAT? I KNOW I am not. And that’s what matters to me. Whether some strange girl thinks that DOESN’T MATTER. And its not like she is gonna look at you and she is gonna label you a rapist and then text all her friends – “This guy with me on the subway is TOTAL RAPIST girls.” She just being cautious, because maybe someone who looks exactly like you, behaves exactly like you COULD RAPE HER. If a girl trusts a guy with similar appearance as yours and he rapes her – CAN YOU FUCKING REVERSE THAT? So please RELAX.
    Agreed, this is not a permanent solution but then this is necessary.

    And some of you guys are not convinced – then you can think of all girls as Schrodinger Dumb Bitches and not talk to them because they might lower your intellect level.


  20. I have the same issue with black people. Statistics show that a disproportionate amount of black people commit violent offenses and are over represented in our prison system. But do I think that ALL black people are criminals? No, of course not. I’m sure that there are many black people who are quite decent and contribute a large part to the well being of our society. But why should I take the risk? Why, as an employer, should I take the risk of hiring a black person and risk being knifed in the face for handing out a bad performance review? According to the same logic in this article, not all black men are criminals, but all black men are potential criminals, am I correct?

      • I took a look at that link you left in the previous thread, and the issue here is while does show the make-up of how many people perform actions, it doesn’t show the make-up of the population. Statistics work here to show more white people perform such crimes, but where is the statistic stating that there is an equal number of African American people in the US as White or European people? Both equations need to be present before a conclusion can be reached, otherwise it is simply looking at a raw number with no context to show the details. Now does that mean I’m racist for pointing this out? No, merely someone asking for all the information before such a statement is used in a debate.

    • Oh look everyone. Some d=bag who thinks he’s scoring some sort of half assed point by bringing a total failure of a false equivalence non argument into the debate.

      Here’s why you and your argument completely fail: Both women and blacks never had any historical power. For your point to make any sense, you’d have to reverse the situation: would it be ok for black people to avoid certain situation involving white people for fear of being victim of racist behavior?

  21. Agreeing with this concept is not living life in fear. That is so far from the accurate it is questionable if the point of the article was understood. Men are positioned in society as the dominant force and women as the submissive. Stating that all men are potential rapists does not mean women must walk around in fear. It is a description of an already present reality that women face. Women are taught from a young age to not go out at night or not wear certain clothes or what have you because it is our job to not get raped. Part of ‘our job’ is making ourselves aware of potential threats. Any stranger is a potential threat. We are never 100% safe. It is not a fear, it is a reality. That is currently the world we live in. What speaks volumes to me is the how on a daily basi apppched, harrassed, assted and talked pite my clear bodily indicators asking to be left alone and that men who ignore a no in a non sexual setting are more likely to ignore a no in a sexual setting. This can be said of women too. However, 99% of rapists are male. So lets speak in regards to the highest number of perpetrators.

  22. Judging by your article and replies, I understand that you have researched the original article wholeheartedly and, while I do find the article to play off of emotions more than what I usually find tasteful (though to be fair, it should, as rape is a serious offense that plays off of the emotions of the victims, and so should the article to potential rapists), I find the article to be quite informative and I take the information to heart (point #4 is especially helpful and I feel like many people could use this wake-up call, both men and women in various situations, whether sexual in nature or not).

    That being said, I do have a few questions (and I feel that you would be able to answer them effectively, so thank you for encouraging discussion). I was wondering if, after reading the article, regardless of the author’s intent, is it logical for me to avoid women (strangers) to avoid making them feel uncomfortable around me? That is the feeling it instills in me personally, and my guess is that it will invoke the same reaction in most of the people I show it to. I would like to be considerate and respectful of the people around me, and avoiding them seems like one of the only surefire options as the article seems to suggest that I know what each woman is thinking, and because they have the potential to assume that I am a rapist, then I should assume that they do think I am a rapist and therefore avoid them so as to not cause them discomfort.

    The second question is that, and I do mean this seriously, as a victim of sexual assault and as a male, am I to assume that because I did not assess the male as a potential threat, then I am to blame for the events that followed? As a man, do I lack the inherent ability of women to communicate my thoughts or judge people cautiously?

    The third question, though simple, is that if I am a potential rapist, should I be in fear of myself? And on that note, are men who refuse to view themselves as potential rapists at every moment missing the point of the article? It would come off as accusatory to assume that the article holds merit and not see yourself as a potential rapist, would it not?

    Thank you so much for your time and I apologize for the novella of a comment and any confusion/negative attention it might cause.

    • No, you don’t have to avoid women. At least not all the time. Context is everything. It can be incredibly helpful to avoid putting yourself in situations with women where they would have limited options to protect themselves if you turned out to be a predator (e.g. don’t follow a woman too closely if you’re both walking home at night, even if it’s unintentional). I wrote another post a little while ago that goes more into the details of dating or propositioning women in a rape culture-conscious way:

      With respect to your second question, no, sexual assault is always the fault of the perpetrator. The Schrödinger’s rapist analogy isn’t meant to explain why it’s anyone’s responsibility to be afraid of men, it is meant to explain why women are often, quite reasonably, wary of men who approach them in public. Women don’t have a responsibility to be wary, and neither do you, but many of them are, and for entirely understandable reasons.

      With respect to your third question, no, the article doesn’t mean that you have to think of yourself as a potential rapist. It simply means that you have to understand that other people may think of you that way, and that their reasons are understandable. You know yourself out to 10 significant figures, and that may be enough to be pretty confident that you would never rape anyone, but a random stranger can only tell out to one or two significant figures, which is not enough to rule out the possibility that you might be a rapist. You don’t have to consider yourself a potential rapist, you just have to be conscious of the fact that other people may reasonably consider you a potential rapist given that you are a person they know nothing about.

      • ” It can be incredibly helpful to avoid putting yourself in situations with women where they would have limited options to protect themselves if you turned out to be a predator (e.g. don’t follow a woman too closely if you’re both walking home at night, even if it’s unintentional).”

        Do people honestly think like this? If you want to think I’m a rapist go right ahead, as long as you don’t act on it. The truth is, is that I am not a rapist, and never will be. Because of my firm and steady belief in morals and the protection of everyone and their lives, I have never seen myself as a predator. When I enter into situations involving woman, I never think “Do they see me as a rapist?” because I know that it’s ridiculous. I will not adjust how I act in situations involving women simply because I am always respectable. If you fear for your life just because of my presence, you yourself need to take non-violent action and remove yourself. The world does not revolve around you and I am not going to constantly think about how I should act so as to not appear to be a rapist. If you have such a fear of rapists, you need to take self defense classes and carry with you a means of protection. All of this jazz about assumptions will not protect you and does nothing but make you look foolish. The fact of the matter is that we live in a dangerous world, regardless of race or gender, so you need to protect yourself against any aggressiveness.

        • “If you have such a fear of rapists, you need to take self defense classes and carry with you a means of protection. All of this jazz about assumptions will not protect you and does nothing but make you look foolish.”

          Actually, I don’t generally deal with fear of this type on a regular basis, because I’m not a woman — I’m just a guy who understands why this stuff is important. But do feel free to carry on about how I am the one in this conversation who looks foolish.

  23. Two major problems I have with the original “Schrodinger’s rapist” post.

    Firstly, the Schrodinger’s cat thought experiment was originally used not to say that the cat in the box may or may not be dead, but that the laws of quantum mechanics become cloudy when dealing with regular objects. The cat, according to those rules, would have to have been both dead and alive at the same time in order for the cat to be observed either alive or dead afterwards. To call someone “Schrodinger’s rapist” implies that somebody has to be both a rapist and not a rapist in order to eventually be a rapist through observation after the superposition state. An odd thing to call someone when the entire point is that someone can either be a rapist or not, but never both, and you don’t know what that person is.

    Secondly, the entire point of the original post is a little bit ridiculous. I respect what is trying to be said, but I believe that the fundamental flaw is not acknowledging that the world itself is a. both equally dangerous for men and women and b. statistically more dangerous for people doing everyday activities (i.e. driving a car). It is really a waste to worry about all of the dangerous people out there. Just keep your wits about you and you’ll be fine. Additionally (which is a point I like in the post), don’t infringe on other’s rights and help make this world a better place!

    • The conversation about the analogy being imperfect has been had in this particular thread two or three times already.

      The conversation about the world being equally dangerous for men and women hasn’t, yet, I don’t think, probably because in the context of talking about getting hit on by strangers and sexual assault, it’s bullshit. Many situations are dangerous, some of them are equally dangerous for men and women and some of them are not. The particular situations that this post is about are not. If you don’t think that women’s apprehension about strangers who approach them in public is warranted, you should read the follow-up I wrote to this post. It is linked at the bottom of the post.

  24. It is a nice space to make my comment(al) debut, just one little thing: I was born, raised and identify as a girl 🙂

    • I actually tend to just use “dude” as a generic exclamation. Basically a synonym for “cool”/”awesome”. No gender identity assumption intended. Though I definitely also use it as a male-identifying noun to refer to people at times. Dude is a very strange all-purpose word, when it comes down to it, I guess.

      • I just wanted to put it out there. I personally don’t mind (though, rereading my previous comment is may seem so) plus in my language it means mulberry fruits.

  25. The initial article was not addressed to potential rape victims – as in the persons making those “expected value calculations”, but to the guys (I would say mostly but not exclusively cis men) who want to engage with (again mostly but not exclusively) women in a public or not so public space; if the signals you are getting are not positive, whether they are verbal or body language, just back off and move on. It seems so simple and plain respectful.

    And back to the confusing term, it’s really hard for me to understand why you, and so many others complain about this here when you could just as easily write to Phaedra Starling. As far as I saw, the author of this blog has explained over and over that he understands it’s not an accurate representation of the referred paradox, but more a matter of perception. Just call it something else that seems more appropriate to you.

    I also, am not a native English speaker, so I apologize for any mistakes I might have made. Oh! And this was my first comment ever on a blog. Whew!

    • “Oh! And this was my first comment ever on a blog. Whew!”

      Dude! I feel special now 🙂

      Totally agree with the rest of your comment, also. I have gotten the impression lately that a number of people actually think that I am Phaedra Starling, which may explain some of the questions about coining the term. The mistake has been kind of flattering, really 🙂

  26. I just don’t understand why you made up a confusing term for it. It sounds like you’re describing expected value calculations, which people do for almost everything they encounter in life.

  27. The “worst” stat I’ve heard is one-in-twenty-to-thirty, i.e., about 3.3% to 5% of men are rapists. Here’s my thing. I get that the term “Schrodinger’s Rapist” is useful shorthand for getting across the point that you’re trying to make. It’s also wrong. For the physicist, the cat is both alive and dead at the same time. For the potential rape target, a man cannot be “both a rapist and not a rapist at the same time”. Better terminology needs to happen. Rape is like pregnancy, you cannot be “a little bit” of a rapist.

    • It also occurs to me that if you’re going to make this about threat assessment, why make it solely about rape? You could attract a lot less flak, broaden your audience, and expand your relevance by saying “potential attacker” or even “potential criminal” rather than “potential rapist”. What if a guy beats the crap out of you and jacks your purse, your shoes, and your coat… but doesn’t rape you? No-nonsense general awareness is better than delineating one threat from another.

      • I agree that the terminology is not perfect in the sense of lining up exactly with the Schrödinger’s cat concept. For most people, though, it does seem to illustrate the point pretty well. Obviously, it’s not perfect, or I wouldn’t have had to write this post, but I don’t think most of the misunderstandings are due to the physics involved in the original analogy.

        In terms of making it solely about rape, I expand on this a little in the follow-up post linked at the bottom of this post. That said, the reason that the subject matter is restricted, generally, to sexual harassment or assault is because the original post was directed at people who may be in the habit of giving women unwanted sexual attention, and that seems to correlate specifically with sexual harassment and assault, rather than things like mugging.

  28. I am not a English speaker, so let me apologize before hand for my future mistakes in this post. I am a woman, 29 years old, not as pretty as society tells me to be, not as behaved as society tells me to be. I have amazing legs and a beautiful arse that I am very proud of…mini skirts, shorts, little dresses, red lips (I have very juicy lips also) are part of my daily “showing of”, and if you ask me, do you dress for others, I will tell you “yes, naturally, as you do in your high neck jumper”. I know that I have male eyes on me when I am walking on the street, I have been in trouble before…do I provoke that trouble? “oh yes of course, I was asking for it”…actually, I am not asking for anything, when I want to ask for something I use mouth and words to do it…I can be naked in front of you and still you have no right to touch me without me wanting you to. I do art with my body, I am a webcam girl, so I work in sex industry, does this gives someone the right to rape me? No. Am I an easy girl? Yes, to those I want to. Do I live in fear? No, Is the post about, “be aware, you can be the next victim”, yes and no, I can be the next victim of some random rapist, as much as I can live my life without ever suffer any kind of assault…be aware it is not the same as living in fear…I am not afraid of walking alone in the night but that does not mean that I don’t look over my shoulder. Every time I ride my bike around central London I am afraid of crashing with a car but that does not stop me, it just makes me more cautious. In the end, living in fear is not as bad as it looks…if it does not stop you from doing whatever you want/have to do.
    People take things too personally…relax…this is not about you…this is about rapists…are you one? If no, why so much noise? Of course, everybody is entitle to an opinion and I do speak when some things are not about me also, but honestly, we are not talking here about the exploration of children in Asia, or the bloody diamonds in Africa, or the recession that is leaving families every day without a home…we are simply (as important and deep as it is) talking about how valid is a NO from a woman, and how man sometimes have this thought of “oh, she is just playing difficult”….oh well, if some women play difficult just get in the game and fuck off (sorry). We are talking about some signs, that more than telling that some men are rapists it tells that we still live in the “rape society” where men still think it’s OK to not listen a woman NO.
    Sometimes, in my “single past” I’ve tried to talk with some of the rapist kind (it’s a joke…laugh please) and when they said no, they just had to say it once…fact: some of them, after a while come back to me to indulge in some conversation…but it was their option, their action…and even after this I can say NO to them. In fact I can say NO to my boyfriend (I don’t…I get him really tired) and he has to respect me as much as I have to respect him (gladly he doesn’t say NO also).

    Much love to all of you. and much lust…with lot of “yes yes YES” 😉


  29. I can only conclude that some people are determined to misunderstand the post. The same people who will cautiously eye a large stranger on a lonely corner and carry guns to protect themselves from Shroedinger’s mugger; the same people who lock their cars and take the keys with them because you don’t know who is Shroedinger’s car thief; the same people who will blame a woman for being where she is, doing what the does, or wearing what she wears argue that women don’t need to be equally, or even more, wary than they.

  30. Pingback: For Those Who Don’t Understand Schrodinger’s Rapist, Part Two | Research to be Done

    • At the moment, you are approved to get through moderation without my even being notified, so unless something’s gone horribly wrong, any of your comments past the very first one should’ve gotten through immediately.

  31. After reading through the other comments and your replies it is obvious you are very thoughtful and articulate about these things. I would appreciate any reply. Both posts are things I’ve thought about for awhile and have yet to have adequately answered. Feel free to e-mail if you prefer.

  32. I am also beginning to have a hard time with the evolving definition of sexual assault. I firmly believe in severe and lasting punishments for anyone found guilty of sexually abusing another. The definition of abuse itself though is continually becoming more ambiguous. I viewed a website claiming that if I matched any of the criteria for assault I should notify the police immediately. I fit all of the instances of having been raped except being exposed to violence with a weapon. According to this website I should phone the police and report each and every one of my previous girlfriends for rape. So the question is; am I a victim of countless rape or did I just stay in bad relationships too long?

    • That depends on the circumstances and on the website. I agree with pretty much everything in the original Schrodinger’s rapist post, but I’m not necessarily going to agree with everything that every feminist is ever written about rape. It is certainly worth noting that cultural context will probably tend to make rape, on average, something easier for a man to accomplish with less pressure applied (There are a lot of cultural double standards surrounding women who get propositions versus men who get propositions, for example: ), but that doesn’t in any way mean that a man can’t be sufficiently pressured into sex to the point that it could reasonably be called rape.

      • I would have to say I feel that I stayed in bad relationships too long. Have I woken up to someone preforming a sexual act on me? Yes. Have I had sexual acts preformed on me while intoxicated? Yes. Have I been pressured into sex when I didn’t want to? Yes. Have I agreed to sex just to end an argument? Yes. Have I been raped? No. I feel that is a powerful word and anyone guilty of the crime of rape should never see the light of day again. Would I see that punishment done to a previous girlfriend because of their actions definitely not. I am not putting these words into your mouth, I am just saying that this is some of whats out there and it may cause harm to innocent people.

        • Honestly, I’m not sure there’s any way I can speak to your individual situation without understanding a lot more than would be possible through this medium. It certainly sounds like there is a possibility that some of the situations you refer to would reasonably qualify as rape, but there is an enormous amount of context that would be necessary for me to say anything more than that. I certainly do not think that every instance of one person deciding to have sex even though they may not be super into it at the time, because their partner wants to is rape, but I absolutely think that there are contexts in which that would qualify as rape, depending on the circumstances.

          I’m not sure this line of thought will really get us anywhere in the discussion though, since I’m not sure whether or not I agree or disagree with the “what’s out there” that you’re referring to. I don’t agree with everything every feminist has ever said, and I do think there are those who go overboard in their classifications of rape, though it must be said that I think it’s far, far more common for people to classify something that, to me, is obviously rape as not rape (see, for example, the Steubenville rape) than it is for people to classify something that isn’t rape as rape. In any event, for the purposes of this discussion, let’s stick with what’s in the Schrödinger’s rapist posts, or things we can use very concrete examples for.

        • It is off the subject of Schrodinger’s but I felt it was a point worth making. If you’ll forgive one more comment, you covered the point I was trying to make in your reply. To summarize, the questions in the post were the ones on the website defining rape. I fit all the criteria but one yet I have not been raped, the criteria are wrong. They are wrong for the reasons you spell out in your reply, “… there is a possibility… but there is an enormous amount of context that would be necessary for me to say anything more that that.” This was my point exactly. The “what’s out there” I was referring too is the expanding definition of rape. A definition that is becoming increasingly broad yet lacks the necessary distinctions of content which you speak of. Those distinctions, such as between regretting a drunken sexual act or having been raped while intoxicated, are important. Unfortunately such distinctions are seen as excuses made by a rape culture protecting it’s own. You are right, society is much more likely to ignore rape than punish it and you only have to rent porn to see that it is part of the culture; but you can’t fight wrong with crazy.

          • That makes sense, and you’re right that this is a tricky area. Personally, I think that pretty stringent standards should be applied in all cases, no matter the genders involved. I think that sex should be a case of strict liability — that it should be the responsibility of the person with more power in the encounter (which is usually, although not 100% always, men) to be sure that it is consensual. While I don’t think that every single case where any alcohol was drunk is always rape, I do think that “buyers remorse” is a lot less common than people tend to argue. It’s completely normal for someone to not be able to admit to themselves that what happened was rate for a period of time after the incident, for example.

            Try this analogy: affirmative action. We know that we have culture that still contains a fair amount of racism, and we know that we need to address that racism directly, but as a stopgap measure, one of the things that we’re trying to do to counteract it is affirmative action. It is, in general, a clumsy, inexact solution to a difficult problem, but it’s one of the only ones we have. We know that racism pushes the likelihood-of-being-hired bar away from people of color, so we implement this other system to push it back in their direction. It’s not perfect, and it will result, sometimes, in more qualified people not getting positions that they applied for. But it will also result in the opposite – more qualified people getting positions that they are qualified for that they wouldn’t have gotten otherwise due to racism. In a similar way, in situations dealing with rape, I think there is a certain tendency to assume a greater responsibility for what happened in a given situation lies on men because, culturally, we are almost always the ones with more power, and therefore a greater ability to manipulate circumstances to enable us to rape if we wanted to. It’s not a perfect solution to the problem of having such a significant power imbalance, but it’s what we’ve got, and I think it’s probably the reason why these apparently inconsistent standards exist (even if few to no people have made this decision about differing standards consciously).

            Anyway, complicated issue, but those are some of my rough thoughts.

  33. I completely understand the reasoning you stated and the Russian Roulette analogy makes it clear. The only thing I cannot understand though is according to the numbers the “stranger danger” phenomenon is backwards. Most violence against women happens by those they are on a first name basis with. When it comes to violence against children overwhelmingly it is the parents or families responsible for the abuse. Why is someone nervous of a stranger when it is they’re partner or family that is most likely to harm them, and statistically speaking it is the mothers themselves that are most likely to harm the child. The stranger is the one who will be coming to the rescue or dialing 911 to save the woman from her partner or the child from their parent. My only grudge against the Schrodinger’s Rapist idea is that it doesn’t fit with any of the statistics on what actually takes place when violence occurs.

    • First, see this comment:

      A stranger who accosts someone has already identified himself as a member of a relatively high-risk group of people compared to the average stranger.

      Second, see this comment:

      The risk of negative consequences from engaging with a stranger do not begin and end at rape. They start much sooner than the point at which rape might happen, generally.

      Third, how do you think people go from not being on a first name basis to being on a first name basis? See one of the links in that second comment — the rapist in the account was met as a stranger, but obviously didn’t stay a stranger. If a person doesn’t understand or doesn’t respect a woman’s right to not be bothered in a public place, they have identified themselves as a relatively higher risk person for any negative consequence of interaction, whether it be rape, or just freaking someone out, or just being an inconsiderate person. The more extended the interaction gets, the higher the risk of worse consequences.

      • I have read the comments and I don’t think the point is being addressed. Interactions with strangers and interactions with relationships are of course separate types of events. Obviously one leads to the other and there is also a difference between the two, I don’t think anyone would argue that. Where the Schrodinger’s Rapist argument falls apart in my mind is in the numbers. By using the example of Roulette with a broader picture, if a stranger is 1 bullet in 100, then a partner is 1 in 10 or much smaller since you have very few partners in proportion to strangers met. When it comes to violence against children it is much worse and equally skewed. My question to the Schrodinger’s Rapist argument is that why is it only applied to strangers when the threat is vastly in favor of any harm to you coming from someone you already know. To repeat, the stranger is the one who will save you.from your partner, or your child from you in most cases of abuse. Your first, second, and third points define interpersonal and unknown threats but says nothing to my original question.

      • Let me clarify what I’m saying with an example. The most vulnerable I have ever been was when all I had was a motorcycle and no insurance. I had to leave the house of course but was is a very poor position for safety concerns. The logic of Schrodinger’s Rapist worked very well for me and kept me safe. Every car was a potential hazard to my life and well being. The people closest to me being the greatest potential hazard and the people on the peripheral the least. Of course some random person could drive their car off an overpass and land on top of me unawares but it was too remote a possibility to worry about. Everything and everyone is always a potential threat, the likelihood of being harmed begins with the people and object closest to you and reducing exponentially the further away from yourself you get. The basic idea behind Schrodinger’s Rapist is solid, in three and a half years on a motorcycle I did not get into an accident, when it comes to the stranger danger phenomenon though it’s application is false. The logic is sound but what it lacks is perspective and without that perspective it is next to useless.

        • Can we assume that a stranger who accosts you in a public place and ignores any signals you might send out to indicate that you’re not interested in conversation is unlikely to be someone who it is pleasant to interact with? It’s almost tautological — you’re not interested in interacting, and this person has decided to interact with you regardless. Frankly, I don’t think it should take the possibility of rape to make it not okay to try and engage someone who obviously isn’t interested in engaging. And in any event, the type of people the original post was addressing, it seemed to me, are the type of people who are engaging specifically with an eye toward becoming more than just strangers — that is, among other things, with an eye toward becoming familiar enough that they would (whether or not it is their intention) become someone within the category of people familiar enough to be at a higher risk of committing rape.

          The point of citing those comments was twofold: first, to demonstrate that even if the stranger isn’t going to rape right there, that doesn’t mean that they don’t have the capacity to make your life incredibly unpleasant right there, and while that isn’t the same as rape, it is something that makes the interaction something that it’s perfectly reasonable to want to avoid. Second, to illustrate the idea that the longer you engage with someone, the more their ability to harm you escalates. That being the case, it does not seem unreasonable for someone to decide that they don’t want the interaction to proceed at all, so that the risk never has a chance to escalate in the first place. I believe there is an account in one of the stories I linked of the victim giving her number to a person who accosted her in public because it was the only way she could think of to get him to stop pestering her. Once it had gotten to that point, even though nothing had happened except for interaction with a stranger in public, the victim at that point had to make a choice between giving away more personal information, increasing the level of risk, or having to deal with whatever this person’s reaction to rejection might be, pleasant or not.

          Someone who engages you in a public place because they want to get to know you better is someone whose objective is to become familiar enough that they would be in the higher risk category. This may not be because they want to rape, but it does mean that if things go the way they are hoping, there’s a decent chance they may end up in a situation where they could if they wanted to.

          Does that clear up the point I was trying to make?

        • Sorry about that, I saved the web page instead of Bookmarking it. When I checked back to see your reply I didn’t find one and my post was not visible either hence the comment on the bottom of the page. I didn’t realize at first it was just the method didn’t allow for the content to change. Anyway, I completely get what your saying. The logic works and yes, definitely do not associate with people that are not considerate. The logic Schrodinger Rapist employes is some of the most basic. All A are B, and some B are A. No two ways about it, the only point I was trying to make was one of perspective and using the real life statistics of violence to try and make that point. In reality the same logic can be applied to almost anything good or bad. Drawing comparisons to other points is necessary to give that perspective I feel is lacking from the Schrodinger’s Rapist discussion, that’s all. Never invite people into your life who are abusive, stranger or otherwise; those are just common sense things and good advice for any gender.

  34. The argument ‘All anything are potential rapists, therefore you must be cautious’ is necessarily false. ‘All people are potential rapists’ is vacuous (or ontologically false, take your pick). ‘All men are potential rapists’ is a fortiori vacuous. ‘All people holding a predisposition to rape are potential rapists’ is trivially true, but the only claim you can reasonably make. And because it is impossible to know which people hold a predisposition to rape at first glace, it is impossible to make a claim of any kind based on first glances. Therefore, any argument that makes a contrary claim to that which has been laid out, without legitimate refutation of above premises, is false by necessity. QED.

  35. I only recently stumbled across a post on Schrodinger’s rapist and found this blog when I was trying to learn more … and have kept coming back to your post which I particularly like. That especially includes the alternate scenarios you listed. The KateHarding site comments had a good one along the lines of “I’m such a nice person so why can’t I invite this little kid back to my house to look at my puppy?”
    I’m also surprised with how much trouble people have accepting this concept. I also feel like people are over-analyzing this thing to death (your and Adam’s comments on why it’s not the most important thing in the world if the Schrodinger analogy isn’t accurate make more sense than when I’ve tried to explain that) when all that really needs to be taken from it is something like: a stranger has no way of knowing whether you are a “nice person”, don’t approach strangers/break off the conversation if they seem disinterested, a man approaching a woman may be scary to some because he is likely bigger and stronger.
    At least, that’s how I took it as I have never once thought “this person could be a rapist/mugger/serial killer/etc”. I also understand how a woman (anyone) who has experienced sexual violence (any violence) may be particularly vigilant and have those specific thoughts. Only if I find the person suspicious might I start analyzing why and what my options are. I can’t imagine anyone not acting on their vibes/intuition/etc around a stranger, I suspect they just haven’t given it thought unless maybe they work in law enforcement or have been assaulted. I find the idea absurd that this is “living my life in fear” when I imagine most people do EXACTLY THE SAME THING when approached by strangers, at least in some circumstances.
    If I have tried giving increasingly obvious signals that I’m not interested (pointedly staring back at my book, putting headphones back on, walking away, each after only nodding or a one-word answer) only to have someone continue talking, I’m now faced with forced small talk or asking to be left alone. At this point, I’m probably not afraid of the stranger but they are being effin’ rude. I’d like to make clear here that I have never once said anything less polite than “Sorry, I’m really busy,” unless the person is out of line- explicit comments or touching me. Still, I have been called a bitch, racist or even a tease if I had accidentally made the briefest eye-contact before he approached. Sometimes, it’s just easier to chat for a few minutes but of course, then I’m stuck making up excuses not to give them my number.
    Anyway, sorry for the novel and the “late” comment but for reasons I mentioned and others I can’t articulate, this is one of my favorite posts on this topic so far.

    • Thanks very much 🙂

      In retrospect, the one other thing that I could’ve spent more time on is the idea that once someone has decided to ignore your signals that you’re uninterested in conversation, they’ve already identified themselves as someone more likely to be unpleasant to engage with (which may mean actually dangerous or just uncomfortable/annoying) than the average stranger. Every now and then someone comments about how the percentage of actually dangerous people in the population is so low that being nervous about people in general is absurd. But of course in reality (and Starling touches on this in the original post), anyone who has demonstrated that they don’t respect someone’s preference for having conversation or not has already identified themselves with a higher risk category of people than the average stranger (the category of people who don’t respect or don’t perceive at least some of other people’s boundaries).

      Anyway, now I’m sort of starting to write you a novel back that isn’t even exactly related to what you are saying, so I’ll just finish with thanks again for the comment 🙂

      • That’s really more of a novella if we’re comparing it to my post 😀
        Thanks for the reply and I agree 100% with that word for word (and it’s totally related because a lot of what you say is the point I was going for in my last big paragraph, I just can’t explain anything without telling it as an anecdote).
        Anyway, off to read some more of your posts. A few caught my eye after I posted the other day but I only had time to skim. I wasn’t expecting a reply since one I noticed was the repetitive motion pain/issues with typing you’re dealing with, so thanks again.

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  37. You can see how ridiculous this is by replacing “men” with a race then using a stereotype.
    For example Schrodinger’s Blacks, I may be rude or seem hostile towards African Americans because they are a disproportionate percentage of the prison population and are therefore more likely to be criminals and harm me in some way.
    Everyone here will scream racist but this Schrodinger’s Rapist is at its core sexist. Perhaps you all should be more terrified of your friends and family since most rapes are committed by someone you know.
    Before everyone jumps on the your racist bandwagon please not I picked what I felt would be the most striking example.

    You could also use Schrodinger’s Germans.
    Because in the past Germans committed genocide against numerous races I am terrified of them and it affects my interactions with anyone of German ancestry.

    This “theory” is nothing more than profiling caused by an individual’s irrational fear of another group. If you are actually afraid of interacting with other individuals to the point that it affects your daily life you should seek psychological help because it is a phobia.

    • This conversation has been had. I refer you first to Crommunist’s excellent post on this very objection:

      And second to the conversation that I had when I first linked this post on reddit:


      Third, crime statistics by race:

      And harassment/assault statistics: and

      • So what you’re saying is, you accept fully that it’s racist, but that guy didn’t MIND that people were racists, so it’s ok for you to be sexist? All he says basically is “I understand that they’re frightened by a black man”. But WHY are they frightened by a black man? Because they’re racists.

        • (A) He doesn’t say he doesn’t mind. He says he has a choice how to react, and chooses to react in a way where he doesn’t create in-the-moment fear and disharmony, regardless of the source of that fear.

          (B) When I link multiple things, it is because there are multiple points to be made to address the various issues with this perspective. When you give no indication of having read more than the first thing, and then act as though you are capable of representing my perspective fully and accurately, you look foolish.

    • @Amazed – don’t be obtuse, it is not sexist. It is simple, all it is saying is for men to please be aware of how they can come across when approaching a women. It is not because all women are worried that they will get raped – that is the idea taken to the extreme, but because often when a woman is approached by a strange man in public it’s because he wants to hit on her. Women do not always want to engage with men in this way. The blog points out how if a man wants to approach a women, that he can read signals like body language, tone of voice etc that will tell him before he approaches how receptive she will be – the blog asks for men to please respect these signals. Not too much to ask is it?

      And let me address the fear of getting raped – this is taught to girls from a young age; a Dad coming to pick his teenage daughter up from a party, making sure your female friends get a cab home safely, text me when you get in, being given rape alarms, don’t walk home alone at night – all these things are taught to girls. This is coupled with the fact that from the ages of 12-13 girls will start to experience sexual harassment on the street themselves; wolf whistling and cat-calling. So it is not really unreasonable that women grow up to be wary of strange men approaching them – this is what society teaches us, and this is what we experience day in day out throughout most of our lives. Don’t miss the point – the blog is not for a minute saying that all men are rapists or have ill intentions, but asking the nice, reasonable men out there to please be aware of how and why their conduct may be perceived as threatening, or simply just unwanted – and to respect that. Get it?

  38. Schrodinger’s Maneater is not about “all women are evil.”

    It is not even about “all women are potentially evil.” All women are, in fact, potentially evil, in much the same sense as all men are potentially evil, and all brunettes are potentially evil. All people are potentially evil, because evil is not a function of anything about a person except the fact that they do evil things.

    It is about “a very significant proportion of men will, when you approach them, be assessing whether you are going to be That Crazy Bitch…”

    …That Crazy Bitch makes up only a tiny percentage of women. However, she has poisoned the well for everyone else.

    I think a lot of women underestimate the fear most men have around relationships of any kind. For instance, I am the happiest little stud you could ever hope to meet. However, I would never date or have sex with a woman whom a friend, or a friend of a friend, didn’t vouch for, because she might lie about being on birth control and ding me for 18 years paying for a child I didn’t want, or cry rape the next morning when her boyfriend demands to know where she was all night, or only be after my wallet, or take me for everything I have or care about–including my kids–when she’s done with me. On a rational level, I know the chance of me getting screwed over in some way because I slept with or entered a relationship with a woman is about as likely as me…well, actually, it’s getting likelier all the time. Huh. I mean, on an emotional level, I want intimacy with a woman, but my powers of observation and sense of self-preservation associates “sexual involvement with women, whether I know them or not”, with “getting fucked over, maybe for life.”

    • It’s actually pretty demonstrative of the point that this is the analogy you chose.

      Schrodinger’s Rapist is about a judgment call women have to make when they decide to go out in public. You analogy is about a judgment call you have to make when you’ve decided you’d like to date or have sex with someone.

      Schrodinger’s Rapist is about why you should be understanding when women don’t want to engage you when you’re a stranger in a public place. Your analogy is about understanding why you might not want to date or fuck particular women.

      Of these scenarios, which one do you think happens more often: going out in public, or wanting to date someone? Of these scenarios, which one do you think happens more often: a woman being accosted by a man they have no interest in talking to for all of the reasons stated in the original post (to be fair, even without the reasons in the original post, it’s perfectly reasonable to not want to engage with a random stranger in a public place no matter what your gender), or wanting to date or fuck someone?

      Of these scenarios, which do you think would be more debilitating: deciding not to go out in public, or deciding not to date people?

      Additionally, consider the fact that being accosted by someone in public is, pretty much by definition, an interaction with someone you have no information about, and the risk of it leading to some negative experiences starts as soon as the conversation does, and increases from there. Deciding whether or not you want to date or fuck someone is something that for the most part happens after you’ve had enough interaction to assess compatibility. I wouldn’t begrudge you at all deciding that dating or fucking random strangers might be a bad idea. If you don’t trust any women even after getting to know them reasonably well, then despite the fact that I might think you were being overcautious, that’s still your prerogative, and it’s still reasonable to expect people to consider it your prerogative, whether or not they, personally, think it’s a proportionate response to the level of risk.

      I don’t think your analogy is illustrating a situation that is more than superficially similar, but even if it were, I would still consider it your prerogative to make those decisions about dating or engaging with people, the same as I think it’s reasonable to expect us all to consider it womens’ prerogative whether they want to engage socially with strangers who try to engage them in public places.

      • I never claimed it was an exact analogy. The big difference between Schrodinger’s Rapist and my rewrite is that my rewrite is not based on sexism. My rewrite acknowledges that only a tiny percentage of women commit the wrongs I described above, and does not hold all women somehow responsible for the behavior of a few. What my rewrite does, however, is address the reality that should a woman turn out to be That Crazy Bitch, she will be aided and abetted by the legal system–both family and criminal–in her wrongdoings.

        • It is very difficult to tell what your argument is here. Your thesis statement appears to be along the lines of “Schrodinger’s Rapist is sexist and my analogy is not”, and you appear to be trying to supply supporting details for that thesis but failing to connect them back to the it in a way that explains the points you’re trying to make with them. Frankly, I’m not sure. If you’d like a response, rewrite and comment again, and spend more time connecting your ideas so that it’s clear what your points are and how, specifically, they reinforce your thesis.

    • Hahaha, yeah. It may have been, I’m not sure. Good practice for moderating, I guess. And it gave me an excuse to make the graphic on the comments page, which I have to admit I’m really entertained by 🙂

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  41. I think both of these blogposts were very easy to understand. They were informative and funny at the same time. And that’s coming from a straight cis man. What I don’t really see how one could fail to see your point. But I guess some people are uncomfortable ransacking their own past behaviour.

  42. I think there is a difference between threat assessment for an individual and what should be reasonable expectations of a society. As an individual it is imperative to mitigate threats proportional to their risk. The best example of this is if one is worried about dying from assault but the individual still smokes, a re-look at the statistics is in order. From there risk reduction begins to look like conservative patriarcal advice. Don’t drink (regardless of gender), wear clothes you can fight in, be armed, be trained, and avoid situations after dark.

    However, there is the large gap between what is optimal for an individual to remain as safe as possible and what are reasonable expectations of a citizen of a civilized ssociety. The problem is moving from the absolute safest lifestyle the outward runs into the victim blaming wall.

  43. I think Schrodinger’s Rapist is a fabulous post that really should be required reading.

    I believe that nitpicking about using Schrodinger’s Cat as an example of this nature is distracting and ridiculous since he himself called it an example of “…very burlesque cases.” Burlesque in this case meaning a parody or comically exaggerated imitation of something.


    Click to access QMSTATUS.pdf

    Page 9 middle paragraph.

    Personally I believe that most attempts to proposition strangers are a way to combat personal insecurity. As Brit comedian Mark Steel put it, a lot of boys grow up believing that being gay is the worst thing you can be, so they try to prove themselves not-gay by either having loads of fights, or relentlessly hitting on every woman they see with no regard to time, place or reaction.

    If people who know you, who have seen you every day of your life, who watched you grow up, who have been with you for years and years, who know you best can still misinterpret your actions, words, phrases, behaviors, what makes you think that a stranger will properly interpret your attempt to initiate a mating ritual as a nice-guy move and not a danger?

  44. I’ve read the article and your explanation of it. You miss a very important point. Let me quote the main points I see:

    Let me start out by assuring you that I understand you are a good sort of person. … Don’t rape

    The advice for women to be careful is reasonable. The advice to men to be aware how their actions are interpreted is reasonable. The advice to Don’t rape is insane.

    About 99% of the male population has never raped anyone. They know it’s wrong to rape. The post insinuates that men are so fucking stupid that they need to be told in a blog to not rape women. This is treating the normal male as a rape-prone insane criminal, who suddenly can become a “good guy” after reading a blog saying don’t rape.

    It’s insane.

    I could write a response about jews. Hey, I like jews. Some of my best friends are jews. But jews should be careful about being in business, because people are afraid of getting cheated by jews. So I’ll be nice, and tell the jews don’t cheat people.

    It’s condescending and naive. It is a “feel good” article which blames the normal male for the actions of the rare violent criminal. Why not find out what makes the criminal tick, and go after that?

    No, it’s easier to go after the average guy. I’m sure he’s nice, and he won’t get offended if I tell him he’s a violent sadistic bastard, who needs a polite blog post to learn how to be a human being.

    Fuck that.

    • I very much doubt she meant to imply that everyone needs that advice. I’m a guy, and I didn’t interpret it as patronizing at all. Not because I think I need to be told not to rape, but because I recognize that part of the battle against a culture that is far more permissive of rape than it ought to be is challenging the elements of our culture that make it that way. Sometimes that means restating that idea that rape is bad even when it seems trivially obvious. I know people who could stand to absorb that advice, actually. People who were, at one point, friends of mine, who have committed sexual assault, and acted in retrospect like it wasn’t a big deal.

    • “About 99% of the male population has never raped anyone.”

      yet, a shit-ton of the male population seems to think it’s totally fine to follow me when i’m walking home at night, grab my arm while propositioning me (again, when i’m walking alone at night), call me “a fucking cunt” for telling them to fuck off and stop touching me, and menacingly tell me they know where i live.

      it happens when i go for a walk in the evening. it happens when i go for a walk in broad daylight. in my experience, if a guy asks me what time it is and i actually answer him, he’s probably going to follow that up with some harassment. and you want me to have sympathy for that one guy who doesn’t feel entitled to my attention? nope.

      and don’t bother replying with, “oh, well, street harassment isn’t rape so your point is invalid.” my point is why should i be sympathetic towards strange men when most of them harass me? why is it “insane” to think that any one of them could rape me? they feel ok grabbing me, they don’t let go when i tell them to, and they think their desire to touch me and talk to me trumps my right to be left alone.

    • 30% of college aged men in a recent study said they would rape someone if they could get away with it.
      20% of women will be raped in their lifetime.
      If you think only 1% of men are doing this, you’re hopelessly naïve in the way only a particularly entitled man can be.
      At some point in your life, you’ve been friends with a man or boy who’s a rapist. I GUARANTEE it.
      But you never knew.
      Because he didn’t rape you.
      A sadly too common male reaction is what you’re displaying her, Rage at women who may be raped for speaking up, and complete tolerance for a system that will send only 3% of the attackers to jail.
      Fuck that.

  45. “If the colloquial interpretation didn’t resonate with so many people, then the Schrodinger’s Rapist piece wouldn’t be linked all the time.”

    This is the value of pseudo-science rhetoric. It makes people feel authoritative, because they are using sciency words. See: Deepak Chopra.

    Ignoring science to make rhetorical points is exactly what a) contributes to misunderstandings, b) gives your opponents solid ammunition against you and c) leads to absurd conclusions down the line. It’s bad, in every way.

  46. ” If the colloquial interpretation didn’t resonate with so many people, then the Schrodinger’s Rapist piece wouldn’t be linked all the time. ”

    Is that not an “appeal to popularity” fallacy?
    Or an Idol of the Theater if we want to go Baconian?

    • It’s an appeal to using the popular interpretations of terms where they are a useful means of communicating a potentially complex idea (obviously, given that I wrote this post, the communication isn’t perfect, but also, obviously, given the widespread use of the post, the communication is very effective for a large number of people). The Schrodinger analogy isn’t being used to prove that a perspective is right, it’s being used to describe what the perspective is. There’s a huge difference between “Schrodinger, therefore I am right”, and “think about Schrodinger to understand what my position is in the first place”.

      • As pointed out and agreed in this thread Schrödinger is being misused in the context of “Starling’s Rapist”…which might be why you’re so astounded so many people “don’t get it”. This will continue to happen so long as Schrödinger is being invoked…and VH makes a good point in my opinion…perhaps more of an “appeal to authority” fallacy.

        I understand Starling’s Rapist now, provided I’m supposed to understand this is *her* experience and she hasn’t presumed to speak for all women…and could maybe be expanded to include a factor that operates within human society as everyone “assesses risk” right? Some people have different variables than others.

    • No, I’ll leave you to mull the corner you’ve backed into!

      See how annoying it is when people claim to have won an argument without, you know, even saying how?

      So here’s where you explain your reasoning, or your comments end up unapproved for the future. I let this slide when you did the Vague Nonspecific Admonishment thing on the “Ten Guilty Trolls” post. I’m not going to let it slide again.

    • The presumption of the story is “The sun is out and how much UV you expose yourself to is up to you.” What the other women are saying – the one’s who posts were removed at least is “It’s cloudy.” A very different thing.

  47. >I suppose, at times, as a result of the science being wrong, because that seems to be the primary problem for people objecting to it.

    1.That and her probabilities are flawed, as others have pointed out. It’s more analogous to whether you would get a rabies shot (itself potentially fatal) before being bit by a dog,

    2.And that women who sincerely offer personal views of men that conflict with this one narrative are silenced with verbal abuse and banishment. :/

    • Yeah, I’m going to have to ask you to cite both of those claims. Bearing in mind that there is a significant difference between discussing one’s own experiences/views in general and using discussion of those experiences/views to invalidate those of others. The latter is, I hope we can agree, a justifiably bannable offense. The former you’ll have to provide examples of.

      • RTBD – Women who disagree with Styles rendition of the date ARE telling you that there experience is different! From MsQContinuum – a biologist, who’s post was deleted (though you can still see it in the comment history if you go to r/atheismplus/comments

        “Here is the direct quote from the original blog shapely prose, “Now, you want to become acquainted with a woman you see in public. ‘The first thing you need to understand is that women are dealing with a set of challenges and concerns that are strange to you, a man. To begin with, we would rather not be killed or otherwise violently assaulted.’

        “But wait! I don’t want that, either!”

        Well, no. But do you think about it all the time? Is preventing violent assault or murder part of your daily routine, rather than merely something you do when you venture into war zones? Because, for women, it is.”
        Which women? Not me.”

        And from Enda169 of Germany who’s post was deleted this morning

        “It seems to propose, that we actively imagine danger everywhere and that we should never trust anyone over anything. It seems to encourage people to first assume the worst case scenario and act accordingly to be safe. ”

        Ironically you are taking the position of defending the stories of the disenfranchised, but only allowing them one narrow pre-selected story. You really should watch that TED.

      • The point of Schrodinger’s Rapist is not, “Everyone should do this”, or “Everyone does this”, it’s “Many of us do this, here’s why, and here’s why you should respect our decision to do so.” That other people don’t follow similar guidelines is orthogonal to the point, which is why it’s so often seen as derailing (Enda69 is also blatantly misrepresenting what the post is saying, hence their banning). No one is suggesting that everyone ought to have exactly the same precautionary standards. In fact, the author explicitly mentions an example of different women being comfortable with different levels of risk when she mentions women who have experienced sexual assault.

        I am perfectly aware that there are people who don’t follow the level of precaution described in the post. So, quite clearly, is the author. I’m actually quasi-dating someone who isn’t nearly as cautious as I would feel inclined to be in similar situations. I have no problem with her deciding on a different set of standards. That she makes that decision, however, does not defeat the point of the post. It’s orthogonal to it. There’s a reason why the author bolded “I set my own risk tolerance”, and not something like, “This is what everyone’s risk tolerance is/should be.”

        You can argue that she should’ve said ‘many women’, rather than ‘women'”, in that one part of the post where she wasn’t using only “I” statements, and I suppose that’s a reasonable nitpick. It seems to me that she clearly acknowledges that standards vary, though.

  48. I’d say the major problem I have with this is that it is an abuse of an analogy, as in, it is ignorant of the science. The quantum principle is not just about perception, but an actual state the cat is in. It is an attribute of the cat, not the observer. So, if you are defending this concept by saying it is all about perception, then it is a faulty analogy. If you use “Schrodinger’s X” correctly, you are in fact saying that until confirmed one way or another, all men are in fact rapists/notrapists. So the analogy is highly problematic, and just asking to be misunderstood.

    • That’s fair. I’m not sure I think it makes it as problematic as you think it does, but it certainly is a mangling of the actual concepts involved. I think the reason the analogy still sticks for a lot of people (myself included), is that the Schrodinger’s Cat concept is so often misinterpreted to mean roughly what it’s being used to mean for this analogy, that the incorrect interpretation is still a reasonably intuitive (if also admittedly fundamentally incorrect) analogy to draw. That is, it’s using a misunderstanding of the principle to illustrate a point, but it’s a misunderstanding so common that it actually does help illustrate the point in spite of being inaccurate.

      • I would point out how you just said “I don’t care about your reality” (in different words) just now, but I feel like you already know that; and everyone using it wrong is a weak excuse.

        To tall to your previous examples, we take risks like this every day:

        We eat at restaurants knowing that we stand a reasonable risk of getting sick from pathogens or improper handling.

        We leave valuables in our cars, knowing that a broken window could let someone take our car from us, not to mention it’s valuables.

        We let our children interact with other children, knowing that child-child rape is the most common.

        We make these decisions, leave our trust in others on a daily basis. Thinking thabecause I say “hi” when you have your arms crossed makes me even slightly more likely to rape you is akin to not being willing to eat at a restaurant with a blond waitress because you think they are more likely to get germs in your food. It’s offensive, unfair and silly.

        • In a given day, there are plenty of risks that we decide to take, and plenty of risks that we decide not to take. The fact that you can give examples of risks that we decide to take is not an argument that the type of risks I’m talking about are risks people should decide to take, unless your argument is “Sometimes we take risks, therefore all risks are reasonable to take”. If you want to argue against the necessity of avoiding the particular risks that Schrödinger’s rapist is discussing, I suggest you read my second post about it first, which is linked at the bottom of this post in bold letters, and addresses that exact issue.

        • Actually most people don’t know that child to child rape is most common, that’s why they tell their kids not to take sweets from strangers. Men don’t take offense at children they don’t know refusing sweets from them, yet you object to women who are also often physically smaller, protecting themselves in a similar way.
          ‘Offensive, unfair and silly’
          Why is it that so many male posters here think their feelings are more important that a woman’s SAFETY?
          Can’t you see that this is part of why rapists get way?
          Because you’d rather berate women that help us tackle this crime.
          This is how women FEEL.
          This is the reality.
          Women live in fear of rape.
          I’ve changed the route I walk home to a longer one recently to avoid a group of men who approach, follow and heckle me CONSTANTLY. EVERY DAY.
          For ONCE, I would like to see men like you berate THEM instead of me.

        • @Chris I understand what you mean —- but I think the inherent flaw is, that women are exposed to this possibilty not “rarely” but, I would go so far as to say, often.
          I’ve had food poisoning from a restaurant twice in my 20 years. I cannot say how many restaurants I have eaten at in that time. On the flip side, the number of times I have been harrassed on the street by men is countless, the number of times that has occured and I have feared for my safety because the male/men have been obscene/extremely rude/made advances towards me/threatened me, is also countless. We do not walk away from these occurances thinking “Well, that in no way could have lead to something dangerous” — We face that risk on a daily basis, and just because these men aren’t forcibly grabbing me into an alley doesn’t mean they aren’t alluding to it, aren’t making us fear that that is what they are going to do.

          I have never been sexually assulted but I have been harrassed, been at the recieving end of obscenities from men on the streets, called names — again, this is in countless numbers. When I was 12 years old, riding my bicycle down the road wearing a tshirt and shorts in 27 degrees celsius weather, some older teenage boys shouted out their windows as they drove past “FUCKING SLUT!!!!!!” – I was a stranger, I was clearly young, I was alone, it was the middle of the day on a quite but public street, I was not doing anything WRONG, and though they drove on past and did not stop – do you think I was just waltzed onwards, unaffected? Or do you think I nearly fell off my bike because my hands were shaking so bad, that I turned around and biked straight home in fear, that my heart was racing and that I was near tears because I, a child, had been verbally abused in a sexual manner by complete strangers???

          I don’t eat food in a restaurant going “well this chicken is threatening to be undercooked, I better not eat it” or “You know what, last time I NEARLY got sick from that kebab, but didn’t – lets keep and eye out”

    • What does it seem to be saying if you interpret it correctly? It rather…doesn’t make sense in my brain if I try to interpret it “correctly”, so I’m curious how you think people would interpret it if they were thinking of Schrodinger’s Cat correctly.

      • Schrodinger’s Cat is meant to illustrate the problematic nature of Copenhagen’s interpretation of Quantum Mechanics -that the integrity of observations is influenced by the bias of the observer.

        Someone with a strong background in science would then conclude that Starling is either pulling a Poe or throwing around vocabulary with which she isn’t fluent.

      • My question was more, how might they misunderstand what she was trying to say?Because that’s really what I’m trying to understand. I get that the vocabulary is technically wrong, though I think the popularity of the piece shows that she’s fluent in the colloquial understanding of the term, which differs from a scientifically accurate understanding, but is nevertheless apparently useful for illustrating the point. If the colloquial interpretation didn’t resonate with so many people, then the Schrodinger’s Rapist piece wouldn’t be linked all the time. Anyway, more or less, I’m not concerned with whether people think her science is wrong, I’m concerned with how people might be misunderstanding the analogy she is intending to make (potentially, I suppose, at times, as a result of the science being wrong), because that seems to be the primary problem for people objecting to it.

        • I think a title such as “Schrodinger’s Encounter” would be more appropriate. Since the original thought experiment is set to imply neither that the cat is dead or alive – this is uncertain. Having a title “Schrodinger’s Rapist” implies from the outset that the stranger *IS* a rapist.

          I think that the popularity is due to the piece appealing to the fear within an individual with sympathy and emotion. Stats can be misleading. Sometimes the gun may have 6, 9 or 200 empty rounds.

          Lots of people are truly reckless with personal safety, in various ways they prefer not to think about. Whilst they focus on issues highlighted to them by media or close personal friend/relations experiences.

          I am not suggesting that anyone disregard personal safety at all, more to the point I think we should all consider personal safety (much of it being awareness of those around and near you) — increasingly I see people, either sex, walking down the road whilst reading (or otherwise viewing) an ipad. In previous years I would see people engrossed in something on a smart phone.

          I do consider all aspects of my (and my sons when in his company) safety when outside. Beyond my frontdoor I view the world as totally beyond my control. Violence or disorder may occur at any point out there.

          Also rape is something that can target anyone, 1 in 10 victims are male. In two thirds of cases the assailant is not a stranger. FBI changed the definition of rape Jan 2012. I have heard of a case in Canada in which 4 women raped a 19 year old male.

          My view is that we all need to be more considerate of each other. Also we are becoming increasingly alienated and paranoid.

    • Which is why it should be “re-branded” as “Starling’s Rapist” in order to stop the confusion of those of us familiar with the Cat and stop dragging a physicist who had nothing to do with it into it.

  49. It tells me that you are ruled by fear, and that makes me sad for you. That is a choice you make. Everyone is a potential (rapist|mugger|serial killer) and since you have chosen to make that a thing you focus on, you suffer for that. If you focus on the things that are low risks (and yes, low risk – even if you accept every stat out there it is around one in 300 – 500 men who are rapists).

    Seeing a stranger in the streets would be silly. Stranger rape is incredibly rare, and tends to happen in very specific circumstances (similar to ones where muggings happen). Sure, it has happened in bright lit public spaces, but the odds are infinitesimal.

    If you read my blog you will quickly see that I have been on the receiving end of sexual violence multiple times in my life, and it would be easy for me to embrace an attitude of fear similar to the one illustrated in the schrodingers rapist posts – but I prefer to actually live my life.

      • Really? You aren’t talking about wearing a seatbelt in this post, you are talking about being in fear every time you enter a car because an accident might happen.

        Schroedingers Rapist is a stupid, stupid argument. It’s dismissing the idea that risk is inherent in life. It’s also denigrating an entire gender based on the actions of some members of that gender (let’s use the poisoned M&M analogy… I’m not racist but if you have a pack of M&M’s and some are poisoned would you eat one? It’s absolutely as relevant to that argument as it is to this one). It’s morally wrong to base your opinion of a group on the actions of some non-representative members of that group.

        • Jesus, dude. No, that’s not what I’m talking about. Your other comments are not going to be approved until you manage to demonstrate at least a little bit of reading comprehension. Also, you all would really look less silly if you stopped assuming that I am a woman. Just trust me on this one.

        • “it’s just that you aren’t seeing it because you are convinced of the reasonableness of your stance.”

          Ironically, that’s exactly how I feel about you. Bye now.

    • That is the most ridiculously condescending thing I have ever heard.

      Who gave you the authority to prescribe the proper way of dealing with fear and trauma? Who are you to be “sad” for those of us who don’t have your mental wherewithal and to claim that we don’t “live our lives”?

    • You just absolutely don’t get the point. I’ve never been sexually assaulted but at least 4 women within my extended family have been. I always assess situations exactly as the original post described and I can not imagine a better, more logical way to explain what it feels like to have a looming (even if unnecessary in the situation) threat of danger. I am married with two small children and I STILL keep an eye on our surroundings when alone with them in a parking lot or other vulnerable space.

    • No. The numbers matter here. A random male might be a serial killer, but there are at most about 500 serial killers active in the country at any given time. (The FBI estimates more like fifty.) There are a hundred million adult males in the US, which means that any given adult male has a one in two hundred thousand chance (and probably more like one in two million) of being a serial killer. It’s unlikely.

      On the other hand, roughly one in ten men in the United States is a rapist. (The vast majority of them use coercion, alcohol and instrumental violence, and attack friends or acquaintances.)

      So the Rapist Gun has nine empty chambers, and the Serial Killer Gun has at least two hundred thousand. That’s what makes the difference.

      • grendelkhan, where do you get the 1 in 10 number? The article you posted claims the vast majority of rape is done by repeat offenders and they are a much smaller percent of the population than 1 in 10.

        • Reported rapes would actually put the number of men who are rapists at 1 in 60, but when you factor in the fact that rape results in pregnancy at the same rate as consensual sex, 5%, and that 32000 American women confirm to their doctors each year that they are pregnant from rape, that triples the number of actual rapes over reported rapes, and would put number of rapists at 1 in 20 men.
          Furthermore, repeated studies have shown that 30% of college aged men would rape a woman/girl if there were no consequences.
          Since women tell each other when they are raped women know how common rape is and rapists are.
          Rapists, however, do not tell other men of their crimes, which is why so many men can go around living in a fool’s paradise where they think rapists are as rare as serial killers.
          They’re actually pretty common, and like most people you know at least one who has never been caught.
          A woman is raped every 2 minutes in the US. That takes a LOT of rapists.

          • You do realize that in the same study, it showed that the people that women should be wary of is people that they know and not a nameless stranger on a bus, right?

        • Aargh; sorry about missing the notification.

          There are big error bars on the surveys here, but Lisak and Miller found 6% of their sample reporting that they had attempted or committed rape; McWhorter found 13%. It’s a rounded, handwavey average.

          The two studies found repeat offenders to be 4% and 8.4% of the total sample, respectively. (Smaller, but not by that much–about two thirds of rapists are serial offenders.) So that’d be “about one in ten men is a rapist; about one in sixteen men is a serial rapist”.

      • grendelkhan

        Thank you. Some people simply don’t understand risk assessment and probabilities it seems.

    • Piss off you condescending, mansplaining piece of turd. Seriously. Those who minimize the effect of rape (and the constant fear women have to live because of patriarchal society) are literally turds to the power of the turd. Foad.

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