For Those Who Don’t Understand Schrodinger’s Rapist, Part Two

This post is a follow-up to the post that I wrote last year called For Those Who Don’t Understand Schrodinger’s Rapist. I wrote that post because I couldn’t understand how so many people had read Starling’s original Schrödinger’s Rapist post and managed to misinterpret it so egregiously. I discussed a couple of the more common misconceptions about the analogy and why they were misconceptions. Over the course of the last few months, I’ve gotten a few responses that have made it clear that there is an aspect of the Schrödinger’s rapist analogy that still merits some clarification. This post is about that.

One of the more common objections that I see with respect to the Schrödinger’s rapist analogy is that it doesn’t make sense to be afraid that a random stranger in a public place might rape you. The vast majority of rapes are committed by people that the victim knows, not random strangers. This is, I think, an understandable objection, though not one that holds up under scrutiny, for a few different reasons.

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 (examples: 1 2). 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.

Second, the original post is explicitly directed toward people who are looking for love and romance. The entire context of the piece is about people whose purpose for approaching a woman in public is potential romance or sex. What this means is that whether or not there is any chance that you, as a stranger, are going to assault someone right there in public, the risk assessment still applies, because your objective is to become someone who isn’t a stranger. Your objective in accosting a woman in public that you want to get to know better may not be rape, but your objective is to become familiar enough with her that you would qualify as at least an acquaintance or friend. That takes you out of the lower risk category of “stranger” and into the higher risk category of “someone the person knows”.

Try an analogy: imagine you’re going to look for a new cat with a friend. You’re at a pet shop, and you pass by one that hisses and tries to scratch you from inside of its cage. “I’m definitely not getting that one!”, you say. Your friend replies, “Why not? Most people who get injured by animals are injured by animals that they own. You don’t own that cat, so there is really nothing to be afraid of.” That would be ridiculous, right? The whole point of the trip is to decide whether or not you want to own that cat, which makes its hostility a very important thing to keep in mind. By the same token, the stranger on the street who wants to get to know someone better may not be a high risk at that moment, but the whole point of the interactions we’re talking about is that they are a precursor to a higher risk situation. In light of that, it’s not unreasonable to assess a stranger on the street by the level of risk they would present in that higher risk situation.

If you read the entire post, you’ll see that this is borne out in the anecdotes Starling uses – for example, she writes about the guy who emailed her 15 times in a row after one date. That story isn’t about making an assessment of whether or not the guy is going to rape her at that very moment (not something you can really do via email, I think we can all agree). It’s about making an assessment of whether or not he might, potentially, given the opportunity in the future, commit assault.

Third, even if we completely disregard the risk of rape, rape is not the only risk from interacting with a stranger in public. As Ozy Frantz puts it, “If a strange dude approaches me while I’m presenting female and on a bus, my concern is not that he is Schrödinger’s Rapist, it’s that he’s Schrödinger’s Dude Who Lectures Me For Thirty Minutes About How Reading Instead of Talking to Him Means I’m an Elitist Bitch.”

That shit happens (all the time). There are lots of different types of unpleasant interactions that can come out of being accosted by a stranger in public. That most of them aren’t as bad as rape doesn’t mean that they don’t justify someone not wanting to talk to strangers in public. It’s just as reasonable for someone to want to avoid a lecture as it is for them to want to avoid assault. In point of fact, it’s completely reasonable for someone to just not want to talk to people in public in the first place for no other reason than that they don’t like to. This doesn’t make that person a jerk, it makes them a human being with preferences. If you willfully ignore those preferences, there doesn’t have to be any risk in the situation at all for you to qualify as a jerk. Not respecting people’s preferences is a shitty thing to do, full stop.

Strictly speaking, one might argue that the relative risk of a random stranger committing sexual assault right there in public is pretty small (though, it still needs be said, not zero). However, when we’re talking about Schrödinger’s Rapist, keep these things in mind: we’re not talking about random strangers, we’re talking about strangers who exhibit the particular red flags that correlate with a higher likelihood of committing rape. We’re not (for the most part) talking about the possibility that someone will commit rape right then and there, but about the possibility that someone might become familiar enough to have an opportunity to commit rape in a more enabling situation. We’re not talking about just the possibility of sexual assault, but also about the possibilities of verbal assault, stalking, general unpleasantness, boundary crossing, etc., all of which are reasonable justifications to be apprehensive about strangers in public.

36 comments on “For Those Who Don’t Understand Schrodinger’s Rapist, Part Two

  1. Pingback: Schrodinger’s Rapist and Signals Sent and Received | Absurdity and Adventures

  2. Hey! I stumbled across the original article a long time ago, and was recently referred to this blog for discussion of the point. I’d like to pick your brain (and offer thoughts) as someone who read the article, understood it, and still found himself really angry about it. Since I am not generally an angry person, this is an unusually vehement reaction that warranted close examination.

    I did a bunch of mental gymnastics and found a whole bunch of my biases fell out. Mostly, the anger stems from the very point addressed in the articles first paragraph. I am NOT a rapist, and I don’t like the fact that that women are entitled to look at me as though I might be one. That said, article is faultless in it’s argumentation. I do not have a right to dictate to a woman how she ought to perceive the world, or me. Indeed, attempting to manipulate that perception is indication that my high horse is secretly a donkey. No one has a right to be perceived in a certain way, rights apply only actions, not thoughts.

    That said, I had two major issues I had with the piece, and I’d like your thoughts.

    The first is the “unlimited moral liability” implied by Starling’s view. Starling uses the image of the girl on a subway reading a book (or looking out the window, or working on a laptop) as an example of someone transmitting signals. Namely “DO NOT DISTURB”. I am discomforted by the fact that if I miss a signal, I am morally culpable for encroaching upon her right to not be disturbed/harassed/propositioned. If a girl on a subway is reading a book with an interesting cover, and I ask her if it’s any good, I am guilty of violating her.

    (I briefly considered how it would play out with our roles switched, because obviously I don’t mind it when a woman asks me what I’m reading, but that’s male privilege for you, so I understand that’s not a reasonable argument)

    If Starling’s argument is “women have a right to be wary because they don’t know who might be a rapist”, the unfortunate corollary implied by her blog post is “men should never speak to a woman unless explicitly invited, or they are morally culpable for any discomfort she may feel”. This is what I mean by unlimited moral liability, and I think it’s the main reason the article draws such angry reactions. It takes the argument from safe, agreeable territory (“I have a right to be cautious”) to something that feels personal and accusatory (“Regardless of the circumstances, if I feel threatened, it is your fault”). She says the guy with the roach tattoos is guilty of nothing but bad taste, but by extending her argument, he is guilty of threatening every woman he ever meets. That’s a pretty harsh condemnation, and no surprise some folks are feeling defensive.

    The other issue that makes me uncomfortable is more complex. As said earlier, a woman is perfectly entitled to feel threatened by me, and while that may be hurtful to me, I do not get to decide how she should perceive me. That said, it is related to another thorny issue in feminist thinking, which is the sexual objectification of women. If a woman who sees a man and assesses his potential as a rapist is morally just, does the same standard not also apply to a man who sees a woman and assesses her potential as a sexual partner? Again, individual rights would seem to apply to actions and not thoughts, so the obvious argument is that he’s welcome to think whatever he likes, but leering, drooling and pelvic thrusting are out of the question.

    Full disclosure, I’m 6’5 and broad shouldered. I have gotten on a bus and had the single woman at the front move to the back, clutching her purse. It makes me feel shitty, because she’s communicating an assumption about me that is offensive (that guy is dangerous). I guess I understand why a woman in spandex gets upset when a guy undresses her with his eyes. He’s making an assumption about her that is offensive (that girl is available to fuck).

    However, my earlier point is applicable. If the guy with the roach tattoos is responsible for making women feel threatened by virtue of his appearance, then the the woman in spandex is responsible for making a men feel aroused by virtue of hers. I know this sounds perilously close to the “she dressed like a slut so she wanted the attention” bullshit you see floating around. She doesn’t deserve to get accosted any more than the dude with roach tattoos deserves to get pepper sprayed (and let’s be honest, the former is far more likely). But even outside such overt action, the way a woman dresses will affect how others interact with her, and the same is clearly the case for a man.

    So I think a second source of the vehement disagreement this article engenders comes from what feels like a double standard. A man who looks at a woman lustily is a sexist pig, but a woman who looks at a man as a potential rapist is sensibly cautious.

    Anyway, I’m really curious what you think of all this. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Hopefully it wasn’t too long and didn’t rehash anything said elsewhere!

    • “If Starling’s argument is “women have a right to be wary because they don’t know who might be a rapist”, the unfortunate corollary implied by her blog post is “men should never speak to a woman unless explicitly invited, or they are morally culpable for any discomfort she may feel”.”
      I understand where this is coming from, but I think about it differently. True story: my awareness of the fact that women may be uncomfortable if I walk too close behind them at night didn’t really happen until a few years ago. I probably made some people uncomfortable before learning that that was a thing. I don’t think the fact that I unintentionally made people uncomfortable means I’m an asshole — I was just ignorant — but that doesn’t make the discomfort that I probably caused people any less real.

      I also don’t think that the implication of the Schrödinger’s rapist analogy is that men should never speak to women unless explicitly invited. The message of Schrödinger’s rapist isn’t “talking to women uninvited is never okay”, the lesson is “whether or not talking to a woman is going to make her uncomfortable is massively dependent on context”.

      I start conversations with women uninvited all the time. I do it when I go out dancing and ask people to dance, I do it when I’m at social events and someone seems open to conversation, I do it at conferences when someone has said something particularly interesting that I would like to pick their brain about if they seem open to conversation. I almost never start conversations with anyone on public transportation, both because that’s not what people generally are looking for out of public transportation, and because most people on public transportation don’t look like they’re open to conversation.

      This stuff isn’t about “always” or “never”, it’s about paying attention to context. Context means the social setting, and any social cues you might be sending out, and any social cues another person might be sending out (I actually wrote a post that talks about this specifically in the context of dating; if you’re interested, here is the link). You can absolutely start a conversation with a woman uninvited if you are in a social context where that is generally accepted, and she looks like she’s open to the conversation. Of course, if you read that wrong, the right thing to do is to stop trying to engage her when it becomes clear she is uncomfortable or not interested in conversation.

      To me, none of this seems that significantly different from what I do day-to-day anyway. It’s not like if I start up a conversation with a guy I’m going to try to keep having the conversation even if he looks like he doesn’t want to be having it. If I start a conversation with someone and they don’t look like they want to be having that conversation with me, then their gender isn’t really a factor in my decision to end the conversation. I just don’t want to make people uncomfortable, and while the risk of that is often higher with women versus with men, the basic considerations I make are pretty similar.

      “So I think a second source of the vehement disagreement this article engenders comes from what feels like a double standard. A man who looks at a woman lustily is a sexist pig, but a woman who looks at a man as a potential rapist is sensibly cautious.”
      A few things about this. First, I think there is a double standard in making this comparison in the first place. A man looking at a woman as a sex object isn’t a danger-mitigation strategy. Women look at men as potentially harmful because they are trying to avoid the very real possibility of harm occurring. In just about any context, I’m pretty comfortable giving people more leeway in making generalizations when those generalizations do actually perform the function of making those people safer. I’ve talked about this a little bit in the context of people making the comparison with racism. That conversation is here, if you’re curious.

      The second thing is that most of the women I have talked to about men seeing them as sex objects aren’t talking about being seen as sexual creatures. In my understanding, the main problem that many women have with men sexually objectifying them isn’t that they are being seen as sexually desirable, it is that their sexual desirability is being seen as more important than anything else about them. It is that they are being seen as defined solely by their sexual desirability and availability and nothing else.

      In public when you’re surrounded by people you don’t know, I think most of us tend to enjoy seeing people who we think are very attractive, and I don’t think that there is anything wrong with that as long as it doesn’t translate into actions that demean or harm those people. I don’t think there is anything wrong with a man seeing a woman and thinking she’s attractive or being aroused by her. There is a problem when he makes her uncomfortable in the process (e.g. by un-brokenly staring at her, or invading her personal space, etc.).

      I’m starting to lose my train of thought here, so I’m going to stop for now. I hope I’ve answered your questions to your satisfaction, but let me know if not, and I’ll do my best to address what I’ve missed.

      • Hey, thanks for your reply! I did some thinking after writing my post re: my second point, and I think I ended up coming to the same conclusion. As much as it’s a double standard in the strictest sense (both sexes perceiving the other in a light the opposite member finds offensive), the distinction is made by proportional harm. Even assuming some utilitarian philosophy where good and bad are measured by the same metric, it seems intuitive that “pleasure gained by being able to stare at women” is not well proportional to “unhappiness caused by threat of rape”.

        As to my first point, I understand what you’re saying, that Starling’s article isn’t presented as prohibition on flirtation. Context is king. And I mean, fundamentally, why would you keep talking to someone who is obviously uncomfortable or disinterested (regardless of gender)? So we’re on the same page, I’m just offering the concept of unlimited moral hazard as the reason why so many men (myself included) found themselves angry at the article.

        Last, I was thinking about this article and the issues on my way home, and I have a concept I’d like to explore. Men are often told to “man up” and not to feel, to the point where this is widely held to be a virtue. Consider that when we’re talking about feelings (and hurt feelings, and things that are offensive) we’re talking about words and actions that don’t necessarily have any real or objective consequences, they are subjectively harmful, in that the subject feels hurt (while another subject might feel nothing).

        I think given how young men are raised, there is a tremendous lack of empathy for hurt feelings. A man is taught from a young age that his emotional state is at best irrelevant, and quite possibly something to be ashamed of. By contrast, articles like Starlings advocate respect towards a woman’s emotional state. Not merely her safety (as RAINN recently pointed out, it is well understood by men that you’re not supposed to rape), but her emotional security. Much of the backlash against 3rd wave feminism can be traced back to this; only the most hardcore misogynists argue against a woman’s right to self determination or safety. However many are resentful of being told that their feelings don’t count (and this dismissiveness comes from both sides of the debate. See also: Mansplaining, manchild, butthurt, etc) while simultaneously being told that hurt feelings in women constitute objective, absolute harm.

        I’ll argue that in traditionally male morality, feelings count for exactly zilch. If you want to claim harm, you have to demonstrate objective deprivation (money, creature comforts, social standing, etc). Feelings are not concrete enough to be relevant, and what’s hurtful to some doesn’t even register to others. Consider how many times you’ve seen “that’s so offensive!” followed by “no it’s not, I’m _________ and it doesn’t bother me”. Consider also that if not being emotionally responsive is a virtue, and being overcome by emotions is a vice, than attempting to inflict an emotional response upon another (such as guilt or shame) is literally Sin.

        Examine Starling’s article from this perspective. She presents the argument that a man’s (unintentional) action causes a (subjective, emotional, fake) injury to a woman by making her uncomfortable (proof of her weakness, if she had any male virtue, she’d know how to shrug it off), and that men should not do this and be ashamed if they do (she is claiming her moral failure is my fault and wants me to commit the same transgression).

        I put it to you that this isn’t inherently a misogynist attitude, although misogyny can certainly result. I would suggest that this is the moral framework of most men raised in the West (I won’t speak to other cultures). And, if I’m being honest, it’s my morality as well. A lot of what I see people getting upset about strikes me as petty bullshit. “Just get over it. Sticks and Stones”. Negative emotions are great at preventing me from getting work done, they don’t help me at all, so I try to not bother with them. White Male privilege would suggest that I am simply not being exposed to the volume of abuse heaped upon women and minorities, but then again, I also consider the ability to weather abuse as a core virtue. As a member of the armed forces, it’s actually an explicit job requirement.

        I am not ignorant of the problems that this morality creates. A culture that expects members to weather abuse ultimately tolerates and normalizes the abuse, and it’s an easy step from “fake” harm (IE, emotions, because I don’t care about yours) to “real” harm (IE career prospects, wages, security of the person, which I care about passionately). But that’s an extreme scenario; a male morality can (and should) still be respectful to other people’s emotions. The key is that being respectful is a virtue, and hurt feelings are ultimately your problem. In feminist morality, being respectful is an absolute imperative, a given, and hurt feelings are the responsibility of their owner.

        I am not advocating one morality over the other (I recognize which one I subscribe to, but I’m not about to claim it’s superiority), but I think this conflict fundamentally underscores the struggle of feminism. If there is widespread rejection of feminism (and let’s be blunt, there is. How many men do you know call themselves feminists, even if they profess to believing in equality?), then I think this is why. Not inherent sexism or misogyny, but a different moral paradigm.

        • What you’re saying makes sense to me. I can only reply based on my own perspective, so don’t necessarily take this as representative of feminist philosophy in general, but here’s where I come down on it:

          I think hurt feelings are just as real and important as other types of harm (physical, financial, etc.). Obviously it is difficult to determine how much weight should be attached to particular varieties of harm versus other varieties. Punching someone in the face may, in many cases, be worse than calling someone a name, but by the same token, a campaign of targeted harassment will probably, in many cases, cause much more lasting damage to a person’s life when getting punched in the face would. In short: I don’t think you can generalize about one type of harm being better or worse than another.

          In situations like these discussions of Schrödinger’s rapist, I basically come down like this: I think a lot of harm is caused by punishing women for making these generalizations and a lot of harm is mitigated by women making them. I think this outweighs any harm done by the generalizations, including the hurt feelings of men who may be offended by the analogy. This isn’t because I don’t think hurt feelings matter – I do think they matter, I just don’t think they matter nearly enough in this particular case to offset the harm on the other side of the scale. Also, I think the hurt feelings stem from a fundamental misunderstanding of the type of reasoning going on.

          Take one of the analogies I used: I don’t assume that when someone asks me to use a condom or get tested for STIs that they think I have an STI. I don’t assume that they think it’s likely or unlikely that I have an STI. I don’t assume, in point of fact, that the fact that they’re asking me to use a condom has anything, really, to do with me. I just see someone doing the safe, reasonable thing to do. By the same token, if a woman in public is nervous about me, I don’t tend to be offended by it, because her nervousness isn’t about me. Her nervousness is about the other people that she doesn’t have enough information to distinguish me from. To me, once I have that understanding, I just didn’t and don’t see any reason to be offended in the first place.

          In response to what you were saying generally about men being expected to not have their feelings count, I definitely recognize that that is a pervasive attitude in our society, and I am vehemently against it. In being raised as a guy, myself, I was lucky enough to be in an environment where I didn’t have to deal with many people who thought that way, but I still definitely see it around me, and I definitely think it is terrible for people individually and society at large to disregard men’s emotional existence the way that so often happens.

          • Your STI example is a great one. I used to get tested once a year, even though I always used a condom. Did I think I caught something? No. Worth making sure though.

            Anyway, re: types of harm, there’s no way to measure whether being harassed is worse than being punched in the face. However, I put it to you that in a “traditionally male” moral framework, the latter is a real injury, and the former is merely an opinion. Hell, consider what the appropriate response to “emotional” injury was less than a century ago: someone insults you, you challenge them to a duel. You were supposed to be able to weather abuse (it’s not real, after all), but if you can’t just shrug it off, a social structure exists to transform it into “real” (physical) violence.

            I really want to do up a morality quiz that finds how men and women value different kinds of hurt. Then I want to see if there’s a correlation between that and how they view feminism. I theorize that the overwhelming majority of people are pro-equality, but their sympathy to 2nd and 3rd wave feminist ideals is directly related to how real they consider emotional hurt.

        • I just thought it might be helpful to you to learn about “wisemind” I was taught it in therapy. I have issues stemming from childhood and adult physical and sexual abuse – I habitually disregarded my feelings as unimportant to my values and because it was distressing to feel things and easier to block them out. Emotions are cues they signal something important to our survival and well being – that’s how we evolved with emotions in the first place, and ignoring them does as much harm to yourself and others as ignoring all rational thought and allowing yourself to feed into emotions as absolutes of right or wrong (i.e. raping that girl would make me feel pleasure and not raping her wouldn’t give me that ergo it is right to rape). The mind is effective when utilizing both emotions and logic together, and valuing one over the other is destructive. I think you could benefit from applying the theory of wisemind like I have, and I mean I have REALLY benefited right from no longer ignoring physical injuries and mental burnout continuing to over work in my career exacerbating them and making me completely inefficient despite the total immersion, right down to no longer always tripping down the stairs or dropping and smashing items due to my mind being somewhere else immersed in an emotional reaction and not paying attention to where I was walking or what I was doing, like when I’m thinking/fuming about a youtube comments argument I participated in prior for example lol. Just pop wisemind into google you’ll find a tonne of resources to flick through.

    • Her reaction to her asking about an interesting book cover or something is what’s key here. It isn’t rude when there’s genuine interest, and a girl usually will respond warmly or coldly.

      If she’s cold, it might not be personal – you might be schrodinger’s rapist or you might not be to her!! She could really just be busy, or she could be super shy, or she could be thinking about something profoundly upsetting and personal. 🙂 This post is mainly meant for people who can’t take hints.

  3. This is a good post, and I love the aggressive-cat-in-a-cage analogy in particular.

    But as I see, it, the original Schrodinger’s Rapist article isn’t about whether stranger rape is likely, or how likely it might be. The article is simply pointing out that women have been trained to fear stranger rape, and that this will affect the way we receive the attentions of strange men.

    Stranger-rape – not acquaintance rape – is the thing women are taught to worry about. My parents – and pretty much all of society – taught me to fear strangers (especially at night), but nobody ever taught me what to do (or even that I should do something!) when, say, a new acquaintance in a relaxed and friendly social situation starts casually putting his arm around me or sitting too close and I’m not comfortable with it. I’ve had friends ask “Are you okay to get home?” when I was leaving a party at night (meaning: will you be safe out there? You are a woman, after all, and it is after dark. Should I walk you to the bus stop?) probably a hundred times. I’ve had a friend ask “Are you okay with the way our mutual friend is touching you? Should I intervene?” at the actual party, let’s see…zero times.

    (And yes, I am mightily fucking bitter that I did all the “right” things all my life – dressed conservatively, was alert and careful when walking at night and usually went with friends, etc., and still got sexually assaulted on numerous occasions because the set of “rules” I was playing by was from entirely the wrong box and nobody told me. But that’s neither here nor there.)

    Now, infringing on another person’s boundaries (as in my example of an acquaintance standing close to me despite my signals of discomfort) is often a precursor to sexual assault or rape, so (as this article and the original both point out) continuing to talk to a stranger who’s blatantly signally disinterest is in fact a danger sign. But that’s not the point. It doesn’t actually matter whether the most common kind of rapist is a stranger, a friend, a partner, or if all rape is perpetrated solely by Latvian circus performers. The point is that women are trained to fear strangers. It may not be fair and it may not be right, but that is the situation we are working with. That is the society we are living in. And so right now, as things stand, if a man wants to approach a strange woman, he needs to be sympathetic to that fear.

    Also: so the majority of rapes are committed by someone with whom the victim is on a first-name basis. So what? Most of the guys who’ve approached me in public/ignored my disinterested signals/wouldn’t go away/etc. introduced themselves to me and hounded me to give them my name in return. All that this “first name basis” statistic means is that most dudes begin their infringement of boundaries slowly – trying to make small talk and get the victim’s guard down – rather than just grabbing some random woman and dragging her into the bushes.

  4. Furthermore, Ramonet… at the risk of sounding condescending… let me offer up a hypothetical situation which might illustrate the perspective of women for you with just a bit more clarity:

    You are sitting alone in a cafe, drinking a coffee and reading the newspaper. A woman approaches your table and asks if she can sit down with you.

    You immediately decide that you are not interested in this woman. Maybe you don’t find her attractive. Maybe she has bad breath. Maybe she is perfectly attractive to you, but you have a girlfriend. Maybe there is nothing wrong with her, but you are feeling under the weather; maybe you have a sore throat and don’t feel like chatting. Maybe you don’t like the aggressiveness of her approach. Maybe she is too tall for you, or too short, or too fat, or too thin, or maybe she’s a blonde and you prefer brunettes, or maybe you don’t like the way she’s dressed. Insert in here any number of reasons; it doesn’t matter. The point is, you are not interested in interacting with her. So, because you are a nice guy, you smile politely and say, “no thank you.”

    To your surprise, she stamps her foot. She demands to know why she can’t sit down with you. She insists that she is a very nice girl and that you should really give her a chance.

    You are taken aback by this, but decide to stand your ground. Because you’re a nice guy, you say, “Nothing personal, I’m just not interested,” and turn back to your newspaper.

    Then, she sits down at the table with you anyway. She says you don’t know what you’re talking about. She tells you that she is a very nice girl. She tells you that she is not psychotic. She assures you that she is not a rapist. She tells you that you are making a huge mistake by rejecting her advances and says that you should really let her by you a second cup of coffee.

    Now you are truly turned off, so you fold up your newspaper and take your coffee and walk away. As you leave the coffee shop, she shouts after you, “Fuck you, you fucking asshole!!!”

    Now… stop for a minute and just think – really, genuinely think – about how that situation would make you feel. You weren’t raped in broad daylight. You weren’t assaulted or physically harmed in any way. But how do you feel?

    Now… I know what you’re thinking… “I’m a nice guy; I would never do that to a woman.”

    But guess what? As someone stated earlier on in this blog, THAT.SHIT.HAPPENS.

    It happens every day to us women. I literally can not tell you how many times I have been called a bitch or have been told “fuck you” by a man because I rejected his unwelcome advances. I literally can not tell you how many times a man has not taken “no” for an answer the first time I said no. I literally can not tell you how many times my girlfriends have relayed stories of a similar nature to me. It happens to us all the time. Constantly. The sense of entitlement that abounds amongst many men is astounding.

    Can you understand that? Can you understand how truly sick I am of being judged a “bitch” because of my reaction to a situation that someone else initiated toward me without my consent? And I am only one person. This sort of thing happens to millions of women everywhere, every single day. And most of us are pretty damn sick of it.

  5. If Ramonet is still reading, or for anyone else who agrees with Ramonet’s bizarre reasoning – I think there is something vital that you are missing here. “Schrodinger’s Rapist” is not a blog written for women telling them how they should assess risk. Rather, “Schrodinger’s Rapist” is a blog that was written for men, explaining to them how women assess risk.

    It is not for men to respond and tell women that we are assessing risk all wrong. (That, as someone inferred above, is a huge red flag, and suggests to most women that you are, in fact, the kind of guy who doesn’t listen and doesn’t take “no” for an answer). Your assertion that women should change the way in which they interact with strangers in public is audacious, at best. The original blog said it best: “Women are under no obligation to hear the sale’s pitch before deciding not to buy.” It does not matter what the reason is!! Bad breath, shabby clothes, wearing a wrist watch on the wrong hand – it does not matter!! We are under zero obligation to interact with strangers who approach us, for any reason, or under any circumstances. If we want to reciprocate your attention, we will. If we don’t want to, we don’t have to, and we don’t owe you an explanation. We owe you nothing.

    As a woman, I can not tell you the number of times I have rejected a stranger’s unwelcome attention, only to be called a “bitch” or some other insult. Why am I a bitch? Because I don’t want to talk to you? That’s bullshit. Throughout the years, I have found that the only response that won’t greatly offend a man who approaches me is, “Thank you, but I’m married.” (And even then, sometimes they push!) The notion that I am doing something wrong by not wanting to speak to a stranger is audacious, presumptuous, misogynistic, and an absolute abuse of some self-proclaimed power you think you have over me. You could be the nicest guy in the world; if I don’t want to talk to you, I don’t have to. And when you insult me for that, or push against it, or even question it, guess what? You are not a “nice guy.” I can not tell you how absolutely sick and tired I am of being judged and having my character attacked based on my reaction to an interaction that was initiated toward me without my consent.

    Most of us women are not, in fact, afraid of being raped in public in broad daylight; that doesn’t mean that we are obligated to talk to you. It is not up to you to decide how women should assess risk or whether or not we should speak to strangers, and it is certainly not up to you to decide what characteristics or situations warrant our decision to accept or reject attention from or interactions with strangers. These are our decisions, and our decisions alone, to make. We are under no obligation to give you what you want simply because you want it. You, on the other hand, are absolutely under every obligation to respect our decision to interact with you, or not.

    “Schrodinger’s Rapist” was written to explain these things to you. It wasn’t written for us women; we already know these things. It was written for you men, so that you can understand these things a bit better and so that you can behave appropriately when your fragile little ego gets damaged because the cute blonde on the subway chose to look down at her book rather than respond to your “friendly hello.” That blonde is not interested; and she doesn’t have to be. She doesn’t need to have a reason. She doesn’t owe you an explanation. It is your job to understand and respect that.

    I think the only problem with “Shrodinger’s Rapist” is that, unfortunately, anyone with the intellect and sensitivity to understand it doesn’t need to read it. Like many good writings on sensitive topics, the piece preaches to the choir for those who get it and falls on deaf ears for those who don’t.

    • Re: “anyone with the intellect and sensitivity to understand it doesn’t need to read it”:
      I am afraid you are a bit mistaken here. First, people “with sensitivity” do behave, but usually they don’t “rationalize” this, and those among them who are “with intellect” would find it instructive to learn something they previously did not give a deeper consideration. Second, there is no black/white split between “dicks” and “true gentlemen”. I suspect the vast majority are somewhere in between (me included), and this article is actually for them.

  6. I appreciate your posts on this subject.

    To the people who protest the term “Schrödinger’s Rapist,” I offer that it is really irrelevant. I read Starling’s post not being familiar at all with that term or any variation thereof, and I got exactly what she was trying to say. Sheesh.

    And then I went and looked up Schrödinger’s Cat, and what I took away from the wikipedia entry was that it was completely all about the perspective of the observer, because in reality, how can the cat be neither or both dead or alive? All you science people will think me dense (no, I never studied quantum mechanics), but that’s just illogical. The cat is obviously one or the other, it’s just that the observer doesn’t know which. And that’s the point Starling was making.

    About all the men who don’t get it. My opinion is that their male privilege is drowning out their common sense, empathy, and other useful human characteristics. Way to go, guys!

    And the women naysayers, yay for you if you go thru life with nary a care for your safety. But perhaps you have some privilege showing, too, hmm?

    Starling wasn’t making blanket statements about what all women have experienced or how all women should behave. Mostly she was advocating for the right and respect of women to self-determine (deciding who they want to interact with, etc.). I mean seriously, who can’t get behind that idea?

  7. (Disclaimer: English is not my first language. Sorry!)

    My concern is that; as a metaphore, is Schroedings’ Rapist really a good one? I mean, first you saw the need to further explain it as you saw that is was often misinterpreted. Then you had to write a second post to explain it further.

    I kind of like the name Schroedingers’ Rapist – it has a nice ring to it. But there’s a second concern I have – that we are using terms that implies an accusation. I think you explained it really well that it wasn’t a general accusation, but wouldn’t it be better still to use a term that didn’t need that kind of explanation to begin with?

    Just my two cents.

    • I didn’t come up with the term, actually. The original post was not written by me.

      That said, I’m not sure that I would change it if I had. Yes, the term is misunderstood quite a lot. The thing is, the only reason that that matters is because of how incredibly popular the original post is in the first place. It’s a shame that it’s misinterpreted by as many people as it is, but if it serves as a powerfully explanatory post for a much larger group of people, it’s still, at the end of the day, doing a lot of good — much more good than harm.

  8. For future reference, I would like to note Ramonet (if you’re still monitoring these comments) that repeatedly insisting you constitute a 0% risk acts as a ‘red flag’ to me. Defending yourself so rigorously against people who are in no way implicating you (see post 1: “Dear Reader Who Would Never Rape Anyone) definitely increases a risk assessment. NOT that I’m saying you legitimately pose a threat, but just for future reference in your interactions with women – if you would like them to perceive you as low risk (never no risk, see post 1 again, I believe) try to avoid this.

    To clumsily expand this idea: Imagine you’re playing a card game with someone and bring up the notion of cheating casually – like “I wonder what’s the deal with cheating?” – and your friend immediately starts to profess earnestly that they’re not a cheater, no really they’re not a cheater… like definitely not a cheater, I swear… Would you not feel slightly suspicious? Just think about that. It’s not who you are or what you do – maybe you know they have a history of honesty and maybe they don’t actually cheat – but it’s how you are perceived. Unjust? Well, so is rape and sexual assault.) Also, to reiterate a point you don’t seem to be grasping: “… the salient point is that just because you know you’re not a rapist doesn’t mean everyone else does.”

    And secondly, the fact that you are invalidating women’s experiences is also a ‘red flag.’ Why on earth are you so concerned with other people living in fear? (Which is not what’s going on here. At all. See below.) Why on earth do you think it matters whether or not you agree? (Please note that something being true and whether or not you agree with it are completely different things, I hope you’ll agree. Like really? Do you think not agreeing with it will destroy its viability and reality? Do you think not agreeing with it will make it disappear so you can go back to your comfortable existence of not thinking about these things. I’m with Victoria, check the privilege). By attempting to commandeer this conversation you have made it about you (which it’s not); by attempting to ‘disprove’ this explanation you are invalidating the experiences of countless women; and by doing these things you have demonstrated quite fully that you do not understand.

    No, women do not shun and fear all men, sometimes we accept advances in public from strangers. Sometimes my body language on the bus is inviting, sometimes I want to be approached. If you take nothing away from this I want you to understand that women do not live in constant fear, we live with an increased sensitivity to the potential risks associated with the people we meet – Why? Because reality is shit happens; because reality is that despite the fact that the message should be “don’t rape,” we still have to implement the “don’t get raped” mentality; because reality is that even if we apply every strategy known to humanity to avoid being raped or sexually assaulted we may still be raped or sexually assaulted.

    Because the reality is that if I didn’t live “in constant fear” (aka implement a perfectly reasonable risk assessment of strangers) I would be blamed for any rape or sexual assault that happened to me because I didn’t do enough to prevent it. This is the reality, whether you agree with it or not.

  9. Thank you for taking time to answer my comments. Thank you also for worrying so much about my reading skills, they are just fine. As much as you insist, and even if EN is not my mother tongue, I can perfectly understand anything from Rand to Žižek, from Sagan to Hawking, no problem at all. Yet somehow, there seem to be many that, according to you, “don’t understand” the original post, so you have had to follow up with your two of you own. To this, I only find two explanations: a) you are both at fault, for if a large audience doesn’t understand a message it’s the writer’s fault and/or b) that many of us disagree with your notions and your view of the matter doesn’t allow for any disagreement, so you feel compelled to blame it on lacking reading skills. I’m inclined to go for B.

    As for your response:
    – “This isn’t about rape.” Sure, being exposed to strangers can result in awkward or uncomfortable interactions for all of us. Just walk into the DMV and enjoy the lovely atmosphere. That’s just part of life. I’m not defending those attitudes, and it is totally legitimate to try and avoid them, but this general mistrust and apprehension is useless and will spoil many chances of enjoying the nice interactions and random kindness of strangers.
    – As for the ridiculous 1-in-6 myth: We are talking 1-in-6,000 here AND most rapes and grave sexual offenses come mostly (in a 3-to-1 proportion, if I’m correct) from people the victims actually knows. The statistics I mentioned involve ALL cases, therefore, the Stranger Rapist is but a fraction of those. The rest of men, whenever present, act as a deterrent and a silent wall of defense for women.
    – We urbanites are surrounded by strangers, therefore those risk assessments should be constant in order to be useful. Constant risk assessing is, to some extent, living in fear. Furthermore, you talk about “red flags”. Which are those? Is it bad breath or shabby clothing as the original post seems to point at? Is it the general “creepiness” of men in trench coats? Not even the Duluth model supports that shallow and ridiculous “fashionable” view of rapists. Also, when a stranger approaches you in a public space, he may want to hit on you… or ask you for a light/directions or warn you that you have just dropped you wallet/forgotten your coat… You can’t possibly know.
    – I assure you that the risk of sexual aggression from me is 0%. Actually I would try and defend anyone attacked if I witnessed such an attack (I almost got punched in the face for stopping a man that threatened to slap his wife in the streets). That is not a misconception, unless you subscribe to the “rapists that don’t know that they are” theory which is misandric paranoia. Suggesting otherwise is offensive and false. Before you play the “personal experience” card again, let me remind you that the original post is rife with Starling’s personal experience and only one figure, which is badly wrong.

    As for your posts:
    – “An unknown person in public that you have no information about could potentially be a rapist.” 1-in-6,000 chance, yes. It is far more likely for that person to be psychotic, psychopathic (1% of the GenPop), manic-depressive (4%), a criminal of any other sort, a con artist, a pickpocket… The list is endless and affects both sexes. Furthermore, as stats seem to prove, this stance is useless.
    – The Russian Roulette analogy predicates on the 1-in-6 (sixshooter) chance. Absolute disproportionate comparisons are not valid reasoning.
    – Your seat belt, vaccine, STD… arguments are fallacious as a comparison. You are comparing interactions with people (men) with interactions with diseases, germs and safety equipment. I don’t know if this is a failure in logic thinking or an unconsciuos manifestation of a phobia towards men. The “cat in the window” is reductio ad absurdum, so I won’t even go there.
    – “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 fact that this statement does not work the other way around doesn’t seem to bother you in the slightest. Short from severing all interactions with men, you have no way to know.

    – “We’re not (for the most part) talking about the possibility that someone will commit rape right then and there, but about the possibility that someone might become familiar enough to have an opportunity to commit rape in a more enabling situation.” So, are you advocating for a “don’t make any further friends” approach?

    This whole concept predicates on a distorted and awful perception of men. And a wrong one at that.

    • “from people the victims actually knows”

      See paragraphs three and four in this very post about how the whole point of these interactions is to become someone the victim actually knows.

      “Furthermore, you talk about “red flags”. Which are those?”

      See paragraph 2, which explicitly mentions examples.

      “I assure you that the risk of sexual aggression from me is 0%.”

      See the second to last paragraph of my first Schrödinger’s rapists post. The one that ends thusly: “In short, the salient point is that just because you know you’re not a rapist doesn’t mean everyone else does.”

      “I don’t know if this is a failure in logic thinking or an unconsciuos manifestation of a phobia towards men.”

      See my first comment to you, where I mentioned the fact that I am, in fact, a man myself.

      “that many of us disagree with your notions and your view of the matter doesn’t allow for any disagreement, so you feel compelled to blame it on lacking reading skills.”

      Replace the word “moderating” with the phrase “assuming a lack of reading comprehension”, and this picture applies to you perfectly:

      At this point, you’ve used up your benefit of the doubt on the reading comprehension thing. Either your reading comprehension really is as bad as it looks (in spite of your apparent belief that claiming you have good reading comprehension is the same as actually having good reading comprehension), or you’re just willfully ignoring things that I’ve already explained to you, which is not something I tolerate on this blog. The examples I’ve listed so far are only the most obvious things that you’ve missed; I didn’t even go into the things that you simply represented inaccurately. At this point I’m just going to assume you’re not trying and moderate you until you at least start acting as though you’ve read the things that I’ve written all the way through.

      For the future, on the “cat in the window” and safety equipment bits:

    • @Ramonet:

      “I only find two explanations: a) you are both at fault, for if a large audience doesn’t understand a message it’s the writer’s fault and/or b) that many of us disagree with your notions and your view of the matter doesn’t allow for any disagreement, so you feel compelled to blame it on lacking reading skills.”

      You’re missing a third option: c) a large portion of the audience is motivated to miss the point, because they find the ramifications of the point unpalatable. The point means that a lot of men have engaged – and want to continue to engage – in behaviour that women find intimidating or threatening; it means that a lot of men have acted – and want to continue to act – with selfish disregard to women’s boundaries.

      It’s understandable that someone would find that idea uncomfortable, and that they would actively look for an explanation that places the blame somewhere else. If men who approach strange women can’t be to blame for those women feeling intimidated, then obviously it is the woman’s fault: she must be paranoid and terrible at assessing risk.

      “Constant risk assessing is, to some extent, living in fear.”

      Yeah, OK, so what? Every single time I cross a road, I perform a risk assessment because I’m afraid of being run over. I even do it at traffic lights when the green man says it’s safe to walk; I don’t know whether I’m dealing with Schrodinger’s Negligent Driver, after all. But I take more care when there are “red flags”, such as a busy road or a blind corner. The alternative is to be cavalier with my safety, and open myself up to accusations of careless if I get run over. Do you think I shouldn’t be performing these risk assessments because you’ve decided it’s, to some extent, living in fear?

      “Your seat belt, vaccine, STD… arguments are fallacious as a comparison. You are comparing interactions with people (men) with interactions with diseases, germs and safety equipment.”

      The comparisons are not fallacious, because all the examples have something in common: the (substantial) risk of (serious) unwanted consequences. It’s irrelevant that not every single aspect of each situation is identical; otherwise, all analogies would be fallacious.

      Also, a few points to consider in respect of your statistical analysis: not all sexual assault is rape; not all sexual assault is reported; it’s rational for any person to take precautions against being sexually assaulted, whether that sexual assault amounts to rape or not.

      • An anecdote to follow up that analogy: my mother recently commented on the frightened face of a pedestrian on a zebra crossing. I said yes, it’s like that all the time, because every time you step across the road you’re trusting several drivers with your life.

        Most drivers are good drivers, and I’m pretty sure they must be upset by my expression of moderate terror – they slowed down for me, didn’t they? But for every nine good drivers there’s a tenth who steams on. And I’m done for.

    • In the event that anyone’s interested, Captain Reading Comprehension here’s comments are no longer being approved to appear here. However, I will say, much to my amusement, that he has attempted to comment again, and, in another magnificent display of reading comprehension, has again assumed that I’m a woman. In spite of the fact that I have specified that I am a man in comments to him. Twice.

    • This is a reply to both you and Larknok1, so put on your reading caps.
      I take the bus to and from school every day. My best friend took the same bus, and one day on the way home, an unfamiliar young man approached us and started talking to us. We had previously been talking, and he sat down and started talking about a completely unrelated subject. When she tried to turn the conversation back to the original topic, he complained that she was trying to exclude him, since he didn’t know anything about that subject. That set off my “asshole alarm,” but I figured he was just an entitled dick. He spent the rest of the trip flirting at my friend, and when we got to our stop, he asked for her number. She gave it to him, since she thought he was nice. I still thought he was a dick, but it wasn’t my call.
      Fast forward a month or so of texting and going on dates. He invited her to his house for dinner. Homecooked meal and Netflix — sounds sweet, right?
      Yeah. Except for the part where he drugged and raped her.
      They weren’t drinking, she wasn’t “asking for it,” she wasn’t doing anything that you assholes use to blame rape on the victim. She was guilty of putting her trust in a guy she met on the bus who raised red flags.

      So forgive me, Ramonet, if I’m wary people who raise my red flags. That doesn’t mean I live my life of fear of every man ever. I don’t even fear the men who raise my flags; I just watch them more carefully and try to ensure that I’m never alone with them.
      Here’s a quote from Starling’s original article.
      “…if you speak to a woman who is otherwise occupied, you’re sending a subtle message. It is that your desire to interact trumps her right to be left alone. If you pursue a conversation when she’s tried to cut it off, you send a message. It is that your desire to speak trumps her right to be left alone. And each of those messages indicates that you believe your desires are a legitimate reason to override her rights.”
      Take a look at the last sentence. Is that what that guy was doing? I think so.

      You said in one of your comments “I refuse to be treated as a “blip-in-the-potential-threat-radar” by default.”
      I’m sorry to say that there is nothing to be done on this count for you, because no matter your behavior, there will be scenarios where women will register you as a threat. Like if you and she are the only people in a parking garage. No matter what, even if you’re on the other side of the garage, you will be registered as a threat. It’s not your fault, it’s not the woman’s fault. It’s the fault of the men who have and do rape women.

      Here’s an analogy for you. Say there’s a guy walking down the street with a gun in his hand. You’re going to be wary of the guy, right? Because you have no idea how he plans to use the gun. He could be going to a gun range. He could be going to rob a bank. He could be going home to kill his wife. He could be going somewhere to teach gun safety. But unless he’s holding a sign above his head that tells you what he’s going to do with that gun, you’re going to treat him differently than you would some other stranger who isn’t holding a gun.
      “But why are you afraid of him?” people ask you. “It’s not like everyone with a gun is going to kill someone. Some of them just don’t have good social skills, and people just label them as murderers — it’s not their fault.”

      Now imagine for a moment that the gun is a red flag.
      It’s true that not all men who set off red flags are going to rape someone. There are people who are just socially awkward and inadvertently set off red flags. There are also people who don’t set off red flags who are still rapists.
      But saying that you should ignore red flags in order to grow as a human is complete bullshit. “Yes, I think it’s a good idea to hang out with that guy who’s always got a gun and jokes about shooting people with it all the time. I think his company is worth the risk of getting murdered. Anyway, modifying my approach in social interaction won’t prevent violent murders, so why should I try to avoid being killed? And if I do get shot, it was unavoidable. After all, being alive has a 100% chance of death!”

      Do you realize how absolutely /stupid/ you sound, Larknok1?

      • freedomfromanalogies, do you realize how absolutely /stupid/ the comparison between voluntarily bringing a gun and involuntarily being yourself is?
        You’re doing “she deserved the rape because of her attractive figure”.

    • I’m going to respond to just one point:
      “Sure, being exposed to strangers can result in awkward or uncomfortable interactions for all of us. Just walk into the DMV and enjoy the lovely atmosphere. That’s just part of life. I’m not defending those attitudes, and it is totally legitimate to try and avoid them, but this general mistrust and apprehension is useless and will spoil many chances of enjoying the nice interactions and random kindness of strangers”

      For a women, such as myself, in the context we are talking about, strange men that have no obvious reason to be approaching us (as opposed to a cashier, say) do not result in ‘awkward’ situations, and I think our definitions of “uncomfortable” in that context will greatly vary – I would accompany it with “upsetting”.
      You, walking into a DMV, and the atmosphere you face, is significantly different from me, walking into a DMV and that resultant atmosphere. I don’t know what kind of ‘awkwardness’ you would experience there, but I sure as hell know what I would encounter: Leers. Stares. Long and repetative glances. I am responded to as a female; helpless, sexual, in need of male help, and as an object to be looked at.
      When you enter a DMV and encounter a stranger, is there anything sexual in those interactions? Anything with sexual implications, looks, attitudes? Dominance responses? As a female, it is nearly inescapable. Even in a completely non-threatening and non-insulting manner, I am not a person, I am a women, and people respond accordingly.

      Ontop of that, I can’t think of one “nice” interaction with a male stranger that began by me being approached for absolutely no reason than to talk to me. I have had many pleasant interactions with strangers on my own, but none of them have begun in that manner

  10. @ Ramonet.

    I think you should check your privilege. Women react like this because they have to. Because they’ve been in situations where they have been abused. Either physically or verbally. There are plenty of first hand examples about such situations around the internet. I’d suggest that you might want to start with

    Your blithe disagreement with this post amounts to a denial of all these experiences, on the basis that you’re a good, good guy. I have no evidence to disbelieve that, but it doesn’t make you a good guy if you disregard signs that someone doesn’t want to talk to you, because you want to demonstrate that you’re such a good guy (I’m not saying you do this; it’s an example).

    And you say that you’d never be attracted to someone who lives in constant fear. Good for you, buddy. But guess what? It’s not all about you. It’s not all about your reactions. Some of this might just be about the reactions, the real-life, true reactions of women who have had this happen to them.

    And yes, I’m one of those people.

  11. I’ve gone and read the original post thoroughly. I have completely understood it.
    – Please note that understanding and agreeing are completely different things.

    That said, I completely understand and respect that way of thinking, though I don’t share it. I simply find it sad and, in my particular experience, not grounded on reality. If the original poster chooses to live her life in constant fear, that is fine. Sad, but fine.

    To that I say: I’m a good, good guy. I have lost girls to badasses because some of them like them (at a time and situation of their choosing), but I refuse to change. If a woman lacks the empathy/intuition to see that I am, her loss. I refuse to be ashamed of being a man, I refuse to be treated as a “blip-in-the-potential-threat-radar” by default. I’ll never feel attracted to women (or people) who live in constant fear (in a war zone it is obviously the way to go, in most of the Western world, is not).

    And sorry, but the portrayal of men made in the post is demeaning and the importance conferred to personal image (aren’t there fashionable rapists?) is simply silly.

    • Your particular experience is as a guy. That’s like if I were to say I don’t think believing racism is real is grounded in reality because it’s not part of my particular experience. Which part of it, exactly, do you find not grounded in reality? There are, after all, real-life examples linked in parts of this post.

      Who said anything about living in constant fear? Constant fear and a habit of assessing of whether or not a particular situation merits fear are two different things.

      Exactly how does the portrayal of men made in the post demean men? I’m a man, and I’ve never understood the men who say this. As I said in my first post on the subject, the post isn’t about personal accusation, it’s about statistics and precautionary measures.

      Who is saying you should be ashamed of being a man? For someone who claims to understand this well, you sure are saying a lot of things that don’t demonstrate that understanding very well.

      • Again, I understand, but do not agree. Two different notions, I hope you agree.

        – Unless Spain (my country) is a haven for women, I can’t help but find the “1-in-6” statistics as abhorrent. I can’t begin to imagine how much you have to expand the definition of “sexual assault” to get to that figure. Also, to consider that that figure (1 in 6) is only composed of rapes, instead of other lesser forms of assault, borders on the paranoid. As a token, for 2007, the Spanish Instituto de la Mujer announced a total of 3,833 sexual assault victims. A horrible, ghastly amount, I concur. Still, that is somewhere AROUND 1 IN 6,000 or so (given a population of around 42M). What’s going wrong in your country, for Pete’s sake?

        – Constantly assessing if every interaction/encounter is a situation that merits fear, as you say, the mere fact of evaluating each single stranger as a potential threat is, indeed, living in fear.

        – I find the portrayal of men demeaning because of the following:
        * The classic “Do not rape” reminder can only come from a mind that thinks of men as distorted individuals that NEED periodically being reminded not to rape.
        * Completely ignores the great number of men that are able and willing to help any women that may see in distress, no matter if they know them, that far outnumber rapists. Even so, men are only portrayed as potential threats.
        * “The possibility you will do me harm. That possibility is never 0%.” Well, with me it is. Hell, with the vast majority of men it is indeed 0% (unless you go around attacking people somehow).

        Rape victims undergo hours of therapy and care in order to stop feeling victims and to regain the confidence and courage of living their lives without fear. Don’t self-victimize yourselves for no reason.

        • I agree that understanding and agreement are two different things. However, stating that you understand and demonstrating that you understand are also two different things, I hope you’ll agree. What I’m saying is that some of the things that you are saying appear to demonstrate a lack of understanding, hence my skepticism of your claim that you understand.

          With respect to the idea that making risk assessments constitutes living in fear, we are all making threat assessments of everyone all the time. This assessment becomes conscious only when a person throws out a particular red flag that makes you take notice.

          With respect to the statistics, three points. First, as I stated explicitly in this post, this isn’t just about rape. Second, I hope we can both agree that all forms of assault, whether or not they qualify as rape, are reasonable for women to want to avoid. I hope we can also agree that the situations described in the posts that I link in this post are also reasonable for women to want to avoid, even though most of them didn’t constitute rape. Third, again as I stated explicitly in this post (I actually spent an entire paragraph on it — you can see, I hope, how your apparent repeated lack of reading comprehension might lead me to believe that you don’t fully understand), this isn’t about the level of risk associated with a random stranger, it’s about the level of risk associated with a stranger who throws out the specific red flags that correlate with a higher risk. Assuming your statistics are reliable, they are still only talking about random strangers, not about strangers who raise red flags that correlate with a higher rate of committing rape.

          “The classic “Do not rape” reminder can only come from a mind that thinks of men as distorted individuals that NEED periodically being reminded not to rape.”

          Actually, it comes from realizing that sometimes this type of message actually does effectively help reduce incidences of rape:

          “The possibility you will do me harm. That possibility is never 0%.” Well, with me it is. Hell, with the vast majority of men it is indeed 0% (unless you go around attacking people somehow).

          Please read my first For Those Who Don’t Understand Schrodinger’s Rapist post. It talks about exactly the misconception you’ve just made.

          • Ramonet raises a valid point that I feel he does not sufficiently articulate.

            Yes, we employ risk assessment throughout our daily lives in order to protect ourselves from the sheer probability of harm, danger, etc. However, I find that the sort of risk assessments we consciously perceive to be acceptable are so only on the basis of a win/loss analysis.

            In the case of strapping your seat belt / safety belt in a car, the loss is tiny — one hand motion, and the gain is a sense of safety, and ultimately, protection in the event of a car crash.

            In the case of asking a sexual partner to be tested for an STI/STD, the loss is again, minimal. It’s a simple test, you wait a week or so for your results, and your life continues as normal. In the mean time you can continue to live life as normal. The gain is again, quite significant: protection from a harmful disease which can make your live a living hell, as well as a sense of safety from that harm to put you at peace.

            In the case of wearing a condom, the loss is, again, minimal (putting it on), and the gain is significant (I don’t have to explain this one.)

            People however, are ultimately very variable and different beings. Some may think that the loss is, in some cases, greater than the gain. This is ultimately up to the individual to decide, so long as it does not negatively affect anyone else. To provide a personal example: it is safest to eat ground beef burger meat thoroughly cooked, but I actively choose to eat it a little pink, because I think that the sheer probability of food poisoning is not worth giving up one of the most delicious things in this world: a nice, juicy burger.

            Here’s another one: I’m a 20 year old male, and I choose to walk around the woods (and neighborhood streets) of my wealthy suburb abode at night. Theoretically there is always the risk of a murderer, thief, drunk driver, stray animal or pervert. Protection from that probability would be choosing to stay inside at night. By doing so, I lose the experience of wandering beneath a starlit night sky, and I lose the invigorating experience of night time walking in the cold air. On the other hand, if I stay inside, I’m safe from that probability of danger. In my opinion, however, it is worth the risk. Once you have decided that something is worth the risk, the best thing you can do is forget about the risk entirely. Choosing to actively remember the risk whilst doing whatever it is that you believe to be worth it typically spoils the experience. How can I enjoy a nighttime stroll if I constantly fear murder or getting attacked by a bear? How can I enjoy the juicy burger anyways if I’m too busy thinking about food poisoning? This applies to all risk assessment where you decide the risk is worth it.

            In the case of applying Schrodinger’s Rapist actively as an avoidance policy, the risk assessment is thus:

            By applying Schrodinger’s Rapist and treating all men as potential rapists until you know them very well, you gain a sense of safety, and ultimately haven from that kind of drunken sexual advance which might follow a night of heavy drinking with some male acquaintances. This approach will not, however, protect you from a violent rapist who approaches you with a knife, gun, blackmail, or simply violently overtakes you by brute force.

            By applying Schrodinger’s Rapist and treating all men as potential rapists until you know them very well, you may ultimately offend a huge percentage of the populous, many of them male, and for the straight woman, ultimately keep all nice men who are interested in you romantically or even platonically at the end of a metaphorical sword. Very few human bonds, sexual ones or not, will arise from this sort of active risk assessment in terms of people. Imagine if you spent each day using the same approach towards all men and women, but this time in terms of applying Schrodinger’s Murderer.

            It is understandable that a rape victim, or somebody who has had a loved one murdered would apply these risk assessments to human interaction, but ultimately they must learn to reject them if true personal growth is desirable. I have been backstabbed by friends in my life too many times to count. But if I allow this to affect my ability to make friends at all, how does this help me grow as a person?

            I’m not saying that there is not a risk of each unknown man you meet raping you, but I am saying that this risk is similar in the backdrops (not probability) to that of each unknown individual murdering you. There is always a risk in all things. Being alive, so far as we know, has a 100% chance of death. This is not a reason to choose not to live. We must be positive beings in this matter. Me must see that life is worth living, despite death, and that human interaction with the opposite gender (platonically or romantically) is worth the risk of rape* — this interaction is necessary to our very human happiness. If it is any consolation, this risk of rape (the one I starred) only refers to being taken advantage of whilst drunk or otherwise impaired. Violent rape, of course, isn’t avoided by the victim taking a different approach to human relations.

          • “By applying Schrodinger’s Rapist and treating all men as potential rapists until you know them very well, you may ultimately offend a huge percentage of the populous, many of them male, and for the straight woman, ultimately keep all nice men who are interested in you romantically or even platonically at the end of a metaphorical sword. Very few human bonds, sexual ones or not, will arise from this sort of active risk assessment in terms of people. Imagine if you spent each day using the same approach towards all men and women, but this time in terms of applying Schrodinger’s Murderer.”

            But, as I do explain in this post, this isn’t about using the same approach towards all men. It’s about doing a risk assessment of all men encountered in this one specific context (being engaged by unknown men in a public place that does not exist for the purpose of socializing, e.g. public transit), and using that assessment to decide on how you interact with them. It doesn’t mean never interacting with anyone; it means not interacting with the people who throw out warning signs of being shitty people, or not interacting with people when you don’t feel like interacting with people in the first place.

            Yes, some of the people who do get rejected will be offended by being rejected in this way, but, frankly, anyone who is that offended by the idea that a stranger who doesn’t know them might not be interested in engaging with them probably isn’t a person worth knowing. Even independent of danger, everyone has the right to not feel like talking to a stranger, and anyone who is offended by that idea is being incredibly entitled, and making it obvious that the rejection was entirely the right decision.

            Read a few of the links in this post that relate people’s personal experiences of being accosted by strangers on public transit (on “that”, “shit”, and “happens”). People like the ones in those stories should give an idea of why women often feel it necessary to be wary in contexts like that.

        • 1 in 6 is actually low. Here’s a list of studies that puts it more at 1 in 4: and when you include victims of sexual assault that’s not rape, I have heard studies that say 1 in 3 by the time of college graduation age, and the group of people I was in when I was told that statistic had already met that statistic in the first year of college. Spain may be different, but 1 in 6 is lower than other studies shouw about countries around the world. The point is not about who you actually are, it is about what the woman has the ability to perceive about you in any given situation.

        • it’s impossible to say for sure how many women in our society have been raped(to me rape is non-consensual sex), but since not everyone reports it when they get raped, so chances are more than 3,833 women have been raped, but how much more, only god knows. i’m not saying that all men are rapists, but that rape is not a rare occurance.

        • I am currently taking a gender psychology paper that uses peer reviewed articles/journals/books/research etc —- I can confirm for this debate – the study was done on women at university, and it found that 24% of women had experienced rape or sexual assualt at some point in their lives. It is a freaking high number – just because you don’t see it, doesn’t mean its not there.

          The number of times I have heard or seen the phrase “Do not rape” is extremely minimal, and the number of times I have heard “Don’t wear slutty clothes” is countless. — If anything, I think this is more demeaning of men – blaming women by implying that men just can’t help it, I think this dis more a distortion of men as individuals —— but the thing is, people DO say this, and those people are more ofthen than not MEN, and it is often said as if it were an actual instruction.
          I can’t confirm, as I am not a man, but I honestly can’t think of a single situation in which a male in my presence has been told “not to rape” —-instead, there is a horrible cultural context in which constantly reminding women to “not dress so revealing” is unfair to both men and women – it blames the women, while unfairly representing men as sexual deviants without any control. – “Don’t wear slutty things” is not a feminist catch phrase my friend, so please don’t try and pin that distortion on us.

          Also, in regards to your “0% chance of most men doing harm”, it is a very surface reaction. In those situations, it isn’t “is he a rapist or isn’t he??” — I’m sure a large percentage of strange men that have harrassed me verbally on the streets are not “rapists” – that doesn’t mean they didn’t abuse, harrass, threaten and upset me.
          I don’t walk down streets cowering in fear, but when I am approached, or I notice pointed stares or gestures, which happens far more often than I think you would realise, of course I am wary. I don’t jump straight to “Is he going to rape me”, it follows a logical progression based on past experiences – why is he looking at me like that? Is he going to follow me (which has happened to me and friends of mine) then, Is he going to try coerce me to go to him (this is a regular occurance)? Is he going to threaten me verbally if I don’t respond the way he wants me to (again, this is OFTEN)? Is he going to physically intimidate me (has happened before)?
          – do you think, when it gets that far, that that is the end of it? Or does the logical progression of thought go “Well, he’s yelled at me and called me sexy, now he’s following me and calling at me to stop, now he’s catching up to me, now he’s towering over me…” What do you think happens after that, realistically?? This has happened to me many many times, all to different levels, luckily it doesn’t often get to the last few stages, but the steps are there. Again, I can’t reiterate enough, these situations ACTUALLY happen. Just because I haven’t been raped doesn’t mean the realistic fear of being raped hasn’t been instilled in me from various experiences.
          I understand your criticism, because, really, as a man, you have not been exposed to these kind of situations, so how could you know? I appreciate you trying to find clarity, and I hope you aren’t put off from figuring it out for yourself in a competition to be right…
          I don’t walk around suspicious of all men – but the men who don’t approach me are not the ones that harrass me – it all starts with something simple, like a compliment, which then progresses as I have earlier stated. So by approaching a women alone in public, of course the wariness would be there – no, intial thoughts don’t go RAPIST they go Why is this stranger talking to me??

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