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tigtog (aka Viv) is the founder of this blog. She lives in Sydney, Australia: husband, 2 kids, cat, house, garden, just enough wine-racks and (sigh) far too few bookshelves.

This author has written 3444 posts for Hoyden About Town. Read more about tigtog »

31 responses to “Advising women to prevent their own rapes is not brave or edgy or helpful”

  1. mimbles

    Yes, a thousand times yes. I’m particularly keen on the collaborative model for sex, wish I could remember whose piece I was reading yesterday that used dancing as an analogy, it was very apt.

  2. Stevie

    Yes. This. So much. Thanks tigtog!

  3. Ariane

    The “parents of daughters” vs “everyone else” bollocks was also pretty offensive. The idea that parents should protect their daughters rather than use them to improve society (I think that’s the moral high ground they’re claiming) is dangerous and damaging.

    I will not tell my daughter to protect herself from rape, because if/when she is sexually assaulted or raped, I do not want her to even consider that she should have done something more to protect herself from it.

    These arguments are bullshit at both the personal and societal level.

  4. Mindy

    Thanks Viv you are awesomesauce.

  5. Megpie71

    One which showed up on my RSS feed today:

    http://yesmeansyesblog.wordpress.com/2013/10/20/cockblocking-rapists-is-a-moral-obligation-or-how-to-stop-rape-right-now/

    Actually, the “Yes Means Yes” blog is a great place to look for information about sensible rape prevention (i.e. rape prevention targeted at preventing people who commit rape from getting away with committing rape sans either social or legal consequences; rather than “rape prevention” targeted at making rape victims complicit in their own victimisation through not having jumped through every possible hoop). It’s well worth the read.

  6. AMM

    Two thoughts:

    1. It’s weird that they are always talking about how drinking (which is somehow equated with getting falling-down drunk) will get you (F) raped, yet they don’t talk about the obvious other hazards: getting injured, getting robbed, getting in a car accident, and getting killed. A couple of times a year, I read about some college student (usually male) who goes missing and is found dead somewhere, and heavy drinking is always involved, yet nobody would dream of saying, “well, it’s his fault for drinking.” (Maybe they should ….) FWIW, the New York City subway had a ad campaign against alcoholism, with pictures illustrating the consequences which included both men and women, yet rape wasn’t one of the consequences they listed.

    2. It’s true that “drinking with dudes” is a risk factor for (M-on-F) rape. Actually, doing _anything_ with dudes, including just being within 100 meters of them, is a risk factor. The logical conclusion is that women should have their own territories from which men are excluded by law and in which women can live their lives without risk of M-on-F rape. Why aren’t people like Emily Y. campaigning for this obvious solution?

  7. AMM

    (Clarification to my previous post.)

    By “getting killed,” I actually meant “dying,” not being murdered, though that’s a risk, too. I’m thinking of two recent cases: in one, the student died of exposure, in the other, he was found drowned in the river.

  8. Orlando

    @AMM, I’m betting that in neither of those recent cases was the dude dumped in his front yard by his friends, when it happened, unlike poor Daisy.

  9. tigtog

    AMM, I wrote a post a few years ago where I addreassed your first point regarding protecting our friends from other risks of being intoxicated being a useful way to also protect them from being isolated by sexual predators in a Missing Stair scenario, and I expanded upon it in the comments:

    The second act, chaperoning the intoxicated, I see as much more important for people generally than simply a rape prevention issue, although obviously it would be important enough if rape prevention was the only benefit. Intoxicated people also fall down stairs and break legs and skulls. Intoxicated people suffer adverse physiological reactions and die because other people have left them alone and unmonitored. Intoxicated people trip on the gutter and fall into the path of an oncoming car.

    None of us should think that our own social enjoyment is more important than the safety of an intoxicated person. Even when “they’ve brought it on themselves by drinking too much”. If you would be ashamed if you had to explain to a bereaved relative how you let their intoxicated loved one die while you were close by, how can you possibly not be equally ashamed to try to explain to an intoxicated friend how you let them be isolated and vulnerable to a rapist while you were close by?

  10. Contrary

    Wait a sec – isn’t there a logic problem here? You’re saying that the victim themselves is essentially powerless to prevent sexual assault and has no responsibility in that regard, but that their friends are somehow empowered in a way that they are not (even though they’re presumably also female in this scenario) and they inherit this responsibility instead? How does that work? Surely if the victim can’t do anything then neither can they?

    Also @AMM, people *do* blame victims of other alcohol-related situations all the time (eg. say someone wraps their car around a tree and dies because they choose to drive while intoxicated – nobody is realistically going to say that person is not responsible for their own actions and subsequent demise).
    Anecdotally speaking, I was assaulted a few years back (sober and in broad daylight) and the overwhelming response from my “friends” (and even my girlfriend) was “why didn’t you stand up for yourself/fight back” etc. There was very little in the way of “you shouldn’t have been assaulted”. My perceived inability to defend myself was blamed on me. Respectfully, you shouldn’t assume things are a certain way just because you don’t see them yourself.

  11. tigtog

    You appear to have missed the key word “isolated” in the phrase “protect them from being isolated by sexual predators”. How many rapists start assaulting their targets in front of witnesses who are friends of their victim? So yes, friends can simply make a point of not leaving their intoxicated friends alone where any sort of unwitnessed harm can come to them, including but far from limited to sexual assault. Friends (and I don’t presume that those friends would all be female, actually) are “empowered” to prevent sexual assault (and other harms from alcohol ingestion) in a way that a lone intoxicated person is not purely through the friends being there together and not being equally incapacitated by alcohol.

    I’ve actually been protected by male friends refusing to just leave me alone unwatched to sleep it off when I was a drunk teenager. They made sure that none (particularly one) of the older guys hanging around our student party got a chance to manoeuver me into a distant car where I would have been unable to resist because of my incapacitation, because that older guy (and a few others) was our community’s Missing Stair and these 3 guys refused to ignore/walk-around that problem. All they had to do to stop that serial sexual predator was refuse to look away or walk away from girls who were too drunk to look after themselves, and they did it gladly and so subtly that it took me a few years to even realise that it was what they had been doing. A group of female friends could have been just as effective at prevention, because all that was needed was them staying there with me rather than leaving me alone.

  12. Mary

    How many rapists start assaulting their targets in front of witnesses who are friends of their victim

    I don’t think that staying with friends who are inebriated in order to keep an eye on their physical safety and general wellbeing is a bad thing by any means (presuming one’s presence is welcomed by the friends), but unfortunately in the geek community I am aware of several assaults that have taken place in public places where the onlookers were either friends of the victim or at the least not actively allied with the perpetrator. The Codemash assault is the most recent example I’ve seen discussed.

    I guess this speaks to the general principle that in the end, rapists are responsible for not raping. There’s no other complete guard against rape.

  13. tigtog

    I agree it’s not unheard of, but it’s not the most typical form of manipulating alcholic intoxication, and from what I’ve read the bystanders in those situations reported that they *thought* it must be OK because the victim wasn’t saying no, or seemed like she might only be “playing” saying no, because the perpetrator was considered a friend, or at least a member in good standing, so obviously it couldn’t “really” be a sexual assault happening right in front of their eyes.

    This is exactly the sort of issue that better education campaigns about the importance of affirmative consent and bystander intervention when affirmative consent is unclear address, challenging the existing “social license” that perpetrators are exploiting.

  14. Mary

    Yeah, education and training of bystanders is useful.

    I am now thinking about the cases where the perpetrator manipulates bystanders in order to cause the victim to doubt themselves and their boundaries. Some PUA technqiues are along these lines. There’s certainly an underappreciation in many communities of exactly how practiced and calculated some assaults are, which can include any or all of isolating vulnerable people, using bystander indifference to convince the victim that what is happening is acceptable or at least can’t be stopped, or even actively involving bystanders in endorsing what’s going on. I don’t think I have anything to add other than that such assaults happen, though.

  15. tigtog

    So I guess what I’m saying is that there appears to be a relatively unsophisticated tier of opportunistic sexual predators who aim to manoeuvre drunks into isolated circumstances where they can molest without risk of witnesses, and this tier of predators can be simply discouraged by friends keeping company with their drunk friends.

    Then there’s the tier of sexual predators who are willing to risk making their attacks surrounded by witnesses, relying on the general acceptance of rape culture myths to get away with it by deflecting blame and doubt surrounding consent onto their victims. However, even with this type of attack, I would think that if more members of the group were more aware of actual rapist behaviours and more actively committed to intervening in any situation that looks dodgy, these rapists too would be discouraged from [eta: many of] their attacks.

  16. tigtog

    You ninjaed me, Mary! We’re pretty much on same page about the perpetrators who operate by manipulating whole groups to tacitly endorse/rationalise their attacks by tapping into all those myths about what is and isn’t really rape. These attacks certainly do happen, and the victim and the manipulated bystanders are not to blame for the rapist choosing to rape, but the better educated we all are about the way these perpetrators manipulate social expectations the better any/all of us can make our communities too vigilant for these perpetrators to keep on getting away with it.

  17. tigtog

    BTW, that Missing Stair guy from when I was a teen? He had most of the folks I hung round with feeling sorry for him because he couldn’t “find a girlfriend” – all those girls he’d drive home when they were drunk and (according to him) he’d think they were really connecting and that this one would be the one, and then NONE of those girls would return his calls or even talk to him if they saw him again around town, and wasn’t it Just Such A Shame When He Was Such A Nice Guy?

    Yeah. That happened, and at the time I didn’t have a single doubt that he really was Such A Nice Guy. The pieces of the jigsaw only fell into place for me years and years later, when I read somebody else’s narrative of their rape and realised that this was the exact same M.O., and that this finally made sense of why none of those girls wanted anything to do with him ever again.

    This happened too. At this one party Missing Stair Guy had offered to let me sleep off my drunk in his car, and was walking me away from the venue door towards his car when my 3 guy friends just appeared and two of them genially insisted on keeping him company (oh, it’ll be so boring for you on your own while she’s asleep, we’ll hang with you) in the front of his car while I had my nap in the back. I had no idea just how lucky I was that they were willing to be vigilant on my (and other girls’) behalf.

  18. Contrary

    [Moderator note: this comment belatedly being approved because I've been very busy with offline stuff this week, so have not been keeping up with blogs. I will respond in full downthread later today or over the weekend, but for the benefit of anyone on email alerts for comments on this thread, a lot of what I want to say is very well laid out by Thomas from the Yes Means Yes blog in this post: Cockblocking Rapists Is A Moral Obligation; or, How To Stop Rape Right Now]

    @Tigtog “Friends are “empowered” to prevent sexual assault (and other harms from alcohol ingestion) in a way that a lone intoxicated person is not purely through the friends being there together and not being equally incapacitated by alcohol.”

    So…being intoxicated is a factor likely to increase your risk of being sexually assaulted? As Yoffe says?

    Also, the onus of responsibility is being totally placed on the group of friends to stay sober and protect the drunk person – what if they want to get drunk too? What if one of them needs the drunk person to look out for them? It sucks for them not being able to relax and have some fun because one of their mates is too hammered to look after themselves, doesn’t it? Why should they shoulder responsibility that cannot be assigned to the person who drank too much? Doesn’t seem fair.

    Please note all, I am *not* trolling. I just happen to believe that all individuals should attempt to take as much responsibility for their own safety as possible. This is different to being the one to blame for the actions of criminals.

    Consequently, to my mind, some responsibility also exists on the part of the “drunk one” to not get too blasted, make themselves vulnerable to danger and be a burden on their friends, which is what I took from Yoffe’s article as well. Surely this is reasonable? Or no? If no, why?

  19. Orlando

    My take-away from all this is that collective action is what makes a difference. If someone is conscienceless enough to rape then telling any other individual, victim or bystander, that they should have prevented it is not a solution. What we can do together, however, is change both the social and legal dynamic to ensure that such a person sees that the penalties for rape will immediately, inevitably outweigh the attractions.

    In other news, Helen Razer decided that the most important thing she could do on this topic is reassure everyone that no matter how much she hates prudes, she hates feminists more.

  20. Greg

    Personally I will be doing both…

    Teaching my son, his friends and the members of my sex that sex is not OK without informed consent.

    Teaching my daughter to be smart and cautious about where she lets her hair down and by how much. I hate that it is necessary and hope she realizes that if god forbid anything ever happens to her, we all make mistakes and it is NOT HER fault.

    I will back her 100% on that.

  21. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help

    @Contrary:

    Also @AMM, people *do* blame victims of other alcohol-related situations all the time (eg. say someone wraps their car around a tree and dies because they choose to drive while intoxicated – nobody is realistically going to say that person is not responsible for their own actions and subsequent demise).

    Except that drunk driver committed the crime; they weren’t killed by someone else’s actions. The rape victim didn’t commit any crime.

  22. tigtog

    Contrary, I see you moving those goalposts. You asked me a question about how friends could effectively intervene to prevent a sexual assault on a drunken person in ways that a lone drunken person could not, and you’ve misrepresented my answer as saying something specific about alcohol as a risk factor in and of itself.

    So, let me be absolutely clear: social interaction of any kind is a risk for sexual assault, because sexual predators are very good at exploiting social conventions in order to perpetrate and avoid consequences for sexual assault. The solution to the problem of sexual predators operating under the cover of social license is not to cease all social interaction entirely – that’s a recipe for socially excluding those perceived as vulnerable, and that is never going to be acceptable to social justice advocates.

    Social predators, including but not limited to sexual predators, fly under the radar best in social gatherings, whether alcohol or any other drug is involved or not. That’s because at social gatherings people’s normal crowd vigilance level tends to be lowered – the simple social convention of being introduced and engaging in a short chitchat exchange engages our One Of Us monkeybrain response, seeing others all around us doing that and nodding at each other builds it further, and recognising someone from a previous gathering and reaquainting ourselves pushes this group trust response further again. Most people don’t realise that this is happening, and therefore don’t consciously keep their vigilance up (salesmen and political advisors are very aware that this happens, and rely upon it professionally, although may not necessarily extrapolate it to their own social interactions (grifters rely on this)).

    Once a social predator has established themselves as One Of Us in some way, the next step is boundary testing to find the people whose no they can override through applying their array of social pressure techniques. When they find such a person, they move on to grooming both the target and the bystanders in various ways in order to eventually implement their preferred isolation method (which can sometimes, as Mary noted upthread, be as blatant as creating a space within a room full of witnesses who have been groomed to not perceive any need to intervene).

    Now, going back to specifically a social drinking gathering:

    Also, the onus of responsibility is being totally placed on the group of friends to stay sober and protect the drunk person – what if they want to get drunk too?

    I am yet to be in a group of friends where everybody is equally drunk. I’ve also grown up in a country town with a heavy drinking culture, and I’ve seen how groups of moderately drunken blokes look after one of their mates who is more drunk than they are – they put them somewhere that the whole group can keep an eye on them while they continue partying, and they all take turns to check that their mate isn’t choking on his own vomit. Other groups of guys where one guy in that group happens to know one guy in the other group might volunteer to also keep an eye on the passed out mate. Sure, they might also draw a cock and balls on his forehead with a permanent marker, or shave an eyebrow off, but they’re all also making sure that he doesn’t come to any severe harm. They also often make sure that their other mate with a bunch of DUI convictions isn’t going to be the guy that gives their passed-out mate a lift home, because if they wouldn’t accept a lift from him themselves then they’re not going to let their too-drunk mate take a lift from him either.

    [eta: there are different social expectations for how groups of girls out together behave when one of them gets too drunk, and most of them involve men ensuring that all the girls are separated for flirtation/seduction purposes, and girls who want to insist on sticking together get called stuck-up lesbians etc. The more people who read Thomas' post on cockblocking rapists as a moral obligation and see these pressures for what they are the better.]

    There are always going to be some people at a social gathering where alcohol is part of it who are not as drunk as others. If you as a sober or mostly-sober attendee would be horrified to discover that you could have prevented a too-drunk person from choking to death, or from falling down stairs, or otherwise coming to harm because they were alone and incapacitated., then you ought to be at least as horrified if you’ve allowed a social predator to isolate and exploit a too-drunk person (sexually or otherwise).

    Why should they shoulder responsibility that cannot be assigned to the person who drank too much?

    Because when one is capable of preventing a person from harming harm coming to another person, and one chooses to not prevent that harm from happening, then one has displayed either callousness or cowardice, and at least some of us are going to publicly describe one’s choice as exactly that. If one doesn’t like being described as callous or cowardly, then one needs to choose to step up and intervene.

    People who drink too much should be responsible for their own hangover the next day, and if they do it regularly for the long term health consequences. They are not responsible for other people’s choice to harm them, nor for bystanders’ choice to allow that harm to happen.

  23. tigtog

    Greg, I’m all for giving advice to one’s offspring and to other young people about how to best take care of themselves and their friends. The problem is that the most common advice is mostly counterfactual. Here’s how Thomas from Yes Means Yes answers a question about advice to one’s daughter in the comments to the post I’ve linked above:

    The best advice you can tell her is to tell her how the rapists act and what their targeting routine looks like. You can tell her that defending her boundaries, even if it makes her a “bitch,” is an important component of her safety, that people who think violating them is funny are assholes and people violate them progressively to see what she’ll do are dangerous. That’s more important than anything you can say about alcohol, and it’s what I’ve told my own relatives in high school.

    But I also think that the question can easily become the wrong one. We can tell other people information that may be useful to them. We cannot tell other people how not to get raped. I know, as a parent, that it feels so frustrating and helpless to accept that things in the world can happen to my kids that I can’t control, can’t protect them from, that I can tell them what I think they should do but I can’t do it for them and I can’t even be sure it will work if they do … but that’s parenting. They ride bikes and then they drive cars, and maybe they are off to college or the military or somewhere else far away, and all we can do is worry. If I knew of a magic talisman, a medallion-of-protection-from-rape, I’d tell you. But I don’t. The thing I’m going to have to accept with my kids, and that all of us have to accept as parents, is that I need to tell them what will actually be of use to them, and not try to tell them something that feels comforting to me, as a parent, as a way to manage my own anxiety. That’s what Yoffe is pretty clearly doing — managing her anxiety as a parent.

  24. Mindy

    I had an interesting conversation with a friend who had an interesting conversation with someone else about Mia’s article and had agreed with it. But what that someone else agreed with was teaching your kids to be sensible with alcohol, not the blaming them if they get raped bit. That someone else said they were teaching their kids not to get too drunk because they might make bad choices like getting in a car with someone who had been drinking too much, falling over and hurting themselves, losing their wallet or phone etc. They wholeheartedly agreed that when someone is raped it is never, ever their fault. It was interesting what they took from the article I thought.

  25. tigtog

    Mindy, that conflation between the health and safety risks posed by alchol overuse generally and the spot-focus on drinking as a particular risk for women and girls regarding rape is the problem, definitely. General health and safety advice about alcohol is genuinely useful, just as general information about the predatory patterns of rapists (boundary-crossing/grooming/isolation) is genuinely useful. Thinking that one is the same as the other is not useful.

  26. Mindy

    I don’t think this person thought that they were the same, I think they didn’t see the victim blaming for rape stuff at all. Maybe having been made aware of it they could now. It made me think that many people just did not understand what feminists were so up in arms about. A feminist dog-whistle by Mia of sorts. And of course a clear message to those that engage in that sort of behaviour that they will continue to be covered for.

  27. tigtog

    My regrets for being insufficiently clear, Mindy – I didn’t mean to imply that your person was necessarily conflating the two, just that it’s very commonly done, and generally neither recognised nor challenged.

  28. Orlando

    I just want to add one more thing to this conversation, with regard to the issue of genuinely useful advice. Because, as much as we do need to shift the conversation away from it being all about instructing girls on what they should do, we want to avoid giving off an “all precautions are useless” impression, because it’s when people feel powerless that they cling to false comfort. The strategies you speak of above, tigtog, about recognising grooming behaviour are one part of it, certainly. But I think we can also advise young women to have free and frank conversations within their social groups whenever possible about what abuse looks like, and how it will not be tolerated. Instead of waiting for someone in your group to do something awful to someone else, have plenty of talks together about how no one who shows signs of violating other people’s boundaries will be coddled and protected by the group. Talk about what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour, and if you think your friends have an off-base idea about what it’s ok to do to others, seriously consider finding different friends. Of course the advice is just as good for young men, which is usually the way with good advice.

  29. tigtog

    Good points, Orlando. That is exactly the big picture I have in my head, but didn’t quite manage to convey in my previous comments.

  30. Contrary

    @Tigtog awesome post, agree with everything you’ve said. The things you’ve written in that post about the methods of predators are both insightful and accurate, but let me respond with the same rhetoric that’s being used in this debate around alcohol: “I shouldn’t have to be aware of social predators or their grooming methods or how they operate! I am innocent and it’s up to them to stop being predatory. It’s not my fault if they prey on me!”

    All of this is perfectly true, but…it’s not going to protect anyone from anything, is it? This is the bit I dislike about the backlash against Yoffe’s article – the argument being used to shut her down can be (and is being) easily applied to any suggestion that links personal safety with personal responsibility. The world can be a dangerous place and the sort of things you’ve written about predation should be taught to everyone, IMO. Education like that would have far greater practical protective value than blaming predators who don’t give a damn that what they’re doing is wrong. I just get the feeling that if an attempt was made to actually do this, it would be shouted down as victim blaming. Maybe only if it was attempted by a man, although gender doesn’t appear to have saved Yoffe much.

    Anyway – the same tools that are being (mis)used to shut down Yoffe’s post could also be applied to yours and Orlando’s – and that’s all kinds of wrong.

    The blame-the-predators thing, to me, it’s facebook care, it’s clicking “like” on a photo of a starving kid. It’s idealism that includes people in a moral right without any onus of action or responsibility being assigned to them (and in fact, at the height of irony, ends up sending the message that attempting to be responsible for yourself in any way effectively makes you the one to blame if you are actually attacked…you can only be “in the right” by ignoring the danger).

    Of course it is the predator’s fault, that was never under dispute (at least not from me – ever) and you’ll be pleased to know that I personally look out for drunk female friends as much as I do male ones. Funny how someone watching me trying to walk a drunk female colleague home would have license to assume I’m a predator trying to isolate her though, hey ;)

    Appreciate the debate. Cheers!

  31. Contrary

    Except that drunk driver committed the crime; they weren’t killed by someone else’s actions. The rape victim didn’t commit any crime.

    Good point, you’re right. Thank you. If the drunk driver smashed into another car, I’d never blame the occupants of that car for not getting out of the way. I was wrong here.

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