It’s not victim blaming, just common sense

Yes, rape is a crime and men (and in rare cases women) that commit it are beyond reprehensible. But there are ways that you can minimise the risk – this doesn’t shift the blame of the crime, but it can help the innocent. This isn’t blaming the victim – no more than advising people not to stand in certain areas of Manchester with their eyes closed waving a new iPhone around.

Comment on Independent blog, 26 July 2012

If i leave my front door open it doesn’t give thieves the right to nick my stuff but it increases the likelihood that it will happen.And if my insurers feel i was negligent in leaving my front door open they may well not pay out on my household contents insurance policy.Likewise if i choose to make myself drunk and incapable it doesn’t give people the right to beat me,rob me and possibly even rape me but it increases the likelihood that it may happen.So surely i have some responsibility to take steps to protect myself.

Comment on the Guardian Comment is Free, 26 July 2012

When a sensitive topic such a rape is discussed, feminists are often accused of not knowing the difference between victim-blaming and just advising people to take sensible precautions because hey, there are some innately evil people out there, people whose behaviour is in no way responsive to the culture that surrounds them. Well, as a feminist, I would like to show that not only can I copy and paste massive comments then write pointlessly long sentences at the start of blog posts, but that I do ‘get’ this difference. I totally do.

It upsets me, obviously, that so many young men are apparently falsely accused of rape. To make a false accusation is a heinous crime; no one’s denying that. But it’s no good putting out messages saying ‘don’t make false accusations’. First, that would make all women feel they were tarred with the ‘false accuser’ brush (I mean, more than we are already). Second, it wouldn’t do anything to deter the false accusers. They’re going to do it anyway – but only if men give them the chance.

The harsh truth is that yes, indeed, you wouldn’t go out leaving your front door open – that’s just an invitation to burglars. Nor would you leave your iPad on a table in the pub while you nipped to the loo. It’s just basic risk management. Why, then, do so many men go out and have sex, when clearly that’s a red flag to all potential false rape accusers? I’m not saying such men are to blame when false accusations are made, just that all men should seriously restrict their activities in order to minimise the opportunities open to all the faceless bad people over whom we have no influence whatsoever (beyond the messages conveyed by the legal system, peer approval or disapproval, the shitty comments we write on blogs, that sort of thing).

You could argue that what I’m suggesting is needless, that such a restriction of sexual expression reinforces the distorted thinking of abusers in relation to those who “deserve” to be abused. You could argue that behaving like you’re a human being who likes to have sex with some (but not all) people is nothing like walking around blindfold with an iPhone in Moss Side. You could even argue that if the avoidance of crime is a worthwhile rein on normal social interactions, none of us should even leave the house (apart from to go to work, where we’ll just have to take our chances). You could argue all of those things. However, that’s to ignore the fact that I’m just being practical. I just don’t want to see more poor men suffer.

So what I’m saying, men, is don’t ever have a one-night stand again. Don’t even have sex. It’s not like we women will miss it – we’ve been told it’s off the cards for years anyhow (again, in the interests of crime avoidance). Just keep your cocks in your pants and we’ll all be happy. Well, not happy. Not even normal or at peace with ourselves. Just, you know … Anyhow, this has nothing to do with blaming the victim. It’s just common sense.


22 thoughts on “It’s not victim blaming, just common sense

  1. I LOVE this post. It is so good. And it made me feel relieved because that ghastly CiF thread wound me up to high hell (why do I read the comments on these things? Why!?) I felt like “am I being crazy here?” but this articulates in a smart and clear way the biggest logic flaw in the “common sense” argument.

    Some people have so internalised the idea that women are things not people, and our sex life only exists as something men win or achieve, not for, you know, our own actually blinking pleasure, that they don’t even realise they’re thinking it. They don’t realise how much they are asking us to do. “Don’t be promiscuous, don’t flirt with men, don’t dress a certain way, don’t get drunk” is to these people isn’t infringing our rights or liberties at all because women being having lots of great sex is put on a par with doing something wrong or dangerous, not being a healthy and happy individual.

    It’s like that horrible West Mercia Police. Women, don’t be slutty and drunk. Oh, and men, don’t rape people. Because rape is to men what drunken flirting is to women. Terrible.

  2. I think that’s pretty sensible advice actually.
    “Having a one night stand might increase your risk of being falsely accused of rape.”
    It’s sensibly left up to the individual to decide how they want to balance risk with benefit in individual situations, but they’re doing so in full possession of the facts. This doesn’t mean it’s somehow THEIR fault if they sleep with someone with consent and end up falsely accused of rape.

    1. Did you entirely miss the sarcasm of this article? Obviously you did. The entire article is pointing out how ridiculous it would be to say that seriously to men, and how ridiculous it is that women are being told not to live their lives normally to lower the risk of being raped. I think maybe you should re-read it and do some research, ‘cos you seem to have missed the point.

      1. THANK YOU!!! I found it to be hilarious. Maybe some man will get this turnaround example and see why it is wrong to blame women, what we wear ,or how much we drink. Bravo! Someone named Elissa posted it on FB and I am eternally grateful.

      2. I think I missed the point too, but I was reading it slowly, I’m not a fluent english reader and it could be the reason of my misinterpretation.

        But, if I now realize what you’re saying like an evidence I’ve to try to explain too why it didn’t shocked me at all. Without releasing too much details, I’m myself a male, too old to pretend that I’ve never have an occasion to benefit from a good situation but I never have, as I can say it. Simply because the argument of this article always appeared clear to me (err, it’s true that i’m a romantic too, but I won’t develop, I think this is just not the good point). I’m rationnal, Why would it be ridiculous to develop this argument ? It’s preventing more than a rapist, it could help a lot of my congeneres in order to realize that being human can sometimes be easier, greater than they thought.

        By the way, I’m not the old fashioned man who thinks that the sexuality would better be refrained, no. Sexual revolution brought a lot of good, and mostly for women. But there’s a difference between intimicy and social facts, there are comportments that are shameful. And I think that the mind goes clearly where the body leads it. In other words: Being more open-minded isn’t being permissive, but it begins in listening someone else, just before doing something to him (or her, because – was it clear? – I’m not totally convinced that girls are that rationnal too, both sides seems to behave as “sides”, exactly, and not to reason about human being).

        Of course, that’s my point, I’m idealist, it’s true, but idealism won’t go wrong with a bit of prudence.

        (I hope that my english isn’t too bad, thank you if you read the whole comment.)

        finished \o/

  3. I understand what you’re doing here, but I’d just like to point out:

    A male doesn’t need to have sex with her for a screwed up, vindictive, bitch to make an accusation. Even if she can’t put a date to any time when they might have been alone together with no witnesses. He just has to do something, anything, for which she decides he needs to be punished – he might have ignorde her, laughed at her, argued with her, or even dared the classic “not want to go out with her”. The police have no choice but to take it 100% seriously and when they can’t find any evidence, sit on the case for months waiting to see if anything turns up.

    One case local to me, young woman, late home, lost keys, rather than admit to that she said that the taxi driver raped her. It destroyed his life, even though CCTV showed him is a different part of town at the time in question, even though she admitted lying, he lost his business (he became to scared to accept single women as customers), he was abused and vilified by people he had thought were friends and neighbors, his kids were abused at school… And it still happens, despite the truth coming out, there is always a “he got away with it, there’s no smoke without fire” attitude from some people.

    1. I think the argument still stands – if men are such a vulnerable group, they need to restrict their lives in the same ways that women are supposed to. Unless all this advice is actually just crap?

    2. That actually fits with her post perfectly. A woman not following advice and getting raped = a man not following her advice and being accused of rape. So your example of a man who follows her advice and is still falsely accused is equivalent to a woman who follows all the traditional advice and is still raped. Only I’d wager the latter is far, far more common.

      @glosswitch: I absolutely love your post and I will be bookmarking it for future victim-blaming discussions.

    3. There is a big cultural myth about evil, bitchy, nasty women making up false rape allegations and ruining poor men’s lives. The percentage of false rape claims are incredibly small. In fact, the same small amount of false claims of any crime, at about 1%. That doesn’t take into consideration that rape is the most un-reported crime, with only about 20% of rapes actually being reported, and then only 1% of those reported rapes actually resulting in a conviction. Part of the problem is our society’s belief that women go around making up fake rapes all the time, and the other is the lack of support these women or girls receive from the police and the courts when reporting them. In what world do the police “take it 100% seriously” and commit all their time to helping out these women? I would like to know…really. That is not our reality, unfortunately. You also speak of one case you heard of, I am assuming in the media, of a young girl who said that a taxi driver raped her. Our media is run by, owned by, influenced by and paid for mostly by men. Who’s favour do you think they support? What cultural myths do you think they’ll support? The ones about actual realities of rape and how common and horrendous it is, and how 99.9% of rapes are committed by men (which doesn’t look good for them), or the myth that continues to blame women and let off the perpetrators. If a woman IS actually taken seriously by the police (which rarely happens), she then spends months to years of her life talking about a time when she was violated, abused and often, has her life ruined forever. Publicly. Why would a young girl do this if it hadn’t happened to her? It is the attitude of people like you that stops women from reporting their rape because people like you say, “well look at her. She says he raped her but he didn’t. What a horrible girl. Now the poor man’s life is ruined”. Shame on you. Shame.

  4. “The harsh truth is that yes, indeed, you wouldn’t go out leaving your front door open – that’s just an invitation to burglars. Nor would you leave your iPad on a table in the pub while you nipped to the loo. It’s just basic risk management.”

    This is the most retarded thing I have ever read. By this logic, women shouldn’t dress “provocatively”. Otherwise they are just inviting rape. It’s basic risk management. It’s just common sense.

  5. This is the most awesome post, and the table-flipping is absolutely perfect. Thank you!! Definitely agree that men should be, you know, curtailing their daily activities, since obviously they are so vulnerable and open to intimidation and stuff. 😀

  6. Thank you for this, it’s brilliant! Note to commenter on Independent blog: Please stop comparing my vagina to an ipod.

  7. Excellent blogpost!

    When my job has involved training potential new volunteers, I have often had to resort to this kind of argument – turning things on their head to demonstrate the logical fallacy – as this ‘common sense’ idea is *so* prevalent, sadly.

    The training session I’m referring to starts with a ‘rape and sexual violence’ quiz, so volunteers can learn that women are more at risk from a partner/ ex-partner than a stranger. If the ‘common sense’ argument comes up later, I ask them to remember this statistic, and ask why we don’t ‘advise’ women to avoid relationships altogether, as this would decrease their risk of RSV far more effectively than avoiding alcohol!

  8. Wow…seems a lot of commenters didn’t get the joke, but I thought it was a good one! I’ve never heard that perspective before, and it is an excellent one! I’d love to see how men would react if there were suddenly posters put up telling them that instead of posters telling us not to drink too much! 🙂

  9. At the beginning, I thought it was meant to be taken literally. I mean, it makes sense. I mean, don’t fuck your employee when you are her direct superior screams “common sense” in my ears !

    (By the way, you can note that I don’t drink alcohol precisely because of that : I don’t want to loose control of myself. So it’s not a question of “Women shouldn’t drink too much”, more “People shouldn’t drink too much” imho)

  10. Your sarcasm is lost on me, I’m afraid. Both seem like reasonable things to say – both to women and to men.

    I don’t see why it’s shocking to suggest to a man that he should think before a one night stand – particularly if it gives him a chance to think about whether the woman is incapable of consent. Just like it shouldn’t be shocking to suggest to a woman that getting black out drunk while hitting on men is also a bad idea.

    The quotes at the front do not suggest that women stay completely covered in their rooms. They suggest common sense and an acknowledgement that consequences exist. And yes, both should be expected of both parties.

    1. But if this is all so sensible, why is so much of the advice directed at women, and so little at men? Could it be because the advice is self-explanatory and irrelevant – unless you’re pushing towards victim-blaming?

      1. The same could be asked about why there is so little support for men than women in some areas. I do agree with Forrest fully. Maybe we should start giving out advice to men on how to avoid false rape accusations. Though as Sarah said above a woman can make a rape accusation without even having been alone with a guy or talking to a guy for that matter. Not that I think many women would make a false rape accusation for little to no reason at all.

        Not all rapes can be prevented either even when following advice. I do believe that all rapes should be taken seriously depending on whether or not a person (rape can happen to anybody make or female by a male or female) follow advice and/or put theirselves in risky situations for it to happen. Just I don’t feel that lashing out at people who give advice that could help prevent rape does any good for anybody. Everyone is responsible for their own safety. This is not saying that if a crime were to happen to somebody increasing the risk of a crime happening it shouldn’t be taken seriously. There are horrible people in the world and I’d be up for taking advice on how to reduce the risk of being falsely accused of rape. This doesn’t mean that I won’t be falsely accused of a woman who I never even spoke to nor looked at before. Either way false rape accusers and rapist should spend a long time in jail.

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