The Lady Garden

Tea and Strumpets

Actual Rape Prevention Tips for Women

(First, an apology. Because of Reasons, there will be no Porn Tuesday this week. Next week. I promise.)

Over at the other place, I’ve been having a go at changing the conversation around SlutWalk. And the discussion has me wondering if there’s actually anything women could be told in “rape prevention” classes – as opposed to “how to ensure you don’t get raped”, which is impossible. These are suggestions, feel free to add or object.

– Don’t rape people.

– Don’t pressure anyone into having sex they don’t want. (In the Durex surveys, about 30% of men report having had sex when they didn’t want to. Pretty sure they’re not all gay.)

– Don’t make bitchy comments about other women on the basis of the (perceived) amount of sex they have.

– If you see something that looks like sexual harassment, step up. Yeah, you might get yelled at, but at least try an “Excuse me, are you okay?” Remember, not all sexual harassment looks like a man being an arsehole to a woman.

– If your friend tells a funny funny rape joke, tell them to STFU and stop being such a twatcock.

– If one of your workmates likes to play Sexual Harassment, tell on them.

– Whether in RL or online, if there’s a discussion on victim-blaming going on, and you have spoons to spare, step up.

The list of tips for men, of course… looks exactly the same. I will note, though, that a couple of times, (and I think I actually mean twice) I’ve been out with a male friend, been sexually harassed, turned to my companion and said, “Dude, wtf? Why aren’t you helping?” And his response has quite genuinely been “With what?”

30 responses to “Actual Rape Prevention Tips for Women

  1. tallulahspankhead June 7, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    “Don’t make bitchy comments about other women on the basis of the (perceived) amount of sex they have.”

    And don’t perpetuate it with comments like “God, that skirt is short – she’s just playing up to the men/giving them what they want” etc.

    • andie June 7, 2011 at 1:07 pm

      I had to explain to my brother-in-law the difference between saying “That girls skirt is too short, she looks like she’s asking for it” and “That girls’ skirt is too short, I find it distasteful.”

      I mean, I would think the more acceptable phrasing would be obvious.

      • Placebogirl June 7, 2011 at 5:09 pm

        There is also the argument that one has no business commenting on ANYONE ELSE’s individual clothing choices unless specifically asked (though to be fair, I am prone to making comments of the “distasteful” variety in private).

        I do believe the broader societal implications of collective clothing choice and social expectations are fair game, though–just not any individual woman’s strategies for making it through the day.

        • Deborah June 7, 2011 at 5:39 pm

          I tend to go for random compliments to passing strangers, especially if someone is wearing something distinctive. Such as, “Your hat looks great!”

          • Jackie Clark June 7, 2011 at 6:54 pm

            I’m with you on that one, Deborah. Or I may pass comment if they smell beautiful.

          • Good Gravey June 9, 2011 at 10:55 pm

            I do too. Very seldom to strangers. Very very seldom. But to people I know I will comment if I really like what they are wearing.

            But then I love fashion. I love colours and texture and patterns. On occasions I have asked where they got it, because it is something my lovely wife will probably like.

            And I do struggle with the idea of making any comment at all. Because if you make positive comments about one person’s dress, you are obviously NOT making them about others. And in doing so you are making **relative** comments.

        • Hugh June 7, 2011 at 7:16 pm

          I presume you mean nobody has any business commenting on the sexual/consent implications of other’s clothing, Placebogirl? I’m presuming from context that that’s what you mean but what you’ve written could be interpreted to mean it’s wrong to tell somebody, for instance, that their hat looks stupid.

          • andie June 7, 2011 at 11:47 pm

            Actually yeah, that’s pretty rude to do, unless of course, said person says to you “Hey, does this hat look stupid?” in which case, they’re probably looking for an honest opinion.

        • andie June 7, 2011 at 11:46 pm

          Yes, this is true, I agree. Nobody’s business but the person wearing it… but you’ll always get the ‘I have the right to express my opinion!’ school of thought, so at the very least, these people who absolutely insist on ‘expressing’ themselves can take a minute and think about how their wording contributes to the rape culture.

  2. Deborah June 7, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    Don’t assume that your own sexual preferences are the norm and are therefore right. As a corollary to that, don’t assume that other women’s preferences for different types of sex indicate anything other than a preference for different types of sex.

    Hmm…. not sure how that works w.r.t. rape prevention, except that engaging in differing types of (consenting) sexual behaviour does not imply consent in any other situation.

    • Emma June 7, 2011 at 1:14 pm

      Well, comments like “group sex/BDSM is rape” diminish the importance of consent. And anything that does that is Just Fucking Wrong.

      • Deborah June 7, 2011 at 1:26 pm

        Yes. I was trying not to go there but it *was* the example I had in mind. It generalises to a larger point about how we are far too ready to generalise from our own data point of one, to absolutely everyone.

  3. Hugh June 7, 2011 at 7:15 pm

    This is all technically true but I don’t really think there’s a pressing need for any of it. Women’s behaviour is not really something that contributes a great deal to rape. In other words, if all women did everything you’re suggesting, all the time, there’d still be shitloads of rape, whereas if only 30% of men did 30% of what’s suggested on the “How to avoid rape” checklist, rape rates would plummet.

    So I guess what I’m saying is this post, weirdly, edges towards the “Well women rape too” bingo card.

    • Emma June 7, 2011 at 7:29 pm

      Hugh, how could I bingo my own post like that? Unless there are no circumstances at all that you consider it okay to mention women raping? I had someone on PAS today basically call rape by women “impossible”. So yeah, if only for the sake of the victims of rape by women, I do think it should be mentioned sometimes. Of course it doesn’t happen as much. Of course changes in male behaviour would make more difference. That doesn’t let women off the hook for the slut-shaming and sexual pressuring they actually DO.

  4. Hugh June 7, 2011 at 7:51 pm

    Well it’s true, the idea that women don’t rape, let alone don’t contribute to rape, does need to be fought back at. But in the context of slut walk, which is a fightback against the idea that policing women’s behaviour is a way to avoid rape, it seems like the critical message is not “Yes, women need to police their behaviour, just not the way you’ve suggested it” but “No, women don’t need to police their behaviour, men do”.

  5. Emma June 7, 2011 at 8:25 pm

    Hugh, are you aware that Slutwalk “head office” is very specific about Slutwalks being inclusive of all rape victims, and therefore not being gender-specific? That’s one of the reasons I so strongly support it.

    • Hugh June 8, 2011 at 12:51 am

      Really? Because while I’m not criticising Slutwalk’s decision to include male rape victims (or indeed any men), if they had organised an event for women only, I’d still support them just as strongly.

      • tallulahspankhead June 8, 2011 at 5:41 am

        Which is nice for you, Hugh, but some of us like to not rank victims in order of importance. For some of us, inclusiveness is Really. Fucking. Important. If you’d like to organise a women’s only march, feel free. I won’t be coming on it.

        Because, if nothing else, we don’t get to carp on about women’s rights, if we’re not willing to own our own privilege, and the damage we cause to all genders. Women slutshame too. In fact, both Emma and I could tell you, that the worst shaming we’ve been on the end of has come from women.

        How about instead of seeing it as “a fightback against the idea that policing women’s behaviour is a way to avoid rape” you could look at it as “a fightback against the idea that policing behaviour is a way to avoid rape”. Doesn’t matter who the victim is. Also doesn’t matter who the rapist is, excuses around slutty outfits/drunken behaviour/sexual proclivities are never OK.

      • Emma June 8, 2011 at 11:05 am

        Yes. And… that’s nice dear?

      • Deborah June 8, 2011 at 11:17 am

        Hugh, why don’t you just cut straight to the chase and ‘splain to us that we’re doing feminism wrong?

        • Hugh June 8, 2011 at 1:44 pm

          Deborah, I said I was uncomfortabler with some aspects of one post. I most certainly didn’t say that the poster, let alone all posters on this blog, were “Doing feminism wrong”.

          • Emma June 8, 2011 at 4:35 pm

            Hugh, here’s a guideline. You can disagree all you like about the substance of what I’m talking about. But NOT whether or not I should be talking about it. I’ll see your “but teh menz” bingo card and raise you but don’t you have more important things to talk about.

            Also, me on telling bloggers what to blog about. (Note: sarcasm.)

            Try to be all things to all people. Every time somebody comes along and suggests the community should be something other than it is, change to accommodate them. Say you write a sports blog, and every now and then someone complains that you talk about a popular sport too much. Stop doing it. Okay, you’ll alienate all the people who turned up to discuss that in the first place, but you’ll keep the new guy happy for the couple of days they hang around before finding something else to complain about. After all, it’s the internet: it’s not like they could go and find another site that already does what they want, or even set up one of their own. It’s your job to accommodate their needs.

  6. Moz June 8, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    Emma: “Dude, wtf? Why aren’t you helping?”
    Unfortunately I know you and my immediate response was “How? Should I make tea?”, because you come across as somewhat bolshy, you know. But yes, your more serious point is taken.

    And thank you for reminding everyone that this is a non-gender-specific battle. Too often people forget that.

    • Emma June 8, 2011 at 1:15 pm

      Ha, this is true. And it is also true that sometimes, even I want someone else to step up and help me out.

      A couple of years ago I actually experienced the freakiness of having a TV producer say to me, in a nutshell, “Fuck me and it’ll be good for your career.” and then spend three hours hitting on me. I’d have liked either of the friends of mine who knew him previously to that to have Had a Word.

      • tallulahspankhead June 8, 2011 at 6:17 pm

        Even just saying ‘hey, you ok?’ or a significant look can be enough. I try to keep an eye on my friends when I’m out, and I expect the same from them.

      • Moz June 9, 2011 at 11:18 am

        The most confusing version of that that I’ve had was a girlfriend asking me to “have a word” with a guy she was being hit on by, then ~ two weeks later having sex said guy and being unhappy that I blamed her for being unfaithful. She was clear that she had sex with him rather than being coerced, so WTF.
        The social problem I have is that there’s often a fine line between helping out and stifling an incipient relationship. Well, if you’re a socially blind doofus like me, anyway. I like to think that it’s somewhat helpful to make both parties explicitly ask me to go away so they can get it on (or off, how does that work?), but I never really know.

  7. Good Gravey June 10, 2011 at 8:15 am

    One of the things I have really liked about Slutwalk discussions is how “the community” realised that we were engaging in language that was somewhat cis-gendered.

    What it tells me is even those who are committed to fighting many of the wrongs of society can fall into the same traps.

    I like the fact that the realisation occurred, and that it gives the message that anyone and everyone can fall into the kyriarchal mode, but even more that anyone and everyone can realise when it happens, and change.

    I absolutely love the fact that Slutwalk is inclusive. It struggles of course with its dual purpose of re-claiming the word “slut” and protesting against victim-blaming. But it fundamentally is firmly putting responsibility back where it belongs.

    Above everything, it has resulted in people using words like “victim-blaming” and “slut-shaming” – people you may not expect to be aware of such things.

  8. Good Gravey June 10, 2011 at 4:57 pm

    Just wanted to expand on the issue discussed by Tallulah and Moz, just a little. Sorry if I am side-tracking and feel free to delete. Or ignore.

    I encountered this type of situation just today. I was walking up Brandon Street in Wellington, and heard a man in a car call out to a woman on the street. I heard a comment about parking and initially thought it was a friendly conversation.

    I started walking on and then heard him screaming at the person. From what I could gather, he was incredibly pissed off that she confused him into thinking she was leaving, making him wait when he could have just driven past.

    By the time I actually realised what was really happening, he had driven away.

    I should have realised sooner, and I should have gone back to check to see if the verbally abused person was OK. But I did keep an eye out to see how she reacted and she appeared fine.

    I considered running after the car, but felt that would achieve little. Instead I hung around for several minutes in case he came back around again.

    I felt bad about all this, because I wish I had recognised the situation earlier, and stepped over to talk to the person in the car about his abuse. I can imagine it could have been quite frightening to not only the target of the abuse, but other people in the street as well.

    The only problem I seem to have with intervening is recognising the situation quickly enough.

    • Emma June 10, 2011 at 5:23 pm

      I think it’s really, really hard to know when to intervene. We talk about these issues in quite black and white terms, but from an outside perspective, one thing can look very like another. Clearest when the police are called on the BDSM couple next door by genuinely concerned people.

      Even our hardest lines… I’ve said, verbally, “No,” in circumstances where I had no problem with the guy I was with needing to double-check, because there was an awful lot of not-no going on too. I might have changed my mind, people do.

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