Schrödinger’s Rapist and Schrödinger’s Racist

Under the pen name “Phaedra Starling”, a woman a couple years ago wrote a widely read and debated article about a concept she dubbed “Schrödinger’s Rapist”. In it she addressed well meaning men who take personal offense when their attempts to initiate conversation (or more) with strange women in public are met with cold caution or are blown off outright. Her whole article is must-read. Here is just a representative portion, to give a feel for her argument:

Now, you want to become acquainted with a woman you see in public. The first thing you need to understand is that women are dealing with a set of challenges and concerns that are strange to you, a man. To begin with, we would rather not be killed or otherwise violently assaulted.

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

Well, no. But do you think about it all the time? Is preventing violent assault or murder part of your daily routine, rather than merely something you do when you venture into war zones? Because, for women, it is. When I go on a date, I always leave the man’s full name and contact information written next to my computer monitor. This is so the cops can find my body if I go missing. My best friend will call or e-mail me the next morning, and I must answer that call or e-mail before noon-ish, or she begins to worry. If she doesn’t hear from me by three or so, she’ll call the police. My activities after dark are curtailed. Unless I am in a densely-occupied, well-lit space, I won’t go out alone. Even then, I prefer to have a friend or two, or my dogs, with me. Do you follow rules like these?

So when you, a stranger, approach me, I have to ask myself: Will this man rape me?

Do you think I’m overreacting? One in every six American women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. I bet you don’t think you know any rapists, but consider the sheer number of rapes that must occur. These rapes are not all committed by Phillip Garrido, Brian David Mitchell, or other members of the Brotherhood of Scary Hair and Homemade Religion. While you may assume that none of the men you know are rapists, I can assure you that at least one is. Consider: if every rapist commits an average of ten rapes (a horrifying number, isn’t it?) then the concentration of rapists in the population is still a little over one in sixty. That means four in my graduating class in high school. One among my coworkers. One in the subway car at rush hour. Eleven who work out at my gym. How do I know that you, the nice guy who wants nothing more than companionship and True Love, are not this rapist?

I don’t.

When you approach me in public, you are Schrödinger’s Rapist. You may or may not be a man who would commit rape. I won’t know for sure unless you start sexually assaulting me. I can’t see inside your head, and I don’t know your intentions. If you expect me to trust you—to accept you at face value as a nice sort of guy—you are not only failing to respect my reasonable caution, you are being cavalier about my personal safety.

Fortunately, you’re a good guy. We’ve already established that. Now that you’re aware that there’s a problem, you are going to go out of your way to fix it, and to make the women with whom you interact feel as safe as possible.

To begin with, you must accept that I set my own risk tolerance. When you approach me, I will begin to evaluate the possibility you will do me harm. That possibility is never 0%. For some women, particularly women who have been victims of violent assaults, any level of risk is unacceptable. Those women do not want to be approached, no matter how nice you are or how much you’d like to date them. Okay? That’s their right. Don’t get pissy about it. Women are under no obligation to hear the sales pitch before deciding they are not in the market to buy.

She goes on to enumerate more ways that men need to be self aware about ways we risk making strange women uncomfortable and ways that we can increase strange women’s abilities to be comfortable. This essay has stuck with me ever since I first read it a couple of years ago. Before reading it, I had already grasped the basic concepts and learned to tell myself a simple message when women who did not know me rejected me or blew me off: They’re not rejecting me, they don’t know me, they’re rejecting guys way less cool than I am for whom they merely confuse me. How can I blame them for not grasping how awesome I am and assuming without adequate information and time to get to know me that I’m just like every other guy. Why in the world should I think that all that I have to offer is going to be communicable so easily! Of course this stranger can’t be blamed for underestimating me.

Okay so this was a more self-flattering way to view the situation than to think, Oh, to her I’m Schrödinger’s Rapist. But being cued in to the average woman’s constant struggles to fend off boundary violating sleazeballs, I had to take my initial realization that rejection by strange women was not personal to a whole new level. Not only did I need to appreciate that the rejection is not personal, I had to appreciate that if I do take it personally and express that, then I very easily risk becoming a boundary violator, and interpretable as a sleazeball—no matter how awesome I really am. And, now, having had my consciousness raised by this article, my heightened knowledge creates heightened responsibility. If I know that what I am doing can be interpreted as boundary violating sleazeballing, but I persist in it anyway, then I cannot only be interpreted as a boundary violating sleazeball, but eo ipso I can become one.

I remember once standing on a subway platform several years ago when Watchmen was being made into a movie and the graphic novel was especially popular again due to the buzz around the film. Due to all this I started reading it. So one day I’m on a fully busy subway platform in the middle of the afternoon and I see a pretty woman reading Watchmen. I was wearing my head phones and didn’t take them off or anything. All I did was point at the book from her peripheral vision and she startled and braced like a fist was coming at her. Getting a grip of herself, she looked at me, I pointed at the book and just gave a thumbs up to it and she smiled. And I left her alone, remembered “Schrödinger’s Rapist” and took away a reiteration of the lesson: regardless of why or whether they should in an ideal way feel this way, many women in public are on edge around strange men. And if we want to make this change, we need to be as scrupulous as possible in respecting strange women’s boundaries. Fighting them over what’s a reasonable boundary expectation or a reasonable cause for offense misses the whole point.

What also misses the whole point is being babies about this and crying “misandry” because women feel the need to be protective of themselves around strange men. They don’t hate us. They don’t have deep seated erroneous, reflexive prejudicial responses to us. They have good reasons to be wary of strangers given the behavior of many strange men.

But one of the ways that the men who want to have public input on how women should view their own boundaries object to being seen by strange women as “Schrödinger’s Rapist” is by claiming that it’s akin to blacks being treated by white people as a sort of “Schrödinger’s Mugger”.

This afternoon Ian has a fantastic (as usual) post on how black people accommodate white people’s baseless irrational fears all the time. It is a terrible, alienating, unjust burden to bear, but it is the only option that has any hope of diffusing those false anxieties over time. As a conscientious person, he essentially has to treat every strange white person he bumps into as, to coin a phrase that he didn’t, ”Schrödinger’s Racist”—someone who just reflexively may find his big black appearance intimidating for all the wrong reasons. And, accordingly, he finds himself having to go to the thankless trouble of deliberately putting them at ease. So, after recounting a couple of almost comically sad personal anecdotes that guided him to realize the need to do this, he explains his conclusions:

Now there are two ways I could react to these encounters. I could rail against people for being racist and sexist and size-ist (if that’s a thing) – I’m so gentle and warm and loving! How dare they act as though I’m not? That’s one way – and it’s the stupid way. The other way is to recognize that while I strongly dislike the fact that people see me as dangerous because of how I look, it is up to me to decide what to do with that information. If I don’t care about spooking my neighbours, I don’t have to shuffle my feet – let them deal with their fright. But if I do care, then I have to find some way of mitigating that fear so we can coexist harmoniously.

Bringing this example home, men in the freethought movement have a decision to make. They (we) can rail against the hypocrisy of claiming to be anti-sexist whilst engaging in sex-based prejudicial behaviour, or we can recognize that if we want to be accommodating to women we have to make some adjustments to how we behave. It comes back to the central question: do we want women to be more comfortable? If not – then we should say so. If we do, then we can’t simply maintain the status quo of behaviour and berate women for being afraid of rape. That doesn’t solve any problems.

The other point I want to make here, which goes back to my objection to anti-black sexism being used as a rhetorical device by those who will never face it, is that black people engage in tons of behaviours to make white people feel safer. We do this all the damn time. We make accommodations in speech, behaviour, dress, mannerism, conversation topic – a wide diversity of adjustments that we make in the presence of our white friends. We want them to feel comfortable around us, and we accept the inherent racism of the need for such changes. The fact that you rail against its manifest unfairness is indicative of the fact that you have no idea we’re doing it – which means, in turn, that we’re doing it well. Until I am convinced that you actually understand anti-black racism (which would take quite a bit of doing), I don’t appreciate being deputized into your anti-feminist screed in this way.

Being a conscientious, pro-social, morally exceptional person means going the extra mile for people even at your own expense sometimes. When the only other option is to perpetuate unjust fears rather than constructively alleviate them so that they diminish in the future, you have to suck it up and even if you think that someone’s fears are unfounded, work to make them more comfortable. Of course this does not mean that blacks should agree to any loss of rights or dignity out of deference to white racist feelings. And it does not mean that men need to consider themselves inherently bad or defer to women in any ways that actually stripped themselves of basic rights. What it does mean is meeting anxiety-riddled people where they are so as to dispel them by silently signaling you care about them and about harmony with them.

Why this is so hard to grasp and to accommodate for so many men who ostensibly love women and crave few things in life as much as being with a woman, is beyond me.

For such men, who still don’t get it, here’s Greg Laden.

Richard Carrier has also responded to Ian’s thoughts.

Your Thoughts?

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • danielrudolph

    Let’s tie this back to the previous post, specifically Natalie’s point #13:

    13. You’re infiltrating women’s spaces and making them unsafe.

    Natalie goes on to rebut this saying there has never been a rape meeting this description, so there’s is little, if any danger to women here. However, let’s reformulate the concern as

    13. You’re infiltrating women’s spaces and making them feel unsafe.

    I don’t see why all the arguments as to why men should cross the street, wait for the next elevator, etc, don’t also apply here. Why is it that when someone speaks up in Greg’s comments and argues that while rape is a real danger, the scenario of being grabbed off the street by a stranger almost never happens and we shouldn’t be teaching women to fear this situation because it only legitimizes victim blaming (what were you doing walking around alone at night) and perpetuates sexist stereotypes and does little or nothing to stop rape gets told that whether a fear is legitimate is irrelevant and not up to us to decide and that we must accommodate these concerns, rational or not, yet it’s perfectly legitimate for Natalie to argue that fearing men will dress up as women so as to rape women is the locker room is irrational. If someone told her that she should wait until the restroom was empty so as to consider the comfort of the other women in there, would that be legit?

    • Sas

      @ danielrudolph -

      A cis woman who wants to drive trans women out of women’s spaces isn’t operating from fear, she’s operating from disgust and trying to foment fear as an excuse to harm trans women.

      Women who are afraid of men in the late of night in secluded places aren’t using fear as an excuse, they are actually and legitimately afraid. The “grabbed off the street” thing may be rare, but it actually happens and is actually something to be afraid of. The “guy pretends to be a transsexual to rape women in bathrooms/changing rooms” scenario isn’t, and is basically ridiculous given how much easier it would be for a man to rape a woman without resorting to elaborate masquerade.

    • danielrudolph

      A cis woman who wants to drive trans women out of women’s spaces isn’t operating from fear, she’s operating from disgust and trying to foment fear as an excuse to harm trans women.

      Is she? I can see that being the case in some situations, but I know people who are really afraid of all kinds of things. Besides, if a woman says she’s afraid of being raped, isn’t accusing her of lying worse than accusing her of having an irrational fear?

    • http://giliellthinkingaloud.blogspot.com/ Giliell, not to be confused with The Borg

      Well, lets rephrase it: Maybe that woman isn’t operating from disgust, but from ignorance.
      Since there seem to be no precedent cases of sexual harrasment by men posing as trans-women in order to get access to women’s space, the fear is real, but irrational.
      Education would be the remedy.
      Being afraid of rape and sexual harrasment by strangers, on the other hand, is sadly a justified fear.

    • kerfluffle

      The scenario of being grabbed off the street and raped is less common than the victim knowing their attacker. The scenario of walking down the street and being sexually harassed is far more common than rape. When a person’s space is infiltrated, they feel unsafe. Especially if they already have the experience of being groped, fondled, cat-called, followed or otherwise harassed simply for being female.

    • danielrudolph

      Thank you. That makes a lot of sense. If the issue isn’t so much that every man is a potential rapist so much as these conversations rarely go anywhere pleasant so why bother, it’s understandable. It would be like griping at atheist men for trying to avoid well-dressed people carrying copies of The Watchtower.

    • kerfluffle

      No and that’s dismissive bullshit.

      Getting groped and fondled is not merely unpleasant, it is sexual assault. It is a crime, albeit one that gets overlooked because some idiots think that being physically molested by a stranger is the same thing as having to say “no thank” to a pair of missionaries at the door.

      Verbal harassment is often an introductory move to physical harassment, getting into someone’s space is how it starts.

    • ischemgeek

      Uh, no. It’s more like griping at athiests for avoiding violent religious types who would try to hurt or kill you for not believing in their sky-daddy.

      I was going to try to write some sort of analogy too make it accessible to you, but frankly Greg Laden has got it pretty good, and I know from endless discussions elsewhere that if I do spend the next half hour crafting some analogy, I can more likely than not expect the MRAs to wade in and spend their time nitpicking where the analogy falls short and refusing to see the point of it. I’m sick of dealing with that, so just go read Greg’s post. His analogy is probably better than I have time to craft anyway.

    • Natalie

      Fuck no it’s not legit.

      The point is that “schrodinger’s rapist” is based on a rational, substantiated and legitimate risk assessment.

      The belief that permitting trans women into women’s spaces poses some kind of threat is not a legitimate assessment of risk. It is motivated by irrational fears. You know what they call irrational fear of trans people? Transphobia.

      Furthermore, the supposed hypothetical risk posed to cis women in this situation needs to be weighed against the very REAL risk, threat, harassment and so on of trans women. If I go into a men’s room, I’m putting myself at VERY direct, real risk of being attacked, beaten or sexually assaulted. And even if that doesn’t happen, the attendant discomfort far outweighs whatever discomfort a cis woman can claim to have with my presence in the women’s room.

      It’s an act of disproportionately punishing trans women for the crimes of cis men. It is also fed by irrational fears and disgust of trans women, and the general hostility and bigotry directed towards us.

      In all of these cases, we weigh the other individual’s comfort against our own. In the case of some transphobe who wants me to wait outside while she pees because she got freaked out by Silence Of The Lambs? Fuck her. I’m not willing to place her discomfort above my own.

    • Natalie

      BTW, sorry if I sounded a bit angry there. But the idea that the comfort of transphobes is more important than my safety tends to hit a bit of a nerve.

      I kind of wish I already was set up here so I could get in on the Schrodinger’s Rapist action today! ;)

      One more thing to add really quick…

      In Crommunist’s awesome post today, he mentioned the fact that black people are CONSTANTLY going to great lengths to help white people feel comfortable around them. I’d like to point out that us trans women are doing the same. There’s a considerable amount of effort we take so as not, for instance, to make women feel uncomfortable when we share the restroom… to not freak out cis people, to not burden them with the details of our transy lives and transy problems and transy bodies, etc. In fact, a considerable amount of the efforts we take towards passability are about helping OTHERS feel comfortable around us, not because we care THAT much about looking like cis people. There’s a ton of things I do with my presentation, like painting my nails or shaving my arms, that I don’t really like doing, but I do anyway, because it helps me stay safe, helps me blend in, and helps other people regard me as a “normal” woman and not feel weirded out around me.

      And another example that’s pertinent:

      When I’m at home, by myself, and I’m in the middle of something and just need to take a quick pee, I’ll often do so standing up. I NEVER do that in public washrooms, because I don’t want to do anything that will alert the other women around me that I’m trans.

      And if that subject matter sounds icky and makes you feel uncomfortable… well that’s exactly the kind of thing I never talk about with cis people precisely because I don’t want to make them feel uncomfortable. Is there anything you’d like to know about breast-sensitivity, orgasm while on an MtF hormone regimen, the process of tucking, or how I really feel about cis people? ;)

    • danielrudolph

      My girlfriend is trans, though not on hormones yet (approval should finally go through next month),so I’m semi-familiar with most of this stuff. I agree that you here, except this point:

      The point is that “schrodinger’s rapist” is based on a rational, substantiated and legitimate risk assessment.

      I don’t think this is actually the case. My point isn’t that this fear is rational or irrational. My complaint is with people who argued that whether it’s rational is irrelevant when people questioned how rational it was based on the idea that stranger rapes are a minority of rapes and the grabbed-off-the-street scenario is a minority of those. I think the rationality of beliefs is always an issue.

      So there are several competing hypotheses here:

      1. Men should accommodate women’s fear of Schrodinger’s rapist because it is a rational fear.
      2. Men should accommodate women’s regardless of whether it’s rational, because scaring women won’t do anything to promote rationality and is generally rude, at best.
      3. Men should accommodate women’s fear of Schrodinger’s rapist regardless of whether it’s rational because it’s not their place to question whether it’s rational or not. They can’t understand what it is like to be a woman confronted by what they perceive to be a male in a threatening situation so should stfu.

      (There are some parallel arguments to why men shouldn’t accommodate fear of Schrodinger’s rapist, but they beside the point.) While all these arguments reach the same conclusion about Schrodinger’s rapist, they have different implications when we try to apply them elsewhere. You seem to support argument 1. That is a fine argument and makes no sense if you try to apply it to trans-women in the ladies’ room. You are being consistent here.

      Argument 2 is trickier as you have to get into argument about what and does doesn’t promote rationality, which isn’t always straightforward, but I think you can consistently argue that the burden of demonstrating one is not a rapist does fall on men of all stripes, but not transwomen, either because the risk of social harm is greater to transwomen so the balance of risks is different or because there’s a lot more room to promote rational in the latter case.

      Argument 3 I think would apply to transwomen and men equally. You could argue that transwomen don’t have male privilege and are thus making an informed decision about their behavior whereas men cannot, but I think that is elevating privilege blindness higher than is justified and is contradictory, because it’s ignoring the cis woman’s POV after saying it is illegitimate to do so. (You could also argue that is perfectly legitimate to apply this to transwomen because they do have male privilege, but these arguments come from the sort of place that the arguments against appropriating women’s bodies do, which you’ve already dealt with quite ably.)

      Personally, I believe argument 1, with a hint of argument 2. (Though I’d only extend them so far. Hitting on a strange woman in an elevator is right out. A man getting on the elevator because he needs to go to another floor and doesn’t want to wait for the elevator to come back is perfectly defensible.) The risk of a “classic” rape seems to be lowish (about 1% lifetime for American women if I’m doing the math right), but hardly insignificant. I think rationality should always be part of the process, so long as we aren’t using it as an excuse to dismiss people’s views and are sticking to evidence instead of speculation. I also think what makes fears rational or not is a conversation worth having.

      Argument 2 is accommodationist, which I don’t think is a problem in moderation, but some people do, and argument 3 is either agnostic (in the sense it is arguing that outsider understanding is impossible) on gender issues or straight anti-rational, which I think are both problematic. People arguing for argument 3 largely don’t actually believe its reasoning, only its conclusion. (Unless they do want transwomen to use the men’s room, in which case fuck them, but not literally. I say cut them off until they learn to be less bigoted.) As to why they would do this, either it’s easier (a lot less evidence required to make your case) or they haven’t thought it through.

    • danielrudolph

      That was supposed to be a reply to Natalie’s reply to me. It go broken somewhere.

    • danielrudolph

      And my apologies for dragging up what I felt was a particularly bad elevator gate argument if it seems like hijacking. It seems fewer people than I thought supported this particular line of reasoning (that it isn’t OK to question whether Schrodinger’s rapist has a rational basis) and the mainstream view is that Schrodinger’s rapist does have a rational basis, which I have no problem with. I suspect the people who argued this line don’t read Camels with Hammers anyway.

    • danielrudolph

      Actually, since I have a girlfriend about to go on the hormones, more info on that would be very helpful. I’m not squeamish. I once squicked my roommate by eating spaghetti while watching a graphic documentary about surgery.

    • Natalie

      I was sort of kidding, really, just sort of mentioning the kinds of things that are generally bad ideas to talk about around cis people.

      Um… if you want some info on hormones, and the sexual effects and stuff, you could look me up on twitter (@nataliereed84), send me a message, and then I could send you my e-mail address. Would that work?

      It’s not really the kind of thing I’m comfortable discussing openly, and it would definitely be a pretty huge derail.

      As for your points above, I think, yeah, I fit into argument one. There is a legitimate, substantiated risk of sexual assault that women need to take into consideration in their interactions with strange men. Fear that permitting trans women to enter women’s spaces puts them at risk is NOT legitimate or substantiated, and is instead based on transphobia and bigotry.

      But ALSO it’s important to weigh the effect on the other person. A man taking a woman’s risk assessment into consideration and not taking it personally if women are a bit jumpy or defensive in his presence after dark is a completely reasonable thing for him to be expected to do. But a trans woman putting herself at extreme, actual risk and severe discomfort and humiliation in the name of accommodating a transphobe’s irrational fears is completely unreasonable to ask of her.

    • Natalie

      Um… yeah… I accidentally double-posted earlier, and Daniel deleted it, and now the whole reply system is acting wacky. Sorry!

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Sorry if I deleted the wrong version of your remarks and caused some confusion, I’m doing this from the dashboard, not the site itself.

    • Luna_the_cat

      There is a concept I’m a great fan of: the cost/benefit analysis.

      In the elevatorgate situation, the cost of the man not approaching the woman in such a hamfisted fashion is small. (Because no, he wasn’t being instructed “NEVER TALK TO ANY WOMAN EVER, NEVER GET NEAR ANY WOMAN EVER”, it was just a suggestion not to do it like that);
      the benefit to the woman (not being stressed out by hamfisted approaches), although not earth-shattering, was still arguably larger.

      In your restroom situation, the cost to you of having to use the men’s room is potentially quite high (assault and injury);
      the comfort benefit to the disturbed cis woman much, much smaller.

      Therefore: not equal situations.

      I have no patience with the argument that the “right” to approach any woman, anywhere, anyhow, somehow trumps the right to feel safe. However, I also have no patience with the argument that the right for a cis-woman (me included, if it ever came to that) to feel safe trumps your right to be safe.

      Use the bathroom you need to, dammit.

    • Sally Strange

      Hey man. I’ve noticed you. You always show up on threads about sexism, saying the same damn shit over and over again.

      Look, if you prefer to not have women around at all, why don’t you just come out and say it? Then we could discuss that instead of your baroque variations on endless hypothetical situations that are never perfectly analogous to what women are talking about when they say that they have the right to decide what level of risk is acceptable to them. Just cut to the chase and be honest with us, okay?

  • drdave

    Daniel, thank you for a well thought out post, and enough analogues with which various folks can identify. It can take a long time for people to realize that empathy is viewing the world from the other person’s perspective. The revised golden rule: Treat others as they wish to be treated. Like all rules, it can be broken, but its a start for developing an ethic. Many years ago, a christian lady where I worked, unaware of my nontheist bent, noted that I was unusual in that “you treat everybody the same.” She meant that the rich and the poor, the beautiful and the ugly folks at work all got the same respectful behaviour. It takes a lot of work to get to that point in life.

  • liam

    Well, no. But do you think about it all the time? Is preventing violent assault or murder part of your daily routine, rather than merely something you do when you venture into war zones? Because, for women, it is.

    It seems this woman is so wrapped up in her victim mentality, she doesn’t realise that there is a statistically significantly higher chance of a male being violently assualted in his lifetime than a woman. It ranges from about 90% for men, to 70% for women. So spare us the condescending ‘war zone’ crap.

    to me, this sentence by the dude sums it up
    They (we) can rail against the hypocrisy of claiming to be anti-sexist whilst engaging in sex-based prejudicial behaviour,
    That’s exactly what it is.

    To top it off, a large majority of rapes are not committed by strangers, it is very unlikely that dude who tried to strike a conversation with you on the bus is wanting to rape you, it is far more likely that you will be raped by someone you know, a partner, a family member etc. So she targeting her prejudice at at individuals of far less risk.

    • gwen

      Liam, you’re missing the point that she met them SOMEWHERE. Even rapists who are acquaintances, were strangers at some point.

    • pyrobryan

      So… “Most rapes are committed by someone the victim knows, therefore if I get to know you, you are dangerous. However, I don’t know you so I don’t know if you’re not a rapist, therefore you are dangerous.”

      Kind of damned if you do, damned if you don’t logic isn’t it?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001345954729 Gwynnyd

      Oh, I dunno. It’s hard to generalize. The two times I was in real danger of being raped, it was by strangers.

      The first time, my car doors were locked, so the guy who left the group of guys he was hanging with and tried to open my passenger side door when I paused at the parking deck exit couldn’t get in and I drove away far too quickly.

      The second time, I was walking to my car – in a different place – the guy was drunk and stupid and I beat him off once he had me on the ground with a wooden umbrella handle that I happened to be carrying because it had rained earlier.

      Either way, it took me a *long* time to get comfortable in parking decks and on night-dark sidewalks and I’m still, thirty years later, warier there than elsewhere and damn straight I always instantly lock my car doors.

      So, yeah, it’s a real issue, whether you believe it or not.

    • Stacy

      We’re not talking about “violent assault,” which is a general term. We’re talking about rape. Rape is a subset of violent assault which has consequences, psychological, physical, and social, which go beyond other kinds of assault. You’re making a false comparison.

      And by the way, tossing out vague statistics like “It ranges from about 90% for men, to 70% for women” is worse than useless. Offer citations. Define “violent assault”. Gang-on-gang assaults are violent assaults. If two men get in a bar fight, and someone calls the cops, those two individuals get added to the statistics. Male crime victim stats reflect the fact that some male subcultures feature a lot of male violence. Using that to dismiss women’s fear of rape makes you the one who is “wrapped up in a victim mentality”.

    • pyrobryan

      To be fair, if you want to eliminate certain types of subsets of things, in this case we’re talking about adult women being raped by strangers so…

      US population is roughly 300 million, about half of which (150 million) are women. 1 in 6 (25 million) women are raped (or victims of attempted rape) at some point in their life. 1 out of 3 of all rapes (8.3 million) are committed by strangers. 44% (11 million) of rapes are committed against minors, of which 7% (800 thousand) are committed by strangers. That leaves a difference of 7.5 million attacks committed by strangers against adult women. 7.5M of 150M is 5%. I’m not saying 1 in 20 is an acceptable number or good in any way, but it’s quite different from 1 in 6.
      (info from http://www.rainn.org)

      I’m not trying to belittle the dangers that women face. I’m not excusing, defending or condoning rape in any way whatsoever. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen. Obviously it does. I’m not saying it’s not a problem. Obviously it is. But if we want to throw numbers around, you’re right, they should be accurate.

    • drewhamblin

      So, to make a Geeky example of what you’re suggesting the statistics look like.

      The stats you just quoted suggest women are only one natural 1 on their sense motive roll from being the victim of stranger rape?

      Think about that for a moment. really hard. As a male I almost literally do not have to worry about the results of a snap judgement like that leading to sexual assault.
      The odds that I’ll face that are WAY less than 1/20, probably smaller than1/20,000.

      I’m a survivor of sexual assault. I mention this because that’s rare as hell. %3 of guys ever face that. Basically our lifetime risk of of any assault, is the less than as their risk of stranger assault. If I have to walk on the opposite side of street, or walk up the stairs, or wait for the next elevator to reduce someone else’s perceived risk, then I’ll do so, it’s not that hard.

    • ischemgeek

      To compare, your lifetime risk of dying in a car crash is about 1 in 84, but you don’t see people saying, “Wearing a seatbelt? How irrational is that?! Your odds of dying in a car crash are less than 2%! Pff, that’s nothing!”

      Or “Why are you getting nervous in bad road conditions with shitty drivers around? Don’t you know your lifetime risk of death by car crash is only 1 in 84?!”

      And before you say “not all car crashes are fatal,” well, not all sexual assaults are stranger rape.

  • danielrudolph

    Oh, I should point out the relevant difference between black men and white men here is that black men face a much higher risk of being penalized for scaring people. They have a lot less luxury when it comes to being able to argue about how white people should react.

    I think there’s a bit of is/ought confusion taking place here. Is Schroedinger’s rapist sexist and unfair, but we have to live with because it’s caused by social problems that can’t be fixed quickly or easily or it something we should be actively accepting? Ian’s posts on this seem to imply the former, while Greg’s imply the latter, btu no one seems to directly address this.

    • Brad

      Is Schroedinger’s rapist sexist and unfair, but we have to live with because it’s caused by social problems that can’t be fixed quickly or easily or it something we should be actively accepting?

      The former. I think of it as an appropriate reaction to the darker reality for women of the society in which we currently live. (I think “rape culture” is the right term that describes what I’m thinking of.)

      I probably wouldn’t even describe it as “sexist and unfair”, since that implies the fear isn’t legitimate and that she shouldn’t feel that way.

      Obviously, permanently fixing society should be the overall goal, but I don’t have much confidence that’s going to happen anytime soon. Until it does, telling women that they shouldn’t react that way to strange men they encounter is missing the point (to say the least).

    • Luna_the_cat

      Re. “is/ought”: Definitely the former. It is not a situation which should exist, but it is the situation which does exist; the idea that it will stop existing if we stop dealing with it as it stands, or that we could deal with it more effectively if we pretended that it doesn’t exist, works precisely as well as abstinence-only sex education works at preventing teen pregnancy and STDs.

  • http://giliellthinkingaloud.blogspot.com/ Giliell, not to be confused with The Borg

    To top it off, a large majority of rapes are not committed by strangers, it is very unlikely that dude who tried to strike a conversation with you on the bus is wanting to rape you, it is far more likely that you will be raped by someone you know, a partner, a family member etc. So she targeting her prejudice at at individuals of far less risk.

    Yep, I’m pretty sure that the guy who once followed me from a well-light street to a dark car park and who started running towards me when I finally dashed for my car just wanted to ask me what the time is.
    Oh, and btw, every intimate partner started out as a stranger.
    The guy who date-raped a woman probably started off as a nice guy chatting her up at a café.

    It seems this woman is so wrapped up in her victim mentality…

    Maybe she has a good reason to do so.

    +++++

    To people who are not all absorbed in their ranting against misandry.
    I tried to turn the argument around, since most men thought “But, but I’m a good guy, I’d never do that.
    I tried them not to imagine themselves chatting up a woman, but a stranger of whom they know nothing chatting up their young daughter.
    If that makes their stomach churn, they might start to understand.

    It’s also thought reasonable to teach young kids that they should be wary of strangers, although we all know that statistically they have more to fear from their own fathers, grandfathers, uncles and yes, mothers.
    Still, nobody complains about this. They generally respect that there are certain behaviours that are not appropriate towards strange kids.
    Yet when you talk about the fact that some behaviours are not appropriate towards strange women, they howl like cats trodden on their tails.
    And for the record, no, I’m not saying that women are fragile flowers and need to be protected just like kids.

    • http://giliellthinkingaloud.blogspot.com/ Giliell, not to be confused with The Borg

      Oh, to add some data:
      -Rates of violent victimization are comparable for men and women in Canada (while slightly higher for women(police reports):
      http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/85f0033m/2010024/part-partie1-eng.htm#h2_2

      Add to that the chronic underreporting of rape.

      Homicide statistics USA:
      Most victims and perpetrators in homicides are male
      Male offender/Male victim 65.3%
      Male offender/Female victim 22.7%
      Female offender/Male victim 9.6%
      Female offender/Female victim 2.4%

      So, yes, while men are more likely to be murder victims, they are also more likely to be the murderer
      http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/homicide/gender.cfm

  • http://anythingbuttheist.blogspot.com Bret

    It feels wrong to treat women like fragile creatures one must handle with care. It doesn’t seem right to treat every woman one meets like Schrödinger’s rape victim or Schrödinger’s Feminazi.

    • Enkidum

      You could just try treating them like people! Being considerate of the potential worries of others is hardly treating them like fragile eggs.

      Just accept that your actual personality is never going to be fully reflected in your behavior, and that someone not being sure of your intentions is not committing a sin against you.

    • http://anythingbuttheist.blogspot.com Bret

      I think you misunderstood my comment… I do treat people the same and I think everyone ought to, as well. I’m saying it’s not healthy to see women as people you should treat differently, as if they’re all on high alert. I also don’t think it’s a “sin” for someone to misread intentions. It’s certainly no sin against me; if anything, it is a sin against oneself, because if you go through life worrying like that, it’s you who pays the price. Even if someone complains about something I say, it’s really no skin off my back. Chances are very good they are experiencing far more anxiety than I am at the situation (though to be honest, I can’t recall such a thing ever coming to my attention).

      For the record, men are more likely to be the victims of violent crime (with the exception of rape). I think guys who go around acting paranoid are also not doing themselves any favors, but let’s be honest… most people in that situation don’t have much conscious control over how they feel. If anything, it’s just sad that people feel that way. It’s an irrational fear… which is why I find it so odd that people feel they need to cater to it.

    • julian

      For the record, men are more likely to be the victims of violent crime (with the exception of rape).

      I would really like to see how the stats for violence against men breaks down and how it compares to rates of sexual violence against women. You wouldn’t happen to have a link handy, wouldja?

      If anything, it’s just sad that people feel that way. It’s an irrational fear… which is why I find it so odd that people feel they need to cater to it.

      Who’s fucking catering? And how is being sexually assaulted an ‘irrational fear?’

      Taking the traumatic experiences others have had into consideration when dealing with them is not catering to irrational fears. When the CDC’s gathered statistics for sexual violence against women puts the numbers at 1 in 2 women being groped and fondled inappropriately it does not seem irrational for women to be on guard about sexual harassment.

    • ischemgeek

      When road conditions are nasty, you get nervous in the car, right? Especially if there are shitty drivers around, right? And you wear your seatbelt, right?

      Well, by your logic, you’re being totally irrational: Your lifetime odds of dying in a car crash are 1 in 84. That’s far less likely than a woman being raped by a stranger.

    • julian

      You could, and here me out on this, take into consideration that you don’t necessarily know everything about them and their life experiences or even how might be coming off and treat them accordingly. Or get maced. Either’s cool.

      On other topics, I think it’s incredibly insulting to people withdrawing money at ATM’s to stand back a few feet. Like, how many unfair assumptions am I making about them, you know? Totally gonna just hover over their shoulder from now on.

    • Liam

      On other topics, I think it’s incredibly insulting to people withdrawing money at ATM’s to stand back a few feet. Like, how many unfair assumptions am I making about them, you know? Totally gonna just hover over their shoulder from now on.

      You should only be concerned if an eastern European is looking over your shoulder. As a high risk group for credit card fraud, they should be considerate to stand further back than other people. Not only that, they should make extra attempts to easy my concern that they haven’t placed a card skimmer on the machine.

      Schroedinger’s card skimmer. ;)

    • julian

      eh?

      Who’s asking you to do more than anyone else? I thought the general advice applied to everyone.

    • Liam

      @Julian

      It was a joke, and evidently not a very good one.

    • http://anythingbuttheist.blogspot.com Bret

      This isn’t an insult, but people with this much fear are not likely to mace random strangers. If they are that afraid, I doubt they would react in such a manner. I just don’t hear a lot of news stories of “Woman maces random stranger trying to open the door for her.” It’s thankfully not happening, as far as I can tell (except in comedies).

      I’ll tell you the one thing I actually worry about is when I’m walking my dogs, I am always afraid they’ll approach someone who is afraid of dogs. Usually they bring joy to everyone who sees them, but I worry that someone they approach is actually deathly afraid of them (I assume this of the occasional person who crosses the street as we approach, but it might be my personal hygiene…).

  • crowepps

    To top it off, a large majority of rapes are not committed by strangers, it is very unlikely that dude who tried to strike a conversation with you on the bus is wanting to rape you, it is far more likely that you will be raped by someone you know, a partner, a family member etc. So she targeting her prejudice at at individuals of far less risk.

    Perhaps the reason women are raped by someone they know is that those are the people with whom they let down their guard and lower their defenses, and perhaps their heightened alertness and reluctance to lower their guard with strangers prevents some of those interactions from becoming rapes.

    Even if all the dude on the bus is trying to get in striking up a conversation is her time and attention for a few minutes, it isn’t ‘prejudice’ to decline. She is under no more obligation to entertain him than the men who are on the bus.

    • Liam

      Perhaps the reason women are raped by someone they know is that those are the people with whom they let down their guard and lower their defenses, and perhaps their heightened alertness and reluctance to lower their guard with strangers prevents some of those interactions from becoming rapes.

      This may account for a small number of people, but consider that most of the people you know in your life, you did not meet randomly, the vast majority of the people you know in your life are family members, co-workers and perhaps people you got to know attending local events in the skeptical community. So many of these conditions she places will not apply. These encounters with people are not random encouters as strangers, or to paraphrase her: ‘strangers approaching her in public’, often they are curated interactions that allow the circumvention of the rules she applies. If you haven’t already, i suggest following the link to the entire blog post, you will see what i mean.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/almostdiamonds/ Stephanie Zvan

      If you’re intending this as an argument that women shouldn’t fear strangers who approach them the way a rapist would, you’re way off the mark. It does nothing of the sort. It simply suggests that the percentage of rapists in a stranger population shouldn’t be much different than the percentage of rapists in the general population. I don’t think anyone has claimed otherwise.

      No one is claiming that strangers are the only people women have to be afraid of, simply that there is danger there as well and women have been trained to be sensitive to it, both socially and by traumatic personal experience.

      Nor does that equate to fearing all men. Many men we don’t worry about because they don’t get the opportunity to rape. We’d still likely worry if they suddenly came running at us in an isolated situation. Many men we get to know well enough that we don’t feel we have any reason to fear them. Some of them go on to rape us. Most don’t. Some men have already been exposed to our vulnerabilities and have treated us well.

      Each situation calls for its own assessment and creates its own comfort level. The fact that an argument has been put forth that specifically addresses many women’s reactions to strangers who act the same way a rapist would doesn’t mean that’s the only situation to be talked about. Suggesting a stranger situation can never be talked about all on its own, however, is a classic derailing move: “You can’t talk about this unless you’re also going to talk about that!” We can. We do. Deal.

  • Liam

    http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/bjs/104274.pdf

    We’re not talking about “violent assault,” which is a general term. We’re talking about rape. Rape is a subset of violent assault which has consequences, psychological, physical, and social, which go beyond other kinds of assault. You’re making a false comparison.

    We? I directly quoted the woman who made the Schrodingers rapist blog post, where she specifically uses the term “violent assault”. also, you may not be aware that assault can lead to injury, brain damage, death etc. So lets not pretent that assault does not mean anything.

    And by the way, tossing out vague statistics like “It ranges from about 90% for men, to 70% for women” is worse than useless.

    A fair request. From the Department of Justice: http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/bjs/104274.pdf

    And i will admit i made a mistake with the numbers. the number i quoted was off by a few percent and was victims of “violent crime”

    Assault is in there 82% for men 62% women.

    Offer citations. Define “violent assault”. Gang-on-gang assaults are violent assaults. If two men get in a bar fight, and someone calls the cops, those two individuals get added to the statistics. Male crime victim stats reflect the fact that some male subcultures feature a lot of male violence. Using that to dismiss women’s fear of rape makes you the one who is “wrapped up in a victim mentality”.

    I certainly wasn’t using it to dismiss a woman fear of rape. I was using it to refute what was clearly a false and poorly reasoned assertion.

    • danielrudolph

      On violent assault: most “classic” rapes (grabbed by a stranger, as opposed to a stranger boozing the victim until she becomes insensible or acquaintance perps) are in conjunction with a robbery or some other violent crime. Men get victimized by these as much as women, but the chanced of a man getting raped while he’s being mugged are pretty much nil (men get raped much less in general and particularly in classic scenarios) whereas the chance that a woman who is being mugged will also be raped are substantial. Not all violent crime victimizations are equal.

  • Liam

    Yep, I’m pretty sure that the guy who once followed me from a well-light street to a dark car park and who started running towards me when I finally dashed for my car just wanted to ask me what the time is.
    Oh, and btw, every intimate partner started out as a stranger.
    The guy who date-raped a woman probably started off as a nice guy chatting her up at a café.

    What i said was based on statistics, and is true. Giving a single example of it being a stranger does not refute what i said, nor does it contradict the statistics.

    And yes, every intimate partner did start off as a stranger. Which means the chances of being raped by someone goes UP, after the vetting process of the schroedingers rapist.

    • Sas

      By that logic, women should not trust any man ever. That’s actually far more strict and less charitable than the idea of Schrodinger’s Rapist.

    • Liam

      By that logic, women should not trust any man ever. That’s actually far more strict and less charitable than the idea of Schrodinger’s Rapist.

      Yes, that is the final logical outcome of schroedingers rapist.

    • Sas

      Only of your exaggerated strawman version of it.

    • Liam

      Only of your exaggerated strawman version of it.

      care to point out the exaggeration and strawman i made? I based my analysis on real world statistics on risk of rape and risk of assault.

      The reality is that if you want to follow the S.R concept to it’s logical conclusion, you must be fearful of all men, everywhere, and the closer they get to you(relationship wise, not distance) the more you should live in fear of them, as they are statistically more likely to rape you.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/almostdiamonds/ Stephanie Zvan

      Actually, Liam, Crowepps already pointed out the problems with your “reasoning” upthread.

    • Liam

      Actually, Liam, Crowepps already pointed out the problems with your “reasoning” upthread.

      Indeed she did, and it was a very good question, one i had to take some time to consider. It is however irrelevant to the comment sas made referring to an “exaggerated strawman” which has yet to have been clarified.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/almostdiamonds/ Stephanie Zvan

      Does calling it a “slippery slope” argument make you feel better?

    • Sas

      Because when I say, “Your logic (which you were stating in opposition to SR) leads to something far stricter than SR”, and your reply is merely to say, “Yes, it’s the logical conclusion of SR”, when I just said SR doesn’t apply to that, then you’re knowingly presenting a distorted version of what I said (a strawman) and you’re not arguing in good faith.

      I hope that clears things up for you, because I’m not going to continue playing “I know you are, but what am I?” with you.

    • Liam

      Because when I say, “Your logic (which you were stating in opposition to SR) leads to something far stricter than SR”, and your reply is merely to say, “Yes, it’s the logical conclusion of SR”, when I just said SR doesn’t apply to that, then you’re knowingly presenting a distorted version of what I said (a strawman) and you’re not arguing in good faith.

      I hope that clears things up for you, because I’m not going to continue playing “I know you are, but what am I?” with you.

      Neither “i know you are, but what am i?, nor ‘slippery slope’ were engaged in.

      If you accept the premise of Schroedingers Cat, that all men when you meet them are potential rapists, and that you should be fearful so.

      If you further accept the statistical reality that you are more likely to be raped by someone who is known you to, rather than a stranger.

      Then you must accept the conclusion that you must remain fearful that you are going to be raped past the point in which this woman applies S.R, and you should consider every man in your life a potential rapist.

      I personally do not think you should be fearful of all men forever, but i do not accept the premise of S.R. I think it is oversimplified model, that makes unfair assumptions about people based on a assigning some sort of probability to a group of individuals, and it can equally apply to ‘Schrodingers gold digger’ or ‘Schroedingers black mugger’ (as crommunist did show, he is a willing target of schrodingers black mugger). but i do think the idea that everyone is perpetually potentially guilty of whatever quantum superposition you wish to impose on a group they happen to inhabit it abhorrent.

  • The Vicar

    By the way: thanks for two really good posts, referencing two OTHER good posts, in a row!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=153100784 michaelbrew

    The issue of male/female relations seems a very complex one and I would say a definitely “right” answer doesn’t really exist. Well, even with simple human relations a “right” answer doesn’t exist. From my perspective, I would say that a woman’s subconscious assumption of every man as a potential rapist by virtue of being a man is certainly sexist, just as the assumption by a white man that any big black man is a potential mugger is racist (or the converse conception that every white man is going to be racist would be racist). However, I’m also of the opinion that a certain level of sexism is inherent, unlike racism, for anyone not evenly bisexual. After all, it’s impossible not to at least THINK of one’s preferred gender a bit discriminatorily. In any case, sexist or not, people have the right to feel safe, and if a woman were to feel unsafe aroumd a man or anyone, I don’t believe she should be blamed for it if she takes necessary action to get away or make the other party leave. And civil human beings, recognizing these biases, justified or otherwise, have it in their own best interest to allay these fears. That being said, it certainly feels like crap being seen as a potential rapist just for having a penis, but at least now I know who deserves the payback for giving women that impression in the first place. Next time I see someone being a misogynistic ass, I’ll be sure they feel that pain returned tenfold.

  • Cynthia

    Wow. You actually get it. I am so impressed! Thanks for the links to the different articles and the reasoned comments and the great writing and…ok, this is getting too mushy.

    How about just a big thanks? From a member of the other half of the population who really appreciates your efforts?

    Just thanks.

    And Natalie? You’re are more than welcome to use a restroom with me any time. And I’m happy to defend your right to do so, as well. So keep on! Transphobes can just learn to live with it. They need to broaden their horizons!

  • Pteryxx

    @Natalie:

    I kind of wish I already was set up here so I could get in on the Schrodinger’s Rapist action today! ;)

    tad late but: Maybe ask to do a guest post under one of the other blogs? A bunch of us are looking forward to your action.

  • Pteryxx

    @danielrudolph re Schroedinger’s rapist: I’d also add that actual rape isn’t the only outcome being avoided. A woman being approached by a strange man also risks being harassed, intimidated, or assaulted, while unable to rely on any support or intervention. Actual rape by a stranger may be rare, but harassment and assault are not.

    @Natalie re icky stuff: PLEASE DO! I don’t know if I have a personal justification yet, but I’m darned well not going to be sex-positive about just traditional bodies and traditional ickiness thereof.

  • Rabidtreeweasel

    I’m a Nanny. I taught preschool for 11 years. I have raised 7 children that are not my own. I have not molested, stolen, or beat a single one, yet at every interview I have to be aware that my mannerisms, appearance, and tone convey that I am not an abusive monster. In public, I don’t make scenes of it but I do my best to always be professional because I never know when I or if I might need a strangers testimony. In other words, I live the life you would expect a person to live who isn’t out to offer little girls candy from the driver seat of a windowless van. This isn’t a cross I must bare. I don’t lie awake at night wondering why it isn’t ok for me to watch other peoples kids through binoculars from my parked car. I recognize that these actions are stereotypical of someone who would hurt children and it would never even cross my mind that I had a “right” to engage in any of them.
    T
    I
    I would add that I do feel it’s unfair and I hope down the line unnecessary for a black person to accommodate a white person when the black person is more likely to be victimize. From that view I see it as more equatable to the “rape schedule” kept by women; I avoid certain situations and am conscious of my body language around men in order to avoid giving the “wrong impression” or being accused of “asking for it” later if I am assaulted. Also, this has been consciousness raising for me in my place of white privilege, so thanks!

  • plutosdad

    The thing is, most of us don’t grow up aware of this. The only objection I have to some posts re: elevatorgate is when some people have written that we (men) should already know this. I had 2 sisters, I never dreamt of hurting anyone. I knew rape is wrong, and taking advantage of someone when they were drunk was wrong, so maybe my mother never felt like she needed to tell me that women are afraid of being hurt by men.

    I never knew until I read the Gift of Fear by Gavin DeBecker. He specifically talked about a few rapes in elevators, and mentioned you should never get in a locked metal box with someone that you feel funny about. (It is about protecting yourself and listening to your intuition.)

    But the biggest thing I took away from that book is he wrote that “men are afraid that women will laugh at them, but women are afraid that men will kill them.” That quote always sticks in my mind, and I always advocate reading that book for men and women. And it’s really helped me to understand women better and how to treat them (not much different than before really).

    Yes, if woman said she would wait till the next elevator came, I’d just shrug and say ok. She’s not insulting me. I might feel a little bad that I look scary. But oh well.

    I do the same shuffling my feet thing he wrote about when walking behind people. I am over 6′ tall and might be scary. I just figure it’s better not to startle people. I do this especially with my dog, since lots of people are afraid of him as well, and they won’t necessary hear us behind them. I’ve had some encounters with people freaked out by mid-size black dog so I figure it’s better to just announce my presence.

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com/ Verbose Stoic

      So, yeah, you’d feel a little bad but wouldn’t have a problem with it. Now think, though, if she and others were griping that you shouldn’t have gotten onto the elevator with her since you’d be alone and it would make her uncomfortable, or that you should have exited the elevator to make her more comfortable. Still feel okay about it?

    • Sally Strange

      Well obviously YOU don’t, and it is such a fucking travesty that people fail to recognize that your feelings about it are THE MOST IMPORTANT THING!

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com/ Verbose Stoic

      So are you actually advocating that in those sorts of situations, the man should indeed leave the elevator and wait until he can ride alone or at least not alone with a woman? What feelings of hers justifies that demand?

    • TheBoisterousBanana

      It’s not necessarily to be applied in all situations with one woman in the elevator, but when you know you look scary/she looks scared/the situation is especially risky (such as late night, no one else saw you getting in the elevator, you’re holding a blood-soaked knife, or she’s just had her clothes ripped off by a gorilla), it’s reasonable. And what made the elevator scenario to which the article referred unpleasant was the proposition AS WELL AS the solitude and confined space.

    • TheBoisterousBanana

      It’s somewhat analogous feeling to the episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia where the gang bought a bought, and Dennis described to Mack how they could have parties in international waters, and he could bring women below deck, where they’d _have_ to have sex with him because of the implications, “but, no, it wouldn’t be _rape_!” While generally there is no intention of assault, it’s wrong to make a proposition with possible sexual implications where a person has limited means of escape.

  • Jim

    >This afternoon Ian has a fantastic (as usual) post on how black people accommodate white people’s baseless irrational fears all the time.

    So do you agree that black people should have to act differently around white people to make them feel secure? Because I think that’s a terrible idea. If a black person disagreed with this, would you feel justified in saying “Nope, I have just cause to fear you especially so in order to not be an asshole, you need to make special considerations to me?”. Somehow I doubt you would, although you don’t seem to mind employing a black person to bolster your argument (a black person who ironically was against the idea of using black people as rhetorical devices, at least for one side of the argument).

    If the fears we are talked about are based on anything real (i.e. statistics of rape, murder, muggery), then how you act around women/whites/blacks is completely meaningless besides whether you actually rape murder or mug. If you’re not doing anything that women actually fear you’re not giving them any more reason to fear men.

    Of course that assumes the fear is about the actual likelihood of being attacked.

    Whether I hit on a woman in an elevator or not, I’m not going to rape her so I’m not going to do anything that she should be afraid of.

    I think its pretty outrageous to suggest that upright moral people should have to do favours to somehow “prove” they’re not a rapist/mugger to total strangers. It’s the prejudiced people who are in the wrong, not the blacks who aren’t muggers or the males who aren’t rapists. Here’s how I deal with people who are prejudiced against me, by not being the low life scum the other person is assuming I am.

    Unless of course this is just about it being annoying to be hit on, in which case the spectre of rape is being cynically employed to bolster what would be a weaker argument.

    If we’re saying as long as there is rape then women have a right to feel afraid of men and expect special concessions they wouldn’t get from women, then your analogy that this is some temporary concession to foster cross group harmony is false.

    Of course for something that is supposed to be based on real world violence, there is a surprising lack of statistics in every discussion I’ve seen. Surely the likelihood of rape should effect how great a fear there should be? If it is a really justified fear of women to assume men are “schrodingers rapists”, given that men are far more likely to be victims of violence than women (from other men), why aren’t men being outraged at being approached by other men late night in an elevator? Statistically speaking, you’re far more likely to be randomly assaulted by another man (as a man) than you are to be raped by a man as a woman.

    Are women inherently more fearful than men? Should men be more fearful than they are? Is rape orders of magnitude more detestable than grievious bodily harm?

    • The Vicar

      So do you agree that black people should have to act differently around white people to make them feel secure? Because I think that’s a terrible idea. If a black person disagreed with this, would you feel justified in saying “Nope, I have just cause to fear you especially so in order to not be an asshole, you need to make special considerations to me?”. Somehow I doubt you would, although you don’t seem to mind employing a black person to bolster your argument (a black person who ironically was against the idea of using black people as rhetorical devices, at least for one side of the argument).

      This is a false analogy.

      Other than skin color, I’m not aware of any serious standard physical difference between black people and white people. But there are definite physical differences between men and women; you can reasonably expect that — barring access to weapons, or unusual special skills or limitations on one side or the other — a man physically attacking a woman is going to succeed in incapacitating her. You can’t assume the same with racial substitutions.

  • xol

    I think a PC, argument from consequence is being made repeatedly.

    Questions:
    1. Does the average man have reason to be fearful of other men that he does not know?
    2. What are the per capita violent crime rates by race?
    3. Should men exercise more caution around strangers that are members of a group that are more likely on average to commit a violent crime?
    4. During Jim Crow in the south and associated racial violent against blacks, was it rational for blacks to fear whites they did not know based solely upon average expectation?

    Free thinkers tend to be rather liberal. Liberals fear being called racist. Therefore, liberals won’t admit how they actually feel or what is rational if it might be perceived as racist.

    Obviously, melanin concentration does not cause crime, but black people still tend to have lower socio-economic status and other factors that have been shown to cause crime. Therefore, if you know nothing else about a person, you would be a fool to ignore that skin color correlates with underlying factors that we are reasonably sure lead to higher rates of criminality.

    • xol

      To short circuit an obvious trope, please insert into my statements above “all else being equal”.

      Otherwise, someone will say “do you fear little old black ladies more than white teens with satanist tattoos?”.

      I’m discussing the following situation:

      You have two identical people, except race, not that you should fear either, but which should you rationally exercise greater caution around?

      Go look up per capita crime rates by race, it will shock you if you haven’t already done so.

  • Lord Anthony

    The problem is NOT with strange women being protective on subway stations. The problem is when women use “reasonable boundaries” in an unreasonable way to cause subversive injury to men they know and they know have NO intention of hurting them. Many men, including me, have run into these situations where for no conceivable reason we’re being accused of sexual harassment, rape or some other violation when we literally weren’t even thinking about it.
    If fact, it usually comes from a source that we weren’t thinking about, leaving us to wonder “Is the fact that I did NOT hit on the over-weight middle aged married mother of 4 the reason I’m catching hell. Should I have at least tried to make her feel a little sexually uncomfortable?”

    Inevitably, unattractive women are the ones who cry rape against men who are clearly more attractive than they. It seems to be a way of telling the world “See! I’m attractive. That hot guy hit on me!” It harkens back to a boy pulling on a girl’s pigtails in school … because he likes her. In this case, the roles are reversed.

    Again, there is NO concern here about respectful men understanding a woman’s boundaries especially when they’re strangers. However, we do need to have a discussion about what reactions a woman has that are INAPPROPRIATE (don’t mace a guy for hitting on you) and what actions are APPROPRIATE for a guy to take so that he doesn’t set off the “I’m a rapist” vibe.

    As far as racism, whew! White people makes just as many concessions for black people as black people make for white people. The solution to BOTH problems is that we need RATIONAL MINDS to have to hard hitting discussions which the children in the room should only be able to listen to.

  • Hibernia86

    Here is what Ian (quoted at the bottom of the main article) doesn’t seem to understand is that yes it is true that a rapist is more likely to be a man and yes it is true that a much higher percentage of black people are muggers than white people. But he seems to want to say that women being wary of men is fine whereas white people being wary of blacks is racist. There is no logical reason for his distinctions. Either both women and whites have reason to be wary around men and blacks or the women and whites are both being bigoted. You can’t cherry pick the facts based on your political ideology.

    • Lord Anthony

      Wow!
      That’s a really good point.
      I would only add that ENVIRONMENT is another factor. If a woman is anxious on a crowded train station or in a business situation, she’s probably being hyper-anxious.
      If a white person is in similar situations, they’re also being hyper-anxious.
      It has a lot to do with environment, opportunity and the quality of people you’re around. I think MOST people factor all these things in simultaneously and respond appropriately.
      However, I do think there’s a very vocal minority who don’t understand these environmental subtleties and are guarded when they should be relaxed.
      However, politically speaking, all things being equal, you’re 100% correct. A person is nervous not based on PREJUDICE but based on PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE. These things are distinct and it’s important to make that distinction. Thanks for doing so.

  • http://www.facebook.com/angieatthezoo angelinemisiura

    My question (and I didn’t read through all of these comments, just the beginning discussion), is why you’re only considering ciswomen? I feel like all types of women are at risk of getting raped. Just seemed like that was overlooked.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      My question (and I didn’t read through all of these comments, just the beginning discussion), is why you’re only considering ciswomen? I feel like all types of women are at risk of getting raped. Just seemed like that was overlooked.

      Where do you see it specified or implied that this was only about ciswomen?

  • Anthony Deluca

    This is old but you seriously think its ok if white people are irrationally afraid of Black people. Really? Well at least you excuse racism against blacks and sexism against men.

  • Biohazard

    People were asking for a source of statistics on violent crime (as it relates to gender) so here you go:
    **********
    Homicide/offenders and victims, by sex, 1980–2008
    Total 100%
    Male offender/male victim 67.8%
    Male offender/female victim 21.0
    Female offender/male victim 9.0
    Female offender/female victim 2.2

    Source: http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/htus8008.pdf
    **********
    Rapes and sexual assaults, by victim gender, 1992-2000
    *Completed rape*
    Gender of victim /Number / Percent – Total 140,990 = 100%
    Male 9,040 / 6%
    Female 131,950 / 94%
    *Attempted rape*
    Gender of victim /Number / Percent – Total 109,230 = 100%
    Male 10,270 / 9%
    Female 98,970 / 91%
    *Sexual assault*
    Gender of victim / Number / Percent – Total 152,680 = 100%
    Male 17,130 / 11%
    Female 135,550 / 89%
    Source: http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/rsarp00.pdf
    **********
    For overall statistics on violent crime for the year 2009 see:
    http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/cv09.pdf

    Regarding the victims violent crimes characteristics (gender, race etc.) the report states the following:
    [begin quote]
    *Victim characteristics in 2009 remained similar to those in previous years*
    Similar to previous NCVS findings, males, blacks, and persons age 24 or younger continued to be victimized at higher or somewhat higher rates than females, whites, and persons age 25 or older (table 5). (See statistical differences defined in Methodology.)

    *Gender of victim*
    Males were victims of violent crime at rates slightly higher than females, indicating a continuing convergence of male and female victimization. Differences between male and female rates of simple assault were not statistically significant in 2009. This has occurred twice since 2000, in 2001 and 2007. Consistent with previous years, males experienced higher rates of robbery and aggravated assault than females. Females were more likely than males to be victims of rape or sexual assault.

    *Race of victim*
    Blacks were more likely than whites to be victims of overall violent crime, robbery, and aggravated assault, and somewhat more likely than whites to be victims of rape or sexual assault. Blacks also experienced higher rates than persons of other races (American Indian, Alaska Native, Asian, Native Hawaiian, and other Pacific Islander) of overall violence, robbery, aggravated assault, and simple assault. Persons of two or more races were victims of overall violent crime at higher rates than whites and persons of other races, and somewhat higher rates than blacks.

    *Hispanic origin of victim*
    In 2009, Hispanics and non-Hispanics were equally likely to experience overall violent crime, rape or sexual assault, aggravated assault, and simple assault. Similar to NCVS findings for previous years, Hispanics were victims of robbery at rates higher than those of non-Hispanics.

    *Age of victim*
    Overall victimization rates for violent crime declined with victim age in 2009, a finding consistent with previous years. Generally, persons age 25 or older experienced violent victimization at lower rates than younger persons. Persons ages 12 to 15 experienced simple assault at rates higher than persons age 20 or older, and slightly higher rates than persons ages 16 to 19.
    [end quote]
    **********
    *Stalking Victimization in the United States*
    [begin quote]
    Risk of victimization varies more for stalking than for harassment Females were at higher risk of stalking victimization than males (table 3). During the study period, females experienced 20 stalking victimizations per 1,000 females age 18 or older. The rate of stalking victimization for males was approximately 7 per 1,000 males age 18 or older. Males and females were equally likely to experience harassment.
    [end quote]
    Source: http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/svus.pdf
    **********
    *Intimate Partner Violence, 1993-2001*
    See: http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/ipv01.pdf

  • ou812

    Schrodinger’s Maneater is not about “all women are evil.”
    It is not even about “all women are potentially evil.” All women are, in fact, potentially evil, in much the same sense as all men are potentially evil, and all brunettes are potentially evil. All people are potentially evil, because evil is not a function of anything about a person except the fact that they do evil things.
    It is about “a very significant proportion of men will, when you approach them, be assessing whether you are going to be That Crazy Bitch…”
    …That Crazy Bitch makes up only a tiny percentage of women. However, she has poisoned the well for everyone else.
    I think a lot of women underestimate the fear most men have around relationships of any kind. For instance, I am the happiest little stud you could ever hope to meet. However, I would never date or have sex with a woman whom a friend, or a friend of a friend, didn’t vouch for, because she might lie about being on birth control and ding me for 18 years paying for a child I didn’t want, or cry rape the next morning when her boyfriend demands to know where she was all night, or only be after my wallet, or take me for everything I have or care about–including my kids–when she’s done with me. On a rational level, I know the chance of me getting screwed over in some way because I slept with or entered a relationship with a woman is about as likely as me…well, actually, it’s getting likelier all the time. Huh. I mean, on an emotional level, I want intimacy with a woman, but my powers of observation and sense of self-preservation associates “sexual involvement with women, whether I know them or not”, with “getting fucked over, maybe for life.”

  • itry2brational

    In Schrodinger’s Cat, the cat has two qualities, dead or alive, and they are equally likely.
    In Schrodinger’s Rapist, the man has two qualities, rapist or nonrapist, but they are NOT equally likely. This seems like a simple failure in reasoning.

  • Smith

    I’d like to point out that the blogger actually said that it would be wrong to judge a black man as Schrodinger’s mugger, because men are privileged over women, and black men aren’t compared to white people, among other things.

    http://kateharding.net/2009/10/08/guest-blogger-starling-schrodinger%e2%80%99s-rapist-or-a-guy%e2%80%99s-guide-to-approaching-strange-women-without-being-maced/#comment-113591

    • El

      Which further shows her complete and utter stupidity. This woman is an irrational misandrist, as is anyone that agrees with her.

    • Peter Huston

      It’s easy to dismiss her argument from privelage in the abstract, maybe, but it has very real effects in this context. If a black man commits some violent crime against a white man, the white man will very probably have the support of the police, public opinion, and has a decent chance of obtaining justice in the court system. A woman who gets raped is assured very little of that. Readily available statistics show that most rapes go unreported, the conviction rates are very low, and in a sexist culture like ours, “victim blaming” occurs. To be simplistic, people will say the woman “asked for it;” she didn’t take enough percautions to avoid being assaulted, or if she was intoxicated, wore revealing clothing, etc., that put her at risk. And police in many areas have a tendancy to be dismissive of rape allegations from women who do not fit their stereotype. We are not generally affraid of Schrödinger’s criminal because we have a whole justice system dedicated to discourging and preventing crime. Depending on how you look at it, this fact as the main benefit of the rule of law. But our flawed justice system fails often and publicly to deter rape; so women who want to avoid rape are left with relativly less security.

      This also extends to the issue of race. People sometimes see a black man as Schrödinger’s mugger, and look what they get for it: police discriminate against them, “ghettos” are written off by much of society, and black men have a harder time being seen as trustworthy by employers. What do men, such as myself, get for our collective Schrödingerian alias?

      Well, it can hard to get a date. And we suffer minor personal inconvienence.

      Yeah, this sounds like the work of misandry to me.

    • wlinden

      I get the “you asked for it” and “you weren’t alert enough” all the bloody time when my “male privilege” fails to protect me. What planet are you writing from?

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/camelswithhammers/ Daniel Fincke

      Which further shows her complete and utter stupidity. This woman is an irrational misandrist, as is anyone that agrees with her.

      El, don’t call people stupid on my blog. (Or, preferably, anywhere: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/camelswithhammers/2012/09/stop-calling-people-stupid/ )

  • itry2brational

    Smith, I think that reasoning fails because Starling et al use crime statistics to justify their fear not male privilege. Fear of assault is the relevant aspect/justification for “the concept”. Otherwise this would be Schrodinger’s Privilege and women would be(are?) rationalizing viewing all men as predatory monsters because they are “privileged”. Privilege is not a rational or reasonable justification for fear.

  • Average Joe Schrodinger

    Nice article but it gives way too much legitimacy to the irrational fearmongering. This is a form of harassment and oppression. If two people are applying for a job, one male and one female, it is likely that the male will be discriminated against because of “Schrodingers Rapist”.

    The whole notion of “rape culture” is so vastly skewed to benefit women that the very idea of it is beyond absurd. They applaud prison rape because the victims are primarily men, and then complain that society at large has that very same attitude toward women which is clearly false. If anything, it is women who are vicious little rapists because they want to see so many men going to prison and then they laugh when men get prison raped. They fantasize about it and laugh about it openly even in the media, there are no consequences for the female self righteous rapists who support the institutions where this is being done, and this is how they commit rape by proxy. They are rapists, and they see themselves as being completely justified. Ask a woman about prison rape. She will LAUGH. Clearly – they are the real rapists.

    If anything, rape culture, the REAL rape culture which openly advocates the raping of men, is fueled by feminists, weak minded men and others who know nothing and could care less about actual justice.

    I am not obligated nor do I feel compelled in any way to change my behavior or thinking to satisfy the whims of delusional, paranoid women who see every man as a potential rapist. It is a vicious, slanderous lie, and neither will I concern myself with their welfare even if they are victims – IT’S NOT MY PROBLEM.

    So long as they openly support the REAL rape culture where men are being raped by the thousands on a daily basis … I will not hear them. So long as they slander society to make the false claim that society is a woman hating “rape culture” … I will not hear them.

    And my advice to men is to quit feeling guilty for all of those rapes you never committed and look at the types of women walking around. Chicks like Jodi Arias. Be careful what you are attracted to. Women are doing the same thing to men that Hitler did to the Jews. Schrodingers Rapist is nothing but a vicious lie which they use to justify their hatred of men, which stems from feelings of extreme inadequacy due to unrealized expectations in their lives because so many of them are pathological narcissists. Men should NEVER feel guilty for crimes which they never committed, crimes which they never will commit, nor the psychotic rantings and hate speech of crazy women who make no sense and cant shut up. Dont feel guilty, dont be bothered by what is in that persons head. You cannot control whether SHE chooses to believe a lie, or hate your guts. Schrodingers Rapist is an illness which resides in HER head. It is NOT your fault that SHE has these insane ideations – do not allow it to affect who you are, what you do, or what you believe to be true. To bend yourself is a CONFESSION OF GUILT. Think about THAT.

  • Korina

    I find it funny/weird/sad that no one has taken into consideration that though 1 in 4 (+ because I widened the definition) females will be involved in sexual stimulation without their consent, so will 1 in 6 (+ because a great many go unreported) males. Rape is discussed as inserting a penis into a vagina, but most of the harm of an non-consensual encounter is in the mind, happens for long after (and sometimes long before) the activity has ceased, and can happen to all genders with all combinations of anatomy and objects and words. If rape were defined as sexual stimulation that makes one person in the encounter uncomfortable, coercion would be included.

    “We’ve been together for how long now? Isn’t it time to put out?”

    “Why don’t you want me? Aren’t you (man, woman) enough?”

    “Have another beer/hit of pot. I won’t take advantage of you.”

    or: *thinking: If a child is produced, this person will have to stay with me. Let’s convince them we’re protected, but I arrange for us not to be. (yes, men and women both are capable of using this)

    “Hey, YOU manipulated me! I couldn’t say no.”
    (This one happened to me when I was 7, and the perpetrator tried to convince me they were in a vulnerable position in their lives, which I purposefully took advantage of. Like a 7 year old could do that. But it took 20 years and four therapists to convince me children can’t manipulate adults sexually.)

    I think that the folks who think behind every man (person with a penis) is a rapist waiting to attack is the same as every woman (person with a vagina) must own twenty pairs of shoes. It’s untrue, unfair, and says more about the person spreading their prejudice than the gender category of that judgement. If you’re going to be risk conscious, be aware that categorizing your fears may prevent you from seeing the true risks (a female on guard against males may be raped – see above definition – by a woman simply because they weren’t afraid of the possibility).
    Karma is a fiend, friends – you treat a certain type of folk like fecal matter, you’ll be treated the same by someone.


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