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October 8, 2009 8:06 AM   Subscribe

Schrödinger’s Rapist: or a guy’s guide to approaching strange women without being maced.
posted by kimdog (844 comments total) 472 users marked this as a favorite

 
Are the men who need this advice the sort who would actually seek it out?
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:13 AM on October 8, 2009 [7 favorites]


On the one hand, what the author says about picking up on body language and cues is fantastic (some people just want to be left alone sometimes, male AND female, and it's important to get that).

On the other hand...that...pre-date security set-up and post-date check-in with friends makes me wonder whether something may have happened to her. (However, to be fair, I should say that I have made arrangements with three guys I know that if I ever call them out of the blue and strike up a conversation, and I mention the word "chimichanga," it is actually a coded request to "COME AND FIND ME BECAUSE I AM ON A DATE THAT HAS GONE BAD AND I THINK I AM IN BIG TROUBLE").
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:13 AM on October 8, 2009 [21 favorites]


Also, someone linked to this (pdf) article in the comments, and I think it's helpful in illuminating the disparity between the cultural idea of a rapist as someone lurking in the bushes, waiting to strike, vs. the actual reality of rape as something disturbingly common.
posted by muddgirl at 8:14 AM on October 8, 2009 [12 favorites]


muddgirl made both the comments I was going to make.

I read the article and am saddened that this woman feels this way on a daily basis, but I also don't think she speaks for all women. In fact, I am pretty sure she doesn't. She's right in that she gets to set her own level of risk assessment, but I think she set hers on the level of paranoia. That's not a good way to go through life.

I also feel bad that if she ever is a victim of a violent crime she won't be able to cope very well. It's possible to do everything correctly and still fail.

Also, she seems way more afraid of the strange man than the men she gets to know, and statistics show it's generally not the stranger you have to worry about.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:16 AM on October 8, 2009 [15 favorites]


cjorgensen: Also, she seems way more afraid of the strange man than the men she gets to know, and statistics show it's generally not the stranger you have to worry about.

This.
posted by King Bee at 8:18 AM on October 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


cjorgensen - I think you misunderstand me :) I completely agree with the post, and I don't think her level of paranoia is unwarranted at all. To put her post in context, I'm pretty sure it was written in reaction to some of the comments in this post about a recent xkcd comic. I think the "How To Talk To Women" tone is supposed to be a bit ironic. It's not really targeted at well-meaning guys who want to approach women on public transportation, but rather at people who don't seem to understand why some women are so defensive about being approached when they are sending clear DO NOT DISTURB signals. As I said in a comment on the OP link,
It’s a set-up to present the seemingly-simple idea that a person who ignores social cues to back off will ignore other cues to get what they want. And that is what a rapist does.
posted by muddgirl at 8:21 AM on October 8, 2009 [15 favorites]


"I also don't think she speaks for all women. In fact, I am pretty sure she doesn't. She's right in that she gets to set her own level of risk assessment, but I think she set hers on the level of paranoia. That's not a good way to go through life."

Disregarding what she has to say? Check.
posted by y6y6y6 at 8:23 AM on October 8, 2009 [43 favorites]


This seemed tremendously reasonable to me.

Are the men who need this advice the sort who would actually seek it out?

I think so, yeah; this essay seemed most aimed at your average sorta-nervous guy on the street, not some terrifying assault-prone gorilla, with the general thesis "Look, I know you're probably a pretty cool guy and all, you just gotta understand that there are power issues at play here." I think there are a number of dudes who would read this, nod, and keep it in the back of their heads the next time they try chatting up some lady on the street; should she seem disinterested, they can think of this essay, and be like, "Right, well, I remember the way this works." Certainly, I think this is stellar advice for that Johnny Casual Sex Fedora askme question, for example.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:24 AM on October 8, 2009 [8 favorites]


Are you wearing a tee-shirt making a rape joke? NOT A GOOD CHOICE—not in general, and definitely not when approaching a strange woman.

"I think there are a number of dudes who would read this, nod, and keep it in the back of their heads the next time they try chatting up some lady on the street"
posted by banishedimmortal at 8:26 AM on October 8, 2009


Also, for anyone who thinks that a level of paranoia about being harassed in public is unwarranted, check out the Holla Back Blogs.

A massive post about street harassment at the F-word.

Even more street harassment.

I think some of you are getting hung up on the idea that Starling is writing just about getting raped. But it's so much more than that.
posted by muddgirl at 8:30 AM on October 8, 2009 [55 favorites]


Excellent post. I hope readers don't get overly hung up on her personal date precautions (she does say that women set their own risk tolerance) and hear her larger points about women's perspectives on strange men approaching them.
posted by Mavri at 8:37 AM on October 8, 2009


Once we get the long form police report, the probability collapses, and we know what really happened.

Do we now? Since when has MeFi put any faith in what the Po Po have to say? Besides, a police report is evidence, it is not fact. A jury will decide what 'most likely' happened based on a propensity of evidence presented to them. Fact in a purely objective sense will never be resolved.
posted by spicynuts at 8:37 AM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have to say the guy who emailed her about 15 times within two days after the first date is a bit sad/scary, but by the same token she surely should have replied to the first email to say that she wasn't interested.

Would have been easier for both of them.
posted by DanCall at 8:40 AM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


> I think you misunderstand me

I meant about the link going to the comments and the conversation not going well (nothing to do with what you thought about the article).

That xkcd article is beans and over thinking.

>Disregarding what she has to say? Check.

Clever, but I don't think I disregarded what she had to say. I read it, allowed for the fact that she has every right to feel this way, and made the judgement that I don't think she speaks for every woman and that living life in this manner would be sad. She also seems a bit misdirected in her worries.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:41 AM on October 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


Knowing how this goes, let me clarify...my above comment speaks ONLY ABOUT the 'probability collapses and we know what really happened' statement..in other words, the philosophical Schroedinger's Cat issue. I'm not making any comment on the reality of rape.
posted by spicynuts at 8:42 AM on October 8, 2009


I hope readers don't get overly hung up on her personal date precautions (she does say that women set their own risk tolerance) and hear her larger points about women's perspectives on strange men approaching them.

Repeated for being a good point. I do know that I raised an eyebrow at the degree of her precautions, but then about five seconds later I realized I have my own similar "precautions" -- they're more lenient, but they are there.

At most I may have encouraged her, when writing this article, to make it more clear that "every woman has her own unique set of risk prevention manouvers" rather than making it sound like all of us do specifically what she does, which is how it came across, a bit.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:43 AM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


exactly mudgirl, men truly have no idea what it's like to be a woman in this society. Men here can say "I think this" and "I think that" but they have no idea what it's like to be a victim of harrassment just by walking out your own front door.
posted by brneyedgrl at 8:43 AM on October 8, 2009 [11 favorites]


Excellent post. I hope readers don't get overly hung up on her personal date precautions (she does say that women set their own risk tolerance) and hear her larger points about women's perspectives on strange men approaching them.

Definitely. Mocking the Nice Guy cliche? Encouraging caution in women? Educating men in why women might react negatively to a good faith gesture? All good. More should do it. But her specific examples are awful and her arguments around the illustrations are full of logical holes. I hope she gets better at what she does, because it is important.
posted by aswego at 8:44 AM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


I have to say the guy who emailed her about 15 times within two days after the first date is a bit sad/scary, but by the same token she surely should have replied to the first email to say that she wasn't interested.

Come on. Have you considered the possibility that it TOOK her two days to get a chance to check her email, and she got all 15 of those emails at once? I don't know about you, but I don't check email in my sleep.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:45 AM on October 8, 2009 [14 favorites]


Are you wearing a tee-shirt making a rape joke?

I've never seen a tee shirt making a rape joke. Anyone seen such a tee shirt?
posted by xmutex at 8:48 AM on October 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


That article reminded me of this, which was floating around various blogs a few weeks ago.

Sexual Assault Prevention Tips Guaranteed to Work!

1. Don’t put drugs in people’s drinks in order to control their behavior.

2. When you see someone walking by themselves, leave them alone!

3. If you pull over to help someone with car problems, remember not to assault them!

4. NEVER open an unlocked door or window uninvited.

5. If you are in an elevator and someone else gets in, DON’T ASSAULT THEM!

6. Remember, people go to laundry to do their laundry, do not attempt to molest someone who is alone in a laundry room.

7. USE THE BUDDY SYSTEM! If you are not able to stop yourself from assaulting people, ask a friend to stay with you while you are in public.

8. Always be honest with people! Don’t pretend to be a caring friend in order to gain the trust of someone you want to assault. Consider telling them you plan to assault them. If you don’t communicate your intentions, the other person may take that as a sign that you do not plan to rape them.

9. Don’t forget: you can’t have sex with someone unless they are awake!

10. Carry a whistle! If you are worried you might assault someone “on accident” you can hand it to the person you are with, so they can blow it if you do.

And, ALWAYS REMEMBER: if you didn’t ask permission and then respect the answer the first time, you are commiting a crime- no matter how “into it” others appear to be.
posted by nooneyouknow at 8:49 AM on October 8, 2009 [239 favorites]


This would be a better article, and (probably) a better discussion thread, if the author didn't equate the word rape with whatever definition of sexual assault is used in her 1-in-6 figure. 1 in 6 women are not raped, and 1 in 60 men (author's figure) is not a rapist. Those are simply lies.
posted by rocket88 at 8:50 AM on October 8, 2009 [7 favorites]


As a guy, I have to admit that I don't like to hear stuff like this. The main reason for that is that I am one of the Nice Guys (tm) who feels a little like a rapist just for getting caught checking out a woman's ass on the checkout line. I've never stalked or harassed a woman, and not only do I take "no" for an answer, but I've often jumped the gun on presuming "no." Guys like me go out of our way to avoid being creepy, to the extent that we rarely approach strange women in the first place.

That said, I'm well aware that there is the other kind of guy who really doesn't take no for an answer, calls a gal 10x a day, shows up at her job, etc. It really sucks to be tarred with the same brush, but I have to admit that her concerns are valid. I don't know if it's healthy for a woman to go around with this sort of stuff constantly on her mind, but the alternative can be even more unhealthy.
posted by Edgewise at 8:52 AM on October 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


I've never seen a tee shirt making a rape joke. Anyone seen such a tee shirt?

On a t-shirt: "What's the worst thing about gang rape? Waiting your turn."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:54 AM on October 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


There's nothing in this article that I disagree with, but it still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. What's next? "People of Color - How to Approach a White Person Without Looking Like a Mugger"?
posted by Robin Kestrel at 8:54 AM on October 8, 2009 [49 favorites]


I found this to be really interesting in part because I do things like these without really recognizing them, and I think it's one of the few places where my friends (primarily male) and I diverge. I'm married so I don't go on dates (except with my husband) but I definitely still have some of these safety mechanisms in place. When I walk home even in safe neighborhoods I hold my keys in my fist so that I can slash the face of a potential attacker, I am more likely to cross my arms and turn away on public transportation, I walk quickly and look straight ahead if I'm alone, and I tend to be acutely aware of potential escape routes. I've had people pull up next to me and make the "call me" signal from their car and although it's never been a problem I always hold my breath until they turn off.

I am generally against the "you can never understand" type of mentality; I think it's counterproductive, alienating and occasionally smug, which is why I think things like this can be valuable. I think my male friends probably AREN'T used to the feeling of discomfort I often have when I'm alone as a woman, and having a chance to talk about it in a reasonable manner seems like a really good thing to me.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 8:55 AM on October 8, 2009 [13 favorites]


Even if she ignored the first one or two emails -- deliberately just ignored them, instead of didn't see them, or didn't have a chance to respond immediately because she had other things to do first, or got more than 1 at once and needed to take time to figure out how to respond to this guy -- once she did write him back, he still continued to write her.
posted by jeather at 8:56 AM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Clever, but I don't think I disregarded what she had to say. I read it, allowed for the fact that she has every right to feel this way, and made the judgement that I don't think she speaks for every woman and that living life in this manner would be sad. She also seems a bit misdirected in her worries.

Well, you called her paranoid, and overall wasn't fair to her. There's a difference in her having a "right" to feel how she does, and her feelings themselves being "valid". And that's the thing: of and in themselves, her feelings towards men who ignore her boundaries are always valid, because they're her boundaries and she gets to set them.
posted by Sova at 8:56 AM on October 8, 2009 [11 favorites]


I found this post compelling because it, in more succinct terms, is the same argument I've made to both my boyfriend and best guy friend who were puzzled by interactions with women in public places. And neither of them are scary or "tone-deaf" when it comes to social interactions. In the year before he met me, my bf tried to strike up a conversation with a woman on a subway train, who shut the conversation down by saying "I don't need any new friends". He found that to be harsh, and wondered to me why someone would be so "cold".

I don't go as far as the author in thinking of every single strange man as a rapist, but I do think there is a lot to be said here for honoring personal space and conversational cues, and understanding the shift from being perceived as "unwanted interaction" to "possible threat" when those cues go unnoticed.
posted by kimdog at 8:58 AM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


This seemed tremendously reasonable to me.

To me, too.

More than a decade ago, I was waiting at a bus stop after 11pm and the only other person in the area was a young woman who was standing about three feet behind me. I'm a tall, big guy. Was coming home from work, dressed in a shirt and tie.

I sneezed loudly, and she *screamed*. This blood-curdling, piercing scream that scared the bejeezus out of me. I whirled around. As we both stared at each other, hyperventilating, I asked her if she was okay. She was. I'd startled her. We struck up a conversation. A few months earlier, she'd been mugged. Said she was a little nervous. We talked about it. I tried to be reassuring.

I had barely noticed her presence before that moment. I was on my way home and had my mind on a hot meal. But she had been watching me closely from the moment I turned the corner and approached the stop. To her, I was a potential threat and needed to be watched closely.

These days, I try to be aware of that dynamic when I commute home late from work. No one deserves to be intimidated or made to feel uncomfortable, even inadvertently.
posted by zarq at 8:59 AM on October 8, 2009 [151 favorites]


I have to say the guy who emailed her about 15 times within two days after the first date is a bit sad/scary, but by the same token she surely should have replied to the first email to say that she wasn't interested.

Would have been easier for both of them.


Or that could have escalated his behavior, since you see that he is still sending her emails after being told not to do so. It's the same reason women give men who approach them in public that uneasy rictus of civility rather than not smiling and ignoring them. Because no one wants to go from being hollered at with 'Hay baby!' to 'BITCH! YOU BITCH! YOU UPPITY BITCH!' It is kind of a downer, even if you don't want either option.

And her precautions are probably not even conscious efforts any more. When it's the water you swim in, you stop thinking about it.
posted by winna at 9:00 AM on October 8, 2009 [35 favorites]


I've never seen a tee shirt making a rape joke. Anyone seen such a tee shirt?

No means no. Well maybe if I'm drunk.
Anti-abortion! But Pro-Date-Rape
posted by Axle at 9:00 AM on October 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


Those are simply lies.

Did you read the fact sheet I linked to? Here it is again. Because while 14.8% (the percentage of women raped at some point in their life) is slightly lower than 1 in 6, it is really, really not that far off.

If we ask men "have you raped someone", the figure for self-reported rapists is obviously low. But when we poll men about behaviors that are considered rape, studies come up with a number between 4 and 10 percent. This is much higher than the 1-in-60 estimated by the author. Again, I must stress that we are not just talking about violent assualt with physical penetration. We are also talking about date rape. We are talking about coersive rape. We're talking about rape in the context of an emotionally abusive relationship. We are talking about taking advantaged of an inebriated state.

Also, she seems way more afraid of the strange man than the men she gets to know, and statistics show it's generally not the stranger you have to worry about.

Well, I think what she's saying is that, to prevent people she knows from raping her, she tries really hard not to get to know people who seem like they have the capacity to disregard her person-hood so much that they rape her. So yeah, she's probably in agreement with you.
posted by muddgirl at 9:01 AM on October 8, 2009 [49 favorites]


So I read the whole thing carefully and I don't really understand. She's saying some dude is not entitled to some girl's high opinion just coz he's nice? Doh? That works in non-meeting-people-off-the-street-contexts too. Regardless of 'power issues' or 'potential rapist' etc. I don't think it's unfair for women to be wary of strange men. Not just because of rape or whatever but just hey, who knows how this is going to end up? If you don't care about them you don't. It would also help if men stopped being stalkery douchebags.

I really hate how quickly this Nice Guy™ meme has taken over the internet. It's stupid.
posted by Non Prosequitur at 9:02 AM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I read it, allowed for the fact that she has every right to feel this way, and made the judgement that I don't think she speaks for every woman and that living life in this manner would be sad. She also seems a bit misdirected in her worries.

Then again, though, you rarely end up with a mindset like that without good reason. I originally wondered whether something might have happened to provoke that kind of reaction -- because hell, if I'd been on a date that went bad, I'd make some very distinct plans too. As it is, the "chimichanga" code word I worked out came after I'd come back from a first date where the guy suddenly got pretty creepy (when you've only known a woman for two hours, it is far too soon to proclaim that she is "everything you've always looked for in a woman"-- and it is never appropriate to flat-out tell her that "however, you are going to have to stop cutting your hair and let it grow long").
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:02 AM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Anyone seen such a tee shirt?

Spend more time on a college campus. You see a fair number of screwing-passed-out-chicks-is-awesome–themed T-shirts, along with the occasional really egregious specimen like the one Callipygos mentioned upthread.

And yeah, dudes have every right to wear those shirts, and you have every right to snicker at them, and neither even necessarily says anything bad about you as a person (free speech blah blah censorship blah thoughtcrime blah blah blah) you've gotta admit it's kind of a no-brainer how they might make it harder to chat up strange women.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:02 AM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have to say the guy who emailed her about 15 times within two days after the first date is a bit sad/scary, but by the same token she surely should have replied to the first email to say that she wasn't interested.

Would have been easier for both of them.


Maybe you're right, DanCall. But after two days she emailed him back asking him not to contact her again. That should be the end of the story, but dude is still emailing her. You have to admit, that's just fucking creepy.

I can't help but wonder what kind of bizarre wishful thinking is going through that guy's head. Like, what kind of delusional bullshit does he say to himself before he clicks send? "Maybe this email will charm her, now that I've given her time to cool off!" I might even feel sorry for the dude if he was not being such a jackass.
posted by joedan at 9:03 AM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, if anyone doesn't get why that xkcd comic is really, ridiculously infuriating for a lot of people, I made a more realistic one.
posted by muddgirl at 9:04 AM on October 8, 2009 [92 favorites]


Thanks for posting this, it was a good read. Rather than quibbling about any of the author's own personal details or whether or not or to what extent the article is representative of all women, the walkaway central message remains clear: a woman in public has a different and variably defensive mindset for good reason and guys should be aware of this and err on the side of caution (silence and space) unless there are clear clues that invite interaction. It's not necessarily simple - perceiving social clues correctly - but being unsure doesn't mean you have to try harder; it means that you should probably stop trying to get a date or attention or a smile, seems to me.
posted by peacay at 9:06 AM on October 8, 2009 [12 favorites]


1 in 6 women are not raped, and 1 in 60 men (author's figure) is not a rapist. Those are simply lies.

Please read the study linked by muddgirl above. If approximately 5-6% of men will self-report having committed rape or attempted rape when the question is framed without using the word "rape", and if 63% of those men admit to have commited these acts multiple times, then, yes, at least 1 in 6 women have been raped, and 1 in 60 men are rapists. Actually, those figures are probably very low. (Not to mention the fact that those percentages spike to 9-15% when "lesser" crimes of sexual assault are included.)

I don't want to believe it, either. That doesn't make it any less true.
posted by philotes at 9:08 AM on October 8, 2009 [24 favorites]


I came on here to say I'm a little tired of hearing this, because starting off by assuming someone isn't interested (and is actually threatened) means that I've only ever once approached a stranger, and many relationships with people were much delayed because I spent far too long avoiding being a dick by hitting on them and reading the worst into every signal. I was going to say this article is exactly why me and the friends I know find it so hard to find the balance between being confident and coming across as a thug.

But you know what- (and I'm just realising this now)- my being frustrated is a sign that things are going in the right direction. Next time I shy away from talking to a stranger due to a fear of coming across the wrong way, I'll try to be thankful that at least we've come this far, even if I do find it frustrating that we haven't made it all the way.
posted by twirlypen at 9:09 AM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think there are a number of dudes who would read this, nod, and keep it in the back of their heads the next time they try chatting up some lady on the street; should she seem disinterested, they can think of this essay, and be like, "Right, well, I remember the way this works."

This. There seems to be a bit of two-way ignorance about this. (where "a bit" = "a lot")

Many men have no idea how often attractive women get hit on. That is to say: constantly.

And many women have no idea that this is not visible/obvious to men.

It sucks to be, not even approaching someone out of (sexual/romantic) interest, but really just chatting with a random stranger about the weather, and get the defensive OMG I SO DON'T WANT TO BE HIT ON defensive onslaught. It helps to have a reminder of why this is the way it is. It's not your fault. It's not her fault. Observe the signals, recognize the issue, and move on.

I had barely noticed her presence before that moment. I was on my way home and had my mind on a hot meal. But she had been watching me closely from the moment I turned the corner and approached the stop. To her, I was a potential threat and needed to be watched closely.

I sometimes find myself along a path -- to the bus, to my workplace, to the theatre, wherever -- and finding myself some distance behind some lone woman who inevitably (slight exaggeration) enters a state of paranoia. Is he following me? Same turn? Yep. Again? Oh yeah. Uh oh, whatamIgoingtodo? (hint: EVERYBODY takes this path to the bus in the morning.) I used to stop and tie my shoe, or do something else to put some distance between us; even veer off and take a longer path, but that frankly felt a little opressive and a bit like adopting someone else's deal as my own. So now I just sigh and let it play out. It's nobody's fault; it's just unfortunate all around.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:10 AM on October 8, 2009 [15 favorites]


nebulawindphone: "you've gotta admit it's kind of a no-brainer how they might make it harder to chat up strange women."

That's why I always save my rape joke shirt for the second date.
posted by graventy at 9:10 AM on October 8, 2009 [6 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos : On a t-shirt: "What's the worst thing about gang rape? Waiting your turn."

I would find something like this immensely useful: it's so hard to find willing subjects to test my flamethrower on, and people wearing shirts like this would take the guesswork out of who to choose.
posted by quin at 9:10 AM on October 8, 2009 [28 favorites]


As a woman, I will admit to being paranoid (though about everything since I have some anxiety issues). I used to work really early shifts and would be walking to my car at 4:15 am. I would always check under my car for potential creepers, as well as in the back seat before getting inside my car, not to mention looking over my shoulder while trying to keep my head up as to not appear an easy target. It's tiring, actually.

I don't see every stranger as a potential rapist, it's just that as a woman, I feel I do have to take extra precautions. I feel I can't rely on others to rescue me if something does happen, so it's in my hands. (Although, maybe I'm not giving society enough credit here, and there are people who would step up if they saw something sketchy happening...)

Also, those tee-shirts are appalling.
posted by too bad you're not me at 9:10 AM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


exactly mudgirl, men truly have no idea what it's like to be a woman in this society. Men here can say "I think this" and "I think that" but they have no idea what it's like to be a victim of harrassment just by walking out your own front door.

Saying "you can never understand" are in effect saying "don't bother trying to understand". The outcome is the same.
posted by Scoo at 9:11 AM on October 8, 2009 [9 favorites]


I don't think the xkcd comic is about trying to talk to a cute girl on the subway - it's about trying to talk to someone about their cute netbook. Okay, maybe not with the last panel, but that was my first reaction.

I'm married, I'm not looking to pick up either boys or girls. But I often want to compliment someone on their cool shoes or something, and refrain from doing so because I'm worried they will take it the wrong way.

If only real life had favourites.
posted by jb at 9:11 AM on October 8, 2009 [14 favorites]


because starting off by assuming someone isn't interested (and is actually threatened) means that I've only ever once approached a stranger

Well, the post makes it pretty clear that you don't have to assume - women, because they are human beings, communicate via body language. She covers several typical "body language" signs that may indicate a woman is interested in casual conversation with a stranger. She also details many signs that indicate, "Don't talk to me unless it is an emergency."

It's really not all that hard. Men seem so adept at reading the body language of other men, and yet some pretend like it is a mystery to them.
posted by muddgirl at 9:13 AM on October 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


twirlypen it's sort of a hit and miss thing where women take something positively from one guy that they wouldn't take from others etc. Like you can see women responding well to cat-calling/street harassment but that doesn't mean you/I should be the one doing it, default to being sensible. I personally don't think the whole 'signs of obvious interest' thing is a huge prerequisite for saying hi or whatever but keeping it rare and quickly working off the response is good.

I once asked this woman if I knew her from college, she spun around when I said hey and when I asked she was like "no!" I'm like "okay". I just thought I knew her from class. Whatever. Doesn't mean she's evil or that I'm necessarily the worst human being evar. It's just acceptable friction. I once ran into a set of lingerie-clad mannequins trying to avoid bumping into / excessive eye contact with a gaggle of girls walking right at me and they giggled when they were behind me. Overcorrection. What can ya do.

I've struck up enough conversations with strangers and strangers have struck up enough conversations with me for me to rule out the whole "they'll let you know if they want to talk to you" thing, man or woman. I've sat silently for long periods next to someone who then proceeded to babble for ages as soon as one of us made an excuse to talk!
posted by Non Prosequitur at 9:17 AM on October 8, 2009 [6 favorites]


In the year before he met me, my bf tried to strike up a conversation with a woman on a subway train, who shut the conversation down by saying "I don't need any new friends". He found that to be harsh, and wondered to me why someone would be so "cold".

Although practically from the guy's perspective there's not much difference between getting rejected, and not approaching because their body language indicates they will reject you. Cold is cold.
posted by smackfu at 9:18 AM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


One thing about those studies liked by mudgirl:

If you order by year and plot a trendline, assuming all studies measure the same thing, incidence rate drops from 10% in ~1984 to 7% in ~2002. Significance is pretty low (r2 is 0.15). This may well be imaginary. It would be interesting to see more data.
posted by bonehead at 9:18 AM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Those t-shirts make my skin crawl. Who the hell would think they're funny? :(
posted by zarq at 9:18 AM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


you can see women responding well to cat-calling/street harassment

.....WHERE have you seen this?....And cutesy rom-com movies don't count.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:20 AM on October 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


Whatever may be said about the rest of the article, I was astounded by this brilliant gem of statistical reasoning:

One in every six American women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. [...] 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.

Score one for feminism!
posted by k. at 9:21 AM on October 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


But I often want to compliment someone on their cool shoes or something, and refrain from doing so because I'm worried they will take it the wrong way.

I'm not the most social creature, but I've honestly never had a real problem with this. A simple honest smile followed by "Hey, that's really cool." and then you move on.

It's the last part that most people seem to get all awkward with, because they don't want to just compliment, they want to have a continuing conversation, and that is a bit more of a challenge.

Fortunately being married has taken the stress of having to chat with the opposite sex for anything other than just the fun of doing so off my shoulders. Now I can say things like "Those are really cool shoes, do you mind if I ask where you got them? My wife would love something like that..." which seems to help defuse the idea that I'm talking as a way of hitting on them.
posted by quin at 9:21 AM on October 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


I am generally against the "you can never understand" type of mentality; I think it's counterproductive, alienating and occasionally smug, which is why I think things like this can be valuable. I think my male friends probably AREN'T used to the feeling of discomfort I often have when I'm alone as a woman, and having a chance to talk about it in a reasonable manner seems like a really good thing to me.

Yes. I think men can get it, because we're all human and can share experiences. But it's hard to really understand the how normal and habitual concerns about safety are for women. I used to live in a not so good area of Manchester, and walking home in the dark it was almost instinctual to cross the road if a man was standing or waiting on the path. I never made eye contact with drivers because it was a red light district and they might take it as a sign to stop and hassle me. And before going to unlock my front door I would check who was in the street in case I had been followed. It seems crazy, but it's not, as those situations are harder to get out of than they are to prevent in the first place. I would rather manage my own boundaries like that than have somebody trespass them.

Many men have no idea how often attractive women get hit on. That is to say: constantly.

Or stared at. I'm probably not even very attractive in most men's book, but cut it out already! The difference between looking normally and staring sexually is pretty obvious, and it surprises me how many men think that nobody's going to notice.
posted by Sova at 9:21 AM on October 8, 2009 [14 favorites]


Saying "you can never understand" are in effect saying "don't bother trying to understand". The outcome is the same.

I never said "you can never understand"....I guess I'm saying typically most men don't take the time to understand. They have trouble putting themselves in someone elses's place. I believe anyone can learn, but you have to want to learn and do better.
posted by brneyedgrl at 9:22 AM on October 8, 2009


It's really not all that hard. Men seem so adept at reading the body language of other men, and yet some pretend like it is a mystery to them.

Please don't assume bad faith, or that a man is pretending to have difficulty in that regard. I've never been good at reading those signals from women or men. I would be highly surprised to find that I'm the only guy on the planet with that problem.
posted by zarq at 9:23 AM on October 8, 2009 [7 favorites]


Men seem so adept at reading the body language of other men, and yet some pretend like it is a mystery to them.

Ouch. If that's the way this conversation is going to be had, then I agree with your prediction at the top of the thread (not a great idea, btw).

Men are better at reading men's signals. Women are better at reading women's.

If women were great at reading signals from men, there wouldn't be rampant paranoia, would there? You'd correctly suss out intentions and sort accordingly.

I don't think we need to jump to conclusions of "pretending" not to understand where women are coming from. Some guys don't understand. Some do.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:23 AM on October 8, 2009 [11 favorites]


Rocket88: 1 in 6 women are not raped, and 1 in 60 men (author's figure) is not a rapist. Those are simply lies.

You're right about the 1 in 6 figure being wrong; the real figure is 1 in 3-to-1 in 4.

Rape is a vastly under-reported crime.

If anyone is interested in reading a spectacular discussion about how so many women go through their daily lives on constant alert (and no, that doesn't make them "paranoid"), and how men fundamentally won't understand it 100% simply because it's not how they have to live--though many men in the discussion take careful and honest looks at themselves and their attitudes/pasts, comment brilliantly, and openly discuss how much more aware they've become of the invisible misogyny that our culture breathes in every day, I cannot recommend this discussion thread highly enough (warning: some vivid accounts of sexual assaults perpetrated on various commenters; 4255 comments; and it's on livejournal--that's a warning so those of you who dismiss threads out-of-hand just because they're on livejournal can stay the fuck away). And yes, there are some "I resent this discussion because I'M not a rapist, and by discussing this, you are saying I AM!!!!!!" men who have to make everything about themselves. They are dealt with strongly, but without insult. In fact, while the comments can get heated, they are never low-level as you see on so many other sites on the internet. It's very much like discussion here, actually.

It's really one of the most fascinating and thoughtful discussions on the topic I've ever seen.
posted by tzikeh at 9:24 AM on October 8, 2009 [34 favorites]


Another weird stat from the 1 in 6 study: "Specifically, women who were raped in the previous 12 months averaged 2.9 rapes, while men averaged 1.2 rapes.
posted by smackfu at 9:24 AM on October 8, 2009


thank god that link was blocked by my proxy here at work. maybe i'll get a proxy at home, too.
posted by msconduct at 9:26 AM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I would like to add to this guideline, that if a woman smiles at you and makes eye contact, that does not automatically mean she wants to have your babies. Some women are just like that, we are not teases, we are not flirts, we just refuse to live in fear of making eye contact with strange men. What would be awesome, would be if you could smile back and maybe nod. And if you feel it, say something polite. We may respond, or we may just smile and go on. That doesn't mean we are bitches or trying to fuck with you. It just may mean that we think that human contact should be positive.

And for god's sake, if you ask us for our number or for a date and we decline, please, please, please do not assume that it's because we are dykes or a bitch and hate men. It might be because we actually, really do have a significant other. Or because you look weird and we don't want to date you. Or something completely different. It's not personal though, really (despite the weird comment) nine times out ten, it's just because we don't feel it.
posted by teleri025 at 9:26 AM on October 8, 2009 [29 favorites]


I talk to people all the time. I must look approachable or something, because complete strangers of all sexes and orientations chatter at me everywhere I go.

It is actually very easy to tell which ones from which I should back away slowly.

SIGNS THE STRANGER YOU'RE TALKING TO HAS BOUNDARY ISSUES!
- They compliment me on a physical characteristic. 'Cute shoes!' is a harmless compliment that, if I ever wore cute shoes, I would be proud to receive. 'Cute [body part]!' not so much.

- They ignore my body language. If, when I am walking my somewhat unusual dog, someone walking by on the sidewalk says 'Is that a greyhound?' and I nod and walk on, it is a bad sign for them not to realize I'm in a hurry and get pissy about my walking on and continue to pepper me with questions. Or if I am wearing headphones in a store so that my personal shopping soundtrack is Einstein on the Beach, motioning for me to take off my headphones to talk to me indicates that the person does not respect my need, like Garbo, to be alone.

- They invade my space. This one is tricky, because my space bubble contains multitudes, but if the person you are trying to talk to backs away or turns to the side as you approach, back off a little bit. People who are not sensitive to space bubbles are not always ignorant of the dynamics of space - sometimes they do it deliberately to see how well you defend your ground.

- They give me unwanted advice. This one is a judgment call, because sometimes it is helpful to get unwanted advice. It is the way the advice is proffered that makes this a warning sign. Saying 'hey, I bought that brand of running shoe and it fell apart in three days' is great. Telling me I shouldn't drink that soda because it has a lot of calories, not so much.
posted by winna at 9:26 AM on October 8, 2009 [28 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos hmm few times but two examples that leap to mind (1) in front of the boston public library. dudes saying 'that's nice mami' etc. the women ahead flipping their hair, walking with flair etc. in response. they were definitely strangers, i'd say 80% probability. (2) The other day someone walked by my sister saying "this" to her (totally different much more conservative country) and she bragged about it. I kinda asked her about it, saying men (or my type) try not to say these things because blah blah etc. and she's like, she said something strange which is like you can choose to get upset or take it well so there may be some non-genuine dealing-with-it response that goes into taking it positively.

I guess when I said 'harassment' i just meant verbal expressions of appreciation not people asking women to do things or mocking them or teasing them sexually or touching them etc. Again, I'm not saying this gives anyone a right to try to call out people like that (or even compliment them discretely if they're strangers, not on their looks) but that what's creepy is variable with the people involved. If someone says "come sit over here" to you in a bar you'd respond differently depending on whether you wanted to sit near them or not right? That's all I meant.
posted by Non Prosequitur at 9:27 AM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've struck up enough conversations with strangers and strangers have struck up enough conversations with me for me to rule out the whole "they'll let you know if they want to talk to you" thing, man or woman. I've sat silently for long periods next to someone who then proceeded to babble for ages as soon as one of us made an excuse to talk!

I think the disconnect here is that she's not necessarily referring solely to an initial comment. It's one thing to just say "hey, nice blouse" and that be it. It's another to say "hey, nice blouse" and then try to continue the conversation. Sometimes you have time to accept the one quick comment, and sometimes you don't -- and if you don't, but someone still tries to keep talking to you, that's also annoying.

The person who sat next to you who babbled for ages clearly wanted to talk. You assessed the situation properly. If she had given one-word answers, and YOU were the one who babbled for ages, then that would have been a case of you assessing the situation improperly.

Really, it's all about noticing "does it look like this person wants to continue talking to me? No? Then I should back off."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:28 AM on October 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


I used to think this kind of thing was a bit over the top and into the realm of paranoia until a conversation with a University of London student union official some years ago.

She told me that rape and sexual assault were effectively the norm among the students she represented. Such things as 'No Means No' and 'Reclaim The Night' campaigns that I remember from my own early 90's student days were widely seen among her female students as a completely pointless waste of time. Resources instead went towards counselling and self-defense.

It was a depressing but eye-opening conversation.
posted by motty at 9:31 AM on October 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


What would be awesome, would be if you could smile back and maybe nod. And if you feel it, say something polite. We may respond, or we may just smile and go on.

That would be super-cool, and I want to live in that universe (and will do everything I can to help make it happen). But one confounding variable is the somewhat circuitous approaches women make toward men, which typically only resolve, schrodinger-style, when they've passed/been flunked. Like the girl who looked me up and down the day I was wearing a suit, stopped, and asked me for directions to the liquor store. "Sure! You see that building over there? You can take that entrance in and follow it along the right wall till you enter the mall proper and then the liquor store is about three doors down from that, or you can follow the outside till you get to the entrance there and it's first thing on your left."

*girl pauses... looks at me... nods*

"Well... bye."

Only later I'm like "D'OH".

But I mean, really, WTH was that? Directions? If you want more, be a little brave. Noteworthy side effect: we'll stop thinking that every girl who asks for directions is hitting on us. Some of us never make that assumption.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:32 AM on October 8, 2009 [12 favorites]


On a t-shirt: "What's the worst thing about gang rape? Waiting your turn."

And you have seen regular-seeming men walking down a regular-seeming street whistling a regular-seeming tune and wearing this shirt?
posted by xmutex at 9:32 AM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Today I learned that if you compliment the computer of a woman you don't know, you are perpetuating "rape culture."
posted by nanojath at 9:32 AM on October 8, 2009 [24 favorites]


I thought this was an excellent article. It's always handy to read something that details a perspective that is inaccessible to me because of my sex.

I'd like some help here; I'm looking at you muddgirl. You've already started to answer my question. I read the fact sheet and I've read similar ones before. What I'm wondering is, how are these statistics compiled? Is the definition of rape used as simple as "coercive sex"? Sexual assault? What do these numbers mean?

Please note, I'm not questioning the veracity of the numbers. I'm accepting them at face value. But I am having a difficult time wrapping my head around the notion that 1 in 60 men (number from article, assuming the distribution of rapists cuts across demographic lines) is a rapist and, by corollary, should be incarcerated.

Thanks!
posted by Maugrim at 9:32 AM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Today I learned that if you compliment the computer of a woman you don't know, you are perpetuating "rape culture."

Today, I learned that many people delight in pretending to not get the point.

Go ahead and compliment the woman on her computer. Just don't expect (a) a conversation, (b) her phone number, or (c) a blow job.
posted by muddgirl at 9:35 AM on October 8, 2009 [93 favorites]


True story, a couple weeks ago I was on my way to take the GRE across town, standing on the subway platform, going over geometry formulae in my head, when this guy comes up to me and stands right in front of me, about a foot away from me, facing me, until I look at him.

HIM: What's your name?
ME: What?!
HIM: What's your name?
ME (deciding that pretending to be deaf is the fastest way to get out of this): What?
HIM: What's your name?
ME: What?
HIM: Heather? Is your name Heather?
ME: What?
HIM: You go to college? Where do you go to college?
ME (giving up on the deaf façade): I don't.
HIM: When did you graduate?
ME: A while ago.
HIM: When, like 2006?
ME: [cold stare]
HIM: 2006?
ME: [blink]
HIM: 2006.

Anyway, ladies, don't pretend to be deaf; it doesn't work.
posted by oinopaponton at 9:36 AM on October 8, 2009 [22 favorites]


I'm just doin' my part by striking up conversations with all kinds of strangers about the cruel inequities of the world and not hittin' on any of them.
posted by klangklangston at 9:37 AM on October 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


And you have seen regular-seeming men walking down a regular-seeming street whistling a regular-seeming tune and wearing this shirt?

Yes.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:37 AM on October 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


Having consigned myself to the role of one of the villains in this thread I will additionally point out that being unsure about what qualities something possesses doesn't make it "Schrödinger's."
posted by nanojath at 9:38 AM on October 8, 2009 [11 favorites]


You are a model for us all, klang. A hero of the people!
posted by winna at 9:38 AM on October 8, 2009


[Glenn Beck rape jokes considered harmful - defend your right to use them in MeTa if you want.]
posted by jessamyn at 9:39 AM on October 8, 2009


Some women don't mind being whistled at, stared at and commented on, (a few), but they are many more women who are more fearful and agitated by being singled out and noticed by strangers. Nobody knows what people deal with in their hearts and minds. I'm pretty sure we should assume nothing and leave people alone and let them get where they are going.
posted by brneyedgrl at 9:39 AM on October 8, 2009


Glenn Beck rape jokes considered harmful

Not harmful, just stupid.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:39 AM on October 8, 2009


Those t-shirts make my skin crawl. Who the hell would think they're funny? :(

They're funny because they show irreverence towards the taboo topic of date rape. And because they're offensive. I'm willing to bet that a substantial percentage of the college-age dudes who sport these tees would never actually commit the alluded-to felonies. Thus, there is a level of ironic humor as well. I tend find things that fly in the face of political correctness to be knee-jerk funny even if they really aren't all that clever -- so I definitely see why people would wear these. Please don't imply, however, that I'm saying date rape is just a "PC" issue, or that I would ever wear or buy one of these t-shirts, associate with a person wearing these t-shirts, or that I even think the t-shirts are funny. Its just that I think that's where the humor is coming from and so I'm trying to make an earnest explanation.
posted by gagglezoomer at 9:40 AM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


"I'm willing to bet that a substantial percentage of the college-age dudes who sport these tees would never actually commit the alluded-to felonies. Thus, there is a level of ironic humor as well."

I've seen similar shirts, but never seen dudes wearing them. It was always women.
posted by klangklangston at 9:43 AM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yes

No, you have not. You have not seen someone walking down a street with your hypothetical gang rape joke. You just have not. You cannot say it, either, because you haven't seen it.
posted by xmutex at 9:43 AM on October 8, 2009


Yeah, but offensive jokes (and I love em) need to be targeted. You tell your friend an offensive joke because they'll be shocked and appalled and not personally hurt by it. A t-shirt that randomly broadcasts offensiveness is maybe not the way to go.

Of course, randomly broadcasted offensiveness is pretty much the frat boy m.o.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:44 AM on October 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


You know in the past few weeks, I have both struck up a conversation with a young woman, and had another one strike up a conversation with me. Neither experience was particularly fraught with peril on either side, and no one got raped or otherwise traumatized. All in all, it was no big deal. I think most people see it that way.
posted by dortmunder at 9:45 AM on October 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


Go ahead and compliment the woman on her computer. Just don't expect (a) a conversation, (b) her phone number, or (c) a blow job.

Oh no no no. This is completely ignoring the linked article, which essentially says: if you don't get the go ahead through body language, or if the woman in question is busy, talking to her places you #1 on the "Men who are about to rape me" list.
posted by TypographicalError at 9:45 AM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I found this post compelling because it, in more succinct terms, is the same argument I've made to both my boyfriend and best guy friend who were puzzled by interactions with women in public places.

What I think people forget is that people do not walk outside their homes, go shopping, run errands, and go to work because they want to meet people. They do so because they want to shop, run their errands, and go to work. It just so happens that they do so in communities with lots of people and where walking everywhere is necessary. One of the basics of etiquette in places like cities is the acknowledgement that living in a city requires large amounts of people to live in close proximity while also respecting each other's privacy: the public streets are not your frat party.

But I often want to compliment someone on their cool shoes or something, and refrain from doing so because I'm worried they will take it the wrong way.

You know, if you have a practical reason for doing so, women, being normal people, respond much like normal people. In my experience, "Where did you get those shoes?" elicits the information you are interested in: since people are interested in being helpful, they will generally let you know where they got their shoes.

Generally, though, I avoid commenting on women's clothes at work. No good can come of that: mostly because the dress people choose to wear at work is worn because they don't want to get attention for what they're wearing.
posted by deanc at 9:46 AM on October 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


you can see women responding well to cat-calling/street harassment

.....WHERE have you seen this?....And cutesy rom-com movies don't count.


Non Prosequitur, you just gave some examples of where you see this happening, and admitted that the instance in which your sister explained her reaction to it involved a certain "it's happened - now how do I deal with it?" reasoning. I'd conjecture that most of the "responding well" you witness is because of this.

Empress, I'll admit to "responding well" myself on occasion - for example, when the guy calling out that I look sexy is standing stationary and we're on a long street and it's going to be while before I pass out of range of him, and I don't want his "compliments" to turn into "Hey! I just said you look sexy! Is that how you treat a guy who pays you a compliment! I'm talking to you, you ugly-ass bitch!!!" If I'm too tired or too nervous or feeling too vulnerable to deal with that, then I'll respond to his cat-calling with a smile and a "Thank you," and hope that he lets it drop. If I feel it's necessary I might apologize for "being in a hurry" and thus being unable to stop and subject myself to more harassment. I sometimes feel guilty for reacting this way, knowing it makes men like Non Prosequitur think I enjoy it and thus question their own policy of not harassing women, but I cannot fight every battle every single day. First I must ask myself, "Am I safe?" If the answer is "no," or "possibly not" then I get a free pass to extricate myself from the situation however I see fit.

Anyway, I'd venture a guess that that's the primary reason one might witness a woman "responding well" to harassment.
posted by philotes at 9:48 AM on October 8, 2009 [38 favorites]


Doubt the numbers? See this Department of Justice document: Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Violence Against Women: Findings From the National Violence Against Women Survey, from November 1998. Dated, but full of numbers, graphs, definitions and whatnot.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:49 AM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


No, you have not. You have not seen someone walking down a street with your hypothetical gang rape joke. You just have not. You cannot say it, either, because you haven't seen it.

How the hell do you know that?

You know, this is pretty illustrative of the article in question -- I am clearly stating something, and xmutex is choosing to disregard my clearly-communicated statement because xmutex believes something else. xmutex is ignoring what I'm saying, assuming I must be wrong, even though I'm fucking saying quite clearly, that yes, I did see what I saw.

And when you have one person clearly sending out one very specific message and another person ignoring it, then you get conflict.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:50 AM on October 8, 2009 [99 favorites]


"You are a model for us all, klang. A hero of the people!"

It is some sacrifice to give of myself so freely, but I do it for you, winna, so that you may know hope.
posted by klangklangston at 9:50 AM on October 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


Maugrim - I haven't read the studies linked to in the PDF, but they are available through ILL at your local library. The "methodology" section should include a detailed list of questions.

Generally, these common behaviors are called "rape":

(1) Continuing sexual advances on a person after they have said "No" or "I don't want to". This includes encounters where a person says "No", but then stops resisting. A famous representation of this is from the second season of Mad Men, when Joan Holloway is raped by her fiance.

(2) Sexual advances on a person who is incapacitated (to me, this includes situations where a person "seems to want to have sex", but later passes out. "Seeming to want to have sex" is not in any way the same thing as actually wanting sexual intercourse).

(3) Sexual advances beyond previously-set boundaries (for example, if I say, "I don't want to have anal sex", and you "accidentally" shove it in my anus, that is rape or at least sexual assault).

There is a lot of "gray area" past these three, and you might call this area "coercive sex". These cases are rarely reported or prosecuted, so I think talking about incarceration is a little premature. If I say that I don't want to have sex, and my spouse rubs his penis against me until I give in, is that coercive sex? Absolutely. Some women would also call this rape, if it happened to them.


Oh no no no. This is completely ignoring the linked article, which essentially says: if you don't get the go ahead through body language, or if the woman in question is busy, talking to her places you #1 on the "Men who are about to rape me" list.

Your point is not in disagreement with mine. I am not ignoring the article. The point of the article is that approaching a random stranger who does not want to be approached has a vanishingly small chance of making you a new friend/fuck buddy. This is absolutely true. But that doesn't have to stop you from complimenting strangers, if you get some personal value out of complimenting strangers. If you don't want to be their friend or fuck buddy, and truly want to compliment them out of the goodness of your heart, why would you care if you got put on their shit list?
posted by muddgirl at 9:51 AM on October 8, 2009 [6 favorites]


Durn,
I get the point. I once bought a shirt that said "mo money mo bitches" in huge gold letters because I thought it was the funniest thing ever. I never wore it, not even once, and I eventually threw it away. I just felt like the public wouldn't understand the genius of it, including the woman with the 7-year-old.
Sometimes really offensive humor can enlighten as well, though. Sarah Silverman's schitck to me was really all about seeing exactly how far a white person can go with using off-base words and stereotypes so long as they are just being "ironic".
posted by gagglezoomer at 9:52 AM on October 8, 2009


xmutex is ignoring what I'm saying, assuming I must be wrong

his logic is pretty airtight though, you were like yes and then he was all no
posted by Greg Nog at 9:53 AM on October 8, 2009 [39 favorites]


I think we could all do with a return to the "cougar" thread where, in dealing with women approaching men, we witnessed a similar cluelessness re: lack of interest. (and great umbrage at the thought that any attention could be unwanted attention)

Let's face it. It's not so easy when you're not just putting yourself out there and culling from the pack.

(but yes, entirely different situation re: safety and reasonable responses out of a concern for it; the cluelessness, however, is little different)

If you don't want to be their friend or fuck buddy, and truly want to compliment them out of the goodness of your heart, why would you care if you got put on their shit list?

Spoken like someone who hasn't had this happen. It sucks. For once, I don't think you can understand a man's perspective on this, because in order for you to be able to, you'd have to have complimented a guy innocently and have him go ballistic (would this ever happen with a guy?). I complimented a girl's hat on the bus a few months ago and the girl wearing it nearly engaged in Firestarter-style pyrotechnics. (But to be fair, I think she was insecure and thought that I was making fun of her)
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:55 AM on October 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


mostly because the dress people choose to wear at work is worn because they don't want to get attention for what they're wearing.

Do you work in a monastery or convent? Because if not, I assure you, you're wrong with regard to at least some of your coworkers.

With respect to the "street harassment" issue, I think not enough is being done to draw distinctions between different types of behavior. Cat-calling is one thing, I think it's tasteless and as a man I would never do it, but I think it's unreasonable to take guys whistling at you as anything particularly threatening. Similarly, a guy who checks a woman out, even in a protracted and classless way, is not threatening you. Now, a guy who follows you and stares at you or whistling is being threatening. Calling cat calls and staring harassment confuses the real problems.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:55 AM on October 8, 2009


Durn Bronzefist, while I'm sympathetic about the roundabout way some women go about talking to men, my actual point was that the automatic assumption that every interaction between a male and female is a potential romantic or sexual connection is inherently flawed.

I live in a world and remained determined to stay here where you can smile and be polite to others regardless of their race, gender, or anything else and that interaction can be taken at the surface level of politeness from one human being to another.

Now granted, often it seems that many other people in my world hasn't gotten the memo that I'm just being nice, but I keep hoping that one day, everyone else will see the beauty in it. And from time to time I'm fortunate enough to coax an unbeliever into my world and we can have a pleasant interaction just for the sake of interacting with another human, rather than a prelude to the exchange of bodily fluids.
posted by teleri025 at 9:55 AM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Rape t-shirts:

Clench all you want, it's still going in!

It's not rape if you shout "surprise!" (Currently unavailable. Either removed, or sold out. Either way, it was available for purchase.)

West Virginia: The hillbilly rape state!

Serial Rapist (with a smiley-face under the text! Aw! Cute!)

These three are from rottencotton.com:

Is it rape if she's dead?

Dead Girls Never Say No

My kid raped your honor student

And let's not ignore the unbelievably stupid women: No Means No (Well, maybe if I'm drunk.)

There are more. Do you need them?
posted by tzikeh at 9:56 AM on October 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


gagglezoomer: yeah, I think you and I agree, and it's worth not letting "WHAT are these people thinking?!" not slip by without reasonable response, even if you wouldn't parade around like this yourself. But hell, I think I have a mostly-unworn "Illegitimi non carborundum" shirt in a drawer somewhere. Even that seemed a bit overly rude in most company.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:59 AM on October 8, 2009


I complimented a girl's hat on the bus a few months ago and the girl wearing it nearly engaged in Firestarter-style pyrotechnics. (But to be fair, I think she was insecure and thought that I was making fun of her)

So you got yelled at by a girl on the bus. Thank god she didn't follow you home in her car, screaming obscenities (happened to a friend of mine, when she refused to engage with a stranger on the train).

Seriously, there is a huge difference in threat levels here. Maybe the girl was having a bad day, and you made it worse. That's going to happen if you are going to ignore body language. I'm not saying it's a good idea to compliment people. But nothing we're going to say will stop you from doing so, so compliment away.
posted by muddgirl at 9:59 AM on October 8, 2009 [10 favorites]


A few thoughts, though they've been partially addressed:

> Again, I must stress that we are not just talking about violent assualt with physical penetration. We are also talking about date rape. We are talking about coersive rape. We're talking about rape in the context of an emotionally abusive relationship. We are talking about taking advantaged of an inebriated state.

Just to be picky, wouldn't that mean that the number of dangerous men on the street is much lower? Yes, men in general will self-report rape (even less than usual) when the definition of "rape" is expanded from violent crime to what you described. Yes, those behaviors may be disturbingly prevalent, and yes, awareness must be built. I agree. But the author of the article is (fallaciously) construing that all of the "rapists" in that statistic are men on the street that she needs to be afraid of. It seems like she's misdirecting her fear: she should be working to maintain healthy relationships, look for warning signs, don't get completely wasted around strangers, etc.

I'm certainly not denying that women are fearful of strangers on the street, nor that it's much more dangerous to be walking around alone if you're a female. I'm just a bit tired of the notion that one in six men is willing to kidnap a woman off the street, hold her down, and rape her. Rape occurs much more frequently in much more complicated circumstances, where the moral barrier to action is much lower (inebriated, not reading signs well, etc.)

About the XKCD thing: Something has gone horribly wrong somewhere, and I think it has resulted in the horrific misinterpretation of a comic strip.

XKCD has a lot of themes, but one prominent one is social anxiety in general: over-thinking every move, never acting when one should, geekiness. The male in the XKCD strip is absolutely terrified of any sign of rejection from the netbook girl. His little day-mare is what he fears will happen if he's outgoing to anybody he's interested in conversing with. This subset of people (like netbook guy) will always err waay to the "no" side, always back off very quickly, always keep their mouth shut and their hands off. Randall isn't advocating harassment of busy women on trains, he's arguing that people are often islands, and a little bit of connection could brighten both of their days. I don't think the strip would be very different if the genders of the characters were swapped.

Hell, Randall sells shirts that say "JUST SHY/not antisocial/ you can talk to me!" I don't think it's reasonable to argue that the anxious, self-deprecating emotions of the male in the XKCD strip are healthy, and I don't think it would be a very happy world if every male deferred and waited for eye contact before speaking to a female.
posted by aaronbeekay at 10:00 AM on October 8, 2009 [35 favorites]


Spoken like someone who hasn't had this happen. It sucks. For once, I don't think you can understand a man's perspective on this, because in order for you to be able to, you'd have to have complimented a guy innocently and have him go ballistic

I do. I have had attractive young men assume I was hitting on them and give me the cold shoulder. It is very painful. I have gotten to the point that I avoid talking to attractive men, just so that I don't get my feelings hurt when they give me that horrified 'oh god go away tubby lady' look and speak in leaden monotones.

But the attractive young men are probably not afraid, brutish lump of flesh though I am, that I am going to follow them out of the store and beat them up and take that which is beyond price from them.
posted by winna at 10:01 AM on October 8, 2009 [37 favorites]


teleri025: oh hey, I'm right there with you, and I'll give up any and every "dating opportunity" for the normalization of pleasant conversation between strangers (which really does vary from place to place -- home town, here I come!). Of course, the assumption that every stranger who says boo is thinking of you as a "potential romantic or sexual connection" is a setup for perpetual fail, but that's where the linked article comes in; if you can't fix it, at least you can understand it.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:01 AM on October 8, 2009


Bulgaroktonos, I think whistling goes beyond tasteless to some degree because it asserts a sort of power over the other person, that of putting them on the spot. A lot of teasing of this sort happens between people who already know each other and sometimes it's overdone and hard to deal with--men on women or women on men--you're right that it's not "threatening" in a genuine way but I think it's sorta bullying.
posted by Non Prosequitur at 10:03 AM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


but I think it's unreasonable to take guys whistling at you as anything particularly threatening. Similarly, a guy who checks a woman out, even in a protracted and classless way, is not threatening you. Now, a guy who follows you and stares at you or whistling is being threatening. Calling cat calls and staring harassment confuses the real problems.

but again you are thinking like a man....I can tell you from personal experience that I DID feel threatened when a mob of construction workers stopped what they were doing and stared and whistled. I did not want to be the object of that kind of behavior I had no idea whether someone might chose to believe I wanted that kind of attention and follow me. Again, unless you have been on the receiving end of something like that, it's difficult to understand. I've had men come up to me and try to get something started, and when I try to shut them down, they say something like "well why did you smile, (or look, or breathe in my direction,) at me?" When I had no idea I was smiling at anyone!!
posted by brneyedgrl at 10:04 AM on October 8, 2009 [7 favorites]


This is quite good. It's also all true. I still look over my shoulder constantly when walking down the street, whether I'm with people or alone. When I'm with people I do it less. When I'm alone and looking back every minute or so - and carrying my keys that way - I worry that I'm projecting a sense that I'm vulnerable precisely because I may seem paranoid. I even sometimes feel a little embarrassed (!) when someone walks by me and notices my keys in my hand (I only do the key thing at night in not-so-well-lighted areas). I'll sometimes smile and nod in an attempt to make them feel more comfortable. Hah! It's all about normalizing the situation and trying not to call too much attention to it. It's bizarre, I recognize it's a little bizarre, but I have to do it. And it's been a little over 20 years since I was violently assaulted at knifepoint, cut a little, and raped in a pretty vicious fashion. By a total stranger, not a guy I knew.

I don't feel paranoid, but it's always in the back of my mind that I wasn't careful enough one time, and something happened. I feel that if I "let" it happen again, it's my fault. It's not a very well-defined thing, (and no, it would never really be my fault, but the idea is there in my mind, perhaps as some sort of psychological safety measure that I think is wiser to hang onto than to let go of) but it's in my head on a little loop: fool me once, shame on you; fool my twice, well... You get used to it after a while. I'm sure it sounds paranoid to unfamiliar ears, but it's really not -- it's sort of inescapable once you've been mauled by a reject from the guy factory.

You're not all like him, and we know that. But those guys walk among you, and to ignore that fact could result in serious disaster for me. Sorry, dude. It's the way things are. I like most of you, but I'm also keenly aware that overtrusting relative strangers is just a bad, bad idea.

My best friend is a gay man (surprise, surprise) who thinks he totally gets what feeling vulnerable is. He feels put-upon by society, he's heard of gay men being beaten and killed for looking like him, and he says he's "really paranoid about being out alone at night." He says he totally gets it. Yet, during a discussion about how we're so similar like that, he also told me that he doesn't do a check on every guy (even every rednecklike guy) he passes on the street, cuz, it's like... daylight sometimes. When I told him this is where he and I take separate paths, he told me that being spooked all the time is unhealthy.

I agree. But again, I don't feel spooked all the time. It's not something I'm consciously thinking of all the time; it's more automatic than that, more like looking both ways when I cross a one-way street -- I'm not scared every time I do it, I just automatically check both directions, just in case there's a deviation from the norm. I feel like I'm doing exactly what I'm supposed to do -- I'm being necessarily cautious. Because if I get raped again while I'm being really careful, then the fault lies squarely on the rapist. But if I get raped again because I eschewed the cabs and walked home late at night, defiantly, because I felt like I had a goddamned right to walk in my own (mostly very, very safe) neighborhood, then.... I share a little bit of the blame because I put myself in a position that I shouldn't have. It was unnecessary and counter to the way I generally operate. There's no escaping these feelings of personal responsibility. Nope, it'd never really be my fault, but try to tell me that once it happens... I doubt I'd see it any other way.

I think most females share a lot of this experience and conflict, but one reason we don't talk about it a lot is that it sounds a little defective when we do. If you knew me, you'd know I'm not a timid gal. I'm not so afraid to walk around at night that I don't do it -- I do it all the damn time -- but there's more to it than meets the eye. I'm not simply walking around; I'm walking around, unable to listen to my iPod, and I'm thinking about this shit the whole time. If you pass me and smile, you may get a smile back, or you may get a cold shoulder -- it depends mostly on where my mind is in the internal discussion I'm having at the time. It's not about you. It's about me.
posted by heyho at 10:08 AM on October 8, 2009 [82 favorites]


xmutex: "Are you wearing a tee-shirt making a rape joke?"

I've never seen a tee shirt making a rape joke. Anyone seen such a tee shirt?

Matter of fact, yes. For those of you fortunate enough to be ignorant, UFIA is fark-ese for "unsolicited finger in the anus." So the odds are low that a potential rape victim would get the joke, but I have seen t-shirts with rape jokes on them.
posted by workerant at 10:10 AM on October 8, 2009


Hey, here's a thought:

We've had a number of comments from guys who've in essence said in here that "but I don't mean any harm by it, and I think it's a shame that I have to curtail my behavior as a result."

We do too. But you know what a much more effective way to make things right would be, rather than nagging women to cut the nice guys some slack? Going after the guys you see NOT being nice. If you see a guy cat calling a woman, tell him he's being a dick. If one of your friends gets one of those "rape joke" t-shirts, tell him he's being a dick. If you see a guy try to pick a girl up and she looks uncomfortable and blows him off, and he turns to you all butthurt and says "women, huh?" Tell him that well, obviously she didn't want to talk to anyone and he just ignored her, so he was being a dick.

If you think about it, those guys are the ones who are ruining it for you, after all. Tell them that. They're the ones ruining it for you.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:12 AM on October 8, 2009 [183 favorites]


brneyedgrl,

But, I'm not talking about whether you felt threatened, I'm talking about whether it is reasonable for you to feel threatened. Obviously, you're perfectly entitled to feel threatened whenever you want, but since the article is claiming that feeling threatened is justifiable and reasonable, we need more than merely the fact that you found the situation threatening.

You've told me that 1)Some guys whistled at you when you didn't want to be whistled at and 2)Some guy thought you smiled at him and was miffed when you didn't respond to his advances. That sounds like run of the mill bad human social interactions, not the actions of a would-be rapist. Moreover, as a man these sound like PRECISELY the sort of interactions I encounter on a day to day basis. There's not a sexual angle, but the dynamics are otherwise identical.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:12 AM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I agree with the general thrust of this article, but not some of the conclusions. This "system" may work for her and many other women, and this is something that men should be aware of, but in general it's a bit reactionary.

Specifically...

I read a lot. A whole lot. I do this in many places, and many conversations with both men and women have started while I was reading - "Hi. Sorry if I'm intruding, but is that a good book? I've heard good things about the author." Something like that. It usually doesn't bother me, and I usually end up talking to them. Then again, if I am looking surly, sure, heed this advice and Stay Away. That works for me, and seems like it wouldn't work for the author.

Appearance isn't all she makes it out to be. I was raped by a decidedly white-collar man, clean-cut and seemed pretty well-presented. The "appearance" section of this writeup is at odds with the rest of the article - "we have no idea who the rapists are, no matter what they look or seem like on the outside," and "we think the rapists can be found with a careful eye to appearance." No. I think the point is that, as she also says, you cannot tell.

Important to note that it's difficult to balance suspicion and self-protection with the hope of any social life. If I treated life like this article seems to suggest I do, I would have a very difficult time meeting people, and I would never, ever, trust anyone that I don't already know. The thing is that rape, like a lot of other bad things, happens - the only way to almost completely assure that I will not be raped, murdered or otherwise mistreated is to go into my room, lock the door, and never come back out. We all take risks on a daily basis, risks big and small, because we need to. Caution is good, but being over-cautious can be a Bad Thing. Balance!
posted by neewom at 10:13 AM on October 8, 2009 [8 favorites]


Robin Kestrel: There's nothing in this article that I disagree with, but it still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. What's next? "People of Color - How to Approach a White Person Without Looking Like a Mugger"?

You are completely reversing the power dynamic. This is not analogous.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:13 AM on October 8, 2009 [29 favorites]


Great post -- I thought the article was a very clear description of the interaction, just good communication. No one's saying men can't understand -- the whole point of the piece is helping us get it.

This may be a goofy theory, but I think some of the overly peristent behavior is taught by romantic comedies. Pretty much every one has a woman who hates this guy, but he keeps persisting and eventually she can't resist his charm. For a socially maladjusted dude, the fact that these movies are aimed at (and successful with) women might be "proof" that you just have to keep pushing, they really want it.
posted by msalt at 10:15 AM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Then again, if I am looking surly, sure, heed this advice and Stay Away. That works for me, and seems like it wouldn't work for the author.

Actually, "if the woman is looking surly, heed this advice and Stay Away" is exactly what she's advocating.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:15 AM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


winna : If, when I am walking my somewhat unusual dog, someone walking by on the sidewalk says 'Is that a greyhound?' and I nod and walk on

Almost totally off topic, but kind of amusing; Dogs are one of those areas that make me a complete social misfit. Because of the number of pets I have, I'm always in pet stores for food, litter, salt, etc, and I'm constantly approaching people's dogs and cooing over how awesome the animal is.

More than once, I've completely missed the fact that person holding the dog was an attractive woman who got not even a single glance from me. I think that on occasion it takes them aback because they are probably used to having their dog be a way that guys approach them, whereas I barely notice they are even there.

I never mean to be rude by it, but come on... puppies! I once remarked that Angelina Jolie could be walking down the street in a bikini, but if she had a really cool boxer or bulldog or something, I probably wouldn't even realize it till I was a block or so away and my mind finally managed to flag me down with some important flag waving at the bigger picture that I was missing.

It's a good thing I'm married, because things like this demonstrate that I am kind of an idiot at times.

posted by quin at 10:16 AM on October 8, 2009 [6 favorites]




I once knew an Italian girl, not bad looking, who told me regarding the cat-calling "I was sick of it, but you know one time I replied to a guy who propositioned me: 'Okay. I live around the corner. Let's go.'" This guy went from macho to "ummm... uh..." and she walked off.

There's nothing more worthless than disingenuousness.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 10:17 AM on October 8, 2009 [6 favorites]


I feel a lot of sadness reading the linked article, the article about the xkcd comic, and a lot of the comments - particularly the loneliness expressed, in different ways, in the many of the comments.

For a self-aware species like us, I think we've been dealt an unlucky genetic hand in regards to our mating rituals. Humans have been able to negotiate sex on their own individual terms for only two generations, and only in certain countries, and only for certain individuals as sexual violence is still common. Our cultures haven't remotely had the time needed to create norms of behavior that work as well as possible for the largest number possible. Given how irrational and asymmetric the mating ritual is, it's no wonder that we're a big bag of dysfunction.

The narrative of male privilege could use more nuance. If women are feeling uncomfortable due to harassment and violence by men to the point where their narrative with the opposite sex is "rapist or not?", that means less sex, fewer relationships, more loneliness, and less happiness for everyone - as said harassment and violence is being conducted by a minority of men.

My previous point is a lesson that needs to be taught by men to other men - along with men shaming other men for bad behavior - as very few men will be willing to take that lesson from the feminist perspective. That's probably the next step for men on the path to something healthier than what we have today.
posted by MillMan at 10:22 AM on October 8, 2009 [27 favorites]


To be less glib about it, muddgirl no, I don't think I missed the point. The linked article about the xkcd cartoon explicitly states that by presenting a scenario that suggests no more or less than a situation in which an unsolicited compliment would be well received, the cartoon's author is perpetuating rape culture. I think that's absurd. I think it's an absurd, overreaching assertion which straightforwardly dilutes the effectiveness of the completely fair and rational argument that women have every reason to behave guardedly in this culture and that thinking of oneself as a "nice guy" is no license to be tone deaf to a stranger's discomfort or reticence or to push for a connection where a connection is clearly not desired. I think the article about which this post is the subject makes this point fairly well. I think the Shapely Prose article on the xkcd cartoon does a rotten job of making this point because it carries its assertions to ridiculous extremes. Ironically I think the Sociological Images post about the xkcd cartoon which the Shapely Prose article is inspired by does a better job of making the point, which is using the fact that this cartoon could rationally resonate in a negative way with women to reinforce the message that women are frequently subjected to unwanted, negative, power-seeking interactions with men who think they couldn't possibly be making women uncomfortable because they are such nice, friendly geeks.

Ah, but it's pointless, and I feel like an idiot for even attempting this obtuse point, because this is one of those topics the bottom line of which (rape) is so grave and horrible that the suggestion that there could be any degree of nuance at any point along the rhetorical path can be seen as evidence of nothing except that I just don't "get" privilege, or the terrible places to which it can (and, enragingly, frequently does) lead. Of course I don't get privilege, how could I, I'm a man.
posted by nanojath at 10:22 AM on October 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


Generally, though, I avoid commenting on women's clothes at work. No good can come of that: mostly because the dress people choose to wear at work is worn because they don't want to get attention for what they're wearing.

I'd venture to say that depends on the office working environment and one's co-workers. Women and men compliment each other in my office about what each other is wearing on a somewhat infrequent basis and that's never, ever mistaken for either an attempt to demean or a sexual overture. If I tell a coworker she looks nice today, or she does to me, that isn't sexual harassment. It's not a power issue, and each party understands that no one means it inappropriately, because we have established an office environment that is nonthreatening. However, many of us have known each other for years, and our professional / personal boundaries are quite clear. What is appropriate for one office may not be appropriate for another. And, if someone expressed discomfort, I'm sure it would stop immediately and an apology would be made.

And yes, some men and women most certainly will dress for attention. Personally, I don't give a damn what people wear, unless it clearly affects their work or someone elses. But I supervise staff, and so have had to have "the talk" with several employees who were dressed in manner that made their fellow co-workers uncomfortable.
posted by zarq at 10:24 AM on October 8, 2009


she should be working to maintain healthy relationships, look for warning signs, don't get completely wasted around strangers, etc.

Yeah, hey, it's her fault if she gets raped anyway! What was she thinking, going out to a bar like that! How dare she drink alcohol! And where the fuck is her burka?! That paranoid whore was asking for it!

I'm just a bit tired of the notion that one in six men is willing to kidnap a woman off the street, hold her down, and rape her. Rape occurs much more frequently in much more complicated circumstances, where the moral barrier to action is much lower

Damn it, I'm tired of it, too, aaronbeekay! (By the way, the estimate is 1 in 60 men committing rape, 1 in 6 women being the rape survivors.) But what's this about "complicated circumstances?" If she said "no" and you do it anyway, that's rape. If she was incapable of saying "no" (due to being underage, unconscious, or under the influence of drugs you slipped into her drink) that's rape, too. How is that complicated?
posted by philotes at 10:25 AM on October 8, 2009 [10 favorites]


It doesn't matter if it's reasonable or not. Feelings aren't reasonable. One of the points of the article is that, unfortunately, women have to assume the worst because of past experience. It has been that way for me and for most women in our society. It ruins it for the good guys out there that we WANT to meet.
posted by brneyedgrl at 10:25 AM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


oinopaponton: Anyway, ladies, don't pretend to be deaf; it doesn't work.

Bizarrely, now I really want to know if your name is Heather and if you graduated in 2006.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:29 AM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


winna : If, when I am walking my somewhat unusual dog, someone walking by on the sidewalk says 'Is that a greyhound?' and I nod and walk on

Almost totally off topic, but kind of amusing; Dogs are one of those areas that make me a complete social misfit. Because of the number of pets I have, I'm always in pet stores for food, litter, salt, etc, and I'm constantly approaching people's dogs and cooing over how awesome the animal is.

More than once, I've completely missed the fact that person holding the dog was an attractive woman who got not even a single glance from me. I think that on occasion it takes them aback because they are probably used to having their dog be a way that guys approach them, whereas I barely notice they are even there.


Oh, no, the puppy people are totally not hitting on anyone in most cases as far as I can see. They are just all HAY PUPPIES! It's when they don't pay attention to me frantically looking at my watch to pepper me with questions that I become irritated. I love it when people love my dog. She is the best part of my life, what with her dainty princess airs and her astonishing ability to eat anything at all in less than two picoseconds.

The funny thing was that I got a dog partly so I could go walking and running outside and have a reason to be outside without talking to people, you know? And it wasn't supposed to make people talk to me. But having a greyhound is like having a prepaid pass to everyone talking to you all the time land, so my clever scheme backfired.

posted by winna at 10:29 AM on October 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


If you see a guy try to pick a girl up and she looks uncomfortable and blows him off, and he turns to you all butthurt and says "women, huh?" Tell him that well, obviously she didn't want to talk to anyone and he just ignored her, so he was being a dick. If you think about it, those guys are the ones who are ruining it for you, after all. Tell them that. They're the ones ruining it for you.

Are you fucking kidding? Those guys are making me look like a goddamn prince. Should I take them out for drinks and give them advice too?

If the behaviour of other men is made to reflect upon me, then it's a problem with the person making ridiculous, unfair generalizations.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 10:30 AM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Bulgaroktonos: I'm not talking about whether you felt threatened, I'm talking about whether it is reasonable for you to feel threatened.

Hey, Bulgaroktonos. You're being a dick.
posted by msalt at 10:30 AM on October 8, 2009 [42 favorites]


Are you fucking kidding? Those guys are making me look like a goddamn prince.

Not if you stand there watching them keep up their crap, you're not.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:32 AM on October 8, 2009 [38 favorites]


Bizarrely, now I really want to know if your name is Heather and if you graduated in 2006.

Nope and nope. Actually, I've found good old-fashioned lying to be the best way to deal with creepy guys who won't let up. It lets them feel like they've retained their power by getting some acknowledgment out of me, and I still get to feel (more or less) unviolated and like I have the real control.
posted by oinopaponton at 10:34 AM on October 8, 2009


men truly have no idea what it's like to be a woman in this society.

I disagree strongly. Any man who's had a close relationship with an abused/assaulted woman; any man who has a wife, mother, sister, cousin, or daughter he cares about deeply; any man with any close relationship with a woman should have a very good idea of what it's like to be a woman, if he pays attention.

(You might as easily say no straight man knows what it's like to be gay; or no white man truly knows what it's like to be black; but I think those are all disingenuous generalities. We might not "know" in a 24/7 kinda way, but we can imagine. Our minds can grok it, especially if we are ever immersed in those "foreign" (female/gay/black/asian/etc) cultures.

from the article: But do you think about it all the time?

Actually, yes I do. Everytime I walk down the street and see a woman alone approaching me--almost every single time--I'll wonder what she thinks. If it's dark and I can tell from the way they are walking (or if I am walking around in a hooded sweatshirt or something), I will intentionally and obviously cross the street away from the woman.

I am one of the Nice Guys (tm) who feels a little like a rapist just for getting caught checking out a woman's ass on the checkout line. I've never stalked or harassed a woman, and not only do I take "no" for an answer, but I've often jumped the gun on presuming "no." Guys like me go out of our way to avoid being creepy, to the extent that we rarely approach strange women in the first place.

This (sorta) describes me and most of the men here, to some degree. I think it's a Golden Rule sort of situation: imagine you are that woman and act as you would want yourself to act if you were her (her, not your own ego in her body). If the woman looks, acts, talks like she likes being ogled/approached, go for it. If she's obviously not, don't.

Anyway, the article was freshman college level (no offense), but point 4 is the most incisive and perhaps instructive. I can't understand men who don't understand how desperate/dangerous that behavior appears to women. Maybe they don't care.

I talk to people all the time.

Me too, but I gotta agree with quin. It's become much easier to talk to strange woman since I started wearing a wedding ring. I'm sure there is a vast explanation there.

I'm pretty sure we should assume nothing and leave people alone and let them get where they are going.

That makes me sad. I'm no extrovert, but I actually like it when people come up and talk to me. People are crazy. And in the city there are so many interesting people to meet who are so different from me.

mostly because the dress people choose to wear at work is worn because they don't want to get attention for what they're wearing.

Depends on where and with whom you work. For me, yes. For some of the men and women in my office, definitely not.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:35 AM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


but again you are thinking like a man

Yeah.
posted by spaltavian at 10:36 AM on October 8, 2009


Are you fucking kidding? Those guys are making me look like a goddamn prince.

Not if you stand there watching them keep up their crap, you're not.


You will look way better to more women if actually SHOW them you are not a dick. with words. and actions.
posted by brneyedgrl at 10:37 AM on October 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


Actually, "if the woman is looking surly, heed this advice and Stay Away" is exactly what she's advocating.

Yeah, although the "surly-looking" isn't required, according to the article. If she's reading or otherwise not making eye contact, she's not to be approached, regardless of her binary "surly" state.
posted by neewom at 10:38 AM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


esprit de l'escalier: Are you fucking kidding? Those guys are making me look like a goddamn prince.

I'm pretty sure that if you said 'Hey, guys, quit being dicks' that not only makes the world a better place but makes you look 500% more princely than if you just walk by and pretend everything is status-quo.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:39 AM on October 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


Sorry -- internet went down.

winna -- sorry to hear you know what I'm talking about, but well said and I agree. I certainly never meant to equate any loss in pleasant conversation (though it is an almost shocking difference when you go somewhere more open) with a lack of physical safety.

I wish you well in your future people encounters.

And seriously, a greyhound?? awwww
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:40 AM on October 8, 2009


I complimented a girl's hat on the bus a few months ago and the girl wearing it nearly engaged in Firestarter-style pyrotechnics.

This is a situation where, once again, xkcd comes through. Under normal circumstances, we would think to ourselves, "this person is crazy." In the context of this discussion, the implication is, "women have gone crazy because she thinks that all men are out to rape her" and that's a mistake.

You ran into a crazy person on the bus. Happens all the time. Move on. You can't know what's going on inside someone's head.
mostly because the dress people choose to wear at work is worn because they don't want to get attention for what they're wearing.

Depends on where and with whom you work. For me, yes. For some of the men and women in my office, definitely not.
Maybe so, but the thing is that I don't know the which is which: who is just trying to dress professionally in order that her work be the center of attention, and who is proud of her new pinstriped slacks she wants to show off today? I find it best simply to assume the former.
posted by deanc at 10:40 AM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Men, in general, don't seem to understand what it is like to be potentially under attack at all times.

Imagine being in full Yankee's colors at a Mets home game, face paint and all. Now imagine this is the case anywhere you go, all day long. Difference is the Mets fans now don't wear colors, but they can still see yours. You have to try and figure out who the violent fans are based on cues and hunches, and even if you asked them directly they would lie because they want to get you alone and bet you up etc. So, when someone asks you to take a walk in the park, do they want to take a walk, or beat you up? You have to really get trust to an art form to make those kinds of decisions, and people still get fooled all the time, and that is why rape statistics are so bad.

I just made this up, but hope it helps someone.
posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist at 10:41 AM on October 8, 2009 [17 favorites]


oinopaponton: Actually, I've found good old-fashioned lying to be the best way to deal with creepy guys who won't let up. It lets them feel like they've retained their power by getting some acknowledgment out of me, and I still get to feel (more or less) unviolated and like I have the real control.

I'm a heterosexual middleclass white Protestant American male, so I realize that I'm on exactly the wrong side of every single goddam social inequality in the world, but in my own experience the best way to get through awkward or threatening or unwanted-social-imposition situations has always been to completely ignore the aggressor. I am in no way suggesting that this is the best way to behave for someone who is not a heterosexual middleclass white Protestant American male.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:45 AM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


You know, this is pretty illustrative of the article in question -- I am clearly stating something, and xmutex is choosing to disregard my clearly-communicated statement because xmutex believes something else. xmutex is ignoring what I'm saying, assuming I must be wrong, even though I'm fucking saying quite clearly, that yes, I did see what I saw.

Again I'm just gonna reiterate what I believe to be a salient and correct counterpoint and say nope, you haven't.
posted by xmutex at 10:45 AM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


the thing is that I don't know the which is which: who is just trying to dress professionally in order that her work be the center of attention, and who is proud of her new pinstriped slacks she wants to show off today? I find it best simply to assume the former.

Rewrite this statement of yours thusly:

"the thing is that I don't know the which is which: who is trying to lure me into a situation where he can overpower me, and who is trying to strike up a genuine conversation? I find it safer simply to assume the latter."

...and you have the article.

Are the majority of guys safe? Yes. But -- the dangers of gambling and losing are severe and scary.

It's a different situation, but: it's kind of like the guys who mugged me when I was in college; one had a hand in his pocket showed me that he was "pointing a gun" at me through it. I briefly considered that "oh, bullshit, that's just his cocked finger," but then I realized, "then again, on the off chance I'm WRONG about that, I could end up dead. I'm not going to make that gamble." Sometimes, for the sake of your own safety, you DO have to assume the worst, even if the odds are in your favor -- because if you gamble wrong, the stakes are far too high.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:48 AM on October 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


Again I'm just gonna reiterate what I believe to be a salient and correct counterpoint and say nope, you haven't.

Okay, this is getting interesting. What is your evidence for this claim? I have stated that I have seen something with my own eyes. What is your evidence that I didn't see it?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:50 AM on October 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


Men seem so adept at reading the body language of other men, and yet some pretend like it is a mystery to them... -muddgirl

Ouch. If that's the way this conversation is going to be had, then I agree with your prediction at the top of the thread (not a great idea, btw).

Men are better at reading men's signals. Women are better at reading women's.

If women were great at reading signals from men, there wouldn't be rampant paranoia, would there? You'd correctly suss out intentions and sort accordingly... -Durn Bronzefist


It is true that each sex is better at reading their own signals than the signals of the other sex. There is some research to support the idea that women are actually even better at reading signals overall compared to men.

Let us imagine that our threat-detection process is subject to error (we are human, after all) but not biased (the probability that our threat-detector will indicate that a person is a threat is the same as the probability that a randomly selected person from the population actually is a threat). The problem with this is that we will miss roughly as many true threats as we will generate false alarms. Missing a true threat can be catastrophic. Generating a false alarm may induce a feeling of rejection in a genuinely non-threatening person.

We could do better (experience better consequences on average) than unbiased detection, though. By biasing the threat-detection process towards oversensitivity, we hurt more non-threatening guys, but we don't miss as many true threats. That's an overall win. So how much should we bias our threat-detectors? Well, how bad is a missed threat compared to a false alarm? Missed threats are pretty bad- it pays to bias a lot. Hence the paranoia.
posted by Jpfed at 10:50 AM on October 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


This is a thorny topic, and while I do agree some with aaronbeekay re: XKCD's themes, the piece linked to is a good one.

These dynamics play out that way and are really quite unfortunate. The other night, I was returning home via subway at 2am after getting in from a trip. Despite few passengers and lots of room on the benches in the car, this largeish man came and plopped down right in between myself and another woman, bumping me in the process. He sort of squished me a bit against the rail and then shortly after, proceeded to start falling asleep on me.

Now, granted, this is common enough in the NYC subway, but as soon as he chose that seating location, my suspicion went up. There was plenty of room elsewhere to fit his frame that wouldn't have involved plopping down on me. I changed seats soon after the falling asleep started taking place, but the whole thing still raised my guard. I also kind of feel bad at only muttering a low thanks to the other guy who held the door for me later, and for being on guard then too, with him behind me. I was walking home as fast as possible from my deserted little station at nearly 3am. Nothing is open and it's insanely dark, so I kind of hold my breath for the 7-minute walk. I used to take to buying Snapple before coming home late, and walk home with the full glass bottle held at the ready. I've also done the key thing.

I've been followed in broad daylight, in the supermarket, from the gym, on the bus, and elsewhere by guys who were either too shy or too relentless. Note to guys who want a date - don't follow a woman around. It's major major major creepy. I've been in an attempted mugging late at night, and other things that have to result in boundaries and a degree of suspicion.

It does suck. Like EmpressCallipygos said though, point out that stuff, don't be afraid. In some social situations, it is different, though it's also sucky when the guy you do have interest in getting to know turns out to have only been chatting you up for a potential date. I'm happily involved, but would like new friends. I'm also a friendly, warm, and smiley type, and that is just my nature, but I guess some people read that incorrectly.
posted by cmgonzalez at 10:51 AM on October 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


gagglezoomer: They're funny

No, they're not.

because they show irreverence towards the taboo topic of date rape.

Which is not funny.

And because they're offensive.

Which is not funny.

I'm willing to bet that a substantial percentage of the college-age dudes who sport these tees would never actually commit the alluded-to felonies.

You would lose that bet.
posted by tzikeh at 10:53 AM on October 8, 2009 [11 favorites]


Okay, this is getting interesting. What is your evidence for this claim? I have stated that I have seen something with my own eyes. What is your evidence that I didn't see it?

You know I can't really get into specifics but let's just say I have people and information and I have things that I know and this one of those things.
posted by xmutex at 10:53 AM on October 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


Dortmunder: You know in the past few weeks, I have both struck up a conversation with a young woman, and had another one strike up a conversation with me. Neither experience was particularly fraught with peril on either side,

Unless you are psychic, you cannot possibly know if the woman you struck up a conversation with felt frightened, even while engaging in conversation with you.

and no one got raped or otherwise traumatized.

Which, of course, makes it all okay.

I think most people men see it that way.

Which is the problem.
posted by tzikeh at 10:55 AM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


You know I can't really get into specifics but let's just say I have people and information and I have things that I know and this one of those things.

*eyeroll* Okay then. Run along and let us grownups talk, then, mkay?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:56 AM on October 8, 2009 [44 favorites]


It's part of a larger thing, which is that many people are just not very good at reading body language. It's not just guys approaching gals. I can be somewhere with what I think is a pretty good "NO, THANK YOU" stance turned up as far as it can go, and just when I think it's gotten to the point that a leaf might just land on the forcefield of non-interaction and slide off, someone will plow right through my lack of interest in dealing with people right now and begin jabbering at me. This can go on for several minutes, even while blocks of crystallized carbon dioxide wouldn't sublimate on my clavicles.

It's odd, because some groups of people know where each other are at right away, but then someone will stagger in and you have to wonder if it is some protocol mismatch between you and them, or if these people just stumble around this way their entire lives.
posted by adipocere at 10:57 AM on October 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


If you see a guy cat calling a woman, tell him he's being a dick. If one of your friends gets one of those "rape joke" t-shirts, tell him he's being a dick. If you see a guy try to pick a girl up and she looks uncomfortable and blows him off, and he turns to you all butthurt and says "women, huh?" Tell him that well, obviously she didn't want to talk to anyone and he just ignored her, so he was being a dick

This. This a million times. This shouted from the fucking mountaintop.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:58 AM on October 8, 2009 [25 favorites]


Listen, I'm sorry if I came across as a dick, but my problem is that being told that I can not ever understand how women are thinking, and that I have to deal with being treated like a rapist every time I speak to a woman. That is, quite frankly, a bullshit way to conduct a discussion. Interactions between men and women are a two way street, and when a woman claims that she feels threatened, it's not wrong to ask why, and try to explain why she shouldn't feel threatened.

Moving along, tzikeh, let me make sure I understand what you just wrote, does it basically boil down to:
Don't talk to people because you might scare them? Because that's definitely how it reads, and that's a pretty dismal attitude to have about the world.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:59 AM on October 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


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.


I'm unsure why you would feel this way because men face higher rates of physical assault and higher rates for physical and sexual assault combined.(3.4% vs 1.9% and 3.5% vs 2.1% in the last 12 months) We don't think about it too much till the possibility arises but most men are very familiar with the possibility of violent assault

Another thing about those studies for people over the age of 18, 76% of all rape is committed by an intimate partner. 14% of all rape is committed by intimate partners . So 2.0% of women have been raped by strangers and their is an incidence rate of about 1.2 per thousand. Doing a little bit of extrapolation using the same graphs in the actual study about 1.25 percent of men and 2.0 percent of women have been raped by a stranger. There is no order of magnitude difference when it comes to rape by strangers. Is it less safe for women to deal with strangers when it comes to sexual assault? Yes, but that is not where you find the majority of rapists. You find the majority of rapists in the men that women have chosen to sleep with.
posted by Rubbstone at 10:59 AM on October 8, 2009 [8 favorites]


I don't even know if its useful to comment at this point, but my only reaction to the OP was "Right On!" It perfectly reflects my experience and mindset as a 30 year old female. I always doubted the 1 in 4 statistic, because in my experience it was more like 3 in 4 women who get raped. Three of my best friends in college were raped while in college. I was the 4th who wasn't.

So, yeah, I have always been a bit paranoid. Because the women I've known who were trusting and not paranoid got raped. I promise, it may be "no way to live," but I'm pretty happy I made it to my thirties without being a victim of sexual assault.

Not implying that women who have been victims failed in some respect. There's a lot of luck involved.
posted by threeturtles at 11:01 AM on October 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


Bulgaroktonos: I think it's unreasonable to take guys whistling at you as anything particularly threatening.

I think it's unreasonable, based on all of the comments of yours that I've read in this thread, for you to even pretend to know what is or isn't threatening to a woman.

And again Bulgaroktonos: But, I'm not talking about whether you felt threatened, I'm talking about whether it is reasonable for you to feel threatened.

And you're the definitive source on whether, when a woman feels threatened, it is reasonable for her to feel that way.

Obviously, you're perfectly entitled to feel threatened whenever you want,

Thanks for the permission.

but since the article is claiming that feeling threatened is justifiable and reasonable, we need more than merely the fact that you found the situation threatening.

No, we really, really don't.

1) Some guys whistled at you when you didn't want to be whistled at and 2) Some guy thought you smiled at him and was miffed when you didn't respond to his advances. That sounds like run of the mill bad human social interactions, not the actions of a would-be rapist.

Oh, my God, I don't even know where to begin.

Moreover, as a man these sound like PRECISELY the sort of interactions I encounter on a day to day basis. There's not a sexual angle but the dynamics are otherwise identical.

The dynamics are as far from identical as you can possibly imagine. No, wait--you obviously can't imagine it.

Here's another link to the discussion I mentioned upthread. I suggest you read all 26 pages of comments before you say another word here.
posted by tzikeh at 11:01 AM on October 8, 2009 [19 favorites]


my problem is that being told that I can not ever understand how women are thinking

Yes, people have said this...

and that I have to deal with being treated like a rapist every time I speak to a woman.

No, this is NOT what people are saying. They are saying, "deal with the fact that a woman is STILL TRYING TO DECIDE WHETHER OR NOT YOU ARE A RAPIST when you first talk to them." Then, the article goes on to tell you the things you can do in order to convince that woman that "see, I'm not a rapist".

Interactions between men and women are a two way street, and when a woman claims that she feels threatened, it's not wrong to ask why, and try to explain why she shouldn't feel threatened.

Similarly -- in the interest of this being a two-way street -- it's not wrong for a woman to EXPLAIN why she feels threatened, and for you to take that under advisement rather than continuing to insist "but I'M not like that!" That's precisely the original article's point - you very well may not be like that, but WE DON'T KNOW THAT when you first meet us, so the onus is on you to PROVE that you're not like that, and HEY, here's how!

Moving along, tzikeh, let me make sure I understand what you just wrote, does it basically boil down to:
Don't talk to people because you might scare them?


No. It is -- if someone doesn't want to talk to anybody, there is probably a very good reason for that, so RESPECT THEIR PRIVACY if that's what they want. Because ignoring their attempts to keep to themselves is PRECISELY how you WILL scare them.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:07 AM on October 8, 2009 [8 favorites]


Just to be picky, wouldn't that mean that the number of dangerous men on the street is much lower? Yes, men in general will self-report rape (even less than usual) when the definition of "rape" is expanded from violent crime to what you described. Yes, those behaviors may be disturbingly prevalent, and yes, awareness must be built. I agree. But the author of the article is (fallaciously) construing that all of the "rapists" in that statistic are men on the street that she needs to be afraid of. It seems like she's misdirecting her fear: she should be working to maintain healthy relationships, look for warning signs, don't get completely wasted around strangers, etc.

You completely missed the point of the article. She wasn't saying "I'm afraid all men are going to grab me off the street and rape me." She was saying "Most of the time I don't particularly feel like getting to know strangers on the street because I'm trying to get shit done, and that if you're ignoring the signals I'm sending saying I want to be left alone, than there's no way I'm going to want to get to know you, because you ignoring my personal boundaries now indicates you'll happily ignore them later when I'm saying no to your sexual advances." It's not actually that hard to figure out if you actually read the article and don't immediately jump to post-feminist male-resentment conclusions about what she's saying.
posted by Caduceus at 11:08 AM on October 8, 2009 [36 favorites]


They're funny because they show irreverence towards the taboo topic of date rape.

It's taboo for a reason. Victims of rape are referred to as "survivors" for a reason. Sexual assault is a vicious, awful, disgusting, scarring crime.

And because they're offensive. I'm willing to bet that a substantial percentage of the college-age dudes who sport these tees would never actually commit the alluded-to felonies. Thus, there is a level of ironic humor as well.

Sure, they're just happy-go-lucky folks who think it's high comedy to joke about violating women.

Bullshit. Fuck that noise. Irony doesn't make rape funny. Most taboos are based on fear. When that fear is based on a serious societal problem and is therefore wholly justified, then being ironic about it is not funny.

Its just that I think that's where the humor is coming from and so I'm trying to make an earnest explanation.

The people who think rape jokes are humor are the problem.
posted by zarq at 11:10 AM on October 8, 2009 [11 favorites]


Bulgaroktonos: tzikeh, let me make sure I understand what you just wrote, does it basically boil down to: Don't talk to people because you might scare them? Because that's definitely how it reads, and that's a pretty dismal attitude to have about the world.

That's not at all what I've said. There is nothing in what I've written here that says "don't talk to people." I am saying that you should be aware, or try to be aware, or learn to be aware of the world that women live in, how it is entirely different from yours, how you will never truly understand it, and that you should read, and listen to, and study as much as you can about the topic, so that when you do talk to women, you will have an idea of the myriad of thoughts, appraisals, and emotions that are likely going through her mind the moment you begin to strike up a conversation. Right now, you don't, and it appears that you're being purposefully obtuse about it in order that your thoughts on the matter "win" the discussion, rather than understanding that the bird is a more reliable source of information about birds than the bird book. In other words, listen to the women here without responding with how you think they're wrong.

And I'm deadly serious about reading that discussion I've linked to. All of it. A lot of men who have read it have learned a lot about what they didn't know that they didn't know.
posted by tzikeh at 11:10 AM on October 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


Actually, I've found good old-fashioned lying to be the best way to deal with creepy guys who won't let up. It lets them feel like they've retained their power by getting some acknowledgment out of me, and I still get to feel (more or less) unviolated and like I have the real control.

I do this too in those cases where ignoring them won't do the trick and I'm stuck, like on a bus. I try to just ignore these types as often as possible if I can keep moving. For those saying ignoring them is best, I've been followed by guys I've ignored before though. Sometimes it doesn't work.

A couple of weeks ago, one tried to talk to me, but I ignored him. A few minutes later, I noticed he had followed me to the 7-11 and basically tooled around in there (we were the only customers) pretending to not know much English and asking crazy questions while ordering hot dogs and buying time. So there I was, feeling like prey. If I left before him, he'd probably follow me home. So I waited. Eventually, he left and I waited a few minutes and paid. He was a block or two off when I left and I looked over my shoulder the whole walk home.
posted by cmgonzalez at 11:12 AM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Or, what tzikeh said.
posted by zarq at 11:13 AM on October 8, 2009


What Rubbstone said. I have no gripe with the author's main points, but she could have made them without describing men as unconcerned about their own chances of being victimized by violent crime. She's simply incorrect that men don't worry about crime on a day-to-day basis. I'm sure some men don't worry about it, but that doesn't mean they have the advantages -- that just means they're not vigilant about real threats. None of this takes away from her description of the threats women face. I wish she had just focused on those, and not tried to airbrush the situation for the other half of the population.
posted by Jaltcoh at 11:13 AM on October 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


and no one got raped or otherwise traumatized.

tzikeh: Which, of course, makes it all okay.


...

... ...

Yeah, there's really nowhere to go with you, is there?

listen to the women

How about we listen to each other? No? No good? Alright then. Laters.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:15 AM on October 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


None of this takes away from her description of the threats women face. I wish she had just focused on those, and not tried to airbrush the situation for the other half of the population.

Arguably, though, the men who have a level of self-awareness and the habit of being observant of others' body language are probably not the same men who have difficulty in this area.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:16 AM on October 8, 2009


Bulgaroktonos: tzikeh, let me make sure I understand what you just wrote, does it basically boil down to: Don't talk to people because you might scare them? Because that's definitely how it reads, and that's a pretty dismal attitude to have about the world.

That's not at all what I've said. There is nothing in what I've written here that says "don't talk to people."


I'm getting the impression that Bulgaroktonos has trouble with reading comprehension or he's being deliberatly obtuse.
posted by brneyedgrl at 11:18 AM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm quite conscious of how I behave with women in public, and go out of my way to respect obvious boundaries. I remember one moment many years ago getting lost in a northeast college town, changing direction on a deserted street after realizing I was going the wrong way, and having the young woman walking behind me think I was coming up to her and seeing her reaction. That was a sad moment, as I always try to give women walking alone a wide berth, just to make sure she understands I'm not a threat.

And then there is the reality of being a man in public, which isn't talked about too much. Men understand that they could be subjected to violence from other men at any time. Many things could trigger a violent confrontation, especially when one is outnumbered or alcohol is involved. I'm a big guy and can probably defend myself, but there are lots of situations where my size wouldn't matter. I get scared, too.
posted by tranquileye at 11:18 AM on October 8, 2009 [7 favorites]


You know, this is pretty illustrative of the article in question -- I am clearly stating something, and xmutex is choosing to disregard my clearly-communicated statement because xmutex believes something else. xmutex is ignoring what I'm saying, assuming I must be wrong, even though I'm fucking saying quite clearly, that yes, I did see what I saw.

Again I'm just gonna reiterate what I believe to be a salient and correct counterpoint and say nope, you haven't.

Are you fucking kidding me? That bullshit right there is exactly why we're having this whole conversation. You're being a dick.
posted by Caduceus at 11:18 AM on October 8, 2009 [40 favorites]


Bulgaroktonos: With respect to the "street harassment" issue, I think not enough is being done to draw distinctions between different types of behavior. Cat-calling is one thing, I think it's tasteless and as a man I would never do it, but I think it's unreasonable to take guys whistling at you as anything particularly threatening. Similarly, a guy who checks a woman out, even in a protracted and classless way, is not threatening you. Now, a guy who follows you and stares at you or whistling is being threatening. Calling cat calls and staring harassment confuses the real problems.

I totally hear where you're coming from. Like you, I think cat calls are tasteless and don't ever do it. Even so, I've known plenty of dudes who cat call all the time. I'm sure you do too--I'm sure every guy does. As such, we're aware that most guys who cat call are realistic enough to realize that whistling at a woman more than likely will not lead them to getting laid. For the most part, they see it as harmless fun. Why should harmless fun seem threatening?

That being said, take a another look over the stories that women are telling in this thread. winna having a screaming dude call her an uppity bitch just because she's not interested. oinopaponton being interrogated on her way to take the GRE (as if getting ready to take the GRE wasn't stressful enough already).

I don't know about you, but if I or someone close to me has a particularly bad experience with a member of a group, it tends to color my perception of the group. As a Latino, I have a lot of family members who have had unjustifiably bad experiences with the cops. Every Latino I know has a family member with a terrifying run-in with the cops story, at the very least. As a result, I don't trust the cops. And yes, I know that most cops are decent people with tough jobs who are earnestly trying their best to contribute to the saftey of the community, but when you know as many people as I do who have had cops pull guns on them for Driving While Brown, well, you tend to be leery of the cops. I know we're supposed to be in some magical post-racial society now, but trust me dude, that shit is still disturbingly common.

On the subject at hand, I think its the "disturbingly common" aspect is the part that we men have a hard time grasping. And sexual assault truly is disturbingly common. For chirssakes, we were just over 100 comments in before we got a story about someone being violently raped (thank you so much for sharing, heyho). And while only a small fraction of the population ever has to go through such a terrible experience, I'll bet that most woman reading this has a story about a time a guy gave them a real scare. Shit, just a few weeks ago a friend of mine had to literally run away from a crazy guy on the street. Fortunately for her, she spent the summer training for a marathon.

Thanks to all who have already shared their stories. Ladies, I encourage you to continue sharing. A lot of us guys have no idea how common this shit really is.
posted by joedan at 11:23 AM on October 8, 2009 [39 favorites]


Caduceus, see, without hardly trying you just went up in points on my man-o-meter.
posted by brneyedgrl at 11:23 AM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


so the onus is on you to PROVE that you're not like that, and HEY, here's how!

And the fact that you feel I'm under an obligation to prove I'm not a rapist simply because I'm a man is a problem, a major problem. Men assault men all the time, in fact, they assault men more often they assault women, but I don't assume that all men are going to assault men. The potential harm for being wrong is also quite high, but I recognize that treating every man around me as a, first and foremost, a potential attacker is not appropriate. I don't think it's unreasonable to expect women to treat me the same way.

Here's what you said, tzikeh:
1)The fact that someone talked to you and didn't seem afraid does not mean they weren't afraid of you.

2)The fact that you TALKED to another person, and did nothing else does not make it "okay" to talk to them.

3)The fact that you think it's okay to TALK to another person is part of the problem.

If this is what you think, the only logical way to order your life is to never talk to anyone else ever. After all, they might feel threatened, and you might not know. The fact that they returned your conversation is obviously not enough, and because people lie when they feel threatened asking them would be a terrible source of information. The only winning move is not to play.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:24 AM on October 8, 2009 [8 favorites]


"That is, quite frankly, a bullshit way to conduct a discussion. Interactions between men and women are a two way street, and when a woman claims that she feels threatened, it's not wrong to ask why, and try to explain why she shouldn't feel threatened."

Dude, c'mon. First off, it's not women's fault that they feel threatened. Second, "OK, lil' darlin', just lemme explain why exactly your purdy little head doesn't need to be filled with all them nasty thoughts about me" is, like, the most condescending bullshit thing you can do. Can you not see how presumptuous and privileged you're coming across as?
posted by klangklangston at 11:25 AM on October 8, 2009 [16 favorites]


xmutex: You know I can't really get into specifics but let's just say I have people and information and I have things that I know and this one of those things.

Stop trolling this thread, please. You've been here long enough to know better. Oh, and if you call someone here a liar in the future, have the balls to back it up.
posted by zarq at 11:26 AM on October 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


The article has the familiar stench of paranoid misandry, ever so popular with certain female bloggers.

Next.
posted by borgesian at 11:27 AM on October 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


joedan, I completely agree, which is why I'm finding it funny that everyone accusing me of being "willfully obtuse" ignored the fact that my first post was precisely about drawing a line between cat calling, and yelling in a dangerous and threatening way. Because cat calling only rarely escalates into the second group, it's not appropriate to treat all cat calling as threatening. Any more than it would be to treat every time someone ask you for a dollar as a robbery attempt, even though it sometimes escalates like that.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:28 AM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yeah, if xmutex has actual, real evidence, then zie needs to step up and produce it or stop being such an asshole.
posted by muddgirl at 11:29 AM on October 8, 2009


esprit de l'escalier: "I once knew an Italian girl, not bad looking, who told me regarding the cat-calling "I was sick of it, but you know one time I replied to a guy who propositioned me: 'Okay. I live around the corner. Let's go.'" This guy went from macho to "ummm... uh..." and she walked off.

There's nothing more worthless than disingenuousness.
"

I once responded with a puzzled "Do you think I'm a prostitute?" The man replied "Um... not as such, no." I pointed out I was wearing running shoes, jeans, and a sweatshirt, and that I didn't think that was how prostitutes dressed. By this point the man was really uncomfortable. Neener neener to him.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:34 AM on October 8, 2009 [14 favorites]


It may not be appropriate for you to treat all cat calls as being threatening but some women do....and your opinion that it isn't a threat doesn't make it any less of one to some women. What the hell is wrong with you.
posted by brneyedgrl at 11:34 AM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


> I read the article and am saddened that this woman feels this way on a daily basis, but I also don't think she speaks for all women.

You are not a woman, so you don't speak for any women. But congratulations for presenting a sterling specimen of Male Answer Syndrome. "Hi, I'm not a woman but I know what women should think!"

Great post, great link, and despite the occasional glitches in the thread there's only one guy who's being a complete unredeemable dick (naming no names) and in general it's going pretty well, so I'm tentatively feeling like MeFi's come a long way in the last couple of years.
posted by languagehat at 11:34 AM on October 8, 2009 [34 favorites]


zarq,

I didn't say YOU or anyone else had to find these things funny. I don't like the fucking Capitol Steps or Carlos Mencia or, indeed, rape humor, but I don't tell people "no its not funny". I was just trying to explain in an objective fashion why that stuff is funny TO SOME PEOPLE. It's a pretty poor argument imo to respond to my explanation with "no it's not". A lot of people find things that offend other people funny. In fact, you are actually part of the reason that these t-shirts are funny to people... because they offend you. So chill out, dude, and next time you see a fat guy wearing a shirt that says "I got this fat from eating so much pussy" just think of lolcats or something.
posted by gagglezoomer at 11:35 AM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


shakespeherian: You are completely reversing the power dynamic. This is not analogous.

Here's the analogy: Group A mistrusts/fears Group B in an isolated one-on-one situation, with some stats to back it up. Member of Group A writes a guide to Group B admonishing them and advising on how not to be so threatening in that setting. The power dynamic is the same for that scenario; the white person's advantages in society are no shield from a potential gun, or knife, or physical violence.

Group B understands where Group A is coming from, but is a little miffed at being tarred with the "potential mugger" brush, and at how the situation is portrayed in an overly simplistic way as arising from their lack of respect of the fears of Group A; it's framed as solely Group B's challenge to modify their behavior. Except that "being threatening" boils down to coming anywhere near Group A at all outside of a well-attended, well-lit public setting.

That's what leaves the bad taste, what takes it out of the realm of "let's all try to be more respectful and understanding of one another"... the inevitable conflating any undesired approach with being a step down the road to a mugging... e.g., Group B might be going to ask for the time, but Group A-- already put on alert by Group B's appearance -- assumes this is going to be a request for money, and after that comes the mugging because these people don't take no for answer, amirite. Therefore, Group B is in the wrong for even thinking about approaching Group A in the first place. Didn't they notice Group A avoiding eye contact and crossing to the other side of the street?
posted by Robin Kestrel at 11:37 AM on October 8, 2009 [6 favorites]


Women are poor, helpless victims struggling mightily but failingly in a world surrounded by men, who are fearless evil scary rapists.

This is what I learned on Metafilter today.

A couple of weeks ago, one tried to talk to me, but I ignored him. A few minutes later, I noticed he had followed me to the 7-11 and basically tooled around in there (we were the only customers) pretending to not know much English and asking crazy questions while ordering hot dogs and buying time. So there I was, feeling like prey. If I left before him, he'd probably follow me home. So I waited. Eventually, he left and I waited a few minutes and paid. He was a block or two off when I left and I looked over my shoulder the whole walk home.

You handled it like a victim, and walked away feeling like a victim.
posted by coolguymichael at 11:39 AM on October 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


> so the onus is on you to PROVE that you're not like that, and HEY, here's how!

And the fact that you feel I'm under an obligation to prove I'm not a rapist simply because I'm a man is a problem, a major problem.


Yes, it is a problem. I agree.

But it is not a problem women started. It is a problem other men started. So blaming women for a problem started by other men is not going to solve things.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:40 AM on October 8, 2009 [26 favorites]


borgesian: "The article has the familiar stench of paranoid misandry, ever so popular with certain female bloggers."

Ooh! I'm a female blogger! Do you mean me?
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:40 AM on October 8, 2009



joedan, I completely agree, which is why I'm finding it funny that everyone accusing me of being "willfully obtuse" ignored the fact that my first post was precisely about drawing a line between cat calling, and yelling in a dangerous and threatening way. Because cat calling only rarely escalates into the second group, it's not appropriate to treat all cat calling as threatening. Any more than it would be to treat every time someone ask you for a dollar as a robbery attempt, even though it sometimes escalates like that.


Would you, like, read what you're writing? If you're not being willfully obtuse, you're just being dumb. Seriously, who the hell are you to tell other people when it is or is not appropriate to feel threatened? How is it that you think you have the right to dictate how others feel? The fact that you're still making this argument is exactly why we're having this discussion in the first place. You're clearly demonstrating that you have no clue what it's like to be a woman or what they go through, which is sad considering just how many examples there have been in this thread alone.

The article has the familiar stench of paranoid misandry, ever so popular with certain female bloggers.

Next.


This poster has the familiar stench of misogynistic jackass, ever so popular with idiots who are incapable of empathy. Seriously, dude, three comments since 2005, and that was your third? What the fuck?
posted by Caduceus at 11:40 AM on October 8, 2009 [15 favorites]


borgesian: The article has the familiar stench of paranoid misandry, ever so popular with certain female bloggers.

Next.


Look, I don't know you, so I don't want to go calling you names or anything, but comments like this one come across not only as condescending and dismissive, but as extremely misogynistic and uncaring. Maybe you didn't mean it that way, but do try harder not to be a calloused asshole.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:41 AM on October 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


wow, that opens up a whole new subject about how women are trained from birth to BE victims. "Don't make waves", "Don't make a scene", "don't strike back, because then he'll beat the crap out of you"!! I'm sure someone more knowledgable than me can enlighten you further.
posted by brneyedgrl at 11:42 AM on October 8, 2009 [8 favorites]


And upon preview, to coolguymichael:

>A couple of weeks ago, one tried to talk to me, but I ignored him. A few minutes later, I noticed he had followed me to the 7-11 and basically tooled around in there (we were the only customers) pretending to not know much English and asking crazy questions while ordering hot dogs and buying time. So there I was, feeling like prey. If I left before him, he'd probably follow me home. So I waited. Eventually, he left and I waited a few minutes and paid. He was a block or two off when I left and I looked over my shoulder the whole walk home.

You handled it like a victim, and walked away feeling like a victim.


The problem there, though, is that she had no way of knowing whether or not, if she told the guy "buzz off," he may have escalated to violence. Then she really would have been a victim, of something much more serious.

Yeahyeah suresure, he probably wouldn't have done it because most guys don't, whatever. But the stakes, as I've said before, are sometimes too high for that kind of gamble, even if the odds are in your favor.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:42 AM on October 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


coolguymichael: You handled it like a victim, and walked away feeling like a victim.

You are blaming a victim. Stop.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:43 AM on October 8, 2009 [59 favorites]


"You handled it like a victim, and walked away feeling like a victim."

Dude, what the fuck is your problem? You've acted like a supreme asshole in both this thread and the OKCupid one, and I know from assholes.
posted by klangklangston at 11:44 AM on October 8, 2009 [7 favorites]


...and having the young woman walking behind me think I was coming up to her and seeing her reaction. That was a sad moment, as I always try to give women walking alone a wide berth, just to make sure she understands I'm not a threat.

We see you do that, and we sort of quietly love you for it. The sadness you feel is shared by us when we see you move over out of a sense of chivalry. It makes us similarly sad that we know we'll never walk up to you and thank you because to acknowledge it aloud is too weird. But we see you.

We hope you talk about it with other men, as has been said a lot in this thread. You and I don't have to have the discussion because I know you already know. And I can't have the discussion with a hipper-than-thou guy who thinks rape jokes can be funny because they're so fucking ironically fucking funny.

So, on top of giving me a wide berth, I also need you to do my talking for me. Men listen to what other men say without all the background noise telling him that women overreact to things all the time. You can't stop at just moving over; we need you to talk, too. And we might not ever thank you personally, but we suspect you aren't the kind of guy who needs to be patted on the back. Thanks in advance, yo.
posted by heyho at 11:46 AM on October 8, 2009 [139 favorites]


Oh no no no. This is completely ignoring the linked article, which essentially says: if you don't get the go ahead through body language, or if the woman in question is busy, talking to her places you #1 on the "Men who are about to rape me" list.

That's not what the article says at all. It says that if you are trying to meet someone by picking them up on the street, then the number one way to guarantee they will not want to get to know you further is by ignoring them when they say no, because they figure that there's no reason to allow someone into their lives who starts out by ignoring their boundaries.
posted by jeather at 11:48 AM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


brneyedgrl, I'm saying that I don't see how a cat call is a threat, because in my analogous experience that type of behavior is not threatening. All you've given me is "Some women feel that it is." That's fine for what it's worth, but it doesn't explain to me WHY. What I've inferred is that some women find cat calls threatening because they think they are prelude to more harmful conduct. That also doesn't jive with me experiences of men, and of cat calling, so I'm left wondering why women find them threatening.

Why is it my business to understand why certain people find certain behaviors threatening? Because some of these people might find MY behaviors threatening(not cat calling, but something), and I have to live in the world that fear creates. I'm not trying to dictate how anyone else feels, I'm just trying to explain why I believe the being afraid me is not reasonable. Now, obviously people will act in ways that don't seem rational to me, but I'm not really able to alter my behavior because of it unless they provide me with an explanation that I can understand.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:50 AM on October 8, 2009


This is what I learned on Metafilter today.

If that's what think you learned, you obviously learned nothing. Congratulations.
posted by blucevalo at 11:50 AM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Because cat calling only rarely escalates into the second group, it's not appropriate to treat all cat calling as threatening.

Catcalling sexually objectifies women, by solely emphasizing their physical attributes and attractiveness while de-emphasizing them as a person who has feelings and emotions. It is a form of sexism and perhaps dehumanization.

In general, sexism creates an environment in which abuse is acceptable behavior. That's why catcalling is threatening. At best, it is a disrespectful act. At worst, it is a sign of a potential abuser.
posted by zarq at 11:51 AM on October 8, 2009 [58 favorites]


Women are poor, helpless victims struggling mightily but failingly in a world surrounded by men, who are fearless evil scary rapists.

This is what I learned on Metafilter today.


Wow. Your reading comprehension skills are for shit. You should work on that.
posted by rtha at 11:52 AM on October 8, 2009 [8 favorites]


A tip of the hat to the women of Metafilter for once again dropping some serious science on a contentious and misunderstood issue.

And xmutex, your trolling is ugly.
posted by barrett caulk at 11:56 AM on October 8, 2009


B, I have explained to you why...."why" is because in my experience some men do not pick up on negative cues. So how do I know that one of those construction guys, wouldn't think "hey, she's kinda enjoying this" and follow me. When really I want to find a hole to crawl in to and out of the sight of strangers. Because not only do the construction guys make me an object to oogle at but they also bring unwanted attention from people in the immediate area, which I also DON'T want, and how do I know that one of the crowd in the area isn't going to say to himself "hey, she's kinda enjoying this" and follow me, does it happen everytime or even very often? probably not, but it happens and it will happen again. It's a POTENTIAL threat, and that's what women have to guard against....how can you not get that B.?
posted by brneyedgrl at 11:57 AM on October 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


but my problem is that being told that I can not ever understand how women are thinking, and that I have to deal with being treated like a rapist every time I speak to a woman.

Speaking as big scary dude (this is what I've been told), get over it. Women are justified in being cautious of interacting with males (not just strangers). Can this sometimes go overboard? Sure, no question, but overreaction is understandable considering how often women are targets for violence.

You can't completely control how another person feels about you. Your only solution is to don't be a dick and not make it all about youyouyouou and how you feel. Don't be creepy dude and most women will recognize that and if they don't, that's their choice.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:58 AM on October 8, 2009 [16 favorites]


shakespeherian: You are blaming a victim. Stop.

Not that I don't agree with the sentiment, there was actually no "victim" in the story, because nothing happened. A guy tried to talk to her, they both went into the same store and he acted werid, then left. Uncomfrotable situation, certainly, and I understand the concern and caution. But we can't expand "victim" to mean, essentially, anything.
posted by spaltavian at 12:01 PM on October 8, 2009


I'm saying that I don't see how a cat call is a threat, because in my analogous experience that type of behavior is not threatening. All you've given me is "Some women feel that it is." That's fine for what it's worth, but it doesn't explain to me WHY. What I've inferred is that some women find cat calls threatening because they think they are prelude to more harmful conduct. That also doesn't jive with me experiences of men, and of cat calling, so I'm left wondering why women find them threatening.

It may not jive with your experiences of catcalling. But it does jive with many WOMENS' experiences of catcalling.

Think of it like road rage. Say you see a guy try to cut you off, but you keep him from doing it, and you give him a little look as you're pulling in to traffic ahead of him. Now imagine that that sets him off on a full-on spazz where he follows you through ten blocks of traffic, honking his horn and tailgating you and angrily gesturing, and even goes so far as to follow you to where you were going and gets out of his car and gets toe-to-toe with you and screams at you, all over that one look you gave him.

Now imagine that that wasn't the only time that kind of thing happened. Maybe it doesn't happen EVERY time you give some jackass a dirty look in traffic, but imagine that it happened about ten times, where some jackass went on a tantrum because you looked at him funny in traffic and ended up going road-rage on you.

Sure, intellectually you may still be aware that not everyone is going to blow their stack at you in traffic -- but can you honestly say you wouldn't be a little less likely to give people in traffic a dirty look any more, after having seen a few instances of insane road rage directed at you?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:02 PM on October 8, 2009 [15 favorites]


"Don't make waves", "Don't make a scene", "don't strike back, because then he'll beat the crap out of you"!!

There are plenty of situations where this is perfectly rational. Single minded focus on "winning" a given social interaction, particularly when a possible consequence of escalation is violence, can be harmful. Like EmpressCallipygos says, sometimes the consequence isn't worth the risk, and what's the payoff? cmgonzalez handled the situation as well as could be expected under the circumstances.
posted by deanc at 12:02 PM on October 8, 2009


Me: listen to the women

Durn Bronzefist: How about we listen to each other? No? No good? Alright then. Laters.

No. No good. Not about this. I'm deadly serious. This is a one of the main problems of the conversation we're having here, and of any conversation between (some) men and (most) women about rape and rape culture.

We don't have to listen to you; you have to listen to us. Nothing you have to say has any bearing on how we have no choice but to live our lives in a world you don't live in. You might be the best guy ever--a saint of a human being--but nothing you say to us on this topic makes any kind of difference in our experiences in a culture in which misogyny is so unbelievably ingrained that men (and some women) don't know or see about 90% of it until they bother to look really, really closely. Again, I recommend this discussion.

Men don't get a pass on feeling uncomfortable in this conversation. You should feel uncomfortable. When confronted with an involved and complex discussion of racism, I learned very quickly that I did not have the right to counter what POCs were saying with "but but but" and "I'm not like that" and "well, but you should also listen to me--shouldn't we listen to each other, after all?" That's the classic derail in which I try to make their discussion about their lives into a discussion about me, which is what you and several others here are trying to do. What I had the right to do was shut up and listen to them, and ask questions about what I didn't understand, so that I could learn about their world--a world that I don't live in. You can bet your ass that I was uncomfortable. But I also became so much more aware of the pervasiveness of racism in our society--so much more than I could possibly have imagined. Beyond anything I might have thought I'd known. So yeah, I don't have to listen to you about your thoughts about where I live, because You Don't Live Here.

You don't want to face the fact that you quite probably don't understand what we're talking about, and would rather be glib or smug? Nothing we can do about that, but that makes you a great big part of the problem. You clearly have no desire to do the work required to gain serious understanding, because then you'd have to admit that you're wrong.

But it is obvious that you would rather not entertain the notion that you might learn things that will make you uncomfortable--that, or you truly believe that women should have to listen to what men have to say about women's lives in a discussion of something only women can, and do, experience. If that's the case, as you say, laters.
posted by tzikeh at 12:05 PM on October 8, 2009 [87 favorites]


Think of it like road rage. Say you see a guy try to cut you off, but you keep him from doing it, and you give him a little look as you're pulling in to traffic ahead of him. Now imagine that that sets him off on a full-on spazz where he follows you through ten blocks of traffic, honking his horn and tailgating you and angrily gesturing, and even goes so far as to follow you to where you were going and gets out of his car and gets toe-to-toe with you and screams at you, all over that one look you gave him.

Wow, that guy sounds like a total asshole! I'm glad I don't drive.
posted by gagglezoomer at 12:05 PM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's a pretty poor argument imo to respond to my explanation with "no it's not".

Except... that's not what I said. That's what tzikeh said.

I said: Irony doesn't make rape funny. Most taboos are based on fear. When that fear is based on a serious societal problem and is therefore wholly justified, then being ironic about it is not funny.

If you disagree or think I'm being unnecessarily self-righteous, then by all means do so. But I don't have to accept your dismissive explanation, either.

A lot of people find things that offend other people funny. In fact, you are actually part of the reason that these t-shirts are funny to people... because they offend you.

I understand what shock value humor is, thank you.

So chill out, dude, and next time you see a fat guy wearing a shirt that says "I got this fat from eating so much pussy" just think of lolcats or something.

I'm sorry, but did you just metaphorically suggest that I lay back and enjoy it? In a thread about rape?

Yeah, we're done here.
posted by zarq at 12:08 PM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Women are poor, helpless victims struggling mightily but failingly in a world surrounded by men, who are fearless evil scary rapists.

*jerks thumb at this comment*

You all saw this ridiculous fucking honk of nonsense, right? Speaking as a guy who has plenty of guy friends, I would like to tell all the women here: Goddamn it, we think this shit is idiotic and dangerous too. I'd tell any friend of mine who said something like this the same fucking thing and to cut it the fuck out. It's goddamn heartbreaking that this is actually what someone claims to have taken away from all this. It's slightly encouraging that the overwhelming majority of the other comments have been thoughtful and reasoned.
posted by Skot at 12:09 PM on October 8, 2009 [11 favorites]


"Even so, I've known plenty of dudes who cat call all the time. I'm sure you do too--I'm sure every guy does."

Nope. If any of my male acquaintances behave like that, they must do it when I'm not around. If any of my friends acted like that in my presence, I'd tell them to shut up, but the situation has never arisen. Apparently this behavior isn't acceptable in all social circles.

"You've told me that 1)Some guys whistled at you when you didn't want to be whistled at and 2)Some guy thought you smiled at him and was miffed when you didn't respond to his advances. That sounds like run of the mill bad human social interactions, not the actions of a would-be rapist."

Some guys seem to have a problem understand why strangers whistling at someone might seem threatening. Maybe it would help if you imagine the following situation - due to some misunderstanding, you've been thrown into prison. As you walk to your cell, some huge muscle-bound gang banger with his cronies by his sides whistles at you and blows you a kiss. Do you feel threatened? You're now experiencing the power differential and potential for violence that a 130 pound women might feel when a group of strange men on the street throw whistles and catcalls her way.


Finally, xmutex - WTF dude??!! Since when do you think it's okay to start calling another poster a liar with absolutely no supporting evidence or argument?
posted by tdismukes at 12:15 PM on October 8, 2009 [11 favorites]


But it is obvious that you would rather not entertain the notion that you might learn things that will make you uncomfortable

If you bothered to read my other comments, you'd see that I was part of a conversation with both men and women in this thread, until I stumbled upon your awesometastic trolling. (seriously, dude, if you want max favourites, you should ALL CAPS "listen to the women" instead of just bolding it) Who's being glib now? Who's being smug?

I thought I was past responding to trolls, but if you're gonna bold my name in a callout, at least have the courtesy to read what that person has contributed to the thread before continuing with your "I DON'T HAVE TO LISTEN TO YOU" diatribe.

It's not about "comfort". It's about respect. Even if you think you have *nothing* to learn from another perspective.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:17 PM on October 8, 2009


Huh. Yeah, I mean, it all seemed like pretty obvious stuff to me. But I guess the sad part is that there are guys who really don't know this stuff.

Ick.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:17 PM on October 8, 2009


Robin Kestrel: Here's the analogy: Group A mistrusts/fears Group B in an isolated one-on-one situation, with some stats to back it up. Member of Group A writes a guide to Group B admonishing them and advising on how not to be so threatening in that setting. The power dynamic is the same for that scenario; the white person's advantages in society are no shield from a potential gun, or knife, or physical violence.

Right, but the reason your analogy doesn't work is that people react negatively to the idea of a white guy telling black people everywhere how to be non-threatening, because that white guy is in the position of cultural power, and he's encouraging a harmful stereotype of black people as vicious thugs and then claiming that they're responsible for the stereotype. This is not analogous to a woman telling men how to be non-threatening, because the men are in the position of cultural power.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:21 PM on October 8, 2009 [8 favorites]


most women understand that most men are not threats in most situations. But even some of those men are threats in certain situations. Women have to be very careful, that's all we want you to know. And many women feel thay have to be extra careful. I live in a small town, 2000 people. I'm sure I would act very differently if I lived in New York City....it's just the reality for all women in U.S. society.
posted by brneyedgrl at 12:21 PM on October 8, 2009


Nope. If any of my male acquaintances behave like that, they must do it when I'm not around.

Yeah, that keeps striking me, too. I'll certainly agree that being catcalled would be threatening, and I don't doubt that it happens. But I can say with 100% certainty that I've never, ever seen the behavior in the wild. Maybe it's a regional thing; I've lived in the Midwest my entire life, half of it in a small town in Nebraska, half in Minneapolis. Maybe catcalling's a coastal thing.
posted by COBRA! at 12:23 PM on October 8, 2009


No. No good. Not about this. I'm deadly serious.

We don't have to listen to you; you have to listen to us.


And because of the way you're presenting this, I'm not going to read your discussion, or even the rest of your comment. Maybe I should. Maybe it would be good for me. Maybe you have something interesting to say. But no matter how eminently right you are, you simply can't behave this way and expect to be listened to.
posted by darksasami at 12:23 PM on October 8, 2009 [8 favorites]


brneyedgrl, I just don't get how it's different than any other unwanted interaction, that people of both sexes endure every day without comment. You say that you don't know that the construction guy isn't going to follow you, but similarly, I don't know that the homeless guy who asks me for money isn't going to follow me if I don't give it to him. It happens, but I don't find him threatening until he starts following me. Before that he's just a person whose subjected me to an unpleasant social interaction.

Maybe it doesn't happen EVERY time you give some jackass a dirty look in traffic, but imagine that it happened about ten times, where some jackass went on a tantrum because you looked at him funny in traffic and ended up going road-rage on you.

If ten times in my life someone went crazy on me because I shot them a dirty look, I can saw with completely honesty that I would continue to shoot people dirty looks. That aside, you've posited a hypothetical which is backwards from what we're discussing. In your hypothetical it is the (road-rage)victim who did the acting, so the change in behavior it effects is for the victim to refrain from acting in the future. A better analogy would be this: What if ten times, when someone asked you to let them switch lanes in front of you, you refused, and they went crazy. Would you actually feel threatened when someone asked you to let them switch lanes in front of you? It's something that happens everyday, that went wrong only a few times. You might if you had actually be seriously hurt in some way, but I think in that situation, we would all agree that, while the person was not "wrong" to feel threatened, we would not be changing our behavior based on that person's idiosyncratic feelings.

As you walk to your cell, some huge muscle-bound gang banger with his cronies by his sides whistles at you and blows you a kiss. Do you feel threatened? You're now experiencing the power differential and potential for violence that a 130 pound women might feel when a group of strange men on the street throw whistles and catcalls her way.

This is also a terrible analogy. The situation you've described is designed, by the person whistling, to be intimidating. That's because the archetypal male-male prison relationship is a non-consensual one. Cat calling by men on the street, directed at women on the street, is designed to evoke a type of male-female relationship that, while it may be sexist, is fundamentally consensual.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:23 PM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


How about we listen to each other? No? No good? Alright then. Laters.

I'm a woman, and I've gotten to listen to what men think about rape, sexual assault, and how women should/should not act my whole goddamn life. So, no, no good, unless you (the general "you") are saying something really different, and most of you aren't.
posted by rtha at 12:24 PM on October 8, 2009 [20 favorites]


Always handy to remember that disagreeing /= not listening, no matter how loudly you shout it. Metafilter, for all its merits, has a ridiculous amount of intolerance for disagreement on a few issues, and I'm not sure there's even any real disagreement here. Just give and take on various points, the way it should be (until an asshat comes along -- you should only be listening to X people? Really?).

Anyway, duties actually do call. It's been an interesting thread and I thank (most of) you for your thoughtful contributions.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:25 PM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


This is a one of the main problems of the conversation we're having here, and of any conversation between (some) men and (most) women about rape and rape culture.

We don't have to listen to you; you have to listen to us.


You have a funny definition for conversation. Is everybody from Chicago like that?
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 12:27 PM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'll certainly agree that being catcalled would be threatening, and I don't doubt that it happens. But I can say with 100% certainty that I've never, ever seen the behavior in the wild.

Well, if you're not the target of it, of course you're not seeing it. That's...kind of an obvious step there.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:28 PM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Nope. If any of my male acquaintances behave like that, they must do it when I'm not around. If any of my friends acted like that in my presence, I'd tell them to shut up, but the situation has never arisen. Apparently this behavior isn't acceptable in all social circles."

I've only really catcalled once, while I was visiting my brother in Korea. I was drunk, with him and one of his Korean buddies, and all of the "catcalling" was yelling "Hello!" (well, in Korean) at pretty much everyone who walked by. It was pretty fun at the time; about half of the people (mostly women, but some guys too) would say hello back, either in Korean or English. A couple of times they tried to get into conversations, but I knew Korean like a dog knows English, so it was mostly nodding with a wide-eyed moronic grin on my face and repeating hello and thank you over and over.

I have no idea how much this is actually accepted in Korean culture. The Korean guy we were with assured us it was common and OK, but even then, I'm not sure how it was perceived by the recipients, except for thinking that we were drunken morons slurping Cass outside the GS25 (which we were). I saw it the same way I see playing what my girlfriend and I call the Airport Game, where, while on moving sidewalks, you solicit high fives from strangers going the other way (where I get a way better response level from women, generally). But thinking about it now, I am worried that it was threatening or weird. I know my brother was embarrassed, but he seemed embarrassed by just about everything I did in Korea.
posted by klangklangston at 12:31 PM on October 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


A few weeks ago I was walking home from the subway late at night. There was a lone female about a block and a half ahead of me walking in the same direction. I always loathe when this happens because I feel super awkward because I know that if I'm not careful I can give off the wrong vibe (often without realizing it), but this time was especially bad. I had a rolling suitcase as I had been traveling, which meant she could hear me approaching, although in my mind at the time I hoped that would mitigate the situation slightly as it would give me a purpose to be walking home and not just a random person out trolling the streets. Despite the rolling suitcase I was walking briskly, and owing to a significant height discrepancy I had a naturally faster pace anyway so I knew I would soon overtake her. In my mind I wanted this to happen as soon as possible because I figured the least threatening position for me with respect to her would be for me to be ahead of her with my back to her and getting farther and farther away, so I kept at a brisk pace. Unfortunately she must have been wigged out as she heard me approaching from a half block or so behind as she increased her pace to a very brisk one. Combined with a couple of street crossings where she went before the light changed and I waited for the signal, this meant that we kept this up for a short while. I knew it was uncomfortable for me but I'm sure it was even more harrowing for her. Finally the timing was right with the crosswalk ahead changing that I could finally pass without having to linger near her so I just sort of motored right on by with no eye contact whatsoever and made as little show of it as possible, eager to put as much space between us as possible.

In retrospect I probably seriously creeped out this poor girl, but at the time I was honestly trying to do the thing that would get us both out of a weird situation as fast as possible. It was the best that I could come up with at the time. I wanted to just say "hey, look, I know this is weird, but if you just let me pass you I'll be on my way and out of your space as soon as possible" but of course you can't actually say that as it makes things worse. I suppose I could have tried to walk very slowly but it seemed apparent to me that we were both headed to the same general area and we would have just caught up at the crossings each time anyway (and the differences in gait were pretty significant.) In my mind slowing down would have just prolonged the period where she would have had to endure the rolling sound of someone constantly a half block or so behind her. On reflection I suppose I could have crossed the street and walked on the other side but that seriously did not enter my mind at the time.

I'm not sure what to make of this experience other than to relate that I hate that things have to be this way and I really regret that some poor girl was weirded out by me. I would honestly welcome any advice for how to handle this kind of situation in the future.
posted by Rhomboid at 12:33 PM on October 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


Well, if you're not the target of it, of course you're not seeing it. That's...kind of an obvious step there.
posted by EmpressCallipygos


Isn't this what xmutex got (rightfully) keel-hauled for?
posted by COBRA! at 12:33 PM on October 8, 2009


Huh. I've actually been thinking about how statistics like this translate into real-world possibilities.

Sometimes I look around at the men at work, and wonder how many have raped someone. Or how many of the women have been raped. Or how many of both have abused a child. These numbers are unlikely to be zero, as suggested in this link.

I once dated a women who had been raped by a stranger at knife-point, and it was the first time in my young life that I had been exposed to the realities of that sort of chance encounter with another person.

So, yes. Let's cut some women some slack here. You can't live your whole life in fear, but each woman has to find her own comfort zone.

I though everyone asked their women friends to call when they got home, and made it clear and obvious when sending them off in a cab that a missed "I'm home" call would result in a call to the cab company. (I personally know three women who were assaulted by their cab driver.)
posted by clvrmnky at 12:34 PM on October 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


I don't know that the homeless guy who asks me for money isn't going to follow me if I don't give it to him.

Here's the thing, B. It's about power and control.....it's also about the fact that at least you might have a chance against a homeless guy, being a man and all. First of all he would think twice about engaging you at all, then when YOU said no, he most likely take it from you. In a case like this and other cases, men (homeless or not) will take "no" from a man but will keep trying on a women because he has no respect for her physical ability or her "resistance" ability. I'll admit that I'm a big girl of good Norweigan stock, but I don't think I'd have a chance in hell against any man and most women, physically. And at my age now, I would have no problem telling an annoying man to go fuck himself, but I couldn't have done that 20-30 yrs ago. It just wasn't my nature back then. Now I don't care what anybody thinks about me, but most women aren't there yet, and some women never get there.
posted by brneyedgrl at 12:36 PM on October 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


I've only really catcalled once, while I was visiting my brother in Korea. I was drunk, with him and one of his Korean buddies, and all of the "catcalling" was yelling "Hello!" (well, in Korean) at pretty much everyone who walked by.

That's not catcalling.

If, instead, you'd been yelling "nice ass!" or "work it!" or "bet you've got a fiiiiiiiine pussy!", then THAT would have been catcalling.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:36 PM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


So I just lurk and read, usually, but wow, there is some serious bullshit in this thread.

Because cat calling only rarely escalates into the second group, it's not appropriate to treat all cat calling as threatening.

Because displaying a firearm only rarely escalates into shooting someone, it's not appropriate to treat my waving a gun around as threatening. It's unfair that you're treating me like I might shoot someone, you don't know me or you'd know I'd never shoot anyone.

I'm saying that I don't see how a cat call is a threat, because in my analogous experience that type of behavior is not threatening.

First, your experience isn't analogous, so let's just clear that up right now. Second, what you're basically saying is, "I don't experience this as a problem, therefore it's not a problem until you explain to my satisfaction why it's a problem. If you can't explain it to my satisfaction, then you're being unreasonable."

It boggles my mind that you guys think this is difficult or asking too much of you. You think that occasionally being made to feel like you're threatening is in any way comparable to women feeling threatened? You think that's some kind of massive burden from which you should be defended at all costs, even the cost to a person's safety?

But I'm talking to you, Bulgaroktonos, because even though I think you're being unreasonable, at least you're trying to converse and figure it out. xmutex, coolguymichael, borgesian: you guys are probably hopeless, but just in case you're not, please stop it. You're making the world I live in shittier than it needs to be, all because you can't comprehend that you're not the only people in it.

On preview: ah, crap.

And because of the way you're presenting this, I'm not going to read your discussion, or even the rest of your comment. Maybe I should. Maybe it would be good for me. Maybe you have something interesting to say. But no matter how eminently right you are, you simply can't behave this way and expect to be listened to.

Isn't it nice to be able to walk away from a discussion about women's safety and sexual assault whenever you decide that you don't want to listen anymore? Gosh, if only her tone were more acceding, then she'd be given the gift of your attention.

Women don't get to walk away from this conversation; this conversation follows them home. If you care about women, you don't walk away either, because you can't begin to live in the same world as the women you love if you walk away from their reality.


Cat calling by men on the street, directed at women on the street, is designed to evoke a type of male-female relationship that, while it may be sexist, is fundamentally consensual.


This is ridiculous, unless you are under the impression that nonconsensual behavior is ok if it somehow, magically, leads to consensual behavior. By the way, it doesn't.
posted by Errant at 12:36 PM on October 8, 2009 [80 favorites]


Sorry, I had an incomplete thought -- klangklangston, the only reason I jumped all "that wasn't catcalling" into things was because I realized that maybe that's part of the disconnect, that some people think we mean "hi!" is catcalling. When actually, when a woman is talking about catcalling, she is talking about something much more nakedly sexual -- which maybe will also help some of the men understand why we're up in arms about it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:40 PM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Cat calling by men on the street, directed at women on the street, is designed to evoke a type of male-female relationship that, while it may be sexist, is fundamentally consensual.

NO, NO, NO...you did not seriously type this into your computer!! It's a joke right?
posted by brneyedgrl at 12:44 PM on October 8, 2009 [14 favorites]


This is also a terrible analogy. The situation you've described is designed, by the person whistling, to be intimidating. That's because the archetypal male-male prison relationship is a non-consensual one. Cat calling by men on the street, directed at women on the street, is designed to evoke a type of male-female relationship that, while it may be sexist, is fundamentally consensual.

Really? Are you joking? Do you really think that, as a method of courtship, cat-calling is ever effective? Does any woman ever go "Sure, you seem so nice, let's get it on?" I'm going to go with no. And if you're willing to admit that it's sexist, you should pretty much be able to figure out why it seems threatening. As zarq already said above, because it lowers women into the status of objects without their own feelings in the eyes of those doing the catcalling, and from there it's a short leap to feeling that it's okay to treat them as an object in other ways. Sure, not all of them are going to make that leap, but enough do that it's going to feel threatening all of the time. The point is that women never know which ones are the ones who are going to turn out to be dangerous, so it always feels dangerous. I don't know why that's hard to understand.
posted by Caduceus at 12:44 PM on October 8, 2009 [23 favorites]


I don't think it's even necessary to introduce the question "Is he a rapist" into the dynamic. If I am on the bus reading a book (and I am always reading a book. I take the bus because I can read on it, which buys me an extra hour of study time every class day over other transit methods), then it would be courteous of a stranger not to assume that his or her desire to chat with me, or flirt with me, or pick me up supercedes my desire to read my book.

I give pretty unambiguous clues that I am intent upon my book, rather than open to chatting: I keep my eyes on it except to look up and check the route's progress, or to shift my possessions or move my legs for the convenience of other passengers; I have a pen and Post-Its handy, and I'm using them.

Still, at least once a week someone decides that I am required to talk with them, even though I am clearly trying to immerse myself in my work. It is usually a man about my age, and usually a man who wants to flirt. And he thinks that I have an obligation to flirt back, or at least to sit passively and let him flirt with me. I'll respond to a brief greeting or compliment as quickly and politely as I can, but when the stranger tries to extend it into a conversation, most of the time I try to exit gracefully.

The book should make that easier, but it doesn't always.

When I politely remark that I am busy studying (a fact that any sensible person could see, if they were bothering to), the strange man very rarely takes this gentle rebuff with good grace. A typical sample of the rebuff and the response:

Elsa: [smiling, speaking in a light tone] Oh, I'm afraid I can't really talk. I'm studying for an exam. [gestures at book]
Stranger: Well, if you're going to be that way about it! I was just trying to be friendly!

Sometimes the remark is stronger still. I have been called a bitch on the bus more often than anywhere else, simply for my polite and smiling rebuffs of insistent chattering.

This should illustrate a large portion of women's resistance to chitchat with strangers. I don't rebuff a stranger's chatter because I think he's a rapist (though I, too, have been threatened and creeped out and followed home by strangers, and of course the possibility does lurk in my mind sometimes), but because I do not want to get called a bitch as part of my morning routine. Keeping the interaction to a minimum reduces the chances of some seemingly friendly stranger suddenly turning aggressive.

I can see how one might extend this dynamic into the question "Is he a rapist?" a quote from the linked article [emphasis is in the original]:
So if you speak to a woman who is otherwise occupied, you’re sending a subtle message. It is that your desire to interact trumps her right to be left alone. If you pursue a conversation when she’s tried to cut it off, you send a message. It is that your desire to speak trumps her right to be left alone. And each of those messages indicates that you believe your desires are a legitimate reason to override her rights.
posted by Elsa at 12:45 PM on October 8, 2009 [40 favorites]


Robin Kestrel: There's nothing in this article that I disagree with, but it still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. What's next? "People of Color - How to Approach a White Person Without Looking Like a Mugger"?

Try "Community Policing in the Ghetto & Barrio (for white cops)"
posted by morganw at 12:48 PM on October 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


Ok, I took a break, calmed down, and reset my "Benefit-of-the-Doubt-o-meter" to zero.

Sorry, aaronbeekay, for yelling at you, but your comment was a perpetuation of victim-blaming and rape culture, and what bothers me most about that is that you didn't even realize it. I know I should be angrier at the trolls in this thread than the guys who seem to be trying but just not getting it, so I apologize for taking out on you the anger that should be directed at others. The thing is, it's never her fault, no matter how much she drank or what she wore or where she walked or how late she stayed out or how badly she failed to assess the risk posed by the guy next to her. It's not her fault. And saying that she should be more careful about how much she drinks and with whom she socializes is the equivalent of saying it's her fault if she gets raped, and that's just plain wrong.

I'm saying that I don't see how a cat call is a threat, because in my analogous experience that type of behavior is not threatening. All you've given me is "Some women feel that it is." That's fine for what it's worth, but it doesn't explain to me WHY. What I've inferred is that some women find cat calls threatening because they think they are prelude to more harmful conduct. That also doesn't jive with me experiences of men, and of cat calling, so I'm left wondering why women find them threatening.

Ok, Bulgaroktonos, but the thing is your experiences of men & cat calling can never be the same as a woman's experiences of them. See, I don't typically get the cat calls and harassment if I'm walking down the street next to my boyfriend or my brother. And if the street is crowded with people I'm also less likely to hear "Hey, Baby, walk those sweet legs over this way! ... I said come here!" yelled at me. When the truly egregious examples of harassment and verbal assault happen it's when there are no (or at least, few) uninvolved men around to witness them. So, without Harry Potter's invisibility cloak or the ability to transform into a woman, it really is impossible for you to fully understand cat calling and why women consider it threatening. Now can you take our word for it?
posted by philotes at 12:50 PM on October 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


Because displaying a firearm only rarely escalates into shooting someone, it's not appropriate to treat my waving a gun around as threatening. It's unfair that you're treating me like I might shoot someone, you don't know me or you'd know I'd never shoot anyone.

Well, that's obviously nonsense, since the ENTIRE point of waving a gun around is to threaten other people. The purpose of catcalling is not.

It boggles my mind that you guys think this is difficult or asking too much of you. You think that occasionally being made to feel like you're threatening is in any way comparable to women feeling threatened? You think that's some kind of massive burden from which you should be defended at all costs, even the cost to a person's safety?

I don't catcall, or approach strange women to ask for their phone numbers, partially because I'm married, but mostly because I'm a spineless nerd. (I do oggle, but discreetly). I don't really have a dog in this fight in terms of any sort of personal burden, as I've never felt women intimidated by my presence. (I tend to go out with my wife and our scrawny spineless nerd friend, who intimidates less than zero people). My problem is with the tenor of a discussion that equates any sort of male behavior toward women as threatening. It's not about the burden that it imposes on me or anyone else, it's about that being both an inaccurate conception of the world and morally wrong.

This is ridiculous, unless you are under the impression that nonconsensual behavior is ok if it somehow, magically, leads to consensual behavior. By the way, it doesn't.

Let me explain what I meant by this. Whistling at a woman as she walks by sends a message. The message is: You are very attractive, I wish I was in a sexual relationship with you. That is to say that the catcall is an invitation to enter into a sexual relationship. Consensual sexual relationships typically begin with some sort of overture from one party to the other, usually regarding attractiveness. In that way, catcalling is typical of consensual sexual relationships. Prison sexual relationships(as in the poster I was respond to's hypo) are not usually understood as consensual, so the prison catcall is more threatening. My point was regarding the consensualness of catcalling itself, but rather the consensualness of the sexual relationship to which it is an invitation.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:52 PM on October 8, 2009


Bulgaroktonos: Here's what you said, tzikeh:
1)The fact that someone talked to you and didn't seem afraid does not mean they weren't afraid of you.


That is correct. If you can prove otherwise, I'll gladly listen to your proof.

2)The fact that you TALKED to another person, and did nothing else does not make it "okay" to talk to them.

I did not say that. You said and no one got raped or otherwise traumatized, which, let us be clear, is oversimplified and derisive. My response of Which, of course, makes it all okay was in the same tone. If you truly believe I meant that even though you didn't rape your conversation partner, it still wasn't all right to talk to her, you are being deliberately obtuse.

3)The fact that you think it's okay to TALK to another person is part of the problem.

I did not say that. You said I think most people see it that way, and I said that was the problem; i.e. that most people are blind to the countless societal elements involved in the interaction from the woman's point of view.

I'm... pretty sure that it's fruitless, at this point, to continue to respond, but I can keep hoping that something will make sense.

Bulgaroktonos: brneyedgrl, I'm saying that I don't see how a cat call is a threat, because in my analogous experience that type of behavior is not threatening.

You cannot have had an analogous experience. Ever. Nothing you have experienced is the same as what a woman would experience in the exact same situation.

All you've given me is "Some women feel that it is." That's fine for what it's worth, but it doesn't explain to me WHY. What I've inferred is that some women find cat calls threatening because they think they are prelude to more harmful conduct. That also doesn't jive with me experiences of men, and of cat calling, so I'm left wondering why women find them threatening.

This is as blunt an explanation as I have ever found, so if this doesn't work, I don't know what will.

From a column about the PBS documentary No Safe Place:
"Novelist Margaret Atwood writes that when she asked a male friend why men feel threatened by women, he answered, "They are afraid women will laugh at them." When she asked a group of women why they feel threatened by men, they said, "We're afraid of being killed."
posted by tzikeh at 12:57 PM on October 8, 2009 [28 favorites]


Bulgaroktonos: joedan, I completely agree, which is why I'm finding it funny that everyone accusing me of being "willfully obtuse" ignored the fact that my first post was precisely about drawing a line between cat calling, and yelling in a dangerous and threatening way. Because cat calling only rarely escalates into the second group, it's not appropriate to treat all cat calling as threatening. Any more than it would be to treat every time someone ask you for a dollar as a robbery attempt, even though it sometimes escalates like that.

Yeah, I don't think you're being willfully obtuse. It seems to me that y'all are just talking past each other, as is often the case when men and women talk about this kind of stuff. I think that both men and women have to make a real effort to see things from the other's perspective.

You're right that men assault men all the time. The difference between that and male/female confrotation, from my point of view as a guy, is that I believe that I can hold my own against most dudes as long as we're both unarmed. I might get beat up, ultimately, but I'm gonna hurt the other dude before he takes me down. That's not the case for women. The fact of the matter is that the average unarmed man can overpower the unarmed average woman. This is a fact that women are constantly aware of when they're around men. Think about that for a minute. Think about how that power disparity would shape your worldview.

The power disparity is a crucial element here. That's why I brought up the cops. Let's face it, if a cop pulls me over and suddenly decides he wants to shoot me, I'm fucked. That's what a power disparity is like. Maybe you've had a bad experience with the cops. Maybe you know what that's like, too.

You say that women finding cat calling threatening doesn't jive with your experience. Sure. But you probably don't find most men threatening. Given my life experiences as a Latino, I find the cops threatening by default. Imagine that your brother, or your uncle, or cousin, or your best friend got the crap beat out of him by a cop last month just for walking down the street. Imagine that you grew up hearing stories about the cops harrasing, beating up, and sometimes killing guys who were just minding their own business. That's my experience, dude. Imagine that I was walking down the street and a cop yelled at me, "Hey you, come over here!" Would you blame me if I was a little nervous, even if all he wanted to do was ask for the time?

Now imagine that half the population was made up of cops. Wouldn't you feel nervous if the cops shouted at you?

This might seem far fetched to you, but it really isn't. Again, look at the stories in this thread. Most of the women reading this have had bad experiences with men to some degree. I'm sure that some have had experiences so painful that they try not to think about them. Can't you see how, given the prevalence of those experiences among women, they might find cat calls to be aggressive and threatening?
posted by joedan at 12:58 PM on October 8, 2009 [22 favorites]


I'm not sure where some guys get off by being offended at the reality of women not wanting to suffer sexual violence. It's a fear centered around activity that actually happens in this world. *I* know I'm never strutting around, looking for women to rape, but there's no way to tell that for sure without getting to know me first, and even then, I bet there are some awfully normal-seeming rapists out there.

That and it's probably annoying having to put up with fedora-wearing romeos who may not be rapists, but who certainly do chat up ladyfolk when that activity is not wanted.

That said...

"Even so, I've known plenty of dudes who cat call all the time. I'm sure you do too--I'm sure every guy does."

Nope. If any of my male acquaintances behave like that, then they must do it when I'm not around. If any of my friends acted like that in my presence, I'd tell them to shut up, but the situation has never arisen. Apparently this behavior isn't acceptable in all social circles.


Another vote for this. I've seen catcalling on the street before here in NYC, usually from honest-to-god construction workers, but if any of my friends are doing this, then they're doing this in the utmost secrecy and never, ever speaking of it to any other human being that I know.

People who find catcalling acceptable tend to cluster with other people who find catcalling acceptable, and vice versa.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:59 PM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Bulgaroktonos: The situation you've described is designed, by the [muscle-bound gang banger with his cronies] whistling, to be intimidating. That's because the archetypal male-male prison relationship is a non-consensual one. Cat calling by men on the street, directed at women on the street, is designed to evoke a type of male-female relationship that, while it may be sexist, is fundamentally consensual.

Actually, no it isn't. That's exactly the point! Cat-calling is not initiating a conversation, or asking someone out; it's a one sided communication from a position of power. The woman is just walking somewhere. She doesn't know if the guy whistling is being funny to his friends, trying to pay a compliment in a retarded way, or projecting dominance or a sense of ownership.

And neither do you, walking through prison. Maybe the muscly gang banger thinks it's hilarious to scare the noob, and has no intention of rape. Maybe he's marking you as his territory. You don't know, but you know the possibility of it being bad is real. That's legitimately threatening.
posted by msalt at 12:59 PM on October 8, 2009 [24 favorites]


Cat calling by men on the street, directed at women on the street, is designed to evoke a type of male-female relationship that, while it may be sexist, is fundamentally consensual.

No, some men have cat-called me and followed me around while I was walking home alone at night about how they want to have sex with me. That's not consensual, that's "I could rape you right now and what are you going to do about it?"

Other times if it's broad daylight you'll get guys who if you don't respond positively will either yell "Fuck you, you frigid bitch, you're ugly anyway!" or "Fuck you, you ugly slut you've got a big ass!" I guess under your logic this just counts as an "unwanted interaction" or whatever but to me it's intimidation. "Act like you want to fuck me or I'll publicly verbally abuse and embarrass you." How is that consensual if there's an implicit threat of verbal (or other) violence?
posted by Marnie at 12:59 PM on October 8, 2009 [28 favorites]


That is to say that the catcall is an invitation to enter into a sexual relationship.

Catcalling is not an invitation to "enter into a relationship." Catcalling is an exercise of dominance and power.
posted by blucevalo at 1:00 PM on October 8, 2009 [16 favorites]


Ugh, Bulgaroktonos. Do you know when I was catcalled the most in my life? When I was a young teenager. Do you really think that middle-aged men leaning out their car windows and whistling at a 14-year-old is an invitation to a consensual relationship?

I've never had the guts to throw a snappy comeback like The corpse in the library (usually too busy feeling disgusted and disgusting), but the genuinely shocked reactions of men when women dare speak back to their catcalling reveal that the men are never interested in a relationship of any sort.
posted by oinopaponton at 1:00 PM on October 8, 2009 [20 favorites]


Also, protip: you don't oggle discreetly. Trust me, they know.
posted by joedan at 1:00 PM on October 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


Let me explain what I meant by this. Whistling at a woman as she walks by sends a message. The message is: You are very attractive, I wish I was in a sexual relationship with you. That is to say that the catcall is an invitation to enter into a sexual relationship.

You don't think it is at all strange to tell someone WHOM YOU HAVE NEVER MET BEFORE IN YOUR LIFE that you want to have sex with them, that nakedly? You don't think it is at all strange to have THE VERY FIRST BIT OF COMMUNICATION YOU HAVE WITH SOMEONE to be a blatant "I want to have sex with you" declaration?

Maybe that's the problem we're having, is the fact that you don't seem to understand that the idea of "I want to have sex with you" as THE VERY FIRST THING YOU SAY TO SOMEONE is pretty damn creepy. I'll admit I'm a bit easy-going about this, but if someone were to state this in words to me upon just meeting me, I'd be honestly baffled and ask, "um, based on....what criteria, precisely?"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:01 PM on October 8, 2009 [37 favorites]


OK, I don't get why Bulgaroktonos doesn't get why catcalling is threatening, but hey, let's try this:

When was the last time you saw a woman or group of women catcall a dude? And I don't mean, like, a bachelorette party halfway through a pub crawl. Never, huh? Yeah, see, that's the thing.

When the stereotypical band of construction workers catcall some passing lady, it's implicitly also about a power relationship between men and women, and in this relationship it's the dudes who have the upper hand. Ergo, the women don't, so it's threatening to them. Rocket science this ain't.
posted by axiom at 1:03 PM on October 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


usually from honest-to-god construction workers

Doing the math again in my head, it's usually dudes in cars. They do it then because they're cowards who know they can speed off before facing any consequences.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:04 PM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


B. The catcall IS a threatening gesture to many people, and men who do it, are doing it for power and control over the woman. He's telling her that she's not respected enough to be left alone, she is there for his pleasure, and he doesn't care who knows it. She has not consented to her space being invaded like this, her body being commented on, her attractiveness being judged. How can this be construed as being consensual?
posted by brneyedgrl at 1:04 PM on October 8, 2009 [26 favorites]


Well, that's obviously nonsense, since the ENTIRE point of waving a gun around is to threaten other people. The purpose of catcalling is not.

...

Let me explain what I meant by this. Whistling at a woman as she walks by sends a message. The message is: You are very attractive, I wish I was in a sexual relationship with you. That is to say that the catcall is an invitation to enter into a sexual relationship.

To a great many people, an unsolicited and blatantly sexual sexual message is threatening. Let me break down some reasons why: the person issuing the "invitation" is loudly breaking several boundaries of widespread social interaction, e.g., we don't usually yell at strangers, we don't usually trumpet sexual interest, we don't usually try to jump from strangerhood into sexual relationships. A person who disregards these pretty basic social boundaries may not respect other social contracts, including the prohibitions against touching strangers, beating up strangers, and raping strangers.
posted by Elsa at 1:04 PM on October 8, 2009 [44 favorites]


> I'm not trying to dictate how anyone else feels, I'm just trying to explain why I believe the being afraid me is not reasonable. Now, obviously people will act in ways that don't seem rational to me, but I'm not really able to alter my behavior because of it unless they provide me with an explanation that I can understand.

It's not rational or right that I might feel afraid of you if you're a really nice guy who means no harm to me. And I fucking hate that it just has to be this way. I wish I lived in a world where I didn't have to fear you on some level, but it is what it is.

I know this might be too much for some, but if you really want to know, maybe if I explain it you'll understand and quit feeling so victimized by a society that tells you you're dangerous.

It was late at night, I was coming back from a bar at 2am. I'd had one beer around 9pm, but I was really only at the bar to see The Flaming Lips (before they got really famous). I was in a really awesome mood walking home. When I got to my building, I got my mail and saw a letter from my best friend, whom I hadn't gotten a letter from in a long time.

It was a really nice night, so I went to my favorite place in the world, which was the nearby cemetery, to read my letter. My friends and I hung out there all the time, and it felt like a safe place. I was an art major studying photography, so I hung out there shooting gravestones and whatnot. It was right in the middle of town. I was wearing jeans, sneakers, a tee, and a hoodie.

Sitting on the steps of the mausoleum, smoking a cigarette, I read. A guy startled me when he came around the corner (how long had he been there?) to ask me for a light. I was completely freaked out by the surprise, but I'm not the kind of girl who spooks too easily, and he was a guy wanting to smoke -- we could be peers. I stood up to light his smoke and saw his mask. I froze. I froze solid. You read that your survival instincts kick in and you run automatically, but I froze.

Next thing I know, he's swinging me in circles by my sleeve, trying to throw me to the ground. I fought, but he was strong and I was so caught off guard. I have no idea how many times he spun me, but I eventually fell onto my back. I remember thinking FUCK ALL, I fell for the oldest trick in the book.

He had a HUGE dick. I was no virgin, but I was totally not in the mood for sex, so I was not lubricated. He held a knife to my throat, so I didn't budge, fearing he'd kill me. I knew he'd kill me. I didn't scream that I recall, but I'm sure I did. No? I have no idea if I made a sound. I remember thinking very clearly that if I struggled, I'd die, but if I kept still and just let him do it, I'd be raped, but I'd live. I felt it all. I felt myself tear from the force of his giant dick pushing into me. I could feel blood everywhere. I shut my eyes and my mind raced. I knew I could live with being raped. It's not death; it's just a crazy form of sex. I knew sex, and I also remember thinking (crazily) that I would be able to disassociate this event from future sexual scenarios, so I would definitely be able to get over it and still have a good sexlife. I know. Crazy where your mind goes when you're not in control. But it felt true, it felt relevant to think about it that way right then.

What I remember most is the look in his eyes -- remember that picture of Charles Manson on the cover of Life? He had those eyes, and it freaked me out. He also drooled and spat on me while he fucked me hard, making me bleed, and jesus fuck, but it hurt. They also say you don't feel pain when your adrenaline is going, but I felt it. (The nurse cringed when she told me later that thankfully the blood acted like a lubricant, so I didn't require surgery.) I remember the precise moment when the pain changed from searing tearing of flesh to the stinging of open cuts. It's weird what you remember.

It eventually ended. I lay on the ground, freezing cold suddenly, shaking like hell. I tried to play dead or something, listening to him running away. I curled up in a ball and cried, sort of screaming in a way, and I could hear myself start to retch before I felt it. I puked and tried to stand, but I blacked out and fell down on my hands and knees, making weird noises. I shut my eyes and tried to think about my next action. It took me a minute to remember what had just happened, I think because I blacked out for a few seconds. I realized what had happened in a rush, and I got up and ran home, crying, scared that he was waiting for me up the street, waiting to hurt me again. I didn't sleep for days afterward because I was still frightened.


Now, is that an explanation that makes you sort of understand why I'm hesitant to accept you right off the bat for the kind, intelligent, caring guy you probably are? It gives me no real pleasure to type this out for you, but by the same token, I'm not ashamed of it, and I don't really mind talking about it in "safe" company. MetaFilter is something of a safe place for us, isn't it?

I'm a little apprehensive to assume you're cool if I don't know you.

All I'd done is give the guy a light. If it were you, and I'd have told you to leave me alone, or I'd run away, you'd be hurt. But see what happened once when I gave a guy a light? I can't waste my time wondering if you'll recover from this slight. If I give you some time and I explain to you WHY you frighten me, I run the risk of being labelled by you and blown-off. And it takes too many words to tell you why I'm afraid of some guys -- some guys just set off the panic bell in my head, and I can't even tell you why. It's just a feeling, and it has roots even I don't fully understand. You have to let me off the hook and just accept that I feel that way. Don't get down on yourself. It's not about you; it's about me.

It's a fucking crapshoot, trusting people, and I know it. Yeah, I still lit cigarettes for guys after that, back when I smoked. What all the guys asking for a light in the years following didn't know is that I thought about that scene every fucking time I extended my right arm with my lighter. Every time. Sometimes it made me tighten up inside, but I did it. I even sometimes used to light people's cigarettes in order to feel it. It was a way to get over it. Relive it a thousand times, and it hurts less. It's true. It does hurt less every single time because it's not happening this time; I'm just thinking about it.

So I'll cut you some slack for having been ignorant if you'll cut my sisters and me some slack for fearing you sometimes, stranger.
posted by heyho at 1:05 PM on October 8, 2009 [251 favorites]


Bulgaroktonos: Let me explain what I meant by this. Whistling at a woman as she walks by sends a message. The message is: You are very attractive, I wish I was in a sexual relationship with you.

One last shot.

Let me explain why you are wrong. IN YOUR WORLD, the message is: "You are very attractive, I wish I was in a sexual relationship with you." That Is Where You Live.

In a woman's world, the message is: "The simple fact that you are a woman means that I have the right to sexually objectify you, right here, in public, and I feel like doing that--and since I can, I am. Your body is mine to appraise out loud, in front of other people, even though I do not know you. I'm bigger and stronger than you. I can have you any time I want you, because I am bigger and stronger than you and I am entitled to your body. And I find this amusing."

In your "analogous" situation, you are not afraid of a woman hurting you. She is not bigger or stronger. You are not threatened by her appreciation of your body. You have never experienced the fear that comes with being objectified, because women are not a threat to you.

If you can't (or won't) understand this, and you won't read the discussion I've pointed to, and the Margaret Atwood quote is something you can brush off as an overreaction, or just one woman's opinion, or whatever it is you've thought of it in order to dismiss it, then I don't know what else to say--except for this: if you do bother to read that discussion, you will be, I guarantee, astounded by the number of comments from women that begin with "I was raped."
posted by tzikeh at 1:08 PM on October 8, 2009 [43 favorites]


Whistling at a woman as she walks by sends a message. The message is: You are very attractive, I wish I was in a sexual relationship with you. That is to say that the catcall is an invitation to enter into a sexual relationship.

I was walking down the street one day when the guy in front of me starting catcalling the woman walking in front of him. His catcalling was all "Hey baby, you're so pretty, your legs are so fine" and making kissy noises. The woman got really stiff, started to walk faster, and her body language was very "Oh shit."

So I asked the guy, "Does that work for you a lot? I mean, when you talk to a woman on the street like that, do you get a lot of phone numbers or action from it?"

He said "Fuck you you fucking dyke bitch mind your own fucking business you cunt."

If you really think that catcalling is an invitation to a consensual sexual relationship, then I suggest you go about trying to get your next girlfriend or casual sexual partner that way. I mean, if that's how it really works, then it should work, right?

Except of course it won't, because women generally do not find it flattering, and we do not think that guys who do it are fine catches. We're so silly like that!
posted by rtha at 1:09 PM on October 8, 2009 [43 favorites]


I've been on Mefi for several years now, and I hardly ever flag comments, but this post brought out some sterling examples of sexist crazy that demanded it. I'm sure you know who you are, fellas. Way to be douches, who, ironically, completely prove the writer's point. Even more ironically, some of you seem so determined to not let women be right about something that you don't even want to let them "win" in the "Who Should Be More Afraid of Sexual Violence?" contest that is only occuring in your screwed-up mind. Because Jeebus forbid women ever have the moral high ground over (any) men, even when it comes to rape/fear of rape.

I mean, the levels of fucked-up-ness in all of that are, truly, mind-boggling. Anyway.

I'd like to counter that by saying, hey Metafilter, this is a tough topic; kudos to so many of you who actually do get what the writer...and lots of the rest of us...are saying. I used the favorite button a lot today as well. The Blue is a good place to be.
posted by emjaybee at 1:10 PM on October 8, 2009 [8 favorites]


Sticherbeast: "Even so, I've known plenty of dudes who cat call all the time. I'm sure you do too--I'm sure every guy does."

Nope. If any of my male acquaintances behave like that, then they must do it when I'm not around. If any of my friends acted like that in my presence, I'd tell them to shut up, but the situation has never arisen. Apparently this behavior isn't acceptable in all social circles.

Another vote for this. I've seen catcalling on the street before here in NYC, usually from honest-to-god construction workers, but if any of my friends are doing this, then they're doing this in the utmost secrecy and never, ever speaking of it to any other human being that I know.

People who find catcalling acceptable tend to cluster with other people who find catcalling acceptable, and vice versa.


I never said it was acceptable and I certainly never said they were my friends. I just said that I've met guys who cat call. Can you honestly say that you've never even met a guy who cat calls?
posted by joedan at 1:10 PM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Bulgaroktonos, catcalling is NOT 'typical of consensual sexual relationships'. It is not a friendly overture, one on one, to show interest and hope it might lead to more. It is a guy (or a group of guys) advertising to the world they want to have sex with you. Right now. With the additional caveat that, unlike in a consensual 'get to know you' opener, if you say no or indicate lack of interest, they may then feel they have the right to insult and berate you for not being properly flattered by their completely inappropriate behaviour. Consensual implies you actually CARE what the other person feels. Catcalling, by its very nature, does not.


Also, to those who feel upset because you think a woman not wanting to talk to you means she thinks you're a rapist - its not about you. Let me repeat. It is NOT ABOUT YOU. We don't know you. We know our past experiences, and those related to us by our friends and collegues and articles and blog posts and comments and so on. Plus, you know, we have lives. If you want to strike up a conversation, despite her nose buried in a book or a far off look on her face or even if she's randomly smiling at the world, and she doesn't respond or says no, or turns away, or otherwise goes 'thanks but no thanks', it could be because she's busy, or she's having a bad day, or she's nervous about strange men, or she's a bitch, or she was smiling at that dog over there and not you, or she has a million other things on her mind, or she's feeling anxious, or whatever. She's not really reacting to you, but to a situation. The moment you push it, the moment you react like "I'm not a rapist, how dare she ignore me", then YOU, not her, are making it about you, and not the situation. And at that moment, yes, you're a creep.
posted by sandraregina at 1:10 PM on October 8, 2009 [9 favorites]


I think the article tries to be provocative, and ends up being offensive. I am not Schrodinger's (or anyone else's) rapist. In the real world, I reckon I'm a net positive for women's safety: I make sure drunk people get into taxis and get home, I walk people to the door in dodgy backstreets, I don't approach people in potentially dodgy situations. I like my own personal space, so I tend to respect other people's. I appreciate that some people basically have man-triggered PTSD (with good reason), but I didn't cause it and I try not to exacerbate it. I know this article is not about me, but it still rankles a little, you know?

What positive effect is this article going to have? It seems to me that the guys that need advice like "don't rape" aren't the target audience. How exactly do we reach the people that are causing the problem? How do we get past this nightmarish culture of suspicion? When will we know we're there?

Also, this does not need to be a one-way conversation - I've read every post here, including that I have no right to be comfortable in this thread. Fair enough.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 1:11 PM on October 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


very, very sorry heyho.
posted by brneyedgrl at 1:11 PM on October 8, 2009 [7 favorites]


What the hell is wrong with the world when saying 'what terrible weather' to someone at a bus stop considered a potential prelude to sexual violence?
posted by WinnipegDragon at 1:12 PM on October 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


Cat calling by men on the street, directed at women on the street, is designed to evoke a type of male-female relationship that, while it may be sexist, is fundamentally consensual.

Well, as it's generally safe to say that the odds of that particular woman being interested in a consensual relationship with the cat-calling man are vanishingly small, I find it hard to accept that it's a consensual relationship that's being evoked for both parties.

Which is the ugly thing about semiotics and modern communications theory. An utterance isn't defined by your intentions, but by the meanings your audience chose to attach to their words. Which is why great writers, speakers, and songwriters are fairly careful in understanding their audience when they want to be understood.

Well, that's obviously nonsense, since the ENTIRE point of waving a gun around is to threaten other people. The purpose of catcalling is not.

Well, this assumes that catcallers are just plain stupid in failing to note that their targets are likely to be deeply offended and possibly threatened. I think it's pretty well established that the purpose of sexual harassment is often to scare women away from "masculine" spaces.

My problem is with the tenor of a discussion that equates any sort of male behavior toward women as threatening.

In the context of an article which describes in detail how men can be less threatening to women? Please. No one is saying that paying your waitress with a credit card is threatening, having a meeting with a client is threatening, or chewing gum and walking down the street is threatening. Cold-call sexual propositions of strangers may certainly be threatening depending on context.

Let me explain what I meant by this. Whistling at a woman as she walks by sends a message. The message is: You are very attractive, I wish I was in a sexual relationship with you.

My goodness, don't they teach "know your audience" in basic high-school composition anymore? Or basic communications theory in college composition? As your audience generally doesn't have a magic mind-reading helmet that allows them to understand your intended meaning, the meaning of your utterances are negotiated in the social space between you and your audience.

That is to say that the catcall is an invitation to enter into a sexual relationship. Consensual sexual relationships typically begin with some sort of overture from one party to the other, usually regarding attractiveness. In that way, catcalling is typical of consensual sexual relationships.

Do they really? I mean, I've been around the block a few times, and I've only dropped "wanna fuck" generally after a fair quantity of more subtle flirtation, usually involving geeking out over shared interests and a fair amount of body language suggesting mutual interest. (I did once pick up a guy at a gay bar by talking about Star Trek.)
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:12 PM on October 8, 2009 [12 favorites]


anybody can say "don't rape", but a lot of men need to understand why women behave as they do. And until violence is NOT glorified in movies and TV and on cable and in magazines and on the internet, etc.....women will have to do what they have to do to stay safe and survive.
posted by brneyedgrl at 1:13 PM on October 8, 2009


I never said it was acceptable and I certainly never said they were my friends. I just said that I've met guys who cat call. Can you honestly say that you've never even met a guy who cat calls?

Yes. Or, if I have "met" them - maybe they were a co-worker, maybe they were a classmate, etc. - I never knew them well enough to know that they did that.

I've met dudes who were creepy/violent in other ways, to be sure.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:14 PM on October 8, 2009


Jesus Christ, heyho. I am so incredibly sorry.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:14 PM on October 8, 2009


I know this article is not about me, but it still rankles a little, you know?

With all due respect, what makes my anger at having to have had to learn how to INSTINCTIVELY watch my back all the fucking time simply because of an accident of birth any less important than your being "rankled"?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:14 PM on October 8, 2009 [15 favorites]


Wow, so heyho wins the thread award for "Post that if you read it and still feel the same way before you read it, well, you're hopeless." I don't mean to be flip, and heyho's earlier comments were though-provoking, but I came away from this last, deeply personal one basically thinking "if some of these jackasses upthread read that comment and didn't change their minds, fuck it we're all screwed." Can't favorite that comment enough. Thanks, heyho.
posted by axiom at 1:16 PM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


heyho, for whatever it's worth, I'm extremely sorry you went through that. :(
posted by zarq at 1:17 PM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


What the hell is wrong with some guys when saying 'what terrible weather' to someone at a bus stop considered a potential prelude to sexual violence?

Fixed that for you.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:20 PM on October 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


Maybe catcalling's a coastal thing.

I think it happens more in places where people/women are out walking. When people are all in cars, all you see are heads and shoulders, and everyone is encased in metal and glass anyway.

the ENTIRE point of waving a gun around is to threaten other people. The purpose of catcalling is not.

Of course it is. "Hey sweetcheeks, nice tits" is a threatening comment. It objectifies the woman and implicitly says, "I don't care that you don't know me. I don't care that you don't want to hear my opinion of your body. I want to to make a demeaning and objectifying comment to you, so I'm going to." As the original article states, men who intentionally cross some boundaries are worrisome to us because it means they are more likely to be willing to cross others.
posted by Mavri at 1:20 PM on October 8, 2009 [14 favorites]


Wrinkled Stumpkin: I am not Schrodinger's (or anyone else's) rapist.

Until you build a rapport of trust, how is anyone supposed to know that? Maybe because I've just had the bad luck of the draw, but ever rapist I've ever known has been a fine, nice, upstanding guy who stood up for the rights of women, except when they decided to rape.

Winnipeg Dragon: What the hell is wrong with the world when saying 'what terrible weather' to someone at a bus stop considered a potential prelude to sexual violence?

Some guys do use that as a potential prelude to sexual violence. If you don't, good for you. But I think it's unreasonable for women to not be cautious of strangers.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:21 PM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: I don't even know if its useful to comment at this point

Nope. If any of my male acquaintances behave like that, they must do it when I'm not around.

Ditto. Bulgaroktonos, I can appreciate your perceptions, but I think you're way off about cat-calling. I don't think I've ever seen it done as a genuine attempt to interact sexually with a woman.

It pretty much always seems to be one man's (or group of men's) attempt to sexualize a woman in public. It's not only a somewhat threatening communication from a person with more physical "power" to one with less (as in "Ooh, you should see what I could do with that ass," etc.), it's also a very public shaming ritual (as in "Hey, everybody. Look at this hot slut right here!") IMO, a lot of offense in cat-calling comes from the public embarrassment of having your sexuality unexpectedly and rudely exposed in public.

We've all likely seen some cat-callers plead honest interest ("Hey, why won't you talk to me?!" ...) but it almost always seems to be a cover after they get a hurtful response, etc.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:23 PM on October 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


Well, that's obviously nonsense, since the ENTIRE point of waving a gun around is to threaten other people. The purpose of catcalling is not.

No, no, no, it's not threatening and you're being unreasonable if you think it's threatening. I'm simply exercising my US-ian constitutional rights to open-carry in public. Its purpose is to display my aggressive pursuit of my rights, not to shoot anyone or make anyone feel like they'd get shot. Why would they, I'm a perfectly nice guy who's just expressing himself.

/townhall


My problem is with the tenor of a discussion that equates any sort of male behavior toward women as threatening. It's not about the burden that it imposes on me or anyone else, it's about that being both an inaccurate conception of the world and morally wrong.


First of all, no one is doing this but the guys in the room. None of the women are saying, "all male attention is threatening, everywhere, at all times." It is only some of the guys, which unfortunately includes you, who are characterizing their arguments in this way.

But, second of all, let's say for the sake of argument that that is what they're saying. That doesn't make it "an inaccurate conception of the world", that makes it their experience of the world. It's not inaccurate. It couldn't be inaccurate, because that's how they're perceiving it. You do have a dog in this fight, because you're married, because you know, love, and respect women; your dog in this fight is to listen to what they're telling you and not to tell them they're stupid or wrong for being threatened by things that are threatening.

"Morally wrong"? Really? It's morally wrong to be distrustful of other people? It's sinful to shy away from people you find threatening, even if that's everyone? It's an ethical crime to be threatened?

That is to say that the catcall is an invitation to enter into a sexual relationship.

Respectfully, this whole paragraph of yours demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of sexism and power dynamics. In a way I'm ok with that, as it clearly also demonstrates that you and yours are not the type to catcall, ever, which is good. But allow me to suggest that you don't really understand what's going on in these street harassment situations, and a good place to start understanding would be with the idea that there's nothing consensual about them, ever.

On preview: this whole post seems like faint bluster and stupid theorycraft right now. heyho, i'm really sorry. thank you for sharing your story.
posted by Errant at 1:25 PM on October 8, 2009 [9 favorites]


Durn Bronzefist: How about we listen to each other? No? No good? Alright then. Laters.

tzikeh: No. No good. Not about this. I'm deadly serious. This is a one of the main problems of the conversation we're having here, and of any conversation between (some) men and (most) women about rape and rape culture.

We don't have to listen to you; you have to listen to us. Nothing you have to say has any bearing on how we have no choice but to live our lives in a world you don't live in.


~~~~~

There's definitely some guys here who don't get it and are being real dicks, and I'm absolutely not saying I do get it. But I was hoping to get some perspective on the above.

1) It makes sense that not only are guys insensitive (even nice ones trying to be), but that it takes a real paradigm shift like this:

huge muscle-bound gang banger with his cronies by his sides whistles at you and blows you a kiss

...to even have a clue. Like that gave me shivers trying to picture it. Scary shit, sure. Am I right that this type of explanation is what tzikeh is talking about?

Now,

2) One of the key words framing this, from where I'm looking, is rape culture. I'm not trying to derail this towards 'women have a point, but guys have feelings too'. I'm not. However, I think it's reasonable for guys to be confused about the two conversations, (a) rape culture, (b) how women and men are supposed to interact when they don't know each other. Is there any overlap? Is it necessary that guys have 'will my actions connote rape?' on their mind whenever they are in the vicinity of women they don't know? I know this place drips with sarcasm, but I intend none here. Based on comments above, I don't have a sense of what different constituents really feel is necessary.

On the one hand I feel like taking this route is comparable to how terrorists can make ordinary democratic citizens feel fear all the time. I.e., it tinges the day-to-day experience and by creating this new lense, has many other negative consequences. What will happen to romance, chivalry, civility, if people have to think like this just to be around each other?

On the other hand, if this is how women feel every day, and what's worse, that ignorance on the part of men contributes to 1/6th of women experiencing irretreivable loss, then you'd have to be a special type of cruel or ignorant not to respect it.

Is there a way to reconcile the two? Can men even be allowed into the conversation?

(3) This is a real leap, but I'm going to throw it out. Men are (often) taught to be forward. I'm really characterizing my own experience, but it's easy to be a guy, look around at work, sport, and, not least of all, interactions with the opposite sex and see how the aggressive are rewarded.

I'm not just talking about football quarterbacks, loudmouths, exploitive capitalists/politicians and the like. I think some concensus can be built around the idea that creating and seizing opportunity has advantages (often enough, mutual advantages).

So how can women and understanding men rationalize (nevermind explain) the idea of a different/better way? The idea that cat-callers create an environment of fear that lowers the romantic opportunity for all seems to have the seed of some kind of explanation, but it seems like a drop in the ocean of male ambition. (Not trying to be all game theoretic, but let's be honest, we're all part animal here)
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 1:26 PM on October 8, 2009 [12 favorites]


Some guys do use that as a potential prelude to sexual violence. If you don't, good for you. But I think it's unreasonable for women to not be cautious of strangers.

I don't mean to imply that they shouldn't. What I mean is, what is wrong with people today that they *should* be worried if some guy talks about the weather.

I mean, I strike up small talk with male and female strangers all the time. I obviously don't mean it to be creepy, but I'd hate to think that someone goes home thinking they just dodged a rapist.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 1:27 PM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


What the hell is wrong with some guys when saying 'what terrible weather' to someone at a bus stop considered a potential prelude to sexual violence?

Fixed that for you.


I was non-gender specific on purpose. Both genders can be rapists.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 1:28 PM on October 8, 2009


(er, I should point out that I know the statistics are such that rapists are *overwhelmingly* male)
posted by WinnipegDragon at 1:31 PM on October 8, 2009


Holy shit, heyho. Thank you for posting that.
posted by rtha at 1:33 PM on October 8, 2009


EmpressCallipygos:I was hoping that I'd phrased that mildly enough... I never implied that it there was any comparison, let alone equivalence. It's still not nice being grouped in with rapists for no reason other than a similar accident of birth, and I think it made the (otherwise good) article less effective.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 1:34 PM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Reasonably Everything Happens: I think the linked article was heading that way with some practical examples: be aware of what your clothing and body language may communicate, approach women on neutral subjects, and be prepared to back off if she's not interested.

Because it's the 21st century, and many women are more than capable of communicating their interest in a potential partner.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:34 PM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


but the thing is your experiences of men & cat calling can never be the same as a woman's experiences of them.

But I do have experiences of being harassed and bullied, so I take issue with the claim that I can not understand when feeling threatened makes sense. If you're alone, and a group of guys stand in the street and all yell obscene things at you? Sure, that's a scary situation, I can understand feeling threatened. If you're on your way to lunch, and some constructions workers shout at you as you walk by? That's what doesn't make sense to me.

OMNIBUS RESPONSE ON PREVIEW BECAUSE MY BOSS JUST STOOD OVER MY COMPUTER TELLING STORIES FOR HALF AN HOUR
If you'll notice the first time I referred to the consensuality of catcalling, I said it was evoking a sexist, but consensual relationship. Unequal power dynamics can make a relationship bad, but they only make it non-consensual at the extremes. A person might say something with the intention of demeaning you, but that's a long way away from threatening you. It's like insulting someone; is it about exerting power? Sure, but does that make it threatening? I don't tend to feel threatened merely by being called names, and I've certainly been called names in all kinds of contexts, both threatening and nonthreatening. My initial point, lost ages ago, was that merely shouting sexual language at a woman is not a threat, although it can be in context. It's disrespectful, it's sexist, it's inappropriate, but it is not, in and of itself, threatening.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:34 PM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


"This is also a terrible analogy. The situation you've described is designed, by the person whistling, to be intimidating. That's because the archetypal male-male prison relationship is a non-consensual one. Cat calling by men on the street, directed at women on the street, is designed to evoke a type of male-female relationship that, while it may be sexist, is fundamentally consensual."

"Let me explain what I meant by this. Whistling at a woman as she walks by sends a message. The message is: You are very attractive, I wish I was in a sexual relationship with you. That is to say that the catcall is an invitation to enter into a sexual relationship."

Nope. When you, operating from a position of superior power, violate all kinds of social and personal boundaries to issue an obviously unwelcome "invitation", than you are not operating within a "fundamentally consensual" framework.

Along those same lines, if you are a manager and you ask one of your employees to work late and then once the two of you are alone you mention that you'd really like her to give you a blow job, that doesn't count as "consensual relationship", even if you're thinking how nice it would be for her to willingly have sex with you.

There are plenty of areas of human interaction where a given action is ambigious and may be reasonably interpreted in very different ways by different individuals. This really isn't one of them. I'll be shocked if a single woman in this thread says that she interprets catcalls in terms of a "consensual relationship."
posted by tdismukes at 1:37 PM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


KJS - that's what I took away from the article as well. Along with some hints as to why other approaches may not work the way a guy might hope they would.
posted by sandraregina at 1:37 PM on October 8, 2009


Cat calling by men on the street, directed at women on the street, is designed to evoke a type of male-female relationship that, while it may be sexist, is fundamentally consensual.

Except that the cat-calling, the drawing of mass attention to a woman's body occurs whether the woman wants it to or not. The relationship evoked is between a man and the object he'd like to satisfy his sexual urges. It is not fundamentally consensual. Objects have no power to consent or deny.
posted by cereselle at 1:38 PM on October 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


What the hell is wrong with the world when saying 'what terrible weather' to someone at a bus stop considered a potential prelude to sexual violence?

What's wrong with the world is that saying 'what terrible weather' probably HAS been a prelude to sexual violence. Apparently "Can I get a light?" has been, and that's about as benign.

heyho, thank you so much for sharing. I was shaking as I read it.
posted by hegemone at 1:39 PM on October 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


It's disrespectful, it's sexist, it's inappropriate, but it is not, in and of itself, threatening.

Jesus fuck. In your experience it may not be threatening but believe me when I say, as a woman, that it can indeed be threatening. Yes, even if it happens in the middle of the day, yes, even if it happens on a crowded street, yes. Stop telling people who are not you what is and is not threatening. So fucking presumptuous.

And you haven't explained how catcalling evokes even a remotely consensual relationship.
posted by rtha at 1:39 PM on October 8, 2009 [16 favorites]


What positive effect is this article going to have? It seems to me that the guys that need advice like "don't rape" aren't the target audience. How exactly do we reach the people that are causing the problem? How do we get past this nightmarish culture of suspicion? When will we know we're there?


A lot of guys (not enough) don't need advice like "don't rape", but a lot of those guys clearly need advice on how not to become aggravated when it turns out that a stranger can't read their mind and know their pure, chivalrous intentions. Their aggravation at not getting the recognition they so clearly deserve for being a nice, good guy is also part of the problem.

If you'll notice the first time I referred to the consensuality of catcalling, I said it was evoking a sexist, but consensual relationship.

Sexist relationships aren't consensual, and when you say this, what you're telling women is that they're consenting accomplices to their own marginalization. And just because you don't feel threatened by something doesn't mean it's not threatening and no one else should be threatened by it.

Honestly, I'm not sure what you think threatening is, if disrespectful, sexist, and inappropriate aren't enough to clear the bar.
posted by Errant at 1:40 PM on October 8, 2009 [13 favorites]


So how can women and understanding men rationalize (nevermind explain) the idea of a different/better way?

No one right answer to this, but if people could just be better at reading others and responding appropriately, then there would be far less trouble in this area.

If you decide to ask that cute girl on the subway "hi, watcha reading?", then you have to be prepared for the fact that she's probably not going to be thrilled about this new development in her life. By default, she's probably not going to be responsive. You have a right to initiate conversation with people, and she has a right to respond as she likes.

But let's say that you really like the cut of her jib, or that you have an incredibly interesting perspective on her Dragonlance novel, so you plow ahead and keep talking. If after a few more lines of dialogue, she's still not into it, then leave her alone and don't take it personally.

Or, maybe she decides after a bit that you're worth talking to, and then you exchange numbers and do whatever it is people do with phones these days.

The end, either way.

But, you'd be surprised at how many guys don't know when to stop, or at how many guys think that they have some inalienable right to the attention of womenfolk.

And even IF IF IF your average woman has a somewhat exaggerated fear of sexual violence - not saying that that's the case, but purely for the sake of argument, let's say that this is so - it's still pretty clear why your average woman would be afraid of rape and might want to err on the side of caution as a result. You can either whine that too many women confuse your indistinguishable face from the equally indistinguishable faces of potential attackers, or you can just deal with it.

Like I said before, men don't have an inalienable right to the attention of womenfolk.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:40 PM on October 8, 2009 [13 favorites]


Bulgaroktonos: My initial point, lost ages ago, was that merely shouting sexual language at a woman is not a threat, although it can be in context.

Yes, it can be, in context. Look at what the women here are saying: they always have to maintain extreme caution around strange men. That's the context. Can you see how it might seem threatening now?
posted by joedan at 1:41 PM on October 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


Explain again how is cat-calling consensual?

By that argument, punching a guy in the face is consensual. It's sending a message that 'I don't like you, I'd like to engage in fisticuffs'.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 1:41 PM on October 8, 2009 [19 favorites]


Every time I've thought about saying something in this thread, someone else has said it better. And this is just going to be a repeat, too, but this I think is well worth repeating:
Thank you, heyho, for telling your story.
posted by EvaDestruction at 1:41 PM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


What's wrong with the world is that saying 'what terrible weather' probably HAS been a prelude to sexual violence. Apparently "Can I get a light?" has been, and that's about as benign.

Yeah, we are a pretty fucked up species. This has been a very thought provoking thread, and I suddenly feel like I have no idea how to deal with strangers in public anymore.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 1:42 PM on October 8, 2009


If you're alone, and a group of guys stand in the street and all yell obscene things at you? Sure, that's a scary situation, I can understand feeling threatened. If you're on your way to lunch, and some constructions workers shout at you as you walk by? That's what doesn't make sense to me.

I honestly don't see the difference between these two situations. Seriously, I don't. Are we assuming the construction workers aren't yelling obscene things? Is that the difference? If so, what is it that they're yelling?

You may be drawing distinctions between behaviors that are so subtle as to be meaningless. Your definition of "threatening" may also be different than any I understand.

If I am violated verbally I feel threatened for a few reasons. One, it could escalate no matter what I do. Two, I can be intimidated--threatened--into silence in the face of harassing and sexist behavior. Third, if I do dare to speak up, I can be followed, called a frigid bitch, etc. Many women have reported how cat-callers react to being challenged. It's threatening because I can either shut up and put up with being harassed and bullied, or I can speak up and risk escalation.
posted by Mavri at 1:42 PM on October 8, 2009 [7 favorites]


I'll admit that I usually have naught but contempt for men who are forever going on about how much men suck and how women sure are wonderful for sharing the planet with us and putting up with all our bullshit etc etc etc but when I read some of the stories women have shared in this thread and the linked post and I think about what I've heard from female friends and family members, I have to say I'm surprised all women aren't openly armed and armored when they leave the house each day. Christ.

(heyho's post made my day though, because I'm also one of the "wide berth" kind of guys that sounds kinda weird)
posted by lord_wolf at 1:42 PM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'll be shocked if a single woman in this thread says that she interprets catcalls in terms of a "consensual relationship."


not me.
posted by brneyedgrl at 1:43 PM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Cat calling by men on the street, directed at women on the street, is designed to evoke a type of male-female relationship that, while it may be sexist, is fundamentally consensual.

So... the guy that hollered "Daaaaaaaaaaaaamn I bet your pussy tastes good!" to me this morning as I walked to work -- he just wants to be my boyfriend? Is that how I'm supposed to take it?

Ooh, or how about the trio of homeless dudes that followed me for 5 blocks one evening this summer, talking loudly about how they'd like to suck on my big old titties? There was nowhere for me to go (no open businesses to duck into), no other people on the street to witness the escalation, as it went from loud unwanted commentary on my body to even louder unwanted commentary on how I must be a frigid bitch with a dried-up loose vagina because I wasn't responding to their advances, and how maybe they should show me a good time. They just wanted to be my boyfriends too? Is that how I'm supposed to take it?

What about the guy sitting across from me on the bus last week, whose attempt at chatting me up consisted of going, "Yo, girl. Girl. GIRL. You fine. Come sit over here by me. Come on. Girl. Giiiiiiirl. GIRL. Get over here. ....ugly-ass bitch, fuck you!" Another potential suitor, perhaps?

Here's the thing you seem to be missing, Bulgaroktonos -- you say that the prison catcall analogy doesn't work because prison sexual relationships are fundamentally non-consensual. But the way you would feel about a fellow man catcalling you in prison? That's the way women feel about the dudes that holler things at us on the street. Hollering shit on the street is generally not the beginning of a consensual sexual relationship -- in fact I can't remember ever boning a dude who has hollered at me on the street. Maybe I'm missing out, but somehow I doubt it. I think all the ladies who have contributed stories to Hollaback NYC would back me up on that.
posted by palomar at 1:43 PM on October 8, 2009 [55 favorites]


I don't tend to feel threatened merely by being called names, and I've certainly been called names in all kinds of contexts, both threatening and nonthreatening. My initial point, lost ages ago, was that merely shouting sexual language at a woman is not a threat, although it can be in context. It's disrespectful, it's sexist, it's inappropriate, but it is not, in and of itself, threatening.

But you're not a woman. I have to say that you really come across a not wanting to "lose the thread" with your persistence here, because it was explained really clearly exactly why those constructions workers are also threatening here and here. Stop being that guy.

My recommendation is that you show this thread to your wife and see how she feels about it. Maybe she can get through to you.
posted by Caduceus at 1:45 PM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


"If, instead, you'd been yelling "nice ass!" or "work it!" or "bet you've got a fiiiiiiiine pussy!", then THAT would have been catcalling."

Look, my Korean was just not that good.

(Really, I was thinking more just the "Hey baby!" catcalling, which seemed close enough to "Hello!" But then, the instances where I've actually seen real live catcalling are incredibly few, likely because very few people catcall burly hairy lumberjack dudes.)
posted by klangklangston at 1:50 PM on October 8, 2009


It's still not nice being grouped in with rapists for no reason other than a similar accident of birth, and I think it made the (otherwise good) article less effective.

I can better see your point, but I think where I'm disagreeing with you is in blaming the article for this particular grouping-in. I can imagine it isn't nice being grouped in with rapists because of an accident of birth -- but, the people to blame for that are those rapists. This article was just telling you about those guys.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:53 PM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


B: What you're not getting is that whistling or yelling sexual language to a woman in public is threatening because the implication is that the woman's body is not her own-- it is public property that anyone may pass judgment on or even possess. Can you think of anything more threatening than saying to a person that their body is not their own?

It's very similar to sexual harassment on the job. Treating a woman as she is a sexual object for anyone's gratification is a fundamentally possessory act. And that is threatening.

You seem to be thinking that threatening should equate to the likelihood that these assholes who whistle are going to actively go out an try to rape the woman. That's not the case. A threat can be a threat without an intent to follow through and rape-- that's when it's called intimidation. And this type of intimidation based on sex is threatening to women because we don't know the intentions of the actor.

That is why some people call this rape culture. The whistlers may not be rapists-- in fact, most of them are not. But they are reinforcing a culture where women are told that their bodies are not their own and there's nothing they can do about it.
posted by miss tea at 1:56 PM on October 8, 2009 [22 favorites]


And klangklangston: Presumably you've since read that "whoops, didn't finish my thought" statement:

Really, I was thinking more just the "Hey baby!" catcalling, which seemed close enough to "Hello!"

A fair point. However, tone also plays into this more often than you'd think it does; there's a difference between

{perky, with a dimpled grin} "Hey, baby!"

and

{leering, with a faint growl} "heyyyyyyy, baby."

I have a feeling your "hello" was closer to the former.

Although, for the record, the last time I got catcalled it was with the more blatant statement "I sure would like to suck your pussy", so hey.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:56 PM on October 8, 2009


Oh for crying out loud people...I NEVER said the relationship between catcaller and catcallee was consensual.

I said that it "is designed to evoke a type of male-female relationship that, while it may be sexist, is fundamentally consensual." That is to say, the message of the catcall (to the woman) is "let's have sex." That's a message that exists in a context(the world outside prison) where most sexual relationships are consensual. The message of that catcall incorporates that

This was in the VERY narrow context of differentiating it from a hypothetical involving prison, where the dominant type of sexual relationship is (at least in popular culture, and clearly in the mind of the poster) non consensual. It was to explain how the context makes prison catcalling is MORE threatening than the other, and anyone who says it isn't more threatening isn't being intellectually honest.

I'm not really sure how this thread turned into me versus the world about catcalling, so I'll end with a broader point then go home. The type of thinking typified by this article is harmful and morally wrong. It stigmatizes a half the population because a small percentage of them engage in bad behavior. If I wrote an article explaining how black people can stop making white people so afraid of them, I would be rightly pilloried. The fact that men operate from a position of power socially, where as blacks don't, doesn't matter, because we're not talking about broad social interactions, we're talking about alone at the bus stop at night sort of stuff. At that moment, all the white male privilege in the world won't save anyone.

This kind of thinking is harmful because it poisons the relationships between men and women, just as racism poisons the relationships between different races. It's morally wrong because it treats one segment of society as being presumptively "bad" because of a condition they can't control. I'd go so far as to say that it's dangerous, because the more men are cast as rapists, the more men will be convicted of rape, including innocent men. A reasonable concern for your safety is one thing, paranoia is quite another. Paranoia is bad for society, and bad for the people who suffer from it.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 2:03 PM on October 8, 2009


This kind of thinking is harmful because it poisons the relationships between men and women, just as racism poisons the relationships between different races. It's morally wrong because it treats one segment of society as being presumptively "bad" because of a condition they can't control. I'd go so far as to say that it's dangerous, because the more men are cast as rapists, the more men will be convicted of rape, including innocent men. A reasonable concern for your safety is one thing, paranoia is quite another. Paranoia is bad for society, and bad for the people who suffer from it.

And -- for the umpteenth time - if you truly, honestly, and sincerely have a problem with the fact that some women are leery of being approached by strangers, the best way to combat that problem is by talking to the men who are perpetuating the problem. This article is only explaining the problem.

It's your fellow men who are creating the problem. Go talk to them.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:07 PM on October 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


"It's still not nice being grouped in with rapists potential rape victims for no reason other than a similar accident of birth, and I think it made the (otherwise good) article entire life less effective safe.
posted by cereselle at 2:07 PM on October 8, 2009 [14 favorites]


the message of the catcall is not "let's have sex" It's about "let me comment on your body without your consent, let bring attention to you even tho you don't want it, let me endanger you to the general public, let me disrect you because I can".....so it's not consensual at all. and I say "you are an idiot."
posted by brneyedgrl at 2:12 PM on October 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


uh, that should be "disrespect"
posted by brneyedgrl at 2:13 PM on October 8, 2009


You know what I find really intriguing?

If you come up to me on the train or in a coffee shop or in a bar or on the sidewalk and smile and say hello, I'll likely smile right back and talk to you. I'm chatty like that when I feel safe.

If you do any of those things to my girlfriend Julie, she'll likely shake in her shoes. She's stunning to look at, she's smart as hell, and she's not usually a timid woman. But on the occasion of a birthday party attended by a gaggle of girls, the subject of rape came up -- a few bottles of wine into the party.

We were all taking at the same time, most of us sharing stories of attacks, near-attacks, some close calls, and the like, when Julie just started crying. It wasn't over my story, because I didn't have the scariest story -- not by a longshot, sadly. It took us a while, but she eventually admitted that she was terrified all the time because she hadn't been raped.

After some discussion, it turns out that she feels her number is about to come up every time she steps outside. Nearly all of her friends have been raped. It's made her completely paranoid. There are as many ways to think about this shit as there are people in the world.

If you really doubt the numbers, get together with a bunch of women in a safe place, bring a bunch of wine, and sit back and listen to what they'll tell you. One in four? BullSHIT. I think that number is higher.
posted by heyho at 2:14 PM on October 8, 2009 [76 favorites]


My only contribution is anecdotal evidence.
I am a female, and not a very big one at that. I have always known that I am not physically strong. As such, for as long as I can recall, I have always been keenly aware of my surroundings when I am in situations that could potentially be risky to my person.
I am not afraid - fear is not an issue - that rarely comes into play, but I am super-alert. I also make a point of not making eye contact with men in public, and I suffer from discriminatory deafness. If I hear whistles, catcalls, etc., I do not respond in any fashion. Under very limited circumstances would I allow a male stranger to talk to me in public. I have a very high barrier for engagement with strangers, and I have absolutely no doubt that it is owing to the fact that I am a skinny-ass chick. I guarantee if I were male, it would be different.
This is not necessarily a daily occurrence, because I work at home, but it is so thoroughly ingrained in who I am that I rarely even think about it consciously, and examined it today in detail owing to this thread.
Just sayin'.
posted by msali at 2:14 PM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


This kind of thinking is harmful because it poisons the relationships between men and women

Dude.

Rape and sexual violence poison the relationships between men and women.

Harassment poisons the relationships between men and women.

Putting your fingers over your ears and singing "LALALALALALALALA" and refusing to listen to the women who are spelling this shit out poisons the relationships between men and women.

Any fear/trepidation/mistrust that we have is the effect, not the cause. I really cannot see how we could make these points any simpler for you.
posted by hegemone at 2:17 PM on October 8, 2009 [32 favorites]


I don't see that an article pointing out exactly how men can avoid sending threatening signals to women constitutes "paranoia."
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:17 PM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


On the subject of cat-calling: I've been yelled at on the street, I've been yelled at from men in cars, I've been yelled at by men who pull up next to me when I'm driving. I've also had a carful of high school football players pull up in a car next to me while I was walking at night and start yelling. It starts with "Hey baby" and then it goes to "Come here" and then "Give me a blow job" and then they stop the car and get out. I yelled all the obscenities I knew at them and ran.

So the fact that some people seem to be saying that yelling sexual statements at women isn't at all threatening when it's the first step towards assault just boggles the mind. Aren't they basically yelling "I want to fuck you, I want to fuck you, I want to fuck you?" How many times would someone have to say that to a stranger before that person becomes creepy and dangerous to you?
posted by threeturtles at 2:18 PM on October 8, 2009 [10 favorites]


Bulgaroktonos: The fact that men operate from a position of power socially, where as blacks don't, doesn't matter, because we're not talking about broad social interactions, we're talking about alone at the bus stop at night sort of stuff. At that moment, all the white male privilege in the world won't save anyone.

Again, that is not the part of the analogy that fails. The part of the analogy that fails is that women, who are not in a position of power at the time of the conversation about it, are asking men not to be scary. White dudes telling black dudes not to be scary is the opposite of that.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:19 PM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm not really sure how this thread turned into me versus the world about catcalling, so I'll end with a broader point then go home. The type of thinking typified by this article is harmful and morally wrong. It stigmatizes a half the population because a small percentage of them engage in bad behavior. If I wrote an article explaining how black people can stop making white people so afraid of them, I would be rightly pilloried. The fact that men operate from a position of power socially, where as blacks don't, doesn't matter, because we're not talking about broad social interactions, we're talking about alone at the bus stop at night sort of stuff. At that moment, all the white male privilege in the world won't save anyone.

This kind of thinking is harmful because it poisons the relationships between men and women, just as racism poisons the relationships between different races. It's morally wrong because it treats one segment of society as being presumptively "bad" because of a condition they can't control. I'd go so far as to say that it's dangerous, because the more men are cast as rapists, the more men will be convicted of rape, including innocent men. A reasonable concern for your safety is one thing, paranoia is quite another. Paranoia is bad for society, and bad for the people who suffer from it.


Bulgaroktonos, either you're being deliberately obtuse or your reading comprehension is shit, because you've once again completely misinterpreted the article and about half the comments in this thread, which have been trying to explain how that's not at all what the article is saying. Quite frankly I don't think it can be explained any more clearly. You're still making it all about you and completely failing to understand the perspective of the women in this thread and women in general. It's probably best that you leave the thread, because at this point, I have to conclude that you're either an idiot or an asshole, and either way you're beyond help. I feel sorry for your wife.
posted by Caduceus at 2:20 PM on October 8, 2009 [10 favorites]


Bulgaroktonos, this thread turned into you vs the world re: catcalling because you've positioned yourself as the great defender of catcalling. You keep telling the women commenting on this thread that it's not a big deal, it's not threatening, it's meant to be complimentary if somewhat sexist, it's meant to "evoke the feeling of a fundamentally consensual sexual relationship", et cetera.

No matter how many women comment here that they personally feel threatened by catcalling, that it IS a big deal, it doesn't feel complimentary, it feels scary and gross and yes, threatening, you insist that we're wrong. We're overreacting, we're wrong to feel the way that we feel, we're paranoid, this kind of thinking is dangerous to society and poisons the goodwill between women and men.

What you're doing here is a textbook example of men telling women how to think. It's demeaning, it's insulting, it's sexist, and it's just plain fucked up.
posted by palomar at 2:22 PM on October 8, 2009 [43 favorites]


darksasami: And because of the way you're presenting this, I'm not going to read your discussion, or even the rest of your comment.

First of all, it's not my discussion. In fact, out of over 4,000 comments there, I made two. Possibly three.

Second, because you find me offensive, you're not going to bother to read something that's been hugely influential in opening a lot of men's eyes to a world they didn't, and couldn't, see before? I'm not being condescending; it's right there in their comments. That's excellent logic on how to approach this subject. Shoot the messenger, and while you're at it, burn the message.

Maybe I should. Maybe it would be good for me. Maybe you have something interesting to say. But no matter how eminently right you are, you simply can't behave this way and expect to be listened to.

The tone argument. Here is a good explanation of why the tone argument is entitled bullshit. (Just substitute "misogyny" for "racism" in the article.) How dare I speak so bluntly? How dare I refuse to defer to your desire not to be confronted with my thoroughly valid, justifiable rage?

To paraphrase a post from the racism discussion I referred to earlier:
Predictable as the sunrise, some man somewhere in a discussion on misogyny, sexism, and rape will say, "But you'd get progress on all of this/more allies/more sympathy/whatever if only you didn't speak so angrily!" Surprise, being the object of this hateful culture pisses women off. Dealing with clueless males trying on their new, brilliant argument that women have only heard for the 5,675th time this week is annoying and tiring. And when you, the man, demand that woman modulate her tone to you when she is talking about how misogyny/sexism/rape makes them feel, you are asserting your privileged "right" to control the conversation.

You are asking women to cater to your wishes. In a discussion about women. What is that if not male privilege?
Me: We don't have to listen to you; you have to listen to us.

and hosted from Uranus: You have a funny definition for conversation.

If you had read on, you would have seen that I specified that I (and many other white people) did take part in the conversation with POCs, by asking them lots and lots of questions. What I didn't do was give them my opinion on their lives, because they don't have to listen to me; I have to listen to them. I have nothing to offer in a conversation about what it means to be a POC in this world. All I can do is try to learn.

For those of you (and I believe there are only two) who are calling me a troll, that's a very easy way to dismiss what I'm saying. Metafilter has seen a lot of trolling. This isn't what it looks like.

languagehat: Great post, great link, and despite the occasional glitches in the thread there's only one guy who's being a complete unredeemable dick (naming no names) and in general it's going pretty well, so I'm tentatively feeling like MeFi's come a long way in the last couple of years.

I entirely agree. Good on ya, languagehat.
posted by tzikeh at 2:23 PM on October 8, 2009 [18 favorites]


> The type of thinking typified by this article is harmful and morally wrong.

No, the type of thinking typified by your obtuse series of bullheaded comments is harmful and morally wrong. You are making women's lives just that little bit harder by your foolish refusal to rethink your preconceptions. Other men who started from an equally obtuse position managed to learn from the various similar threads we have had; they actually listened to what women had to say, put their reflex reactions aside, and realized they had been wrong. You, with your ungrounded self-confidence and need to not "lose the thread" (as someone said), seem to be unable to do that. Your loss, of course, but our loss as well.
posted by languagehat at 2:24 PM on October 8, 2009 [18 favorites]


Bulgaroktonos, it became you vs. the world because you made it so.
posted by sandraregina at 2:28 PM on October 8, 2009


I tried to post on Shapely Prose, but I didn't pass moderation. So, I'll just say it here. What is the assumption that leads people to believe that the male character in the XKCD comic has any sexual interest in the female character?

The non-sexists reading of this comic goes like this, nerd boy is paralyzed with fear of being called a creep, when all he wants to do is talk about her cute netbook. This is sad because the nerd girl is doing her best to signal her interest in talking with him, but he doesn't notice because he's a typical nerd and isn't great with these kind of cues.

What I seem to be hearing from the "feminists" is that the only reason he wants to talk to her is because he's only interested in sex like, of course, all men are, and this girl couldn't possibly be interested in talking to him because women just want to be left alone.
posted by betaray at 2:28 PM on October 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


Hey. For the record, I was never accusing anyone of lying. I was just asserting that someone was saying something that he or she knew to be false.
posted by xmutex at 2:28 PM on October 8, 2009


I'd go so far as to say that it's dangerous, because the more men are cast as rapists, the more men will be convicted of rape, including innocent men.

There it is! This is the part where we need to worry more about men who might get wrongly convicted of rape more than women who are actually raped!

If I had a bingo card I think I would win.
posted by rtha at 2:28 PM on October 8, 2009 [48 favorites]


And here is why the fact that the tone argument is entitled bullshit doesn't matter: because I still have the ability to choose to ignore what you're saying. Whether you're right or wrong, I still have the choice. Whether I should have the choice or not, I still have the choice. In fact, it sucks complete ass that I have the choice not to listen to people who are right about things that are important. But I still have the choice.

I think you are right about a great many things. But the way you are saying them makes me -- involuntarily, as a gut reaction -- want you to be wrong. Is that, in the end, helpful to your cause?
posted by darksasami at 2:30 PM on October 8, 2009


Errant: Women don't get to walk away from this conversation; this conversation follows them home. If you care about women, you don't walk away either, because you can't begin to live in the same world as the women you love if you walk away from their reality.

I cannot even begin to improve upon this. Word.
posted by hubbit at 2:31 PM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


betaray: What I seem to be hearing from the "feminists" is that the only reason he wants to talk to her is because he's only interested in sex like, of course, all men are, and this girl couldn't possibly be interested in talking to him because women just want to be left alone.

Well, I'm just going to quote the article linked in the FPP:

"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...."

"On the other hand, if she is turned towards you, making eye contact, and she responds in a friendly and talkative manner when you speak to her, you are getting a green light. You can continue the conversation until you start getting signals to back off."
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:32 PM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


This has been a very thought provoking thread, and I suddenly feel like I have no idea how to deal with strangers in public anymore.

I understand your feeling, but I think the important message to take away is simple, and that you probably already know it:

Other people are autonomous individuals. While they arguably have a social duty to uphold minimal civil interaction in public spaces, no one is required to engage with a stranger's advances, even when those advances are nonsexual.

That is: when I initiate friendly conversation with strangers, I keep in mind that they have no responsibility to mirror my willingness to talk. They have no responsibility to chat with me or to flirt with me.

As the initiator, I should be alert for signs that they would not welcome the conversation, or that they're trying to exit the conversation once it's started: looking away, looking at their book or newspaper or phone or shoes, giving terse responses to my chatter, or otherwise indicating that they are not eagerly engaging. And then I politely give them a chance to get out of the conversation with no hard feelings.

As I remarked above, and as several people have echoed in this thread and in other threads, that's the X factor in male-female* street interactions: the pursued doesn't know how the pursuer will react to a rebuff.

*I would argue that this is the biggest tension in any street encounter between strangers, but that in male-female interaction, the tension is heightened by institutional sexism, by the typical inequality of physical strength between the participants, by the individual woman's indoctrinated caution against strange men, and by a host of other factors.

It's the cheerful willingness of intrusive strangers to disregard these cues and clues that puts me on my guard. If a stranger disregards or misses a whole series of socially accepted clues, I start wondering what other clues and social boundaries they will disregard or miss. I get wary --- not so much of their intent as of their ability to gauge another person's boundaries.
posted by Elsa at 2:33 PM on October 8, 2009 [21 favorites]


xmutex: "Hey. For the record, I was never accusing anyone of lying. I was just asserting that someone was saying something that he or she knew to be false."

Why are you doing this?
posted by minifigs at 2:37 PM on October 8, 2009 [8 favorites]


pointless as it is to say this, thank you everyone for your stories and intelligence.

this is the most incredible thread i`ve yet read on metafilter.
i feel hopeless and poisoned and informed and i just want to cry and go get therapy.

and that is not a bad thing.
posted by artof.mulata at 2:42 PM on October 8, 2009


What a fantastic thread, and what a fucked-up species. Thanks Empress, heyho, and everyone else. This is why I love MeFi like I do.
posted by everichon at 2:43 PM on October 8, 2009


I mean, really. WTF is up with this, "I don't know how to behave in public anymore" crud when the basic suggestions advocated are:

1: be presentable
2: be polite when approaching strangers
3: pay attention to body language and back off if she's not interested
4: recognize that if you get the brush-off, it's probably not about you as an individual.

I mean, really, you could get 1-3 from Jane Fucking Austin. This isn't radical feminism or postmodern here.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:43 PM on October 8, 2009 [23 favorites]


Hey. For the record, I was never accusing anyone of lying. I was just asserting that someone was saying something that he or she knew to be false.

Is this sarcasm? I can't even tell. Goodness I hope so, if only for your sake.
posted by hegemone at 2:46 PM on October 8, 2009


KirkJobSluder: Sure, that's great advice (although not saying anything unless a person is facing directly toward you and looking you in the eye seems a bit of a high standard, but I digress...), but not proceeding when getting a green light seems quite a bit different than claims, as the article referencing the XKCD comic on Shapely Prose puts it, the comic says that "it (sic) just fine to perpetuate rape culture"
posted by betaray at 2:52 PM on October 8, 2009


This has been a very thought provoking thread, and I suddenly feel like I have no idea how to deal with strangers in public anymore.

In all sincerity, try re-reading the original article not as feminism, but as a guide to how to successfully approach women you don't know in public. I'm surprised at the hostility of a few guys here -- maybe I'm crazy but I thought I detected a note of "Help me out here guys, I really would like to know which of you are cool enough to talk to -- here's how to show me."

I'm not anybody's rapist.

I'm not sure you're understanding the reference. The Schrodinger's Cat paradox -- very loosely -- is an experiment where a cat inside a box may or may not be dead, based on random atomic decay. You only know if the cat is dead or alive once you open the box.

I believe that the author is analogizing strange men who approach her in public to just such a box, that may or may not cotain a rapist. She only "opens the box" by engaging the man in conversation. Even if the probability of him being a rapist is small, it makes sense that she would not want to open it in most circumstances.
posted by msalt at 2:52 PM on October 8, 2009 [6 favorites]


I think you are right about a great many things. But the way you are saying them makes me -- involuntarily, as a gut reaction -- want you to be wrong. Is that, in the end, helpful to your cause?

I'm not sure if you're addressing me, but it's not "my" cause. If you are someone who cares about women, it is your cause too. And, of course, as we've seen in this thread, it's also about how men are perceived and treated. Do you want to be the kind of person who decides what to think based on spite? That won't hurt my or anyone else's cause, but it will hurt you.
posted by rtha at 2:54 PM on October 8, 2009 [7 favorites]


Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 19:

"When I do myself the honour of speaking to you next on the subject, I shall hope to receive a more favourable answer than you have now given me; though I am far from accusing you of cruelty at present, because I know it to be the established custom of your sex to reject a man on the first application, and perhaps you have even now said as much to encourage my suit as would be consistent with the true delicacy of the female character."

"Really, Mr. Collins," cried Elizabeth with some warmth, "you puzzle me exceedingly. If what I have hitherto said can appear to you in the form of encouragement, I know not how to express my refusal in such a way as to convince you of its being one."

"You must give me leave to flatter myself, my dear cousin, that your refusal of my addresses is merely words of course. My reasons for believing it are briefly these: ... As I must therefore conclude that you are not serious in your rejection of me, I shall choose to attribute it to your wish of increasing my love by suspense, according to the usual practice of elegant females."

"I do assure you, sir, that I have no pretensions whatever to that kind of elegance which consists in tormenting a respectable man. I would rather be paid the compliment of being believed sincere. I thank you again and again for the honour you have done me in your proposals, but to accept them is absolutely impossible. My feelings in every respect forbid it. Can I speak plainer? Do not consider me now as an elegant female, intending to plague you, but as a rational creature, speaking the truth from her heart."

"You are uniformly charming!" cried he, with an air of awkward gallantry; "and I am persuaded that when sanctioned by the express authority of both your excellent parents, my proposals will not fail of being acceptable."

To such perseverance in wilful self-deception Elizabeth would make no reply, and immediately and in silence withdrew; determined, if he persisted in considering her repeated refusals as flattering encouragement, to apply to her father, whose negative might be uttered in such a manner as to be decisive, and whose behavior at least could not be mistaken for the affectation and coquetry of an elegant female.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:58 PM on October 8, 2009 [81 favorites]


darksasami: And here is why the fact that the tone argument is entitled bullshit doesn't matter

But it does matter; it's part and parcel of the subject at hand. The fact that you want me to be wrong (and I get what you mean here) because you don't like the way I'm saying things is a form of sexism that is so deeply embedded in our language and social interaction that most people are entirely unaware of it. It's part of the "if a man says x, he's assertive; if a woman says x, she's a bitch" branch of the misogyny tree.

Is that, in the end, helpful to your cause?

The fact that the tone argument has come up and I can address where people can read it and think about it, it is helpful. So, yes.

Thank you for saying that you think some of what I'm saying has merit. Generally, when these threads come up here, I post one or two comments and then weary so quickly, because I don't think I'll make even a tiny drop of difference. I've been called out more than once with, "Well, if we're so stupid and we don't "get it" and you're so smart, why don't you explain it?"

The fact that I've made some insane number of comments on this thread, and haven't even scratched the surface, is why I don't "explain it." It can't be explained by one person in one thread. It's so powerful, and so pervasive, and there are books and classes available for people to learn more if they're willing to accept that there might be more here than they thought. But when I point that out, the usual response is a sarcastic, "Well, we don't have time to read a book/take a class, so why don't you just sum it up for us?"

I still don't think I've explained it--not even close. But at least this time I'm not walking away in impotent fury.
posted by tzikeh at 3:00 PM on October 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


Anecdotally, even though I'm a male over 6'1" and 220 lbs who walks confidently and have never been assaulted in my life, I still check out almost everyone I see on the street as a potential threat to the point where crowds tire me slightly. Because at the end of the day, I'm no more immune to being knifed, shot, or tasered and raped than someone half my size. Some of the precautions the author takes are not ones that I would, because they'd only help find the person who assaulted or killed her. I'm a little interested in society retaliating if I'm victimized, but mostly I just want to survive with my physical and mental health.

So this is one guy who understands hypervigilance. BTW, pepper spray is light and easy to carry.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:01 PM on October 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


The fact that you want me to be wrong (and I get what you mean here) because you don't like the way I'm saying things is a form of sexism that is so deeply embedded in our language and social interaction that most people are entirely unaware of it. It's part of the "if a man says x, he's assertive; if a woman says x, she's a bitch" branch of the misogyny tree.

I think it can be, but I don't think that's necessarily the case here. Phrases like "I don't have to listen to you" are so dismissive that I think a lot of people would automatically discount anything that follows them regardless of your gender. If we were arguing about religion or politics or something and you said, "You have to listen to me, I don't have to listen to you," I'd probably break the conversation off whether or not I even knew your gender.

This isn't meant as an attack, by the way, because I did read all of your comments, and you make very good points. But tone does matter – even if it shouldn't – and can't always be reduced to the "assertive man vs. bitchy woman" brand of societal misogyny, especially in an online forum like Metafilter where gender isn't apparent.
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:08 PM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think Bulgaroktonos' point started off by saying there are levels of threats and cat-calling is different from directly waving a knife at someone. It went weird because of his refusal to see it as emotionally confusing / harassy. I think a lot of this conversation has gone weird because we're getting bogged down in odd swamps. Is there anyone who really disagrees with "people have the right to be wary of any stranger they deem being-wary-worthy of?" Sure it may be intellectually problematic depending on what they're responding to but on a personal level this should really be easy.

The issue about men being victims of physical violence isn't really unconnected to why women get annoyed/flustered/alarmed about being turned into sex objects against their will. To some degree it's the same as a man calling another man out when the other man doesn't want to fight—a really confusing, annoying moment. Doesn't mean you don't know how to deal with it but there's a bunch of factors that play into why you're uncomfortable by your refusal or agreement to engaging that "let's fight" dynamic.

Arguably, though, the men who have a level of self-awareness and the habit of being observant of others' body language are probably not the same men who have difficulty in this area.
— EmpressCallipygos

Empress, I'd like to start by thanking you for always being fair in these types of threads instead of going the "read 200 pages then you'll know why everything you've learned in life is wrong" route or the whole "i'm going to drag in a bunch of politically-loaded phrases in here and analogize your behaviour to it route." That said I don't understand this comment at all. Men who aren't scared when they're walking around are the scary ones? They're not related. I walk around areas at times people tell me not to *and* I don't walk into women's personal spaces.
posted by Non Prosequitur at 3:22 PM on October 8, 2009


Sorry, rtha -- I had, in my hubris, thought I was typing fast enough to post right after tzikeh. I was, as always, a fool. It was part of the conversation about her claim that "We don't have to listen to you; you have to listen to us. Nothing you have to say has any bearing," and my reaction -- and the reaction of many people like me -- to it. I think I can state without fear of contradiction that there are many people, male and female, who would react badly to being told something like that.

And I agree completely that yes, reacting in this way is hurtful to me, you, my gender, and your gender. It's also the way many humans react regardless. This is something that sucks but that should be taken into account.

Tzikeh: The fact that you want me to be wrong (and I get what you mean here) because you don't like the way I'm saying things is a form of sexism

Hang on, stop right there, because it's not sexism. I don't care what's between your legs, if anybody tells me that I have to shut up and listen, I'm going to balk. I'm quite serious here when I say that I can't really assign a gender role to what I perceive only as a few paragraphs of white text on a blue background without really working at it; I can barely grok that you're a human at all, much less a female. (Interestingly, on reflection, my perception might be different if you had had a traditionally feminine handle.) So even if my own deeply entrenched sexism (which I own is present, in the same way as "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist") is coming into it, it's hardly the dominant force at work.

All I'm saying is that nobody likes being told "Shut up, you don't get to talk." Women fighting the patriarchy, probably more than anyone else in the world, should understand that feeling.
posted by darksasami at 3:22 PM on October 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


So how can women and understanding men rationalize (nevermind explain) the idea of a different/better way? The idea that cat-callers create an environment of fear that lowers the romantic opportunity for all seems to have the seed of some kind of explanation, but it seems like a drop in the ocean of male ambition. (Not trying to be all game theoretic, but let's be honest, we're all part animal here)

A) there's lots of feminist writing out there about why men catcall/the existence of patriarchy, not really room for all of that here, but I suggest you Google "feminism 101" posts--lots of feminist blogs have created those, they give you a place to start reading.

B)The article gives pretty good tips on how not to look like/act like a potential rapist.

I wanted to post again because I wanted to say, the despair and sadness many of you feel who are first realizing what it's like for women is familliar. It is kind of like what Ia lot of women go through as they grow up--I know I did. I was so sad and afraid, once I understood what rape was, for a very long time. Of all men/boys. Of the world being so fucked up and dangerous for me because I was female.

But then I got angry. And then later, I started fighting back by educating myself and speaking up, calling out those who enabled this kind of crap etc. etc.

And most importantly, I decided not to let fear ruin my life. I go out. I take some risks. I don't assume all men are rapists, or even most men. I married, I'm raising a son; clearly, I do not think men are the problem. There are lots of theories about why sexism/patriarchy developed, all of them make for fascinating conversation, but in the end, culture is what we force it to become. However long and slow that fight may be. I can't fight if I'm locked up in a room. I can't let the rapists/misogynists take my life from me by making me afraid all the time. So as much as possible, I don't.

Oppression of women is real, and we hate it, but we are not destroyed. We're pretty tough survivors, most of us. We have to be. The men who want to be our allies are welcome. We only ask that they believe us when we tell them the truth.
posted by emjaybee at 3:25 PM on October 8, 2009 [15 favorites]


Another reason this "you don't get to talk" thing is confusing is because it's strange to call men pricks because they're the ones trying to understand something. You don't get to force a conception onto anyone or legitimize it by default just because you have it. So when "explain this to me" is followed by "fuck you for asking me to explain this to you, i don't have to explain to you, shut up and listen" I don't understand why the addressee's reaction shouldn't be "forget it" rather than starry-eyed "you're right!"
posted by Non Prosequitur at 3:26 PM on October 8, 2009


"Ask yourself, “If I were dangerous, would this woman be safe in this space with me?” If the answer is no, then it isn’t appropriate to approach her."

Given this criteria, there are no circumstances under which I could appropriately approach a woman. Or most men. I'm one of the large scary guys. I tend to give women a wide birth.
That or in close quarters I yawn a lot. Hum classical music. Especially if I'm carrying a package. I figure if someone won't feel threatened by the severe looking muscular guy if he's falling down sleepy and into Chopin. Like maybe I'm a roadie for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra or something.

“I know this article is not about me, but it still rankles a little, you know?”

Better directed at the assheads engaging in or tacitly encouraging the behavior by remaining passive. I have to say I don’t care for painting all men with the same brushstroke in some of the statements (broadly speaking - e.g. the cereta.livejournal link - my "battalion/troop/whatever" saved quite a few women where the "thin veneer of civilization was lifted". So I feel pretty comfortable most of the time.) and there is some incongruity/referential oddity there ("Sweet Machine"? And "Phaedra"? Ok, she can't help if that's her name, but man, if you know that story... )

But I think the exceptions for individual males were ceded in the piece and the appeal was to the ignorance of who ‘you’ are of any given woman.
So I took it more of an indictment of the environment.
In which, I have to agree, there are no bystanders. So it’s a legitimate beef and I can see the anger when men try to distance themselves.
Yeah it's a gender issue. But it's a human issue. Deny your own involvement and you cede that much of your humanity.

“I tend to go out with my wife and our scrawny spineless nerd friend, who intimidates less than zero people”
Bulgaroktonos, why don't I come over unannounced and I can fuck your wife properly for you. She probably deserves a real man like myself.

Flattered by that invitation to a kind of sexual relationship? I'm assuming your wife is attractive sight unseen. Hey, I was just asking. You could always say no. It would be an invitation to a consensual relationship, no?
Now if it's not clear, that somewhat offensive statement was made with a purpose beyond trolling, and hopefully it illustrates the ambiguity in interpretation (am I currying favor for favorites? trying to "pay a compliment in a retarded way" or projecting dominance or seeking to usurp or change the nature of your relationship? Maybe I'm just a dick.
Whatever the case, if you're not into the whole cuckold thing, it probably made you uncomfortable in your sexuality and less self-possessed. Or would were I standing in front of you and your scrawny friends.
In any case - I see no legitimate situation in which one stranger can impose him/herself on another in that way.

I myself have never groped a woman. I have had a homosexual man (apparently drunk or high) grope my ass. And I punched him in response. Being offended as a heterosexual never occurred to me. Given the area and circumstances it was legitimate for him to presume I was gay (and no, it wasn't in prison). I don't think I look gay - but then, wtf would I know since I'm not? My response was predicated only on his presumptive behavior and gross violation of what I consider to be legitimate interpersonal interaction. I thought he had a little jab in the face coming. (So did he because he got up looking sorry.)

It is, in most cases, not an option most women have open to them (and no necessarily an ideal response in any case, just my, perhaps understandable, reflex).
Therefore - any recourse has to be less physical but equally communicative and assertive in nature.

That recourse, part of it, is what's being seen now. This essay (and most certainly the other from cereta) is that akin to that punch in the face. Engaging in rhetorical gainsaying is akin to throwing down, going to dukes afterwards.
Well hell man, what is it you're defending? You can grab my ass if you want and I'm a homophobe if I don't let you?
Because there are consensual homosexual relationships. But why should I have to stand for a personal invasion of any kind that looks to define my sexuality in a way other than how I want?

Hell, I'm teaching my daughter she doesn't have to give me any of her blueberries if she wants to eat them all and I'm her father.
Think I'm going to let her take shit from some jagoff thinks he's got the right to impose his sexual hangups publicly?

There's a difference between power and control. Just because a catcall or some such might not directly control some individual woman's actions doesn't mean it doesn't have the power to influence her, or women in general, in other ways.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:27 PM on October 8, 2009 [16 favorites]


Hey. For the record, I was never accusing anyone of lying. I was just asserting that someone was saying something that he or she knew to be false.

Flagged as trolling.

This thread has been a mostly civil discussion on a highly emotionally charged topic. You're not helping.
posted by zarq at 3:27 PM on October 8, 2009


On a somewhat related note: I wonder how much this situational fear is amplified further by the constant looks from men that women get. It's got to be quite disconcerting to have people constantly trying to surreptitiously look at you, especially given the subtext of trying to guess what their intentions are.
posted by jsonic at 3:44 PM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


That said I don't understand this comment at all. Men who aren't scared when they're walking around are the scary ones? They're not related. I walk around areas at times people tell me not to *and* I don't walk into women's personal spaces.

My lack of clarity -- what I was trying to say was that the men who have enough of an awareness of themselves to know how others might perceive them, and enough of an awareness of others' body language to be able to pick up others' body language cues, probably don't need to be told "don't do X Y and Z because it creeps people out", because they have probably already figured that out for themselves.

Now -- I had a thought about the argument that "this article just perpetuates the idea that all men are potential rapists. To wit:

Every so often, a weatherman in an area that is facing the threat of a hurricane will do a weather piece explaining the potential power of that hurricane, and also explaining to viewers how to protect themselves and what preventative measures they need to take. Now -- if someone watches this weather piece and becomes frightened of that impending hurricane, you would you hold the weatherman at fault for creating "fear of hurricanes" in that viewer? Or, would you accuse the weatherman of creating that hurricane itself?

Of course not. The existence of the hurricane is a separate issue. The weatherman is just explaining the nature of that hurricane, and is expaining how to react to it. The person afraid of the hurricane isn't afraid because "oh, mercy, Al Roker is just trying to scare me!" No - they're afraid because "Jesus Christ, it's a hurricane!"

This article, and the testimonies of women you've heard in here, are like the weatherman. We are explaining the nature of the hurricane to you, and giving you the storm-prep tips so you can cope with it. But the article itself is not like the hurricane. The actions of other men are like the hurricane.

So accusing this article of perpetuating this "paranoia" is like accusing Al Roker of causing hurricanes by blowing real hard.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:44 PM on October 8, 2009 [8 favorites]


Seconding the pepper spray, fwiw. Stings like hell (I've done it to myself).

That commenter long ago who talked about buying a drink in a glass bottle to use in case she got attacked: no. Buy some spray. It's tiny.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:46 PM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


ouch! I have a degree in physics...

I am really not trying to derail this into being about me or my feelings. Nobody that doesn't know me has any reason to trust me. I think I'm looking at this article from a completely different (and potentially wrong) angle, though.

Women's behaviour is rational, and I am not going to be offended if someone doesn't want to be alone in a lift with me. That's life, life sucks sometimes. There is no possible way that women's behaviour is the problem here.

Men's behaviour is rational: if you approach enough people, the odds are on your side. The article even makes it clear that it's OK to approach people, and OK to get turned down.

There is clearly a problem with normal men approaching women in ways that seem friendly/charming to the man, and creepy/threatening to the woman. This is a problem with men's behaviour.

I'm fairly sure that I'm in a hole and digging furiously, and no-one on MeFi has any reason to think I'm not the enemy here, but...

As a random guy on a dark street, walking behind you, I am Schrodinger's rapist. I understand, and I try not to be in that situation, and I have no problem if you avoid me in that situation.

As a random guy reading a feminist blog post, I don't need to be informed that I'm a potential rapist. I know I am, I can't help it. It will never go away.

So, if women's behaviour isn't the problem, and men's behaviour is, then men's behaviour needs to change. Most of the article was a brilliant guide to how and why, and in the middle there was a bit which seemed almost designed to make men say "hey, fuck YOU buddy!". I'm pretty sure that that is where the hostility comes from. If the aim is to convince men to change their behaviour (or, as seems more likely, to change the behaviour of men that don't read articles like this), that bit is... I don't know what it is, because I don't want to downplay the truth of it, but in this particular article it seems to distract from the overall message.

Anyhow, this thread has made me think too much about things I don't like to think about, so thank you to everyone. Night.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 3:46 PM on October 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


All I'm saying is that nobody likes being told "Shut up, you don't get to talk."

It's absolutely true that no one likes it. I didn't like it when I encountered it in a wide-ranging, months-spanning discussion about racism. It pissed me right the hell off. However, the more posts and comments I read, the more I realized that it was, in fact, true that, in a discussion of racism, my job was to shut up. I don't get to talk when it comes to the subject of what it is to be black in a white world. I don't get an opinion. I can ask questions, I can respond to a post to see if I understand the point clearly, I can apologize for my own blindness, I can relate anecdotes that I never realized, at the time, were racist, but thanks to all of the discussion about racism, I now know were, but I don't get to talk. I get to listen.
posted by tzikeh at 3:51 PM on October 8, 2009 [10 favorites]


Another reason this "you don't get to talk" thing is confusing is because it's strange to call men pricks because they're the ones trying to understand something.

Your formulation, of course, implies that women aren't trying to understand anything, but I'll assume that's not what you meant.

No one's calling men pricks because they're trying to understand something. Sometimes, some people call some men pricks because those men are trying to make the conversation about the eureka moment for those men, instead of about listening to and understanding the experiences of women.

Sometimes, some people call some men pricks because those men have an attitude of, "well, you finally got my attention, I'm listening, start over and speak slowly, and when I don't understand or like something you said, I want you to stop while I explain in great detail how I don't get it and therefore you're wrong, and if you can't convince me you're not wrong then obviously I've enlightened you, as it should be. You're welcome."

See, that's not all men. That might not even be most men. Sometimes, it's some men; sometimes it's me. It isn't cause for revulsion over half the population, and only men are afraid that it might be. It's just a friendly reminder to...well, you know the phrase by now.

Most of the article was a brilliant guide to how and why, and in the middle there was a bit which seemed almost designed to make men say "hey, fuck YOU buddy!".

So there's two options, right? One is that this brilliant guide swerves in the middle and, by "design", attempts to alienate thoroughly its target audience, destroying on purpose any goodwill / enlightenment it hoped to generate.

The other is that the brilliant guide contains some inconvenient truths which are difficult to hear, and so people who have the luxury of turning a blind eye to the issue seize upon that difficulty as a reason to be unmoved by the entire uncomfortable enterprise.

Ok, that's not fair, I obviously think its option B, you got me.
posted by Errant at 3:57 PM on October 8, 2009 [8 favorites]


True story from my college days: I pick up my friend, who knows I've had a bad crush on her for years, to take her out for her birthday. She's drinking wine, and I say, "Can I have a taste?" and she takes a swig and kisses me. We go out dancing and she gets pretty plastered, but I don't drink too much because I'm driving.

When we get back to her house, we go into her bedroom, and she goes int to the bathroom and takes a shower. She comes out with only a towel around her head and crawls under the covers, then asks me for a massage. This leads to very heavy petting until she has an orgasm, then she suddenly crisps up and tells me to leave, and I leave.

The next day, she asks me to come over, meets me at the door, and gives me a handful of small gifts I've given her, t-shirts and such. By the next week, I discover that she's been telling the other girls in our circle that I raped her.

Am I a rapist?
posted by Jimmy Havok at 3:59 PM on October 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


I think what is missing is an article on how women can learn to srike-up a conversation with an unknown male, rather than how to quash any attempts at interpersonal conversation. I have always respected women's space, but, depending upon context, this is frequently interpreted by them as disinterest, while the more pushy-type male (friends of mine, sometimes) move right in and get phone numbers. Perhaps if women were more contrasting in when they wanted attention and when they didn't, rather than being wilting violets most of the time, then they wouldn't complain there are no good men around because only jerks will approach them.
posted by Veridicality at 4:02 PM on October 8, 2009


tzikeh: To paraphrase a post from the racism discussion I referred to earlier:
Predictable as the sunrise, some man somewhere in a discussion on misogyny, sexism, and rape will say, "But you'd get progress on all of this/more allies/more sympathy/whatever if only you didn't speak so angrily!" Surprise, being the object of this hateful culture pisses women off. Dealing with clueless males trying on their new, brilliant argument that women have only heard for the 5,675th time this week is annoying and tiring. And when you, the man, demand that woman modulate her tone to you when she is talking about how misogyny/sexism/rape makes them feel, you are asserting your privileged "right" to control the conversation.

You are asking women to cater to your wishes. In a discussion about women. What is that if not male privilege?


I want to preface this by saying that I am not trying to assert my "right" to control the conversation. I'm honestly making a sincere effort to describe my point of view to you.

I don't think this is just a discussion about women. This is a discussion that involves both sexes. It's a discussion about how men are treating women and how said treatment is causing women to live their lives in a fear that so ingrained that some aren't even conscious of the precautions they take as they walk out the door. It's a discussion which should include men. Scratch that--it's a discussion that must include men, if we ever want to see any progress.

I have been in enough of the wine-filled conversations that heyho describes to know that things are much worse than any of the statistics describe, and I think she's absolutely right, the real numbers have got to be higher than one in four. I can't tell you how much that infuriates me. I can't tell you how much reading the anecdotes posted here infuriates me. We as a society have GOT to come together and address these issues, because, damn it, rtha is right: this is the cause of ANYONE who cares about women, ANYONE who cares about social justice, and ANYONE who wants to live in a decent society.

But let me tell you from a man's point of view: most guys have NO IDEA how prevalent sexual intimidation, harrasment and assuault are in society today. And I'm not saying I "get it," either. I know I don't. I know that the effects that this has on women are much bigger than I can grasp. But damn it, I've been trying for a long time, and I'm going to keep on trying in the future.

This is not an easy conversation for men to have. Can you fathom what it would be like to be well into adulthood when you hear about this for the first time? It's mind-blowing and and agonizing and heartbreaking. The mind reels and doesn't want to accept it as truth. I have been fortunate in my life in that I have had some very patient women tell me their stories and lead me down the path of shocked disbelief towards some sort of comprehension. Most guys aren't so lucky.

So when you say something like "We don't have to listen to you; you have to listen to us," it's hard for me to see it as anything other than counter-productive. I mean, I'm sure that you must feel frustrated to a degree that I can't even imagine. But, please, have patience with us men. Don't write us off and don't ignore our point of view from the outset, either.
posted by joedan at 4:09 PM on October 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


darksasami and non prosequitur--

I hope that the comment I just made above clarifies and expands the comment "you don't get to talk" a little bit.

non prosequitur: "fuck you for asking me to explain this to you, i don't have to explain to you, shut up and listen"

The thing is, I don't have to explain it to you (generalized "you"). It's beyond unbelievably tiring to explain it to "you," every day, all the time, wherever I am ("I" being women who have the desire to work to change things), whenever a guy makes a boneheaded comment showing that he doesn't get it, whenever something misogynistic happens right in front of a man, and he just lets it go because he doesn't understand what he just saw, whenever a man thinks that getting an asshole to back off of a clearly uncomfortable woman by lying and saying "hey, that's my sister, buddy!" is *helping*....

I don't have to explain this to you. It's not my job. I can choose to try and try and try, but it's your job to learn--by shutting up and listening. Just like I did, once I got over being pissed off, by black women telling me to shut up, because I don't get to talk. And I got over it because I realized that, hey, they're black women and I'm not, so chances are good that I know next to nothing, if not nothing, about their world, and I should shut up!

instead of going the "read 200 pages then you'll know why everything you've learned in life is wrong" route or the whole "i'm going to drag in a bunch of politically-loaded phrases in here and analogize your behaviour to it route

Oh, come on. Seriously?
posted by tzikeh at 4:12 PM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


tzikeh (although I'm a bit hesitant to step into your zone of fire :p) coming at "I'm listening" yourself is different from pushing people into it. I just realized when you're saying "you listen" you're coming from the idea that the person you're telling it to is reasonable and almost being generous to conceive that they're going to process things the same way as you which wasn't really what I got when I read it. I think it's just a general human thing ("you need to change your hair" is very different from someone coming to the "i need to change my hair" realization etc.) Not that you have to be super-sensitive and hinty about things, but just saying that's the distinction for the audience.

Errant, I meant it as men who're paying attention vs men who aren't, not men vs. women. In the conception what i meant by understanding = listening. I don't really follow your sentence about cause for revulsion/half the population/afraid etc. but I guess it's not that germane to the point so whatevs.
posted by Non Prosequitur at 4:12 PM on October 8, 2009


Perhaps if women were more contrasting in when they wanted attention and when they didn't, rather than being wilting violets most of the time, then they wouldn't complain there are no good men around because only jerks will approach them.

Maybe if women [acted the way i think they should], rather than being [misogynistic interpretation of their disinterest], they wouldn't complain [to the perfect dude that i obviously am, why can't you see it ladies, i'm right here waiting for you] because only [other obviously lesser dudes who aren't me] will approach [those whores].

Guy. Seriously. Take a look at yourself.
posted by Errant at 4:14 PM on October 8, 2009 [43 favorites]


Yes, Seriously. How is "you're asking me to lie back and take it" or "if a man says x, he's assertive; if a woman says x, she's a bitch" or "thank you for giving me permission" not intellectually disingenuous attempts to push political buttons?
posted by Non Prosequitur at 4:15 PM on October 8, 2009


Non Prosequitur: tzikeh (although I'm a bit hesitant to step into your zone of fire :p)

Yeah, I know I've been more zealous and angry in this post than I've possibly ever been on Metafilter. I don't know why today is the day, after so many threads touching on these subjects where I just walked away. It's built and built and built, and I've seen examples of it more and more and more--like "new-car" syndrome. Once you buy your new car, you see the exact same make and model *everywhere*. So the more I become educated about this... overwhelmingly huge set of problems, the more I see them--not because I'm imagining them; but because the make and model is EVERYWHERE.

("you need to change your hair" is very different from someone coming to the "i need to change my hair" realization etc.)

Yeah, but as someone said upthread, sometimes you (not you, specifically) need a punch in the nose to realize you need to change your hair. (Possibly because now you have to balance out your nose.)
posted by tzikeh at 4:19 PM on October 8, 2009


Am I a rapist?

Are you seriously asking us that? If you are, gosh, I dunno. I think it's more important to ask yourself that question.

Whether you're a rapist or not is just one of those things you know in your gut, isn't it? I really can't tell if you're just playing devil's advocate.

I just typed this response. Am I an author? Sorry, but it's just weird to catch up on this thread and read that question.
posted by heyho at 4:21 PM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Non Prosequitur, yeah maybe occasionally they are attempts to push political buttons, but are you seriously going to argue that they're not also pretty good snapshots of certain very common misogynistic attitudes? I am astounded that people don't see these things all around them (e.g. any discussion of woman political leaders such as the call to "put Nancy Pelosi in her place"). And I'm a guy so I'm probably missing most of it.
posted by lackutrol at 4:22 PM on October 8, 2009


Yes, Seriously. How is "you're asking me to lie back and take it"

I never said that; someone else did.

or "if a man says x, he's assertive; if a woman says x, she's a bitch"

That truth is omnipresent in our society, and that is the way the comment I responded to read to me.

or "thank you for giving me permission"

When a man tells me I'm entitled to my feelings, and then immediately goes on to tell me that unless I can justify them to his satisfaction, they're wrong, I believe I can respond with sarcasm.

not intellectually disingenuous attempts to push political buttons?

I don't see it that way--especially not disingenuous. There was no guile behind anything I said.
posted by tzikeh at 4:28 PM on October 8, 2009


Am I a rapist?

Only two people are really qualified to answer this, and only one of them is here to present his side of the story. Are you looking for absolution? For reassurance that you acted appropriately with a girl who, in your words, was plastered? Why are you asking us?

On preview, what heyho said.
posted by rtha at 4:29 PM on October 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


I don't think it's unreasonable for anybody to have at some point during their re-re-re-re-iterations to have let some steam blow off. We had the most recent "tone" discussion, what, only two weeks ago. I know I sure as hell didn't have it in me today to unpack any of the straw men or aggressively phrased blind spots in here without going crazy all caps.

heyho, thanks for putting your experience out there. I have faith that it'll get through to, well, at least some of those who listen and think and take an interest in learning from others. And I can't favourite your "We see you do that, and we sort of quietly love you for it. The sadness you feel is shared by us when we see you move over" comment hard enough.

on preview, joedan, I'd put it as "I'm listening to you, here are my reasons why I think your comment is inaccurate/uninformed/incomplete, and if this conversation has a chance of going anywhere productive, you have to listen and digest and try to put yourself in my shoes before continuing to aggressively argue your original point as if there's no chance it could ever be improved upon."

I have to say, this thread is like Cousin of the Great Gender MeTas of 2007-08. Except that in those I had many "Aaargh, this is futile" moments and here, those didn't get a chance to bloom because of how many more thoughtful guys there are in here speaking up. (Or, many fewer aggressively ignorant dismissive guys in here? perhaps both.)
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 4:30 PM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


it's your job to learn--by shutting up and listening

I'm going to try one more time with you tzikeh -- because I don't like giving up on people (and because I need a break from work).

20 years ago I was being told to shut up and listen on a uni campus because "rape is about power and not about sex". "Yeah, but" -- uh-uh! Don't wanna hear it! "Ok, but consider" -- HEY! Aren't you LISTENING! You're a man! You don't know anything about this!

So fine. I don't need to have that conversation. I let points go by that are worth discussing, and yes, even disagreeing with, because I get shouted down if I don't toe some orthodox line. No loss to me.

Years later, of course, it no longer is. I might get shouted down, in fact, if I suggested that rape is all about power and not at all about sex. You're a man! You don't know anything about this? Yes, well you know what? If those people had listened 20 years ago, if they had been open to having a conversation -- a real one, not as you misuse the term -- maybe this would have been understood a long time ago. But no. Not interested. We have nothing to offer (on male aggression yet, jeez).

So you go ahead listening to half the population, and suggesting that the other half "shut up and listen" because you and your gender have it all figured out. And in 20 years when one of you figures something out and has an "aha!" moment about something some of us have been trying to tell you, we'll applaud your insight. What else are we going to do?

I didn't say your tone was out of line (and I personally think you've wilfully mischaracterized that whole criticism). I didn't know you were a woman and I don't care. I said you were behaving disrespectfully and you are. But whatever. The loss is yours if you think circumscribing the debate is of value. It isn't.

I don't know why today is the day, after so many threads touching on these subjects where I just walked away.

Well hey, we have something in common. I've spent the better part of those 20 years listening, and sometimes shaking my head, and mostly keeping it to myself. I don't know why today I didn't. Actually, I do -- it was open, interested, give-and-take conversants in the start of this thread -- not any shouting by the likes of you. Good night.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:36 PM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


"When was the last time you saw a woman or group of women catcall a dude? And I don't mean, like, a bachelorette party halfway through a pub crawl. Never, huh? Yeah, see, that's the thing."

I was catcalled by a girl; comment was "Nice ass!". Take this datapoint as you will.
posted by jaduncan at 4:40 PM on October 8, 2009


I don't have to explain this to you. It's not my job. I can choose to try and try and try, but it's your job to learn--by shutting up and listening.

It's not anybody's job to do anything, unless you're paying me for it and I've signed the contract. I can choose to learn, but I very well might not if I don't see benefit in it for me. And by "I" I mean "everybody in the world." That's how it works, always and everywhere.
posted by darksasami at 4:40 PM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


OK, I know I'm a major outlier on this one, but when exactly did we decide that people of any gender had a god-given inalienable right to go around complimenting total strangers of any gender? Yes, perhaps (s)he does have what you consider to be a cute computer, hat, blouse, button nose, Prius, shih tzu, or shoes.

So fucking what? I'm already quite aware of the charms of my shih tzu, thanks, so I don't need someone else to inform me about them or verify or validate them. Strangers don't need your approval, and I don't see what makes somebody's burning desire to express unsolicited approbation sacrosanct. If people want my advice or opinion or aesthetic judgment of items within their personal space or possession, they'll ask me for it.

(Oh, wait, some people do really feel they need the approval of total strangers, in which case, why would you want to go around reinforcing such unhealthy insecurity?)

In any case, nothing prevents us from sitting there and enjoying the wonderfulness of whatever it is we find wonderful. What I don't get is this utterly unquestioned assumption that compliments are automatically innocuous and pleasant and polite when in many situations they're presumptuous and gratuitous and delivered for a host of psycho-social motives that often have zero to do with "just brightening someone's day."

I guess I'm just an old crank, but the whole public realm seems to have become Livejournal or Twitter. People can't go through the grocery store without giving somebody else a play-by-play via cellphone. They can't just share pleasant companionable silence at a bus stop. They can't walk by someone reading at a restaurant table without requesting a motherloving book report. Whatever happened to just going on about our business, with a friendly nod or smile here and there, and reveling in our own unvoiced thoughts?

Which is my cue to shut the hell up.
posted by FelliniBlank at 4:40 PM on October 8, 2009 [11 favorites]


I can choose to try and try and try, but it's your job to learn--by shutting up and listening. Just like I did, once I got over being pissed off, by black women telling me to shut up, because I don't get to talk.

You've had a personal revelation that in your past you needed to listen better in order to understand an issue. It might be possible that other people realize the importance of listening as well. Please stop assuming that they don't, especially when you're making the assumption solely based on their gender.

Also note that the actual poor listeners that you're trying to convince are pretty much guaranteed to ignore your advice if you simply tell them to shut up. If you're interested in changing minds, and not simply in castigating them, maybe a less ineffective approach is in order.
posted by jsonic at 4:43 PM on October 8, 2009


OK, I know I'm a major outlier on this one, but when exactly did we decide that people of any gender had a god-given inalienable right to go around complimenting total strangers of any gender?

Well, in my country, that'd be the First Amendment to the Constitution. Which not only protects it as speech, but also sets limits on it when it impinges on the rights of others. Convenient, if you ask me.
posted by darksasami at 4:45 PM on October 8, 2009


Er, would you believe "infringes"?
posted by darksasami at 4:47 PM on October 8, 2009


I mean, really. WTF is up with this, "I don't know how to behave in public anymore" crud

I didn't say that. I said it made me feel like that.

Perhaps overstated a bit, sure, but my point was that I never really considered my habit of chatting strangers up a bit to be potentially threatening.

I've changed my perception of my behaviour by reading the links and the comments here. I'd consider it a good thing.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 4:49 PM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


lackutrol yes they are common snapshots. that's why they're hot buttons.

Alright. I understand the sarcasm thing. I guess they're not disingenuous as much as "overly potent" coz at least personally my internal gauge redlines if someone responds to me saying e.g. that if they're flirty with someone and the other person goes overboard they need to be assertive that the other person has gone overboard by responding, "so you're saying I'm asking for it?" Like if they're strawmanning my discussion-point like that then there's no point in even trying to parse out the issue coz they don't trust me and/or don't care for whatever thing I'm saying. I just thank them for not jumping to the worst conclusion by default and let it go. That doesn't even mean I'm right in that context and they're the obtuse ones; just that if someone's tainting you with something so dangerous [relatively dangerous] then it leads to a mental "emergency brake" moment at least for me.
posted by Non Prosequitur at 4:51 PM on October 8, 2009


joedan: This is not an easy conversation for men to have. Can you fathom what it would be like to be well into adulthood when you hear about this for the first time?

Yes, because most women over "a certain age" (including me) were never taught anything about this. Women's Studies is a relatively recent discipline. Learning about, and researching, and taking part in classes about this over the past fifteen years started out just as agonizing and heartbreaking as (I can only imagine from your end) it was for you to start looking at it. To be counted among Schrödinger's Rapists, (as opposed to Schrödinger's Raped, I guess) can't have been pleasant either.

I'm sure that you must feel frustrated to a degree that I can't even imagine. But, please, have patience with us men.

On another day, I might have. Today, I raged. It doesn't mean I never have patience with men who are blind to all of this. I'm pretty sure, looking back over the thread, that part of the reason there are flames on the side of my face today has to do with the sheer number of men in the thread who taking so many of the positions that aren't just blind, but arrogant, condescending, and contemptuous about this broad and deep topic.

Don't write us off and don't ignore our point of view from the outset, either.

I'm not sure how to respond to this. I'm thinking back to how I experienced the race discussion, and with that kind of hindsight I know that they absolutely should have (and did) ignore my point of view at the outset. How could they not? My point of view was glaringly wrong, and racist to boot, though I wasn't conscious of it.

I've read what you've said, and yeah, you are one of the men who was dubbed "That Guy" in cereta's post--the guy who said "wait a minute; something isn't right here," who wasn't afraid to say "I am completely unaware of the truth of this situation, I am, and have been, oblivious, and these women are going to teach me what I don't know, so I am going to listen," so please tell me, and I say this with complete sincerity: why shouldn't I ignore the point of view of a man who is wrong, and ignorant, and part of the problem? I'm not saying that I think those men can't learn; I'm saying that there is no reason to give their point of view air time, for lack of a better phrase. It's uninformed, hurtful, and enraging. There is no reason that men can't have their eyes opened to this blight without women having to entertain their flat-out-wrong ideas about women's lives.

And good on you. There are some men over at cereta's post who have said that they learned from that post what you've said you learned from the women in your life who helped teach you. My hope is that more men learn to see the world the way you do, which is why I keep linking to that post. But the men over there who did learn what you know did not have their points of view acknowledged. It wasn't necessary, and it wouldn't have been helpful to the discourse.
posted by tzikeh at 4:57 PM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Bulgaroktonos, let me draw you a picture. You're walking down the street minding your own business, on your way somewhere but not involved with anything going on around you - whether by distraction or by choice. All of a sudden a bear or a lioness notices you and starts making loud roars at you while approaching you with deliberation. Would you perceive the bear or lioness as engaging in the consensual approach to a satisfying and meaningful relationship? Or would your skin turn to ice with the realization that you do not have the strength or the self-assurance to fend off this invasion of your person, that while this may be an out-of-the-ordinary experience for you, the being who has singled you out for special attention is obviously well-practiced at this particular art so you really don't stand a chance.

Offbeat analogy? I honestly do not think so. Because to the person receiving the catcalls and wolf-whistles and "hey, baby", this is not a situation of two interested parties getting acquainted and perhaps exploring mutual interests and consensual relations. This is predator and prey. And no matter how often a woman mentally rehearses what she would do if confronted with this, when the moment is actually upon her she will likely as not lose her bearings, panic, and become a deer in the headlights. Not because she's a woman but because she's HUMAN and it's what we do when confronted with sudden danger about which we've been warned but with which we have never been confronted.

I have a friend who was interviewing for a hospital staff position in Philadelphia. She stayed in a nearby hotel but the area itself turned out be fairly sketchy. That evening she had a small errand and decided to walk there because she had not been able to rent a car (for reasons that are completely tangential). I wound up staying with her on her cell phone her entire trip there and back, because she couldn't take five steps without a motorist whistling or cat-calling her. She was extremely shaken, and let's face it: If someone is going to be THAT BRAZEN about being predatory, about making sounds that say "I could own you", what on earth is really going to restrain him from pulling over and carrying the threat further? One basic societal barrier has already been broken, and when one line is crossed others get easier and easier.

As men, we do not and cannot fully understand what a woman feels about any encounters, no matter how innocuous they may seem to us, because it's an existence we'll never lead, thus we will never experience it first-hand and have no right to define to any woman what her level of comfort with our presence should be, or demand that she accept us as an equal.
And that's a lesson I myself had difficulty learning because it is difficult to comprehend how we and our actions are viewed by those whose world and lives are foreign to us.

tzikeh linked to this LiveJournal post earlier, and I highly recommend its thorough perusal. It's educational, it's informative, and it sheds light on things to which most of us are completely oblivious.
posted by hubbit at 4:57 PM on October 8, 2009 [8 favorites]


Errant, the etymology of the phrase 'wilting violet' has nothing to do with misogyny, and is a sort of euphemism to describe females who are taciturn and withdrawn, usually from 'shyness', also not a misogynistic or misanthropic word. There was nothing normative in the observation, put forth as a hypothetical. The 'complaining', if your reading skills need sharpening, was not directed to anyone, so the 'perfect dude' reference will be dismissed as the result of lack of grammatical sophistication. Generally, if sitcoms are to be believed, this plaint is heard woman-to-woman. But the trait of sexual shyness, found in both genders, has both cultural and neural roots. Might I recommend the movie The Magdalena Sisters about the forced incarceration and enslavement of young women in Ireland as recently as the 1980s, by Church authorities, for such things as talking to boys, not just being pregnant out of wedlock. I've heard enough theater tickets were sold in Ireland when this movie was out to account for most of the population of the Emerald Isle.

What is being hypothesized here is a change in style that might make engagement with a sexually shy male a woman likes or is interested in, more likely, that change in style supplementing nuanced and easily misinterpreted body-language with words.

Errant, please, take a look at yourself.
posted by Veridicality at 4:57 PM on October 8, 2009


Non Prosequitur: Yes, Seriously. How is "you're asking me to lie back and take it"

Tzikeh: I never said that; someone else did.

I said that.

This is what he said: "A lot of people find things that offend other people funny. In fact, you are actually part of the reason that these t-shirts are funny to people... because they offend you. So chill out, dude, and next time you see a fat guy wearing a shirt that says "I got this fat from eating so much pussy" just think of lolcats or something."

This is what I said: "I understand what shock value humor is, thank you.
...
I'm sorry, but did you just metaphorically suggest that I lay back and enjoy it? In a thread about rape? Yeah, we're done here."


My comment was not an attempt to push political buttons. That was my honest read of what he was saying.
posted by zarq at 5:02 PM on October 8, 2009


zarq, isn't that a response that can be fitted to any "let it go" or "let others do their thing" argument? explain the airtight metaphor between what he said and telling someone who's being forced into sex that they should lie back and take it. Some burka-clad person can be offended at a picture of a woman in a bikini in a newspaper and if you started talking about how they have the right to wear that etc. they can get off into a rant about sexualization and how the person is going to hell etc. etc. and if you don't crack their worldview but just appeal to their "let people do their thing" aspect they too can be like "are you asking me to lay back and enjoy it?" It's just.. a very generically applicable statement to feeling something is infringing on something you care about.
posted by Non Prosequitur at 5:10 PM on October 8, 2009


You know why women get shrill and militant when this topic is discussed out in the wild?

Bear with me, but I think this is a valid complaint some men have during these discussions, and yeah, some women get really shrill and militant when this topic is discussed. It ain't good, but it happens.

It's because we're conditioned to expect that roughly 10% of you will think that we're overreacting. (Yep, I'm low-balling here because I don't want to lose you.) And guess what... I'm not good at math, but about one in ten of you got your knickers in a knot over some point of the discussion. You had some valid concerns, but not all of you. You know who you are; I'm not into calling individuals out.

Here's why we get "hysterical": We feel like you're trying to shut us down altogether when you pick apart one point and say we're expressing it insensitively or inaccurately. We feel like you're on that slippery slope to disregarding everything we say. And it's a hard, hard topic to talk about to begin with. Admitting you're vulnerable can be your undoing, we're told. We don't "like" to talk about our rapes or our sisters' rapes. It's painful, and everyone knows when you're pained and frustrated and you're female -- it's all gonna end in tears. Which is weak, right? (Stay with me.)

Should we get shrill and militant? Nope. It derails the whole train sometimes when we do that. But please, please try to understand that it happens to us every time we talk about this shit in the wild. Someone has to be that guy every fucking time. For real. It's like going to a party in college -- some guy just has to do his Monty Python schtick. With the rabbit and the knights and the nee! Yeah, we all know him.

What I'm saying is: we're were looking for it, waiting for it, and we unleash when we are presented with it. It's exasperating. We go into it watching out for that guy, and we hope hope hope he doesn't materialize, but guess what? He always does.

It's already exhausting to try to protect ourselves all the time. Truly, it is. We don't do well when we're already fed up with something and someone comes along and deliberately pokes us.

Yeah, my own rape bothers me, and you don't particularly upset me personally when you act like a jerk online, but the absolute suckiest part of all is that I know that there are women out there in MetaLand who are scared to tell you why they're afraid of you sometimes (and that they're sorry for that), and they had the chance in this thread to let some of that out so they wouldn't have to carry it around alone in their bellies where it fucks them up, and they felt unsafe to discuss it because they feared you'd parse every fucking word they used and wonder if they're being truthful or just out to make a damn point.

Really? Don't believe me? If you could see my mailbox, you'd cry.
posted by heyho at 5:13 PM on October 8, 2009 [103 favorites]


Well hey, we have something in common. I've spent the better part of those 20 years listening, and sometimes shaking my head, and mostly keeping it to myself. I don't know why today I didn't. Actually, I do -- it was open, interested, give-and-take conversants in the start of this thread -- not any shouting by the likes of you.

Upthread, though, someone made the observation that it's possible that a lot of the things you're going to say have already been said, to that woman, ad infinitum, by plenty of other men before you. And that may be why she is telling you she wants you to listen -- because she's heard what you've had to say before, many times over, and clearly you haven't heard what she has to say.

It may not be fair to you as the individual, no. But again -- this is the fault of the guys who came before you and ruined it for you, not that woman.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:15 PM on October 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


heyho: ...I know that there are women out there in MetaLand who are scared to tell you why they're afraid of you sometimes (and that they're sorry for that)...

And they shouldn't be sorry. They should never have to be sorry for a choice they could not make because others made it for them.

I read your entry about what happened to you and applaud the fortitude it must have taken to type it out. It's probably going to sound empty, but I'm so incredibly sorry for what happened to you. FFS, you were doing something nice for a complete stranger. And yet, for every man who gets snotty and says "hey, chill out, why don'tcha try bein' sociable?", how many women have gone through unspeakable horror because they tried to be sociable and it rebounded on them in a savage way? (And still do.)
posted by hubbit at 5:24 PM on October 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


> not any shouting by the likes of you. Good night.

I know you think you're being really cool and superior and dismissive and everyone is applauding, but actually you're just being a dick. We understand, it's because you got your feelings hurt. Get over it.
posted by languagehat at 5:24 PM on October 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


zarq, isn't that a response that can be fitted to any "let it go" or "let others do their thing" argument?

Tone matters. Subject matters. The subject being discussed in the conversational thread certainly matters. We're talking about whether jokes regarding a women being physically violated against her will are offensive, and gagglezoomer's response wasn't merely "lighten up." It was essentially, "you're the problem here, not the joke or the people who find it funny. The next time it happens, chill out and think of LOLcats or something."

I felt the connection was intended, and his tone was quite clear. I responded accordingly.

...explain the airtight metaphor between what he said and telling someone who's being forced into sex that they should lie back and take it.

Follow my discussion thread with gagglezoomer. We were clearly discussing date rape jokes. That's obvious. Not in any way vague or ambiguous. In addition, we have an entire, lengthy FPP comment thread here, discussing whether men are blind to women's body language and tone deaf to their feelings about rape.

It's just.. a very generically applicable statement to feeling something is infringing on something you care about.

The phrase is colloquially used by rapists before they violate their victims. If you want to make an argument that it has suddenly shucked that meaning entirely upon entering the common lexicon, by all means feel free.
posted by zarq at 5:34 PM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


heyho has done a brilliant job of explaining why this is so important to women, why the women here are skinning their knuckles with the men who refuse to listen, who insist on having this conversation as though mens' and womens' experiences are the same and mens' and womens' voices are given the same weight in our society, why it is not just preferable but urgent for so many of us that this message be actually heard. I've read through the vast majority of the comments here and if I tried to respond to every problematic one I'd go crazy and be up all night, so I won't. Instead I will, in solidarity, I guess, with heyho, share my own story as to why this matters.

I was a teenager when a friend of mine set me up with this guy, who became my boyfriend for a brief period of time. She set me up with him because he had a crush on her, and she wasn't interested, and she was a pushover who couldn't tell anyone "no" (something that is so common with young women) so she thought it would be easier to set him up with me - that way he'd stop asking her out, but he wouldn't feel rejected, and maybe he and I would hit it off. He seemed nice enough - a bit of a redneck, but we lived in a small town. He had a truck. I was impressed.

Then one night he took me out and raped me.

The very small handful of people I eventually told urged me to keep it silent - to this day I do not know if any of them really believed me or not. Rumors spread (from the rapist and his friends) about what kind of a girl I was, after I broke up with him (which I tried to do by proxy, because I was scared; his friends tracked me down and forced me to break up with him to his face). It was a bad scene.

Here's the thing though: he seemed like a nice guy. He was polite. His friends seemed nice, if a bit rough. The people who told me not to tell anyone were my friends. The girl who basically put me into that situation (thereby avoiding being raped herself, I'm sure, though she didn't know it at the time and probably still doesn't know or believe it) was one of my best friends.

That was the year that I realized how rare actual safety really is. That was the year that I realized, much to my dismay, that it is not safe to take "I'm a nice guy" at face value, to assume before you know (and sometimes you can just never know) that you can trust people to not harm you or violate you.

Years ago, I worked a late shift in an area that was a forty-minute commute by public transit to and from my relatively isolated home. I developed hearing so intense that my friends commented it, and a startle response so instant and severe that I would scream if ANYONE approached me quietly from behind. On one bus ride home at night, a drunk twenty-something dude tried to grab my breasts after I'd specifically told him no; when I kicked him away, he threw his skateboard at my head. Once on my way TO work (still by bus, and in broad daylight), I dozed off, and woke up to find that the man next to me had scooted up beside me and put his arm around my shoulders, as though we were dating or even acquainted.

heyho and I are not just extraordinarily unlucky women, and we are not paranoid (read: hysterical) women. We are average women. You could know us. If you know more than three women, I am pretty sure that you know at least one woman who could tell you a similar story. Of my close lady friends now, not one - not a single one - can say that she has never been sexually assaulted.

Not my mother. Not my cousin. Not my co-workers at my last job. I have a baby sister, fourteen years my junior; I live in fear of the day I hear from her or my mother, telling me she's been raped.

I understand that this is a very hard thing for men to realize. I am completely sympathetic to that. I understand that this is a difficult discussion for men to have. It is sometimes a difficult discussion for my beau and I to have, and we've known each other for years (and, you know, being married and all tend to be fairly close) - you, the male population of MeFi, you've only known me for a few comments and I am about to perhaps accuse you of perpetuating some really nasty and hurtful shit, after outlining how similar shit had personally damaged me. That's hard for men to hear, especially men who are capable of empathy and don't like to think that they might have inadvertently caused anyone such pain.

But it is still something you need to hear. And you need to hear it without letting yourselves immediately jump up to defend your honour, to let us know that YOU'RE no rapist, to tell us how hard it is for you to hear, to tell us about your feelings, to inform us of all of what you perceive to be "logistical holes" in our "arguments". We are not arguing. We are simply speaking. And we know already how hard these conversations are, because every time we open ourselves up them, which we do, by the way, for your sakes, we open ourselves up to potentially painful, thoughtless, defensive responses from men who for all we know are the kinds of men who've abused us in countless ways.

I agree that it doesn't seem fair that men should be allowed a lesser speaking role in these conversations, that these conversations must centre around the voices of women; unfortunately, "fair" and "necessary" are not the same thing. It is nigh impossible for men, without shutting up and listening to women for a while, to fully come to understand the situation here. That is simply one of the effects of privilege; you are blind to it's absence in another group, until someone from that group shows you. It is the "special understanding" that bell hooks talks about - the special understanding that women have of maleness (not men, but maleness as a construct), and that Black people have of whiteness.

It is not our fault that the situation is what it is. It is not your fault, either - until you choose to see our words, hear our stories, and dismiss us (or demand further explanations and teaching so you can dismiss THAT) and walk away from the reality.

And the reality is that we feel unsafe because we have or have had very legitimate, good reasons to feel unsafe. And that you, without thinking, can contribute to that feeling of unsafety. And that when that happens (when you are aware of it happening, or when someone points out to you that it happens), it is important that you read things like the article linked here, or the many articles and studies linked to by the likes of muddgirl, et all, and evaluate your behavior.

Not argue with us. Not tell us we are being unreasonable. Not demand an explanation or suggest to us things that we might do to stop "being victims" or stop "asking for it" or whatever.

Just listen, read, educate yourself, and try.
posted by ellehumour at 5:37 PM on October 8, 2009 [178 favorites]


But it is still something you need to hear. And you need to hear it without letting yourselves immediately jump up to defend your honour, to let us know that YOU'RE no rapist, to tell us how hard it is for you to hear, to tell us about your feelings, to inform us of all of what you perceive to be "logistical holes" in our "arguments". We are not arguing. We are simply speaking. And we know already how hard these conversations are, because every time we open ourselves up them, which we do, by the way, for your sakes, we open ourselves up to potentially painful, thoughtless, defensive responses from men who for all we know are the kinds of men who've abused us in countless ways.

I agree that it doesn't seem fair that men should be allowed a lesser speaking role in these conversations, that these conversations must centre around the voices of women; unfortunately, "fair" and "necessary" are not the same thing. It is nigh impossible for men, without shutting up and listening to women for a while, to fully come to understand the situation here. That is simply one of the effects of privilege; you are blind to it's absence in another group, until someone from that group shows you. It is the "special understanding" that bell hooks talks about - the special understanding that women have of maleness (not men, but maleness as a construct), and that Black people have of whiteness.


I cannot favorite this comment, and specifically these two paragraphs enough.

ellehumour, I'm sorry. :( But thank you for sharing and saying this.
posted by zarq at 5:42 PM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Veridicality, you wrote:

I have always respected women's space, but, depending upon context, this is frequently interpreted by them as disinterest, while the more pushy-type male (friends of mine, sometimes) move right in and get phone numbers. Perhaps if women were more contrasting in when they wanted attention and when they didn't, rather than being wilting violets most of the time, then they wouldn't complain there are no good men around because only jerks will approach them.

Now, let's say that the use of "wilting violet" is, as you say, a non-misogynistic (ha!) euphemism for "females who are taciturn and withdrawn". So, we are to understand that women who interpret you as being "disinterested" are therefore "taciturn and withdrawn". Nope, no misogyny or bitterness there. You're a floral metaphor away from just calling them frigid bitches.

If only, you say, women were more "contrasting" in their behavior, they wouldn't complain so much about the "jerks". How do we know they do, indeed, complain so much? Sitcoms tell us so, of course! That inerrant encyclopedia of human behavior, the situation comedy. Why you gotta complain so much, sitcom ladies? Always complaining all the time, to each other, in those places I can't go like the day spa or the manicurist. Don't you know you could just contrast your behavior better? And hey, how come you always go to the bathroom in groups, you know what I mean?

All right, look, this isn't about your dating habits or your success in that arena or whatever. This is about this:

What is being hypothesized here is a change in style that might make engagement with a sexually shy male a woman likes or is interested in, more likely, that change in style supplementing nuanced and easily misinterpreted body-language with words.

"If women want a more positive experience, defined as engaging with different men than I see them do, they have to be different than they are."

That's the problem I have with what you're saying. It comes from a place of deep entitlement and buried resentment. It says that women are flawed in all the ways in which they don't do what you think they should do. It's passive-aggressive misogyny masquerading as a nice guy's travail, and it's beneath you. Respecting women's space, in no small part, means also respecting their choices, and nothing you're saying communicates respect for women at all. I'm sure you are the nice and smart guy you no doubt claim to be, so seriously, think about it. The fault, dear Veridicality, lies not in the violets.
posted by Errant at 5:43 PM on October 8, 2009 [19 favorites]


Perhaps if women were more contrasting in when they wanted attention and when they didn't, rather than being wilting violets most of the time, then they wouldn't complain there are no good men around because only jerks will approach them.

Perhaps if there weren't any men who were acting like they had more of a claim on our time than we think we did, women would feel more comfortable letting you see when they wanted attention.

Perhaps if you saw a jerk hassling a woman and you stepped up and said, "hey, buddy, she's telling you buzz off, why don't you do so?" then that woman would trust you enough to know she can let you know if she's interested and then you could tell.

Perhaps women just wanted to be treated as PEOPLE, rather than as a separate species.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:53 PM on October 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


Durn Bronzefist: I'm going to try one more time with you tzikeh -- because I don't like giving up on people...

That's good--as everyone in this thread can probably tell by now, neither do I.

it was open, interested, give-and-take conversants in the start of this thread -- not any shouting by the likes of you. Good night.

I don't think "not giving up on people" means what you think it means.
posted by tzikeh at 5:57 PM on October 8, 2009


So when "explain this to me" is followed by "fuck you for asking me to explain this to you, i don't have to explain to you, shut up and listen" I don't understand why the addressee's reaction shouldn't be "forget it" rather than starry-eyed "you're right!"

When "explain this to me" is coming on the heels of ten other previous explanations of the same exact thing, or is phrased as, "are you SURE that's the case, because in my experience, I think....so explain to me why I'm wrong about that?" then....neither of those cases come across as someone who is sincerely trying to understand. The first instance sounds like someone who's just obtuse and ignoring all the previous explanations. The second is someone who would listen to your argument only for the sake of trying to poke holes in it and prove HE'S right and YOU'RE wrong.

And this is too important a matter to get into an Intellectual Thunderdome kind of situation with, hence...
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:00 PM on October 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


After spending four years teaching self defense to women (and some men) who were victims of sexual assault and domestic violence I saw people with those emotional scars really never go away. I had stop teaching it. It was really just too hard.

After that I developed a reflex about approaching any stranger on the street who might even theoretically perceive me as a threat. When I'm walking up behind a woman or smaller man I always slow down and let get far ahead. Even though I'm not that big (6ft 200lbs). I get it. Why make somebody nervous just to get somewhere five seconds faster.

I know I don't like it when people walk up on me even if I'm in the super market. And I know how to fuck somebody up. So, I can imagine what it must be like for person who was a victim, or of a class of people who are typical victims of violence, to constantly have that anxiety. Why aggravate it.

I've never cat-called anybody in my life. I had a hard time believing anybody actually did. I honestly had never ever seen this. Until I was walking with my wife and her friends about 12 years ago. The gals were wearing skirts and several paces ahead of us spouses. It only took five blocks for shit to start. It was appalling. Jeebus Fucking Chronst. At least five guys said something totally foul. Three more merely discourteous gestures. It was a real eye-opener.

I've lived and traveled through some tough places. Places where there's just critical mass of people who wanted to hurt you to make it obvious when you walk down the street. I can't imagine having to look over my shoulder like that 24-7. It would be exhausting. Guys. Really. You gotta put your self in somebody shoes for a minute.

I never had this anxiety some guys have about meeting women where the signals seem so unclear. Not since I was like fifteen anyway. So maybe I'm not the best example. I'd wager that if most dudes who seem to have this problem took a few seconds to really, really, get outside their own ego's and insecurities they'd see the signals.
posted by tkchrist at 6:03 PM on October 8, 2009 [29 favorites]


Perhaps if you saw a jerk hassling a woman and you stepped up and said, "hey, buddy, she's telling you buzz off, why don't you do so?" then that woman would trust you enough to know she can let you know if she's interested and then you could tell.

FYI. PRO-TIP: Don't ever do that. Not unless that jerk is your friend. Or you're very confident you can kick the ass of that jerk and his two (maybe three) friends waiting around the corner. I can't count the number of fights I've seen start just like that. From experience I've never met woman impressed with my ability to kick some jerks ass. In fact it seemed a sure way for said jerk to suddenly get all the sympathy.

It's precisely that kind of ego/territorial thing I would suggest men and women would want to avoid.

But I get your overall point.
posted by tkchrist at 6:10 PM on October 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


Something I wanted to address from way, way upthread that I forgot about until going over the thread just now: the idea of "if I talk to her and she responds by chatting with me, she obviously wasn't afraid," and related comments.

Women (girls) are taught to be friendly. Be polite. Make eye contact. Smile. Respond. So yeah, just because a woman responds to you after you initiate conversation doesn't always mean she wants to talk to you, as disheartening as that fact is. She may be responding because she's "supposed" to--look through this thread for the accounts of women who've ignored men who were trying to talk to them. Look at what happens next--increasingly aggressive behavior and language, to the point of threat, to the point of terror, to the point where women fled, etc. We know these stories. We know the women they've happened to, or we've experienced them first-hand, or both. If we respond, even if we don't want to, the man speaking to us thinks we're interested, though it's possible we aren't, and we can't do anything about that. If we don't respond, we chance being shouted at, terrorized, physically assaulted or worse, and we can't do anything about that.

Our worlds are not the same.
posted by tzikeh at 6:16 PM on October 8, 2009 [18 favorites]


If we respond, even if we don't want to, the man speaking to us thinks we're interested, though it's possible we aren't, and we can't do anything about that. If we don't respond, we chance being shouted at, terrorized, physically assaulted or worse, and we can't do anything about that.

Pardon me while I shill for a moment.

Well you can do something about it. At least in terms of helping your self-confidence. One of those things I strongly recommend is to take a good Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu course. Not some fly-by-night self defense class. But BJJ.

I know lot's of women who felt the way you described who have done so. Women who now know precisely what they are capable of doing should a much larger man be a threat to them. They have the confidence of demonstrable skills of submitting larger game and resisting male opponents on the mat three nights a week. Skills that translate directly into the unfortunate scenarios many women fear in terms of assault. you find a place near you I can tell you if their the real thing or not.

Just a suggestion.
posted by tkchrist at 6:29 PM on October 8, 2009


tkchrist: Guys. Really. You gotta put your self in somebody shoes for a minute.


Fair enough. Many of us have sisters, wives or relate to women in one way or another. No one can deny their vulnerability or their experiences. Most of us know men that will behave like jerks given the chance. Most of us will not think twice of beating the crap out of someone who is threatening a woman.

So it's a mistake to imply even if subtly that all men should be suspected by default. Take the time to see this offends a large portion of men, that are neither rapists nor a threat to women.
Maybe you aren't aware or maybe you are, but this message in all its variations is powerful, it continues to polarize gender relations, and most importantly, is unfair. Oh and yes, some men are really sick of it.
posted by borgesian at 6:29 PM on October 8, 2009


their = they're
posted by tkchrist at 6:29 PM on October 8, 2009


Take the time to see this offends a large portion of men, that are neither rapists nor a threat to women.

Sure. I get it. The assumption of guilt is inflammatory, ignorant, and infuriating.

So. What.

Really. So. What.

In the parlance of the macho: Suck it up, man. Grow a pair. Take one for the team. Move on. In the scope of life's sometime eternal unfair suckiness this is a minor injustice.
posted by tkchrist at 6:38 PM on October 8, 2009 [19 favorites]


Most of us will not think twice of beating the crap out of someone who is threatening a woman.

So it's a mistake to imply even if subtly that all men should be suspected by default.


Most people are honest enough not to break into my house.

I still lock my door at night.

A low risk of a really bad outcome is not worth taking. It doesn't matter that most men aren't rapists. And it certainly doesn't matter that I'm not a rapist, because how is anyone to know that by looking at me? Women are still justified in keeping their guard up, at least a little, because the consequences of getting it wrong just plain suck too hard.
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:38 PM on October 8, 2009 [9 favorites]


Hi there. Sorry to distract from the business at hand, but I've been reading MeFi for a few years now (and reading this discussion all day) and decided to sign up for an account to say thank you to (almost) everyone here for this thread. This is the best discussion of this topic I've ever seen, and I think I've learned some important things from all of you. This thread was worth the five bucks (and much, much more) all by itself.
posted by Limiter at 6:42 PM on October 8, 2009 [7 favorites]


I don't think "not giving up on people" means what you think it means.

Zing! I'm not sure what else to say when I have more work and a commute to go. See you in an hour? This is not how I want to spend my evening.

But way to deal with the substance of my comment. Classy. I'm surprised you even read it.

Tell you what. I'll come back tomorrow and see if you've mustered any reply to a concrete example of an observation that started out outrageous (!) and eventually became accepted wisdom no thanks to a bunch of useless guys trying to get a word in. Of course, you've got it all figured out now. That was then. The only reason to include guys at this point is that they're the problem, not because they might have any insights with regard to either problem or solution.

And the suggestion -- not by you. mind -- that this is new! Yes, it's *shocking* to hear these points made mid-life. What a Secret War it is. Only... we've been having this conversation for decades. I'm sorry if it's new to you, but the arrogance behind the idea that we should hush and listen to the received wisdom is... well, it's nothing new either, as I pointed out. If repetition is deserving of a space on a bingo card (and thereby somehow invalidated, which is nonsense), then you've contributed nothing to this thread. I'm pegging the average age of the most strident participants here at about 22, because that seems to be the point at which people think they are unveiling The Truth (!) which has Never Been Heard Before!

So do go on. I'm sure you'd rather alienate as many people on your side of this issue as it takes to ensure that proper deference is given to those with the right set of genitalia.

We weren't talking about this 20 years ago because we didn't care. We cared enough to argue about it -- vociferously. And no we didn't solve it. But despite your obvious high opinion of yourself, people like you are not your objective's best asset. You're just turning ears and eyes and minds away.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 6:45 PM on October 8, 2009


Dammit!!! I was absent the day they taught throwing up on cue.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:57 PM on October 8, 2009


You know, when I lived in a rougher neighborhood some years back, I used to constantly bitch that I couldn't walk a block and a half to the train without hearing, "Heh. Heh. Niiiice titties," or some such. It didn't scare me, but it had the effect of making me just hate men. At one point it began to boil over, and I'd seethe over how much I hated them.

Then I realized that my thinking was alllllll wrong, and I calmed down. And I started to like you all again because of a few of my guy friends were so undeniably sweet, it just couldn't be possible that they were the lone exceptions. But it took a while for me to cool off from that daily upset on the way to the damn el. It wasn't rape that made me feel such hatred toward nearly all men -- it was the comments so many were making. I'm sure in some weird way they thought they were complimenting me.

Don't judge women for getting all uptight all the time. There's a story behind an uptight woman that she just doesn't trust you enough to tell you about.

And don't dismiss your gay brothers -- I like you guys now mostly because of the influence of gay men who always seemed open to discussing stuff like the perils of women. They can be lifesavers, and I daresay, you all owe them. In a lot of cases, they're the reason women put up with you. heh. Yeah, I'm kidding a little, but... not very much.

Also, ellehumour, your story breaks my heart. Thanks for standing beside me. I quite appreciate that. You're brave for having done it, and you'll feel better for it... (how does that saying go?) aaaaannny minute now. Just wait for that feeling; it'll come.
posted by heyho at 6:58 PM on October 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


Durn Bronzefist: I'm sorry if it's new to you, but the arrogance behind the idea that we should hush and listen to the received wisdom is... well, it's nothing new either, as I pointed out.

What the hell are you talking about? I've been having this discussion, as I've said above, for over fifteen years!

There's no point in either of us engaging with the other in this thread anymore. Neither of us truly wants to, so let's just stop.
posted by tzikeh at 7:01 PM on October 8, 2009


"I am so not a raper!"
posted by bardic at 7:11 PM on October 8, 2009


It wasn't rape that made me feel such hatred toward nearly all men -- it was the comments so many were making.

Not sure this applies to you. But. One the many after effects of having been assaulted is of course PTSD. And people with PTSD usually don't realize they have it. And one of the symptoms of PTSD is the subconsciousness filtering —really it's un-filtering— of outside stimulus to highlight things that might be threatening. Sparking adrenaline. It's a actually a great evolutionary survival mechanism if we still lived in primate anarchy where you could just preemptively beat the shit out of anybody that you felt threatened by. Sigh. If only.

Lot's of the people I worked with in survivors self-defense dealt with this heightened sense of threat all the time. Things they filtered out before suddenly stuck out them. Shit people might have ignored before. Made them extremely resentful and angry due to the increase in adrenaline conflicting with the restraints placed on them by civilized society. Really hard to deal with I imagine.
posted by tkchrist at 7:16 PM on October 8, 2009


"I am so not a raper!"

Noob. This is only the first time you denied it. You have to be much more angry about it for it to count.

Try it again.

No. ANGRIER.
posted by tkchrist at 7:19 PM on October 8, 2009


nebulawindphone : And it certainly doesn't matter that I'm not a rapist, because how is anyone to know that by looking at me?

Following that logic, police would need to suspect you by default because you are a man, and pull you over all the time.

Oh wait, doesn't that happen already to some ? I think is referred to as profiling.

Not a very sustainable perspective.
posted by borgesian at 7:19 PM on October 8, 2009


What a Secret War it is. Only... we've been having this conversation for decades. I'm sorry if it's new to you, but the arrogance behind the idea that we should hush and listen to the received wisdom is... well, it's nothing new either, as I pointed out.

Have you considered that the reason that you've had to hear this kind of conversation for "decades" is because maybe you're not listening as well as you've been telling yourself you are?

Because "listening for a chance for them to stop talking so you can but in" is not the same thing as "listening and really understanding what they're saying." And I'm afraid that the impression you've been giving, despite your protestations to having "heard all this before," is that of one who has heard, but hasn't listened -- and despite your protestations of wanting to "Understand" and have it "explained to you," you give the impression of one who doesn't want to understand, but rather one who wants to test the explanation against his own pre-conceived ideas.

Look, it's entirely possible you really DO want to understand. But the impression you are giving is not indicative of that. Perhaps that's why you have gotten into this argument in the first place -- not because anyone here is "too young" or "too paranoid" or anything like that.

This whole article boiled down to reading signals, after all -- and whether you know it or not, those are the signals you're sending out.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:30 PM on October 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


This whole article boiled down to reading signals, after all -- and whether you know it or not, those are the signals you're sending out.

I suggest wearing a Semifor signal lantern helmet to avoid these types of misunderstandings.

Dah-dit Dah-dah-dah Dah, Di-dah, Di-dah-dit Di-dah Di-dah-dah-dit Di-dit Di-di-dit Dah

(actual Morse code btw)
posted by tkchrist at 7:35 PM on October 8, 2009


I offered a concrete example, Empress. Neither you nor tzikeh apparently wants to deal with that, because it's easier to just characterize the other person as the one not listening, the other person as the one not understanding. But no, back then just as it seems to be now, there was a particular theory of violence or motivation or power or control and if you didn't subscribe to it that was fine! If you were a woman. Because then you had Something To Say. If you were a man, that's cool too, because you were Part of the Problem. But if you were a man and didn't subscribe to the theory in vogue, then you Weren't Listening. And you should shut the hell up. Some things don't change.

We can discuss the particular example if you like (you don't seem to want to) that rape was supposedly all about power and not at all about sex. It still boggles my mind that a topic that is, after all, about (almost entirely) male violence could be something on which people think men have zero insights. I've seen plenty in this thread. And as much as you want to characterize me as the one shouting with fingers in my ears (despite not being the one shouting about who should be listened to and who shouldn't), you'll see through the first half of this thread that I was not only very respectful but open to points of view and responding to them. The difference is that those people were responding to my points in turn, none of this LA LA LA business.

I don't know how many times it has to be said by how many different people, but "men have nothing to say" is entirely counter-productive, if not on every issue, certainly on this one. And you can (mis)characterize that as criticizing tone (that was tzikeh), or not "understanding" or even not listening, but that's not a fair characterization and I think you know it.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:39 PM on October 8, 2009


I had two encounters with strange men today, one bad, one good.

Bad: I'm a nanny. I get a lot of attention when I'm with my charge--an adorable 3-year-old boy. Most of it is good--store owners give him free stuff, people ask how old he is and talk about their kids. People in East Harlem are generally friendly and sociable. Today he and I went to the store on our way home. While we're picking out some juice (always a complicated process with this particular 3-year-old) a huge guy interrupts us, starts asking a bunch of questions, is this my kid, how old is he, do I know how cute I am, etc. I say "we have to go, excuse us", and he says "don't leave, I want to talk to you more." He starts walking towards us until we're cornered in an empty part of the store. My little guy got scared and I had to pick him up and walk away really quickly. I don't think this man even meant to be threatening, but he was. He interrupted my conversation, invaded my space, didn't respect me when I told him I wanted to leave, and was a perfect example of what not this article is telling guys not to do.

Good: On the way to work, my backpack was open and my stuff was starting to fall out. Someone tapped me softly on the shoulder. When I turned around, he stepped back to give me room and told me my backpack was open. I said thank you, he said no problem, and stepped back even further so I could zip up my backpack without worrying about him doing anything or taking my stuff. It was very sweet and made my day. Complete opposite of the situation above. He respected my space, and even though he touched me and we were on an empty subway platform. he did so respectfully and gently and I didn't feel threatened at all.

I hope that most men would want to be more like the second guy, which seems to be what this article is going for. Teaching men to think about the way they're perceived.

Obviously, I don't feel that every interaction with men--even strange men--has to be threatening, but if you're a guy and you go out of your way to be respectful and polite, thank you. Maybe it won't work out how you want it to work out. But it's a worthwhile effort and I have nothing but affection and gratitude for you.
posted by kathrineg at 7:39 PM on October 8, 2009 [14 favorites]


We can discuss the particular example if you like

Actually, I would -- hey, wait...

(you don't seem to want to)

....Well, huh. Nice of you to assume that, now I'm NOT so sure I want to hear you out. How do I know (since you've blithely lept into assuming my state of mind) that you'd be interested in hearing my response to what you have to say, rather than just assuming a different motivation for my reaction TO what you have to say?

I mean, if you really do want to have a genuine discussion?

Okay, well, YOU'VE said that you'll "consider" sharing your ideas with us if we've "calmed down" by tomorrow. I'll make you a deal -- I'm interested in hearing what you have to say, now OR later, but only if YOU'VE calmed down enough not to assume what my state of mind is.

Deal?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:45 PM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, one other thing I wanted to respond to some time ago and completely lost track of, is this, but I want to say upfront that none of my complaints about behaviour in this thread are directed at you, heyho (nor most everyone, actually):

It makes us similarly sad that we know we'll never walk up to you and thank you because to acknowledge it aloud is too weird. But we see you.

This is a touching sentiment but I'm afraid most of the time not true. The example I gave back when this was a wee thread, about the woman ahead of me on the path to the bus the other morning. Well, I forgot this part, but on approaching our destination I thought aha! There are two bus stops, and I can go to the other one. Eliminate the discomfort for her (and for me in turn). She doesn't veer for the one on the right. Splendid. I do. Of course, twenty steps later, she also starts crossing the street and, for once on the whole little trip, doesn't look back to see that I've already crossed. She doesn't do this until a minute later. You can see the conclusion. Great -- he even followed me across the street! I just hung my head. You can't win these things.

So as much as I'd like to believe that there is some realization of who is trying to provide space, alleviate anxiety, do the right thing, I think many more times it ends up being one of those "Whew! That was a close one!" for a lot of women. And then those women may go and reaffirm just how dangerous it is out there to others. It's sad and I don't know what can be done about it.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:45 PM on October 8, 2009


Nice of you to assume that

Oh Empress. I'd already given the example. You chose to characterize my behaviour rather than address it. tzikeh chose to throw up her (?) hands instead of deal with it. It's not a big deal. I just thought it illustrative of how theory changes over time, and might we not have gotten there quicker if we had made the conversation inclusive?

Calm? Uh, ok. I will calm. Down. ... I'm not sure my pulse can get any lower. Well, I will be asleep in a couple of hours.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:47 PM on October 8, 2009


Following that logic, police would need to suspect you by default because you are a man, and pull you over all the time.

Oh wait, doesn't that happen already to some ? I think is referred to as profiling.

Not a very sustainable perspective.


I'm not suggesting that women should detain me, arrest me, or accuse me of any crime.

I'm suggesting that they should — and that most of them do — keep their wits about them and take reasonable precautions until they get to know me.

I'm really surprised that this is a controversial idea.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:50 PM on October 8, 2009 [6 favorites]


Oh Empress. I'd already given the example. You chose to characterize my behaviour rather than address it.

Or, this has been a very long fucking thread and in the midst of everyone else talking, I didn't see it? Have you considered that may be the answer?

No, you just went straight to "oh, she's just ignoring what I said."

But never mind. Go ahead. I'm listening. Honestly, I'm listening. You've asked for a chance to speak, here it is: you were speaking about the question of whether rape is about sex as opposed to being about power. What's your statement?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:53 PM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Thanks for sharing, heyho.
I think this thread has offered up some really great examples of members explaining, in the simplest way possible, why many women feel like the original poster. And someone has already pointed out that women always have to explain this- that they can safely assume that bringing this up with men will result in someone pouting about how they aren't a rapist.
I did want to go back to two kind of contrasting statements- the one urging men to call out other men about catcalling, and tkchrist's warning not to do just that. I live in a neighborhood where I am visibly not part of the dominant culture. I don't have insight into the worlds that people in this neighborhood live in, and while catcalling- from men of all ages, but especially teenagers- really bothers me, I don't think that having some Buddy Holly looking guy come up and start calling bullshit is really going to help. Most of the time I just walk by, and then feel like both a coward and an asshole. Is there a way for men to indicate to other men that some behaviors are not okay, without being directly confrontational?
posted by 235w103 at 7:54 PM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, it's interesting that we're talking about being approached by strange men. For me Schrödinger’s Rapist is a guy that I kinda know but I've never been alone with; I've been sexually assaulted twice, and both times it was someone I knew whom my friends seemed to trust. So that's a much more frightening place for me to be than alone with a strange man. Anyway, when I'm alone with a guy I don't know too well it can be nervewracking, and anything he might do to put my mind at ease is really a blessing. Recently I was walking around with a new friend and I put my arm around his shoulder. He did the same. When I took my hand away and withdrew a little bit, he did the same and let me have my space. It was cool and one of many little things that make me think that he is probably a cool guy that I can trust.
posted by kathrineg at 7:56 PM on October 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


Epic and slightly exhausting thread. Thank you to all who contributed in a productive and thoughtful manner. And welcome to MetaFilter, Limiter.

I have sometimes fantasized about having a Rape Day. On that day every woman who has ever been raped would wear a large sticker on her forehead and go out in public so the world could see how truly prevalent it is. Of course, because of the sexual overtones many women would still be too ashamed to admit they had been raped.

One of the saddest stories I ever read in a newspaper took place in the 80's during the rainy season in So. Cal. On the main highway not far from my house, a woman skidded off the road and was trapped inside her car with a broken leg. Fortunately another driver stopped to help. He went over to her car, looked inside, saw that she was a young, pretty woman and decided "Hey, here's my chance to get some snatch." So he climbed into the car and attempted to rape her. Fortunately she was able to reach her umbrella and she used it to try and fend him off until a real Samaritan drove up.

That man was a predator. He was wolf waiting his chance. The rest of you guys are great big, friendly Labradors who only want to be our friends and playmates but the wolves walk among you and blend in. Sometimes we get a bit angry at all the canines. Sometimes we met Labradors in the dark and we are afraid they are wolves. Sometimes we befriend wolves by mistake.

My own rapist was an opportunist. I seriously doubt that this teenage boy woke up that morning and thought, "Boy, I want to get me some of that fine 5-year-old ass." Unfortunately my parents trusted him to babysit and when he was alone with me, he weighed his chances. He figured-- rightly as it turned out-- that he could scare me into silence. It worked so well, I didn't tell my mother for 20 years.

I did get some strange reactions from the men in my life when I told them about it. My first husband flat out refused to believe it was possible. "A grown man's penis could not fit in a five-year old's vagina." He was so uncomfortable with it that he decided to rewrite the story.

The man I am married to now had a response apropos to this discussion. When we talked about this experience I said, "That is why, when my daughter was born I had a rule-- no male baby sitters, ever." My husband took offense. He thought that was a hurtful and sexist thing to say and I shouldn't label all men potential rapists. I could see his point, but he could not see mine-- that even though the risk was tiny, the possibility of my daughter being raped was far, far too horrifying a risk to take any chance at all.

We love you guys, really. You are our lovers, our husbands, our fathers, our brothers, and our friends. We know that you are just big sweet Labradors but we fear the wolf that might possibly be lurking nearby.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:02 PM on October 8, 2009 [59 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos: Wow, there's a challenge, speaking of tone. If I only prove worthy of this audience!

I don't understand why this is such a difficult point to get. In fact, I think I described it in full in my last reply to you. Theory changes. Back when I was an undergrad, it was seemingly unquestionable that rape was about power -- but not just about power, only about power. This seemed ludicrous but, well, ok, talk to us about that. We listened. But we were not convinced. If rape was only a manifestation of the impulse to do violence or to control, why rape? Why a sexual crime at all? There are much more straightforward ways of doing violence and asserting domination. Now maybe this observation isn't all it's chalked up to be. Sexual violence *is* particularly loathsome and pernicious, I think we can agree. My point is only that, some years later, I hear these same points being said to me. This is The Deal, I'm told. And well, I'm sold! After all, I was sold on these ideas 20 years ago back when no one was listening. Not disagreeing, mind. That's always ok. No, I and every other guy I knew (in undergrad psych, a fairly touch-feely lot generally) were told to shut up. We didn't know, and couldn't know, what we were talking about, because we were men. This was a Woman's Issue and if we disagreed with any part of the going theory, it was because we didn't Get It.

Sound familiar?

So here we are, so many weeks and months and years later, and I'm sure there's another strident group out there (if not in here) ready to brand anything but what WE were saying back then as heresy. And of course, it doesn't matter. We couldn't possibly have anything of value to say anyway.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:03 PM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


It doesn't matter that most men aren't rapists.

I would expect to be excoriated here on Metafilter if I used this rationale as my reason for crossing to the other side of the street when a Muslim or black person was walking towards me. Just like there's a history that some men are rapists, there's a history of some Muslims being terrorists, and some black people being violent criminals.

Shouldn't it matter that most Muslims aren't terrorists, and most black people aren't violent criminals? Wouldn't I be a bad person for being wary of Muslims and blacks due to the historical actions of a few of them? Are the historical actions of some men somehow worthy of prejudice, while these others are not?

/Seriously not trying to be a dick here and not trying to argue for the fun of it. I'm really just trying to figure out why one is ok but the others aren't
posted by jsonic at 8:04 PM on October 8, 2009


I have sometimes fantasized about having a Rape Day. On that day every woman who has ever been raped would wear a large sticker on her forehead and go out in public so the world could see how truly prevalent it is.

That would be disturbing, and problematic for obvious reasons (not everyone wants to self-identify) but would probably also be shockingly effective. Like ghost bikes by the sites of cycling fatalities, I think people can't quite wrap their heads around the numbers until they see for themselves what they mean in terms of the people (or with regard to cycling, the places) around them.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:04 PM on October 8, 2009


"don't leave, I want to talk to you more." And crowds you?

Not to add fuel to the paranoia fire. But. Yeah.

That is a classic "interview" tactic from the type of freak that will assault you. That kind of behavior screams "hidden intentions" and latent aggression. And sure he may not consciously intend to intimidate you. But lots of freaks don't intend to do lot's of shit they do. Until something triggers their pathology.

Not that this guys was some serial killer or something. But motives or secret pain or whatever often leaks out in subconscious cues. LISTEN TO THAT. Chances are if your inner primate is creeped out there might be a reason.

Of course it's possible to become overly paranoid. Or even misinterpret cultural signals.

Speaking of subways I was in Brooklyn last week taking the C Train. It'd been a while since I was back in New York and I had not adjusted my attitude. The train hits the platform and I brain farted as I started to enter. I paused and backup to see the reader on the side of the train to make sure I was on the C and I bumped into a guy behind me. He instantly yelled "What the fuck is your problem! I'll fuck you up... (etc)" And I kinda forgot where I was and thought Oh shit. I'm gonna have to fight this guy. So I said "I got a list of problems. You'll have to get in line." All tough. Which threw him for a second. Obviously, judging from the stares of other passenger, the proper response was to either see through the guy or say fuck off and sit down.

"You crazy. Outta be locked up." He said and he sat down. That was that. Like it never happened. And I realized that his thresh hold for violence and mine were completely different becuase out here in passive aggressive Seattle nobody would be confrontational like that without wanting to throw. His outburst had no challenge in it at all. He was just basically saying look out you're in my space. I kinda felt stupid. New York. Never change.
posted by tkchrist at 8:04 PM on October 8, 2009


I thought the same thing, jsonic, but by that point my little part of the thread was in shouty mode so I didn't make that point. I do think it is analogous. If the only reply to it is a difference in the numbers (more men are obviously rapists than Muslims are terrorists, black men are muggers, etc.) then that's not very comforting at all.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:07 PM on October 8, 2009


Okay, Durn Bronzefist, I've thought about your example, and I have a response.

You said: 20 years ago I was being told to shut up and listen on a uni campus because "rape is about power and not about sex". "Yeah, but" -- uh-uh! Don't wanna hear it! "Ok, but consider" -- HEY! Aren't you LISTENING! You're a man! You don't know anything about this!

You are right that they shouldn't have said "you don't know anything about this," because of course it is men, not women, who experience male sexual response, urges, male thoughts about and views of women, understanding/not understanding women's signals, etc. The women who were having that discussion were wrong to tell men to shut up; they should have actively encouraged men to share their thoughts and insights, because women can never know what it is to be a man, and it is men who commit (or don't commit) rape.

But that is not what this discussion is about. We're not talking about what rape is or isn't. We're talking about how women experience this world--specifically the world of sexism, misogyny, and rape culture. It's impossible for any man to know a single thing about that. I stand by my statement that no man can contribute anything to the discussion of the experience of living in this culture as a woman, which a lot of men in this thread have tried to do, by saying that our feelings are invalid, our responses are paranoid, we take things too seriously, etc. These comments and opinions are akin to a blind man telling me what a poor watercolor artist I am, and then getting angry at me when I point out that he can't see.

So yes, on this specific topic, you (collective "you") don't get to talk; you get to listen, and hopefully learn.
posted by tzikeh at 8:11 PM on October 8, 2009


After reading this thread I had to go to the other room and thank my roommate for being a generally awesome guy.
Not too long ago, at a club, some dude was alternating between staring holes into half of us women there and silently following gals around the room. After he continued this behavior for a couple weeks my roommate without prompting said "is that the creepy guy you were talking about?" And then proceeded to (bless his drunken heart) corner him and said he understood if it was a shyness thing, but he was creeping the hell out of a ton of women, and had to knock it off.

Lo and behold, the guy was just shy, and somehow thought his behavior would either go unnoticed or be viewed as an indicator of interest, not as creepy socially inappropriate and threatening behavior. After that point he stopped. And my roommate enjoyed free drinks from some grateful female friends. (plus an email from the guy later in the week thanking him, since he honestly had no idea he was being perceived in that way)

And you know, most of us suspected it was typical geeky goth guy shyness issues. Since 9 times out of 10 that's what it is. But we all also remember the guy who acted like that and got caught trying to drug someone's drink, and the guy who acted like that and ended up sitting outside someone's place of employment every few days for months, and turned out to have a domestic violence record a mile long. And there's always, in the back of everyone's mind, the thought of the bad things that didn't hit the rumor mill.

That's really what it's all about, though. Women know most men aren't predators. But the ones who are don't wear a sign, and the idea of misjudging an innocent guy, although bad, isn't as scary as the idea of being viciously attacked for giving the wrong person the benefit of the doubt.
posted by Kellydamnit at 8:13 PM on October 8, 2009 [15 favorites]


Is there a way for men to indicate to other men that some behaviors are not okay, without being directly confrontational?

Take good ten long steps away from them. And then yell "Hey, is everthing okay over there! Howz it going! Be nice!" Don't call anybody names and smile. Don't jump between them unless you know what you're doing. If you got a couple people with you have everybody do this.

Seriously. Yell from a several feet away. You're not close enough to be considered a threat to him or adrenalize him. He's gonna have to barrel towards you to get to you.

If he takes one step towards you immediately yell and point right at his face "BACK OFF!"

This will adrenalize most average people and it takes the decision to go at you away from his monkey brain and send it his lizard brain where it decides to fight or flight.

Keep pointing at him as you step slowly back. If backs away. You do to. (Just keep an eye on him)

If he keep coming lizard brain has decided to kick your ass. Run. I mean run run run.

Most guys are not that good of a shot from more than six seven feet away and it's hard to run an shoot simultaneously. And most guys won't run after you to kick your ass.

If you see some guy getting fresh with a woman and you don't have room for the above maneuver then just yell some random thing real loud like you're crazy. At least that will distract the guy.

Either way mission accomplished.
posted by tkchrist at 8:20 PM on October 8, 2009 [37 favorites]


Wow, there's a challenge, speaking of tone. If I only prove worthy of this audience!

I react to the tone I'm given in kind.

I don't understand why this is such a difficult point to get. In fact, I think I described it in full in my last reply to you.

As I've said before, I missed it because this is a long thread. Which is why I asked again.

Theory changes. Back when I was an undergrad, it was seemingly unquestionable that rape was about power -- but not just about power, only about power. This seemed ludicrous but, well, ok, talk to us about that. We listened. But we were not convinced.

Um....I'm sorry you were so traumatized by that? You've stated that people did this to you in the past, that's the part I've heard you mention before, but I hadn't seen you get to what you REALLY wanted to say. Clearly you need to unburden yourself about not being listened to.

If rape was only a manifestation of the impulse to do violence or to control, why rape? Why a sexual crime at all? There are much more straightforward ways of doing violence and asserting domination.

My hunch is that it's because assaulting someone in a sexual fashion is an EMOTIONAL attack as well as a physical one. Breaking their bone only breaks their bone. If you break their bone and their SECURITY, you've REALLY broken them -- you've REALLY dominated them.

Or, to turn your question around: if it IS about sex, why commit a CRIME in the course of getting it? If it's NOT about power, well, there are much more straightforward ways of getting laid.

My point is only that, some years later, I hear these same points being said to me. This is The Deal, I'm told. And well, I'm sold! After all, I was sold on these ideas 20 years ago back when no one was listening. Not disagreeing, mind. That's always ok. No, I and every other guy I knew (in undergrad psych, a fairly touch-feely lot generally) were told to shut up. We didn't know, and couldn't know, what we were talking about, because we were men. This was a Woman's Issue and if we disagreed with any part of the going theory, it was because we didn't Get It. Sound familiar?

No, because this discussion has never been about "is rape about sex or power". It's been about "what is it like to BE a woman and have had a woman's experiences, and have those experiences be the prism through which you view the approach of a man. I'm...not sure exactly how your example fits into that discussion.

So here we are, so many weeks and months and years later, and I'm sure there's another strident group out there (if not in here) ready to brand anything but what WE were saying back then as heresy. And of course, it doesn't matter. We couldn't possibly have anything of value to say anyway.

....Um, I gave you a chance to say something to the topic, because you made much hue and cry about how you had something to say, and you....said something on a different matter.

But hey, clearly you are upset at having had your opinions overlooked in the past, so...um, I'm sorry your feelings were hurt? I'm not sure what you want me to say here.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:28 PM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Wow, ok tzikeh. I wasn't expecting a response from you (especially meeting the point) but I do appreciate it.

That's a very fair point. I wouldn't ordinarily agree that a subject like rape is or should be confined to this one aspect -- however, that is the subject of the linked piece, which is, after all, what this discussion is supposed to be about. But you did say earlier, though somewhat grudgingly it seemed to me, that responses to posts were acceptable. I don't know how a conversation can be had about women's perceptions of male behaviour without some discussion of where these men are coming from. Not where you think they are -- you don't know, after all. As long as the conversation is in good faith I don't see where this goes off the rails. (note: I don't include in "good faith" Oh Woe Is Me equivalencies -- but I don't think anyone said that loss of openness is equivalent to loss of personal security -- in fact I explicitly rejected that view)

You've said my peers were wrong to shut out males from their discussion but haven't exactly owned up to trying to do the same thing here. I don't pretend to have any great insight. How would I know what will come to be accepted theory 20 years from now? It just seems illogical to exclude men from a discussion about something they are so clearly involved in (not as "potential rapists" but as people behaving -- and often being misunderstood and misunderstanding themselves) the social setting being discussed. And I've seen firsthand that it is counterproductive.

That's pretty much my deal on this point. It didn't have to be a shouty thing, but that's a failing of mine. I am not indefinitely patient. People get shouty and snarky; I get shouty and snarky back. Thanks for replying, though.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:29 PM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


So yes, on this specific topic, you (collective "you") don't get to talk; you get to listen, and hopefully learn.

As long as we're open, and particularly not dismissive of, the informed comments of women who live these subjects daily, then this thread seems like a valid place for men to add to the discussion and have opinions.

Maybe if you aimed your "don't talk, listen only" talk specifically to those commenters with obvious misogynistic dismissals of your experiences, then we could still have a constructive discussion without unnecessary gender exclusion.
posted by jsonic at 8:33 PM on October 8, 2009


Okay, let me first apologize for getting a little snarky too. I think we're all calming down.

Strangely, you also were inadvertently reminding me of Ralph Nader during the 2000 election, which I can't even BEGIN to explain....

I wouldn't ordinarily agree that a subject like rape is or should be confined to this one aspect -- however, that is the subject of the linked piece, which is, after all, what this discussion is supposed to be about.

Not.....exactly. The linked piece does discuss the fact that women have been raped, but it's more of a "the fact that people have been raped is why we're like this" rather than a discussion on the nature of rape itself. Which could be why I was so baffled about why you were getting into a whole "rape theory changes and you don't let me respond to it" statement (to be honest, I'm still not sure I entirely understand how it's fitting into the conversation at hand, but hey).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:34 PM on October 8, 2009


(that last comment of mine is to Durn, by the way.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:34 PM on October 8, 2009


Wow, is this a tag team?! tzikeh is reasonable and wants to talk, and Empress, you need to up the snark quotient?

OK... speaking of responding in similar tone.

Um, I gave you a chance to say something to the topic

Thank you for your permission. As should be abundantly clear, I didn't need it.

No, because this discussion has never been about "is rape about sex or power".

*Whoosh* Missed it by that much. That was the subject of the conversation I was referring to -- you remember -- the ones where only the people with the correct set of equipment had anything worth being listened to? By analogy, there might -- just maybe -- a distant chance? -- be something one or more of the thoughtful men in this thread have offered that is worth considering. ... Naaaah.

Um....I'm sorry you were so traumatized by that?

Yeah, I'm sure the one inferring mental states here. I didn't realize it was a technique to miss an obvious point about inclusion in debate but kudos. I am learning.

Obviously my troll radar is waaaay off. But thanks for snarking along. It's obviously valuable to see who is worth discussing things with -- note, not because of what is or isn't dangling between their legs but what they have to offer the conversation.

Cheers.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:35 PM on October 8, 2009


Oh bloody hell, I need to preview more often.

Ok! *hands up* Can I unload my gun and read your comment? Let's call a snark truce.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:36 PM on October 8, 2009


Hah! Oh, you twooooooo....
posted by heyho at 8:38 PM on October 8, 2009


Can I unload my gun and read your comment? Let's call a snark truce.

No worries -- that's why I responded so quick, because then I posted, read what you said to tzikeh, and I thought "oh crap". I figured that our comments would cross.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:39 PM on October 8, 2009


Thanks to this thread, I recalled this interaction:

Picture, if you will, a brick lined path on an ivy league college campus - it's daytime on a walking path between large buildings that has benches on one side and some nice grassy bits on the other where a group of college age students (mostly male) are sitting. I, a 5'2" moderately tattooed female in a belly shirt, am walking along heading out for lunch when I hear some guy say, "Hey, show me your tattoos!" My response is an incredulous (with a smile so that he knows I'm a Nice Girl), "I don't even know your name!" He tells me his name and I can only think to say, "Well, what am I supposed to get out of it?" Of course, he tells me that he'll show me his belly if I show him his.

At this point, I'm thinking: oreonax, you ASS, you absolute IDIOT, smiling and acting coy is NOT going to get him to Leave You Alone, which is what you want. That was the entire ~point~ of "I don't even know your name" but you're so ~dumb~ that you had to be ~cute~ about it and now he thinks he's charming. Remember college boyfriend #3? This is how you ended up where you did with him....

Which is interesting, because I'm also thinking - now, now, be nice, he's just a young man trying to be friendly and hanging out with his buddies, I'm sure he's perfectly harmless, and LOOK! there's all These Other People around, it's lunchtime and you're in broad daylight! And isn't it cute that this young thing thinks you're young enough to talk to? And if you really didn't want to engage with him, why did you even turn around? You could have just kept on walking and started off with being rude, you know.

I smile and from my distance, I flashed him the ink while backing away and then turning and leaving. Nothing bad happened, he didn't escalate into making crude comments or chase me down and rape me but I was still left with this palpable sense of disgust for myself that I have trouble shaking even today.

My point is this: I didn't like what he said or his tone but because it was so important to be nice and friendly I didn't follow through on telling him so. Even if the person you're talking to doesn't manifest overt signs of discomfort it doesn't mean that they're not there. Is it fair to you? No - you're not supposed to be a mind reader, you can't control how I react to you. I think the take home message from all of this should be: Responding to positive signals is okay. Not pursuing in the face of rejection is key. Pay Attention.
posted by oreonax at 8:41 PM on October 8, 2009 [9 favorites]


>It doesn't matter that most men aren't rapists.

I would expect to be excoriated here on Metafilter if I used this rationale as my reason for crossing to the other side of the street when a Muslim or black person was walking towards me. Just like there's a history that some men are rapists, there's a history of some Muslims being terrorists, and some black people being violent criminals.

Shouldn't it matter that most Muslims aren't terrorists, and most black people aren't violent criminals? Wouldn't I be a bad person for being wary of Muslims and blacks due to the historical actions of a few of them? Are the historical actions of some men somehow worthy of prejudice, while these others are not?

/Seriously not trying to be a dick here and not trying to argue for the fun of it. I'm really just trying to figure out why one is ok but the others aren't


No, that's cool. It's an okay question, and it's one that I've ruminated over myself.

Here's the thing. In my experience, being treated as a potential rapist hasn't harmed me in any way. I haven't been hassled by the police for driving while male. I haven't been kicked out of bars or followed around stores or whatever because my masculinity was threatening people. I've never been denied a good job on account of my gender. (Okay, I can't wait tables at Hooters. I said a good job.) In fact, even in my romantic life, it hasn't been a problem. Sure, women are cautious around me initially, but I still manage to make female friends and get dates and it's all gravy as far as I'm concerned.

ABSOLUTELY THE ONLY CONSEQUENCE of the "sexual profiling" that I face as a man has been that I have to be a little more polite and considerate around strange women, especially if we're alone together or it's dark. Okay, I can do that. No skin off my nose.

People of color have a very different experience with racial profiling. They do get hassled by the police more because of it, often with really dreadful consequenes. They do lose out on good jobs and a lot of social perks — and so on. It is a big, serious, hairy deal that harms them in a lot of ways. I figure that gives them a good reason to complain about it when they experience it.

I think if I lived in some mirror universe where I faced serious, persistent, life-altering harmful consequences for being male, I'd be more likely to get angry at the women who crossed the street to avoid me — and I'd be more sympathetic to other guys who get angry over it. As is, I just don't feel like us men have a legitimate grievance here.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:41 PM on October 8, 2009 [81 favorites]


Which could be why I was so baffled about why you were getting into a whole "rape theory changes and you don't let me respond to it" statement (to be honest, I'm still not sure I entirely understand how it's fitting into the conversation at hand, but hey).

Yeah, it wasn't so much about how theory might be incorrect now, but about how cutting men out of the debate has slowed the realization of what, at least in one case I can readily point to, has come to be accepted as (at the very least) a legitimate perspective on the topic.

I mean, no, men and women do not equally have insights into every topic. Maybe not this one, either. Certainly not if the topic is the impact of rape. But to be discussing social misunderstandings as a result of sexual violence, and the complicated often completely misjudged social dances we perform, and think men have no insight there... that just seems very odd to me. And the only reason I can think to exclude men from that conversation, if that is the topic, is Anger At Men. Which is also legitimate, given reality. But, come on. We're on the same side here.

I hope this isn't seen as an attempt at equivalency but there is some merit in the point made a couple of times that men are exposed to (male-sourced) violence on the street all the time. I mean all the time. But I'll go ahead and refute my own point by noting -- in some research that I had actually done at the undergrad level way back when -- men don't feel that same vulnerability -- until a given male becomes a victim of crime. And at that time, so the research said, they come to accurately appraise the level of risk they face -- which women do all along, which is kind of thought provoking.

Anyway, I will now *preview* so as to avoid further feet in mouth. They've been in stinky shoes all day.

And on preview: good point, nebulawindphone. Cops aren't pulling over men because they're potential rapists. But I would insert as a personal observation, not to get too touchy-feely myself but... frequency of the experience, no matter how innocuous (I mean you could argue that a single pull-over by cops isn't that big a deal either...), really changes things. If the girl-going-to-the-bus-stop thing happens once a month, it makes me sad. If it happens once a week, it makes me sadder. If it happens three times in a day (always seemed to happen on campus way back then), I get angry. I mean, someone is shooting me FUCK YOU BASTARD looks, and I'm the kind of guy who would put myself in peril to help out a stranger. It hurts. I'm not kidding around. It sucks, big time. Do I equate that with a loss of personal safety? No. Of course not. But I'm just saying. There is a parallel there to profiling in terms of emotional impact.

Sorry for the long reply!
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:48 PM on October 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


[removed shitty derail - if you can't read the room enough to get why your comment might be totally appalling here, you maybe need to come back to mefi when you can do that, thanks]
posted by jessamyn at 8:49 PM on October 8, 2009


People of color have a very different experience with racial profiling. They do get hassled by the police more because of it, often with really dreadful consequenes.

You don't think men are profiled too, for the same things? Men are way more likely to be terrorists or criminals...
posted by Jaltcoh at 8:50 PM on October 8, 2009


But to clarify my point calmly:

It looks like what happened is that the women who have been saying "men don't get to dictate to the women in this thread" have been speaking strictly about the experience of what it is like to BE a woman. Your observations on the nature of rape itself are noted, and it wasn't right that you were treated the way you were, but....frankly, the observations you were making were about something entirely different. Yes, you have something to say about the nature of rape itself - but not so much to the experience of being a woman. (That is, unless you've actuallY BEEN a woman at some point in your life....)

Because "what it is like to actually BE a woman" IS something that "what you have dangling in between your legs" does dictate the accuracy of what you have to say about it. That's not womens' studies thinking, that's biology. You can try to explain to me what it'd be like to be kicked in the testicles, but there is no way I would be able to REALLY know, because -- I don't have testicles. Similarly, there is no way you would be able to understand what menstrual cramps are like, because you don't have a uterus. This isn't a failing on either of our parts, it just...is.

So when it comes to matters about what it is like to BE a woman -- let's use menstrual cramps as an example, since I'm on that analogy -- if you were to try to offer a statement on What It Is Like For Women To Have Menstrual Cramps, that of course -- and justifiably so -- would have a lot of people looking at you all, "um, how do YOU know?"

Unquestionably, biology dictates these things. But -- some of the experience of being male or female in this society is also ingrained in us by how we are raised, and how the rest of society treats us. It's not as cut-and-dried as having a uterus, but -- there are also SOCIETALLY-INGRAINED differences in what it is like to be a woman vs. a man in this society. And if there is a woman telling you what it is like TO be a woman in this society, then her experience AS a woman kind of trumps your experience as a man, for similar reasons. You may have heard second-hand from your mother or sisters, but...you haven't lived it.

And THAT is what the women in here who said "men need to LISTEN to us" were talking about -- the experience of being a woman in this society. Your protestations about not being listened to about the nature of rape are fair -- but for a different kind of theoretical discussion.

*nods* There.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:51 PM on October 8, 2009 [7 favorites]


I've gotta say, I learned a lot here. I really hadn't thought about just how much women must think about these dangers (though here in Holland they say the wives beat the husbands :P). It saddens me that this is how things have to be. It also kind of baffles me as to how this can be fixed, because I don't understand this so-called rape culture. Don't get me wrong, I'm a young man, and I wanna get laid, as they say, but no means no... I can't imagine any of my male friends perpetrating anything like that (though statistically maybe some of them have or will in future). I can't fathom it.

As far as talking to strangers goes, I think most guys have the common sense to see when a stranger (male or female) is feeling talkative and when not. Unfortunately the ones without common sense are hard to distinguish from the freaks, making the whole freak demographic seem bigger and more threatening. Better to err on the side of caution, of course, but it doesn't make constant Terror Threat Level Orange any less stressful or sad.

And on a slightly different note... (back to waaaay back in the thread)

I LOVE black humor, and that includes racist, dead baby, sexist, Holocaust, rape, you name it. I enjoy shocking, out-there humor, and I can do so without believing the awful stereotypes or the horrible punch-lines. I also know where this humor is appropriate, and that is only amongst a select few of my close friends who like the same kind of humor (and are all very nice people). I'd never tell such jokes in a place where people could get hurt by them, like this thread. I totally agree, the whole t-shirt thing is offensive and just stupid. I just want to stand up for my black humor and say that Nice People can enjoy it too sometimes! ;)
posted by Badasscommy at 8:56 PM on October 8, 2009


And now that I've read your comment, I'll clarify my point even further in response:

I mean, no, men and women do not equally have insights into every topic. Maybe not this one, either. Certainly not if the topic is the impact of rape. But to be discussing social misunderstandings as a result of sexual violence, and the complicated often completely misjudged social dances we perform, and think men have no insight there... that just seems very odd to me. And the only reason I can think to exclude men from that conversation, if that is the topic, is Anger At Men. Which is also legitimate, given reality. But, come on. We're on the same side here.

Again, though, I think we're back to this not being a theoretical discussion about "social misunderstandings as a result of sexual violence." This is a more targeted "this is what it is like to BE a woman grappling with the threat of sexual violence, and this is why women perceive that threat." It's not so much "this is the impact of sexual violence," it's more about "this is what it is actually like to be a woman."

And....when it comes to "this is what it is actually like to be a woman," I'm not sure how a Man's Perspective On What It Is Like To Be A Woman would be well-received, because....well, hell, you're not a woman.

Also, understand that there have been many generations of men who have gone ahead and assumed they knew what it was like to be a woman, assumed they knew what women would want, and based their behavior on THEIR perspective of what women wanted rather than asking the women. Women have been second-guessed about what they actually want, even when we clearly state it, for reasons ranging from "oh, you must just be on your period" to "you're just bored" to "oh, you just want to have a baby". For several hundred years women were being told to their faces that "oh, this is what you want, because this is what ALL women want." (Shit, people are STILL doing that.) So when it comes to women knowing their own minds, and knowing what it is like to BE a woman, the idea of a man laying claim to that just provokes a "wait, where the hell do YOU get off telling me that?" reaction.

But again, that's because this discussion has been more about "this is what it is like to be a woman." And THAT is why you were getting the responses -- not from a perspective of "it's a man! SHUUUUUUN!"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:01 PM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


EC: Oh, I'm with you on that. (though there is an unfortunate trend that women think men can't understand their experiences better than they can -- which of course is true -- and yet that they understand men without input -- because our wants/needs/insecurities are broadcast throughout society -- but that really is a derail)

No, I agree. And I think I did say that, to the extent this topic -- the linked piece and the thread -- is about the impact of rape, men don't have much to say -- except, notably, about how it may have impacted the lives of women close to them or their families through them. But to the extent that we're dealing with mixed signals between the sexes, I can't for the life of me understand why everyone wouldn't have valuable insight. Granted, some people use "explanation" as a defensive posture and that's worth tuning out once identified, but that's an individual behaviour, not a gendered one.

Anyway, I don't even particularly care that we're not completely in line on this point if we're not. I do feel a whole lot better about where we've gotten to just in terms of seeing this as an open discussion again. Frankly, it felt shitty continuing to debate this point when heyho and others were making personal, and no doubt costly, contributions to the thread. I can't really defend that but I'm glad we got to where we are.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:02 PM on October 8, 2009


You don't think men are profiled too, for the same things? Men are way more likely to be terrorists or criminals...

Oh, I'm sure I am "profiled" as a potential criminal, and maybe even as a potential terrorist — if by "profiled" you mean that people occasionally think suspicious thoughts about me. (After all, isn't this whole thread about how women occasionally think suspicious thoughts about men?)

My point is that the consequences of the profiling I face as a man are trivial compared to the consequences of racial profiling. I can take suspicious thoughts. They're just thoughts. They can't hurt me.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:02 PM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


But again, that's because this discussion has been more about "this is what it is like to be a woman."

Hmm. Well again, what this conversation is "about" isn't something that is owned by anyone. That's not what a conversation is. I'm not sure it would even be considered a derail from the linked content, in terms of thread etiquette. But yes, to the extent that the topic is "what it is like to be a woman", I completely agree.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:04 PM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


My point is that the consequences of the profiling I face as a man are trivial compared to the consequences of racial profiling. I can take suspicious thoughts. They're just thoughts. They can't hurt me.

I don't understand what you think is the difference between gender profiling and racial profiling.
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:05 PM on October 8, 2009


Eh, ok. Sleep! That's where I'm a - I need to get some.

Have a good night.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:12 PM on October 8, 2009


I don't understand what you think is the difference between gender profiling and racial profiling.

Well, like I said a minute ago, I see a huge difference in the consequences.

To put it bluntly, I have never heard a man say "I was really afraid for my life, being male in that neighborhood at night." I have heard racial minorities talk about facing that sort of fear on account of people's perception of their race.

But now let me ask you — how do you think they're equivalent?
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:20 PM on October 8, 2009


I have a question.

My son and daughter are now 19 months old. Since they were born, I've spent a bit of time worrying about how my wife and I are going to be able to protect them as they grow up. The world is a much different place than it was when I was a kid, some 30 years ago. From when we were all children. It seems to me that our kids lose their innocence much more quickly than they used to, and I don't think that's a good thing. I want my children to enjoy their childhoods. I grew up in an abusive home. Not only don't I want that my own kids to experience that hell, but I also don't want them to grow up with the cynical, angry, damaged worldview that environment imprinted on me.

I hear and listen and understand the histories being told in this thread. I recognize the value of the lessons the linked essay is trying to teach. At least, I hope I do. I see women here who feel perhaps they were too naive; who have been taught by their experiences that friendly trust can be dangerous. I read what Errant and Secret Life of Gravy and Heyho and others have to say in this thread and they break my heart, as a father, as a man... as a human being. Then I think about my own baby girl and a part of me wants to lock her away so she'll never go through that sort of horror. The other part wants to teach her to be hyperaware, hypervigilant and armed to the teeth. Extreme options. Neither feels right.

Knowing what we do about the world they will be entering into, how can I raise my kids to be happy, non-paranoid, well-adjusted children? Is it even possible to thoroughly teach my kids when they should and shouldn't trust others without destroying their innocence? How do I tread that fine line, so they are self-protective but still maintain their sense of wonder at the world around them?

Perhaps no one can answer this question. Perhaps it's inappropriate to ask in this thread, I don't know. Perhaps in the end, my son and daughter will have to find their own footing without their parents. Maybe my wife and I are going to have to do our best, and hope for the best.

But I read and re-read this thread again and again, and wonder how we will possibly protect them.
posted by zarq at 9:23 PM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


If the girl-going-to-the-bus-stop thing happens once a month, it makes me sad. If it happens once a week, it makes me sadder. If it happens three times in a day (always seemed to happen on campus way back then), I get angry. I mean, someone is shooting me FUCK YOU BASTARD looks, and I'm the kind of guy who would put myself in peril to help out a stranger. It hurts. I'm not kidding around. It sucks, big time. Do I equate that with a loss of personal safety? No. Of course not. But I'm just saying. There is a parallel there to profiling in terms of emotional impact.

This comment of Durn's really sums up what I'm talking about, actually. Yes, getting "profiled" as a dude makes me feel awkward and sad. But if "profiling" me is what it takes for a woman to protect herself — where by "profiling" I mean, you know, she keeps an eye on me, maybe crosses to the other side of the street — then I'm cool with it, because feeling awkward is just not a serious problem compared to getting raped.

If a cop beat me up just because I was a dude, I'd object. If I got fired or denied service or spat on just because I was a dude, I'd object. When those things do happen to other guys — they've never happened to me — I do object. But let's not conflate them with the hairy-eyeball hey-that-hurt-my-feelings shit that the author of the FPP was suggesting men should tolerate.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:28 PM on October 8, 2009 [7 favorites]


tzikeh, you have repeatedly stated that men can never truly understand what women go through, and that men can not possibly have anything to contribute to the discussion. This seems to be at odds with trying to get men to try to understand. While I agree that you are technically correct in that no man will understand (clarification to follow), I think that the emphasis you give that concept in this thread is counterproductive and alienating (and, I'll admit, personally frustrating).

I believe that we all live in our own universes, mutually unintelligible, but we talk anyway because we have to as human beings. If you want someone to understand something in every last visceral detail, you can't, because no two humans share the same qualia. But people are capable of imagining, analogizing, and empathizing, which is what allows us to communicate at all. I think that if you really want to connect with someone- even if it's just to make a point- you must rely on those abilities of theirs, not convince them of their futility.

I'm a man. I don't know what women experience (or, in the strictest sense, what anyone else experiences), of course.

I spent about three years as a boy living in constant fear of being raped, because I was in daily contact with people that indeed raped me several times, and that got people that I thought were friends of mine to join in. I didn't know who was going to attack me next, or when the next attack would be, or how many people would be there to hold me down. My sexual subjugation seemed to be something implicitly consented to by the community; no one that knew about it did anything about it.

When I bring this up, I emphatically am not saying "Men have it just as bad!" or implying that my individual experience has any significance to anyone here but me. I don't pretend that my experience is commensurate with any other person's. But I see the fear that I experienced during those years and in the 10 years that followed before I got treatment as perhaps related to the daily fears that some women experience.

I'm trying to imagine what it must be like to be under threat, not for a few years, but one's whole life. I, like any other human, can only do that through the lens of my own experiences. Would you rather encourage that tendency, or stop me from trying? Should I just give up because I'm a man?
posted by Jpfed at 9:30 PM on October 8, 2009 [11 favorites]


My point is that the consequences of the profiling I face as a man are trivial compared to the consequences of racial profiling

I'm surprised at your response.
Profiling in any way is wrong because it blindly penalizes a group for the crimes of some. It instills irrational fear of all.

Fearing every men as a rapist is no different than fearing every Muslim as a terrorist.

The reasons are understandable, the reaction is not. The consequences are circumstantial and will vary. The principle does not.
posted by borgesian at 9:32 PM on October 8, 2009


Zarq - the world, while not perfect, is a great deal safer now than it ever has been in all of recorded history. There is more tolerance, communication, and understanding than in all of recorded history. You teach your kids that and they'll be just fine.
posted by tkchrist at 9:34 PM on October 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


Knowing what we do about the world they will be entering into, how can I raise my kids to be happy, non-paranoid, well-adjusted children?

I wonder myself. A few weeks back, it was cocktail hour at work, and my boss started talking about her own fears- that teenagers were having sex so young now, that everyone was so crude. And her solution, that she told me, was that she was never going to let her daughter go out alone, ever. Talking about how different it is having a female child after a male one, she said, I mean, you want your son to be the pimp. You don't want your daughter to be the whore.
I quickly excused myself from the conversation, because I really didn't want to really get into, you know, both sides, same coin with my boss. But I only relate this because I feel like the absolute worst thing you can instill in your children is helplessness and fear. Teach them that there are dangers, and steps to reduce those dangers, and ways to live that respect other people. And, to be honest, the fact that you're asking yourself these questions, I think, bodes well for your kids.
posted by 235w103 at 9:42 PM on October 8, 2009


I would agree with tkchrist. Just my two cents, but I think that the way to fight cynicism and fear and antipathy is to fight as hard as possible against falling prey to the dominant paradigm (fed by the dread-hungry mass media) that children must be protected from everything and shut off from the world in order to preserve their innocence.

Experiencing the world, in all its complexity and ambiguity, is imperative. This doesn't mean throwing them open to danger. It means what 235w103 said, teaching them about dangers, teaching them how to be aware and how to be watchful, but also teaching them not to be dominated by abject terror of the world, which is far more crushing of innocence than (almost) any putative risk.

As Blake wrote,
Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know,
Thro' the world we safely go.
Joy and woe are woven fine,
A clothing for the soul divine.
Under every grief and pine
Runs a joy with silken twine.
I would also agree with 235w103: that you are even thinking about these matters bodes extremely well for your children, especially given what you say you went through in your own childhood.
posted by blucevalo at 9:52 PM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


But now let me ask you — how do you think they're equivalent?

Because they're both profiling. I don't see the difference.

Referring to "consequences" doesn't really explain it. What are the different consequences? If you're more likely to get screened at an airport security, that's one consequence. If you're more likely to get stopped by police, that's one consequence. Why does it matter if the increased probability resulted from your gender or your race?

I don't think the answer is: because only racism is a matter of systematic/historic oppression. Men have been profiled as criminals for a lot longer than any group has been profiled as people who will hijack airplanes.

Do you really think the police don't have a bias against men? That'd be hard to believe, considering that almost all criminal defendants are men (which I'm not complaining about). The police would need to be remarkably open-minded to ignore gender.
posted by Jaltcoh at 10:12 PM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


This has been an interesting, inspiring, difficult, frustrating read. Some fantastically eloquent comments have been made and I thank the posters for their patience and their bravery.

And yes, I've also been sexually assaulted. Just for, you know, the data point. Because there are so many of us, everywhere, and on Mefi too.
posted by jokeefe at 10:29 PM on October 8, 2009


Percussive Paul thoughtfully linked up all the Mefi/Meta threads from the last couple of years that relate to 'sexism, misogyny & feminism' here. I think this here wonderful and wrenching rollercoaster thread of today belongs with those epic experiences. The conversation is ongoing..
posted by peacay at 11:06 PM on October 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


Shouldn't it matter that most Muslims aren't terrorists, and most black people aren't violent criminals? Wouldn't I be a bad person for being wary of Muslims and blacks due to the historical actions of a few of them? Are the historical actions of some men somehow worthy of prejudice, while these others are not?

I once remarked to a friend that her hyper-vigilance around men in social situations seemed to be a bit overboard. And I got the riot act read to me. I got all the assault statistics, a few anecdotes, and strong dose of "you don't know what it's like to be a woman, you can't understand". She was wrong. I do understand. I may not be able to experience it directly, but I do understand. Maybe it's from growing up with younger sisters and a seriously feminist Mom, in a house where the women outnumbered the men 2 to one.

Growing up I was not allowed to hit my sisters. Ever. I don't mean that if I hit them I'd get in trouble. I mean it simply did not happen. And in a house full of rowdy kids, there were plenty of fights, screaming matches and blood feuds. My mother explained to me one day that she knew I wouldn't grow up to be a wife battering monster because of a kids fight in the bcak seat of the car. She taught me how my sisters had to grow up into a world that was very different than the one I would encounter as a man. It wasn't about me as a man not hitting them, it was about them not being hit by a man. Not ever learning to think even for a second that it was justified.

I understood that at 12. Shouldn't be too hard for most adults. Every woman is somebody's sister, somebody's daughter. Not a hard lesson to teach or learn.

To the women who are telling us how many of their friends have endured assaults or violence, you should know that As brothers, sons, boyfriends, and fathers...we know. And those of us who have heard the horror stories from women we love and instinctually want to protect, we may not always get it right, but we understand more than you may realize.

I understand women's fear, but I also understand how effective fear is as a method of control. And no matter how clueless the average man can be, I think there is something important in understanding that there is a gap between the real danger and the perceived danger. You can measure that gap in units of power and control.

What I was trying to tell my friend was that in other countries and cultures they make women cover themselves from head to toe, and we consider them barbaric. But really the only difference between us and them is that here we make the women wear their burqas on the inside.

If that sounds like hyperbole, reread this thread.

This world is a fucked up place, no doubt about it. So much so that we have to work to see the good. And I was always taught that that's the important part. Doing that work. I was raised in an environment that taught that the White Man was the devil. Literally. And while there is ample evidence to be found every day that this is indeed the case, I will not let Rush Limbaugh distract me from the larger truth that greater minds have taught us. No matter what the difference, perceived or real, we have to learn some way past it.
posted by billyfleetwood at 11:19 PM on October 8, 2009 [20 favorites]


Totally off topic, but tkchrist, while you were in New York last week getting told to fuck off, I made the reverse trip from NYC to Seattle. Despite having grown up there, it now seems like a creepy ghost town. At one point, I had to take a time-out, and had to ask my friend if I was being a dick, because everyone at the coffeeshop was being all weird. And my friend said that I was standing really close to the guy in line ahead of me, and then ordered while the barista was busy doing something else. And, yes, I was being a dick.
posted by billyfleetwood at 11:23 PM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


zarq: It's a great question, and I wish I had a good answer. For my part, and I'm not a parent, I tend to think that you can't protect your children, but that you can educate them, and their good education will serve them as best as possible. I think you're right; you and your wife do your best and hope.

But I'm actually replying because I'm a man, and I shouldn't be grouped alongside the women who have powerful stories to tell about their experiences, good and bad. I'm happy if something I said was meaningful to you, but in this conversation I'd prefer to point you towards them and step back.
posted by Errant at 11:50 PM on October 8, 2009


First of all, I am so, so sorry for what was done to you; it's staggering to think about and incomprehensible to me.

I suppose I should put my CV, as it were, out here: I have not been raped, but I have been groped, rubbed up against, and kissed against my will. These are all sexual assaults, though many people would say that they aren't, and I should "lighten up" and blah blah blah misogynycakes. I have also been mugged at knife-point half a block from my home.

you have repeatedly stated that men can never truly understand what women go through, and that men can not possibly have anything to contribute to the discussion. This seems to be at odds with trying to get men to try to understand.

Let me ask straight out. What can a man contribute to the explanations and experiences that women are sharing about what it is to be a woman in today's society? (Perhaps, now having read a comment from a Dutch MeFite, we should say "in today's American society".) I do not mean that men don't have any thoughts or opinions about what women go through, or what responses women have to men, or great empathy for women, but what can they say?

What happened to you is disgusting beyond comprehension, but it has nothing to do with the world of the female. Members of both sexes are raped; all rape is abhorrent. But a man who has been raped and a woman who has been raped still live in two different universes on a daily basis, whether we are talking about the crime committed against them or not.

I'm trying to imagine what it must be like to be under threat, not for a few years, but one's whole life. I, like any other human, can only do that through the lens of my own experiences. Would you rather encourage that tendency, or stop me from trying? Should I just give up because I'm a man?

You absolutely should not give up trying to imagine what it is like. Listening to women describe their day-to-day (truthfully, minute-to-minute) lives is probably the best way to help you imagine it. But what can you say that will add anything? As I noted a while back, I've been having this conversation for a long time--and I don't just mean tonight ;). No matter what good intentions men have when they try to add their thoughts, those thoughts are generally, in my experience, a) veiled attacks on the discussion simply for existing; b) false equivalencies--"men get raped too" (I know that is NOT what you said); c) "I'M NOT A RAPIST AND I RESENT YOU LUMPING ME IN WITH RACISTS; or d) some way, somehow, an attempt to explain to a woman who has said, "A man did/said X and I did/said Y in response, because I felt Z," that they shouldn't feel threatened because here's what men mean when they do/say X.

It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter what a man intends for X to convey. Telling women what you intend when you do or say X will not change anything or add anything, or allow women to change their reactions to their world--because you (generalized "you") can't be certain that another man who does/says X has the same intentions you do, and neither can a woman. It would be ridiculous (and impossible) for a woman to come away from that with, "Oh, so X is really J; now I don't have to worry about X anymore!"

There's a good example upthread, about the shy Goth guy freaking out the women in the club. When confronted, he explained his intentions, was unhappy with how he was being perceived by women, and changed his behavior. Great. I mean that. But the reason women were freaked out was because it was just as likely (perhaps more likely) that his intentions weren't benign. So how can a man saying "Ah, but my intention was..." have any meaning here?

Men don't like being Schrödinger's Rapist. I don't blame them; that must suck. But tell me, what is it that they're going to say when I talk about (and here I'll give you my average day) making sure I have my keys separated between each finger before leaving the house or car; always having to park somewhere well lit rather than in the first, closest parking space I can find; being hyper-vigilant about my personal space no matter where I am--which means that my attention and concentration is always in several places at once; constantly reminding myself not to talk or text on the cell if I'm outside at night (or in the daytime if in a less-than-super-safe area), because it will distract me from my ability to keep an eye out for possible predators and possible escape routes; don't ever listen to the iPod while walking outside; schedule trips to the gym within my very busy day because I, unlike men, don't have the luxury of walking or jogging outside after dark; being stuck calling for, and paying for, a cab if it's nighttime and I'm out somewhere that is too far away for me to walk back home, and getting to some kind of (much cheaper) public transport means walking in an unfamiliar neighborhood; having to duck into any open store or restaurant if I sense that a man has been walking behind me for just a little too long; don't take the garbage out to the dumpster at night; on and on and on. And that's not even touching on general life habits: don't drink alcohol on any dates until there's a real sense of ease with the man (even then, of course, there's possible danger, but trusting gut feelings is the only guideline); don't accept offered rides home from parties from men, regardless of how nice they may seem (time for that costly taxi again); when searching for an apartment, instantly eliminate any listings for a garden or first-floor; don't sleep with the windows open even on the loveliest of nights....

Tell me what you want to say to this that will contribute. I'm being completely serious, not snarky or derisive.
posted by tzikeh at 12:20 AM on October 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


Gah - that previous comment is in response to jpfed. That's what I get for staying up til 2:30 am to try to keep up with the discussion.
posted by tzikeh at 12:28 AM on October 9, 2009


Okay, to those who took my story and called it nothing, the guy didn't just happen to go into the same store as me, he was walking in the other direction as me when he started trying to talk to me, with "come on", "I just want to ask you something", etc. He followed me for a couple of blocks trying to talk to me, then I thought I got away by ignoring him only to have him walk into my destination (the store) a moment later and sort of stall. I didn't "act like a victim", I went about my shopping but had to remain cautious. This was the guy who'd just followed me for 2 blocks! Wouldn't you be?

This wasn't 'guy just happens to step into the same store and I overanalyzed the situation and got paranoid'. He followed me in there. It was 12am. When I left, he was only a block off and signaled back to me but I walked in the other direction as quickly as I could, looking back a lot to make sure he wasn't going to find my house.

I'm sorry that the odd rotten apple of you feels so inclined toward making light of these situations. As I said before, these kinds of guard up situations really suck. The need for them sucks. And as EmpressCallipygos and others have stated, it's a handful that cause the need. 99% of you won't creepily follow some woman, but that 1% are the ones that make a woman fold her arms and keep her eyes open a little wider.
posted by cmgonzalez at 1:01 AM on October 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


This discussion has been great. Thank you to all who have shared, especially the more intense personal stories. My comment is relatively small.

I am not a rapist. I have had occasion to look out for ladies who had too much to drink or been in otherwise uncomfortable situations, etc. But Rhomboid's question above really got me thinking, because the question in my mind as a decent male in a first world country is what can I do, beyond not raping people, to foster a culture where rape is actively fought against, where women can feel safe in their own skins?

As this was turning over in my head I wandered over to the livejournal conversation that has been mentioned upthread a few times. Two stories in particular stood out. The first because it is a testament to our modern undercurrents of misogyny and the disrespects we allow in public even.


>I just wanted to give a shout-out to that man.
I was on a crowded 4 train going up toward Grand Central Station when a man knelt in front of me and began making lewd gestures and licking the air between my legs, which were forced open by the bags at my feet. He kept getting closer and closer, moaning and babbling.
The train was filled with men -- healthy, young, strong-looking stockbrokers coming up from Wall Street on their way home. Every single goddammned one of them was pretending not to see the man. I suppose I should mention that I was 18 at the time and looked about 14. Yes, the man looked scary. He was babbling and creepy. He was scary. But they were all bigger.
A few stops shy of Grand Central, a very tired-looking, middle-aged, balding black guy with too-short gray slacks and a worn v-neck sweater looked into my train and saw the horrified, frozen expression on my face. When the doors open, without a word, he stepped in and in one smooth movement grabbed my would-be assailant by the scruff of his neck and the belt and yanked him off of the train in a businesslike fashion, tossing him on the platform.
The doors shut; I was to stunned to even holler thanks.
I had to ride the rest of the way to my destination with those fuckers who had sat, doing nothing. I can't tell if they looked ashamed; I was too busy crying like the scared teenager I was.



I would like to think that I would be That Guy. But what I have learned from the article and this thread is that I am not aware of the more subtle ways that I might make women uncomfortable.

> I used to work as a stage manager, which often mean taking the bus home late at night. I lived in a fairly quiet area of Toronto, so usually, when I got off the bus at my stop (I lived about two blocks away on a side street), I was alone.
One night, around 2, I got off at my stop and a man I didn't know also got off. I was a little nervous, but before I could make a decision about whether to head home or go off in another, better lighted, direction for a while, he said "I'm headed down X street. If you're going in the same direction, let me start down the street first so you can see where I am, instead of having to worry about me following you."
I never ran into him again, but I've never forgotten this. He did it so matter-of-factly, not as if he were doing me a favour, just doing the right thing because it was the right thing to do.


This kind of thing makes sense to my guy-brain. Ladies, would you prefer we be proactive like this? How to keep it from being condescending?
posted by iurodivii at 1:19 AM on October 9, 2009 [26 favorites]


I'm only up to comment #300, so apologies if this has been said (I'll try to catch up later, promise):

I do think there is a way to have a discussion about both women's and men's experiences without the conversation becoming derailed from the point of the text linked to, given that they're both qualia of the same cultural phenomenon.

It's been interesting to read some of the comments above from men, who discussed the experience of being a perceived threat. Most women I know are, by necessity, extra vigilant when it comes to being aware of their surroundings, and discerning the intentions of strangers. The corollary is that many of the men I know walk around terrified that they could be considered threatening—not because they tried to start a conversation with a woman they don't know (which they explicitly avoid), but because of their very presence—the "standing at the bus stop and sneezing" scenario.

That neither changes, nor negates, how absurd it is that women (myself included) have to walk around on constant guard. If anything, it shows that the power imbalances created by sexual assault are just no good, for anyone.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 1:35 AM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


As an aside, have any other women noticed that as you walk, men heading in the opposite direction will sometimes, without seeming to notice, start veering slightly towards you? Not drastically—maybe five to ten degrees off their original course?

It makes walking down the street like a first person version of Galaga. Only with divebombing guys, instead of space bees.

posted by evidenceofabsence at 1:42 AM on October 9, 2009


I do not mean that men don't have any thoughts or opinions about what women go through, or what responses women have to men, or great empathy for women, but what can they say?

I can say that you're not free, and women don't hold the exclusive license to that. And while I don't feel at all damaged by women's fear of men, I have no problem saying that the all too common reaction of treating all men as if they're loaded guns that can go off at any time doesn't make women any safer. I can say that just because your fear is real doesn't mean it isn't also systemically being used to control you, and maybe that's something worth talking about.
posted by billyfleetwood at 3:13 AM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


let me start down the street first so you can see where I am, instead of having to worry about me following you

This matches my instinct when following a woman in the dark. I prefer to hurry past her with a small greeting, rather than hanging back. She might be worried at the sound of my approach, but once I was past, she'd be reassured by being able to see me, whereas following out of earshot would guarantee freaking her out for the entire walk. Of course, if she was really paranoid, she'd be afraid I was boxing her in, but there's only so much you can do.

Everybody needs to be aware of their vulnerability, and deal with it as appropriate. Women are vulnerable on two levels, one because they are generally smaller than men and two, because they are the subject of the frustrated sex drive of men. That combination of factors makes them much more likely to be assaulted, sexually or otherwise, than the average man, and they need to recognize and deal with that fact. And, as the article points out, men need to recognize and deal with that fact too.

As far as dealing with vulnerability goes, being afraid isn't an effective means. Looking at your options in any situation and deciding which to take is the best thing to do, and making sure you have as many options as possible before you go into any situation is where to start. Then you are less likely to be in a position where someone can use your fear against you. Martial arts training is one place where you can increase your options.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 3:29 AM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think it's worth pointing out that most of the unpleasant encounters mentioned here seem to have happened in big cities and urban areas, where crime rates are usually highest. As such, it seems reasonable to say that women's heightened awareness and caution in these areas is not so much an indictment of what a large percentage of men are evil, but rather an example of the higher concentration of unpleasant, criminal characters in some places. Granted, bad men exist all around, and this point doesn't take into account the more behind-the-scenes kind of assault by relatives or friends.

I guess part of why this whole subject was largely unknown to me was because - besides being a man - I've never lived in any sizable US city. Here in the Netherlands the murder rate is 1/4 that of the US, and the rape and assault rates 1/3 of the US rates (I got this from www.nationmaster.com; I think the Netherlands is a good example because it's first-world, highly developed, and feminism runs very strong here, so I think the chances of under-reporting are relatively small). These are still non-zero, and I'm still a naive man, but as far as I can tell, I've hardly, if ever, encountered the kind of fear, intimidation, and overall (necessitated) paranoia mentioned in this thread. Sensationalized crime, violence, and fear seem to be particularly common in the US. I dunno which part of the American culture or system create this effect, but there it is.

I'm just sayin', some places seem to have it better than others in this respect. I don't know enough to say why that is, but it's worth looking at, and it gives me hope that things can indeed get better.
posted by Badasscommy at 4:38 AM on October 9, 2009


jsonic: Shouldn't it matter that most Muslims aren't terrorists, and most black people aren't violent criminals? Wouldn't I be a bad person for being wary of Muslims and blacks due to the historical actions of a few of them? Are the historical actions of some men somehow worthy of prejudice, while these others are not?

In the United States, your odds of being a victim of a terrorist attack are on the scale of being hit by lightning. The odds of a particular person you might pass being a terrorist are much lower. Being a victim of a violent crime other than rape is a little bit higher, but still fairly low and you are much more likely to be assaulted by someone you know than a stranger.

Meanwhile, rates for sexual assault among women run between 1/10 to 1/6 give or take.

And really we are talking about behavioral profiling here, based on the arguably sensible position that a person who aggressively ignores social cues in a public place to continue unwanted conversation might be willing to ignore sexual cues in a private place to commit a sex crime.

And women can't win on this one. Because when they are raped, they are blamed for not being paranoid enough about strangers on the street and their possible sexual partners. We are not talking about excluding men from flying on airplanes, we are talking about asking for what I consider to be a reasonable bit of social politeness: if you get the cold shoulder, politely back off.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:03 AM on October 9, 2009 [21 favorites]


You know I really don't support this idea of rushing ahead of someone so they get a clear view of you on the street or striking up a conversation that this is what you're going to do or being someone's personal attack ninja if you're not sure how comfortable they are with someone conversing with them [as if defending women's honour hasn't been incentive enough for misogyny already]. What a recipe for neurosis. Just leave some space, walk to the other side of the road..
posted by Non Prosequitur at 5:13 AM on October 9, 2009


I think my 16 year old daughter is extremely lucky to be growing up in an era when discussions about sex are so matter of fact and easily available. She reads book, she goes on the internet and I talk to her without embarrassment, unlike my own mother. For example, when she was 14 and had yet to go on her first date I had a talk with her about dating. I told her all about those guys who will try to guilt you into having sex, how some will do nearly anything to get laid because that is such a primal urge-- much like a starving person looking in a bakery window. One line of argument I heard many times as a teenage girl was, "You made me like this (erect.) I can't go home with blue balls." but she should never, ever be guilted into having sex.

Another time I told her all about the manager of my first job who would try rub my bottom with his penis, just like every other girl that worked there. How I was too naive to protest or inform the head office but instead backed away from him and as a result lost all my hours to the point I finally quit. Only girls who were willing to put up with his attentions got scheduled to work. I told her she doesn't have to put up with that crap, ever. She just rolled her eyes because she already knows this stuff.

You might assume that I have only told her about my negative experiences, but that isn't the case. I also told her about my first real boyfriend, and about how her dad and I met and fell in love. More importantly I listened to all her stories about the dreamy boys in class-- about the cute ones and the funny ones and the friendly ones. As far as I can tell she is savvy but it hasn't hardened her in any way-- she is still open and receptive to the boys in her life.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:07 AM on October 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


> Yes, getting "profiled" as a dude makes me feel awkward and sad. But if "profiling" me is what it takes for a woman to protect herself — where by "profiling" I mean, you know, she keeps an eye on me, maybe crosses to the other side of the street — then I'm cool with it, because feeling awkward is just not a serious problem compared to getting raped.

Amen. I wish more guys could stand far enough back from their selves to think like that.
posted by languagehat at 6:24 AM on October 9, 2009 [10 favorites]


When I used to jog in San Jose, I quickly developed the habit of scuffing the soles of me feet against the pavement whenever I was coming up behind people. The noise gives people extra time to assess whether I'm threatening or not. I started doing it so that women wouldn't be as nervous, but after a couple of oblivious guys reared back with a fist cocked in the air I realized that there are a lot of people out there who've been victimized in some way, regardless of gender.
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:25 AM on October 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Thanks for the thread, everyone, and thanks to those who have shared the bad things that happened to them; these are things that ought to be communicated so people who have had similar experiences and are isolated by them, to let them know that they are not alone.

Given me lots to think about. As a male living in a city, I have a lot of similar experiences to those already mentioned: a few evenings a week I'll be walking home after dark, intentlessly following a female (as she left the tube station before I did and we're heading in the same direction) walking faster than her as I'm taller. It is something I think about from time to time, and it usually just ends up in sad frustration that the only way to reassure this person is to cross the road, slow down, remove myself from her ambit of concern and not acknowledge that this is what I'm doing.

Other times I'll be listening to my iPod on the way home and just not notice that I'm fast approaching a woman until I'm right next to her.

Man, it sucks to be female in quite a lot of ways.
posted by Cantdosleepy at 6:53 AM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Tell me what you want to say to this that will contribute. I'm being completely serious, not snarky or derisive.
posted by tzikeh at 12:20 AM on October 9 [+] [!]

There are at least three contributions men could make.

1. Those along the lines of tkchrist's in this thread- practical, respectful advice about ways to make people feel/ actually be safer.

For example, I'd like to point out that oftentimes the victim is unsure of when it is "socially appropriate" to intervene or defend themselves. Many would-be victims find themselves, within a particular interaction, sliding down a slope from benign to awkward to hostile and abusive. And either they don't know when or how or if it's ok to stop the process. Everyone's been trained to some extent by their culture to be agreeable, but likely women moreso.

Everyone needs to know that it's ok to shut down an interaction the moment it becomes uncomfortable, and that it is every bit worth the temporary increase in mutual social discomfort. Once this is grasped on an intellectual level (yes, yes, we've heard it all before) it must be practiced and consciously lived in order to become visceral and immediate.

Yes, a woman could've said that. But I don't think it's any less valid an observation coming from a man.

2. A psychologist, anthropologist, historian, or other academic figure could give a larger scale perspective on the causes and effects of the issues- a perspective that does not demand a visceral understanding of the situation

If someone (be they man or woman) can increase men's intellectual understanding of these issues, then that has two positive effects: 1. it means that those men might in the future become more open to attempting to understand the issues on a visceral level, and 2. those men may be more likely to modulate their behavior in spite of their as-yet-unsophisticated visceral responses.

This isn't a contribution that I personally can make, but it's one I think should be recognized that not only women could make.

3. Most importantly, men can talk to other men. The more diverse the group delivering a particular message, the more believable the message is, in general.

If a man were indeed to end up having some sort of insight- not necessarily a perfect mental representation of a woman's experience, but just one that is closer to the truth than that of the men around him- it could do the men around him some good to hear that insight from a man. Whether we like it or not (and as has been stated in earlier posts) men may perceive women as being shrill, shouty, or paranoid when it comes to this issue, and if that's what's stopping them from getting a better understanding of the situation, that effect might be reduced by hearing it from a man.

I can't guarantee that I have such an insight- even if I did, it would be presumptuous to claim that I knew that I knew.

For men, I would like to recommend the following exercise. It has to be done in steps. First, imagine being in an aggressive encounter. You've probably experienced this, but most of the time when we imagine aggression we have the luxury of making ourselves the winner. But in this thought experiment, you have to lose. You're flushed with effort, straining to maximum exertion, but nothing you can do will stop it. It's not like fights are in the movies- you're not both standing up, delivering punches and kicks and blocks. The fight went almost immediately to the ground, and you're pinned in a painful position. You can't get out, it's getting harder to breathe, and it's dawning on you that this guy really has beat you. He can do what he wants for as long as he wants. Eventually you stop struggling, either because you're exhausted or because you're despairing. Fuck.

Maybe the guy wasn't even bigger than you- he just had a knife or a bat or he was fast as fuck or he got the drop on you.

Try to imagine this until you can conjure the image quickly and without much effort.

Now, when you're walking down the street, size people up. Could they do to you what you've practiced imagining? If they could, imagine them doing it.

If you've done that, congratulations, you will have had a shitty day. You will not have captured the experience of being a woman; I can't supply you with the appropriate thought experiment for that. But after performing that experiment, you might end up reacting to the threatened feelings expressed by others a little differently.
posted by Jpfed at 7:14 AM on October 9, 2009 [9 favorites]


If a cop beat me up just because I was a dude, I'd object.

-

In the United States, your odds of being a victim of a terrorist attack are on the scale of being hit by lightning. The odds of a particular person you might pass being a terrorist are much lower. Being a victim of a violent crime other than rape is a little bit higher, but still fairly low and you are much more likely to be assaulted by someone you know than a stranger.

Meanwhile, rates for sexual assault among women run between 1/10 to 1/6 give or take.


This is a topic I’ve thought a lot about (and worked on) so hold on, this is a tad long. It’s not a bad analogy, but I think cases have been cited that are the easier ones to dismiss.

When law enforcement grapples with the issue of racial profiling, it isn’t dealing (explicitly) with cops beating people up. This is both because this isn't supposed to be happening in the first place, but also importantly because the harms of racial profiling don’t begin at extra-legal action. And in fact, in statement after statement, what people who say they’ve been profiled object to isn’t the 20 minutes they spent being questioned by a cop which made them late for dinner, or even the cumulative time wasted over many such events. It’s the assumption that they’re guilty until they can demonstrate otherwise. I challenge anyone to minimize that as “no harm”. I’m speaking here more of average street patrolling both in car and on foot. In the U.S. it might be with regard to black Americans, maybe in the context of drugs. In Canada it’s usually aboriginals but not always (Vietnamese when it comes to importing/trafficking, at least of late). In these cases, law enforcement has to consider quite seriously whether the benefits gained from any perceived – even grounded – statistical differences between groups justifies the host of societal harms differential treatment of any (observable) kind brings with it (there's an interesting side discussion there about "observable" but I won't get into it). The hard case to deal with -- and the one most prevalent -- is when everyone is trying to do the right thing. Cops are trying to find the "bad apples" and everyone else is just tying to get somewhere. Differential treatment doesn't start doing harm when somebody gets beaten. (I mean, you're free to disagree with this, but this puts you far outside the realm of most conversations on the topic between law enforcement and communities, where there's an agreement between all involved that this is real harm not oversensitivity)

Terrorism is a bit of an easier example because of the numbers issue, which you bring up. Except law enforcement (and border security) still seem to consider it necessary. Again, being pulled into secondary examination isn’t a “big deal”. In fact, under Canadian law, it’s not even considered a detention (so no rights of detained persons, either). But it’s not the action that people cite again and again; it’s what it symbolizes.

The point that hasn’t been made, though, which is where the analogy weakens, is that there is always the threat of some more serious consequence. Maybe you hate the reasoning that causes the cop to pull you over, but there’s no forgetting that it can be followed up with legal – or extra-legal – consequences. Thing is, again, the dread of the dirty cop isn’t what people tend to cite. It’s the presumption of guilt.

Law enforcement, btw, also cites “behavioural profiling” as the practice used, because it’s often not just being black/aboriginal/arab (etc), it’s being black on foot in that posh neighbourhood. It’s being black driving that nice car. Maybe statistically this has merit but whether it “justifies” it or not is a hard thing to argue on the numbers, because justification is more than just about the numbers.

But ok. Let's not accept any of that. Maybe you're convinced by the "threat of more" rebuttal. Let’s pull it out of the law enforcement context for that reason. Back into everyday life among civilians. Here the analogy translates a lot better. I think I’ve been hearing for pretty much forever that, if you were walking home at night and saw a black man (e.g.) walking the other way, and crossed the street "just in case", when you wouldn’t have done so for a white man, you could be rightfully called racist. It doesn’t matter whether, in your neighbourhood, black men are the perpetrators of crime more often than white men. Ah, but see, you’re not thinking that all black men are violent criminals. You just don’t know if this guy is “one of the good ones”, and until you know, you’re going to give him a wide berth. Harmless? After all, it’s your personal safety. You’re entitled to take whatever precautions you feel are necessary – a little impoliteness is a small price to pay. In fact, I bet someone could create a study where you only marginally avoid the black man more, completely unconsciously – this would still be racism. Removed from law enforcement, as I see it, this is no different than what is being discussed. The numbers objection can’t apply, because you can’t assert that the number of black men (again, just an example) capable of violent crime is somehow less than the number of black men capable of a particular kind of violent crime (rape). The only difference is that there’s immensely less stigma surrounding sexism vs. racism.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:30 AM on October 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


And women can't win on this one. Because when they are raped, they are blamed for not being paranoid enough about strangers on the street and their possible sexual partners. We are not talking about excluding men from flying on airplanes, we are talking about asking for what I consider to be a reasonable bit of social politeness: if you get the cold shoulder, politely back off.

I could not have phrased this better myself. There is no end to the second-guessing of womens' choices here - when we're not raped, even if not being raped was probably the direct result of us being cautious and removing ourselves from a dangerous situation, we're called paranoid. When we take steps to make ourselves feel more secure, we're accused of being meeeeeeeean to the poor men who are just being unfairly "profiled". When we are raped, everyone and their mother has an opinion on what we could have or should have done to keep from getting raped - we should have been more careful! What did we think, going out there at night? Meanwhile, we're taught from day one that we can never have the simple expectation of being safe - we're told to not go out at night, to not dress a certain way, to not drink too much, to carry weapons like pepper spray, etc. And when we do these things we're accused of "living in fear"; when we don't do them, we're accused of not being careful enough.

Demanding that women justify how we choose to keep ourselves safe, in the general context, because some dudes might feel bad about it, is demanding that we play a losing game.

Men, it's not about profiling you. I'm not going to tell everyone that I think you're a rapist; I'm probably not even going to think about you individually. I'm probably not even going to be rude to you (at least not intentionally). When I distance myself from a man on the street at night, it's not because I'm assuming he is a rapist; it's because I know that some men are. (If I treated all strange men "like rapists", and assumed all strange men were rapists, I would simply spray every dude who crossed my path with pepper spray and run away from them. Obviously I don't do that.) Nine times out of ten I genuinely don't feel any antipathy of any kind towards the guy; my priority just isn't making HIM feel like I trust him and like him. I don't even know him; why should I have to? My responsibility is to keep myself safe, for myself and for the people who care about me and need me. Similarly, I don't expect dudes to go out of their ways to make me feel safe - I just expect that they not be total creeps. Seriously.

Also, the thing with profiling - assuming that someone is a terrorist because they look like a Muslim, etc - is that it's designed to target marginalized people for a characteristic that marginalizes them, and use that to marginalize them further. Women are not oppressing men, here. We seriously do not have that kind of systemic power over men, despite what Men's Rights Activists would have you believe. We are not, also as MRA's would tell you, motivated by a hatred of men (which is, you know, a harmful stereotype of women), or even necessarily by a distrust of all men. We are motivated by maintaining our own safety.

I mean, seriously. I sure as hell don't feel judged every time someone doesn't talk to me on the bus. But men do? Jeez, guys, and you think women are oversensitive.
posted by ellehumour at 8:03 AM on October 9, 2009 [70 favorites]


Durn Bronzefist: Problem number 1 with your analogy is that the threat of black men has been greatly exaggerated, while the threat of men to women has been greatly understated. People crossing the street to avoid a black man are acting on a belief that's demonstrably false, while women crossing the street to put a reasonable distance between them and a stranger are acting on a belief that's demonstrably true.

Problem number 2 is that you are ignoring the relative imbalance of power involved. I'm in no way inconvenienced when women cross the street to get a reasonable distance from me. Women are inconvenienced by the threat of sexual assault and harassment that makes their caution towards strangers reasonable.

I'll say that it's generally not the responsibility of a disadvantaged group to act in color- or gender-blind ways when faced with an epidemic of discriminatory behavior against them. Especially when doing so puts their health, safety, and well-being at risk. And of course, you completely ignore the catch-22 that when women are sexually assaulted, harassed, or abused, they are blamed for not being paranoid enough.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:11 AM on October 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


People crossing the street to avoid a black man are acting on a belief that's demonstrably false

Well, no. To bring this back to law enforcement, I've worked with people who -- in various contexts -- had numbers "proving" differential rates of offence for various groups. This is at once believable, because poverty and race are in many places linked, and poverty and crime are also linked. It's problematic because of the self-fulfilling nature of crime stats. But there's no reason to believe that differential rates of offence could never occur because this makes us uncomfortable.

So back on the street, you or I may not be privvy to such stats, but people build models of behaviour from various sources -- personal experience, stories, prejudice, and more. It doesn't matter that the person on the street -- or law enforcement -- has it wrong -- it matters what they do with the information when they think they have it right. What is justified. And that you haven't dealt with, which is the difficult bit.

Your second point, which is also ellehumour's point, is exactly the correct response, I think. The "damage" done by profiling short of anything extra-legal does not have the same impact on groups that face widespread discrimination in other areas. Note that I'm not taking a "side" here so much as making observations and trying to give the analogy its due. "Profiling" isn't ok because it's sex and not race, or because the numbers back one and not the other, but because, as a person who doesn't face many other types of discrimination, it's a part-time problem and not another in a long list of strikes against me.

I would point out, however, that race cuts across sex, so "profiling" is still an issue. As is pointed out so many times on MeFi, privelege (and prejudice) is not felt equally. I might be able to shrug this off, but to a man from another demographic, no, I expect it adds up to a more substantial burden. Male /= white male.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:30 AM on October 9, 2009


I think I’ve been hearing for pretty much forever that, if you were walking home at night and saw a black man (e.g.) walking the other way, and crossed the street "just in case", when you wouldn’t have done so for a white man, you could be rightfully called racist. It doesn’t matter whether, in your neighbourhood, black men are the perpetrators of crime more often than white men. Ah, but see, you’re not thinking that all black men are violent criminals. You just don’t know if this guy is “one of the good ones”, and until you know, you’re going to give him a wide berth. Harmless? After all, it’s your personal safety. You’re entitled to take whatever precautions you feel are necessary – a little impoliteness is a small price to pay. In fact, I bet someone could create a study where you only marginally avoid the black man more, completely unconsciously – this would still be racism. Removed from law enforcement, as I see it, this is no different than what is being discussed.

The problem with this analogy is: odds are, the white man crossing the street to avoid the black man isn't afraid of being raped as well as mugged.

The very reason that sexually-based offenses are considered especially heinous (thank you, LAW AND ORDER SVU) is because they turn sexuality into a weapon against the victim. Sexuality is an intensely personal and intimate part of everyone's lives, even if you've chosen celibacy or are asexual altogether. For someone to take a part of your psyche that is that intimate and that personal and turn it against you -- that's a violation much more profound than simply having your wallet taken. Even if your mugging turns violent -- there's still a difference between violence and sexuality. (If you're still skeptical, consider -- why is it that movies with excessive violence get R ratings, but if you add some sex TO that violence, it's more likely to get an X or an NC-17?)

And while not every woman has been raped -- I've heard a variety of statistics bandied about here, so pick whichever figure you like for however many women have been raped -- nearly EVERY woman has had some kind of violation OF her sexuality take place. My own story doesn't come anywhere near ones others have shared, but here goes: just last year I received a phone call from a stranger one night, from a man who first recited my full address to me -- including my apartment number -- and then told me that he was going to break into my apartment and "rape and mutilate me" if I did not comply with all of his following requests. He then asked me a series of questions about my sexual habits -- how many partners I'd had, the color of my pubic hair, my bra size, the size of the biggest dick I'd ever had, things like that. He also repeatedly made detailed sexual threats to spur me on if I didn't answer fast enough for his taste.

Fortunately I had the presence of mind to give fake answers to all his questions, and also sound calm while I locked each and every window and door in my apartment. I was finishing as he asked me to describe what I thought it would be like to have him rape me -- which I why I felt secure enough to blurt out that it probably started with an obscene phone call like the one he was making, and would probably end with him breaking in to find that my boyfriend was waiting there for him with my roommate's samurai sword -- at which point I hung up and immediately dialed 911.

On the face of it, this wasn't all that scary -- some jackass called me, confirmed he knew my exact address, and said some scary things. But the fact that he involved my own sexuality in the course of that intrusion was a way of turning my own self against me, and I was affected by the incident for a slightly longer time than I would have if he hadn't done so.

It's not anywhere near on the same scale as heyho's story -- but it's not uncommon. Not every woman has been actually raped -- but I'd venture a guess that just about every woman has had some kind of scary incident happen to her that had a sexual element.

And that...does something to you. Think of it like this -- imagine if, instead of using a gun or a knife to attack you, an assailant siezed hold of one of your own body parts -- maybe your own hand -- and turned your own hand against you. You are then left carrying the weapon around with you -- it's not like you can detach your hand from your body, so every day you are carrying around this very thing that was turned against you violently. Imagine how much of a mind-fuck that would be. Now that you've got that in mind -- understand that nearly every woman you know actually HAS had her own hand turned against her, and is carrying around with her a weapon that was turned on her at one point in her life.

Which is why the white guy crossing the street to avoid a black guy isn't quite analagous to the woman who's a little nervous walking home. The white guy is responding to a theoretic attack -- the woman actually was attacked once, and is carrying the weapon used on her in that attack around with her still.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:37 AM on October 9, 2009 [48 favorites]


Interesting stats from the DOJ's 2008 Criminal Victimization Report:

100% of sexual assaults committed against men were by nonstrangers, with 21% being by intimate partners and 79% by friend/acquaintances.

63% of sexual assaults committed against women were by nonstrangers, with 18% by intimate partners, 42% by friend/acquaintance and 32% by strangers.

However, for violent crimes in general, it's about a 50-50 split between nonstrangers vs. strangers for male victimization, but about 70-30 for female victimization.
posted by electroboy at 8:38 AM on October 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


The problem with this analogy is: odds are, the white man crossing the street to avoid the black man isn't afraid of being raped as well as mugged.

Who said anything about the white man crossing the street? It could be you crossing the street. If you wouldn't have reacted the same way to a white man, that would be racist, no? Keep in mind, in the profiling world, it's appearance that matters. If every time you cross a black man's path you cross the street, the impact on him, little though it may be, is what he perceives as the explanation for the event, not what you're thinking about it in your head.

Also, given that street violence is disproportionately male on male, no, I would not agree that, despite the particular heinousness of sexual violence, men can shrug it off. Men come in all shapes and sizes, and it takes very little (a small knife will do) to turn an event into just about any kind of nightmare you can imagine. A couple of weeks back a neighbour of mine -- nice lady -- stepped in to stop some punks from messing around in the local park. She gave me a look like "well aren't you going to do anything?" I sized them up and, no. I was not. What are the odds that this particular group would assault me? Very good, I judged. What are the odds they would assault her? Next to none, both she and I decided, as she intervened. We're always dealing with different odds of violence, and we never really know what's going to happen. You size up the situation and act as you personally think is worth the risk. Is it worth it to you to risk your safety and not "cross the street" (whatever that may mean in a given situation) in order to prove to yourself that you're not sexist, or not racist? Maybe not. I never said it wasn't justified. I noted that the uncomfortable questions don't go away because of it.

electroboy: both violence stats on men and sexual violence stats on women suffer from underreporting. It's hard to get an accurate view but that it nonetheless interesting.

Gotta work but will check in later.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:51 AM on October 9, 2009


Durn Bronzefist: Well, no. To bring this back to law enforcement, I've worked with people who -- in various contexts -- had numbers "proving" differential rates of offence for various groups. This is at once believable, because poverty and race are in many places linked, and poverty and crime are also linked. It's problematic because of the self-fulfilling nature of crime stats. But there's no reason to believe that differential rates of offence could never occur because this makes us uncomfortable.

Sure, and we know from those same stats that most crime happens within relationships, social networks, neighborhoods, and communities. The myth of hordes of under-advantaged black men ready to engage in crimes against white strangers is a grotesque fabrication, while the risk of a woman being sexually assaulted is still 1/6 and the risk of sexual harassment is practically an inevitability.

So we are not just talking about a numbers game here. On the one side, you have a highly exaggerated stereotype not supported by crime statistics used to provoke fear amongst a privileged group. On the other side, you have a risk that's routinely downplayed, except when necessary to blame a victim for not exercising due diligence. The two are not equivalent.

I'll just point to MLK's response to the accusation that he was unnecessarily antagonizing whites with his protests and boycotts. He was not creating a conflict by boycotting a system that discriminated against him, he was responding to an existing conflict and making it visible. The problem isn't that women cross the street to feel safe, the problem is the epidemic discrimination that puts them in the dilemma of appearing rude, or protecting their own safety.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:51 AM on October 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ok, response to the quick response, but then I really have to go.

The myth of hordes of under-advantaged black men ready to engage in crimes against white strangers is a grotesque fabrication, while the risk of a woman being sexually assaulted is still 1/6 and the risk of sexual harassment is practically an inevitability.

You're not being very even-handed about this. A lot of kids are sexually abused, too, but does it happen at the hands of strangers? What's wrong with "stranger danger" as applied to kids? It's because the risk is wildly disproportionate to the response; anecdotes notwithstanding. 1/6 women are raped by strangers on the street? No, we know that a lot of sexual violence occurs at the hands of known persons. Police are also, for the most part, not interested in gross fabrications. The self-fulfilling nature of the stats is a good argument but this is not. It is, at one level, a numbers game. You seem to be suggesting that if the numbers are good enough (high enough, substantiated sufficiently) problems with differential treatment go away. That's a problematic conclusion to make.

But I didn't intend this as a prolonged derail, especially given the complaints upthread about subject focus. Feel free to re-rail at will; I won't complain.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:00 AM on October 9, 2009


Who said anything about the white man crossing the street? It could be you crossing the street. If you wouldn't have reacted the same way to a white man, that would be racist, no?

....I'm afraid you've lost me. The issue at hand -- if I understand you -- is that you feel that I am prejudicial if I cross the street to avoid a man. To illustrate you come up with a story of incidents where someone crosses the street to avoid a black man.

So as to not confuse the gender issue, I speak of a white man crossing the street to avoid a black man. And you retort with "but what if it was YOU crossing the street to avoid a black man?"

So your attempts to speak to my crossing the street to avoid a man....are to compare it with my crossing the street to avoid a particular kind of man. Again, I'm not entirely sure where you're going with this.

But to speak to what I THINK your point is (to wit, "why is it that we call this kind of incident 'racism' but we don't call THAT kind of incident 'sexism'"), well...I believe I answered it, by clarifying that the two situations are not analogous, and why they are not analagous, and that THAT is why we don't consider that one type of incident sexism. Others have further stated that the "omigod let me cross the street to avoid the black man" incidents are over-reported, as well.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:10 AM on October 9, 2009


Durn Bronzefist: What's wrong with "stranger danger" as applied to kids? It's because the risk is wildly disproportionate to the response; anecdotes notwithstanding.

Well, you have to factor in the level of response combined with the severity of the risk. Abductions by strangers are relatively low in frequency but high in damage. Actions such as keeping a good head-start running distance to strangers and being aware of who is in the neighborhood strike me as reasonable.

Also, I think we need to consider the risks of sexual harassment along with sexual assault. Even if it doesn't escalate to sexual assault, avoiding sexual harassment is likely worth the response of crossing the street, or politely brushing off a conversation initiated by a stranger (getting back to the point of the linked article.)

Durn: You seem to be suggesting that if the numbers are good enough (high enough, substantiated sufficiently) problems with differential treatment go away.

Of course not. I'm saying that the problem of differential treatment by whites with an unreasonable fear of blacks, is not analogous to the problems of differential treatment by women with a extremely reasonable caution of men.

Sure, it's a problem that women feel the need for safe social distance. But it's a problem created by men not respecting women's boundaries, not women maintaining their boundaries.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:31 AM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm gradually starting to lose track of what this argument is about. Everyone agrees harassment, assault, and rape are wrong. Are we just down to whether women's cautious attitudes are sexist? Seems like a conflation of definitions. I think this IS sexism, but I think it's NOT wrong. Those two aspects should be separated.

If a white man crosses the street to avoid a black man, he is judging the black man's character based on race, and being racist. And this is wrong, because as we've said, this prejudice against black men is unfounded. If a woman crosses to avoid a man, she is judging his character based on his sex, and therefore is being sexist. But there's substantial evidence here that her sexism in this case can in fact protect her. So it's justified. Sad, frustrating for us Nice GuysTM, but justified.
posted by Badasscommy at 9:49 AM on October 9, 2009


I guess in either case you're making a value judgment to minimize the chance of being victimized. The problem with citing statistics is that there's no threshold where you can say "Aha! A man of X race unknown to me is unlikely to sexually/violently assault me, therefore I do not have to cross the street." No one is going to remember all the stats, so you rely on some internal heuristic of how they're dressed, what the neighborhood is like, etc etc. Basically you're going to go with your gut instinct and hopefully err on the side of caution.

But even if the chances are low, the stakes are high and most people are unwilling to take a risk just to avoid offending X group or their own sensibilities about how they should feel about X group.
posted by electroboy at 9:50 AM on October 9, 2009


To get back to the experience of women, if I may be so rude -- I have a perception that cat-calling is much more common on the east coast of the U.S. than the rest of it (not sure about Europe and elsewhere) but of course I'm a guy so I wouldn't really know. Curious if the women in this thread have any thoughts on that.

Also, I usually don't do this but can't resist:
Metafilter: like a first person version of Galaga. Only with divebombing guys, instead of space bees.
posted by msalt at 9:53 AM on October 9, 2009


If it were anything like racial profiling, I would be able to detain, harass, and search men because they were driving around while being male, walking while being male, sitting on a stoop and being male...
posted by kathrineg at 9:56 AM on October 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Me: I do not mean that men don't have any thoughts or opinions about what women go through, or what responses women have to men, or great empathy for women, but what can they say?

billy fleetwood: I can say that you're not free, and women don't hold the exclusive license to that.

That is a derailment (let's call it a soft derailment, not a hard derailment) of a conversation about how women experience the world by trying to include males--"Hey, you know, we have it bad too." That won't help the discussion, and as has been pointed out many times in the thread, is unwelcome and just another example of men making it about them.

And while I don't feel at all damaged by women's fear of men, I have no problem saying that the all too common reaction of treating all men as if they're loaded guns that can go off at any time doesn't make women any safer.

Wrong. Again, look through the thread at how women who have been hyper-vigilant have possibly saved themselves by doing exactly that: acting as if the man in question was a loaded gun. Staying on the phone with a friend. Ducking into a store. I have, on more than one occasion of being followed from the El (five blocks from my home) by a strange man, held up my fist to show that I had all of my keys ready to take their eyes out. The men following me either slowed down enough that I had a huge lead on them, crossed the street, or turned around and walked back to the El stop. I treated each of them as if they were loaded guns.

It's possible that the one who slowed down or the one who crossed the street was harmless, it's possible they weren't, but I'll bet everything I own that the one who turned around and went back to the El stop decided that there was much easier prey out there (and how I hate the thought of what might have happened to the next single woman to walk out of the El stop and head home alone without any visible weaponry to brandish). And no, there's no chance he was "just" going to mug me, as I never carry a bag at night, so there's nothing at all to take (my money goes in one pocket, my driver's license and credit card in another, and my keys are in my hands).

I can say that just because your fear is real doesn't mean it isn't also systemically being used to control you, and maybe that's something worth talking about.


Honest to God--we know that already.
posted by tzikeh at 10:17 AM on October 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


So as to not confuse the gender issue, I speak of a white man crossing the street to avoid a black man.

And... you've lost me. It would be a strange to compare my aversion to a possible threat to yours using a metric of risk of sexual violence. That makes no sense. You brought in the issue of sexual violence; that was not in my example, but that's ok. In order to not confuse the issue with gender, then, it would be you choosing to avoid one man or another, not you vs. me. In terms of non-sexual violence, which I talked about, sure, we could compare who I "avoid", whether there are trends based on recognizable groups, and make conclusions about that. We could compare my avoidance to yours but to what end I'm not sure. Of course it would be racist for either you or I to "avoid" black men more than white men. This is differential treatment on the basis of race. In the racism thread, people were getting down to the point of arguing that what happens between your ears can be racism if it doesn't ever reach the level of behaviour. That's not where this is at.

Anyway, I completely understand your approach to the problem and I don't blame you for it. You probably haven't had to deal with this (profiling) in anything other than a theoretical sense. (but maybe you have; correct me if I'm wrong) Let me take a step back and bring in a little context that maybe makes the issue clearer. You can't walk into a meeting with law enforcement with the message: "This stat is bad". Maybe it is. I'm not talking about good business. I have said this. But it doesn't solve the issue. The response is usually some version of (in the more charitable cases) "Tell us how to get better stats then; we will." That's because they are supremely confident that, while they may mis-weigh one trend or another, or even misidentify them, the trends are out there. And in that they are almost undoutedly correct, for the reasons I stated above, and more. Crime is not random. It would be nice for everyone involved if it was scattershot with regard to some important distinctions like race, but that isn't at all likely. Poverty is not equally distributed. Neither is opportunity. And we may be talking about a very local level where affiliations matter. A local district may be more interested in a particular drug operation run entirely by members of an ethnic minority in a particular neighbourhood of a particular city (actual example). You can't tell them "There are no trends along racial lines. You must police equally not because it is good policing, but because there are no trends to be made use of." They'll rightfully write you off in that moment and that will be the end of your involvement. No, the starting point for this discussion is that there are trends in criminality. Not for blameworthy reasons. There are a host of social ills that contribute to it. But law enforcement, at the upper levels anyway, are not really interested in blame. They just want to catch criminals.

So the conversation you end up having, and I think it's the appropriate one to have, is "What degree of difference between groups should result in what kind of different treatment?" You and others in this thread appear to start from the premise that there is a definite gender difference in criminality. There is. But you equally reject the premise of any difference in criminality along racial lines. Well, completely demonstrable at the local level, there is -- a given set of stats (nevermind a throwaway example) may be questionable, but there are underlying trends in crime. Once you've decided what difference in risk should result in what kind of different treatment, you then ask the necessary question if no one else has (and no one ever does): is it worth it? Is this marginal (if it is) advantage in policing worth what it's going to cost you? In community goodwill and cooperation, in the risk of counter-profiling, in a sense of oppression in innocent members of the target community? (and that's when the gloves come off and you let everyone fight it out)

Now note, I never said, for us civvies, that this kind of reasoning isn't justified when you're facing unquantifiable risks on the street and you have to make a decision, with your personal safety at stake, that results in little impact for anyone else. I'm simply pointing out, as someone had done not long before me, that it's the same kind of reasoning. The effect is different, I agree, and I think that's the best answer to "this is profiling, the same as racial profiling". But I don't think you get out of this by saying the numbers can't possibly be unequal (unlikely is putting it mildly), or that they're so different (chance of sexual violence by stranger on the street vs chance of violence of any kind by stranger on the street) that you can characterize it as different reasoning altogether.

katherineg: that point has been addressed.

Wait, badasscommy has this in hand:
I think this IS sexism, but I think it's NOT wrong. Those two aspects should be separated.

Exactly. I used the word "justified", but I agree completely. There was a push to define racism very broadly in the racism thread, even to the point of removing personal "blame" for it, but I'm observing a complete unwillingness of people to apply it in the same way here, which I find fascinating, speaking of an unwillingness to deal with uncomfortable ideas (upthread). The idea that, like sexism, it could be, but be justified or "not wrong" I'm sure is even more threatening. At the end of the day, it should be about harm and the threat of harm. Isn't that what this is really all about?

But anyway, yes, bad derail! Bad! Personal obs: I've never catcalled (the person who said "all guys catcall" -- who are your friends, dude?) and I've never seen it but I believe it happens outside of movies.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:20 AM on October 9, 2009


So it's a mistake to imply even if subtly that all men should be suspected by default. Take the time to see this offends a large portion of men, that are neither rapists nor a threat to women.

Sorry if you're offended, but your desire to avoid being offended doesn't outweigh my desire to avoid be raped. If I see you on an empty street in the middle of the night, I don't know you, I don't what what you're like, and I certainly don't owe you my trust. This is not a mistake.
posted by Mavri at 10:20 AM on October 9, 2009 [14 favorites]


I completely understand your approach to the problem and I don't blame you for it. You probably haven't had to deal with this (profiling) in anything other than a theoretical sense.

Actually, yes -- I have. I have had to deal with a certain kind of profiling, and so has every woman in here, and that is precisely the point.

But it's not the kind of profiling you think it is, where someone looks at us and says "because that person is X, I may be in danger." No -- it's where someone looks at us and says, "because that person is female, I am entitled to some kind of sexual encounter with them."

It's not the same kind of profiling your talking about, but yeah, it's profiling.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:27 AM on October 9, 2009 [10 favorites]


Wait, badasscommy has this in hand: "I think this IS sexism, but I think it's NOT wrong. Those two aspects should be separated."

Exactly. I used the word "justified", but I agree completely.


Wait, so....if you agree that it is justified, then why on earth did you bring up the racism/sexism comparison in the first place?

I'm starting to wonder exactly what on earth your position actually is, because I'm afraid you're starting to jump around rather a bit.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:30 AM on October 9, 2009


My suggestion to you gentlemen, perhaps counterintuitive, is to talk to strange women whenever you have something to say, but keep it light, e.g. "nice shoes," "great book," or "is he part Doberman?"

Do it a lot so it becomes no big deal, and (here's the important part) don't use it as a conversational gambit. I.e. if she smiles and says "thank you", that's it: Wrap it up and move on. You have just made someone's day a little better, and grown your own confidence a point or two. (In the unlikely event she actually wants to talk to you, by all means follow her lead.)

Correct me if I'm wrong, ladies, but a man's confidence determines how your creep-o-meter responds, and a huge signifier of that confidence is that (a) he's broken the ice while (b) he can take it or leave it if you follow up.

PS: Confidence is important, because someday without any warning there'll be a chick in a beehive and bright yellow shades with a matching polka-dot summer dress walking towards you in the East Village and you'll only have a split-second to tell her you love her style.
posted by whuppy at 10:43 AM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Again, EC, I'm not on a "side". I know it's a derail. I didn't bring it up but I did follow up on it for this reason, the subject had been raised and not given a fair hearing with any regard to the complexities of the subject. Anyone not interested in profiling can skip it.

Honestly, it's disappointing that MeFi is so used to side-taking that if anyone disagrees with a point but agrees with the overall emphasis, they're on some other side.

Anyway, I spent so long on that that now I'm woefully behind, so you won't hear a peep from me... well, probably again in this thread! Cheers.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:43 AM on October 9, 2009


Again, EC, I'm not on a "side". I know it's a derail. I didn't bring it up but I did follow up on it for this reason, the subject had been raised and not given a fair hearing with any regard to the complexities of the subject. Anyone not interested in profiling can skip it.

So....you pursued it, even though you knew it was a distraction from a discussion which a lot of people are finding to be a very important one. Oh.....kay.

Anyway, I spent so long on that that now I'm woefully behind, so you won't hear a peep from me...

...I suppose I could gently suggest that you could have saved yourself some time by...not contributing to what you admit was a derail.

So, anyway.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:47 AM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Given my instinctive devils-advocate-ishness, I've had several close-calls here with my own knee-jerk machismo reactions, but honestly, we have no say in how others behave in the interest of their own safety. I think constant paranoia is an unhealthy way to live, but the fact that people choose this way of life over some alternative way just illustrates how awful the alternative is.

It hurts and angers me that I might be the object of an unknown woman's prejudice, but that hurt is a pale reflection of the hurt felt by women who find constant vigilance a necessity, and the anger is directed not at the woman judging me but at this whole unfortunate setup. If women can survive all that, then we men can certainly make do.


On a side note, I just went to the store, leaving the house for the first time since I joined this discussion, and man did I feel awkward. Walking around a store full of women with this discussion filling my head, woof. I'm pretty sure I'm not creepy/threatening by any standard, but this was pressure!
posted by Badasscommy at 10:55 AM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Durn Bronzefist: I think this is not about profiling, this is about defensive driving. I read a comment on MeFi where someone said something along the lines of "I drive with the assumption that everyone around me on the road is ready to kill me at any moment". This is not because they assume everyone with a car is a homicidal maniac, but all the same it's not a bad philosophy behind the wheel. When I've commuted on bicycle, I've made a pretty similar assumption about cars. And it's not because I consider all motorists "potential murderers", or even because I think they're all careless. I'm not "profiling" them except in the sense that, when I'm on the same road as them, I am far more likely to be the killee.

This analogy as been going around my head today. This is close to my heart because at work I am frequently in a position of trust around women and children, which I would never violate, and even the suggestion that I might do so is sickening to me.

I'd like to clarify that upthread I was not making debating points (not my style): I wouldn't make a comment like that in a thread like this unless I thought it would contribute something. I knew some people would write me off for it, some would disagree. I didn't consider enough that some people would consider it undermining and hurtful, and that would have given me pause. I realise we're not all on the same side here (which is the whole problem), but I would count myself as on yours.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 11:04 AM on October 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


I said that it "is designed to evoke a type of male-female relationship that, while it may be sexist, is fundamentally consensual." That is to say, the message of the catcall (to the woman) is "let's have sex."

Okay, the conversation has well since moved on, but WTF dude? I don't know what the intended message is, but it sure seems to be something along the lines of "I am looking at you in a sexual manner WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT." My walking down the motherfucking street does not imply consent for you to comment on my goddamn ass.

I have a perception that cat-calling is much more common on the east coast of the U.S. than the rest of it (not sure about Europe and elsewhere) but of course I'm a guy so I wouldn't really know. Curious if the women in this thread have any thoughts on that.

My god yes. It is a rare occurence in Kentucky, and it is endless around DC. I usually go about my day wearing headphones and cheerfully oblivious, so I didn't even realize just how bad it is. Until the morning I spent last week traipsing around goddamn Fairfax on foot, clad in the previous evening's short skirt and high heels, trying to find a goddamn ATM and the goddamn towing company (my headphones located, of course, in my towed car, so I was forced to actually hear other human beings). Fucking hell, to be honked and shouted at just because I happen to be female and on the sidewalk was INFURIATING. This is new to me and I motherfucking hate it with burning fire.
posted by little e at 11:13 AM on October 9, 2009 [7 favorites]


I think the short version of what Durn Bronzefist is saying is that people do a certain amount of stereotyping in order to maximize their personal safety. Some avoid all men, some avoid young black men. In context, it can make sense, even if the macro stats don't bear it out, but it's not necessarily appropriate to say that the former is ok, but the latter is wrong. Your personal safety is more important than the possibility that you might offend someone.
posted by electroboy at 11:27 AM on October 9, 2009


I think the short version of what Durn Bronzefist is saying is that people do a certain amount of stereotyping in order to maximize their personal safety. Some avoid all men, some avoid young black men. In context, it can make sense, even if the macro stats don't bear it out, but it's not necessarily appropriate to say that the former is ok, but the latter is wrong. Your personal safety is more important than the possibility that you might offend someone.

....well, then, I have to take a page from what tziekeh was saying and say, "yeah, we....knew that, actually. In fact, that's precisely what we've been trying to tell you." Which is what she meant when she said that a lot of times, the things men say are things we know, and it is insulting to claim that we don't.

So I guess I'm confused why we had a massive derail from someone who was, in essence, saying, "it's wrong to say that people stereotype to maximize their safety, because...people stereotype in order to maximize their safety." I mean, what the hell?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:32 AM on October 9, 2009


borgesian: So it's a mistake to imply even if subtly that all men should be suspected by default. Take the time to see this offends a large portion of men, that are neither rapists nor a threat to women.

Wow, I have been so wrong in this thread. I assumed it was about how women's lives are lived and what it is to be a woman in this culture and the astounding number of things that women have to think about all the time that it's likely most men had no inkling of, but it's actually about men's feelings, and how some of them get offended that women view men as potential threats.

Maybe you aren't aware or maybe you are, but this message in all its variations is powerful, it continues to polarize gender relations, and most importantly, is unfair.

I was so unaware. You're right. It is astoundingly unfair to men that women are constantly sexually harassed, get sexually molested, and have absolutely no way of knowing whether the next guy they meet is someone who will potentially do this them. It's just unfair how women have to have a default position that any man is a POTENTIAL danger to her. Thanks for showing me the light.

Oh and yes, some men are really sick of it.

MY. HEART. FUCKING. BLEEDS. FOR. YOU.

Hey, guys who think women are being shrill and militant and obnoxious when they say that, when it comes to this topic, "we don't have to listen to you; you have to listen to us"?

Yeah.
posted by tzikeh at 11:54 AM on October 9, 2009 [17 favorites]


I'm only halfway through this thread, and I'm just a lurker, but I have some new MeFi Heroes today. Particularly EmpressCallipygos, Caduceus and heyho.
posted by DakotaPaul at 12:28 PM on October 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


I was just talking about his last very long comment w/r/t stereotyping by race vs. sex, not everything upthread. I can't vouch for anything else.
posted by electroboy at 12:30 PM on October 9, 2009


That won't help the discussion, and as has been pointed out many times in the thread, is unwelcome and just another example of men making it about them.

You were saying there's nothing a man can add to the conversation, and that's what I was responding to. I wasn't making it about me as a man, I was making it about me as a human being who understands to my core what empresscallipygos means when she says "carrying around with her a weapon that was turned on her at one point in her life." I'm saying I get that. I as a man can have that conversation with a woman. I understand the difference between occasional wariness and constant hyper-vigilance. I understand how silly it is for some of us to get huffy about being unfairly lumped in with a group that they don't control, because a lot of us pop out of the womb with that burden though no choice of our own. And we deal. Hell, some of us manage to shine like we have no right to. I can have a conversation with a woman about how rape statistics are meaningless for the same reason that the klan didn't have to burn crosses on everyone's lawn to maintain a hateful status quo. Just the ones who stepped out of bounds.

I'm not trying to the conversation about me, I'm trying to make the conversation about oppression. Trying to simply make it a conversation. Not a lecture. Because if we really are all equal, rape isn't evil because it's something a man does to a woman, it's something a human does to another human. If you feel that belittles your struggle, I'm sorry. I think it elevates your struggle.

I can say that just because your fear is real doesn't mean it isn't also systemically being used to control you, and maybe that's something worth talking about

Honest to God--we know that already.


I speak to women all the time who don't. And while I was responding to your point, I was speaking to whoever might be reading the comment. Because I think it's an important point that often gets overlooked in discussions of this topic. If someone else had said it, i wouldn't have.

Wrong. Again, look through the thread at how women who have been hyper-vigilant have possibly saved themselves by doing exactly that: acting as if the man in question was a loaded gun

Again I don't mean discount your experience. Do what works for you. But And maybe it means nothing to you, but it means a lot to me that it was a woman who taught me how to walk unsafe streets, and how to stand my ground in a hostile world. And she taught my sisters the same. She didn't want us to merely survive, she wanted us to thrive and grow beyond the boundaries others would place on us.

It may seem obvious, but some women do need to be taught to treat threatening men as the threats that they are. I get that. It's a sad fact of our society that women are conditioned to accept any abuse. Survival may dictate one set of actions, but solutions often dictate other approaches. I respect your right to survival, all I ask is that you respect my right to solutions. Because these things hurt all of us. And more importantly there are those out there who have a vested interest in people being afraid. So when I see fear, I speak up.
posted by billyfleetwood at 12:53 PM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Men, if we're truly talking, person to person, actually trying to make the discussion work and come to a common ground, then being dismissive of anyone in the conversation who is truly making an effort to build bridges is woefully disrespectful and I wish I hadn't seen so much of it going on in the thread.

Let's start here: I am a man.

I am also very well versed in figuring out how to be supportive and inoffensive and unalarming to women in the public world. Discussions like these do not freak me out except insofar as I get pretty ashamed about how some other men deal with the criticism.

Guys, seriously, if you are still in high defensive mode about this topic of conversation, I strongly (I cannot meaningfully express how strongly) recommend that you back off, read and think and meditate until you are able to disengage your ego from the conversation.

Think of this topic (if you can) like you were writing an essay about it FOR HIRE and you are in an editing session where feedback is not meant to be taken personally but for the good of the overall work. In this case, the work is the work of achieving common ground and mutual understanding.

As long as you are arguing your points for the sake of your personal bruised ego or the ego of your friends, relatives, lodge brothers, frat brothers, whatever, you are going to end up reading like an asshole who is incapable of getting the point.

The point is, if you missed it, that you probably are in possession of a huge amount of social power that you are probably unaware of and probably unwilling to acknowledge. And despite your unwillingness and ignorance, you still have it. And the power disparity that you possess is frequently so high that it is very difficult for you to control how folks around you interpret it and react to it.

The gracious way out is to become a careful, honorable, gentle, an attentive listener, a perceptive observer, a quiet and unthreatening optional participant in any stranger's life (for this discussion, women's lives).

If you achieve this grace and you are very careful, you may end up in a position of trust with women.

You may end up agreeing with them too.
posted by kalessin at 12:55 PM on October 9, 2009 [23 favorites]


I feel like the critique of xkcd muddgirl noted deserves only laughing & pointing. Sure, slam any artist who often abuses some dangerous stereotype or prejudices, but xkcd's messages are extremely varied. <>

I think guys who've been mugged can vaguely relate with the situation fear issues discussed above. Just imagine walking about with the amount of cash you carry in glowing numbers on your forehead. But the few solutions I've seen above seem rather impotent. Women are generally responsible for their own fears. If you're commonly afraid when alone in public, then learn karate, carry mace, carry a gun (US), etc.

A societal solution might look like : A female police officer walks around in public acting & responding in ways that invite abuse, but once abuse passes the line into illegal behavior, her backup takes the abuser into custody and charges him with the relevant crimes. Would you vote for a politician whose campaign promised these sorts of police actions?
posted by jeffburdges at 1:10 PM on October 9, 2009


To preface: this is not meant to chastise or bum-out any users here. I'm rather thinking about this thread as a whole. I reread it, and here's what I think: the message is in real danger of being lost in the melee.

I don't think that getting behind the notion that "men need to learn something" and being then being antagonistic and challenging about it accomplishes the task at hand. I really don't.

Enough with the all-caps speak, please. Enough with the parsing of other people's language. Enough with the us v. them attitude. Really, it's not helping. It's alienating. And men in this thread have said it's alienating. I'm even finding it alienating. I think it does a disservice to ourselves and them to tell them to take their alienation and fuck off. (!!) I mean, hellloooo....

If our goal is to foster a feeling of trust, mutual respect, and camaraderie, we need to be patient. Did we think we could solve this problem in a day on a MetaFilter thread? Really? Ideas take time to work in people's heads, and everyone learns at a different pace. People need to read, then go out into the wild and observe, then talk to their friends, then go back out into the wild for some more observation and light practice, pick up a book or five for a healthy overview (this is MetaFilter, remember), then formulate a plan, and then make it work for them in their daily lives in a way that is comfortable, and not just another tie they're expected to wear. We want this more-chivalrous attitude to become second-nature for men. It doesn't happen in a day.

I don't know about you, but I don't want to live in a world where I'm told to shut the fuck up and listen. I don't learn that way. I learn by being shown things, and even then my argumentative nature needs to run free a little until I understand the nuances of what I am trying to get my head around. When I'm told to shut up and listen my defenses immediately go up, and I shut the other person out and disregard them and their teachings, assuming if they're wrong about their methods, then they're almost assuredly wrong about the message, too.

Did we think that men are going to respond well to being told that they should not participate in a little back-and-forth? I don't know about the lot of you, but if a man is willing to help me out by making the world slightly safer for me, I'm going to let him air his grievances, jump up and down screaming that he hates change, and whatever else it takes to get himself in the proper frame of mind to suddenly add a layer of obligation to his already complicated set of rules he lives by. Men aren't so different from us. They're feeling, emotional, caring, complicated beings who get snippy when their gripes are summarily dismissed. It doesn't take much book-learnin' to understand that if you want someone's help, you need to ask for it in a kindly fashion.

If you want to air your frustrations to me or ask "tough" questions, I have a mail account that is accessible, and I don't offend very easily. I'd be optimal to have the discussion in thread so that others may benefit, but it's become a bit hostile at times in here, and I'd be a little apprehensive about playing devil's advocate in here. But if that's what it takes to get your heads around this, I'm game. (If you're going to email me about any of this, I absolutely require you to click on the link that kimdog originally presented and read it. Again.)

Because I really, really hope the original message isn't lost on some of you; I fear that is happening, and I'm finding that somewhat frustrating.
posted by heyho at 1:14 PM on October 9, 2009 [37 favorites]


jeffburgess: Thank you for providing an example of the of the "damned if you don't" side of the coin. Women are bitches for protecting themselves around men, and fools when they don't.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:20 PM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Zarq, I read a comment on a blog the other day by a rape survivor who has given a lot of thought to how to raise her daughter. Here's what she's doing:
Children need to be taught from the very beginning that self determination and bodily integrity is not just a moral or religious thing, but a HUMAN RIGHTS thing – and the right education can program in the survival instincts that very well could save her life.

I was raised to be quiet, sweet, cooperative, submissive and respectful. Not bad things to be, in the right place, the right time, the right context. The problem is, no one taught me any OTHER way to be, like empowered, strong, feisty, angry, loud or stubborn. No one taught me how to read context, either. I never told anyone when I was raped, because I’d been taught that if it happened it must somehow be my fault.

This will NOT happen with my daughter. I started teaching her to define her own boundaries before she could even talk. The first baby-sign she learned was “enough”. (boths hands palm out in the “stop” position, and wave back and forth) This was incredibly useful at meal times, but even more useful when we started tickling her. She LOVES being ticked, but like everyone she’d start to get over stimulated. She would sign “enough” and we would stop and take our hands away. Consistently, every. single. time. She learned that she had a way of saying NO that was respected, and that created an incredible bond of trust. To this day, she still loves the Tickle Monster attacks, and still says “enough”.

When she was three, I started teaching her about context, and knowing who to trust. She had a Hello Kitty stuffie that was bigger than she was. I could crouch behind it, holding a candy in the Kitty’s paws, waving it enticingly in the air. I specifically chose her favorite kitty, because anyone can spot a bad guy in a black hat and cape, twirling his mustache and cackling with glee. Bad guys can be men, women, children, rabbis, teachers, strangers or family.

I ask her if she wants candy. She says “No thank you, my mommy gives me candy.” I tell her “Your mommy says it’s OK, it’s kosher candy.” Oooh, this is a hard one. I see it in her eyes. She really wants that candy. She starts to reach for it. I pull back and put the kitty down. I tell her that the answer is “Let me go get my mommy to check the wrapper.” and then RUN to find me. Then comes the hard one.

I crouch behind the kitty, and reach out and grab her wrist. Her eyes get huge, she doesn’t know if this is still a game or not. I tell her to pull back, to yell “NO!”. She wiggles a bit. A weak “no”. It’s so hard for her to yell at a grownup! I pull harder, tell her to yell. This “no” is a bit louder, and I praise her and encourage her to keep it up. “NO!” Good girl! I give her the candy and a big snuggle. That was intense, and I’m proud of her.

A week or so later, we try again. She’s yelling “NO!” now, and yelling for help. Now, she gets to punch and kick the kitty as hard as she wants. She can pinch, scratch, pull fur, and anything else she can think of. She gets more candy and lots more praise. We do this a lot, at least once a week. Her reaction needs to be instant and without hesitation.

As she reaches 4 and 5, I start teaching her Aikido moves. Grabbing the wrist is a classic opening move, and there’s lots of ways to escape. She learns how to grab my thumb and pull it backward. She learns that the instinctive reaction to touching something gross is to drop it, so she learns that if someone puts their hand over her mouth, to lick them like a slimy slug.

All of these survival tips have worked against me when she’s having a temper tantrum and I need to control her. “NO!” Kicking, prying off my grip, running away, even the slimy lick! As annoyed as I get, I still think “Thank G-d”. She’s loud, confident, stubborn, independent, and not afraid to use what she’s been taught. I hope and pray she never has to use these skills on anyone but me, but if she does, she’ll be ready.
This commenter got the expected criticism for "fear-mongering" but, personally, I think that little girl stands a pretty good chance of staying safe. And if all this education and preparation cannot keep her safe, I hope it teaches her that she has a right to make decisions about her own body, and that it is the people who violate her boundaries who are to blame.
posted by philotes at 1:27 PM on October 9, 2009 [39 favorites]


The thread is billed as "A Guy's guide to approaching strange women without being maced." It's about how women feel about strange guys, not women, when they are approached, and is very informative and insightful. What I would like to see now is another Guy's guide written by a women who cannot know what it is like to be a man, a guide that informs the guy how to interpret the non-macing behavior of strange women who don't know how to approach men they might want to talk to and engage.
posted by Veridicality at 1:44 PM on October 9, 2009


What I would like to see now is another Guy's guide written by a women who cannot know what it is like to be a man, a guide that informs the guy how to interpret the non-macing behavior of strange women who don't know how to approach men they might want to talk to and engage.

Sorry, but ths is a sincere question: I'm having trouble parsing what you mean here. Can you rephrase just this part?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:47 PM on October 9, 2009


A societal solution might look like : A female police officer walks around in public acting & responding in ways that invite abuse, but once abuse passes the line into illegal behavior, her backup takes the abuser into custody and charges him with the relevant crimes.

In what ways might this female police officer act and respond, such that she "invites" sexual abuse? That is still what we're talking about, right?
posted by Errant at 1:54 PM on October 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


actually, when it comes to cops doing profiling, they may not pull you over just because you're a man, but most cops doing traffic stops tend to act as though any random guy may be hostile, violent, and/or dangerous. every time. because they can't tell whether you've got a gun between the front seats of your car and a trunk full of coke you're moving. so they treat you as though you might be dangerous. they take precautions, ranging from being armed to calling in a stop before they get out of their car.

that's analogous to what a lot of women need to do except all the time.
posted by rmd1023 at 1:55 PM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ugh too many comments to read them all. Gotta take the CTRL-F-->"favorites" shortcut.
posted by jeremy b at 2:43 PM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


kalessin: The point is, if you missed it, that you probably are in possession of a huge amount of social power that you are probably unaware of and probably unwilling to acknowledge. And despite your unwillingness and ignorance, you still have it. And the power disparity that you possess is frequently so high that it is very difficult for you to control how folks around you interpret it and react to it.

I directed my own similar man-to-men comment to an individual rather than the collective, but you've hit the nail right on the head. I wholeheartedly second your entire comment, and wish that I'd expressed this concept as clearly. Thank you.
posted by hubbit at 2:55 PM on October 9, 2009


I know we're waaaaaaay past this, but for those of you that have been having a hard time complimenting strange women... this is a bit trite, but using the word "fabulous" might help. And, as said before, the "Those shoes are great! May I ask where you got them? They're just the kind of thing my wife/fiance/girlfriend/life partner would like."
posted by NoraReed at 3:27 PM on October 9, 2009


EmpressCallipygos, the rephrasing occurs as something on the order: Acknowledging female fears about predatory or just pestiferous males, and the validity of these fears throughout all patriarchal societies; and being thankful for the advice herein stated for the guy who never knew of or needed to be reminded of the misgivings; what advice might Kimdog have for those guys who are approached by a strange female, or one who hovers nearby and might want to initiate a conversation or draw attention - but the guy can't tell. How does a guy tell the difference between a diffident female, for example, or one that is enormously needy or seeking vengence for a troubled childhood with her uncles, or just a little too psycho even to have her own girlfriends? The situation is very idiosyncratic - that is - no advice could cover all instances, but is there some way to tell when diffidence is the problem? I remember in high school I dated a girl for a year before I learned from my friends and hers that she wanted me to attempt to kiss her.
posted by Veridicality at 3:28 PM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


as if defending women's honour hasn't been incentive enough for misogyny already

I'll help anyone who looks like they need help. No neurosis needed.

Thinking about your effect on the people around you isn't neurotic, it's considerate.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 3:35 PM on October 9, 2009


You're asking how to tell the difference between diffident girls and psychotic stalkers?

That's actually a semi-tough question. They both keep coming back, though I've found that the stalker types are much more aggressive and won't wait for you to make a move, whereas the "diffident" types will definitely make you make the move.

Anyway, the best psychotics will never let you know they are psychotic until well into the relationship.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:36 PM on October 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


(no offense using the term "girls")
posted by mrgrimm at 3:37 PM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


EmpressCallipygos, the rephrasing occurs as something on the order: Acknowledging female fears about predatory or just pestiferous males, and the validity of these fears throughout all patriarchal societies; and being thankful for the advice herein stated for the guy who never knew of or needed to be reminded of the misgivings; what advice might Kimdog have for those guys who are approached by a strange female, or one who hovers nearby and might want to initiate a conversation or draw attention - but the guy can't tell. How does a guy tell the difference between a diffident female, for example, or one that is enormously needy or seeking vengence for a troubled childhood with her uncles, or just a little too psycho even to have her own girlfriends? The situation is very idiosyncratic - that is - no advice could cover all instances, but is there some way to tell when diffidence is the problem? I remember in high school I dated a girl for a year before I learned from my friends and hers that she wanted me to attempt to kiss her.

*blink*

Can you try rephrasing it again, but this time can you pretend I'm only eight?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:42 PM on October 9, 2009


I understand that you can do it Johnny Havok. I'm just saying I'm not doing it. I'm not spotting some woman walking near me and decide I'm going to increase my pace or whatever. In the grand scheme of things I don't give a fuck if she wants to be anxious about it. I'm not even looking at her so wtf? It's also condescending and weird and odd and all the rest of that. What if you're like I'm gonna walk ahead of you and she's like "why?" I guess I'm just a bit socially anxious so I don't like inferring mindsets in people and then trying to make clear I'm working to stave it off especially coz these assumptions you're deciding is in someone's head can be cause for annoyance in the first place. "oh you're a woman so this is what you must be thinking right now" isn't really a good template to go by in life.

What I meant about misogyny/personal-ninja is that sure we can ask if something's alright if someone seems to be annoyed by a stranger but jumping to that conclusion can be very jerkish.
posted by Non Prosequitur at 3:55 PM on October 9, 2009


I also want to say that the incredible patience that some of the docents in this thread are using with folks who really seem not to get it is astounding.

I burned out from general -ism 101 education long ago and I get how much energy it takes to be patient with folks who are hostile and insulting, and it's just staggering how much energy EmpressCallipygos, tzikeh have put into this thread.

Not that I'm trying to belittle anyone else, but damn.
posted by kalessin at 3:57 PM on October 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


What I mean about neurosis with dealing with these conclusions and assumptions and counter conclusions is: it's like, if you don't know how to act around say people who're handicapped (give them space, don't try to cut past them in a narrow path, let them have the whole doorway), etc. you should figure that out. If you worry TOO MUCH about it then that's condescending and neurotic and your own body and mind will betray your discomfort.
posted by Non Prosequitur at 4:00 PM on October 9, 2009


I'm just saying I'm not doing it. I'm not spotting some woman walking near me and decide I'm going to increase my pace or whatever. In the grand scheme of things I don't give a fuck if she wants to be anxious about it.

Thank you for illustrating so very clearly what privilege looks like.
posted by cereselle at 4:07 PM on October 9, 2009 [18 favorites]


I don't care if a man wants to be anxious about it either cereselle. This is bizarre. I'm not doing anything! I thought we started off saying that we shouldn't talk to random strangers in an annoying way. If we're going to end up talking about how we should all live in shrink-wrapped essentialized worlds where we can't treat men and woman as normal people but as targets of our oppression vectors I am not co-signing that.
posted by Non Prosequitur at 4:10 PM on October 9, 2009


What if I'm tired? What if she's a fast walker? What if I'm on the other side of the street? What if she's on a narrow path and squeezing past her will scare her more? This is bullshit.
posted by Non Prosequitur at 4:11 PM on October 9, 2009


How fast should I walk? Is there km/h max? How far away can she be before I have to walk up and past her? What if she's terribly anxious more than 90% of people? Do we go with the base-range of anyone's lowest level of annoyance? What if she doesn't even know I'm on the street? If someone's scruffy and a cashier is scared of them because they're scruffy-looking whose problem is it? And why am I responsible for someone's internal reactions? If someone's looking hot and someone's turned on by that is his horniness her problem? Fuck you. I don't care what you think about how I walk.
posted by Non Prosequitur at 4:16 PM on October 9, 2009


No one has laid out any rules or rigid template that any man must follow or be forever tarred with a big scarlet E for evil. People have merely suggested that there can be beneficial outcomes for society as a whole, for more men to think about these things and, if they think these kinds of behaviours make sense for them as individuals, to execute them in whatever individual situation they judge appropriate.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 4:23 PM on October 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


Under normal circumstances, say walking down a residential street at night, there are some streetlights here and there, and it's a average-safe-ish neighborhood, I sort of prefer that men keep a regular, natural pace. Speed doesn't matter to me, but a regular gait doesn't feel as threatening to me as a catch-up/hang-back repetitive thing. Just ... normal. Like normal people walking. I don't expect men to go way out of their way for me; I feel more at ease when I sense that everyone's just going about their business with nothing startling going on, like suddenly he's whistling when he wasn't before (in Chi, that's gang-behavior and can be spooky to hear), or if he makes sudden noises right near me. Normal behavior seems to keep everything... well, normal-feeling.
posted by heyho at 4:29 PM on October 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


(Sorry, forgot to clarify there... by whistling, I didn't mean whistling a tune. That's just what people walking do. I mean whistles that can be easily interpreted as communication.)
posted by heyho at 4:32 PM on October 9, 2009


I don't get it. I just don't get the obtusity (obtuseness?) in this thread.

Men: If a man was reading a book on a subject that you were interested in, would you ask him how he liked it?

If he said "It's very good," and went back to reading, would you continue to talk to him? Would you ask him how he was doing? How his day was? Where he was headed? All are very innocent questions, devoid of anything other than friendly interest. Would you ask them? If not, why not?

If a man sat next to you and asked you what you were reading, what would you say? If you wanted to read, but he kept talking to you and asking you questions about yourself, what would you believe his motives were?

Now assume this happens to you several times a week-- different men each time, same M.O. For years. How would you feel the fiftieth time this happened to you? The hundredth? The five hundredth? Would you put down your book and chat politely with the man each time? Or would you wish that these men would stop intruding on your reading and let you read in peace?
posted by cereselle at 4:38 PM on October 9, 2009 [35 favorites]


I think there's a fundamental overreaction by men to the term "rape culture."

Men, rape culture does not equal rape. It does not mean that all men are rapists. It does not even mean that all or most women suspect all or most men of being rapists.

Rape culture is a culture that systematically disregards women's desires in favor of men's desires. Rape culture says "I don't need to know what you want. My desires for your body/attention/behavior trump yours."

Catcalling? "I desire to draw attention to your body. I don't know or care if you want this."

Intrusive conversation? "I desire your attention. I don't know or care if you want to give it."

The thing about rape culture is that it is so ingrained that these messages are not conscious. Most guys don't think "Hey, I don't care if she's annoyed, I want to talk to her anyway and screw what she thinks about it." It's just a natural assumption, and if the woman violates that assumption-- "Leave me alone, I don't want to talk to you"-- the man reacts negatively. To a woman, it's reasserting the dominance of her own desires for her attention. To a man, it's the woman being a bitch.

I don't blame all men for the existence of rape culture. I know that no man alive started this culture-- it's been in existence longer than history has been written. All I ask is that now that women have words for this, you listen to what we have to say about it. And help us to fix it.
posted by cereselle at 4:46 PM on October 9, 2009 [51 favorites]


This is bullshit.

Okay, I'll bite.

No, you are not legally obligated to be gracious towards people who might be intimidated by you. And even if you are gracious towards them, you may not get a medal, a cash prize or a date out of it. You would just be making the world a little more hospitable at zero cost to you. So why not do it?
posted by ducky l'orange at 4:47 PM on October 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


I didn't disagree that we should be gracious and if someone is nervous we should act super non-nervousness-causingy (including letting things go unless you have to interact with them for some reason). I just said I'm not rushing past people just coz they're on the same road as me, and was charmingly deemed 'privileged' for not assuming that everyone's freaking out from distances at my hulking manhood. I don't exactly often find myself in dark wet alleyways with just one person at 2am. I'll worry about it then.
posted by Non Prosequitur at 4:52 PM on October 9, 2009


I don't care if a man wants to be anxious about it either cereselle.

Women have far more reason to be anxious about men following them than men do about men following them. Would you agree or disagree?

This is bizarre. I'm not doing anything!

Did I say you were doing anything?

One aspect of privilege is the luxury of not having to care about something, because it doesn't affect you or people like you.

You are not to blame for having privilege. It's an accident of birth. You didn't ask for it, and you can't get rid of it.

What is blameworthy, IMO, is participating in privileged behavior at the expense of the non-privileged. Which is what you did with your statement.
posted by cereselle at 4:58 PM on October 9, 2009


I didn't disagree that we should be gracious and if someone is nervous we should act super non-nervousness-causingy

Fuck you. I don't care what you think about how I walk.

Perhaps you can understand that I'm having a hard time figuring out which of these statements you actually mean.
posted by Errant at 4:59 PM on October 9, 2009


Errant, I don't care what cereselle thinks about how I walk on the internet. If I'm making ceserelle nervous in real life I'll adjust accordingly. If I'm not doing anything to make her nervous except walking on a public road then yes, there is a diminishing extent to which I care. I don't see how they're in conflict. It's a probability thing. Nobody has ever screamed when I sneezed near them. And really we can't spend our lives catering to the lowest common denominator of anxiety. If someone's anxious coz I forwarded them a link to free ice-cream on tuesday I'm not going to feel bad about myself. If I know they're jittery or don't want to hear from me or I never hear back from them that's one thing. If they just go someone-sent-me-a-coupon-oh-noez I'm not going to hang myself over it.

I don't "follow" anybody.
posted by Non Prosequitur at 5:09 PM on October 9, 2009


Actually, let me say that louder.

MEN. YOU ARE NOT TO BLAME FOR HAVING MALE PRIVILEGE. IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT THAT YOU ARE MALE AND THAT OUR CULTURE GIVES YOU PRIVILEGE FOR BEING MALE.

What I object to is men failing to listen to us when we explain how male privilege (WHICH IS NOT YOUR FAULT FOR HAVING, MEN) affects us. I object to men acting on their privilege by dismissing our experiences in favor of theirs. I object to men participating in privileged behavior by prioritizing their desires for us above our own. And I object to men who fail to acknowledge their privilege while simultaneously demanding that we see them as nonparticipants in privileged culture.

Look, if you act on your privilege, we can't stop you. Just don't demand that we praise you for doing it.
posted by cereselle at 5:11 PM on October 9, 2009 [13 favorites]


1. I'm not spotting some woman walking near me and decide I'm going to increase my pace or whatever. In the grand scheme of things I don't give a fuck if she wants to be anxious about it.

2. If I'm making ceserelle nervous in real life I'll adjust accordingly.

Please to reconcile these two statements.

The first is an example of privileged thinking. The second is not. Which one do you mean?
posted by cereselle at 5:15 PM on October 9, 2009


If I think you're anxious? Well obviously I'll do what I can within the toolset of my decision making [which includes "no drastic weird changes"]. I don't tend to take control of situations so I'm not gonna walk up to someone and be like "don't be nervous so I'll walk ahead." That can backfire. Like "what? who the fuck are you?" I'm just saying I'm not gonna decide you're anxious just coz we're on the same road. It's such a simple concept and you're taking it all the way to deconstruction of social privilege and pulling it all the way back to praise-demanded and god knows what. I don't really get this idea or demand that men are totally charismatic socially adept individuals just coz they have a cock so they can make some nervous or settle their fears at will.
posted by Non Prosequitur at 5:26 PM on October 9, 2009


I'm not spotting some woman walking near me and decide I'm going to increase my pace or whatever. In the grand scheme of things I don't give a fuck if she wants to be anxious about it

Nobody wants to be anxious. Women especially don't want to be anxious around men. I promise. We are not just imagining threats that don't exist because we're so stoked on fearing for our safety all the goddamn time. God. Is this what you honestly think of women? That we like the fact that we live in a world where when a guy walks up behind us at night the logical reaction is fear?

We don't like this any more than you do. But we have to deal with it every single day. It's nice that you can say "I don't care" and forget all about this thread and the women who've shared their incredibly personal stories so that you might come to a better understanding of our experiences whenever you're tired or otherwise just don't feel like taking someone else's sense of safety into account. I'm serious; we should all be so lucky. But we're not. And that's not our fault, so please, please don't imply that we live with the fear of rape and violence because we want to. Believe me, if I could just ignore it like you can, even for one day, it would be such a relief I would probably cry. I never asked to be raped or harassed or assaulted, I never asked to live in a culture where bodies like mine are used as objects to sell crap, I never asked for the conflicting messages that while going out alone at night is "asking for it", not going out alone at night makes me a "coward". I was just born a lady. It's one thing to ignore that; it's another thing entirely to blame me for it by saying that women want the anxiety.
posted by ellehumour at 5:31 PM on October 9, 2009 [21 favorites]


I'm worn out and don't care about this argument anymore. I don't understand what sex-sells has to do with any of it [when half the time i'm told what's required is a deconstruction of the male gaze so men's bodies can be seen as more sexual as well]. I'm not going to be told what to do or think by people on the internet. If I see feedback in real life about something I'm going to act on that. Later.
posted by Non Prosequitur at 5:38 PM on October 9, 2009


Oh, nice. You attack with victim-blaming, proudly proclaiming that you don't care if you make women uncomfortable, and then run off when called on it going "LA LA LA YOU'RE NOT REAL". What are you, five?

News flash: you are getting feedback. In real life, you are sitting at your computer being a complete jerk to women who are taking time in their real lives to sit at their computers and tell you that you are making them uncomfortable and acting like a jerk. And you refuse to listen because it's not "real" enough for you? Why did you even say anything in the first place?
posted by ellehumour at 5:48 PM on October 9, 2009 [7 favorites]


Errant, I don't care what cereselle thinks about how I walk on the internet. If I'm making ceserelle nervous in real life I'll adjust accordingly.

But in this example, ceserelle is telling you on the internet what might make her nervous in real life, and she is also telling you that other women may well feel the same. Does she deserve a "fuck you" for that?

I mean, some women are saying "hey, here is some stuff guys do that makes us defensive and nervous, and maybe you guys don't have to do that all the time," and you're in here equating modulating the pace of your walk to hanging yourself. Doesn't that seem a little excessive?

I'm not going to be told what to do or think by people on the internet. If I see feedback in real life about something I'm going to act on that.

You tell them, buddy, you're not taking no guff from those AI constructs on the internet, all not being real people and shit, fuck'em and their stupid robot etiquette anyway.
posted by Errant at 5:50 PM on October 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


tzikeh : MY. HEART. FUCKING. BLEEDS. FOR. YOU.

Dude, I'm a guy too and you ain't walking anywhere near me, but you are now scaring me. And I think is your punctuation.

Heyho, Thanks for your post above where you acknowledge the us vs them attitude, at times crosses the line into alienating some in the audience. I find it counterproductive.
Your message is not lost. In fact, the experience that you shared yesterday, illustrates all the points that most women here are trying to make. Some of us have a sense of collective guilt when reading things like this. Maybe that's the reason why certain statements can quickly trigger a reaction.

I'm all for raising awareness about a culture that has become permissive of systemic violence against women. I only think that in doing so, if the message is not voiced carefully, it can lead to generalizations that may just help advocating subtle hate and resentment towards all men.
And that sure is no way to foster feelings of trust and respect, to use your words.

I can assure you at least I do my part to be a decent human being and make this a better world for all, including women. And I will teach my children the same.
posted by borgesian at 6:03 PM on October 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm curious as to why "a societal solution" to street harassment and threatening public behavior is assumed to involve policing, when right here I've seen a bunch of individual solutions that could quite readily become societal solutions if enough people took them up:
  • not participating in and speaking up against street harassment and threatening behavior
  • teaching girls that they have every right to be loud, assertive, and even violent when threatened
  • accepting that in any public interpersonal reaction that someone's presence in public does not entitle you to anything from them - attention, a desired reaction, etc.
And most importantly, doing away with the notion that there is some way that a woman dresses, walks, or otherwise presents herself that "invites abuse".
posted by EvaDestruction at 6:52 PM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


for awhile i lived on a street a block away from where a female hunter college student was stabbed to death. unsolved.

show some fucking EMPATHY and treat female pedestrians as if you are walking through the scene of a crime. cross the fucking street. if you DON'T have the slightest twinge that you're consciously breaking a perfectly reasonable boundary and you're not even going to PRETEND to have sympathetic emotions you are a budding sociopath. not a free-thinking internet iconoclast.

.
posted by Hammond Rye at 7:20 PM on October 9, 2009


another scenario.

dear woman who took my picture on the subway,
i had no idea my fly was unzipped but you had every right to save my picture.

however, it is polite to shout XYZ EXAMINE YOUR ZIPPER MOTHERFUCKER
posted by Hammond Rye at 7:24 PM on October 9, 2009


in other words, girls, you don't see stats about people getting unfairly maced.

if you're close enough to hit them with the pepper MAKE IT BURN
posted by Hammond Rye at 7:30 PM on October 9, 2009


Actually, a budding sociopath would pretend to have sympathetic emotions, and in any case, is the armchair diagnosis/labeling routine really necessary?
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:34 PM on October 9, 2009




i dunno how you pretend to cross the street.
posted by Hammond Rye at 7:49 PM on October 9, 2009


borgesian: Dude, I'm a guy too and you ain't walking anywhere near me, but you are now scaring me. And I think is your punctuation.

Dude, I'm a woman. I chose an online name which is non-gender-indicative because, long before graphic interface, I was a member of a variety usenet groups (usenet is the best equivalent to Metafilter I can think of), and I had a gender-specific online name--and when I would argue or debate anything with a man, guess what? "Hey, bitch, shut the fuck up, bitch." "Are you on the rag?" "You got such a big mouth, I bet you'd suck my dick real good." "I think you need to get laid--unless you're a dyke, which you probably are." "If I ever met you, I'd fuckin' rape you, except you're probably too ugly for me to bother. CUNT."

Golly! Who'da thunk it?
posted by tzikeh at 8:23 PM on October 9, 2009 [9 favorites]


Before I read the thread (I'm actually a bit scared to read it, given Metafilter's history with such things, but I'm hopeful), I just wanted to say thanks for posting it - it says what I've thought for a long time but didn't have the means to put it so precisely.
posted by agregoli at 8:28 PM on October 9, 2009


Thank you for this thread. I am glad that I am a gigantic woman who probably intimidates many men who would otherwise harass me, because I think that helps me avoid a lot of the problematic interactions. Privilege gained by being six feet tall and big-boned, and well, fat.

Thank you for those who have shared their painful stories. I also was raped and didn't even call it that til maybe 20 years later, I was so reluctant to even admit to myself. Because of course that made it my fault, that I got myself into that situation. My family still doesn't know.

To you men who have posted in this thread making this all about you, or drawing odd parallels to try to make women who are cautious seem unreasonable: we (people like me, anyway) see right through you. You aren't fooling anyone. You don't get it, because you don't want to. Hopefully someday you will.
posted by marble at 8:45 PM on October 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


Look tzikeh, your reply was so intense I didn't want to answer in any other way except to make light of it, because I understand is a sensitive topic, and highly emotional for some.

I'm sorry you have been insulted that way when debating with men before. You will not hear that sort of thing from me.
Instead you get an apology, for mistaking you for a "dude". I made it clear in my previous post, that I'm on your side.

Now for what is worth, this is a forum of opinion and I'm perfectly fine with the fact that there will be plenty of people, with opinions contrary to mine.

I won't take it personally even if it's you telling me to stfu like you pretty much did.

peace
posted by borgesian at 8:55 PM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Non Prosequitur: I didn't disagree that we should be gracious and if someone is nervous we should act super non-nervousness-causingy

So tell me--how will you know if someone is nervous?
posted by tzikeh at 9:39 PM on October 9, 2009


It's an issue, but avoiding women like the plague isn't the resolution. I don't even know what world you folks grew up in where sidewalks are segregated by gender. Now if you'll excuse me I have to go to a conference where I suppose shall proceed to unnerve some women just by virtue of my existence. Of course, as I learned in this thread, just because they're talking with me doesn't mean they're not doing it under duress. It's strange, because where I come from, ignoring empiricism and reason in figuring out what's going on with you and people around you is called solipsism. Oh well. Also, I didn't "victim-blame" anyone, but you keep doing your thing, ellehumour, I hope it works out well for you.
posted by Non Prosequitur at 9:54 PM on October 9, 2009


Well, this has gone downhill fast.

Non Prosequitur, you're a fool.

Maybe we should just call it a wrap?
posted by jokeefe at 10:07 PM on October 9, 2009


where I grew up the sidewalks were segregated by gender totally
and I prefer that arrangement today

my husband and I like to take walks together
waving at each other over the cars, conversing
between the whuffing brakes of delivery trucks
screaming sweet nothings over the petulant horns.
posted by kathrineg at 10:17 PM on October 9, 2009 [9 favorites]


It was going so well for a while, too.

LAST!
posted by msalt at 10:33 PM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


LAST!

Nope, msalt, not just yet.

I've just spent the better part of an entire day reading this epic thread - thinking, favoriting, raging, crying, cheering, empathizing, and being dumbfounded. And although I'm awfully late to the party here, I do have something I'd like to add.

To the men who rightly recognize this as your fight too - those of you who are calling out other men on their dickish behavior, listening to women, and taking what they say about their experiences to heart, you rock. Seriously. I can't possibly favorite you hard enough.

To the women who have courageously posted about their experiences with rape, harassment and sexual assault, thank you. You are amazing. It is the personal stories that really hit home in these threads for me, and the fact that you felt safe enough to post them here gives me a great deal of hope.

I'd like to look at this from another angle.

The prevalence of street harassment, groping, cat-calling, sexual assault, coercive behavior, and rape all combine to create a threatening environment in which women are constantly being reminded that their bodies are not their own; instead, their bodies are assumed to be available for men's use, on men's terms. The effects of living in a culture like this reach into and poison even the most intimate corners of our lives. Throw in women's culturally ingrained people-pleasing behavior, and you have the perfect recipe for sex that is legally consensual, but emotionally unwanted.

I'll illustrate with a story of my own.

One night, about a year after I got married at the age of 20, I climbed into bed next to my husband, exhausted. I wanted nothing more than a good night’s sleep, as I was a college student and had an exam in the morning. But my husband had other ideas, and started getting frisky. At first I was mildly amused and playfully refused his advances, smiling flirtatiously and promising to "make it up to him" later. We had a very active sex life, and oftentimes I was more interested than he was and would pursue him for sex, so he had every reason to believe I meant what I said.

But for some reason, on this particular night, he became unusually persistent, even after I began gently swatting his hands away and telling him to please just stop. He started trying to turn my no into a yes, and would not let up. He didn’t expect enthusiasm, he said. All he wanted was a quickie. He was SOOOO unbelievably horny, I couldn't possibly understand HOW horny, and I was just lying there in my nightgown...he just couldn’t resist. Could he PLEEEEAAASE just put it in me?

Annoyed, I thought to myself: Why is he doing this? And why now? He's never done anything like this before. It's very late. I already told him no, as nicely as I know how. He knows damn well that I have an exam in the morning and that I need to be rested if I'm going to do well. Doesn't he realize how incredibly unsexy this begging thing is? And why, especially given our active sex life, does he feel entitled to apply pressure like this in the rare moments when I'm not interested?

This went on for nearly an hour – him cajoling and pleading, and me refusing. He simply refused to leave me alone. I knew that the longer this went on, the less sleep I’d get, and the less coherent I’d be for the exam in the morning. I grew increasingly exasperated.

Finally, I caved. I knew every additional minute of this back-and-forth bullshit would end up costing me points on tomorrow's exam, and I knew it was the only way he'd let me sleep. But I made my reluctance clear. I lay there stiffly, and let him put it in. I didn't even move. Once I gave in, the entire process probably took five minutes, from start to finish to him sawing logs.

After he fell asleep, I tried to go to sleep, but I could not. For another hour I laid there, staring at the ceiling, too astonished to do anything else. This was my husband. For years before that, he had been my high school sweetheart. Something monumental had just taken place. He had just proven to me, in a most visceral and undeniable way, that my enthusiasm and sexual interest wasn’t a necessary condition for his pleasure. He had just shown me that he believed his desires were a legitimate reason to override my right to say no. Who was this man I married? If he was capable of something like this, only a year into our marriage, what might he do later on?

That was the day I knew our marriage was over. It was also the day I decided that I will fight until the day I die for a feminist world.

Thanks to everyone who's with me.
posted by velvet winter at 1:31 AM on October 10, 2009 [157 favorites]


why "a societal solution" to street harassment and threatening public behavior is assumed to involve policing

These kinds of suggestions and viewpoints put forward ,from people whose views largely do not dominate the mainstream, have triggered accusations of policing and desire to enshrine unilaterally imposed, minutely detailed behavioural rules in stone, and "You can't tell me what to do or think" in most racism and sexism threads here.

Fielding those gives me the same feeling as arguments with my sweetie in the early days, where he'd accuse me of telling him what to do and demanding lockstep agreement from him. I'd be bewildered and all, "??? I never said 'You. Do this. Not that. Agree with me,' I thought I was expressing my view and describing my thought process to reach it. I don't see how we can hash the issue out logically and resolve it if you think my voicing those is the same as ordering you around. I put my perspective out there so we could see if it made sense and if it could be improved."

on preview: oh, velvet winter.

I have several reactions to your comment, but the only one that's coherent at the moment is: I want a world where predominant concepts of "love" aren't called "love" unless they're anchored in respect. I know far too many people whose partners "love" them without respecting them.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 2:11 AM on October 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


Yeah... distinguishing between the nice, friendly, helpful guy and the rapist is not so easy. I was raped by a nice, friendly, helpful guy - a husband and father, a Sunday School teacher, a casual acquaintance who insisted on giving me a ride home For My Safety. I didn't tell anyone for many, many years, and I still don't talk about it much. I was in my late 30s before I told my mom, and my dad still doesn't know. Aside from violent rape with a weapon involved or assault by family (though this happened to a close relative), I've also gone through pretty much the whole litany of crap - guys exposing themselves, following, chasing, peeping toms, obscene phone calls, rubbing-on, grabbing, pretty much daily street harassment via catcall and comments with varying degrees of obscenity (when I was still in the U.S.), and sure, of course, the persistent guys who want to chat you up... who may just be nice guys, or who may be trouble.

And you know what? I still think I'm lucky that it hasn't been worse, because I'm a white middle-class straight relatively affluent woman from a non-abusive family situation who has mostly lived in safe neighborhoods and had the relative protection of law and society. When I think of what it's like for minority/refugee/poor women, women in war zones, women in theocracies and other more violently patriarchal societies... well, to be honest, I try not to think about it a lot, which is something I'm not that proud of. When I thought about having children, I was terrified of the idea of having a girl. I was terrified of the challenge of trying to instill all the caution and assertiveness and wariness that would be necessary without poisoning her perception of the world and her place in it. I was even more terrified of the fear that I would feel on her behalf every single day, for the rest of my life whenever she was out of my sight. How could I possibly be a good mother with that constant burden of dread looming behind my love? It's crazy.

I've also been especially fearful for all my gay friends, male and female, because that makes a lot of the angry and sexually violent men angrier and more violent. Ditto my friends who are interracial couples. If you think about that stuff a lot - and you're fortunate if you don't have to think about it all the time - it will make you angry. HULK-SMASH angry. So, unless you want to walk around as a tight little ball of fury all the time, you have to do what you can to let it go. You concentrate on the great men in your life, you learn to walk and look and act in certain ways that will perhaps invite less attention, you minimize opportunities for anyone to approach you, you think about how much worse it could be and are grateful for whatever safety you do enjoy... and, if you're me, you don't talk about it a lot. Or even, maybe, read about it. I've stayed out of most of the later feminism, etc. threads on MetaTalk and here in the blue for a while now, after I found myself with a lot of anger, and actual nightmares during... I think it was the "sweater puppies" debacle.

But this thread drew me in, since the post subject seemed potentially more promising - a (non-satire) modest-proposal sort of thing. It got way more intense than that, but I have to say that for the most part it seems to me that all involved have been so much more flexible and open-minded than a few years ago when similar conversations were broached. There has been way less hostility from men, and less flipping the subject toward their needs and concerns, despite the sort of massive but mutual derailment about who gets to speak. We may have had some late "fuck you"comments straying in now, but I'm still impressed with the 500+ mass of comments. I only dropped in to back up the brave people telling their tales, since I feel guilty about looking away a lot in order to selfishly preserve my somewhat carefully constructed dome of silence personal comfort.
posted by taz at 2:51 AM on October 10, 2009 [48 favorites]


Some of the comments above have made me pretty angry, or pretty depressed, but I don't think it would be useful for me to wade in, especially given that this thread is exactly about how Mike's hurt feelings are not the issue.

However, I do have a thought about why sometimes it might feel to men that too much noise is being made about sexual harassment and the fear women experience (and thus why it might seem like the real issue here is whether men are not getting the props they deserve for not, on average, having raped people) - because that noise is not generally made around men.

I was talking about this with a female friend. She told me about a friend of hers, who realised one day that she needed to go to the shops to get lunch. However, she also realised, if she went out wearing the clothes she was wearing, she would - absolutely would, no meaningful statistical likelihood of not - be whistled at and catcalled, and those catcalls would not, pace Bulgaroktonos, feel like socially acceptable invitations to a consensual sexual act. We're not talking about Princess Leia's slave costume here, to be clear - we're talking about normal clothes worn by women in normal English weather.

So, she had the options of running the gauntlet, covering up and hoping for the best, or taking a male partner with her. Because men do not generally sexually harass women who are accompanied by their male partners. And, as a result of that, any time a man has seen a female friend of theirs being harassed or yelled at, that incident is a black swan.

So, the reason chaps don't see this is not because it doesn't happen, or that it is just a few isolated weirdos - it is that it's generally only the isolated weirdos who do it when chaps are in a position to witness it happening to their female partners or friends. Which makes it not just asymmetrically impactful, but also asymmetrically visible - and makes it easier to think that this is fuss about nothing, or almost nothing.
posted by DNye at 5:08 AM on October 10, 2009 [14 favorites]


For FUCK'S SAKE.

*stands on soapbox*

Okay. Guys? Those of you who are saying "i'm not going to automatically cross the street just because 'ohnoez i see a woman what if maybe she's afraid'," well....no one is automatically asking you to do that as a knee-jerk response. As angry as non sequitur has been getting, he's got a good point -- he's been saying he will ASSESS the situation ON A CASE-BY-CASE BASIS, and if a woman looks like she's cool, then cool. If it looks like she's a little nervous, he'll do something to alleviate her nervousness. That is what he's saying, and that is what the original article is asking him to do.

But by the same token -- Non? Buddy? There are better ways to defend yourself than by saying "I don't give a fuck whether someone may be nervous."

And: tziekeh, listen, I hear you, you have very important points to make, but - you're making them in such a way that isn't doing any good and is pissing people off. Now, that isn't a "girls have to be nice" kind of thing, or a gender-theory kind of thing -- that is BASIC HUMAN NATURE, that if the means you use to try to convince someone of something is angry enough, they're just going to get pissed off and defensive and stop listening to you. ALL people are like that. Not that you don't have a right to be angry, and you don't deserve to vent. But there's venting and there's taking something out on someone who isn't quite doing what you're accusing them of doing.

So guys: all this is about is "try to be more sensitive to whether the woman you're talking to is a) in the middle of something, because that means she may not want to talk, or b) looks nervous or unwilling to engage, and RESPECT THAT." And to that I'd like to add: "Women: recognize, when we talk about this, how many guys actually do get it, and respect THAT."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:42 AM on October 10, 2009 [7 favorites]


And you know what? I still think I'm lucky that it hasn't been worse, because I'm a white middle-class straight relatively affluent woman from a non-abusive family situation who has mostly lived in safe neighborhoods and had the relative protection of law and society.

Oh, Taz, I think the same thing all the time. Just a few days ago, I brought up something about my past that my husband had not heard before. I told him about my uncle (mother's side of the family) trying to molest me at 15. He already knew about my father and about the babysitter. When he asked, "How did you turn out so normal?" I was taken aback. I had never really given it any thought.

As a young woman in the 70's and 80's sexual harassment automatically came with the job unless your boss was female. The fact that I had large breasts, blonde hair and a pretty face meant I had to put up with unwanted attention on a daily basis. It never occurred to me that stalkers, peeping toms, cat calls, and date rape (or as I preferred to think of it "men who don't take no for an answer") didn't have to be a normal part of life. In my twenties, I just assumed that was the price you paid for being sexually desirable, and a smart girl learned not to be alone with any man she didn't want to have sex with, whether those men were teachers, cabbies, ministers, uncles, neighbors, or your best friend's fiance. Yet I do consider myself lucky to have survived it without being badly injured or emotionally scarred. Many women I know weren't so lucky.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:10 AM on October 10, 2009 [7 favorites]


What the hell is wrong with the world when saying 'what terrible weather' to someone at a bus stop considered a potential prelude to sexual violence?

I was out doing some street photography for a class in school many moons ago. I was wearing a pair of jeans, boots and an old military jacket. I had people approach me trying to strike up conversions out of loneliness or, curiosity about me and my camera. I didn't mind. Two men approached me on a busy street corner, during the conversation one of them said,"nice buttons!" as he reached out to touch the ones on the breast pocket, which happened to coincidentally sit right over my nipples ...

Life would be sooooo much easier if men who behaved this way had a big C(reep) tattooed onto their foreheads so I could avoid them from the get go. Alas, life doesn't work that way. Do I think everyone I meet is going to assault me? No. God knows I'm no shrinking violet, but there are some situations that give me pause. For quite awhile after that encounter I stood further away than arms length if I could. It's all a matter of trust which is based on action, not some whimsical airy fairy default position that no one will ever hurt me ... every new person I meet is going to have to go through that social dance.
posted by squeak at 10:53 AM on October 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Two men approached me on a busy street corner, during the conversation one of them said,"nice buttons!" as he reached out to touch the ones on the breast pocket, which happened to coincidentally sit right over my nipples ...

Ugh, I have been in this situation too many times, and I suspect most women in our society have been.

For my part, I do my best to remain calm but to make damn sure that there is a scene. I say loudly "Get your hand off my breast!" or "Why are you grabbing my ass?" or some other truly idiotic but very loud and clear remark.

"Idiotic" because, duh, I suspect I know why he's grabbing my ass: because it's there, and he believes it's there for him to grab, for whatever murkier reasons he may have. My ass is the bus stop creep's Mt. Everest.

"Clear" is a little harder --- sometimes all I can muster is "Hey, what're you doing?"

I do try to be clearer than "Hey!", I try to describe what's happening. This is only partly because I hope to embarrass or shame the aggressive person into backing off, and maybe make him think twice before he handles another strange woman.

More than that, I want onlookers, where there are any, to know that the person I'm speaking to is transgressing a very real, socially agreed-upon boundary, that kind of transgression actually happens. It happens all the time, in seemingly safe, well-lit places to women of all kinds. It is happening before their eyes to a gray-haired, conservatively-dressed, middle-aged woman who is minding her own business at the bus stop.

I am trying to make an often invisible but frequent event visible.
posted by Elsa at 11:21 AM on October 10, 2009 [8 favorites]


Reading even a portion of this thread is so utterly depressing that I want to crawl off into a hole and never interact with another human again. Instead, I'm going to try and insert some words, not of wisdom, but perhaps of clouded insight from a slightly different perspective, into this thread.

Human beings, qua social animals and just qua animals, have a variety of needs. Physical safety is one of them. A sense of self-determination is one of them. Love is one of them. Sex is one of them. There are many others. In an ideal world, where none of us were fucked up by our parents or suffered from amour propre (in Rousseau's sense) and so forth, we'd be able to help one another gratify these needs -- we'd have a world sort of like the utopian version of San Francisco portrayed in Starhawk's The Fifth Sacred Thing. But we don't live in that world, and in the world we live in, we come into conflict with one another and our lives are disrupted by broken people who break others, and we are surrounded by a totally warped culture that encourages harmful beliefs and desires with respect to one another.

In such a world, all we can do is try to have a sympathetic identification with one another, to recognize the pains that each of us suffer and recognize that our behavior may be driven by those pains, and may cause more of those pains.

MEN: you need to realize that the women to whom you're talking are under a constant barrage of intrusive, often hostile and threatening attention. Sort of like how you feel when you walk onto a particularly aggressive used car lot? Or when you walk though a neighborhood full of panhandlers? Women experience this on a daily basis. You know how sometimes you get snappish when salesmen are chasing you around, even though you know they're just trying to make a living? You know how you sometimes get alarmed when accosted by panhandlers, even though you know that there's a good chance the panhandler is just a normal person who has fallen on hard times? Yeah. Now add in a dose of realistic physical threat and a culture where your desires are seen as less important than those of the used car salesman or the panhandler -- where the behavior of the used car salesman or the panhandler isn't seen as annoying but as romantic. And add in the fact that many more women than you think have been raped. Do you think you might be a little unfriendly? It's not your fault (unless you're behaving like a dickhead) that she isn't responding to your attentions the way you'd like, but that doesn't mean she's doing anything wrong, and you need to try to understand what's going on in the world outside your experiences to get it.

WOMEN: you need to realize that men are paying a price for this too. It hurts to try and reach out to another person -- genuinely, honestly, with good intentions -- and be disdained. I'm sure I'm not the only man in this thread who has gone home crying after romantic rejections, with the thought that I'm evidently just completely undesirable, worthless in a whole fundamental domain of human flourishing. It's a terrible -- utterly terrible -- feeling. And it leads to some very unhealthy behavior. Not defensible behavior. I'm not going to try and defend the men who troll threads like this, or who are too persistent and obnoxious in person, or who get angry when they're rejected. But I am going to ask for some understanding for them -- for the fact that very often they're acting out of pain -- not necessarily out of a belief that they are entitled to the attentions of some particular woman (although that is doubtless a factor in many cases), or out of malicious intent or genuine dangerousness. Often they're acting instead out of the desperate need to feel like a desirable, sexual being -- something that a lot of men in this society just don't get. And that's a genuine tragedy.

Can we please just fucking try to understand one another even for a minute?
posted by paultopia at 2:25 PM on October 10, 2009 [10 favorites]


paultopia, women don't "need to realize that men are paying a price for this too." We know. It just doesn't balance out with our personal safety concerns. THAT'S what this thread is about - not the poor, sad men who just can't express themselves well (and yet won't take any steps to improve the situation). Unfortunately, some of those men are here and DON'T want to listen, emphasize or express themselves with any sort of give and take about these situations. And yes, that's sad. Because they haven't learned a thing - and worse - they don't want to learn.
posted by agregoli at 3:24 PM on October 10, 2009 [9 favorites]


Paultopia, I see what you're saying, but I don't think that the majority of women here or in the real world lack empathy with men whose romantic advances are rejected. Our romantic advances are rejected, too! And we would like to meet and get to know men to whom we are attracted. We would like those men to be able to converse with us and get to know us without being frightened by them. That is a lot of what we are talking about in this thread.

The point of this article is to help men realize what behavior will help distinguish them from violent creeps. I think that will help men get rejected less.

I also think it's wrong for you to say that we're not trying to understand one another, we very obviously are, at least in this thread. If you mean it in a more general sense, I don't get it either. I understand men quite a bit, hell, one even let me marry him. "But I have a male friend!!!" heh.
posted by kathrineg at 3:48 PM on October 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Paultopia, not that I disagree with what you're saying, but women experience rejection too. We actually are aware that it hurts to reach out to someone and be disdained. We are not held aloft and distant from that kind of interaction. We are completely capable of understanding how hard it is for shy men, for socially awkward men, for men who aren't sure how to negotiate romantic relationships or even intentions - because there are women who are shy and socially awkward and unsure, too. We have the need to feel like desirable, sexual beings too, and often our need for that is warped, abused, and shamed as well as outright denied. This is not something unique to the male experience, and it is not something that women cannot understand or are even refusing to hear. We get it. We sympathize. It happens to us, too.

I haven't seen any women here say that they don't understand men or that they hate men or that they want men to be silent forever or that they have no interest in reaching any kind of common ground with men. I have seen men here demonstrate that kind of sentiment very clearly, but most of us ladies are completely aware that this sucks for everyone and we just want a goddamn break from it. That's all. If we weren't interested in communicating, those of us who opened up with our intensely personal stories would not have bothered to do so (and taken not an unsmall risk to our own peace of mind in doing so).

I highly recommend reading The Mean People Upstairs, but particularly this part, because I think this is what I see going on, in your reaction and the reactions of people going "Ladies, WHY CAN'T WE JUST TRY AND UNDERSTAND EACH OTHER? I am sorry about all this but I AM TRYING and YOU NEED TO TRY TO UNDERSTAND US TOO and I'm not excusing trolls but you need to not just ATTACK US like this because MEN HAVE FEELINGS TOO." when what most of the ladies here are trying to do is actually facilitate an understanding in the first place:

This is how it would go for me, when I was neglecting my boundaries and hyperfocusing on Being a Good Ally (and oh, God, the digression I could take here about how there is no word in all the language that makes me grit my teeth more these days than “ally,” but I’ll skip it for now):

1. I would read a post that had nothing to do with me personally,

2. Written by a person living under an oppression that I do not,

3. Complaining about people who weren’t me but could have been, in the sense that the people being complained about shared my relatively privileged status, and

4. CUE ANGRY OPPRESSED PERSON IN HEAD FREAKOUT.

...I don’t remember exactly when or exactly which post triggered it, but one day I was having that freakout, and I was really letting that Angry Oppressed Person in my Head have it:

“I mean I AM TRYING, oppressed person, but GOD you can’t FORCE ENLIGHTENMENT to happen on YOUR GODDAMN TIMETABLE, okay, HITLER?! I’m sorry life sucks for you but IT SUCKS FOR ME TOO I mean JESUS, THIS JOB, at the end of the day I’m lucky if I can find time to write at all, WHY WON’T YOU LET ME JUST WRITE WHAT I WANT TO, why are you always dragging me down with your petty nitpicking WHEN THE GOAL SHOULD BE TO RAISE US ALL UP, why are you ALWAYS ON MY BACK LIKE THIS–”

And it hit me that there was not one ACTUAL person I knew who lived under an oppression I didn’t who would speak to me the way the Angry Oppressed Person in my Head was speaking to me... The Angry Oppressed Person in my Head had no face, no voice, no identifiable characteristics beyond being angry and being oppressed.

The Angry Oppressed Person in my Head had no real-life analogue.

...It’s fine to feel defensive. It’s not fine to conclude that you feel defensive because mean people of color or mean people with disabilities or mean trans people are abusing you. That’s the distinction I had been failing to make.

posted by ellehumour at 3:50 PM on October 10, 2009 [20 favorites]


Thank you for the introspective and heartfelt tone of your post, paultopia. I hear your desire to connect and foster mutually beneficial dialogue between men and women, and I share every ounce of your frustration at how difficult this seems to be. In fact, one of the many reasons I care so much about feminism is that I get so heavy-hearted over the way misogyny alienates men and women from one another romantically. I don't talk about it much, though, because it takes a great deal of emotional energy to do so, especially if I'm trying to do it in a hostile environment. And furthermore, as a veteran of two painful divorces, it hits too close to home and I get weepy and morose when I dwell on it. Not exactly the best environment for a fruitful discussion.

WOMEN: you need to realize that men are paying a price for this too. It hurts to try and reach out to another person -- genuinely, honestly, with good intentions -- and be disdained.

Definitely. Believe me, we know. And we care. A lot. That's why we're here, trying to reach out across all the fucked-up barriers our culture has placed in front of us.

Speaking more personally, I know the pain of the kind of romantic rejection you refer to very intimately. It fucking sucks. I'm going through my own version of it right now, having recently had my budding hopes cruelly dashed after yet another disappointing attempt to date. I'm touch-starved, isolated, tired of being celibate, dealing with regular bouts of loneliness, and wondering if I'll ever have another romantic relationship in my life at all, let alone one in which I have a real chance of being desired sexually and treated like a respected, emotionally equal partner. I would like nothing more than to lavish sexual attention on someone right now, and make them feel like the hottest and most desirable being on the planet. I genuinely want to connect. But I can't seem to get past square one in spite of all my efforts to do so. And I know many other women who are in the same boat.

In any case, it's very clear to me (and every other feminist I know) that men are paying a price for living in a culture like this too. That's why we need feminism - to help us work toward a world where women no longer have to fear the threat of rape lurking around every corner, and men no longer have to worry that women see them as potential rapists first, and human beings second.
posted by velvet winter at 3:52 PM on October 10, 2009 [35 favorites]


agregoli, kathrineg, ellehumour & velvet winter -- thanks. You're all right, of course -- part of privilege is not realizing that the non-privileged group has a better understanding of your experience than you have of theirs.

And I agree completely with the "that's why we need feminism." Patriarchy hurts us all.
posted by paultopia at 5:16 PM on October 10, 2009 [6 favorites]


When I was nineteen, I stayed at a famous European hostel for a couple nights. They were having a New Years party and two attractive girls approached me. I'm not the type of guy that gets approached by girls often, so I took the opportunity to buy them drinks. We danced, chatted, and they got completely wasted. At the end of the night, one of the girls was passed out with her head on my lap and the rest of the bar is going out for breakfast. A guy named Eddie turns around as he's leaving, sees the girl on my lap, laughs, and tells me I'm a pimp. (I'm thinking: I don't want to be a pimp, I just want my first kiss). I took her to the basement and she slept on the couch.

The next night, one of the staff members approached me and thanked me for taking care of her friends. I said it's what you do. She said I would be surprised at some of the stuff that happens. And then I realized she was thanking me for not raping them. Jesus.

Thank you everyone for posting. This comment thread (and other similar threads) make me want to cry sometimes, but I have learned so much.
posted by anonymuk at 5:27 PM on October 10, 2009 [10 favorites]


I've been pretty damned lucky, in the RPG of my life, I've managed to make lucky rolls for 'avoid sexual violence'. I know a lot of women who have not been so lucky.

Watching my younger female relatives navigate some of this minefield terrain is terrifying. Particularly if it looks like one of them is getting involved with a guy who seems to value his desires above hers.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:56 PM on October 10, 2009


Elsa, where I was in the city I doubt anyone would've batted an eye let alone interceded on my behalf, its very much fend for yourself in that area. But, part of it is also the "nice girls don't" trope that's beaten into our heads from a young age, how some men get more aggressive if you stand up for yourself and, some other factors that I just can't bring myself to mention here. Most of all I hate conflict because of my past and, what it could mean for my physical safety if I do try. So, it is the path of least resistance for me! ;)
posted by squeak at 10:15 PM on October 10, 2009


Elsa, where I was in the city I doubt anyone would've batted an eye let alone interceded on my behalf, its very much fend for yourself in that area.

Let me be absolutely clear: I have never expected anyone to intercede.

I just want the event, the intrusive sexualized attack on a woman who clearly doesn't want it, to become a visible event, not an invisible one. I want to make sure that the event doesn't slip under the notice of any onlookers, partly because simple public shaming can effectively make the assailant back off, but also because it's important that we as a society acknowledge how frequently these transgressions occur.

I want to do what I can to ameliorate what DNye aptly describes as the black swan effect. As s/he points out: because women alone or in a female-only group are much more frequently the target of these unwelcome advances than women who are accompanied by male acquaintances, many men only see the tip of the iceberg. Men may not realize how oppressively frequently we face this kind of abuse.

When I loudly describe what some creep is doing to my body with his hands, I'm not asking anyone to step in. I'm trying to make an often-invisible event more visible, to expose more of the iceberg.
posted by Elsa at 12:22 AM on October 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


You're right, EmpressCallipygos. My original phrasing wasn't an accurate encapsulation of my conception of the matter and instead of flying off the handle about it I should have just retracted it. I understand "wants to be" is really upsetting language in the context.

velvetwinter, thanks for sharing your experience. It's important for all of us to be strident about these matters so that eg. the blue-balls argument Secret Life of Gravy mentioned & other (more adult) guilting methods don't hold currency and so on.
posted by Non Prosequitur at 9:01 AM on October 11, 2009


I wasn't assuming you did. Every time someone gets aggressive like that there's going to be some risk assessment including assessing the crowd (if there is one) for me. When I was eight and approached on an empty street "don't do that" was enough to get him to stop. When I was thirteen, "no I don't want you to do that to me" didn't stop my rapist. From my experiences for some men its about gently manipulating the situation to see how far they can push things, so confronting them works, that time. Other men just don't give a rats ass about what society thinks, they're more worried about being caught than us collectively wagging the proverbial finger at them.

Kinda feel like we're talking past each other, so I'm going to bow out now.
posted by squeak at 10:24 AM on October 11, 2009


Perhaps if you saw a jerk hassling a woman and you stepped up and said, "hey, buddy, she's telling you buzz off, why don't you do so?" then that woman would trust you enough to know she can let you know if she's interested and then you could tell.
tkchrist: FYI. PRO-TIP: Don't ever do that. Not unless that jerk is your friend. Or you're very confident you can kick the ass of that jerk and his two (maybe three) friends waiting around the corner. I can't count the number of fights I've seen start just like that. From experience I've never met woman impressed with my ability to kick some jerks ass. In fact it seemed a sure way for said jerk to suddenly get all the sympathy.

Yeah, I did that once. Had been drinking till late with some friends in several bars, stepped out to go home, saw a guy dragging a woman through the street by her hair. Walked up to them yelling "HEY! Don't do that!!" Dude drops her, turns to me in quite a threatening way. He looked pretty coked up. I was taller but for sure way too drunk to engage in any sort of fight. I ended up stepping backwards with my arms outstretched, keeping him at a distance, calling out whether he thought what he was doing was normal in any way. After a few meters of that and held-back punches from his side, his female companion - who he had been dragging by the hair mere seconds before - rescued me by dragging him away.

Good on you for having taught self defence, tkchrist. After I got robbed at night by three guys (I'm male too) several years ago we re-enacted the scene in the martial arts class I was attending at the time. It helped me, but I can't imagine how that would've been for actual survivors. The part of the experience that still bothers me is that the next few bicyclists passing by, after the robbers left while I waited by the side of the road for the police, were female.
posted by LanTao at 11:26 AM on October 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


You know what I'm tired of: "Every woman is somebody's sister, somebody's daughter." How does that make a woman more valuable, more worthy of respect?
posted by b33j at 3:12 PM on October 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


I think the point is to rehumanize women. That's not an object, interchangeable, with no feelings; that's a person with family ties, feelings, people who love her.
posted by kathrineg at 3:17 PM on October 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


Okay. If there is anyone out there who STILL thinks that women are blowing things out of proportion?

Pepsi is promoting its latest product with an iPhone app that purports to tell guys how to pick up different types of women, and also lets them keep track of who they "score."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:59 AM on October 12, 2009


Well you know, I've always held position that if men are that worried about being accused of sexual assault or misconduct, perhaps they should be extremely cautious in their sexual relationships to avoid any hint or possibility of miscommunication.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:34 AM on October 12, 2009


[few comments removed - this is a bit of a touchy topic, maybe you could keep the Schroedinger's sluts comments out of here, thanks]
posted by jessamyn at 9:35 AM on October 12, 2009


That Pepsi app. My god.
posted by rtha at 9:38 AM on October 12, 2009


I know, rtha, right? As if it weren't bad enough -- now women are being reduced to species that men can check off as if we were fucking birds on a birdwatchers' list, and oh hey, buy our soda while you're at it.

One saving grace is that if you follow the link TO The actual app, it sounds so incredibly inept that it may just backfire (they recommend hitting on Sorority Girls by mentioning the Greek Alphabet. Riiiiight). But even so, reducing women to scavenger-hunt prizes in the interest of promoting soda is not something that I relish.

And you know something? Pepsi is only the latest in a long, long, long line of vendors who have been pulling shit like this since the dawn of time. We're a bit touchy about it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:04 AM on October 12, 2009


oh my god. yay PepsiFAIL!
posted by rmd1023 at 10:39 AM on October 12, 2009


press release:

1. Identify Her Type

2. Keep a List

3. Brag


Brag! I was wondering how come all the bros never call me one of their crew. I didn't brag enough to my brahs about all the sweet types on that filthy, damp list I've been keeping! Finally, nothing can stop me from becoming the alpha bro, Abroham Lincoln, the playbro of the western world.

You’re welcome.

Thanks?
posted by Errant at 10:39 AM on October 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


What always gets me about stuff like that is, if you have to use all kinds of tactics and brag about it and whatnot, like it's a huge achievement that someone slept with you, don't you get a little bit depressed that people don't just, you know, sleep with you because it's fun and you're a cool person?
posted by kathrineg at 10:44 AM on October 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


Relative ease of finding sex partners is one area of female privilege, kathrineg. :)
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 11:13 AM on October 12, 2009


Relative ease of finding sex partners is one area of female privilege, kathrineg. :)

Maybe for a window of time and youthfullness that slams shut as you get older. Over 40 you're a figure of ridicule (a "cougar"). So no, it's not a matter of snapping fingers and finding sex.
posted by jokeefe at 12:17 PM on October 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


Over 40 you're a figure of ridicule (a "cougar").

Or the people around you have been so messed up by other people that they don't trust you either.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:21 PM on October 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Maybe for a window of time and youthfullness that slams shut as you get older. Over 40 you're a figure of ridicule (a "cougar"). So no, it's not a matter of snapping fingers and finding sex.

I was just about to say the same thing, jokeefe. Some men seem to have this idea that almost all women occupy a pivotal position of choice, where they can sit back, bask in their obvious desirability, let the men take on all the risk of rejection, and carefully select among eager male suitors who compete for their attentions. Usually there's a certain thinly veiled envy that accompanies these comments.

That may apply to a limited subset of women (especially if they're young, straight, white, and conventionally attractive), but for those of us who fall outside a certain narrow range, nope, not so much.

And when you think about it, how enviable is it, really, to have countless men who think you're hot and want to fuck you, but few or none who are interested in unlearning the misogyny their culture teaches them and grappling with how it poisons their sexual relationships? Of course I'm not implying that all men are like this, but sadly, enough of them are that it is a significant problem. Just look at the Pepsi app linked above, or a thousand other similar abominations that are making the rounds out there, if you need evidence.
posted by velvet winter at 1:16 PM on October 12, 2009 [11 favorites]


Some men seem to have this idea that almost all women occupy a pivotal position of choice, where they can sit back, bask in their obvious desirability, let the men take on all the risk of rejection, and carefully select among eager male suitors who compete for their attentions. Usually there's a certain thinly veiled envy that accompanies these comments.

And another thing -- the reality is that for a fairly long list of those men, it's kind of apparent that the only three aspects of your nature which are attracting their attention are:

1. Your left breast,
2. Your right breast, and
3. Your vulva.

Which overlooks

4. through infinity -- The entire god-damn rest of the woman.

So while a woman could indeed pick one of these guys up for sex -- if she wanted -- she'd have to lower her standards to the point of, "gee, let me sleep with a guy who thinks I'm nothing more than a living pocket pussy!" I think the number of women who actually would welcome that is vanishingly small.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:41 PM on October 12, 2009 [7 favorites]


Relative ease of finding sex partners is one area of female privilege, kathrineg. :)


Um. I missed the things that Jessamyn removed, and I don't want to be a bad user, or anything to that effect, but from my position (of being a chap), is this exactly accurate? I mean, I think the idea that women can get sex whenever they want creates that odd non-equivalence we get higher up where women are asked to understand the pain that men experience from romantic rejection as if it were unique to men - that is, that women didn't have to cope with rejection as well as the risk of sexual assault.

I mean, in raw statistical terms a woman inviting men to have sex with her in a random environment will quite possibly get a positive more regularly than a man doing the same, ceteris paribus, but we've got a whole thread here on how women are uncomfortably likely to be assaulted, sexually or otherwise, during encounters with strangers or acquaintances. I can't help but think that the initial exchange ("Would you like to have sex with me?" "Yes, please") would then bog down in discussions of where the deed might be done, how a friend was being alerted to call the police if the lady in question did not text her three hours hence, and so on.

tl;dr: Female friends of mine have sought out and consented to sex, and sometimes things have still gone very badly indeed. That probably needs to be balanced against the expectations of what is generally known as the Lenny Bruce principle (that women need a reason to have sex, whereas men need a place).
posted by DNye at 2:00 PM on October 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ah. That's why I should preview first. Forget I said anything.
posted by DNye at 2:01 PM on October 12, 2009


Relative ease of finding sex partners is one area of female privilege, kathrineg. :)

Then why do we have to wear the makeup and stupid-ass high heels?!?!?!
posted by kathrineg at 2:45 PM on October 12, 2009 [5 favorites]


There is a post on the same blog I linked to earlier (though I linked to a comment then) entitled Stuff What Boys Can Do that is a list of stories in which men have acted (in ways large and small) to battle misogyny. It is a heartwarming read and I thoroughly recommend it for anyone who may be feeling discouraged by the enmity that tends to develop between men and women when discussing matters of feminism and misogyny and rape.

One story, in particular, relates directly to the topic of this thread, and was posted by commenter Geek Girls Rule on 10/3/09:
I spent nearly a decade working in a Goth/Fetish club, and while all of our bouncing staff were very attentive to “Did that drunk woman come here with that guy? Where are her friends? Is she too drunk? Miss, I think we should call you a cab” and just knowing who the local predators were, sort of issues, we had one bouncer, B, who went sort of above and beyond. B was 6′7″ and a good 290 lbs, easily. He had multiple facial piercings and tattoos, a beard and a network of scars on his face from getting hit with a beer stein.

You all know that guy who starts hitting on you by invading your personal space, and keeps getting closer if you say no, all the while asking you “why not?” B used to watch for these guys, and if he saw them doing that to girls, he would walk up to the bar and do that to the guy in question. It usually took less than a minute for the guy in question to start freaking out. At which point B would say, “Yeah, well guess how you made that girl feel.”

We rarely had repeat offenders.
Also, today the author of the blog added to the Stuff What Boys Can Do thread by posting this story from the BBC about Lloyd Gardner, who provided information to the police which resulted in the arrest of a rapist, and how Mr. Gardner then gave his £10,000 reward to the rape victim, saying, "It was a difficult decision to make because it is a lot of money and it would have been very helpful but I didn't feel like a deserved it at all. With the state that the girl was in after the incident, I really felt that it would go towards making her life a lot better over the next couple of years."
posted by philotes at 3:02 PM on October 12, 2009 [22 favorites]


Relative ease of finding sex partners is one area of female privilege, kathrineg. :)

So speaks someone who has never been a geeky or nerdy female.
posted by jb at 7:51 PM on October 12, 2009 [9 favorites]


For real. Of course I'm bitter because for some reason I was an incredibly late bloomer so I was dorky as hell for 70% of college when theoretically everyone was having hot sex. I got to focus on my classes! So! Much!
posted by kathrineg at 8:11 PM on October 12, 2009


I'm late to this thread and a lot of good stuff has already been said. I figured I'd chime in with my own experiences as a woman, except I want to try and reconstruct as best I can exactly how this instinctual fear evolved for me and what it really means in practice (hint: it's not that I feel antipathy to men I see). When I was younger I didn't "get" any of the feminist arguments because I hadn't yet experienced a lot of the things women come to experience. I thought many of those arguments were unfair to men, so in that respect, I hope I can be helpful to some men who don't yet "get" them.

I also want to show why women might end up coming across "cold" to men, EVEN IF they don't think of a guy as a potential rapist.

I want to make clear that I think other people have already done a good job of explaining how this comes about and I've favorited a ton of you. I think for some men, though, things like "I have to deal with this every day for years" just comes across with words because they have nothing to liken it to, so I'm going to try to show more explicitly, step by step, how one can go from not being wary or annoyed to being quite wary and annoyed. Needless to say, this is going to be very long. I hope that the length might actually be an opportunity for things to sink in more fully, but obviously if you hate long stuff then don't read this.

So let's start when I was 12.

When I was 12, I was rather plain and somewhat chubby so I hadn't experienced much in the way of sexual attention from anyone. Right off the bat, one should keep in mind this is very much NOT the case for some other girls, especially quite attractive ones who have to put up with constant attention from their classmates -- I observed this in friends -- and still others, regardless of being attractive or not, have experienced rape or sexual assault by this age. Being plain and chubby makes no difference for other girls, but in my particular circumstances it was a reason why I hadn't yet had to deal with unwanted sexual attention. Like all kids, I had been told not to trust strangers I didn't know and I kept to that, but there was no real fear behind it.

In other words, as much as I think I could have been, I was sheltered from the whole issue of men-as-potential-threats for a while. This is useful in that I was old enough to be cognitively aware when this began to change and I can pinpoint some specific incidents. This is a sort of timeline.

When I was 12, I went to my friend's birthday party at a park. This was a very safe neighborhood. I say that only to emphasize how a woman can learn that no area is truly 100% safe, not as an answer to the misogynistic argument that maybe I wasn't being careful enough, which deserves no response. My friends were on the swing sets, and I decided to get on one of those kinds of playground equipment that's a bunch of platforms and bridges and a slide. I was maybe six yards away and I could see them clearly, and had they been looking my direction, they could see me just fine. It was a nice day so I watched them for a moment from one of the mid-level platforms.

Then I heard something, just barely, behind me. I went cold and turned around, and a few feet away was an older boy -- around 16 years old at least, definitely too old be on the playground equipment -- sneaking up behind me. He was looking at me intently with what I can only assure you was a creepy, dangerous expression.

When I turned he froze, and then sped up.

I dove off the side of the equipment and ran back to my friends, and we left.

I felt jumpy for the rest of the day. But nothing had happened, and it was my friend's birthday party, so I tried not to think about it. I was, really, pretty okay.

I remained somewhat chubby and plain for the rest of middle school and high school. I didn't get any skeezy, overtly sexual overtures from anyone at school, only nice/sweet gestures from guys I had known a while and liked me for who I was as a person. Despite the incident at the playground -- which, for all I knew, the boy had only violent intent with nothing sexual mixed in -- I didn't feel like being a woman was a defining part of who I was, or even that it was a social handicap in any way. I felt that arguments about male privilege and whatnot were probably applicable at the time they were made, but they didn't feel to be an issue anymore. I just felt like a person.

But there was this one incident in high school, about when I was 16 or so. I was on the debate team and we'd gone to an overnight debate tournament in another city. The hotel we were at was right next to an IHOP, so a lot of debaters went there when the tournament was over the first day -- which was always late, so it was after midnight. I went just with my friend, another girl. We didn't feel unsafe because, come on, the restaurant was RIGHT there, what could happen?

Well, we left the restaurant and began walking back. It was dark and the sidewalk was narrow, so I was walking in front of my friend but it must have looked, from the front, that I was alone. A car pulls up in front of me, out of nowhere, and the back door opens and a guy leans out towards me before the headlights shine on my friend. He takes one look, realizes I'm not alone, slams the door, and the car drives off.

This took maybe three seconds.

It took my friend and I much longer than that to even process what had happened, or rather what had nearly happened. We walked back to the hotel, and just like the park incident I got over it -- by which I mean I quit feeling anxious -- mostly within a few hours, but definitely within a few days. There was the rest of the tournament to deal with, after all, and the requisite high school drama.

If the gravity of this doesn't connect with you, it didn't entirely connect with me either. I knew, in a distant sort of way, that if things had worked out differently I could have seriously died. It was difficult to fathom, and in a way I'm lucky that I couldn't entirely feel the weight of that.

But something was starting to sink in. The world, especially to someone who has not had this sort of thing happen, does not seem like a place where there's darkness lurking behind every corner. At the tournament, surrounded by people discussing esoteric political and philosophical arguments, I would never have suspected such a thing. But the night before had changed things, just a bit. I could look around and know that things are usually okay, but I also had the new knowledge that sometimes they are not. Twice now things had taken a turn for the worse, and I had not anticipated it and gotten away by sheer luck alone.

That would not do.

Still, I did not formulate this as a feminist argument.

College came around, and holy shit, it happened: I lost some weight and was in good shape and somehow grew into my face and I was hot. This was all very new and, at first, fun for me. People would actually compliment my appearance! My boyfriend had broken up with me before college but lots of guys talked to me! Woo!

I've already talked before on MeFi about the other consequence of this: that people tend to think attractive women are stupid, and that, having spent my entire life up to that point being commended and respected for my intelligence, this was a marked new reaction. I used to be the one guys would talk to because I seemed "cool" -- my entire circle of friends in high school was male -- and now men would approach me in a demeaning and condescending manner. Certainly this made me rethink my idea that feminist arguments were outdated. I realized, to some extent, that I had the same prejudices about other attractive women too, which was startling to me. Society, I realized, has a strange way of making you believe things you'd never believe that you believe.

But that wasn't even the worst of it. Now that I was grown up and sexually desirable to a wider range of men that before, being a woman went downhill really fast.

Freshman year of college -- 18 years old, here -- I decided to walk back to my dorm from my boyfriend's dorm rather late, around 2AM or something. It was just a couple of blocks and campus is well-lit, so I didn't feel this was a big deal. My boyfriend had offered to walk me back but we'd just had a bit of an argument so I turned the offer down.

Well, as soon as I hit one of the main streets a car started following me. At first I thought its occupants were going slowly because they were lost or something, but after a while, going slower than 5mph, taking the same turns I did, and slowing to a stop until I nearly caught up seemed less and less like being lost.

It also doesn't seem like being lost when I abruptly turned and went the other direction and they did a u-turn, or when I turned down a street that's inaccessible to cars so they suddenly speed up and turned at the next intersection -- one that lead to a street where they could cut me off. Once I got to my room I realized they were waiting for me to move out of the well-lit area and to this dark area where there wouldn't be any parked cars between me and their car.

But my room was some hopeful place in the future at that point. I ran like hell down the inaccessible street, and then froze by the police call box under a big spotlight. I looked down both sides of the street and tried to judge whether I'd be better off just running to my dorm rather than sticking around to call someone, and for some insane reason I sprinted to my dorm. I think I was concerned the campus police wouldn't reach me in time, I dunno.

I have never been much of a runner, and when I made it inside the dorm I remember thinking, If getting in shape just means it's easier for me to run away from the creeps that it makes interested in me, then fuck it.

Still didn't think of this as a feminist issue. Didn't actually decide being attractive wasn't worthwhile. Yet.

In the intervening year a lot of skeezy guys hit on me. Nothing terrible, really -- I hadn't been dealing with it my whole life like some women, so it hadn't worn me down yet. The worst thing that happened was when some loud, obnoxious frat daddy made a bunch of loud, obnoxious jokes to his friend with the transparent wish that I would overhear and think him funny. I made a point of talking to my friend about other things and scarcely looked at this guy, for which I was rewarded by his looking at me incredulously and telling his friend that I was "a real bitch."

I was floored and baffled -- he seriously thinks he has a RIGHT to my attention, and that I'm a bitch because I won't laugh when he makes macho jokes? -- but also grateful that this was not something that happens a lot. Some people are just assholes, and you have to deal with them sometimes.

Oh, boy, if I had only known. I hadn't been attractive long enough yet. As I'll come to explain, I still believe "some people are just assholes and you have to deal with them sometimes," and they are by no means a large segment of the population. But they make themselves known in a manner disproportionate to their numbers, and that shapes how women must react to avoid them.

But I wasn't to that point yet. I continued to be friendly to anyone who actually approached me, including men.

Next summer, 19 years old. I go to a late night restaurant on campus because it was the only place to get food and I was studying for a big test the next day. Guy at the restaurant approaches me and says something nice. I say thank you, smile, and go back to studying. Guy approaches me again a little later, and he's extremely awkward. I honestly could not tell whether he was just socially inept or dangerous. I wanted to believe the former. I politely brushed him off again.

I finish my food and get up to leave and he follows me. And, even at this point, I could not tell you whether he socially inept or dangerous. What I can tell you is that this is something a guy should NEVER do if they're socially inept because it freaks women out. Sucks for you, yes, but it sucked a bit more for me because I ran an elaborate path around the campus building this restaurant was in, up and down stairways and back through elevators, just so the guy couldn't track me. He tried his damnedest, though, confirming for me that I wasn't imagining things.

Then I had to run to my dorm in the middle of the night again, this time uphill, wondering why I hadn't learned my lesson the first time.

I have never again gone somewhere by myself after dark, even if it seems safe. I'm hard-pressed to think of a placer safer than that campus, with police patrolling frequently and lights everywhere and people within earshot.

Please let that sink in. At this point in my life I hadn't actually ever been touched violently by a guy. It had just nearly happened four times and I was only 19. The sacrifice you make to make me feel safe is to respect me when I politely brush you off, and maybe to feel a bit hurt or have to give careful consideration to how you approach a woman. The sacrifice I make to feel safe is never going anywhere alone at night. I wish you didn't have to sacrifice anything, I really do, but it should be clear to anyone reasonable that your sacrifice is pretty bearable. It's hardly more than you should do just to be a polite human being.

At this point I began to have the inklings that this was a feminist issue. My male friends did not have to worry about these things. They avoided dangerous neighborhoods and that was about it. I cannot feel absolutely safe anywhere.

This is something some men tend to take and blow out of proportion. They take this to mean I'm super paranoid and in a state of terror all the time, and this means I'm unreasonable. This is not the case, and it one of the biggest obstacles, it seems, to men understanding what it's like to be a woman. Listen to me: I am not actively scared even most of the time, though I imagine people who have been through worse than I have been and it's understandable. All it means when I say that "I cannot feel safe anywhere" is that, even though I am not currently feeling frightened, I don't put myself in positions where I could be harmed. I do not go out alone at night, I carry mace, I do not endulge conversations with men who act in a way I perceive to be odd.

It's also worth noting that, as someone else pointed out upthread, it's really messed up to call a woman paranoid for doing these things, because when a woman doesn't do these things, she is blamed. Don't make a shitty comment to a woman friend for carrying mace. Don't tell her that seems like a bit much. Of course it seems like a bit much to someone who doesn't have to endure frequent threats to their safety. When strangers do make threats against women they generally make a move when the woman is alone, so by definition you cannot have possibly been there to see and know what the woman has had to deal with in the past. If she feels she needs to carry mace, there is a damn good reason for it.

But I'm not done. I wish I were.

Junior year of college, I worked at the state capitol. Apparently guys like suits because when I would wait at the bus stop, every. single. day. someone would try to flirt with me. Remember that at this point, I didn't realize this was going to be a constant thing. So I acknowledged that these guys meant well, and I would be friendly enough: I'd smile, or respond to questions.

Except they'd take this as encouragement.

Okay, fine. I can see how they might think that. That's okay, I'm capable of turning people down, and I'd rather continue to be friendly to people than be unfriendly. Just because I'm not interested in them does not mean they don't deserve a smile, right? I smile at people when I cross them on the sidewalk. Smiling is a nice thing to do. There has to be a middle ground.

So when they'd ask for my number -- and, wow, this was usually after speaking maybe three sentences to me -- I would say, "Oh, sorry," in an embarrassed sort of way, "I have a boyfriend."

And they would say some variation of "he doesn't need to know," which is both insulting to me as a moral being and disrespectful of my turning them down. And if this sounds ridiculous to anyone reading this, all I can tell you is this happened EVERY SINGLE DAY I was at that bus stop and that line came up EVERY TIME except once, when the guy said he just wanted to be my friend when he very clearly did not just want to be my friend because he knew nothing about me except I looked hot in a suit.

But I knew these guys didn't realize how disrepectful they were being, they probably just thought they were being smooth or if they were persistent enough I would be charmed. Misguided. I should not take offence, and I didn't.

At first.

After I tell a guy literally a dozen fucking times that I'm not interested, I start to see where being polite gets me. And when this happens the next day, and the next, and the next, until you start to dread going to work for NO OTHER REASON, you start to get really fucking frustrated. You start to want to go off on the next guy who asks for your number and won't take no for an answer.

But did I do that? No. That would be so mean. So I would try to read a book and give off vibes of "busy, don't bother me."

No. They'd ask what I was reading. I gave terse answers and eyeless, civil smiles in response. They'd ask for my number.

One time the only way to get a guy to leave me the fuck alone was to pretend that I was taking down HIS number, and if you think I just wasn't assertive enough I had finally told the guy, "NO, I AM NOT INTERESTED" very rudely and loudly and it did nothing. I've never jumped on a bus so quickly when it arrived.

Another incident happened to another woman at the same bus stop. After I'd gotten away from my pushy suitor relatively unharmed, she didn't have quite as much luck. She turned the guy down and he got extremely angry, huffing and puffing about and calling her an ugly bitch and all these other horrible things. She got on the same bus I did, in the seat in front of me, with her friend. The guy actually came and smacked on her window again and again until the bus took off.

I had never really felt any semblance of "sisterhood" in my entire life until that moment. I wanted, more than anything, just to say "this shit is horrible, isn't it?" But I didn't say anything. I didn't know her, after all, and I worried it'd be weird.

I no longer smile at anyone who might be interested in flirting with me. I am terse, way more terse than I thought I was being before. I later discovered a different solution, one I feel is much more unfair to me than it is to make a guy feel unwelcome, but I'll get to that later.

I had an internship in D.C. in 2004, when I was 20. I could not walk to lunch without cars honking at me. For the first time in my life I got actual catcalls from construction workers, which nearly reduced me to tears. They are humiliating and dehumanizing. They are a form of public shaming. If you think otherwise, then at least acknowledge that regardless of your intent they make women feel horrible and you should not do it for that reason.

Oddly enough, I also had more men approach me respectfully in D.C. than I had before. One crosswalk monitoring guy smiled at me from afar, waved, and said, "Good morning, pretty lady!" in an entirely non-threatening way, and returned to his work. It was clear that he was just a friendly guy that liked making other people feel good. There was another guy at a deli I went to who apparently had a bit of a crush on me because I overheard his coworkers talking about it. The guy was always nice to me, and when he asked what I was doing one weekend -- in a prelude to apparently asking me out -- I said I was visiting my boyfriend and he backed off. And he still was just as nice to me every time I came in after, even though his coworkers would tease him. He knew that I wasn't a bitch just because I wasn't interested in him, and he didn't need me to be interested in him to know I was still deserving of kindness. He treated me like a person and didn't think of kindness as a sexual currency.

If you're a nice guy and you pay attention to social cues and respect when a woman is telling you no, or that she isn't interested or wants to be left alone, you have little to worry about. Seriously. This should not be controversial. I understand that it might suck when you want to give an innocent compliment but, given the circumstances, it might freak a woman out. I really do. But it's not a big deal.

One more incident that really just changed everything for me, perhaps for good:

I was 23, I think. My fiance was sick, throwing up and everything, so I decided to go the grocery store next door to get some things for him. It was the middle of the day, and there was just a little path about a yard long between some trees from our apartment to the side of the grocery store.

I checked around me before going down the path, regardless, not really expecting anything. I didn't see anyone. It was a very safe neighborhood anyway; we'd been picky about where we moved since I'd had enough bad experiences in places that were supposed to be safe, anything else wasn't even under consideration.

I'm halfway down this short path when I hear something behind me and I turn around. This guy is standing there, hands in front of him. I just stare at him, make no prelude to speaking or screaming or anything, and he says, "Shhhh."

I turn around and bolt to the front of the store, then inside. Lots of people around. I think, what the fuck? Aside from the whole creepy shushing me thing, the guy HAD to have been purposely waiting in hiding for someone, because I had checked that there was no one around and there was no time for him to have come from anywhere else.

I try to figure out what to do. I couldn't call my fiance because he was sick and hardly conscious, and geez, my apartment is right there. I thought about calling the cops, or talking to someone in the store, but the guy hadn't actually done anything to me, so what could they do?

I decided, crazy as it sounds, to just do my shopping. I figured by the time I was done the guy would have left. It was unlikely he had his heart set on me in particular. And I had my fiance's health to think about.

When I was done I returned to my apartment by way of the street proper, rather than the little path. I thought, as I turned onto the walkway leading toward my apartment, that I was in the clear.

When I was yards away from my apartment, THE SAME FUCKING GUY came out from behind this nook and started walking rapidly toward me. His expression was not one of someone who wanted to apologize for spooking me earlier, to say the least.

Fifth time is the charm, apparently, and I actually screamed for the first time out of all the situations I'd been in. I screamed and I ran to the apartment and knocked as loudly and frantically as I could and my fiance, bless his heart, actually managed to get to the door relatively quickly and let me in before the guy could do anything. I think he fled once I started screaming.

Anyway, since the guy knew where I lived and possibly had some weird fixation on me, we moved as soon as we could.

By this point, I decided being attractive was not worth it. Note that I presently feel this was an overreaction, but that's how it was. If I gained weight, I didn't care. I quit dressing nicely and instead just wore sweatpants and t-shirts. I didn't bother to exercise whatsoever. To be clear, I was not and am not under any illusions that unattractive women cannot get raped. It just seemed that it was something I could do, something to make me less of a sexual creature in the eyes of others.

I also stayed inside all day because I was now afraid to leave the apartment alone during broad daylight. I was unemployed at the time so this was possible. Anywhere I went, I went with my fiance or a friend. This didn't let up at all until we moved, when I finally felt some degree of safety again. My intense anxiety had mostly sprung from the guy knowing where I lived.

Once we moved, I would still get hit on by pushy guys from time to time. So what did I do? I started dressing like a lesbian, with a sort of metrosexual male style. I don't wear any jewelry except for a man's wedding band. Seriously. And I still dress that way.

Thankfully I'm bisexual so this isn't entirely some soul-crushing exercise in pretending to be someone I'm not. I am rather androgynous in personality, some would say masculine, and most of the time I like to dress like I do. Sometimes though, maybe a few times a week, I'll think I might want to wear something more girly, like I used to, and I always, always decide against it because I don't want to deal with attention from pushy men. It's just not worth the effort. I don't know when the last time I dressed femme was, except that it was more than two years ago. And it sucks that I can't just do that without having to deal with unwanted sexual attention. If strangers talk to me, I tone down any feminine affectations to the point of probably seeming asexual or vaguely masculine.

Why do I do this? Well, overall I'm happier this way than the alternative. When strangers talk to me, it's always innocent and friendly and not at all sexually charged. I feel considerably less threatened and I've experienced ZERO unwanted male attention since I started doing this. It's just really stupid that I have to do it at all, and I'd certainly be MORE happy if I didn't HAVE to do it, ALL the time.

The other reason I do it is because the clothes I wear make my silhouette considerably less feminine, so I'm less of a target for anyone prowling the dark. Someone might just think I'm a short guy.

That's been my experience of being a woman so far, and I'm only 25. I've been nearly assaulted perhaps as many as five times, and had to deal with a number of people hassling me for no reason other that they find me sexually attractive. Had I continued to act and dress femininely I'm sure the past couple of years would have added a whole other page full of horrible anecdotes. I think this is a shitty state of affairs.

When I was 11, I didn't think this sort of thing was normal. I thought incidents like his were out of the ordinary. The older I get, and the more my female friends open up, the more I know how common they are.

I understand how crazy it sounds to a guy, that in the same world you walk around in, so many women are getting assaulted or nearly assaulted or otherwise at least harassed on a daily basis. It sounds incredible. It sounds superstitious or made up or exaggerated. You hear it and you can't even process it, it's just so astounding. Sometimes even for me, because I haven't actually *been* raped, I can't believe rape is so common. I just think seriously? And then I remember the five times I got away, and what could have happened, what almost happened, and even then it's difficult to process. But I don't tell people who have been raped that they're wrong about the prevalence of it. I accept that it's something, like racism (I'm white), that I can never fully understand because I haven't experienced it, and that my lack of experience with it does not make it any less true. (To the guy denying the rape t-shirts early in the thread: seriously?)

So look. I still have mostly male friends. I know just how nice most guys are, and that most guys continue to be nice guys even when they get rejected. I know how much it sucks to want to compliment someone and to ultimately decide against it because the circumstances mean it could be misinterpreted. No one is telling a guy not to compliment someone, or that every woman thinks he's a rapist. If you find yourself interpreting things this way, stop yourself, because you're constructing a straw man that will stand in your way of learning from women.

What women want is simple: be respectful of our boundaries like you would for any guy. Avoid giving the appearance of ill intent the best you can, just like you try not to be misinterpreted in any other interaction. Do not think poorly of a woman because she has treated you coldly, and instead realize this is something she has to do because when she does not, people interpret it as interest and hassle her. Please realize that a few hurt feelings on your part are nothing compared to what women have to sacrifice to feel safe.

And to all the guys who have already commented who realize those things, thank you so much. Thank you for being reasonable and compassionate and knowing not to take it personally. And thank you for taking the time to correct misguided and crappy behavior in your fellow males when you see it.
posted by Nattie at 9:24 PM on October 12, 2009 [745 favorites]


Then why do we have to wear the makeup and stupid-ass high heels?!?!?!

So that other women don't erode your self confidence with catty remarks? I'm pretty sure more than half of my male friends don't care nearly as much about that as other women do. It seems like often the enforcers of the cultural subservience of women are other women. I'm not trying to let men off the hook by saying that.
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:01 PM on October 12, 2009 [7 favorites]


Nattie, thank you so much for taking the time to post in such vivid detail about your personal experiences. Flagged as fantastic.
posted by velvet winter at 12:41 AM on October 13, 2009 [6 favorites]


Jesus Haploid Christ, Nattie. What velvet winter said.
posted by rmd1023 at 4:57 AM on October 13, 2009


Thank you for this thread, everyone, especially those who have shared their stories. It's been a fantastic read.
posted by flatluigi at 10:04 AM on October 13, 2009


Nattie,
your story is great, but for about 3/4s of it you were scaring the crap out of me. As a recently single guy (just got out of a nearly 9 year relationship) who seriously respects women I've been spending a lot of time recently thinking and wondering how do you strike up a conversation with a woman you don't know but would like to talk to.
Thankfully you then got here:

Oddly enough, I also had more men approach me respectfully in D.C. than I had before. One crosswalk monitoring guy smiled at me from afar, waved, and said, "Good morning, pretty lady!" in an entirely non-threatening way, and returned to his work. It was clear that he was just a friendly guy that liked making other people feel good. There was another guy at a deli I went to who apparently had a bit of a crush on me because I overheard his coworkers talking about it. The guy was always nice to me, and when he asked what I was doing one weekend -- in a prelude to apparently asking me out -- I said I was visiting my boyfriend and he backed off. And he still was just as nice to me every time I came in after, even though his coworkers would tease him. He knew that I wasn't a bitch just because I wasn't interested in him, and he didn't need me to be interested in him to know I was still deserving of kindness. He treated me like a person and didn't think of kindness as a sexual currency.

It's good to know that as long as you still have respect and have a clue, it's ok to compliment someone and say hello.
posted by matt_od at 11:21 AM on October 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's good to know that as long as you still have respect and have a clue, it's ok to compliment someone and say hello.

Matt:

NO ONE EVER SAID OTHERWISE.

And if I knew the HTML to make that in blinking scrolling marquee type with sparkly glitter and the dancing banana on top, I would.

The whole upshot of this entire conversation has been to ask guys to Have respect and have a clue, and also to let guys know that a lot of guys out there do NOT have respect and do NOT have a clue, and even though you do, we've had to deal with a crap-ton of guys who don't. The story that Nattie told was designed to scare you away from complimenting her -- the story that Nattie told was designed to let you know about the other jackasses she's had to deal with so you understand why she may be more guarded than you think she may have reason to.

Jesus. HOW many comments is this thread and we still have to explain that point??
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:03 PM on October 13, 2009 [19 favorites]


That should have read "The story that Nattie told was NOT designed to scare you away..."

See, now you've made me all fumble-fingered. (smile)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:04 PM on October 13, 2009


Good thread. I haven't been able to read it all (who could?) but it starts great and ends great too, with Nattie's insightful post.

This understanding is new to me as a guy but I think I'm coming around. When my fiancee and I started dating she would tell me she couldn't stay out after dark without someone else accompanying her for protection. I thought she was overreacting and needed to be more assertive, like me. It's only 8:00pm! Ha ha. The more I read about the dangers real women face in places that are comfortable to me, in daylight or in the middle of the night, the more I realize how wrong I've been.

Now I always walk my fiancee home after dark, no matter the hour. We don't live so close together so this has been an inconvenience to me on a number of occasions. If she drove herself to my house earlier in the day, I have to follow her back across town in my own car, just to walk her from the parking lot to her apartment, and then I drive back home. But I've decided that no sacrifice is too big to risk something happening to her.

Here's the challenge for me: I want to be a forward-thinking feminist sort of guy. To a certain degree I like the old-fashioned chivalry of being the protector. But on the other hand, I want my fiancee (and all women) to be able to have the confidence to carry herself without that passive fear underlining every situation. I want the gender inequality to go away. But in this world, how can I move in that direction without leaving my fiancee vulnerable to an assault? It seems like a catch-22. The world has to change but I can't take the first step to change it without being downright negligent. As a man, I don't know what my next move should be other than "don't be creepy, don't assault, don't rape." For me all that stuff is a given, so where to go beyond that?

I find myself empathizing with attractive women on public transportation the more I understand what they're up against. There are a few regulars I see every day on the hour-and-a-half commuter train I take to work. These girls are very pretty, and very quiet. I imagine they have to be selective when choosing a seat, and nervous when other strangers sit near them. They listen to their iPods and ignore everyone else. Some part of me wants to help put them at ease, to be the nice guy and strike up some non-creepy conversation so they can relax and smile a little.

But then I'm like the guy in that XKCD comic, awkward and afraid to give the wrong impression. I'm engaged, for crying out loud, and just looking for some friendly chit-chat! But they don't know that, and I can't see how to begin that won't trigger that "oh great, here we go again" defensive reflex. So usually I follow suit and put on my headphones and ignore them too. And on some level I think maybe that's what they want, some peace and quiet and a break from male attention for once. Then again, the situation is unspoken and could all be in my head. It all swirls together in a muddy soup of generalizations and pure speculation. I have no idea what those girls are going through at all and I shouldn't assume anything.

I think for guys like me this can be just as big of a problem as it is for ladies. Not exactly the same kind of problem, of course, but I'm so sick of this over-thinking and second-guessing that I don't even know which way is up anymore. I just wish the whole thing would go away so we could all get on with our lives instead of this elaborate social dance no one really knows the steps to.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 12:44 PM on October 13, 2009 [10 favorites]


"Believe me, every heart has its secret sorrows, which the world knows not; and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad." -attributed to Henry W. Longfellow
posted by sweetmarie at 2:03 PM on October 13, 2009 [40 favorites]


Speaking only for myself, I think the purpose of the article, and the ensuing discussion, is to rid you of the over-thinking and second-guessing, up to a point at least. The idea is, it's ok to say hello or strike up a conversation, and it's ok to rebuff an advances or be rebuffed. It isn't ok for the hypothetical you to get pissed off because she wasn't interested, and it isn't ok for the hypothetical you to begin stewing in your juices about what an asshole you are for saying anything.

If you're rebuffed, it might not, in fact, be about you at all.

You wouldn't think another person should take it personally if they started a conversation you didn't feel like having and you politely brushed them off, so don't take it personally when it happens to you either. "The whole thing" isn't going to go away any time soon, so what can you do as a forward-thinking guy? Among many other things, respect someone's space, don't make yourself the centerpiece of every action anyone around you takes, don't assume other people are waiting for you to save their day with non-creepy conversation. (I am frequently guilty of the last one.) Say hi if you want to, or don't; smile if you want to, or don't. It's cool. Just don't think that your chivalrous desires = her chivalrous obligations, and you'll probably be fine. You're talking about women you see every day for an hour and a half. I'm not a mind-reader, but it'll probably be ok if you smile and say hello every now and then.

Honestly, that you think this can be as big a problem for men as it is for women is part of the problem. It's not, so stop freaking out about it and listen to what they're telling you: it's ok to try to start a conversation, it's not ok to not let the woman reject the advance or end the conversation whenever she wants to, in whatever manner she likes. That's not that hard, right?
posted by Errant at 3:15 PM on October 13, 2009 [11 favorites]


Nattie, thank you for taking time to share your personal history, because this has opened my eyes.

In high school, one of my classmates told one of our classes that two of her close friends had been raped, but this seemed like a foreign idea to me. This was something that happened in the world of adults, not in high school. Then I went to college, just a few hours from home. When I first enrolled, there were billboards asking for information in the disappearance of a 20-something female college student. Welcome to college.

In the following years, there was news of a few more young ladies who disappeared. As an orientation leader in training for incoming students, I learned all sorts of statistics, and what to tell parents who wanted to know what the police were doing to find these women. Police did find the man responsible, and all incoming students were told about the potential dangers in this quiet little town. There were other cases of rape and attempted rape that made the news, and I understood why women would carry mace here, only go out with friends after dark, and things of that sort. But I couldn't understand why some women wouldn't return a smile. This isn't something I've been dwelling on, but after reading what you wrote, I understand there is a world of experiences that still seems unreal to me.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:17 PM on October 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Excellent comment Nattie, it articulates what women face and how it can affect their relationship with the world.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:43 PM on October 13, 2009


To everyone, especially Nattie: thank you.

To any men of any age who doubt even now, after reading this thread, what women deal with on a daily basis: try going to your most trusted female friend or relative and ask her if she's ever been sexually assaulted. If she says no, ask if she's ever fended off a sexual assault.

Then ask her how old she was the first time she felt sexually threatened by a man. I think the answer will surprise and sadden you -- and if you asked every woman you know, you'd feel sick.

For guys arguing that they have it just as bad, my first attempted sexual assault was at age 9 and it was by a relative. I think it's fair to say that most boys at that age don't live in fear of rape. It hasn't gotten any easier since then, and I've physically escaped two attempted rapes (one in high school, another at a party years later where my boyfriend was in the other room and physically pulled my assailant off me).

I don't know any woman who has faced zero sexual threats in her life. Some deal with more than others, and I've tried not to let it affect me in the ways I dress or act, but I am extremely cognizant that simply being alive is enough to make me a target.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 4:02 PM on October 13, 2009 [11 favorites]


You know what I'm tired of: "Every woman is somebody's sister, somebody's daughter." How does that make a woman more valuable, more worthy of respect?

I know how you feel? It's like saying, "Hey, don't do that. That woman could be your sister." vs. "Hey, don't do that. That woman is a human being."

But I think, as katherineg points, that humanization is the goal, and I can't take too much offense at semantics.

I think the point is to rehumanize women. That's not an object, interchangeable, with no feelings; that's a person with family ties, feelings, people who love her.

You know I think what humanizes women and victims of sexual violence? Sharing their stories.

Although none of us show our "faces" here, the women and men who have publicly shared their personal experiences here have humanized the victims of sexual assault, and I can't tell you how thankful we should be that you all have been so generous. There have been many great contributions, but the stories of heyho, velvet winter, and Nattie particularly touched me. Thank you.

So here's my not-so-quick story as a friend (and lover) of women: my first long-term girlfriend (and first true love) was raped by an older counselor at the summer camp she worked at. It was "date rape," I suppose, whatever that means (i.e. willingly putting yourself in the same situation with the eventual rapist ... as if you women "know" rapists from non-rapists ...), and word got back to me at home that she was cheating on me.

Another high-school girl uses the ambiguous news to hit on me and we ended up making out, which got back to my girlfriend at camp. When she came home at the end of the summer, we weren't even talking, though we had been communicating via letters (remember letters!). We broke things off without any real discussion of what happened.

We were too sympatico, and we actually loved each other (whatever that means at 15-16), and we eventually got back together. I "forgave" her for cheating on me with the counselor that she always liked, and then eventually, she told me what really happened. They were hanging out, he made sexual advances, she said no, he said so what, and physically forced himself on her. Well golly, I sure looked like a fool.

She was always a fairly well-balanced person sexually, having been active at a fairly early age and in a comfortable environment with her school, family, etc. After that summer, she was an emotional wreck for the remainder of our relationship. She's happily married now, but I will always hate that man for what he took from her, and I'll always partially hate myself for not completely understanding back then what she was going through.

My second long-term girlfriend was as a freshman college. Her long-time family friend raped her while her father was literally dying of cancer in the other room. He made sexual advances, she said no, he said so what, and physically forced himself on her. She was a sexual wreck, and had emotional scars that I would bet remain fresh today.

One of my best friends my freshman year was also "date raped" after a party we had. She took him back to her room, most likely to fool around, and he wouldn't take no for an answer. What's most terrifying to me was that I saw him wandering the halls, right before it happened, asking anyone and everyone for a condom. I assume she tried to stall him by saying she wouldn't have sex without one. Perhaps not the best method (especially if you don't lock him out when he leaves to get one), but it's hard to overestimate exactly how confusing these situations are for victims.

We called the police right afterward, but not much happened outside of an investigation. The police were not encouraging at all.

Anyway, I grew up in a fairly liberal environment, where teachers talked about rape and sexual violence, and we knew all the statistics, but it all the abstract talk seemed to not mean very much to the guys (or the girls, for that matter).

Until rape gets personal, it's easy to be abstract about it. When you share stories with victims, it gets very personal very fast.

Again, thanks to everyone who's shared their stories here. I think your stories have meant more than you can imagine.
posted by mrgrimm at 4:08 PM on October 13, 2009 [7 favorites]


Let me add: when I say "to everyone, thank you" what I mean is, I think this thread has opened a lot of people's eyes and been a truly valuable discussion.

The reason I want you guys reading this to ask someone you know is so that you have an emotional connection and understanding of this issue on a personal level; anecdotes from a stranger on the Internet don't really mean anything when you're on a "dispassionate" level, i.e., this is all, on some level, an issue that has never affected you personally except to cause annoyance and gender bias.

I'll never know what it's like to be a guy trying to be nice to a girl on the street. That's always going to be true. But there's so, so much more going on when a girl "acts like a bitch" to you just because you smiled at her on the bus. I try to be friendly to strangers, but there are times when I get to where I'm going and my hands are shaking, my heart's pounding out of control and I have bad dreams for a week straight.

Unfortunately, sometimes it has nothing to do with you and everything to do with what that girl's life has been like. It's unfair sometimes, but that's the reality.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 4:12 PM on October 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thanks, mrgrimm, for articulating exactly what I was trying to say (shoulda previewed).
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 4:13 PM on October 13, 2009


To any men of any age who doubt even now, after reading this thread, what women deal with on a daily basis: try going to your most trusted female friend or relative and ask her if she's ever been sexually assaulted. If she says no, ask if she's ever fended off a sexual assault.

Then ask her how old she was the first time she felt sexually threatened by a man.


Agreed. The answers will likely sadden and shock you.
posted by jokeefe at 4:14 PM on October 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


There are a few regulars I see every day on the hour-and-a-half commuter train I take to work. These girls are very pretty, and very quiet. I imagine they have to be selective when choosing a seat, and nervous when other strangers sit near them. They listen to their iPods and ignore everyone else. Some part of me wants to help put them at ease, to be the nice guy and strike up some non-creepy conversation so they can relax and smile a little.

But then I'm like the guy in that XKCD comic, awkward and afraid to give the wrong impression.


I know you have the best of intentions, but here's the thing. What's inspiring you to want to talk to those particular people? Do you talk to every regular on your train, regardless of gender, for some pleasant chit-chat? Do you make a point of talking to all the people who are clearly busy doing something else? What do most people do on your train -- do they sit in groups or pairs and chat, or do most people do their own thing individually?

I would respectfully suggest that a person who is not making eye contact, not smiling, and not doing other gestures of social engagement, who is visibly occupied with some other activity is signalling as loudly and clearly as possible that (s)he doesn't want to talk to anybody right now. Let's say you do decide, hey, it's OK for me to interrupt because I have benign, helpful motives and that's a good kind of interruption, an interruption that will make this person's world a better place. This is exactly what the hitter-onners and creeps also think: "It's OK for me to interrupt because I'm special, and the pleasant chit-chat I have to offer is harmless."

Rather than speculating that is is some poor mistreated waif who is dying to talk to someone but can't because of fear of being harassed or annoyed, I think the safe assumption is that people who look busy or preoccupied are actually doing what they want to be doing. What those iPod listening women are doing, for whatever reason, is signalling, "Leave me alone." Why are those the very people others often feel so compelled to interact with?

It's not even a gender thing. I take a book with me everywhere because I enjoy reading, and I can be sitting in a restaurant or bar or wherever, a place just FULL of groups of people and individual who are all sending off Please Talk to Me body language, and yet someone inevitably decides that the person who's signalling the exact opposite (me) is the one to go bother -- the way cats unfailingly gravitate to the cat-allergic cat haters.
posted by FelliniBlank at 4:31 PM on October 13, 2009 [28 favorites]


It's like saying, "Hey, don't do that. That woman could be your sister." vs. "Hey, don't do that. That woman is a human being." But I think, as katherineg points, that humanization is the goal, and I can't take too much offense at semantics.

Agreed -- that kind of argument never bothered me, because it's targeted at the people who need that kind of argument in order to crack through some bad mindsets.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:31 PM on October 13, 2009


This article and thread have to be about the most depressing, discouraging things I've read in a long time. I'm gonna read the latest Health Care Reform thread then just go ahead and kill myself, I think.
posted by EatTheWeak at 5:20 PM on October 13, 2009


Just chiming in to say fantastic post, Nattie. I (and literally any other woman who I've talked to about the subject, and I'm sure the ones I haven't) could have told a similar story. I'm glad you took the time to write it out. When you noted that this whole reality for women might strike some men as strange because it is not their reality, I thought of an experience I had a few months ago.

I was traveling in France, chatting with a new acquaintance at a dinner party. He traveled all over the world, and the topic turned to safety while traveling. I briefly alluded to how often men had approached me and made me feel uncomfortable in Paris. (Somewhat different experience than what I was used to on my college campus.)

He had no idea what I was talking about.
"What, to ask you for directions?" (He actually said this.)
"Well, that too, but no... I'm talking about the guys who... you know."
"No, what?"

I mean, he was so clueless. He literally laughed when I told him about the guy who had followed next to me, asking "Est-ce que je peux goûter ta sucette?" ("can I taste your sucker?") when he saw me chewing on a piece of candy. I was walking with two friends, but that didn't stop him until we ducked into a restaurant.

Or the guy who had laid down next to me at the park (seriously, feet away from families! children! couples! This was not an isolated spot.) where I was reading one afternoon, flirting at me for several minutes as I was telling him "Sorry, I'm reading. Please leave me alone. Go away. No. No. No. No." "You can't blame me for trying," he said before he finally left. Those were the more notable cases, and both had happened during a 2/3 week block.

I knew my acquaintance understood the dangers of being a woman traveling alone. He had just voiced the opinion that I should only travel to Morocco if I had a male traveling partner. But it was like he couldn't believe this would happen in a city he lived in every day, or something. He didn't take my stories seriously at all.

I got the impression he thought I was bragging about how many men paid attention to me.

I'm not some bombshell. In Paris, just an average looking person wearing a sweater, a jacket and jeans. My experiences aren't unique, though maybe the ridiculous nature of the lines these guys gave me makes them seem less scary. But maybe these anecdotes can condense it down a little, and the doubters here can imagine how, (having just dealt with those two men, who seemed normal right until they turned out to be batshit freaking insane), I might react to a third, well-intentioned one who approached me on the street in a rather uncomfortable and cold manner.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 5:38 PM on October 13, 2009 [9 favorites]


I'm going to echo some of the other women in this thread. This is a good write up. I was once trying to describe to my husband how it is to walk around at 5 foot 3 and being constantly aware of my surroundings, walking quickly and purposefully at night when I'm alone and constantly checking myself to ensure I don't put myself in any questionable surroundings. He just didn't get it really. He felt I was I was just being paranoid. Being over 6 feet naturally protects him mentally in a way I can't ever be. Bars I've been to with friends have been marked by attacks of rape where I would have normallly assumed a female was safe in the general surrounding of people. Even with my wedding ring always on, and being a fairly plain female who happens to be shaped in a very female way I get the attempt by some guys when really it's just inappropriate setting or timing or ... hello wedding ring!

Not all men are as cerebral in their day to day activities as they would be when sitting down to a chat forum. You can respond in your own time in such a place but when you're walking on the street just trying to get to work and some guy in a suit passes by and comments "Hey! Nice tits!" when I'm not dressed provocatively at all, it's a constant buzz in the back of the brain. I get this constantly. Even with every assurance that you should be safe, you can be violated. Going home at night on a crowded train without my husband, the man next to me in the middle seat of a 3 seater decided he had every right to continually stretch out his arms and brush them across my breasts, not up as one would normally do, but *out* in a manner that was wholly and obviously intentional. I shrugged off the first time but then he proceeded to do it twice more before I got very loud and embarrassed him infront of the whole train. He then started yelling at me for intimidation and got very close putting his hand on my skirt before the two men in the next row of seats got up and turned around and told him to leave. I'm still shaken by this and what might have happened.

When you're too physically weak to open the salsa jar, what is it people think I can do to fend off an attacker? All I, and many women can do is continually try and protect ourselves. I think this write up rings true for more females than the previous nay-sayers believe.
posted by eatdonuts at 5:53 PM on October 13, 2009 [16 favorites]


I spend a lot of time on public transportation. As has been expressed by others above, I feel bad for even moderately attractive women who ride the bus alone. I have yet to see it come to pass that an unescorted young woman gets on the bus and rides to her destination without some fellow, usually twice her age, trying to strike up some creepy conversation. I've heard so many unsolicited invitations to karaoke night, meals, hikes, camping trips, walks in the park and what-have-you.

If I weren't so certain that my findings would be cause for despair, I would love to peek inside their heads to figure out how they figure the probabilities of how these interactions will play out. "She's young, well-dressed and cute; on her way someplace and was not at all planning to bump into me. Me being a middle-aged neckbeard who stinks of cigarettes and desperation, wearing pants that look like they were found in a gutter. Surely if I sit down next to her or behind her and ask that she take out her earbuds so that I might ask her a bunch of weird questions and invite her to spend some alone time with me, a perfect stranger old enough to be her father, then my luck with the ladies will at last turn around!" How can they that lonely and that desperate and that tone-deaf that they conceive of such a plan and say "full speed ahead! wanna go to karaoke?"

It's also been observed above that men cannot wholly comprehend what it feels like to go through their days under a constant barrage of sexual advances. I tend to agree. I'll admit that, years and years ago, I was so lonely and bitter and in such denial as to the problems I was creating for myself regarding my sex life that I would joke that I would love, just love for the roles to be reversed - if only I got hit on so often! What are these women complaining about?

Nonsense, of course - sheer irredeemable foolishness that I'm pretty uncomfortable admitting to. The closest analogue from my own experience I can think of to this unfortunate phenomenon would be a night I spent celebrating a friend's birthday at her night spot of choice, one of the local gay bars. Most of the night was positive and fun and I wasn't fussed about getting approached - I mean, fair play, right? I was a dude hanging out in a gay bar w/ no apparent partner nearby - the guys that approached me can hardly be blamed for doing so. I'd say thanks but no thanks and be polite about it. No harm done, and a few of these rebuffed advances morphed into friendly chats once the interaction was properly reframed, so hooray!

What was a drag was the couple of guys that wouldn't let it drop. I coulda done without the dude who kept jumping up and dancing over to our group whenever we got up after I'd already declined his invitation that he and I dance alone a couple times. I really could have done without the guy who followed me across the bar and into the bathroom to loom behind me and issue compliments while I peed. Mad creepy.

And obviously, this is a pretty specious comparison to the matter at hand in this thread. At no point was I ever in any physical danger, at no point did I feel that this couple of boundary-ignoring creeps could have overpowered me. And, most importantly, this was one night of my life not every time I decide to go out in public.

So, yeah, I guess this is all a long way of saying that, on behalf of my gender: "Women, I'm sorry. Most of us are trying to do better, but not enough yet. I already decided long ago to leave you be on the bus, in the store or where ever, no matter what, and that thing about not joining in or enabling this toxic behavior when I see it in my peers? I'll start doing that. A world where everyone feels safe everywhere would be a fine thing to have, so I want to do my part."
posted by EatTheWeak at 6:15 PM on October 13, 2009 [31 favorites]


Sorry, I intended to fit this in to echo Nattie's write up but missed it. Sometimes the fear starts very very early for females, well beyond what reasonable people would assume them as possible sexual targets.

For my own experience, it started at a whopping 8 years old, 8 years old when I was walking home from elementary school with neighborhood girl friends when a 30-something year old guy in a pick up truck pulled over in the street across from us and started yelling at me for street directions. Let me put this out in the open, I grew up in that town that Money magazine hailed as 'the best place to live' twice in the 80s for being safe, industrious and having a sense of community. I must have had some kind of vibe, even being a rather naive 8 year old because he kept yelling at me to come across the street and tell him where such-and-such a street was. I didn't however cross the street and just yelled "I don't know!" at the top of my lungs and we kept on walking up the hill which was only 2 blocks from my own home. He kept yelling at us and we started running. To this day it gives me the creeps. What kind of adult yells at 8 year old girls for street directions? I shudder to think what might have happened if I had crossed that street...

Or playing in the pool when I was 12 with a friend and her 16 year old brother and his friend. We were playing chicken, you know where you get on another's shoulder and try to topple the other couple? I was on my friend's brother's shoulder and wouldn't you know it, we would go down in a 5 foot pool every time. Oddly enough I would get hit further back and my friend's brother would somehow find a way to pinch between my legs through my bathing suit. I got out being uncomfortable and claimed I was tired.

It's the same world you walk around in guys, but it's also a very very different world you can only see when in our perspective.
posted by eatdonuts at 6:21 PM on October 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


At least two women close to me have been raped, and I'm pretty sure there are more who haven't had the occasion to confide in me. Their stories are not mine to tell, but I will never doubt for one second any of these personal accounts, or the legitimacy of any one's fears. I'm also the father of two preteen daughters, and wrestle constantly with how/how much to tell/warn/prepare them, without drowning them in overwhelming fears. Thanks to everyone who is sharing and reaching out.
posted by msalt at 6:36 PM on October 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yeah, that keeps striking me, too. I'll certainly agree that being catcalled would be threatening, and I don't doubt that it happens. But I can say with 100% certainty that I've never, ever seen the behavior in the wild. Maybe it's a regional thing; I've lived in the Midwest my entire life, half of it in a small town in Nebraska, half in Minneapolis. Maybe catcalling's a coastal thing.definitely not a coastal thing. Cowards are universal, and catcallers are the worst sort. You've never seen it because in the smaller Midwestern cities, they have the option of waiting until there are no other guys in sight.

In the first week we moved into our new place, my roommates and I were walking the few blocks to campus. A bunch of guys were sitting on their roof, and begin to yell at us as soon as we come into view. No one else is around. My roommate flicks them off (if someone is the type to blame the victim, there's your opportunity.) and they switch from generic calls to "GIVE US BLOW JOBS!" until we're out of sight.

We tell our female neighbor this, and she says, "Yeah, those guys catcall every girl who walks down that road. If you're walking alone, just go over a block instead." Her boyfriend was confused and incredulous: they walk that street all the time together and he never hears anything. Girlfriend: "Uh, yeah, that's because I'm with you."
posted by Solon and Thanks at 6:37 PM on October 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sorry, formatting messed up. The beginning said:

"I live in Ohio, and catcalling is definitely not a coastal thing. Cowards are universal, and catcallers are the worst sort. You've never seen it because in the smaller Midwestern cities, they have the option of waiting until there are no other guys in sight."
posted by Solon and Thanks at 6:38 PM on October 13, 2009


> signalling, "Leave me alone." Why are those the very people others often feel so compelled to interact with?

This is a slight tangent and I hope it doesn't derail an excellent thread, but I think the situation FelliniBlank noted above is taken as a challenge by some people. Like "I'm so awesome/smooth/hot I can get anyone to talk to me, even that unfriendly chick with the book." My brother was once sitting opposite a guy on the bus who was bragging to his friend that he could get anybody to make eye contact with him. My brother, being naturally perverse, went out of his way to make it obvious that he was not going to look at this guy no matter what. The guy was quite miffed and kept escalating the "look at me" behavior. Rather than getting somebody else to look at him and call it a victory, he kept trying to catch my brother's eye - just for the challenge, apparently. (My brother is, of course, a dude. Not a big hulking dude but still a dude, and so he came out of it thinking "Yeah, I'm a bigger jerk than you! I win!" A woman might easily have felt a little threatened in the same situation, and looked briefly at the guy just to stop the escalation.)
posted by Quietgal at 6:48 PM on October 13, 2009


To any men of any age who doubt even now, after reading this thread, what women deal with on a daily basis: try going to your most trusted female friend or relative and ask her if she's ever been sexually assaulted. If she says no, ask if she's ever fended off a sexual assault.

Then ask her how old she was the first time she felt sexually threatened by a man.

Agreed. The answers will likely sadden and shock you.


I was 8. I was horrified by the onset of this attention. It was direct sexual innuendo directed at me, my body by men. Men who were strangers and family friends. By the time I was 11 I had developed my own strategies to avoid this attention if I could. They're tragically laughable now - these things I would do to try and prevent sexual attention as a child.

I remember I started barking like an angry dog once - at this high school guy - who was trying to grab me and my 12 year old friend's crotches at a football game in front of his friends. He wanted to 'goose' us - that's what he called it. My friend was cowering and I went on the attack like this mad dog, barking. I startled him and his friends. They laughed and laughed. But they went away. I barked and barked, loud and rapid, until they were long gone. My friend was almost crying. In hindsight it was probably in place of me screaming.

I remember I didn't feel like I had the right to scream. I was supposed to be nice. I was suppose to be polite. I was supposed to not make people feel bad.

But those boys and men made me feel bad. People would say I was so crazy when I acted that way. I was such a nut. But for the life of me I could not comprehend why that sexual behavior was so acceptable. It was accepted public behavior.

When I was 14 we moved to a new town and I thought it would be different. Different men and boys. I was in the country before. Now I was in the city. But it was the same shit. I went to this amusement park with my friend and her Dad, our chaperone, who kept trying to hold my hand. It was presented to me as if it was this innocent behavior but it just didn't feel that way. It felt weird. Why was this 40 year old man trying to hold my 14 year old hand like I was his date.

I remember asking my friend about it when we were away from him in the women's bathroom and she chastised me, saying it was harmless. He did that with all her friends. What was wrong with me? Why was I such a weird-o. The whole day was torture. I eventually blew my nose into my hands so the next time he tried to slip his hand into mine he got a fist full of snot. It grossed him out. He made fun of me and how gross I was. But this was all I could think of to make it stop.

I remember thinking I should never go anywhere with anyone's Dad anymore. My thinking was always - why didn't I know better. Why didn't I see how it was my fault I felt weird about it. No one else objected. People around never reacted.

I had a friend at that time who was bulimic and could make herself throw-up by just visualizing it. I tried to get her to teach me how to do that because I could use that. It could be a handy defensive skill. I thought it will be different when I'm an adult. When I can respond like an adult.

When I was 20 my boyfriend's best friend, the "most wonderful guy, the coolest guy ever," shoved me onto the ground the second we were alone outside a party and shoved his hand under my shirt. I smacked him hard in the face. Somehow managed to shove him off and get up, get away. I ran back into the party and blurted what happened to the first people I saw - who laughed. They laughed. Typical, was their response. This was typical behavior. Nothing to get worked up over. I didn't quite believe them, but I still felt like - oh - this must be my problem. I told my boyfriend right then. He got mad at me. Why would I say such a thing. Why did I go out there alone with him. Didn't I understand his friend was having all these problems? Why couldn't I be more understanding. Why was I trying to smear him in front of everyone at the party.

In college I was at a party and this guy, a complete stranger, in front of the whole place told me I had to give him a blow job right now or leave the party. I tried to walk away but he followed me from room to room, yelling that I had to blow him or leave. People laughed. He was so funny. He was so drunk. Just look at how drunk he is they would say. No one told him to stop. No one objected. I had to leave to get away. He called me a "frigid fucking cunt" as I walked out. I can still hear it to this day, his voice, his face. He was spitting as he said those words. It was over 20 years ago.

All these events, and hundreds of others of a similar vein for 30 years, sit in my memory clear as day. Someone up-thread said how they felt lucky their story wasn't worse. I feel that too. I feel lucky. I could have been raped like my sister was, or my best friend was. Or like all the other women I know who were. I'm lucky.

I'm fucking lucky.

I'm 40 now. It's not as common as it once was. I love this about getting older. Now I just get cursed at more. Called old, ugly. I should be thankful for any attention at all. I'm thinking I'm going to go back to barking and blowing snot at this unwanted attention. Sometimes I worry what I'll do when I'm even older, frail. How will I defend myself then.

Jesus. Sorry so long. Feels good though - to tell this. I don't know why though. I don't have much hope for change. The women in this thread who are younger who still experience this same crap and worse - it breaks my spirit.
posted by dog food sugar at 7:57 PM on October 13, 2009 [69 favorites]


It's like saying, "Hey, don't do that. That woman could be your sister." vs. "Hey, don't do that. That woman is a human being." But I think, as katherineg points, that humanization is the goal, and I can't take too much offense at semantics.

Agreed -- that kind of argument never bothered me, because it's targeted at the people who need that kind of argument in order to crack through some bad mindsets.


No no no. If anyone is still reading this, NO. It doesn't humanize the woman at all; it turns her into property. In other words, "she could be your sister"="she could be one of your women." It absolutely does not humanize the woman in question.
posted by tzikeh at 8:54 PM on October 13, 2009 [7 favorites]


In other words, "she could be your sister"="she could be one of your women." It absolutely does not humanize the woman in question.

My point was, for the people this argument is targeted towards, even "she could be one of your women" would be a step UP.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:57 PM on October 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Feels good though - to tell this. I don't know why though. I don't have much hope for change.

I hope that the hope for change starts with being able to tell your story, and to have that feel like a relief. To not be laughed at or derided for your "drama" or told it was your fault, and for other women to begin to tell their own stories and feel the same: that it is fucked up, that they're not crazy, that other women know what they've been through and what they're going through, that they're not wrong for thinking it's not right.

Maybe that's facile or naive of me, I don't know. But I'm really glad to have heard it, your stories and everyone else's. I know you'll continue to speak; I hope to continue hearing you.
posted by Errant at 9:07 PM on October 13, 2009 [5 favorites]


Yesterday, I was going to come in here and post about how the ongoing bullshit in this thread has made me *grateful* for the loss of my youth and beauty and figure, because even though that does not reduce the chances that I will be raped, it certainly reduces the public cat-calling and invasion of personal space on public transport or on the street that I grew so used to during my teens and twenties and thirties.

HAY GUESS WHAT YOU GUYZ I WAS SEXUALLY ASSAULTED LAST NIGHT BY MY CAB DRIVER OMG !!1!ELEVENTY!1!!one!!

In the *parking lot of my University.*

Yes, I'm fine. Yes, I went immediately to campus police and filed against the driver (I always memorize or write down the name of cab company and cab number, and if I can, the driver's name, the moment I get into a cab--more of that "what women have to think about every fuckin' day" shit that would never occur to men), and now I have to deal with a fucking lawsuit in the middle of one of the busiest times of my graduate career.

Mostly? I'm pissed off that he has my wallet, which I dropped while screaming and getting away up the stairs and into the building, and now I have to deal with all the bullshit that goes with THAT as well. I was going to renew my expired driver's license the next day, so I had my Social Security card in my wallet for ID, and the fact that that is gone forever screws me over in SO MANY WAYS.

God DAMN it. And FUCK YOU, men who are still arguing about anything any woman has said in this thread.
posted by tzikeh at 9:10 PM on October 13, 2009 [20 favorites]


tzikeh, I'm so sorry. If you need an outlet or a shoulder, memail me, all right?
posted by headspace at 9:39 PM on October 13, 2009


As a freshman at a single-sex, women's college, two of my best friends were raped. Neither of them reported. Whole groups of us would sit around in dorm rooms at night, discussing unwanted sexual advances, near-assaults the whole bevy of gender-based issues that had frightened them or made them feel cheap or worthless, And I would sit aside, in the corner and wonder if I was really so undesirable that even desperate, scary creeps wouldn't try to hit on me. And I would envy them their insulting catcalls and sketchy dudes and pathetic pick-up lines. I worried that because I didn't get them, I wasn't much of a woman, that I wasn't much of anything at all and that I was maybe a little bit worthless. Incredibly fucked-up, that.

Damn, I really like the clothes, but otherwise, it often sucks to be a girl.
posted by thivaia at 10:02 PM on October 13, 2009 [12 favorites]


I've been following this thread closely and wondered if I ought to offer my personal experience as a counterpoint to what the vast majority of women are reporting. I typed this up, then bailed after tzikeh's horrifying story, fearing that my comment might come off as dismissive or worse. However, thivia's comment about feeling undesirable made me decide to go ahead.

Please note that I'm not contradicting anyone's experience, I'm not saying anyone is exaggerating, and I'm not trying to belittle anyone's concerns; I'm just trying to say that the "vast majority" experience is not absolutely universal. My life as an urban woman has been quite different and a lot less scary than most, so I hope maybe something interesting or useful can be gleaned from my experience.

I'm 49 now but things haven't really changed since I was 20. I rarely (like maybe once or twice a year) get this type of creepy attention. No catcalls, no leers, only rarely an unwelcome "hi". It almost never progresses beyond the initial greeting. I ride public transit a lot but nobody has ever grabbed my ass. I've never been assaulted. I read the horrifying stories posted here and, in addition to feeling really bad for these women, I wonder what am I doing that's so different?

I'm invisible. This is my superpower, according to my husband. I discussed this with him because I was so perplexed and wanted a male perspective. (Not that he's one of the catcallers, but he has a better idea of what makes those jerks tick than a woman would.) Anyway, random shuffling of genes has given me a rather androgynous body: slender, no curves to speak of, and quite short. From half a block away I could pass for a 12 year old boy. At a distance I don't register instantly as a woman, so (according to Hubby) the catcallers aren't going to risk hassling me in case I turn out to be a boy and then everyone will think they're gay, and that's like the worst thing ever in Jerk Land.

Up close, I'm obviously a woman but I'm not pretty. I don't wear makeup, I don't wear feminine clothes or high heels (even at work - as a scientist I go for "functional" more than "pretty"), and my hair is basically a disaster. There's no ego boost in hitting on an unpretty woman, so the jerks' eyes slide right off me looking for someone better.

I'm still wary when I'm out by myself, and I do the constant radar sweep that all women have to do. But on the rare occasion when somebody does try to initiate unwelcome contact, my other superpower - Craptastic Social Skills - comes into play. Some guy sits next to me on the bus and says "hi", I don't look at him, I say "hi" out of the corner of my mouth and give him the half of a smile that makes a sneer. No worries about being friendly or people-pleasing for this introverted dork. At this point, the guy usually decides I'm not pretty enough to bother with (I guess - at any rate he usually shuts up for the rest of the ride). On the exceedingly rare occasion when he keeps talking, my stony silence and eyes-firmly-ahead scowl eventually get the point across. It has never progressed to touching or yelling or threats. No response + no deference are probably the key, here.

I don't know if this will help any other women, although I'd hope so, somehow. As Nattie said upthread, a woman's appearance is a big factor in how much attention she gets in public. Personally, I like being invisible (yay, I'm a ninja!) and I can't be bothered to fuss over my appearance, but many people take great pride and pleasure in their looks and my "cloaking shield" would be a burka to them. And craptastic social skills are a mixed blessing at best. But I think anyone can learn to put on a pretty good silent scowl - call it your Bus Face and think of it as separate from your normal friendly demeanor.

And to all the quiet, unassuming good guys out there who don't hassle us, don't ping our creep radar, and basically just leave us be, thank you a million times. It's awful that a few clueless or icky (or worse) guys spoil it for everyone, but thank you for not being part of the problem. It is even more awesome when you become part of the solution, by letting the other guys know that they're being jerks. I'll buy you a beer at the next meetup. Just don't expect me to talk to you on the bus.
posted by Quietgal at 10:24 PM on October 13, 2009 [24 favorites]


Quietgal, I don't feel like your story dismisses what happened to me, so don't worry about that. I also think it's an important addition to the post, because it's a part of yet another underlying problem: women often want to feel attractive, yet that brings on unwanted attention, and so they can feel that they're barred dressing in ways that might make them feel good about themselves, because it becomes one more signifier of being just a body, and not a person. And "she was asking for it, wearing that short skirt/belly shirt/push-up bra/etc." is so unbelievably pervasive--but to me, the more insidious response many men have to women wearing "provocative" (and let's look at that word closely, shall we?) clothing is, "Well, if you don't want that kind of attention, why do you dress like that?" That infuriates me to the point of incoherence (hard to believe, I know *g*).
posted by tzikeh at 10:52 PM on October 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


I don't know if this will help any other women, although I'd hope so, somehow. As Nattie said upthread, a woman's appearance is a big factor in how much attention she gets in public. Personally, I like being invisible (yay, I'm a ninja!) and I can't be bothered to fuss over my appearance, but many people take great pride and pleasure in their looks and my "cloaking shield" would be a burka to them.

Your post certainly makes lots of good points - and I won't restate txikeh's points about dressing up. Like you, I can avoid unwanted attention by wearing a scowl or baggy clothing.

But lots of women don't really have that option. Maybe they're super curvy, and wouldn't be mistaken for a boy unless they really did wear a burka. Maybe they're just attractive to the point where a mean frown will be seen as a challenge and they'll get lots of "you should smile!!" comments. Maybe they're the naturally perky sort, who couldn't look unfriendly if their lives depended on it. These women are probably the ones who have to deal with the worst crap, too, and they're the ones who don't have a lot of options. We all know people who don't take any special amount of pleasure in their appearance, but look good even when they spend 0 effort on it.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 11:08 PM on October 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


Genuine question here, and I realize how clueless it makes me sound, but my curiosity is sincere. It's one thing to address the creepy behavior of men in one's peer group, as you've got a pre-existing relationship w/ the offender to work from. It's quite another when you see a woman you don't know subject to the unwanted advances of a man you don't know. What, if anything, should a man do about this issue when he's as much of an outsider as the fellow trying to force his way in?

In a situation like the ones discussed in many, many comments in this thread, where there's not any overt, immediate danger that would make clear how I ought to respond but rather the plainly evident trampling of boundaries and otherwise unwanted attention being heaped upon some gal just trying to ride the bus or get her groceries or whatever?

On one hand, a lifelong diet of superhero comics means that my first instinct in such a situation would be to get involved, to interdict and intercept and generally throw a bushel of salt in the creep's "game." On the other hand, I'm aware that the whole chivalry/white knight thing can be, on some levels, a more subtle version of male control and privilege and all of that - it's a version of the power fantasy where a guy "saves" a gal then she surely owes him something. I get that, and generally believe that a woman's problems are her own to solve, so I feel like butting in would just mean that I belong somewhere along the creep spectrum as well and that I should just mind my own damn business.

But I also can't help thinking that "with great power comes great responsibility" when I see a guy doing the whole courtship ambush thing and either not noticing or not caring how clearly uncomfortable he has made his target, how awful he's making her day/night/life in general with his behavior. And goddamn would I feel relentless guilt if I found out that a situation I could have defused or derailed but didn't wound up getting way worse than just some clueless, unwanted bus-banter.

I honestly don't know what to do in these situations, and as stated above, I witness them almost daily. I feel like I should do something, but I don't know if that's just my own case of Privilege Poisoning working me over. Women of Metafilter, what would you suggest? If some guy on the bus, at the bar, on campus, in the store, where ever, was creeping you out and not backing off, would you want the aid of a man equally unknown to you? In what ways could he help? Is staying out of it completely his best bet at being of use?

While I intend, 100%, to not tolerate such behavior from my peer group, the fact is that my peer group is already pretty light on fellas prone to such behavior. How do you think a man can best address this in his larger peer group - his entire gender?
posted by EatTheWeak at 11:47 PM on October 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


I haven't seen catcalling or groping, or even public intrusiveness in a long time, if ever. If I did, I think I'd go straight up to the individual being harassed, and say "I'm here to intervene if you want me to do so." I'm not sure if that's the best way to handle things on balance, but it seems like the best way to get in the middle of something happening between strangers without making assumptions about my intervention being at all helpful.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:56 PM on October 13, 2009


I honestly don't know what to do in these situations, and as stated above, I witness them almost daily. I feel like I should do something, but I don't know if that's just my own case of Privilege Poisoning working me over. Women of Metafilter, what would you suggest? If some guy on the bus, at the bar, on campus, in the store, where ever, was creeping you out and not backing off, would you want the aid of a man equally unknown to you? In what ways could he help? Is staying out of it completely his best bet at being of use?

I don't presume to speak for women as a group, or for any group as a whole.

I should first say: if it looks like I am handling the situation, I don't want anyone to step in. For one thing, as you note, I've spent a lifetime taking care of myself, and I don't usually require assistance in these matters. Just as important: It's all too easy to escalate the confrontation, and nobody wants that. Also, of course, the sooner it's over, the sooner I can brush it off and get on with my day.

If it looks like the confrontation is already escalating, that's the time to consider stepping in, if you're of a mind to.

In my own limited experience, a mild approach may help most if what you witness is a verbal encounter or even a not-violent physical encounter (for example, the scenario I describe above where a stranger grabs my ass at the bus stop and I holler at him).

There is a very simple question that can defuse a verbal or nonviolent encounter. I've done it myself when I saw a woman trying to get a man to leave her alone; I've once or twice had male bystanders ask it of me when I was fending off a creep; my partner has asked it of women we've seen who might be in trouble. The question is:

"Is everything okay here?"

It's reasonably neutral. It doesn't (to my ear, anyhow) carry the White Knight connotatation, suggesting that I Am Here To Save You, Princess. It gives the woman a chance to say "Yes," or to say "No," and to elaborate on either answer if she wishes. It identifies you as a possible ally, a witness, and it reminds the aggressor that someone's watching. It does all this without prescribing a behavior or casting you in the role of savior.

Come to think of it, I have stepped in and said exactly this when I was witnessing a possible male-on-male assault brewing. To my ear, it's gender-neutral. "Is everything okay here?" could mean anything from "Do you need me to call the cops?" to "Hey, y'all, simmer down."
posted by Elsa at 12:51 AM on October 14, 2009 [68 favorites]


I dated a girl in college who was your stereotypical Blond Beauty: tall, half-Danish, half-Russian. I remember we were traveling through Europe together, we were in Italy and wanted to see the ruins of Pompeii, so we took the train from Rome down to Naples, but once we got to Naples we boarded the wrong train and ended up in "modern" Pompeii instead of the ancient one. They told us we had two options: either walk the couple of miles to old Pompeii, or take one of the several taxis at the station (presumably, a lot of people made this mistake). We decided to walk, because damned the Italians and their bad signage.

So we walked along the shoulder of a highway together. And Every. Single. Fucking. Car. honked at us—no, honked at her—or waived, or yelled, or otherwise signaled their complete lack of respect to her (and me).

And I remember at one point a car was approaching and I could see it was being driven by a couple. A husband and wife. And the husband naturally couldn't yell and hoot and holler out the window because his wife was right there. So what did he do? He flashed his fucking headlights at her. Of course, it's the middle of the day, so he knows his wife won't notice. And it burned me up. I started yelling back at the cars, trying to provoke them, trying to get them to stop and confront them. I wanted to beat the ever living shit out of these misogynistic assholes.

I remember my girlfriend being really pissed about this. After all, it was just some harmless fun, right? She was young and naive, and I guess so was I.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:28 AM on October 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, ladies, thank you for your stories.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:29 AM on October 14, 2009


"Is everything okay here?" is wonderful.

So is just watching, at least in some situations. One time, when I was 18 or 19 coming home from classes, a guy followed me off the bus and grabbed my ass and squeezed. This was in broad daylight, but there was nobody around (most people in that subdivision were at work in the mid-afternoon). I yelled at him to get his goddamn hands off me, and he kind of smirked, like, what are you going to do about it, and a man came out of his garage and stared at us. Just knowing somebody was watching made the guy back off - he said something like "you don't need to get upset about it" and walked off.

I wish I'd had the presence of mind to thank that man, who may have saved me from being raped and certainly got me out of a sticky situation, but I was too shaken.
posted by joannemerriam at 5:26 AM on October 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think this thread can be summed up by:

Some men were raised with the mindset that women should not be respected. These boys are assholes and should not be allowed to breed. Not calling anyone weak here but these boys will look for the someone who does not look like they can defend themselves. They will then go after them with the idea that A - she digs me and I get laid or B - I scare her and get to feel like a real man or C - I doing whatever I want because mommy didn't love me. Again these assholes should not be allowed to breed. This might be an extreme case but all of the above stories deal with this type of person. Also these boys have grown up being loose and having sex with anyone. They think that all women are easy and the ones that don't want them are being bitches. They apply this label liberally to every woman they see.

Now on the tails side of the coin, there are ladies that dress like (to put in bluntly) sluts. Low cut shirt with plenty of cleavage, shorts showing off legs, and makeup... whole 9 yards. It's almost like looking for trouble. These ladies have learned either through an abusive home life, low self esteem, or "I'm pretty and men do anything for a pretty lady" attitude that their behavior is acceptable.

These two extremes screw everything up for the rest of us.

(True story here) I was walking down the strip in Vegas (buzzed... which is the custom there) and there were two reasonably attractive women in front of me. I walk for about 1/10 of a mile when both of them stop dead in their tracks. Being drunk and looking around at the pretty lights I almost ran into both of them. They then look at me and say "Hey you! Why are you following us?" I innocently pointed to my casino where I was staying and said "I'm staying there?!?" They gave me the evil eye as I walked by them. I walked away thinking "what pickle do they have up their asses?" I didn't think about it until I got back to my room that they thought I was up to no good. It sucks being mis-labeled.

Only way I see how to combat this is guys should stick up for ladies. I know chivalry is dead and all but if you see a man harassing a lady say "Hey leave her alone." Or if someone turns to you and says "She's such a bitch!" ask him why? It might not be the "Man" thing to do but you will be making the world a better place.

As for ladies I saw above that mace was mentioned. I'm sure other weapons and self-defensive items were also mentioned. Being involved in police training and martial arts let me give you a word of advice, a weapon is worthless unless you master it. Take mace for example, if you carry it with you do you know how to use it? When was the last time you played around with it? AND in case of attack can you without thinking pull it out and mace your attacker... without macing yourself in the process? (and no I am not talking about spraying yourself in the face with it.) FYI if your attacker pulls you into your freshly sprayed mace cloud you too can become incapacitated. As for stun guns, unless you have the police issued ones they are worthless. My advice for the mace carriers would be contact your local police academy and ask them if you can sit in or take a mace certification course. It doesn't take long and you will learn how to use your weapon. As for un-armed self-defense, don't simply think that a knee to the nuts will stop anyone. Do yourself a favor and go for an eye. (Take a hand and firmly place it on the back of your attacker's head. Then take your thumb from the other free hand and shove it into the corner of the eye, curl your thumb inwards, and rip.) Two things will happen A- your attacker will pull away and not be able to see out of it or B- you will a third eye in case you may need one in the future.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 8:27 AM on October 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Now on the tails side of the coin, there are ladies that dress like (to put in bluntly) sluts. Low cut shirt with plenty of cleavage, shorts showing off legs, and makeup... whole 9 yards. It's almost like looking for trouble.

There are two problems with this statement:

1. Even IF these women ARE subsconsciously "looking for trouble," as you put it, that does not mean that men are absolved of the responsibility of NOT GIVING IT to them. Even if a woman is cartwheeling down the street NAKED, men still have to be capable of exercising enough self-control to not force themselves upon her.

2. Most of the women you've heard share their stories in here WEREN'T dressed like "sluts", as you so charmingly put it, but got that kind of attention anyway. This, to my mind, shoots down the whole idea of "revealing clothing = unwanted attention". Unless the sweatsuit, wet hair, and zero makeup I always wore to acting classes in college was runway-worthy.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:34 AM on October 14, 2009 [23 favorites]


Like Quietgal, I'm not conventionally pretty and therefore attract less catcalling and whatnot than perhaps other women do. But I've had my share, and I've had to physically defend myself from idiots who bypassed the verbal approach and went straight for physical domination and public shame as a means of control. And let me tell you, it is FUCKED UP that I'm kind of proud of the fact that I'm no fashion plate - as though thinking I'm plain is somehow a shield protecting me from the unwanted attentions of men. Nattie's story now has me wondering if I don't somehow subconsciously go out of my way to look plain, if only to further reduce the chances of being attacked. (!?)

As for EattheWeak's question, I'd say Elsa has it.
posted by LN at 8:51 AM on October 14, 2009


Now on the tails side of the coin, there are ladies that dress like (to put in bluntly) sluts. Low cut shirt with plenty of cleavage, shorts showing off legs, and makeup... whole 9 yards. It's almost like looking for trouble. These ladies have learned either through an abusive home life, low self esteem, or "I'm pretty and men do anything for a pretty lady" attitude that their behavior is acceptable.

What. Seriously. That is a reprehensible statement.

Okay, so imagine if I had said this. "Oh, that stranger guy? Yeah, I grabbed his balls. I mean, to put it bluntly, he was dressed like a manwhore. Tight short sleeved shirt showing off his six pack, shorts showing off his legs... the whole 9 yards. It's almost like looking for trouble. These guys have learned either through an abusive home life, low self esteem, or 'I'm hot and women will do anything for a hot man" attitude that their behavior is acceptable."

Laughable, right? A dude wearing shorts isn't asking to get his ass smacked! Of course not! He's just being comfortable for the weather! Yeah, maybe he sometimes shows off his great arm muscles with the sleeveless gym shirt, but so what? That's totally different from a woman showing cleavage or wearing shorts. She's being a slut.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 8:57 AM on October 14, 2009 [16 favorites]


Now on the tails side of the coin, there are ladies that dress like (to put in bluntly) sluts. Low cut shirt with plenty of cleavage, shorts showing off legs, and makeup... whole 9 yards. It's almost like looking for trouble.

No.

This is precisely the appalling sexist attitude which so many participants in this thread have been trying to combat.

Rape should never, ever, ever be blamed on victim. In doing so one justifies rape as a valid act under specified circumstances. Violent, non-consensual sex is not the fault of the victim. Dressing provocatively is not an excuse for abuse, or any act of violence.

No one asks to be raped. If they did, then by definition it wouldn't be rape.
posted by zarq at 8:58 AM on October 14, 2009 [21 favorites]


"In doing so one wrongly justifies rape as a valid act under specified circumstances." It's NEVER justified, no matter the circumstances.

Perhaps it's obvious that this is what I meant, but I want to be clear.
posted by zarq at 9:01 AM on October 14, 2009


EatTheWeak: On the other hand, I'm aware that the whole chivalry/white knight thing can be, on some levels, a more subtle version of male control and privilege and all of that - it's a version of the power fantasy where a guy "saves" a gal then she surely owes him something.

Sadly (and infuriatingly) this is not only possible but even probable. And the simple blunt truth is, the woman owes him nothing. One does not step in for a reward, one steps in because this other person needs help and it's the thing to do. You (collective you, which includes myself since I am a man) don't get thanks and a pat on the head for doing your duty to a fellow human being.

I've seen it argued by women that when a woman thanks her intercessor she is, in fact, unwittingly placing him in a position of power over herself. That idea had never occurred to me (for reasons of general male social ignorance), but it makes a hell of a lot of sense.

One thing I would like to say that cannot be stressed enough: If you see something going on and you decide to step in, DO NOT assert that the woman is your sister/wife/niece/daughter/cousin. That's an assertion of power/ownership/property, no matter how well-intentioned, and it makes us scarecely better than the troublemaker whose actions we're trying to intercept because it perpetuates the cycle of Privilege.
posted by hubbit at 9:08 AM on October 14, 2009 [6 favorites]


Dressing provocatively is not an excuse for abuse, or any act of violence.

Indeed, it would be very nice to excise the phrase "provocatively dressed" from the general lexicon entirely. Blaming a target's (or a victim's) choice of attire for one's boorish lack of self-control is one of the most hideous and inhuman cop-outs ever devised. It should be given no credence whatsoever, but we all know how that works in general society.
posted by hubbit at 9:18 AM on October 14, 2009 [5 favorites]


Another vote for "Is everything OK here?" - it's perfect.

There's an interesting discussion over on AskMe right now, about intimidating larger people. The question was asked in the context of "how do actors convey menace" but there are some insightful comments that might be useful for women in general, especially this one from Karmakaze. I realized that this is pretty much how I always walk - because I'm sort of a New Yorker and I'm usually in a hurry - but apparently it has the excellent side effect of projecting a "don't fuck with me" vibe. Who knew? Anyway, this seems like something that anyone could do, so pop over to AskMe and see what other good tips you might find.
posted by Quietgal at 9:28 AM on October 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Is everything OK here?"

Excellent, thank you. This sounds like just the thing.
posted by EatTheWeak at 9:30 AM on October 14, 2009


It's possible to get unwanted attention even when you're in the midst of a group of friends. It happened to me at the meetup last week here in New York.

We had been in our own karaoke room, full of mefites and friends of Afroblanco who were there to see him off before he moved to San Francisco, but our time was up, so we headed out and took over most of the public bar. A really sketchy (but young and well dressed, so not out of place) dude kept following me and sitting next to me wherever I went, whether I was with other folks or not. He was saying things like, "You're the nicest girl I've ever met. You are so beautiful," etc., etc. I tried to brush him off, and I didn't make eye contact, but I didn't want to be too rude, because I thought he must be one of Afroblanco's friends who was just socially awkward. Finally he said to me, "I just really want to hug you right now," and started to put his arm around me. I said, "I really wish you wouldn't," and scooted down the banquette. Conveniently, another mefite came and sat down in that space, and the guy departed.

It was only later, when some of us were at Afroblanco's place, that I found out that Afroblanco had no idea who he was, and that this dude's whole MO must be going to bars and forcing his presence on women. It freaked me the fuck out, and I wished that I had just told him to get lost in the first place.
posted by ocherdraco at 9:36 AM on October 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm sure there are thousands of women every day in Tokyo that dread rush hour. Twice a day they have to cram themselves onto a train that, depending on what line you choose, is just wall-to-wall people. I have joked in the past that I've probably gotten girls pregnant during rush hour, but I suspect that one won't fly here so..uh nm.

The rush hour train thing here is a weird social dynamic, but it has helped me see things more easily from a woman's perspective. I know a decent number of girls over here and while I've not made a point of talking to all of them about it, when it has come up in conversation, not a single woman I've spoken to has not at some stage been interfered with on a train. Think for a moment about how fucked up that statement is (double negative aside).

I'm very conscious of where I place myself on a train. You can't always be choosy. Sometimes there's just nothing you can do. You have the weight of fifty people forcing you into someone else's personal space. The best you can do is pay close attention to your personal hygiene, try to keep both hands visible and try not to lean on them groin-first. I've seen women tense up when I've accidentally brushed against them and you just know they're thinking 'oh, is it my turn today?' I hate that.

Mostly if I can I try to make eye contact and give them my most non-threatening 'sorry' smile/bow, but it annoys me that it's even necessary. I've often thought about what I'd do if I caught someone in the act. I don't think it would stop at 'hey man, that's pretty uncool'.
posted by CardinalRichelieuHandPuppet at 9:38 AM on October 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


tzikeh, Crap. I'm sorry. That's awful. :(
posted by zarq at 9:42 AM on October 14, 2009


I am really grateful to the women who have shared their personal experiences in this thread. I could have written a very long comment much like Nattie's. I'm glad I didn't have to.

And, to men who understand, or who are making the effort to understand, thank you. You are one of the forces that will change this world for the better, for all of us.
posted by Ouisch at 9:53 AM on October 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


ocherdraco: "It was only later, when some of us were at Afroblanco's place, that I found out that Afroblanco had no idea who he was, and that this dude's whole MO must be going to bars and forcing his presence on women. It freaked me the fuck out, and I wished that I had just told him to get lost in the first place."

Oh, great, he was doing that to you too? He was all over one of our compatriots who was waaaay too drunk to do anything about it. Disgusting. I shooed him off but I didn't know he was doing it to other folk. Ugh.
posted by kathrineg at 10:01 AM on October 14, 2009


Criminy. Thank goodness I wasn't plastered.
posted by ocherdraco at 10:14 AM on October 14, 2009


@Nattie: That was one of the best written and well thought out posts I have ever read on MetaFilter.

For the standing record... I would never be the friend of yours who thought you weird for carrying mace. I'd think you weird for not carrying a gun. The world is a dangerous, dangerous, place for women. It's not fair or just, but it is... and unfortunately as you've well discovered that there are people who you can only run from or shoot.

It starts incredibly young too. My daughter is four... and she's stunningly beautiful child. Every bit the picture-book painting of a fair maiden... golden naturally curly hair, blue eyes, just adorable. Boys her age will come up to her on the playground and try to forcefully grab her and kiss her. I've watched this play out multiple times and never do they go and grab the plain looking or outright ugly girls. They zoom right onto her like she's some sort of golden ring to grab. Fortunately she loves to rough house with me--yay for dads!--and she's already learned to see the little tykes coming and dodge or knock them down to avoid unwanted advances. Sad that the girl, not even school age, is already honing her kung-fu to keep stupid males at bay.
posted by JFitzpatrick at 10:19 AM on October 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


EatTheWeak: I spend a lot of time on public transportation. As has been expressed by others above, I feel bad for even moderately attractive women who ride the bus alone. I have yet to see it come to pass that an unescorted young woman gets on the bus and rides to her destination without some fellow, usually twice her age, trying to strike up some creepy conversation. I've heard so many unsolicited invitations to karaoke night, meals, hikes, camping trips, walks in the park and what-have-you. . . How can they that lonely and that desperate and that tone-deaf that they conceive of such a plan and say "full speed ahead! wanna go to karaoke?"

I bet that sexual overperception bias plays a role. To wit:

Men consistently overrate their desirability to women, who in turn overestimate their own attractiveness, but only with regard to highly desirable men. Men aren't necessarily more arrogant, they're just wired to avoid missing mating opportunities, so they more readily exhibit this "overperception bias." To demonstrate this principle of evolutionary psychology, Glenn Scheyd, M.S., a graduate student at the University of New Mexico, asked students to rate the desirability of opposite-sex individuals and to estimate how attractive they thought that individual would find them. Women rated themselves accurately, except when it came to men they found attractive, in which case the women overestimated their own desirability. As predicted, men overrated themselves regardless of the woman's appearance. Scheyd presented his findings at the annual meeting of the Human Behavior and Evolution Society.

Not sure if I agree with the evolutionary psychology aspect of that study (it seems like sheer conjecture to say that men are "wired" that way), but I don't dispute that the bias itself exists. Here's the abstract to a 2003 study on sexual overperception bias in the Journal of Research in Personality.

Naturally, I don't take any of this as an excuse for asshole behavior.
posted by joedan at 10:35 AM on October 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


ocherdraco: "It was only later, when some of us were at Afroblanco's place, that I found out that Afroblanco had no idea who he was, and that this dude's whole MO must be going to bars and forcing his presence on women. It freaked me the fuck out, and I wished that I had just told him to get lost in the first place."

Katherineg: "Oh, great, he was doing that to you too? He was all over one of our compatriots who was waaaay too drunk to do anything about it. Disgusting. I shooed him off but I didn't know he was doing it to other folk. Ugh."


Wait, was he tall and thin, with glasses and a blue shirt? I think he tried something with me too, but it was shortly after I made that school-marmy "could people move further into the room and not block the doors because the waitress is trying to bring in our drinks, please"? announcement and I may have just come across as intimidating.

....The sad part, guys? This actually isn't all THAT unusual, to have it come out that the same guy hit on a whole bunch of women.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:42 AM on October 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Now on the tails side of the coin, there are ladies that dress like (to put in bluntly) sluts. Low cut shirt with plenty of cleavage, shorts showing off legs, and makeup... whole 9 yards. It's almost like looking for trouble.

Right. Even when it's in the 90s, women should be too modest (or just too afraid?) to wear shorts and a tank top. Thanks, guy.

Background: I haven't worn any shorts for literally ten years, since I was 13. Several weeks ago, I publicly showed some cleavage, bare shoulders, and a partially bare back -- for the first time in my adult life. Fear of strangers' reactions, positive or negative, is pretty much the entire reason. Because of people like you, I'll be going through another New York summer in jeans. Thanks again.
posted by booksandlibretti at 11:08 AM on October 14, 2009 [7 favorites]


I'd had experiences similar to most of the other women in this thread (though I've never been raped, thank goodness). But my cousins taught me what Margaret Atwood figured out--and what the xkcd strip references--when I was younger:

Novelist Margaret Atwood writes that when she asked a male friend why men feel threatened by women, he answered, "They are afraid women will laugh at them." When she asked a group of women why they feel threatened by men, they said, "We're afraid of being killed."


A guy's catcalling you? You're in a public place? Give him one hard up and down look and say, in a loud voice, "What's your problem? You a virgin or something?"

In social situations, adult men recoil from the label "virgin" the way vampires recoil from sunlight. It's a great verbal attack. It catches them off guard--it's absolutely the last accusation they expect--and usually leaves them with no response.

If they do come back with a reply, ignore it and say "You're the one who can't handle a woman not being interested in you. That means you're either infected, which means you're desperate, or you're really a virgin, with means you're desperate AND pathetic. I don't do virgins or infected. Get lost." (again, volume is key, because the attention you draw from the strangers looking around to see who the possible virgin is will increase the pressure on guy to leave you alone. Don't scream it, but make sure you're heard).

If he keeps at you, keep repeating, "Whatever, man, I don't do virgins" at volume. Variants such as "It'd be easier to believe you aren't a virgin if you'd quite acting all desperate like one" and "Call me what you like, at least I ain't a 40-Year-Old Virgin" are also acceptable.


In discussions like this, one key point is always forgotten: men are under HUGE social pressure to prove their virility at all times. That's why they catcall, get in your space, force you to pay attention to them. When they have your attention, they're telling the world, "See, I can TOO get any woman I want".

To imply that they don't live up to the American machismo standard--they they 're a 40-Year-Old Virgin a la Steve Carell--reverses the power dynamic instantly. Men go into these social interactions thinking you're in awe (or in fear) of their sexual power. By labeling them "virgin", you are announcing that you have judged that sexuality, and found it seriously, seriously lacking.

And as a woman, that's the power you have--to judge that sexuality. These guys get in your face fast and hard because they want to overwhelm you , make you afraid, and above all to prevent you from thinking about judging their virility. It's all about proving something to themselves, their friends, and any observers.

Calling them "virgin" lets them know that by virtue of merely owning a vagina, you will ALWAYS be in a position to judge their sexuality, and that you're not afraid to make those judgements at anytime, in anyplace, and in front of anybody. Let 'em know: you're not afraid that they'll kill you, you're afraid you'll waste an evening teaching a clumsy, inexperienced yokel what to stick where.

Virgin, virgin, virgin, virgin, virgin, virgin, virgin, virgin, virgin, virgin, virgin, virgin, virgin. I tell you, ladies, in my experience that word is as good as a can of mace. Men can call you fucking bitch, cunt, whore, slut, dyke, frigid, whatever, but there is no word in their vocabulary that they can throw at you (at least in public) that can do you what the label "virgin" does to them.
posted by magstheaxe at 11:28 AM on October 14, 2009 [12 favorites]


Now on the tails side of the coin, there are ladies that dress like (to put in bluntly) sluts. Low cut shirt with plenty of cleavage, shorts showing off legs, and makeup... whole 9 yards. It's almost like looking for trouble.

Hey, I resemble that remark!
posted by kathrineg at 11:33 AM on October 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm of average height now, 5'6". But I had developed early and was that tall with breasts and my period by the time I was nine. The first males to sexually harass me were my classmates. Boys constantly commented on my breasts, often loudly, and my need for a bra. Then once I started wearing a bra, they would point out the outline under my uniform and try to snap the straps through my shirt.

When I was ten we (my sister and I) used to play in the church yard with the neighborhood kids and the downstairs windows were below the ground. The church had built these bunkers around them to hold back the lawn so light could get through the windows, and us kids would play in them like they were rooms. One day I got trapped in one by someone's older brother. He exposed himself to me and then demanded I show him my breasts. I refused and he started to struggle to get my shirt off. Someone in the church could see our shadow silhouettes and came outside. She chased the boy away and then yelled at me for allowing myself to get cornered like that. She called me stupid.

I was eleven and watching tv with my little sister at my grandmother's house. My uncle was home from the marines and joined us. I was on the floor in front of the television and my uncle was leaning up against the couch with my sister. Something happened on the show and I glanced back to see their reaction and my uncle's penis was poking out the legs of his running shorts. I stared at it confused as he talking to my sister, thinking to myself, "Perhaps he doesn't know that his penis is out where everyone can see it?" I was about to point it out when he turned back and told me to turn around and mind my own business. To this day I fucking hate that I turned around and stared at the wall as he got up and left the room.

There was the memorable family sleepover where after rubbing off against my leg while squeezing my breasts, my older cousin climbed onto my sister and then his own sister for some more of the same.

I was twelve and suddenly fat. Men of every age felt they had the right to speak to me or mock me for my fatness. Boys my age would poke and pat by belly, my ass, my hips. I had one particularly bitter tenured male teacher tell me to sit my fat ass down when I gave a wrong answer.

By highschool I had thinned down some. The highschool boys thought I was still too thick, and I continues to be mocked. Whenever I bent over something, one would come up behind me and mime fucking me from behind. They offered to smear their dicks in peanut butter if I'd give them blow jobs. When people snapped group pictures, someone would grab my breasts as the flash went off.

But to older men, my body was perfectly womanly and let me know. Mom kept herding me away from a man she worked with during her company picnic because he liked to pick up my picture off her desk and tell her how beautiful I was and he'd date me in a second. Guys would follow me through the mall and stand outside whatever fitting room I was in. Once I had gone to the beach with my mom and instead of putting on a t-shirt over my bathing suit, I just put on denim overall shorts with the shirt. A van started pacing us on the highway home and suddenly the side door rolled open and several boys leaned out to hoot and catcall directly into our minivan windows. We nearly had an accident swerving away from them. My mother pulled over and yelled at me for just wearing my bathing suit under my overalls because I invited attacks doing that.

I belonged to a high school peer support group. During one of our group meetings we were planning a sexual abuse workshop to teach to elementary kids, and our mentor mentioned that one in four girls are sexually assaulted before graduating school. There were three other girls besides me in the group and all four of us admitted we had already been assaulted.

College was just more of the same. At this point my stomach hurts from still typing this up.

My marriage is... not a good one. People have stood by in stores and have watched him berate me like I was a particularly stupid dog that just pissed on the carpet. But because I am a woman and he is my husband, they said and did nothing other than watch like we were reality television.

What I've learned over the years is that because I'm a woman I am never safe from men, not at school or in my own home with my family, no matter how fat or ugly I am. That being a woman means being an attractive nuisance whose sex is an unfair temptation to otherwise rational men. That women-specific misery is largely invisible. That I should expect this. That I deserve this. That there is an otherness to women that allows men to treat them subhumanly.

If you are a man who was offended by the linked essay, by being assumed a rapist until a woman changes her mind? I'm not sorry. Get over yourself and your privilege. It's about time men woke up to the reality women are living in.
posted by FunkyHelix at 11:41 AM on October 14, 2009 [62 favorites]


being a woman means being an attractive nuisance

I don't think I've ever seen this feeling summed up so well. Thank you.
posted by Ouisch at 11:52 AM on October 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


Wait, was he tall and thin, with glasses and a blue shirt? I think he tried something with me too, but it was shortly after I made that school-marmy "could people move further into the room and not block the doors because the waitress is trying to bring in our drinks, please"? announcement and I may have just come across as intimidating. (EmpressCallipygos)

No, this wasn't one of the people in the private room with us. This man was short and South Asian (though he was wearing a blue shirt, I think).

posted by ocherdraco at 11:53 AM on October 14, 2009


To imply that they don't live up to the American machismo standard--they they 're a 40-Year-Old Virgin a la Steve Carell--reverses the power dynamic instantly.

I think I see what you're getting at, but this tactic strikes me as reinforcing dysfunctional relations between the sexes, and the idea that for a man to be a virgin or have few "conquests" is shameful. Which contributes to the macho concept of "being a man" that gives rise to a lot of the stereotypical "guy" behaviours being unpacked in this thread.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 12:00 PM on October 14, 2009 [5 favorites]


I wrote that badly. Of course you're aware of the machismo standard and that this uses it against them. I just...personally I would be uncomfortable giving the impression that I buy into it myself, but if it works for you to keep you safe, hey, whatever works.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 12:05 PM on October 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Calling them "virgin" lets them know that by virtue of merely owning a vagina, you will ALWAYS be in a position to judge their sexuality

No. Ick and double ick. DO NOT WANT. I have never wanted that kind of "power" over men. And more to the point, taunting men with their supposed sexual inadequacy would do virtually nothing to assure women's safety; in fact, it would only increase their resentment of women.*

That dynamic? Where women are viewed as the gatekeepers of sex, doling it out to deserving men? I hate it. It's insulting to all genders, and completely inhumane besides. I want no part of it.

*A quote I posted in another thread makes this point well.
posted by velvet winter at 12:08 PM on October 14, 2009 [18 favorites]


I mean, in the long run, is that kind of public judgment exercised on a broad scale constructive? I can't imagine how it could be.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 12:10 PM on October 14, 2009


Engaging with a man who is harrassing you on the street in such a confrontational way could play out really, really badly. I don't know what you could be thinking, suggesting it, but really, taunting the bigger, stronger, agressive person-- imagine somebody twice your size who has already proven that they don't care about your feelings, boundaries, or normal social inhibitions-- would be to do nothing but escalate things. Usually, when this has happened to me, I've just wanted to get the fuck away as soon as possible, to somewhere I feel safe. Standing in the street lobbing sexual insults at some man isn't that place.
posted by jokeefe at 12:17 PM on October 14, 2009 [4 favorites]


Calling them "virgin" lets them know that by virtue of merely owning a vagina, you will ALWAYS be in a position to judge their sexuality...

....or, it could provoke a guy to PROVE it to you that he does SO know what he's doing, dammit!

Or it could provoke a bunch of guys to teach YOU to mess with their main man...

....Yeah, it just seems like this has the potential to really, really, REALLY backfire.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:18 PM on October 14, 2009 [8 favorites]


The "No thanks, virgin!" response sounds ill-advised to me. (I'm not judging you for using it: if it works for you, go for it. I couldn't use it, and if I heard my niece using it, I'd sit her down and discuss it with her, for a whole host of reasons.)

For one thing, when a stranger starts to sexualize my mere presence, the last thing I want to do is reinforce his viewpoint. I will do everything I can to desexualize the encounter. He is interested in me only as a sexual thing; I am not interested in him at all, and certainly not as a sexual thing.

For another, it sounds like a great way to get a verbal confrontation escalated into a physical confrontation. I can hardly think of a more provocative thing to yell at a catcalling stranger. I might as well holler out, "Oh, yeah? Prove it!"

For those above who've shared their experiences of not getting callcalled or otherwise intruded on in the public sphere: thank you for chiming in. I always wonder what variable (or variables) affect the likelihood of having strange men privilege their desire for contact over women's desire for privacy*.

It might be interesting to read this Kate Harding thread on the subject. She points out that the male-privilege of expecting female attention in public is not solely expressed in lurid catcalling or other sexual attention, but also in the more innocuous guise of, for example, the little old man who thinks you should chat with him and let him pat your hand rather than reading your book or listening to your iPod.

*Note: exuding a "don't fuck with me" vibe is not the answer. I can flick on a "don't fuck with me" field that would kill a rhino at ten paces. Though it does work on a lot of prospective flirters and grabbers, it seems to provoke a very few particularly unpleasant and persistent people.
posted by Elsa at 12:25 PM on October 14, 2009 [5 favorites]


Ouisch: "being a woman means being an attractive nuisance

I don't think I've ever seen this feeling summed up so well. Thank you.
"

It's and insurance term for horses.

Even if you put up fences and move your paddocks back away from the road and make it obvious that people are not welcome to just walk onto your property and disturb your horses, you are still responsible if a child ignores your signs and climbs your fences and gets injured. Because horses are such an 'attractive nuisance' that you can't hold a child to right or wrong for approaching them.

In this case meaning that people treat women as though no matter what barriers she puts up or signals to the contrary, you can't hold men accountable to right and wrong in their pursuit, they aren't responsible in the face of such temptation.

It's not right.
posted by FunkyHelix at 12:46 PM on October 14, 2009 [41 favorites]


Engaging with a man who is harrassing you on the street in such a confrontational way could play out really, really badly. I don't know what you could be thinking, suggesting it, but really, taunting the bigger, stronger, agressive person-- imagine somebody twice your size who has already proven that they don't care about your feelings, boundaries, or normal social inhibitions-- would be to do nothing but escalate things.

I can't second that statement enough.

I'm a guy. A guy who takes his personal safety and that of his family very seriously? How seriously? Seriously enough to carry a pistol every day, make financial sacrifices to ensure they live in a safe neighborhood, etc. I would never, ever, ever encourage my daughter to yell back at a group of rowdy men. Keep her head up? Be alert? Be ready to put a bullet in one of them? Yes. Provoke them? Damn no.

Why don't you just advise people, men and women, to go strutting around in the ghetto insulting gang members? Go to a frat party and take a hot piss on a frat guy's leg while yelling what a homo he is? Kick a hornets nest?

The kind of guys that yell at women on the street and think that somehow that is going to get them laid or elevate their social status... are fucking morons. Not people who think about their lives and their identities in any reflective or rational way. People who act on impulse, people who use crude and ignorant justifications for things like "I hit that guy because he talked shit about me." "I raped that bitch because she was dressed like a slut." if they can even string a sentence that complex together.

You want to get a verbal fight with them? You know how verbal fights with stupid fucks end? With the stupid fucks resorting to violence because that's the kind of primitive brain they have. Sure you might get away with yelling at a group of assholes like that X number of times... but come the X+1 time when the mob of them decides to teach the singleness of you a lesson... what are you going to do?

And before you say that you have the right to yell back and stand your ground... that's fine. But if carrying a gun every day of my life has taught me anything it's that unless you're willing to take a fight to the cold hard dirt of the grave, you pick your battles.
posted by JFitzpatrick at 12:49 PM on October 14, 2009 [8 favorites]


Thanks to this thread, I've read the whole thing now, I am going out of my way to teach at least a dozen female friends and associates of mine to--with confidence--shoot a gun before spring.
posted by JFitzpatrick at 12:52 PM on October 14, 2009


being a woman means being an attractive nuisance

...

It's an insurance term for horses.


And trampolines!

And swimming pools, construction sites, and indeed anything dangerous that children are likely find enticing.

Any men who are curious how it feels to be a woman: that's how it feels. We are all too often viewed as attractive nuisances, passive landscapes which others may find too enticing to ignore.
posted by Elsa at 12:52 PM on October 14, 2009 [17 favorites]


There's an organization called Take Back the Night, and the branch at my university holds rallies and marches to "shatter the silence" about women's experiences of harassment and rape. I approved of this but didn't pay much attention (there are lots of positive activist groups on campus that I'm glad exist, while I apply my energy to other things [sometimes including convincing friends to take feminist studies classes!]) — until one day when I looked at one of the Take Back the Night flyers and noticed what they meant: we want you, a young woman, to not have to be afraid to walk alone at night. Such a simple and basic and easy-to-forget idea that it made me cry.
posted by dreamyshade at 1:01 PM on October 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Such a simple and basic and easy-to-forget idea that it made me cry.

As a woman who has habitually walked at night in cities and small towns, who has taken many a midnight subway home, who walks with caution and confidence on dark and lonely streets, I can tell you:

Every time I've marched with Take Back the Night, I've cried.

To walk at night in solidarity and real safety, to be absolutely sure that nothing bad will happen here, that I am really and truly safe tonight... it contrasts so starkly with my careful confidence and vigilance when I walk alone at night. I'm so immersed in my own protective worldview (and with good reason) that it takes a march to spotlight it.
posted by Elsa at 1:06 PM on October 14, 2009 [5 favorites]


Engaging with a man who is harrassing you on the street in such a confrontational way could play out really, really badly.

Exactly. And that man knows you believe that, is counting on it, in fact. Otherwise, he wouldn't do it. So when you strike back, they're unprepared. You're calling their bluff, in the same way the lady upthread said to her catcaller, "Fine, my place is around the corner, let's go" to the one catcaller, and instead of taking her up on the offer he beat feet.


I don't know what you could be thinking, suggesting it

I suggested it because it's not let me down yet, and a few of my girlfriends have reported success with it.


but really, taunting the bigger, stronger, agressive person-- imagine somebody twice your size who has already proven that they don't care about your feelings, boundaries, or normal social inhibitions-- would be to do nothing but escalate things.

I did it to a linebacker for my college football team when I was a freshman. Damn right he could've broke me in half if he wanted to--he was easily twice my size. But when everyone around him started laughing, he got up and left. I'm sure he called me everything but a child of God to the football team, but I didn't give a shit.


Usually, when this has happened to me, I've just wanted to get the fuck away as soon as possible, to somewhere I feel safe. Standing in the street lobbing sexual insults at some man isn't that place.

Letting them know your scared of them is your choice. I prefer a different tactic. The street belongs to me just as much as it belongs to them, and I won't be chased off of it because some men ain't got the good sense God gave gravel.
posted by magstheaxe at 1:15 PM on October 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Letting them know your scared of them is your choice.

99 times out of a hundred, I'm not scared of them: I'm bored, I'm irritated, I may be angry, and I often feel some pity and a portion of disgust.

But mostly, I'm bored. I find them so boring as to be unworthy of engagement.

If I'm scared of them, that's a different story, and I deal with that on a case-by-case basis. But I'm certainly not interested in heightening the sexual content of the confrontation.

As I said above, I'm not judging your right to use this tactic. I wouldn't use it, for all the reasons I've given here and above.
posted by Elsa at 1:20 PM on October 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


I think, magstheax, if anything I'd personally consider your advice "for experts only." What you suggest would work under certain conditions, while in others, it could be disastrous. And the differences between those conditions can, at times, be subtle.

Personally, I'd see it as a "make forDAMNsure that you know what you're doing when you use that tactic" kind of thing -- kind of like how a blowtorch is really useful, but if you don't know how to use one, REALLY bad things could go down.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:29 PM on October 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Now on the tails side of the coin, there are ladies that dress like (to put in bluntly) sluts. Low cut shirt with plenty of cleavage, shorts showing off legs, and makeup... whole 9 yards. It's almost like looking for trouble. These ladies have learned either through an abusive home life, low self esteem, or "I'm pretty and men do anything for a pretty lady" attitude that their behavior is acceptable.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 8:27 AM on October 14


what the fuck is this
posted by Optimus Chyme at 1:41 PM on October 14, 2009 [45 favorites]


I am going out of my way to teach at least a dozen female friends and associates of mine to--with confidence--shoot a gun before spring

Really? A loaded gun is going to make this situation better?
posted by storybored at 1:50 PM on October 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


....The sad part, guys? This actually isn't all THAT unusual, to have it come out that the same guy hit on a whole bunch of women.

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I suspect your objection isn't that he was simply hitting on a number of women at the same bar. Rather, that he was doing so in a creepy, overly aggressive and disrespectful manner to women who were obviously not interested?

I'm not trying to nitpick here. Genuinely think the clarification might be helpful to other male readers of the thread.
posted by zarq at 1:55 PM on October 14, 2009


A loaded gun is going to make this situation better?

Knowledge about how to use a gun safely certainly couldn't hurt.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 2:03 PM on October 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


A guy's catcalling you? You're in a public place? Give him one hard up and down look and say, in a loud voice, "What's your problem? You a virgin or something?"

I went to a Mets / Phillies game with a friend of mine and her new boyfriend three years ago. Boyfriend got drunk. With his girlfriend sitting beside him, he proceeded to catcall three women sitting several rows away. The girlfriend put her head in her hands and did nothing. I put my hand on his shoulder, intending to make him stop. But before I could say anything, one of the women responded.

I can't remember her exact words, but her taunting verbal response disparaged the size of his manhood.

He cursed, leaped the seats and headed towards her. It took three of us (two guys jumped in to help) to take him down and drag him away. As I mentioned earlier in this thread, I'm not a small guy. I'm 6'3" and at the time weight over 250lbs. But he was drunk and enraged. Removing him took some doing. I got punched in the face, chest and gut for my trouble.

His girlfriend did nothing. She didn't apologize to the women for his behavior. (I did. Even though I was furious at him, I was embarrassed that someone I had been sitting with had been such an asshole.) But his girlfriend just grabbed her purse and left with us. She eventually dumped him, but only after he had attacked her physically several months later.

magstheax, I'm glad the "virgin" tactic works for you. But as others wiser than I have said in this thread, women might consider if a potentially dangerous response is something they can handle before using it.
posted by zarq at 2:21 PM on October 14, 2009 [8 favorites]


zarq: "Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I suspect your objection isn't that he was simply hitting on a number of women at the same bar. Rather, that he was doing so in a creepy, overly aggressive and disrespectful manner to women who were obviously not interested?"


He was practically humping someone who was super drunk and not into him, so, yeah
posted by kathrineg at 2:31 PM on October 14, 2009


He was practically humping someone who was super drunk and not into him, so, yeah

Ugh. :(
posted by zarq at 2:36 PM on October 14, 2009


Now on the tails side of the coin, there are ladies that dress like (to put in bluntly) sluts. Low cut shirt with plenty of cleavage, shorts showing off legs, and makeup... whole 9 yards. It's almost like looking for trouble. These ladies have learned either through an abusive home life, low self esteem, or "I'm pretty and men do anything for a pretty lady" attitude that their behavior is acceptable.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 8:27 AM on October 14


Okay I have given this post a lot of thought and I still can only respond: what the fuck is this

Women can't wear makeup? Shorts? Low-cut shirts? Are you fucking high? Men go fucking topless all the time. Men wore tiny little shorts in the 70s and 80's and will do so again one day. Should they have been harassed, assaulted, raped? Are you looking for trouble when you wear a tank top? What the fuck happened in your home life to make you like this?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 2:47 PM on October 14, 2009 [25 favorites]


Now you're getting it. This is "normal" thinking for a lotta-lotta men. This is a daily consideration for us. Trust me, you don't have to be the prettiest girl on the bus to get hit on. Hah!

This morning I got up and went to the grocery store to get some more kleenex and cough-drops. I wore sunglasses to avoid scaring people (I looked pretty pathetic this morning when I first got up), put my icky hair back, and wore three layers because it was only 45 degrees outside, and I have a fever.

Standing, staring at the cold meds and mouth-breathing because my head is full of snot (sexy!), I was approached by a guy who (I kid you not) asked me if the carpet matches the drapes. I kid you not. It failed to shock me because as a redhead, I hear that one a lot. A lot.

Just how weird do people get?
posted by heyho at 3:20 PM on October 14, 2009 [2 favorites]



....or, it could provoke a guy to PROVE it to you that he does SO know what he's doing, dammit!

Or it could provoke a bunch of guys to teach YOU to mess with their main man...

....Yeah, it just seems like this has the potential to really, really, REALLY backfire



Didn't fall off the turnip truck yesterday, Empress. Of course there's potential for escalation. Just like whenever you draw a knife you accept the idea that the person you're fighting with might have a gun.

The difference is that you know you've got a knife and know how to use it, whereas the guy with the gun hasn't used it that often and doesn't expect you to slip to his exposed left and shiv it between his ribs.

And his friends? Too busy laughing because the catcaller just got "pwned". (Amazing how men will leave the "virgin" out there by himself. I guess they don't want to be associated with defending a virgin male or something, who knows?)


Remember: the reason this works is because it's unexpected. Everyone knows that omen are supposed to just stand there and take it, or come back with a lame "Fuck you!" or run away crying.

When a confident, clearly nonplussed woman stands there and says, "I ain't got time for no virgins", IME it usually takes the guy a good five to ten seconds to realize what's just happened. You can do a lot in that time--whip out the cell and put his photo up on Twitter, walk away with a *snap*, call for other women in the area to join you in laughing, even dial 911 if you feel like you have to.


I mean, in the long run, is that kind of public judgment exercised on a broad scale constructive? I can't imagine how it could be.

They've always left me alone afterwards. That's pretty constructive, from where I sit.

On a broad scale? We all know that men have a tough time when the power dynamics changes against them. This is one dynamic, AFAIK, that hasn't been challenged on any larger scale.



No. Ick and double ick. DO NOT WANT. I have never wanted that kind of "power" over men.

Well, I sure didn't ask for it. It came free with vagina installation.


And more to the point, taunting men with their supposed sexual inadequacy would do virtually nothing to assure women's safety

It does when they decide to leave you alone afterwards.



in fact, it would only increase their resentment of women.

Good. 'Cause I resent being hollered at by men when I walk down the street. Let them worry about my resentment for a change.



That dynamic? Where women are viewed as the gatekeepers of sex, doling it out to deserving men? I hate it. It's insulting to all genders, and completely inhumane besides. I want no part of it.

I see your point, and it's a very, very good one.

But when these things happen, I generally don't have a wide choice of solutions to choose from in the heat of the moment (well, strictly speaking I do, but they all involve me caving in to their expectations). These guys generally aren't interested in having a conversation about gender inequity and patriarchal entitlement, so that's out.

So instead, I unnerve them by upending their male privilege for a few moments. And in doing so, I remind them that, regardless of what they think, in the end it is MY body, and it is MY decision who I will interact with on that level. And that I am perfectly willing to treat anyone who doesn't understand that with the contempt they deserve.



I'm a guy. A guy who takes his personal safety and that of his family very seriously? How seriously? Seriously enough to carry a pistol every day, make financial sacrifices to ensure they live in a safe neighborhood, etc. I would never, ever, ever encourage my daughter to yell back at a group of rowdy men. Keep her head up? Be alert? Be ready to put a bullet in one of them? Yes. Provoke them? Damn no.

Why don't you just advise people, men and women, to go strutting around in the ghetto insulting gang members? Go to a frat party and take a hot piss on a frat guy's leg while yelling what a homo he is? Kick a hornets nest?


Because those things are tactically idiotic and demonstrably stupid, of course.



The kind of guys that yell at women on the street and think that somehow that is going to get them laid or elevate their social status... are fucking morons. Not people who think about their lives and their identities in any reflective or rational way. People who act on impulse, people who use crude and ignorant justifications for things like "I hit that guy because he talked shit about me." "I raped that bitch because she was dressed like a slut." if they can even string a sentence that complex together.

Not in my experience. Usually, they're just showing off in front of their friends. Your statement is alarmist.



You want to get a verbal fight with them? You know how verbal fights with stupid fucks end? With the stupid fucks resorting to violence because that's the kind of primitive brain they have.

Then the guys who force their way onto me must have been absolute genuises, because they've all left rather than stay and deal with a verbal whipping.

And speaking of resorting to violence...you mentioned you had a gun? Carrying one all the time isn't resorting to violence?

Jeez, I'm just a smart-aleck, even primitive brain catcallers can see that. You...you seem to think you're Dirty Harry.



Sure you might get away with yelling at a group of assholes like that X number of times... but come the X+1 time when the mob of them decides to teach the singleness of you a lesson... what are you going to do?

I'm going to do whatever it takes, of course, including calling them "virgin" if the tactic still works. You mentioned you have guns. What do you do when someone decides to teach you a lesson for threatening them with a gun? When you whip out a pistol and it turns out the other guy has an AK? (And if you're in the US, you know full and damn well being outgunned is a possibility).



And before you say that you have the right to yell back and stand your ground... that's fine. But if carrying a gun every day of my life has taught me anything it's that unless you're willing to take a fight to the cold hard dirt of the grave, you pick your battles.

Please don't write at me as if I'm stupid, or as if you're the only person on earth who's ever owned a gun or had any understanding of tactics. Verbal assault/psychological intimidation is a completely different situation that combat, and requires a different approach.



Look, this tactic isn't for everyone. It take confidence, a willingness to call a bluff, the ability to risk-assess the appropriateness of the move, and a desire not to go around afraid all the time. I freely admit this has not been scientifically tested under lab conditions, and I certainly don't endorse trying it if you genuinely believe the target(s) will physically hurt you.


Will it work everytime? Maybe I've been lucky so far, but it's worked for me. Could it fail someday? Sure, just like like QuickDraw McGraw upthread could pull his pistol, fire, MISS, and be in a world of hurt seconds later. That's not stopped him from carrying a gun, and it won't stop me from doing what I've found works for me.


You guys will do what works for you, of course. My way's just another option.
posted by magstheaxe at 3:52 PM on October 14, 2009 [4 favorites]


I think, magstheax, if anything I'd personally consider your advice "for experts only." What you suggest would work under certain conditions, while in others, it could be disastrous. And the differences between those conditions can, at times, be subtle.

Personally, I'd see it as a "make for DAMN sure that you know what you're doing when you use that tactic" kind of thing -- kind of like how a blowtorch is really useful, but if you don't know how to use one, REALLY bad things could go down


That's a very fair point, Empress. Bit like why I don't own a gun--I'm no expert, and don't have the time to train to become one, so why go out there with one? It would just make things a million times worse for all involved.


magstheax, I'm glad the "virgin" tactic works for you. But as others wiser than I have said in this thread, women might consider if a potentially dangerous response is something they can handle before using it.


zarq, I am very sorry that happened to your friend (and to you!) FWIW, I don't use it on drunkards. They always err on the side of busting open heads. Catcallers can be handled. Drunks--male or female--always want to fight, so I don't bother with insults.
posted by magstheaxe at 4:08 PM on October 14, 2009


Nattie is spot fucking on. I had a similar background, where I was "lucky" in that I was mousy and plain growing up and it took a bit later, around college-era, for things to start getting really fucked up. When you're old enough to clearly see the marked distinction in your life that happens Before and After becoming "attractive"/seemingly sexually available, and the connection, it gives you some pretty concrete reasons to turn feminist. I distinctly remember getting depressed and angry and then numb when I started college and started having to be wary and afraid all the fucking time, whenever I was alone--I had men threaten me and then follow me home late at night about a million times, had a knife pulled on me, was jumped from behind, heard shouts that I was a bitch and a slut from strangers on the street for no reason, all the mundane ubiquitous shit so many have already mentioned, and I was lucky--and knowing it was most definitely because I was a young woman. Later I saw the same sort of feeling come over my sister when she went to college. Every woman deals with it her own way, and it fucking sucks. I had the exact thoughts Nattie mentioned--"If I just make myself invisible and unattractive, and hide that I'm a girl, the world will leave me alone." Right about then is when I got really mad about the whole thing and the little feminist lightbulb went off in my head.

It is horribly frustrating.

(And heyho and everyone else who has come forward to share their experiences, thank you so much. Hopefully your strength and courage in speaking out can help people take pause and realize yes, it actually is a real issue.)

(And as always, a wealth of gratitude too to my favorite male Mefi feminist languagehat. You're always right there, speaking up just when I hope one of the guys here will. Thank you too.)
posted by ifjuly at 4:08 PM on October 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


Look, this tactic isn't for everyone. It take confidence, a willingness to call a bluff, the ability to risk-assess the appropriateness of the move, and a desire not to go around afraid all the time. I freely admit this has not been scientifically tested under lab conditions, and I certainly don't endorse trying it if you genuinely believe the target(s) will physically hurt you.

I think that's all people were reacting to, was that we weren't clear whether you were saying "well, if you can hack it, here's something I do..." or were endorsing this as something that EVERYONE try to do. I think everyone else was saying, "okay, but...that tactic isn't for everyone." That's all I meant, anyway.

And Zarq: as KatherineG has clarified, I was indeed referring to the creep factor.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:09 PM on October 14, 2009


Anyway, good night, all. This has been an amazing and enlightening thread. I wish the best to the all the other women, especially. Amazing that we're still fighting this after a hundred-plus years of feminism, isn't it?
posted by magstheaxe at 4:11 PM on October 14, 2009


And Zarq: as KatherineG has clarified, I was indeed referring to the creep factor.

No worries. I apologize if it seemed like an obvious question.
posted by zarq at 4:12 PM on October 14, 2009


magstheaxe, thanks for responding with so much detail and thought, especially in an already contentious thread.

So instead, I unnerve them by upending their male privilege for a few moments. And in doing so, I remind them that, regardless of what they think, in the end it is MY body, and it is MY decision who I will interact with on that level. And that I am perfectly willing to treat anyone who doesn't understand that with the contempt they deserve.

This is a fascinating point,