This is not going to be a fun-filled post, so if you're looking for something fun and fluffy today, well, there's some nice menu's that will direct you to some of my other posts.
I was talking to a friend of mine about the video I posted in my New Year's post about 'How to Be Alone'. I'm sure many of you have seen this one, it was pretty popular this year. Anyway, we were discussing the difficulties of being a male by yourself in public versus being female by yourself in public.. namely the difficulty of being perceived as the 'creepy would-be rapist' versus the difficulty of having to be on the lookout for the 'creepy would-be rapist'.
So it struck me funny that I would come across this article on Schrodinger's Rapist (aka'd as 'A Guy's Guide to Approaching Women without getting maced') via April's year end round-up at Ethecofem. Well, I kind of found it through the year-end round up via April's critique of the original article, which I'll get to. Anyway, it struck me funny, because it nicely explained my argument of the risk women run being in public alone.
Although I also recommend reading the article in full, I'll give you the gist of it. Big Bang Theory fans will know this from season one, but anyway, the concept is based after the Schrodinger's Cat experiment. Long story short, scientist puts cat in a box with a vial of poison that will break open at any given time. While in the box, the cat can be considered both alive and dead, since we don't know which it is. However once the box is open, it can only be one or the other. Starling's article applies this to the perception of a stranger in a public place (or a party or anywhere really) as a way to explain to guys who, for the most part are probably well-intentioned and only interested in striking up conversation. However, the article points out, we as women out alone in public do not know what your intentions are, and until they become clear, you can be considered Schrodingers Rapist - that is to say, you both are a potential non-rapist and a potential rapist.
I'll point out here that the fallacy in this metaphor is that in Schrodingers original experiment, once the box is opened the cat is obviously alive or dead. However, in this application, taking into consideration that most rape and assault is committed by someone close to the victim, our metaphorical box is only opened once the person in question has been exposed as a rapist. As long as they haven't raped or assaulted anyone they're still metaphorically 'in the box' which is pretty fucking depressing, for men and women alike. No really, it is.
Now, I don't believe that Starling's article was meant to imply that this is how all women think when they are out in public. At least, I sure hope not, because I know I don't... well, all the time. I think it's offered as more of an explanation as to why some women may not be comfortable or impressed with what may be a guy's totally innocent compliment or attempt at conversation. And although you may be a nice guy with good intentions, we don't know that. Simple as that. As Starling states, some people's risk threshold are higher than others.. Me, I'm one of those girls with a low risk factor. This is probably due to the fact that *knock wood* I haven't found myself violated after being in a high-risk situation. Some women have experienced assault, and as such, they have a no-risk threshold.
Now, one may counter this with 'Well, I don't know if a girl's had a traumatic past...' and I'd be inclined to agree, that no, it's not up to you to know if someone has had past trauma. But it is up to you to read cues (as mentioned in Starling's article) and know when to back-off. Because I agree, when you ignore the 'please leave me alone' cues and continue to press for attention, you cross that line from well-intentioned friendly dude to pain-in-the-ass-douchebag to potential threat.
The downside of this article, as April argues, is that it does tend to paint this picture that all men are potential rapists, when that is simply not the case. Let's take into consideration the rather dire stat given that 1 in 60 men will have committed sexual assault in some form in their lifetime. Pretty fucking depressing, isn't it? If you have trouble wrapping your head around that statistic, keep in mind that this isn't limited to the stranger-in-a-dark-alley trope... this includes date rape, coercion, having sex with someone who has limited capacity to consent (so drugs, alchohol.. even 'Hey, my girlfriend is sleeping.. now's a good time') .. basically, any sexual activity without explicit consent.
Here's the good news: That mean's that for every potential threat, there's roughly 59 well intentioned friendly dudes' out there. Hooray for the good guys!!
Here's more bad news: Sometimes it's pretty fucking hard to tell the difference, until it's too late. And if someone has been a victim of assault before, sure as shit, they're going to have their guard up in certain situations.
Myself, as a girl who has walked home alone late at night many a time, walked through the brush with my headphones on, occasionally forgotten to lock my door at night, flirted with guys at bars, met people I had only talked to online and *gasp* even consumed alcohol in the presence of (only) the opposite sex, all without incident, well admittedly, my risk threshold is pretty high. But every so often my spidey sense gets a tingling and I know I've stepped into a potentially volatile situation.
I once chatted online for a period of time with a guy I had met on a dating site. One day we were talking about meeting, and I mentioned that I would like to meet for coffee because I wasn't comfortable meeting someone for the first time in my own home. Like, shit man, I have kids to think about. This guy got his panties in a bunch which both pissed me off, and freaked me out. It worried me, because it seemed like such a little thing to get so agitated over, and it pissed me off because it was like "Sorry man, your hurt feelings DO NOT trump my personal safety." I made the decision then and there not to meet with the guy and it took a few more conversations consisting of how unfair I was being and how unreasonable and how I had led him on etc before I said enough I just stopped answering the phone. Because in my mind, at that point, he became a threat to me, the threat having been communicated through a sheer lack of regard for my personal boundaries.
And this is where I think Starling is coming from... If you ignore the 'Please leave me alone' cues, you become 'that guy'. The guy who thinks that his desire to interact trumps a stranger's desire to be left alone. I will however, agree with April that its unrealistic to say never approach a woman unless she's for sure open to being approached. Some of us would like to be approached. I know I would, once in a while. But if you approach a girl, and she's giving off the 'please go away' vibe, then take the hint.. or you become 'that guy'. Because let's face it.. it's 'those guys' that fuck up dating and trying to meet people or trying at all to negotiate any type of friendly/professional/romantic relationship with the opposite sex. They fuck it up for women, who have to be on their guard and they fuck it up for other men, because now women see well intentioned friendly dudes as potential threats. Way to go, That Guy.