Rape Culture and Personal Protection

Apparently teaching women personal protection is perpetuating rape culture.  Who knew.

What we should be doing, according to rape culture activists, is teaching men not to rape. We should be making men aware that rape is bad, that no means no, and a woman who is passed out/too drunk to coherently verbalize her objections is to be left alone. Women, in other words, bear no responsibility for themselves; the onus falls to men to prevent rape and sexual assault of women.

Sorry (not really), but no.

Certainly it must be said that rape is indeed a horrific crime, the boundaries a woman sets must be honored, and that a woman who is incapable of verbalizing consent should obviously be left unmolested. I’ve taught my sons these things, and I include such discussions in my co-ed personal protection classes.

However, numerous organizations declare that teaching women how to recognize dangerous situations and stop a potential threat is verboten. The Southern Connecticut University website lists some Rape Culture Facts. The last example of rape culture listed is, “Teaching women to avoid getting raped.”  ThinkProgress declares that women should not have to learn how to protect themselves. It is men who need to learn not to rape.

How utterly stupid.

Before I explain that statement, let me be clear:  Men, rape is evil. It is arguably the worst evil you can perpetuate on a woman. If you rape a woman, you deserve whatever punishment is meted out, either by the system or through ‘social’ justice. Ultimately, the responsibility to NOT rape a woman falls to you, Sir, not to her.

Now, on to explanations.

As a rational adult, I know my limits and do my best not to exceed them. I don’t go into places where I know the potential for danger exists. I don’t drink so much that I lose the ability to control myself and my faculties. I don’t purposely say things that may very likely result in getting my ass kicked. I pay attention to my surroundings so I can identify trouble before it affects me.

So which of those personal responsibilities is seen as objectionable? And why would one object to teaching people – male and female alike – such skills?

Personal safety is the domain of every human, gender notwithstanding. Every human is endowed with the inalienable right to life (and the protection thereof) irrespective of gender. Unfortunately, defending life effectively isn’t an ability with which we are born, so the skill must be taught. A self-protection class is not just an anti-rape class. Personal protection delves into the psychological elements of criminal behavior, knowing one’s surroundings (situational awareness), effective physical and oral communication, and, yes, hand-to-hand defense.

When a woman takes a personal defense class, she’s not just protecting herself from a potential rapist. She is protecting herself from being a victim of theft. Of carjacking. Of kidnapping. Of sexual assault. And yes, of rape. No one complains when men learn these skills; such scorn is reserved solely for women (and men who teach them).

Further, the rape culture activists are quick to point out that misogyny and objectification of women shape societal attitudes that will result in their (women’s) victimization. Women are disempowered by males’ disparaging view of women, which perpetuates rape culture.

So the response to this problem is to place the responsibility to prevent rape solely in the hands of men?  We should hand the power of prevention to the very people who created the problem to begin with as opposed to empowering women with a set of skills that will serve to protect her not only from a potential rapist but also from a number of other existential threats in their lives? Surely I’m not the only one to recognize the logical disconnect here.

Imagine the reaction of a self-empowered male who chooses to attempt to victimize an empowered woman – a woman who has learned to communicate assertively and effectively, recognize trouble when it rears its head, and use her intelligence and immediate environment as a means to defend herself. Imagine that this man finds that the woman he intended to victimize is instead a well-prepared self defender who strikes fast, strikes hard, and strikes often.  Perhaps once he recovers from the physical trauma of his failed attempt at victimizing a woman he’ll be less inclined to harm women in the future.

Here’s an uncomfortable fact of life: bad people exist. They have always existed and will continue to exist until we as a species go the way of the dinosaur. No amount of education, petitioning, demonstrating, or wishful thinking is going to change the fact that humanity is infected with those who seek to do harm to others.

And while we’re waiting for the rapists to learn to not rape and men to treat women with the respect they deserve, women can learn to put potential threats in their place. If/When the Utopian land of Rainbows and Gold Trimmed Unicorn Farts arrives and humans no longer victimize one another, I’ll be glad to hang up my gloves and stop teaching. Until that time, I’m going to continue to encourage women (and men) to seek out competent instructors and learn to protect themselves from the uglier side of humanity.

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