Reasonable precautions, victim shaming, and violence against women

In the wake of the spree killing in California, there has been considerable discussion online and in the media about violence towards women. This is somewhat odd, since 50% of the killer’s victims were male, but whatever. Because his manifestos were littered with rants against women, it has become quite a topic of late. One of the things that’s caused me no small amount of consternation has been the topic of victim shaming/blaming. For those not hip to the lingo, victim blaming is pretty much what it sounds like, blaming the victim of a crime for allowing, or encouraging the crime to happen. An example that’s cropped up recently: “she deserved to get raped because she was dressed like a slut.”

The reason this has become frustrating though is that of late, even making reasonable suggestions about situational awareness and self-defense are immediately shouted down with “victim blaming” regardless of whether or not that’s the case or intent. As an example, I was discussing this topic somewhere else, and suggested that perhaps a young lady should not be walking home by herself at 2am with her face buried in her iPhone, all while drunk. I was immediately accused of victim blaming, when in reality the point of that is suggesting that being drunk and walking home alone at 2am while not paying attention your surroundings is stupid regardless of your gender.

Praetor Defense Holster

The problem of course is that there is a huge difference between victim blaming and suggesting reasonable precautions. No one says that you’re “contributing to the car violence culture” if you tell someone to look both ways before they cross the street, but if you tell a 24 year old woman that maybe she should take her iPod earbuds out when she’s walking home at night, you’re contributing to rape culture.

Here’s the part where I get personally frustrated: the sort of advice we’re talking about here is completely gender neutral. I don’t care what sort of equipment you have downstairs: Don’t do stupid things in stupid places with stupid people at stupid hours of the day. To paraphrase a comedian, no one ever took 400 dollars out of an ATM at 2am for something good. When you’re out in public, regardless of the time, pay attention to what’s going on around you. There are times and places where it’s okay to go into condition white, however on a public street feeding a parking meter isn’t one of them. It’s shocking how completely oblivious so many people are to their surroundings. Get your head out of your phone, look around. Earlier this year, I went and visited the campus at Purdue; just to see what had changed in 10 years. Campus looked largely the same, but the students were different. Even as little as 10 years ago, not everyone had cell phones. The iPhone didn’t even come out until 2007, kicking off the smartphone revolution. But on campus, it was weird – every single student we saw was walking around with his or her head buried in their phones. Except for the two guys on skateboards, who were quite situationally aware, actually.

This is a frustrating rant. It reflects my frustrating with the nature of the online conversation in many places, where “PLEASE STOP” has replaced reasonable conversation, and where people are more concerned with confirming their biases than listening to other people’s opinions. It’s honestly why I rarely engage in discussions online any more; it usually ends with two people, myself included, unwilling to compromise in any way for fear of losing imagine internet points.

On the topic of self defense, I’ll repeat myself from earlier. Regardless of whether you’re a hulking power-lifting dude, a shredded Crossfit lady, a 90-pound weakling, or scientifically enhanced blonde woman, this advice applies across the board. Don’t do stupid things, at stupid hours of the day, with stupid people, in stupid places.


  1. The cutoff on “victim blaming” should be the point at which you are assigning fault for what happened to the victim. In my opinion this only happens when you punish them, or reduce the punishment of the aggressor.

    I think that aside from that, there is a certain level of politeness that can be observed. Yes, it was dumb to walk home drunk at 2 am. That’s more of a “lesson for next time” from an after action review than something that should get in the way of sympathetically helping a victim. There a time for considering lessons, but that time isn’t at 4 am in a police station. Your doctor talks to you about your weight at your annual checkup, not while you’re in the emergency room for a heart attack.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is — the “victim blaming” people have a great point as far as how police should handle the intake of people reporting rape, or how you should handle your friend who was just mugged. Because at that point in time, supporting that person takes precedence over what should or shouldn’t have been done.

    However, they are full of crap when it comes to discussions of dangers in general. It in no way diminishes the guilt of a robber if you tell someone “don’t drug yourself and then fall asleep in a back alleyway.” Yes, in an ideal world we could all do that and wake up with our clothes and our dignity intact. In the real world, it’s a really dumb idea.

  2. The real problem with these objectively reasonable suggestions is that they address only a relatively small proportion of rape cases ( yet they dominate our discussions of rape prevention. Further, a cursory look at news coverage of rape versus crimes like assault and mugging shows that it is much rarer in the case of the latter crimes to find news reports following the lede with things like “witnesses saw the victim consuming alcohol and dancing with strange men for several hours at a nearby bar prior to the attack,” or news anchors lamenting the sudden falling apart of the lives of the perpetrators who, after all, seem like such good boys ( The only time non-rapist criminals receive that kind of sympathy is when they’re stopped by an icky gun owner.

    Of course, most people who I’ve met or seen online have been really bad at articulating these points, preferring instead to simply tell people to “check your privilege, shitlord!” or similar. Tumblr is the Open Carry Texas of feminism.

    1. I’d say that 60% being a non-acquaintance is still high enough to fall under “don’t do dumb things with dumb people.” And even 30% is still more than the total number of people murdered in the US. And more… it’s really hard to do much about family and friend rape that isn’t already being done, other than encouraging people to report. Other than that I generally agree with you. I can’t figure out what makes some rapists into the lowest of the low and some into “poor boys” — it really seems almost like they flip a coin to decide the public reaction. Although it helps if you play for a sports team or a similar tribal institution 🙁

    2. It’s worthwhile to note that “acquaintance” is an overbroad term if you actually want to discuss “acquaintance rape” intelligently.

      “A guy you know from class” is an acquaintance, but can’t rationally be lumped in with “a close friend for years,” yet that is what that descriptor does. It’s the same problem with the gun control studies that lump all people who have been introduced at some point into the category of “acquaintances”, regardless of actual relationship.

      There should be no expectation of trust during a date with someone you know casually; so the same rules of not allowing yourself to become vulnerable: being alone, impairing yourself with drugs and alcohol, not letting people know who you are with and where you are going, etc. apply to that kind of “acquaintance” as apply to any stranger, which that person, in any meaningful way, still is to you.

      Trust should be earned and that takes time. Unfortunately “hook-up culture”, and the idea that we can live as if the world were how it should be, as opposed to how it is, actively works against that; you jump right to absolute vulnerability with too little pre-screening.

      Those rules are gender neutral, it equally applies to a guy with a pocket full of cash deciding to go to a home poker game with the “cool guys he knows from the bar.”

  3. “Don’t do stupid things in stupid places with stupid people at stupid hours of the day.”

    This piece of advice right here, this alone will keep you out of the vast majority of possible violent situations, and is dead easy. Most of the shot, stabbed, mugged and otherwise abused people I read about in the news have broken this one rule.

  4. We’ve almost completely lost the concept of personal responsibility in today’s society. If you point that out then you are contributing to “rape culture.” WTF?

    “Don’t do stupid things in stupid places with stupid people at stupid hours of the day.” How dare you blame the victim!

    I’m so tired of everyone’s victimhood. Man (or woman) the fuck up people! You don’t live in a vacuum where things just HAPPEN to you.

    1. There’s a difference between “don’t do stupid things” and “she was wearing a tight dress, she was asking for it.” But some don’t see a distinction.

  5. It all comes down to the oft-repeated statement “society teaches women not to get raped, rather than teaching men not to rape.” When you give well-meaning advice to women on how to avoid sexual assault, *some people* interpret that as supporting the status quo.

    Sooooo unless you go out of your way to say “THIS IS GENDER-NEUTRAL ADVICE” or “hey in an ideal world men would be better taught not to rape, but since we don’t…” you’re going to end up in the sights of some Internet Feminist. Probably even then. It’s arguing on the Internet after all.

    1. I wasn’t aware of the store clerk, I thought the males were just the roommates that he stabbed. Thanks!

  6. The problem with this advice, other than being completely unsolicited, is that it largely misses the point. While anyone can potentially be a rape victim, the kind of advice being offered here is for women, and as a general rule, adult women are more likely to be victims of rape than adult men. Fair enough, only most adult women, should they be raped, will be raped by someone they know and likely trust. It’s as if many people, usually men, think rape is something that largely happens to the careless or extremely unlucky. If only that were true. Furthermore, most women will, at some point, already come to the conclusion that they are likely victims at some point, and behave as such. Women don’t need to be told to be careful at night and other such obvious bits of advice. Most already do, and then some. I recall, to use a personal anecdote, a pair of women in my student lounge who decided against going to Burger King for food because it was dark out and their vehicle was at the other end of campus. They decided the risk of rape was too high to do something as mundane as walk for five or ten minutes and order fast food. That’s how far this poisonous shit goes.

    That’s why many women will accuse you of contributing to a victim-blaming culture. I mean, c’mon, man. If I spent my time telling you insanely obvious yet entirely vague and useless “advice,” without your solicitation, telling you to not “do stupid things,” would you actually be receptive to me? Would you think I was treating you as an adult with two brain cells to rub together? I doubt it.

    I’m not trying to be a jerk here, but I can see why many women are miffed when you give them such advice as this. Women don’t need lectured on proper earbud use. They need people to step up and change the attitudes around rape in the first place. It’s too common and too easily apologized for. And, yes, in its own way, this line of advice feeds into it. That doesn’t make you a bad person. It doesn’t even make your advice bad per se. It’s just misguided and not helpful.

    1. What exactly gave you the idea that I went around offering unsolicited advice to people? Because I sure as hell didn’t say that.

    2. Well, since most “acquaintance rapes” involve voluntarily consuming alcohol and willingly granting people you should not be trusting (due to lack of long-term personal knowledge) with private access to you, I’d say this kind of advice -isn’t- well enough known, certainly not heeded enough. Almost certainly due to people like you hand-waving the problem away as the fault of people pointing out the “obvious.”

      As for “changing the culture?” That is a nonsensical evasion. “The culture” isn’t raping women, individual men are. And after years of “awareness” campaigns and “take back the night” marches, individuals like those continue to take advantages of any opportunities to victimize women they can get.

      No individual can control another individual’s actions, and you make decisions based on others’ capabilities, not their intentions. The world is full of a minority of evil predators of all kinds whose decisions and behavior neither society nor the victims can control nor effect. That is reality and nothing in history suggests it will ever change.

      Therefore, logically, all potential victims, of any crime, can do in the real world is make wise, informed choices to control the factors they -do- have control of based on that reality and not insist that, since they shouldn’t -have- to change, they will choose to -not- control those factors and instead live in that hypothetical and unachievable “should be” world.

      That applies to everyone at all times. Accepting reality as it is, and being careful and sparing with your trust, and being willing to exercise personal responsibility since you can’t guarantee anyone else will exercise theirs, are not hardships. It’s just defensive driving for life.

  7. The most effective retort to anti-gun advocates is to demean and discount their arguments without mercy, and to force them to accept that we just don’t care what they think.

Comments are closed.