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06 June 2009 @ 12:58 pm
I have no idea what to title this  
There have been a couple of good posts just now, one on my friends list, and one linked to by that friend, on the culture of rape, and how women have to guard themselves as though all men are latent rapists.

And I am puzzled at myself, because, as far as I can determine, I don't feel that way, I don't treat men that way, and I guess I've been insanely lucky.

I am 46 years old. There has been exactly one time in my life that I feared I was in danger of being assaulted -- possibly for money, possibly rape -- and I handled that situation by pointing a loaded gun at the man I felt was threatening me. There was exactly one date when I felt that if I stayed, I might be forced into sex, and I handled that by saying so, and leaving, and never seeing him again. That was also the one and only time I ever went out on a date with a stranger. (Although, now that I think about it, the people I told did say, "Well, what did you expect, going back to his house to 'talk'?")

I have shared bed space with male friends and not had any qualms about doing so. I have gotten drunk (rarely) with male friends without any worries about what might happen. I walk alone on campus after dark and don't feel even slightly twitchy about it. I wander around science fiction conventions in moderately revealing clothing, and have never been hassled. And while I would never even consider hitch-hiking in the USA, when I was in high school and college I hitch-hiked around four different countries in South and Central America, and never felt endangered.

And yet, and yet. I know so very many women who have been assaulted or raped. I know it happens. But I still don't have that fear, that sense of guardedness. And I don't know why.
browngirl on June 6th, 2009 05:30 pm (UTC)
I don't know why either, and needless to say I envy you. :) I want to know why, because I'd rather your lack of guardedness be the rule than my guardedness.

I wouldn't've said this some years ago, and they may take my East Coast Liberal card away for it, but I wonder if knowing you were armed and knew what to do with that armament helped. I also wonder if you weren't undermined from your beginnings -- my parents raised me to think that if I made someone angry that person had the right to hit me, which destructive attitude has been taking a while to uproot from my psyche.

I wonder, but meanwhile, I am glad for you.
Janet Miles, CAP-OMjanetmiles on June 6th, 2009 06:22 pm (UTC)
We did have very different parents; mine taught me never to start a fight, but if someone started one with me, I'd damn well better finish it.

And, yes, I think being armed and knowledgeable was very helpful in that one situation. I was scared, but I wasn't paralyzed-terrified, if that makes sense?
hedwig5221hedwig5221 on June 6th, 2009 05:48 pm (UTC)
I'm in your camp as well. I don't worry about things like this although I know I probaby should. I've dated men that I didn't know well, and have gone to their homes or apartments without qualms. Probably not the smartest thing to do but I left when I was no longer comfortable. I've never let the possibility even enter my mind so I didn't feel the anxiety that many women must. I'm probably looking at life through rose-colored glasses but it's the way I like to look at life.
Janet Miles, CAP-OMjanetmiles on June 6th, 2009 06:23 pm (UTC)
Rose is a kind of nice color, isn't it? :-)
(no subject) - nellorat on June 6th, 2009 07:52 pm (UTC) (Expand)
kightp on June 6th, 2009 05:58 pm (UTC)
I'd venture a small guess that hanging out with geeks is helpful in this regard. Geeky men break a lot of molds; science-fiction geeks in particular seem to have missed the message that women are for their use. (They do tend to be prone to the "...but nice guys never get laid" complaint, but all things considered, I'd rather spend time trying to persuade them that this is a misconception than trying to persuade a bunch of more stereotypically male men that I'm a human being.)
Janet Miles, CAP-OMjanetmiles on June 6th, 2009 06:19 pm (UTC)
I think that's a large part of it, my chosen subcultures (Geeks, Fans, Pagans, SCAdians, Rennies, and Perverts -- all of whom seem to have "consent" as a big ol' part of their worldview). But I can pass pretty well as a member of the Mainstream, and I don't feel the concern there, either.
(no subject) - rahirah on June 6th, 2009 09:55 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - kightp on June 6th, 2009 10:27 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - janetmiles on June 6th, 2009 11:37 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - ideealisme on June 6th, 2009 11:11 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - guppiecat on June 6th, 2009 11:30 pm (UTC) (Expand)
the skeeviness of geeks - pir_anha on June 7th, 2009 09:10 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Fat Fred the Otter and Skippy: iotterfatfred on June 6th, 2009 06:42 pm (UTC)

I am much the same as you in many ways.
Geek background and all. Never had a gun though.
I was in a class once, about being aware and safety, and had someone tell me that they didn't think I would be hit on in that way. I asked them why and they said: "Because you walk like you know where you are going."
Janet Miles, CAP-OMjanetmiles on June 6th, 2009 06:51 pm (UTC)
"Because you walk like you know where you are going."

That is actually a lesson I learned from an old boyfriend. I was running some errands for him while he was at work, and one of them was to cash a check for $600 (keep in mind this was 20+ years ago) and pay his tuition for the semester. I said, "What if I get mugged?"

He said, "Walk like you have fifty cents in your pocket, and no one will bother you. Also, if you do get mugged, just give them the money -- I can make it back in two days." (Again, this was 20+ years ago, but he was good enough at what he did that he was billing $40 an hour as a programmer, and more than that for data recovery.)
(no subject) - fatfred on June 6th, 2009 07:23 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - nellorat on June 6th, 2009 07:30 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - fatfred on June 6th, 2009 07:51 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - nellorat on June 6th, 2009 07:54 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - fatfred on June 6th, 2009 08:12 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - guppiecat on June 6th, 2009 11:32 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - fatfred on June 7th, 2009 12:24 am (UTC) (Expand)
Jettewolfette on June 6th, 2009 06:44 pm (UTC)
I'm with you. I have always had male friends - in school I had more male friends than female - and I've always felt safe with them. There are males who I haven't felt safe around - and with those I avoid getting into situations that may "turn difficult". (in fact, I usually just avoid being alone - even in relatively public places - with men who give me that "unsafe" vibe)

But I consider the vast majority of men to be good, not potential rapists.
Janet Miles, CAP-OM: hairjanetmiles on June 6th, 2009 06:48 pm (UTC)
And yet, I know women -- far too many women -- who have been raped or assaulted by men they trusted. And I wonder what is the difference.
(no subject) - wolfette on June 6th, 2009 06:53 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - nellorat on June 6th, 2009 07:32 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - guppiecat on June 7th, 2009 03:06 am (UTC) (Expand)
Jim Hetleyjhetley on June 6th, 2009 06:57 pm (UTC)
About all I can add is that we've tried to raise our sons to extend your feeling of safety.
Janet Miles, CAP-OMjanetmiles on June 6th, 2009 07:26 pm (UTC)
Thank you.
n5red on June 6th, 2009 07:09 pm (UTC)
Our society certainly teaches the sort of male/female dynamic where women are expected to be victims.

These days, a significant portion our society seems to be teaching fear as a way of life. This is a very bad thing.

Just agreeing with what you said, no earth shaking revelations in this reply.
Janet Miles, CAP-OMjanetmiles on June 6th, 2009 07:25 pm (UTC)
These days, a significant portion our society seems to be teaching fear as a way of life. This is a very bad thing.

Yes. This.

And yet, I frequently recommend Gavin de Becker's book, The Gift of Fear, which is about not talking yourself out of true fear, a real sense that something is wrong in a situation, that something is dangerous.
(no subject) - dornbeast on June 8th, 2009 08:52 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Violet Tigress: Aliceviolet_tigress1 on June 6th, 2009 07:18 pm (UTC)
You have been very lucky, and I wish that I had your confidence.
Janet Miles, CAP-OMjanetmiles on June 6th, 2009 11:38 pm (UTC)
I wish I could share it with you.
Ayoub™ayoub on June 6th, 2009 07:38 pm (UTC)
I'd say it comes with self confidence and knowing that you have the ability to defend yourself.
Janet Miles, CAP-OMjanetmiles on June 6th, 2009 11:40 pm (UTC)
I think that's part of it, but I think there's more to it than that. Many of the women I know who have been assaulted or raped are self-confident and are, in general, able to defend themselves, but were either overpowered by someone physically stronger, or taken advantage of by someone they should have been able to trust.
Arthur and Kevin's Nellorat: fat_dougherty_stongwomannellorat on June 6th, 2009 07:51 pm (UTC)
Thanks for saying this. I am this way also, but I don't say anything about how I personally feel unless someone is all "ALL women are frightened--ALL men are dangerous," because that gets me into enough trouble with good people I think my experience IS atypical; and, even more so, my experience is not a problem and the other type of experience is, and work that needs to be done on society is both more vital and more interesting than the OK exceptions.

I'm not sure about you, but I know one reason I feel more secure is that my mother was always very good at reading people & I feel (& evidence is) I learned that from her. If I don't feel in danger, I probably am not, which leaves me more free of overall worry.

Also, I have to say that as I got older, I was usually more interested in sex than the man was! I don't know if this was my being fat, my being oddly socialized, the guys I chose to hang out with, or what. So in the one situation in which I got sloppy-drunk with a guy, and I might have been coerced into sex by him--well, heck, I wanted sex too. Now, this is NOT an approach I'd recommend, and I hate to see what many feminists would say even about my being OK with it myself--but I think I just was a horny person with a somewhat male-acculturated view of sex.

And when I was young, I was rather overprotected and in some ways (that I totally didn't realize at the time) socially self-isolated. No dates, no date rape. Again, I do NOT recommend this, but it had the one benefit that I wasn't in certain situations until (1) I was more than ready for sex, and (2) in the rare situation that I didn't want sex, I could handle myself.

Also, much of my life I've had a lot of male friends, including now my spice--not only did and do I feel safe with them, but it's like having an older brother who would beat up any guy who molested you! For instance, I got more wary in my 30s, but by then I had Womzilla to do things with me, like go into sleazy porn stores, that I realized might actually be better to avoid doing on my own.

Because I was so overprotected until age 21, by the way, any adventures I had were pretty much at the instigation of a female friend--and while two girls can certainly get raped, it's less likely than with one alone.

So that's what occurs to me now about my story. I'd be interested in any similar speculations of your own.
Janet Miles, CAP-OMjanetmiles on June 6th, 2009 11:59 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure about you, but I know one reason I feel more secure is that my mother was always very good at reading people & I feel (& evidence is) I learned that from her. If I don't feel in danger, I probably am not, which leaves me more free of overall worry.

I think that was true for me, as well; both my parents were good at reading people. I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt, but so far never to the point where I end up in an irrevocable situation.

Like you, though for different reasons, I didn't date much until I was in my 20s. When I did start dating, I mostly dated men who were also in their 20s, and with the one exception noted in my post, I only dated men I was already friends with.
(no subject) - supergee on June 7th, 2009 01:18 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - nellorat on June 8th, 2009 04:59 am (UTC) (Expand)
Barbrahirah on June 6th, 2009 09:48 pm (UTC)
You're not alone. There have been only been a couple of times when I've felt pressured or uneasy, because the circumstances warranted it. I'm very much aware that I'm lucky in not having had more or worse experiences in that line. But I don't go through life with the constant fear of rape. Maybe I'm just incredibly stupid.
Maggiesillymagpie on June 6th, 2009 10:20 pm (UTC)
In certain contexts, such as walking alone, I have a sense of guardedness toward strangers, especially men, who tend to be stronger than I am and are statistically more likely to be violent. In other situations, when surrounded by people, no. So I suppose it's mostly when I'm alone or feel vulnerable that I'm extremely guarded.
guppiecatguppiecat on June 7th, 2009 01:04 am (UTC)
I function this way too. Learning some self defense techniques has helped.

Interestingly, I have the opposite reaction regarding masses of people. I suspect that I distrust mob mentality more than I distrust the random stranger, with whom I could probably deal by either running away or turning myself into a difficult target. But then, I've always disliked crowds.
(no subject) - janetmiles on June 7th, 2009 01:19 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - sillymagpie on June 7th, 2009 06:30 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - pir_anha on June 7th, 2009 09:24 pm (UTC) (Expand)
starcat_jewelstarcat_jewel on June 6th, 2009 11:08 pm (UTC)
I've been fortunate as well, though not quite to the same extent that you have. (My experiences with things that might be called rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault are listed here.) Where I think I have been the most fortunate, though, is that I was never knocked completely into the headspace of "you have to be wary of any man you don't know, and a lot of men that you do know". I have been able to maintain my base perception that most men are decent human beings and will behave as such, and I have not lost my comfort level with things like being outside after dark by myself.

Like you, I don't know what made the difference. Sometimes I wonder if it's because I'm a T in the Meyers-Briggs system -- more intellectually than emotionally oriented -- but I wouldn't bet money on it. All I know is that I'm very grateful to have this gift, and that I feel sorry for women who do not have it, and whose lives are limited and/or crippled as a result.
The Evil Twingrey_evil_twin on June 7th, 2009 03:57 am (UTC)
Lucky I guess. I'm confident and assertive and don't worry about walking anywhere around here. But I am still aware of my surroundings and know to avoid situations where you can see trouble. At 45, I've had several bad things happen as a younger woman and really thought I was past being that vulnerable. However, in the last month I did have a bad thing happen, that was totally unexpected and really took me by surprise. So, it was an unfortunate wake up call that I cannot be too complacent.
Curious Stuff: swirly shirtonelargecat on June 7th, 2009 05:19 am (UTC)
I feel the same as you do...I try to do things in a relatively safe manner, but I don't really have a feeling of being scared or guarded. Part of it for me is that I am lazy...it takes too much energy to be worried about something happening all the time. And part of it is just me thinking (possibly wrongly) that I'm confident and smart enough to figure out how to get myself out of a bad situation if it happens. I was mugged once at gunpoint, which was really scary and freaked me out for a long time after, but I was dumb in that situation (there were clues I should have picked up on before it happened, but I was naive), and now I'm more aware of my surroundings in general.