Let’s get one thing out of the way up front: men should not rape women AT ALL. No matter what.
No one should rape anyone. Ever.
But when it comes to the murky waters of acquaintance rape (the majority of all assaults) there’s a thin line between blaming the victim and asking women to remain vigilant about their personal safety.
I’ve been thinking about whether or not women can really count on men to act responsibly and not take advantage of them for a while.
And every so often a case will hit the media and re-open the debate on why women continue to “put themselves in harms way.” We saw it with the Steubenville case when people questioned the victim for drinking so much she didn’t know she had been assaulted until it was tweeted by onlookers. We saw it back in the 1990s when men (and way too many women) questioned why the victims in both Mike Tyson and Tupac’s rape cases were in the stars’ hotel rooms so late. And we are seeing it now as former NFL star Darren Sharper tries to defend himself against charges that he drugged and raped multiple women across several states.
While many preface their statements with, “I don’t want to blame the victim, but…” they still put the onus on women to protect themselves against being attacked rather than men not raping them in the first place. Though this line of thinking is totally unfair, is it completely unreasonable?
Recently, Susan Patton, the crazypants ‘Princeton Mom,’ appeared on the Today Show to discuss her new book. While the majority of Patton’s interview focused on her controversial stance that young women should spend less time in school and more time looking for a mate (or getting plastic surgery), she was also called out for her abhorrent opinion on date rape.
Patton told Today’s Savannah Guthrie: “It’s all on [women] to not put themselves in a position where they are vulnerable to being abused or mistreated by a man.” She added, “It’s dangerous to say to women that you can count on men to act responsibility.”
Though I loathe most of Patton’s viewpoints—which include the particularly horrific idea that date rape is a ‘”fallacy” because it’s merely “sex that a woman really didn’t feel like having but wound up having anyway,” but regretted later—I wondered if she was onto something regarding her thoughts about women not counting on men to act responsibly.
Despite the rhetoric, men are not animals incapable of behaving respectfully around women if they choose. And I refuse to buy into the notion that women should change their behavior or outfits so they don’t tempt men to act irresponsibly. But despite being raised by my father, having two brothers, and knowing several good dudes, there are just certain positions I will not put myself in when it comes to men, because, well, no matter how much I’d like to, I just don’t always trust them to do the right thing.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made some really stupid choices in the past that could have led to some very bad situations, but thankfully they did not. And while I wish all men always viewed women as equal human beings, the statistics around rape, sexual assault, and street harassment just don’t bear this out.
I mean, though we hope men will see us as a fully human and deserving of the basic right to not be touched without our consent, should we just let our guard down and give them chance to prove they are respectful instead of rapey?
I don’t know. Even writing this feels like I’m tap dancing on, or stepping over the victim blaming line, but while men should never, ever rape women (no matter how drunk she is, or how late it is, or how low-cut her dress may be), women probably should do everything in their power to avoid situations that may lead to being assaulted if at all possible (and yes, that was hard for me to say).
But what do you think? When it comes to women not getting assaulted, can we (or should we) really rely on men to do just the right thing, or should we protect ourselves as best we can?