By Kamakshi Dadhwal
About a year ago, stand-up comedian and actress Sarah Silverman got severe backlash for tweeting a meme with these 10 Rape Prevention Tips. The tweet gave an anti-male perception to readers because the tips are meant for potential perpetrators of rape rather than potential victims. To many of the tweet’s readers, these tips seemed preposterous. Even today, if someone shares these tips online, many people label the tips as outright arbitrary accusations on the character of all men, without so much as a second thought.
Critics of the tweet point out that the tips invariably accuse all men of being rapists. It does not occur to them that they might be missing the main point of the tips, entirely. Instead, they act much like the countless people on social media, who feel the need to comment on issues they do not bother to research thoroughly. They think, “why bother with careful reasoning when the man-hatred is so evident and infuriating?” Or so it seems by the way they hound anyone who dares to post things that society often steers clear of discussing. Because I care to read between the lines accurately, I am going to try and make a case for the intent behind these ten tips.
I must confess that making “women” the only subject of violation in the list of tips does increase the probability of male activist rage. It ought to be understood that not all rape victims are female and that rape prevention should, thus, be directed towards cautioning everyone. However, the truth is, nine out of every ten rape victims are women and one out of every five women in the United States is a victim of sexual assault, according to the Huffington Post. So statistically, those who think of sexually harassing another person are predominantly male. Therefore, the language of the tips is obviously a generalization of these statistics and not a pointed arrow towards all men.
Unfortunately, members of the Anti-Feminism Male-Activists Incorporated are unwilling to accept statistical data. Instead, they are quick to call it an absurd allegation against all of mankind. They adamantly fight against the perceived victimization of man in one post, unconcerned with the accurate statistical picture the post was intended to paint. Critics continue to ignore the fact that men are usually more psychologically prepared as well as physically capable of going through with an act of sexual violence, as per the book by A. N. Groth and H. J. Birnbaum “Men Who Rape: The Psychology of the Offender.”
Meanwhile, one simple Google search will lead anyone to the website of the original author of these tips, Jennifer Robinson. Robinson apparently wrote this list of tips in 2003, frustrated by the bombardment of sexual assault prevention emails she was receiving at the time. While it is easy to recognize the intent of sharing rape-prevention techniques, when you think about it, you can see why sending emails is not exactly an “active” effort to do anything at all. “The emails I used to get, which annoyed the hell out of me, would say…how we [women] should carry flashlights at night and park near lights and away from vans, lest some guy chooses to come after us and assault us,” says Robinson. “The emails would say, at the end, ‘send this to every woman you know.’ Hence, being a feminist, [someone] who followed the damn advice already, and a person who was tired of being told how to stop somebody else from doing something to me when the people that do those things are not getting said advice, I wrote that list.”
It is evident what the 10 tips are trying to convey: stopping rape from happening should be the responsibility of rapists rather than possible rape victims. It wasn’t written to offend men, male activists, and all things sacred to patriarchy. If one looked at each tip and put the slightest thought into deconstructing the words, one would see that the tips are not about, “painting every man a rapist,” as one Twitter user put it. Each tip is a gross reminder that in our social reality, preventing a crime from happening is always in the hands of the common people, under threat from said crime, rather than potential criminals themselves. Doesn’t it seem unjust that we would pressure someone to change their behavior, which was within their lawful right, because it supposedly provokes unlawful behavior by someone else? It is shocking, the sheer number of people who can’t recognize that rapists, rather than their victims, ought to be held accountable for the gross human rights violation.
These ignorant fools unknowingly reinforce the disgusting attitude– victims get raped— that we have been trying to fight for centuries. Victims don’t force someone to violate their bodies! They are raped. And that, too, by other humans with conscious decision-making abilities, but psychological issues with self-control. So, contrary to the current outlook of rape-prevention, it shouldn’t be the potential victims’ initiative to not provoke a rapist in any manner. You can’t just say that a little skin is bound to create scandalous thoughts and incite sexually charged actions among rapists. You can’t say that it’s just how rapists are wired. And you most certainly cannot say “protect yourself by giving up some of your personal freedoms.” That’s the real arbitrary expectation we burden all the innocent people in our society with. When, in fact, the onus should be on those who cannot control their dirty minds from commanding their actions.
First of all, sending relentless emails– a virtual effort– isn’t actually going to help anyone prevent real crime. It is pathetic that our diligent way of helping people is stuck in the virtual domain of the Internet and other media. Secondly, you can’t blame Robinson for assuming that all rape victims are women when all the conventional rape-prevention emails are sent only to women, asking to be forwarded to women alone. Finally, let’s be honest, implementing Robinson’s tips would probably yield more effective rape-prevention, compared to the conventional techniques.
Robinson’s tips are a valid depiction of what rape-prevention emails should include besides just the “carry a key between your knuckles” kind of advice. We should tell potential rapists to blow a rape whistle when they feel like they might be losing control of their actions. There is no reason why we cannot de-stigmatize people who ask for help, recognizing that they have a problem with exercising sexual control. It is when we let them roam about freely, without trying to collectively remind them of the wrongness of their lustful thoughts, that these thoughts become crimes of sexual violence. Although Robinson’s point was to reverse the burden of responsibility from victims to rapists, her tips can be extended to improve the mental lives of those who become rapists. It is worth a shot to try and rectify the problem rather than just preventing its negative outcomes.
The ten tips are an honorable citizen’s attempt to show rapists a mirror, and help them accept their problem and further assistance. There is no other way to guilt-trip rapists into correcting their sexually violent drives, except social intervention. We should understand that using “women” to define all victims, in the list, was only a logical generalization. Instead of latching on to that in order to oppose the list, we should recognize the legitimacy of their main message. It makes sense to hold people accountable for their own behavior rather than using other people’s “provocation” to absolve rapists of their grotesque faults. People need to stop overreacting to things famous people, like Sarah Silverman, post/Tweet in a lame attempt to make them sound insensitive, chauvinistic, or extreme. It might be a better idea to Google the darn issue first. It really isn’t as hard as it sounds.
Kamakshi Dadhwal can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org