If by some miracle you haven’t yet heard of Schrödinger’s Rapist, well, you must be new. Welcome to the skeptical movement! We don’t always fight about gender issues, I swear. Nonetheless, I’d like to take the chance to honestly (and somewhat skeptically) answer just a few of the questions from Starling’s seminal article, from my own particularly privileged point of view. [TW: Mansplaining]
Is preventing violent assault or murder part of your daily routine, rather than merely something you do when you venture into war zones?
Of course! I lock all my doors, drive my children to self-defense lessons, avoid the higher crime parts of the city, and generally keep an eye out for potential threats everywhere I go. This is perfectly normal behavior, for both genders, even well outside of war zones. By presuming that your male readers are fearless, you are reinforcing an existing sexist stereotype which runs completely contrary to how men should rationally behave. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, American men should be roughly three times more fearful of murder than women, and at least a bit more fearful of violent assault.
Do you think I’m overreacting?
Well, maybe a bit, but it’s your call. We each set our own risk tolerance, after all. I should point out, though, that if you are indeed overreacting, you are in good company. A significant majority Americans wrongly believe that violent crime is getting worse.
How do I know that you, the nice guy who wants nothing more than companionship and True Love, are not this rapist?
Obviously, you don’t. Moreover, you are absolutely right to try to put a quantitative estimate on your uncertainty. Your estimate was that “a little over one in sixty” men are rapists but I’m afraid the true number is probably at least one in twenty. That said, a significant majority of rapes are not perpetrated by strangers in public as you describe in your article, but rather by non-strangers in private. Which brings me to the most troubling aspect of this piece: an implicit blitz rape script. Reinforcing the myth that rape is associated with sudden physical violence perpetrated by strangers has a number of harmful effects, not least of which is making it more difficult for actual victims to acknowledge having been raped.
Ok, so we’ve dispensed with the sexist myth that men are fearless heroes, walking down city streets without a care in the world, and with the harmful myth that strangers hold the greatest dangers when it comes to rape. Are there any other problems with the Schrödinger’s rapist narrative? Just one that I can see. The author seems to assume that a man who is a “good sort of person” and respects women needs to be told the following: “Don’t rape. … Don’t grope. Don’t constrain. Don’t brandish. Don’t expose yourself. Don’t threaten with physical violence. Don’t threaten with sexual violence.”
Um, yeah, no. If someone doesn’t already know with unshakable certainty NEVER to do those things, it can be safely assumed he is not a “good sort of person” seeking a “mutually respectful and loving sexual relationship with a woman.” He is, quite to the contrary, a sexual predator in waiting. If you cannot tell the good men from the predatory assholes, you are not in any position to be giving advice to the former about how to not to come off seeming like the latter.