Posted by: *carrie* | April 5, 2010

Schrödinger’s Rapist

There’s a fantastic guest post up at Shapely Prose titled Schrödinger’s Rapist: or a guy’s guide to approaching strange women without being maced. (Seriously, read it. Especially if you are a guy. And share it with your friends.)


When you approach me in public, you are Schrödinger’s Rapist. You may or may not be a man who would commit rape. I won’t know for sure unless you start sexually assaulting me. I can’t see inside your head, and I don’t know your intentions. If you expect me to trust you—to accept you at face value as a nice sort of guy—you are not only failing to respect my reasonable caution, you are being cavalier about my personal safety.

…you must accept that I set my own risk tolerance. When you approach me, I will begin to evaluate the possibility you will do me harm. That possibility is never 0%. For some women, particularly women who have been victims of violent assaults, any level of risk is unacceptable. Those women do not want to be approached, no matter how nice you are or how much you’d like to date them. Okay? That’s their right. Don’t get pissy about it. Women are under no obligation to hear the sales pitch before deciding they are not in the market to buy.

I’m a pretty confident and aware person. My mom, like most moms, taught me to pay attention to my surroundings. She taught me to have my keys in my hand at night or alone or in questionable areas. In this case, it isn’t to enter my car faster. It’s to use them as a weapon in the event of an attack. (And, to be fair, in the event of a mugging as much as an attempted rape). She specifically taught me moves to use, that attackers will be unsuspecting, and that are at least temporarily debilitating.

This means that I assess my personal risk assessment as pretty low. It doesn’t mean that if I’m out alone, and I notice a male voice approaching, I don’t start paying attention to his shadow and the pace he’s walking to make sure he’s not encroaching on me.

And, quite frankly, it pisses me off. It pisses me off that I can’t just say “hi” to a passing stranger without worrying about whether they’re going to think that was an invitation to anything, rather than just me being a friendly neighbor. It’s absurd that every woman lives with this type of thinking, and it’s considered “normal”.

If a woman acts in any way to indicate she wasn’t proceeding with caution and something happens to her, everyone says “What did she expect would happen, going out jogging alone at 4 o’clock in the morning?!”. As if choosing to start your morning by jogging is an invitation for violence.

Men, this should piss you off, too. It should piss you off that every woman you meet has to assume the worst of you until you can prove otherwise.



  1. I’ve tried explaining this before to men, and it’s ridiculous how angry they get at me. I AM an assault survivor, but don’t think that I need to preface this kind of discussion with that fact; it’s incidental.

    The result, especially here in the midwest, is that once you’re in public, you are “property of the public” (no lie) and that you should expect to be approached as such. Further, it is your obligation to receive every person with open arms.

    At first I got a lot of “You’re an east coast snob” – but that’s just not good enough. You are not entitled to my attention just because I want to see the sun, or get groceries, or go to a fucking Starbucks. Sometimes guys are scary. I don’t have the person-who-is-approaching-me’s breadth of personal life experiences, but I do have mine. Mine shouldn’t be discounted just because you want something from me.

    Thank you for writing this. It means a lot to have someone write something in support of my life experiences.

    • I just wanted to say that I was born & raised in the midwest, and I know exactly what you mean about the expected niceties.

      You’re not a snob. You’re totally right in stating that no one is entitled to your attention simply because they want it.

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