Eric Turkewitz explained it with an epitaph. It wasn’t a real epitaph, but a humorous one. Still, it made the point.
Here lies the body of John McCray,
He died defending his right of way.
He had the light, He had some pluck,
But the other fellow had the truck.
Being right it wonderful, but better to be alive and right. And if you’re forced to choose, pick alive. The legal adage, comply now, grieve later, comes to mind. But then, these concepts which are entirely acceptable and, well, obvious, don’t apply with it comes to rape and sexual assault, because that’s different.
Why is sex different than any other human conduct that would be better guided by taking actions that will avoid risk? The best one can figure, it’s a combination of ideology and history, a backlash to women being blamed for what men do to them. The only way to fight the history of victim-blaming is to fight any suggestion that taking precautions to avoid harm is a good idea.
This conflates two very different concepts.
There are some people, however, who seem to think that urging people be safe is someone giving a free pass to the malfeasors. This is particularly true in the realm of physical assaults when politics and passion seem to impair the ability to think logically.
Personal safety and holding people at fault are not incompatible. They are very much separate and distinct concepts. It’s why parents teach their kids to be careful to avoid incidents and why our justice system tries to hold people accountable after those incidents occur.
There is a litany of bad things that happen that can’t be prevented; when a woman is forced at the end of a gun into a dark alley and raped. When a child is molested by an adult. When a stronger and larger man beats a weaker and smaller woman. The distinctions are too obvious to need to be said, and yet they apparently must be said or heads explode.
But what of the claims of rape and sexual assault that are not about stranger violence, or child molestation, or any of the myriad horrors that are perpetrated against women and children for which there is no way to avoid risk. Most claims arise from ordinary sexual interactions that are perceived as having gone awry, whether before, during or after their occurrence. If there is nothing to be done to protect against harm, then the concept of risk avoidance doesn’t, by definition, apply. You might think this too obvious to need stating, but not so.
Using analogies once served to explain the distinction between risk avoidance and blame, but the narrative around sex has made them inapplicable. Don’t leave your keys in your running Lambo on a dark backstreet if you don’t want your car stolen? Duh. But that’s not about sex, so it doesn’t apply. Have you never heard of “tonic immobility”?
A pseudo-scientific discipline developed to fill in the gaps of risk avoidance, to connect the failure to take obvious precautions to protect oneself from harm to why the “victim” is blameless for failing to do so. According to narrative, a hormonal stew causes [some] women to react to trauma by freezing, such that they can do nothing to protect themselves. Think of it as the “deer in the headlights,” although they are not deer but sentient human beings.
Emily Yoffe confronted the bad science, for which she became an enemy of the woke state.
This information sends the message to young people that they are biologically programmed to become helpless during unwanted sexual encounters and to suffer mental impairment afterward.
The problem isn’t whether someone may “freeze” when confronted by a traumatic situation, although experience in Title IX complaints, for example, is that almost every one includes a claim of freezing. But if you’re “biologically helpless,” is there any reason not to throw caution to the wind? After all, it’s not as if you can do anything to stop it anyway.
But when there is no force involved, is it really so traumatic that the brain shuts down, the woman is paralyzed and incapable of uttering the words, “No, I do not want to do this”? Or walk away? Or push his hand off your breast? Are these things invariably impossible and ineffective?
After a twit last week about preparing my daughter to face the rigors she would face, a great many random people were outraged at the suggestion that a father should do what he could to prevent harm from befalling his child. But what really brought down the rain of rage was this:
She tells me she has never been sexually assaulted because she won’t let herself be. She’s no one’s victim.
Is it unclear that this relates to situations where she has the choice to avoid risk, to not allow herself to be a willing victim when she has the ability to prevent it? Apparently so, as many have informed me in a range of replies from the kindly ways one talks slowly to a stupid old man to the outraged.
This meant, to the outraged, that I was probably a rapist myself, if not a child molester, and a great many suggested that this means that if my daughter ever was the victim of rape, she wouldn’t come to me because I would be disappointed in her for being a victim. While it may not have been what was said, there are extrapolations, subtexts and the dreaded “implications” that conclusively proved their case, that this was victim bashing and that my daughter would suffer by being taught how not to be a victim.
To explain the distinctions as Turk did to the outraged was pointless. The victim is never to be blamed. But then, that wasn’t the issue, and few were capable of distinguishing the risk avoidance from blame. They desperately needed to exclaim how wrong this was and how there could be no aspect of sexual interaction where the “victim” could be shamed for failure to act. Not by saying “no.” Not by leaving if they became uncomfortable with the situation. Nothing. It was never the victim’s fault, even when it had nothing to do with fault.
Turk’s explanation is excellent, but I fear will fall on deaf ears. In the zeal to defend victims from blame, the banal advice to our daughters to protect themselves has itself become offensive, as has their choice to protect themselves whenever possible, to not be victims if it’s within their power.
And yes, a parent should teach his son “not to rape,” to the extent that phrase has any meaning anymore. But that too has nothing to do with teaching our daughters to avoid harm. That anyone is outraged at the notion of not wanting a young woman to be harmed is idiotic, and a sign of the times. This needs to be said because the message of the woke is that there is no need for a woman to get out of the way of the truck because it’s her right to be there and she can’t be blamed for doing nothing. But she’ll still be crushed by the truck. I want to keep the woman alive and safe, which makes me the monster, a roll I’m happy to play if it helps a father to help his daughter, and helps a young woman to not be harmed.
You don’t want to find yourself in a lawyer’s office after a bad event. Worse, your surviving family members don’t want to be there. I’ll often tell people, you don’t want me to be your lawyer. Because if I am, something bad has happened.
I’ve heard the complaints and the outrage. May god have mercy on your souls.