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is it possible to discuss ways to avoid rape without being sexist?

(97 Posts)
WishIwereAtTheWiesnProst Thu 06-Oct-11 19:19:15

I have one dd, and when I think of the statistics and situation I have been in it scares the hell out f me that one day she'll be old enough to be let out of my sight.

So if as a mother I tell her that she should avoid drinking to excess because she might find her in a situation where she can't say no, would that be sexist or even worse would I be making her feel responsible if she ever did find her self in that situation and someone did rape her? Or make her feel like she couldn't tell me or the authorities?

I know stranger rape is rare and that walking down a dark alley isn't how it happens for the vast majority of women, but if I mention that there is an underpass (like in my last town when I lived in the UK) that had a dodgy reputation due to a few women being raped there am I then perpetuating a rape myth? Or again making her feel it is her fault if one day she takes the short cut?

If the majority of rape cases happen with someone you know do I have to explain to dd that this is the case and that if a man thinks he is "owed something" or pushes too far that she needs to scream bloody murder so hea realizes that what he is doing is engaging in rape? Or is this putting my daughter in the position of being his moral guide?

What do you tell you children?

meditrina Thu 06-Oct-11 19:29:45

You can put those messages across without perpetrating rape myths - by not mentioning rape other than one of a number of undesirable outcomes.

With drinking - the risk is terminal embarrassment (publicly snogging someone you'd normally loathe (add or worse)), being robbed, getting lost/stranded, causing a disturbance/damage, being arrested, getting in a fight.

For ways home - you need situation awareness and clothing which you can run/fight in. This isn't just rape, it's assault, mugging, kidnapping too.

WishIwereAtTheWiesnProst Thu 06-Oct-11 19:30:50

Btw I am having a boy in February so I will be able to start at the source with him and won't have to feel so confused as to what I tell him.

If she says no, that means no.
If she is too drunk to say no, that means no.

If she hasn't said yes, that means no.

MotherPanda Thu 06-Oct-11 19:33:09

But remember to tell your dd that

If he says no, that means no.
If he is too drunk to say no, that means no.

If he hasn't said yes, that means no

because it works both ways.

WishIwereAtTheWiesnProst Thu 06-Oct-11 19:33:28

Yes Meditrina I think that would work but what about situations where the victim knows their attacker/it was rape but vicitm didn't say no because they felt they couldn't shouldn't? Is it Ok for me to tell dd that she should scream fight etc? Or is it putting the onus on her?

WishIwereAtTheWiesnProst Thu 06-Oct-11 19:34:11

Yes MP, that's a good point

meditrina Thu 06-Oct-11 19:36:02

In your final scenario - I wouldn't say she's being his moral compass. She's yelling and fighting to get an attacker off. Everyone should learn to defend themselves, as we live in an imperfect world where criminals exist.

I recommend proper martial arts courses from an early age. What they learn about 'stranger danger' (which actually isn't just about strangers in many classes, it's about anyone doing anything that makes you feel 'bad') should transfer fairly seamlessly across.

And will be watching this thread. I've used some of the themes I've posted with my DSes already. DD is still too young to be covering this, but I'd like to store up ideas for approaches.

chibi Thu 06-Oct-11 19:45:33

please don't tell her any rape is like burglary analogies, where obviously since you'd secure your valubles against intruders, and take precautions etc etc

I can fit out my house so that no burglars know about my faberge egg collection/stockpile of diamonds etc and thus avoid burglary

i can't disguise myself so that it is unclear whether or not i have a vagina. Drunk or sober, clothed in a bikini or sackcloth, it is there and pretty much everyone knows it. short of disguising myself as a Fiat or a pillarbox, there isn't much i can do, unlike the homeowner who can keep laptops or flatscreens away from windows.

the burglary analogy is stupid, inaccurate and harmful.

StewieGriffinsMom Thu 06-Oct-11 19:49:28

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Insomnia11 Thu 06-Oct-11 19:57:47

She's yelling and fighting to get an attacker off. Everyone should learn to defend themselves, as we live in an imperfect world where criminals exist.

Yes but a lot of us don't come across violent criminals on a regular basis, and when we do it can be such a shock that we just freeze rather than fight back. No-one can be blamed for that, you don't know what your reaction would be.

StewieGriffinsMom Thu 06-Oct-11 20:03:09

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

blackcurrants Thu 06-Oct-11 20:03:41

My favourite way of talking about rape is actually by talking about sex. I do NOT think rape is like sex, but I think that a lot of the rape myths that permeate our rape culture DOES make this connection .So I say to people: how you think about sex affects how you think about rape. If you want to never, ever, ever rape someone: listen closely!

Scenario 1
if you think of sex like a competitive thing, like a game - say, like football, where the man is trying to score a goal, and the woman is trying to 'defend' the goal and stop him scoring - if you see sex as somehow adversarial (which our society does, in it's language - score, pull, 'give it up') then it is possible to see rape as an extension of sex. It's just playing a little dirty, being a little coercive, maybe a slight foul or some elbowing but hey, goal scored and that's the point, right? Winning is what counts, right?

Scenario 2
If you think about sex like pleasurable and co-operative activity, like a jam session, say two friends with guitars or someone playing the piano so that another can sing... then the only way you can 'win' is if you both have a good time. That's it. There's no 'foul' possible, because then you're not both having a good time. Can you imagine sticking a gun to someone's head and forcing them to build play jazz with you? Cos I can't. Cos the point of the activity is mutual pleasure, and there's no 'winner' -or rather, they are both winners, and there is no loser in this scenario.

That's how I think we talk about rape and rape culture, and teach our kids not to rape. I will be telling DS this over and over and over as he enters his teens, until he dies of shame and becomes a monk. Or an awesome, thoughtful partner to someone. grin

Analogy stolen from Amanda Marcotte at, btw. I just can't, with a cursory google, find it.

blackcurrants Thu 06-Oct-11 20:05:36

'scuse typos. Doing too many things at once.

meditrina Thu 06-Oct-11 20:07:47

Exactly, Insomnia11, that's why martial arts classes from a young age - look out for ones which role-play scenarios - and continuing top ups of self defence classes are important (look for ones which include situation awareness).

Even if it proves to be totally misplaced, your DD will learn discipline and both mental and physical confidence. It'll show - and as muggers choosing victims will choose the softest-looking target, and someone walking confidently, in sensible shoes, and with hands by sides not in pockets will not be top of the list.

edam Thu 06-Oct-11 20:08:35

Fantastic post, Chibi. Expresses beautifully why and how all those 'you wouldn't put your valuables on display' analogies are so dreadfully, horribly wrong.

blackcurrants Thu 06-Oct-11 20:08:44

also I realise that I am thinking about this from the point of view of 'how do we teach people about consent' rather than 'how can we protect our daughters from being raped'
gods I wish I had an answer to that one that wasn't "teach people about consent'' because that seems like a slowburning solution to a firework of a problem. FWIW I enjoy a martial art and hope that DS and any sibling he has will go to one, the physical and mental discipline, and the thoughtfulness about your body and the way you exist in space, has given me a lot of confidence in public spaces. But it won't help me if someone decides to rape me, I imagine. Because I'm not that big, or that fast, and I don't carry a gun. And besides, I get scared easily. So .. yeah. It's so hard.

sorry for multiple posts.

PeterSpanswick Thu 06-Oct-11 20:10:17

Chibi your post really struck something with me.

When at uni I used to walk home alone after my waitressing shift, often late at night due to lack of funds for public transport etc and would always tie up my long hair, take a big, baggy anorak-type coat with me and try to "walk tall" with a confident, wide stance. I thought I was doing it to blend in and not draw attention to myself but now you've said that I can see that what I was actually doing was trying to "disguise my vagina" by making myself look more like a man!

Sorry to hijack!

edam Thu 06-Oct-11 20:11:43

Medi - depends on the mugger, surely? Someone who is high, or drunk, or otherwise not thinking carefully and rationally will mug you anyway, whatever shoes you are wearing. (Dh once scared off a mugger who was attempting to snatch a woman's bag, in broad daylight, in a busy street - the woman was wearing 'sensible' office clothes and flattish shoes, as it happened. Running away wasn't an option, mugger attacked while she was stood still at a cash point.)

ByThePowerOfGreyskull Thu 06-Oct-11 20:33:29

So My tuppence worth,
There is responsible behaviour and irresponsible behaviour from both sexes.
If I had a daughter I would want her to understand the reality of this world.
I totally get the fact that she shouldn't be expected to walk around in a burkha (sp?) BUT prior to the world order changing for the better, I would suggest that she was aware of her own personal safety.
I wouldn't want my daughter to think it was ok to get so drunk that she was unaware that the chap she was with was thinking that she was inviting sexual attention. (His behaviour is still very much HIS responsibility not hers)

There are examples of naieve behaviour resulting in sexual assault and as much as I would not want a young woman to feel that all men are potential rapists, I think they should be aware how decisions they make may be interpreted. eg "yes I will come back to your room and sleep in your bed after a few too many pints and yes I will have a sexual encounter with you" IT would still IMO be rape if things went further than the lady gave consent for HOWEVER, it was NOT a wise decision to go to the room and I would want my daughter to be savvy enough to avoid that situation.

I also wouldn't want my daughter to feel that she was invinsible. there are LOTS of things that could happen aside from rape and I would want her to be a little street wise about areas to or not to visit - but that is something I would also want my sons to be aware of.

From the mother of Sons, I am intending to instill the need for known, clear mutual consent, absence of a no is NOT consent.

All this may be totally twisted, I am not a balanced person about this as am still in therapy after being raped as a child - which I am still convinced was my fault as I put myself in the wrong place at the wrong time.

SuchProspects Thu 06-Oct-11 20:59:48

One thing that strikes me when discussions about women protecting themselves from rape comes up is that we still focus on stranger rape.

Rape happens because men rape, not because women are raped. Instead of focusing on walking alone at night or avoiding certain parts of town wouldn't it be more effective to talk about not surrounding ourselves with people who find rape acceptable, or who go along with rape myths. To say if we do we are surrounding ourselves with people who are also more likely to commit rape.

Because if you are going to go the way of talking about lessening ones chances of being raped I think screening the people one hangs out with is going to have more impact than not walking through a particular part of town.

I'm not sure how comfortable I am with the idea of this - it still puts the onus on women. But I'm pretty sure society in general would be less keen on women "taking responsibility for their own safety" by shunning jerks men who are blasé about consent instead of by restricting their own activities.

edam Thu 06-Oct-11 21:03:45

Interesting point, Such. Maybe you could frame it as 'people who think rape is OK are not good people to be around'.

ByThePowerOfGreyskull Thu 06-Oct-11 21:04:39

"Because if you are going to go the way of talking about lessening ones chances of being raped I think screening the people one hangs out with is going to have more impact than not walking through a particular part of town."

I agree, wholeheartedly, don't you think though this is a general life lesson as opposed to just a discussion about rape.
Surely women taking responsibility for their own safety is a positive thing, not expecting other people to protect them?

SuchProspects Thu 06-Oct-11 21:06:41

edam I think it would be more along the lines of blackcurrant's scenarios - hang out with the people who look at sex as a cooperative activity, not a competitive game.

chibi Thu 06-Oct-11 21:10:46

I did take responsibility for my own saftey, and got off the bus at a stop that was about 20 yards from my house, in a well lit area.

i still got thown to the ground anyway.

i really really resent the fact that if i don't train like chuck norris i am irresponsible or expecting others to protect me

My dh isn't constantly training so he will be prepared when or if he is attacked ffs

i am expecting others not to rape or assault me

edam Thu 06-Oct-11 21:12:59

bythepower - you can take as much responsibility for your own safety as you like, sadly it won't guarantee that you will never experience violence from a colleague/acquaintance/partner/stranger. Three women at my old company were assaulted by a colleague when working away at a conference. This man was married to another colleague. None of them had any reason to anticipate aggression from him. None of them had any support from the company after the event. None of them had any opportunity to avoid the event, or any reason to think it was dangerous to go and lobby the EU about some policy we were campaigning on.

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