How to be an ally, and ffs stop telling women how to not get raped

This past week has been quite dramatic amongst my Facebook clique, fraught with countering victim-blaming under the guise of "safety advice" and disappointment with lack of response from an organization that is set up specifically to combat rape culture through involving men as allies.

It all started with a thread on the Men Can Stop Rape Facebook page that supported the article, "Stop Telling Women How to Not Get Raped." Long story short, the original thread was a clusterfuck of victim-blaming, it got deleted without a word from MCSR standing up for its original post, another comment thread was started briefly referencing the closed thread and hoping for commentators to engage respectfully, more victim-blaming, lots of posters expressing disappointment in MCSR's silence on the issue, and the follow-up thread being deleted without further comment.

It's not the first time I've been underwhelmed by an organization's response to a situation it is supposedly set up to fight against, but it's certainly one of the most disappointing.

Last month I posted an entry about "How to be an ally (and less of a jerk)". In some ways the situation I've come across this past week has perfectly highlighted my points from that post (gaslighting, WATM, not accepting responsibility for hurtful/ triggering comments, etc). I realize that there are a few other points I hadn't gotten around to addressing.

If you're an organization whose main purpose is to help men be allies in the fight against rape, you cannot allow victim-blaming to go unaddressed. Heck, if you're a person, the advice is the same. Silence speaks volumes, and when someone is being aggressive and verbally abusive and dismissive towards survivors and you say nothing, everyone involved hears that. They hear your silence as complicity with the detractor. If you are completely unwilling to support your position in favour of not victim-blaming, to the point of allowing said victim-blamer to completely overtake the conversation without censure or even mention, then that only emboldens them, it also tells survivors their voices, knowledge, and experiences aren't important.

In regards to the victim-blamers, some people are so invested in their own ego, that they really don't want to hear how they're causing more harm than good. And, they may be right about some things. As the saying goes, even a stopped clock is right twice a day. But offering some valuable advice and being supportive of some friends in some situations neither makes you infallible, nor, on its own, an expert in the field of rape prevention. Just because you teach self-defense, you are not an expert in rape prevention if you perpetuate rape myths and victim-blaming. Just because you have supported survivors of sexual violence, it does not mean you're allowed to pit "good" survivors against "bad" survivors or to use the word "victim" as an insult. Just because you are relatively assured you could use physical violence to diffuse a situation where someone may try to sexually assault you, it doesn't mean anyone who is unable or unwilling to risk using physical violence is not as dedicated to avoiding sexual violence as you are.

Now, in the interest of rape prevention and personal safety, there is a lot of good advice out there. The difference between good advice and spreading rape myths, is that the good advice acknowledges there is no magic bullet to preventing rape. It does not make a list of what women must do, because it acknowledges that women's experiences with attempted and completed sexual violence are so varied that there is no singular right way to live or act or react or fight back. There just isn't.

Here's a great article on rape prevention measures one can try to undertake to reduce their exposure to risk.
Nine Real Self-defence Tips

Here's an awesome article on setting up and maintaining personal boundaries.
The art of "no". 

And here's a follow-up article to the previous one on boundary-setting:
The art of "no", continued: Saying no when you've already said yes.

One thing I would add that I feel is missing from conversations about rape prevention, is that it's pretty common for women who are inundated with "don't get raped" messages to envision ways to harm or discourage their potential attacker (like saying they'd defecate on themselves, for example). I know enough about rape myths, et al to figure it's largely unrealistic and unhelpful, but my mind goes there because of allllll these messages. I know I'm more likely to be assaulted by someone I know, but I still don't go out alone at night. I still hold my keys a certain way "just in case ". I still make sure someone knows where I'm going if I'm going alone, etc. I have no idea if anyone of this helps in proportion to the amount of anxiety I feel for feeling like I have to do these things. I still do them all because, although I recognize rape myths for what they are, I'm still a woman navigating my way through rape culture.

When people go on insulting and infantilizing diatribes against articles like "Stop Telling Women How to Not Get Raped", what they seemed completely ignorant of and blind to (amongst other things) is that women are still going to protect ourselves. One fucking article isn't enough to give us the confidence and sense of safety to change how we already live our lives. We're neither stupid enough to suddenly stop looking both ways before we cross the street, nor have enough confidence in the rest of society not to blame us for rape to drop all "safety measures" over one article, or a hundred, for that matter.

When you see articles that propose taking focus off of women preventing their own rapes, take a moment before you respond with a kneejerk, "Yeah, but". Are you really adding anything new to the conversation? Do you really have such a small opinion of women's intelligence that you think we can't take care of ourselves unless we're bombarded with these terrifying messages every second of every day? Are you really so blind to your own privilege that you think your Rambo-talk of killing rapists is at all helpful? Can you really not stop yammering on for 5 minutes to read responses to your misogyny and consider if maybe you don't have it all figured out?

EDIT TO ADD: If you've read all the way through this blog post and your only response is, "You offered safety advice! JENGA!!!", then I urge you to make an appointment with your family doctor at once. I don't mean to alarm you, but I've Googled your symptoms and all signs point to severe vision impairment that will only get worse without intervention. It appears that when the ego gets hyperinflated, it puts pressure on the optic nerve and causes myopia. Might wanna get that checked.



  1. Sometimes I really think that comment threads on highly sensitive, triggering topics either need the hell moderated out of them (approval needed before appearance of comment), or should be closed pre-emptively, before anything gets posted... Because there will be trolls. *sigh* Too much time goes into fighting back and forth about incendiary threads that repeat bad arguments. My opinion: no, they don't have the right to exist. They already exist everywhere else. Please, let there be just one place where they don't exist. We need to not waste our energies on the obvious.

    1. I agree. I consider this blog my living room. All comments have to be approved by me before being posted, because I don't care to let any old asshole start yelling at people from within my own house.


Post a Comment