Suppose a woman asked you whether there was anything she can do to lower her chances of experiencing sexual assault—what would you say?
Would you tell her that the odds of her falling prey to some creep with impulse control issues are always 100% the same, regardless of her surroundings, behavior, physical appearance, or intoxication levels?
Or would you list one or the other factor within her control that might indeed skew the risk matrix toward a somewhat reduced likelihood of sustaining carnal violations, such as pointing out that—unfortunate as this may be—getting plastered doesn’t exactly help when it comes to keeping predators at bay?
Be sure to tread carefully, though, for if venture too deeply into the commonsensical realm and blurt out aloud any precautions that may enhance personal safety—be it in the sexual assault arena, or with respect to G-rated hazards like having one’s wallet swiped on a crowded train or getting mauled by a grizzly while hiking in Yellowstone—you expose yourself to the charge of “blaming the victim.”
The only way to escape the dreaded stigma of victim blamer, it seems, is to put forth a utopian world in which the risk of being harmed remains invariably static, irrespective of personal choices and conduct; a world in which, whether you leave your Ferrari, doors wide open and keys in the ignition, on a sidewalk in a high-crime neighborhood, or whether you park it properly in your garage, it makes no difference in terms of the contingency of it being fraudulently abstracted—after all, judiciously guarded rides get stolen, too, do they not?
If a young lady goes room-hunting, would it be advisable for her to have a friend tag along when checking out the apartments of strangers that advertise on Craigslist? If you respond in the affirmative, you’ve entered blaming-the-victim territory. For if she went alone and something happened, you’re essentially saying it would be her fault for having failed to protect herself; in other words, that she had it coming.
As relates to sexual assault in particular, the paramount concern appears to be that by “focusing” on the victim—i.e., by highlighting one or the other behavior on the victim’s part as potentially risk-elevating—we are, by definition, neglecting to heap condign amounts of condemnation upon the perpetrator, as if the transmission by the injured party of potentially prone-to-be-misconstrued signals (like wearing lipstick, as if wanting to draw special attention to a body part frequently involved in establishing primary physical contact of a romantic nature) somehow lessened the accountability of the transgressor, whose sole wrongdoing, his defense team would argue, consisted in misinterpreting one or more of these signals in a manner that suited his immediate desires.
No rational person of good character, of course, would ever mistake any signal, no matter how deliberately or unintentionally transmitted, as an invitation for untoward activity. Sadly, however, we live in the world as it is, not as it should be, wherefore we won’t always encounter rational individuals of good character that can be trusted never to exploit manifest vulnerabilities or detect mixed messages where none were consciously dispatched.
Incidentally, why do women—some men, too, but mostly women—wear makeup?
To look prettier, generally speaking. To come off as more attractive than was the case prior to its application. (Otherwise, what might be the point of the exercise? Why slather one’s face with chemicals unless one expects to be easier on observing eyes afterward than before?)
The term attractive, of course, implies the concept of attracting—but attracting whom exactly?
Individual tastes aside, willfully enhanced attractiveness spreads indiscriminately in all directions. No one, to my knowledge, has yet discovered the magic formula for selectively enhancing attractiveness so as to render oneself more attractive exclusively to those whose increased attention one craves without also drawing the eyeballs of the obnoxious—and conceivably impulse-control-challenged—riff-raff.
Simple truths, when expressed, elicit disbelief, horror, and outrage — at the fact that they are voiced. (Noam Chomsky)
So what might be the point of voicing the simple truth that some looks and behaviors that are subject to personal control attract ungentlemanly brutes to a greater extent than do others, except as a heinous attempt to shift at least some of the “blame” to the victims in the case of unwanted invasions? Should women quit mascara just because the purposely amplified appeal of a made-up visage may well be inadvertently instrumental in baiting potentially dangerous suitors more so than does the non-amplified look?
Taking this line of reasoning to its reductio ad absurdum, in order to slash the likelihood of sexual assault as much as is humanly feasible, women would always have to present themselves as unattractively as they possibly can, and to the extent to which they stray from the plain and sober path, they knowingly run the risk of attracting a kind of attention they may not want (in addition to attracting the kind of attention they do want).
But even if, by contrast, you were to advocate reasonable precautions—such as keeping pole-dancing topless at drunken frat parties while stoned to a minimum—you’d be blaming the victim should things get out of hand.
Ergo,if a woman asks you whether there’s anything she can do to lower her chances of experiencing sexual assault, if you neither wish to spout politically correct claptrap nor set yourself up for being branded an excuse maker for evildoers, you had better take the Fifth.
Related Post: Blaming the Victim