Please note: This comic contains discussion of sexual assault, rape, and rape culture
This guy, this fucking guy, still sticks in my brain. It’s been years since I’ve been online dating. It was an interaction of messages that culminated in this exchange over about 2 weeks.
He’s so forgettable in every other way, but I am just still so aggravated by this weird smug privileged obliviousness around constant social demands on women and femmefolk to be both constantly available to men and at the same time perfectly take all necessary steps to prevent their own rapes.
It is STUPID and AWFUL that we are expected to constantly be smart, aware, strong, reactive, proactive, and sober enough to prevent our own assaults. It is STUPID and AWFUL that if we do anything, ANYTHING, like have a glass of wine, or walk home, or smile at someone, or not smile at someone, that we are somehow in that way shouldering responsibility for someone deliberately, maliciously harming us.
And it is ridiculous to ask someone to shrug all of that social pressure and blaming and responsibility off because it’s vaguely insulting to you that someone has to think about the possibility that you’re not a great person.
Dude, thanks. You saved me a lot of wasted time with that message. I mean it.
So I’m looking forward to finally meeting you this weekend!
– Me too! Where should we meet?
Where do you live? I’ll pick you up and we can go back to my place.
– Actually, let’s meet downtown. There’s a bar I like on college street – or is there somewhere you’d prefer to grab a drink or a coffee?
– It’s no problem, I can pick you up and we can hang out at my house. I mix a mean martini.
– I’d really rather meet downtown in a bar or something. That would be a lot more comfortable for me for our first meeting.
– Wow, I think it’s pretty messed up that you’re just default assuming I’m a creepy rapist or something.
Sometimes, in my head, we have a conversation about this. It goes like this:
That’s a really tone-deaf and unfortunate thing to say.
One thing I have to think about, even though I’d rather not, even when I just want to have a date with someone who seems pretty cool, is risk.
Risk is an equation that we have to calculate all the time! Risk is balancing the likelihood that something will happen against the severity of consequences or outcomes if it does happen.
Then you have to decide what your risk threshold is – how risky something has to seem before it’s not acceptable to you.
Here’s an example risk calculation!
I’m going to wade through this group of angry ducks! What could possibly go wrong?
Well… they’ll probably quack a lot and peck me (likelihood of something negative happening- HIGH)
But I’m not going to get anything more than some light peck-bruising on my shins (consequences – MILD)
HIGH LIKELIHOOD + MILD CONSEQUENCES = eh, why not.
Yup, that sure was a lot of pecking.
Here are the elements of the date you just proposed:
A man I don’t know well
Who now knows where I live
Meeting alone in an isolated space away from other people
To a space that he knows and controls
To have drinks that I will not be preparing and may not know the contents of
In an area of town that may not be easy for me to leave
What is the likelihood that something bad will happen?
Probably low! You will likely be a perfectly reasonable person.
But if you’re not…the potential outcomes are bad to severe:
Having a creepy guy creep on me without easy options for me to end the date early…
Harassment and stalking now that you know where I live…
An escalated risk of violence or retaliation due to lack of public observation if I have to extract myself from unwanted advances…
Sexual or physical assault…
After being walked home on a first date:
Hey! That was fun!
Want to get together again on Friday?
Sorry, I have project work to do that night. Let’s aim for Sunday.
‘Project work’? Who was that guy in your apartment all Friday evening then?
In the unlikely event that you do assault me, here’s what I will get when I try to speak up about it to authorities or others:
Why did you go home alone with him?
Did you watch him make the drinks or did you just take whatever he gave you?
That’s what you get for meeting strangers from the internet.
He brought you to his house. What did you expect?
It’s just your word against his…
So you’re (insistently) asking me to meet under circumstances that pose increased risk. Even though the likelihood of you harming me is low, the consequences of the possibility that you will are significant…
…and the social and legal support I would attempt to access to address those consequences are diminished and compromised because of judgement around my decision to meet you despite the risks.
It’s important to remember that society very often places the responsibility for preventing harassment, stalking, assault and abuse on women, femmefolk, and other groups who are likely to experience sexual/intimate violence or assault.
We’re expected to perform risk calculations comprehensively and accurately all the time, and we’re expected to always choose correctly and prudently. We are expected to constantly take actions to reduce the likelihood that we may be harmed by others and reduce the severity of the harm we endure.
Don’t walk home alone
Don’t let strangers walk you home
Carry pepper spray
You made him mad by fighting back
Why didn’t you fight back harder?
Don’t act confrontational
Don’t act like a pushover
Don’t draw attention to yourself
You should have let him down easier
When we fail to successfully do all the things we’re supposed to and get harmed, we’re very likely to hear
Well, you were kind of asking for it…
But we don’t get this kind of reaction in other circumstances!
Driving is pretty risky! It’s totally possible every time you drive that you may be involved in a collision or accident, which can range from minor car damage to multiple deaths. We all know someone who has been involved in a moderate or serious car accident.
It’s absolutely possible that I will be hit by someone who is driving recklessly. But that’s a risk many of us accept every day, and I’m unlikely to have to shoulder a lot of the responsibility and blame for that accident.
How come I have to shoulder the responsibility and blame when someone rapes me? If it’s ok for me to accept the risk of being on the road during a rainstorm, why isn’t it ok for me to accept the risk of going on a date with a stranger?
My need for an environment and context in meeting you that feels safer for me is not a reflection on you as a person but is based on my actual, lived experiences of evaluating risk and experiencing unsafe situations, and a constant awareness of a social support structure that will blame me for allowing myself to become the victim of a crime.
So I’d very much prefer to meet in a space that is accessible and comfortable for both of us and I’d be happy to negotiate a meeting space that tries to meet both our wishes.
That’s the conversation I think about having. …but it’s not actually my job to fucking educate you. You’re already being an asshole about this.
So never mind.
Yeah, you’re right. Let’s not bother.