The thing about “prevention” advocacy is that it can actually empower what it seeks to “prevent”. Consider all the things we deign to inform women about rape; there comes a point when telling women what they should and shouldn’t do becomes a quality of life issue. To wit, what about your clothes? When you go out on the town, wear clothes and shoes suitable for running, and you know, get a better haircut. At some point it sounds like this infintite prevention advocacy comes down to: “Plan your life around being sexually assaulted.” This would seem to invoke some sort of quality of life issue. Human rights. Who the hell other than women do we expect to live in perpetual fear?
No, really. Think about it. A year and a half ago, amid a string of sexual assaults and attempted abductions, Anna Minard of The Stranger (Seattle’s Only Newspaper) threw down the obvious gauntlet:
So, to review: Seattleites—and let’s be honest, we’re talking mostly to women here—as you go about your business, constantly scan your surroundings, memorizing detailed physical descriptions of people you encounter. Always know, down to the exact block, where you are and where the nearest security guard is and the hours of nearby businesses. Wear running shoes and loose, appropriate clothing—aka clothing appropriate for running away in. Bring your cell phone, but don’t use it to listen to music or text. And as you walk through the city like a human danger-scanner, walk confidently and keep your face neutral. You’re “in charge”!
WHAT THE FUCK?
I’m sure the police department is working to solve these crimes. I’m sure they just want to remind people that we live in a city and crime is real and it can happen to you. But this is exactly the kind of shit that we are talking about when we talk about women being raised in a culture of fear and conditioned to certain behaviors and expectations—like the expectation that we’re the ducks in a giant game of Duck Hunt™ ....
.... Here, as a refresher, are the best rape prevention tips I’ve ever read:
8. Use the Buddy System! If it is inconvenient for you to stop yourself from raping women, ask a trusted friend to accompany you at all times.
That is the conversation I would like to see happening at the Seattle Police Department, and not just among women on women’s blogs. Not a convoluted and ever-growing list of how to prevent your own rape by wearing the right non-rapey hairstyle or crossing the street in the most anti-rape fashion or sleeping in past the raping hour.
That is not helping women and, obviously, it is not ending rape.
We might mention this particular iteration for any number of reasons, suffice to say that there do exist in this world social circles where the 2013 events in Seattle triggered a long-running dispute between associates, a microcosmic reiteration of a genuinely ridiculous debate.