It never fails. On every article, video, etc., of safety tips or techniques for women on self defense, someone will say something on the variation, “Why don’t we just teach men not to rape?”
Oh my goodness, what a brilliant idea! I can’t believe no one ever thought of this before! Why stop at rape? We’ll just teach everyone not to do bad things. We’ll include character development and ethics in schools, and pretty soon we won’t have to worry about crime ever again. We’ll be able to spend all day holding hands and singing Kumbaya and we’ll have world peace.
If only someone had pulled young Adolf Hitler aside and told him that genocide is wrong. Then the Holocaust never would have happened, right?
Bad people do bad things because they are bad people. The want money, power, or that’s how they get their jollies, or whatever. They don’t rob, rape, and murder people just because they don’t know any better.
Not to mention that saying we should just teach men not to rape assumes that every man is a potential rapist, which is both insulting and sexist.
Let’s look at the case of Brock Turner. Turner was a 20 year old freshman at Stanford, when he was discovered by two other Stanford students sexually assaulting a young woman who was passed out, drunk. Turner was convicted of sexual assault and sentenced to six months. Many people were furious that he got such a light sentence. Even worse, he only served three months of that sentence, getting out early for “good behavior.”
Turner’s father had pleaded for leniency for his son. He claimed that prison “…Is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 year life.” “20 minutes of action” is quite the euphemism for rape. Unsurprisingly, many people were livid and horrified by this casual dismissal of sexual assault.
Turner tried to blame it on the alcohol. His victim explained in her statement “That he was going to go to any length to convince the world he had simply been confused.”
Now let’s go back to the “just teach men not to rape” claim. If it’s true that we just need to teach men not to rape, and then everything will be hunky-dory, then we would accept Turner’s claims about alcohol at face value. He was confused and didn’t know any better. Therefore, we should all be satisfied with his three month sentence, secure in the knowledge that now that he knows better, everything is fine.
But people aren’t fine with it. Why not? Because people don’t really believe that Turner just didn’t know any better. Because rape is a heinous crime and should be treated as such, and not excused as “20 minutes of action.”
It makes sense, in a world that contains people like Brock Turner, to teach people how to protect themselves. There is no magic wand to rid the world of evil. No amount of education or “raising awareness” will eliminate people who prey on other people. The best recourse is to take measures to protect yourself. It isn’t sexist or victim-blaming or perpetuating rape culture to teach young women (or anyone else) how to not be victims.
Whining about how we should just “teach men not to rape” is fairy-tale virtue signaling that accomplishes nothing. Meanwhile, in the real world, there are other people who are actually trying to help.
Don’t be a victim. Fight back.
- Psychological Factors Underlying Criminal Behavior, by Melita Schmideberg (pdf)
- Article from Psychology Today