“I was followed last Friday night when I was walking home from a restaurant.”
Zan, a young woman in her late twenties, left the restaurant by herself and decided to walk home, since she only had a mile to walk. A man in a car started following her.
Zan: “He pulled the car forward and kept asking me to stop, and asking if I’d have a drink with him. I ignored him and continued walking.” Eventually, the man gave up.
After the incident, Zan wondered, “Should I start carrying mace in my purse? Is it time to take a self-defense course? Would any of those things make a difference if the guy really had malice in mind?”
There are plenty of websites who cater to this very normal fear of rape by selling women self-defense tools. I recently came across one of them. As I was reading how to properly use the “Wild Kat Key Chain” to defend yourself against an attacker (“Technique 2: punch directly into your attackers eyes. The ears will fall on both sides of the nose and bury themselves deep into your attackers eye sockets”), I realized how deeply ingrained in women is the fear of male sexual violence.
We don’t even think about it, but fear of rape makes us orchestrate our entire lives around the knowledge that men can attack us and hurt us. We limit our lives in ways that would never even occur to men. We get a taxi to avoid walking home alone; we walk in groups; we ask a male friend to walk with us. When we do find ourselves in a situation where we must walk alone, especially after dark, we are nervous and extremely aware that we are vulnerable.
When we go to a party, we must keep an eye on our drink to make sure it isn’t spiked. When it’s hot and we dress in something short, we risk being accused of “asking for it.” Maybe we should cover up after all? At the end of a date, when we allow a man into our home or go into his home, there is always the possibility that things will go terribly wrong, that he’ll force us to do something we don’t want to do, and that the case will be un-prosecutable because while No Means No, apparently a “no” by a female is still considered a weaker form of “no.”
This constant fear, and the strategies used by women every single day to avoid being raped, are restrictive. They reduce our quality of life and limit our personal freedom.
I am married to a wonderful man and surrounded by wonderful, gentle and caring male friends and colleagues. This is not a rant against men. Rather, it is a rant against our society’s failure at eradicating rape.
In a civilized society, there’s really no reason for women to be afraid of men. People are not allowed to brutally attack other people, or to take what they want by force, are they? When they do, they are punished – except for rape, where conviction rates are actually dropping.
How can this be OK? Shouldn’t Zan be able to walk home by herself, after dark, without being afraid?
Photo credit: d’n’c’