I’m going to have to put Disclaimers on this post, because people are terrible. Absolutely nothing you do ever makes being raped your fault; rape and abuse are 100% the fault of rapists, not of survivors. If someone is using this, or anything else I write, to victim-blame survivors, they are doing it wrong. Got it? Okay.
If you were socialized female, you probably got a lot of advice about how not to be raped. Don’t wear slutty clothes. Don’t get drunk. Keep an eye on your drink. Don’t walk around late at night, especially not alone or in a “bad neighborhood.” Keep a rape whistle with you. Hold your keys between your fingers so you can stab a rapist in the eye. Don’t wear a ponytail (apparently rapists will use it to hold your hair back while they rape you). Yell “fire” instead of “rape” if you’re raped (???). Et cetera.
This advice is terrible for a lot of reasons. A lot of it is based less on empirical evidence and more on patriarchal theories about what sort of women get raped (drunk sluts) and why they get raped (dude was so horny he couldn’t help himself). It limits women’s ability to participate in routine activities like going to a bar, walking home from the bus stop at night, or wandering around shirtless after Rocky Horror. (Maybe that last one’s just me.) It concentrates on preventing stranger rape, which is only a third of all rapes. Much of the advice requires women to be constantly afraid. A lot of the advice involves making yourself less vulnerable to rape, which is less “rape prevention” and more “how to make sure they rape the other girl.” And, once again, there is no evidence that most of it actually works.
(This is all much better than the advice I got about how to prevent abusive relationships, which was mostly “don’t date a guy who hits you.” In other news, you can cure obesity by losing weight and poverty by earning more money.)
The standard feminist advice is what I’d call the Schrodinger’s Rapist/creepiness advice: “if you get a weird vibe from a dude, you don’t have to talk to him. Dudes, this is how you can prevent women getting a weird vibe from you.” This is actually much better advice than the standard advice, since it at least acknowledges that the key variable in whether a rape happens is the presence of a rapist. Also, people do not have to spend time with people they don’t want to spend time with, and “I get a weird vibe from you” is a perfectly legitimate reason not to want to talk to someone (although don’t be an asshole about it). However, I think it still suffers from some fatal flaws.
—”Schrodinger’s Rapist” is really poorly named, because the initial blogpost focuses on interactions between men and women in public. I mean, sure, in a dark alley “fuck dude’s gonna rape me” is a worry, but if a strange dude approaches me while I’m presenting female and on a bus, my concern is not that he’s Schrodinger’s Rapist, it’s that he’s Schrodinger’s Dude Who Lectures Me For Thirty Minutes About How Reading Instead Of Talking To Him Means I’m An Elitist Bitch.
Anyway, fatal flaws with the “creepiness” model. It assumes that rape and abuse are things women have to fear from men, as opposed to things that people have to fear from people; this is unfair to men, as well as giving abusive and rapey women a free pass. It assumes that people have a gut feeling about who’s creepy or a threat (hi, anxiety issues, I’m scared of everyone, your model does not work for me). It assumes that people’s gut feelings are fair and accurate, instead of influenced by classist, racist, ableist, and transmisogynistic social forces.
Fortunately, we can solve this problem, because as it happens people have been doing empirical research about the traits of abusers and rapists for like two decades! (Of course, not all rapists or abusers show all or, indeed, any of those traits, and some people show these traits and are not rapists or abusers. Nothing can zero out your risk of being raped or abused; it can only reduce it. And what level of risk you accept is ultimately your decision: whatever level of risk you’re comfortable with is right for you. I’m just providing information here.)
- Disrespect of boundaries. If you say “no” to something and they don’t listen that is a GIANT RED FLAG OF REDNESS AND FLAGGINESS. Same for pushing boundaries.
- Misogyny (for women assessing men), particularly anger at and desire to control/dominate women. Even something like appreciating sexist humor is correlated with likelihood to rape and is a (minor) red flag.
- Hypermasculinity (again, for women assessing men).
- Antisociality and lack of empathy.
- Rape- or abuse-justifying beliefs.
- Gaslighting, even if relatively minor.
- Excessive jealousy or anger.
- Constantly criticizing you or putting you down.
- Tries to get you to quit your hobbies or stop talking to your friends or family.
- Conversely, seems way too good to be true.
- Blames their previous relationships’ failure on their partners.
- History of committing abuse or rape. (I mean, duh?)
I feel like listing them out most of the red flags are… really really obvious? Stay away from absurdly horrible people, they are more likely to abuse or rape you! It is totally valid to be like “that person criticizes me a lot and doesn’t quite grasp the concept of ‘no,’ I am not going to spend time with them anymore.”
[ETA: a lot of people in the comments are like "where are the citations?" I was totally hoping I could get away without citations, but I cannot pull anything on you people. The answer is: I know this because I spent like a month reading hundreds of articles about rapist and abuser psychology and I am way too lazy to dig up all the articles I read. David Lisak, My Favorite Researcher In The Entire World, is a good place to start if you want to do your own research though.]