Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Schrödinger’s Rapist

Schrödinger’s Rapist: or a guy’s guide to approaching strange women without being maced:
When you approach me in public, you are Schrödinger’s Rapist. You may or may not be a man who would commit rape. I won’t know for sure unless you start sexually assaulting me. I can’t see inside your head, and I don’t know your intentions. If you expect me to trust you—to accept you at face value as a nice sort of guy—you are not only failing to respect my reasonable caution, you are being cavalier about my personal safety.

(via PZ Myers)


  1. Shorter version:

    "Men! Stay away from women. Seriously, DON'T YOU FUCKING DARE GO ANYWHERE NEAR WOMEN!"

  2. Actually, the shorter version would be:

    Women, stay the fuck away from Alex.

    I recommend this advice without reservation.

  3. "It's all your fault, bozos." He cracks me up. Men like to take umbrage at the concept of Schrodinger's Rapist, but it's something that most girls are taught in school. Literally. I am not joking when I say that this was the class handout: (Did I mention it was a Christian school? Ugh.)

    If outraged men everywhere want to end Schrodinger's Rapist, they need to step up and lead the fight against sexual power crimes as men. That is, if they can ever take a break from fighting for their right to creep up behind women at night.

  4. There is no question that men need to be more aware of the challenges that women have to face. The article does highlight an undeniable problem of horrifying proportions. There is an ongoing failure it seems to inculcate in young men an attitude of 'Never, under any circumstances, ever'

    Boy oh boy is this a touchy subject in the atheist/skepical community.

    As the whole elevator-gate scandal with Rebecca Watson shows there is no more effective way to draw the fury of the skeptical community than to suggest that any given example of sexism isn't an example of sexism.

    Richard Dawkins described the elevator incident as a non-event and the amount of vitriol directed at him for it is impressive.
    That someone might disagree stongly is understandable but it is cheap to say that he is a rich, white, male and therefore must be a privaliged sexist. Let debate ensure certainly but to immediately claim that rejecting any claim of sexism automatically makes you "privaliged" and clueless and boorish etc. etc. is ridiculous. It is on par with claiming that any woman who brings a charge of sexism is "playing the victim card". Both criticisms are cheap and ultimately say nothing. I'm not sure why but I would have thought the rational community would be a bit more rational.

    The whole thing is a mess. The arguments from both sides are getting baser and less relevant by the second. It is a little discouraging that the disagreement could not have been more rationally discussed.

    My two cents on the whole thing. While men do need to proport themselves with far more consideration, to label a clumsy come-on in an elevator sexist is I think taking it too far. Phil Plait even called it "a potential sexual assault".
    If a guy politely tries to pick up a woman and is rejected, takes no for answer immediately and backs off, I can't really fault him on sexism grouds. Judgement grounds certainly but to make the claim that he is a misogynist on that evidence alone is taking it a little far.

    If you have come across this furore and I'd be fairly surprised if you haven't, whats your take on it all?

  5. "A gentleman never gives offense unintentionally."

    I'm not really paying attention to the "conversation" about the Watson elevator incident. I'm pretty much relying on the general principle that atheists are, on the whole, just as stupid and fucked-up as everyone else, and atheist/skeptical men are just as blind as anyone else to their own privilege and the historical and contemporary oppression of women. I'm tired of morons (like Alex) who obviously lack even the hint that a clue might be out there to be had. I may be wrong, but my blood pressure can no longer stand knowing in detail that I'm right.

    In general, I'm completely unsympathetic to defensiveness. With very few exceptions, if someone says you said or did something sexist, racist, or otherwise assholy, in almost all cases the proper response is, "Sorry. That was a dick move. It won't happen again." When an easy option that's almost always correct is available, I have no patience when someone doesn't just take it and move on.

    Men have been shitting on women so thoroughly, completely and violently for so long that we have a moral obligation to bend over backwards to help women feel safe and participate equally in our society. If you don't want to do that, that's your problem, but don't (as Alex did earlier in this thread) come crying to me about how women are oppressing you.

  6. I suppose that's one way to look at it.

    Personally, I take the view that two irrationalities don't make a rational case.

    Women are divided on this one too. The women who are saying this was not sexism are in beautiful irony being completely ignored.

    To be honest Larry, I can't help but feel that if someone wrongly accused you of racism or sexism you would tear them a new one.

  7. That would depend on how wrong and how strong the accusation was.

    I haven't commented on the Watson case at hand because I don't have quotations and citations; I don't know precisely what was said. I've heard second-hand accounts saying everything from that Watson accused what's-his-name of being an RCH from a rapist to that she said, "Hey, don't do that, it's a little scary." At first the controversy seemed to be not about his behavior, but about whether Watson should or should not have actually named the guy. Since I'm not seeing any quotations and citations in what little bit of the discussion has filtered my way, I'm drawing the conclusion that it's mostly about each individual's own biases, rather than about the incident itself. My own biases lean very strongly towards the feminist side. I've also seen (also second- and third-hand) a lot of arguments that seem intrinsically stupid. For example, Richard Dawkins' comment, which I've seen characterized as basically "don't we have bigger fish to fry?" seems like a particularly stupid line of argument, one that the atheist community has often rebutted. (Because I lack the interest to find the exact quotation, I have not, of course, commented on it directly or in any depth.)

    For another example, there's Alex's supremely moronic comment at the beginning of this thread. My brief forays into the world of the feminist debate have shown me that his mindset seems held by at least a substantial minority, if not an actual majority. I lack the interest and patience to deal with that mindset, even a little.

    Personally, I get much less upset about accusations of racism and sexism. My goal is not to act rightly in some abstract sense. Rather, my goal is for everyone to be happy. If I can do something moderate or reasonable to make an historically oppressed group happier, that's a good enough reason by itself for me to do it (or not do it). I also no longer see sexism or racism and suchlike as terrible crimes about which I should feel horribly guilty. I see them rather as errors: if it turns out I've done something sexist or racist (or just something that's offended a woman or a person of color), I just correct the behavior; it doesn't affect my fundamental self-image as a good person.

    Finally, even unreasonable and immoderate requests don't particularly bother me anymore. I know that white, male, heteronormative, etc. privilege really does exist. and I can never be sufficiently confident that I'm not really defending my privilege instead of defending against an "unjust" accusation. As a skeptic, I want to bend over backwards to correct my own biases. So I usually won't defend against such accusations; I will, of course, defend myself if the accusations are egregiously unreasonable and if there are substantial consequences involved. If someone falsely accused me of criminal rape or workplace sexual harassment, for example, I would of course defend myself. But for anything less, it's easier and more charitable to shrug and say, "Sorry. I didn't mean to offend you," and move on with my life.

  8. "As a skeptic, I want to bend over backwards to correct my own biases."

    Good skpetiphilosophy to have. Plus it's good people skills. If someone says I did something racist, I could either go "NUH-UH, HOW DARE YOU?!?" or I could go "oh wow, that does look pretty bad, let me know what I can do better next time." Which makes me look more mature, and also helps me get along better with my fellow humans?

  9. Larry,

    I got to hand it to you. That was an excellent description of your viewpoint and I find myself in agreement.
    I will always riase an eyebrow to what seem like unfounded acusations but maybe it is not always worth fighting a pitched battle over and maybe in the long term counterproductive.

    Probably best to just take it on case by case and you say maybe not be so concerned about being 100% conciencious in always seeing that absolute correctness was adhered to but rather trying to make the playing field more level.

    I can't help but feel though that somewhat irresponsible claims of sexism don't help either.

  10. Of course, the difficulty with such a fine article is that those who ought to be reading it most are those least likely to read it or anything like it. I mean, this stuff is old hat for men who are what the author calls "the good guys" (though it bears repeating, I suppose), whereas those who flagrantly violate these principles will hardly be found reading one such open letter online.

  11. Feminism aside, it's ironic this started in an Dublin elevator during a convention intended as a launching pad for the new Atheist Alliance International, the world wide umbrella group for atheist advocacy groups. I suspect that the larger and more organized atheist groups become, the more non-atheist issues will threaten to derail the moment and shatter it back into separate fragments.

  12. It is cheap to say that he is a rich, white, male and therefore must be a privaliged sexist.

    No. He's a rich, white male, and is therefore privileged. He said sexist things, and is therefore a sexist.

    There's no harm in being privileged, as long as you're aware of it.


  13. From jimbo.

    I can not understand you at all. All the women who pontificate on "all men are potential rapists" I take pride in being a gentleman and always raise my hat and say good day to a lady when passing. Am I to be snubbed, ostracised, ignored? Come on ladies get real ....I am not out to ravish you or rape or molest you just to be polite and friendly. Is the whole of the male race to be snubbed because of a few? I have no objection to you getting mace out prior to responding but to ignore a friendly greeting must get real ladies.

  14. Here's a quarter, moron. Buy yourself a dictionary.

  15. I'm curious, which poster are you calling a moron. Jimbo's post didn't address the main points of Starlings article. I don't know which comment's TRiG is referring to as sexist. To call the response to the elevator event a non-even isn't sexist as it isn't identifying a woman as less valuable or as needing to fulfill a traditional sexual role. Callous certainly but not sexist. Someone can also make a sexist remark without being sexist provided they don't believe their gender to be superior or more valuable (the same's true of racism). Even though TRiG's comment isn't quite right I don't know if he's deserving of "moron". The buy ourself a dictionary comment makes sense in that context. The Observer refers to it being ironic that the controversy occurred a the AAI convention that states the issue is irrelevant to atheist group issue . I'm not sure how its ironic (its irrelevant to whatever the organization does how can it be ironic?). He actually says atheist issues, don't know what that means considering absence of belief in gods is the only thing that defines atheism (actively doing or promoting something doesn't define it).

    1. I read through Starling's article. I mostly agree with it. The major thing is that a very small proportion of men are rapist. Quite a few of rape polls and studies are a little weird too, considering things like consensual alchohol consumption then consensual sex while intoxicated as rape .Its not a good idea, often sleazy, but I'm not sure whether to call it rape especially since people don't seem to react like its even close to being as a traumatic experience as what is usually associated with the word (forcful sex or non-consensual drugging then sex); in some of the polls that have been done the woman labled has having been raped doesn't consider the act to be rape and she keeps seeing the guy For some reason the intoxicated man isn't considered to be raped, would mutual intoxication than sex be mutual rape (whatever it is its ill advised)? The percentage of women raped sometime in their lifetime can be calculate from government records of crime per capita per year(fbi, nypd,etc) and it comes out to around 5% if I remember correctly. That's a far cry from the number given in some studies (polls).That doesn't factor in false reports or unreported rapes though. The 5 percent is just above the number given for estimated rapist men. Apparently rapists tend to rape multiple times though. A small minority of men are rapists but I'm not really sure which statistics to go off of in terms of number of rapes so its hard to tell just how likley rape is (I'm going with false reports such as groping, anger, threats reported as rapes outnumber non-reports, so I think theres a likely low number). I think that's relevant to the article because knowledge of liklihood is important to determine risk posed by strangers. Personally, despite men to men violent crimes being most prevalence violent crimes in the world (which doesn't indicate what kind of distribution of crimes there are by type of location or types of situations) I feel that superficial assessments of people over breif periods of time are enough to make me feel reasonably safe around a stranger or strangers even if I'm otherwise alone (I'm not saying others should do that). If a womans in public is in a group the chance of violence or rape could be expected to be consdierably lower than alone. I agree with Starling appraising her environment and the signals from the men to tell if she's safe, she should do that. I agree that all men are shrodinger rapists as well, but then nearly all consious people are shrodinger-criminals in every respect. The more interesting question is whether whether the likelyhood of all significant threat posed is high enough to warrant being on high alert around them. I wouldn't be offended if a woman I barely knew viewed every man as a threat-to-take-note of including me, I imagine it would be unpleasant for someone to live everyday treating half of the population as a real threat (although in some locations and circumstances the alertness could be necessary for survival) when a very small minority would actually ever rape someone. Just seems like a lot of stress and tedium diminishing quality of life when odds are a violent crime is not going to happen in that situation or in their lifetime in regular social situations and in most locations. Starling for example has her friend call her the next day after a date and never fails to record a man's adress in case she's murdered.

  16. [W]hich poster are you calling a moron[?]

    I was calling jimbo a moron, because he does not seem able to comprehend simple, grammatically correct declarative sentences in the English language.

    At the time of the comment, Blogger didn't allow replies to appear under the comment replied to.

    1. Sorry for the insanely long post under reply to my own comment. Good thing these replies are automatically in a collapsed state. I have three more parts if that's okay. Kind of an unintended essay written literally as my views changed re-reading through the Shrodinger's rapist article. I make corrections as I go. I wrote it mostly for me, doesn't matter much if their saved. When you add input to peoples comments its cool, but my one very long post (three parts) I wrote mostly for me, doesn't matter much if its saved. I don't know how easy it is for you to delete once its posted.

    2. On second thought one huge block of text is unattractive and hard to read. Should have broken it up. Oh well.

    3. whoops correction

      Their is supposed to be it's. I'm also writing with, I think, split infinitives. It's important to edit and to actually write so correctly so I can produce coherent posts.

    4. I mean its important that I edit my posts...I'm going to stop now. So sorry.

  17. I'm not going to delete your comment, guy.

    Don't worry too much about minor errors of grammar and spelling; this isn't an English Comp class. It would, however, be nice to have some paragraph formatting, which is more than just space: It's about stating a point, supporting it with evidence and analysis, and then tying the point to a larger thesis. You need to organize your ideas for the reader.

    Your comment is kind of rambling and unfocused in general, but I'm going to try to extract a couple of points to expand on.

    The actual prevalence of rape, and any controversies around date rape, really doesn't have anything to do with the original essay. The essay is about women living in fear of sexually motivated violence, and what men can to do allay those fears out of concern for the happiness and well-being of our fellow humans.

    Second, it is only within my lifetime that rape has been anything other than at worst a tool to maintain the subjection of women, and at best a crime against the property of the husband or father that owned the woman.

    Finally, I'd like to say that in my nearly 5 decades, I have never had to worry about unjust or unfounded accusations of rape, because I've never done anything in even the same galaxy as nonconsensual sex. My restraint has never caused me the tiniest concern or regret.

  18. If you had to choose between sexism and racism, in the context of the essay, which would it be?
    For example, a black man approaches you and yells that you have a fine pair of buttocks and asks for your name and number.
    Although you are aware that black men are more likely to rape you than white men, should you allow this to factor into your decision?
    To ignore it would be to ignore the basic idea of the essay, which is that women should make a calculated risk assessment every time a man is encountered, for their own protection, which is reasonable.
    But to allow yourself to be more scared as a result of his colour of skin would be racism, and you would be participating in the systematic persecution of an entire race of people.
    What do???

    1. Wow. The stupidity of that statement is truly staggering.

    2. It's not really a statement, it is a question, and I take it that you have no answer for me.
      Instead you chose to attack me belligerently. May I ask why?
      I assume that you of course understand that I am neither a racist or a sexist.

    3. I'm not going to waste any more of my time talking to you.

    4. So you do not think it is important to convince people of the merit of this article, yet you will post it on your "web log," as if to say you support it and argue with everyone who criticizes it.
      I really need to know whether racial stereotypes should be employed in my attempts to preemptively defend myself from a potential rapist. It is for my own protection, and the protection of every woman.
      Giving me and the whole internet an answer to this conundrum could prevent future rapings, so if you care about rape, then you will at least give your two dollars and fifty seven cents.

    5. Why do you continue talking to me when I have already indicated my unwillingness to reply?

      Please, just go away and bother someone else.

    6. You don't seem like you have an "unwillingness to reply." You seem like you have a "lack of meaningful response."
      Goodbye my friend, here's to hoping you do not live your life in fear of being raped.

  19. Schrodinger’s Maneater is not about “all women are evil.”
    It is not even about “all women are potentially evil.” All women are, in fact, potentially evil, in much the same sense as all men are potentially evil, and all brunettes are potentially evil. All people are potentially evil, because evil is not a function of anything about a person except the fact that they do evil things.
    It is about “a very significant proportion of men will, when you approach them, be assessing whether you are going to be That Crazy Bitch...”

    ...That Crazy Bitch makes up only a tiny percentage of women. However, she has poisoned the well for everyone else.
    I think a lot of women underestimate the fear most men have around relationships of any kind. For instance, I am the happiest little stud you could ever hope to meet. However, I would never date or have sex with a woman whom a friend, or a friend of a friend, didn’t vouch for, because she might lie about being on birth control and ding me for 18 years paying for a child I didn't want, or cry rape the next morning when her boyfriend demands to know where she was all night, or only be after my wallet, or take me for everything I have or care about--including my kids--when she's done with me. On a rational level, I know the chance of me getting screwed over in some way because I slept with or entered a relationship with a woman is about as likely as me...well, actually, it's getting likelier all the time. Huh. I mean, on an emotional level, I want intimacy with a woman, but my powers of observation and sense of self-preservation associates "sexual involvement with women, whether I know them or not", with "getting fucked over, maybe for life.”

    1. I think people often read Schrodinger’s Rapist as “one man, one woman, in a dark ally”. If that were all, it’d be woefully incomplete. In reality, it’s about “one man, one woman, in a dark ally, *in this culture*”. This is essential to understanding. It isn’t just “he’s bigger than me, so he could rape me if he tried”. It’s also “if he did rape me, society would find some way to BLAME ME for it”.

      When it comes to TCB (Anon referenced above), the blame will be placed squarely on the woman for ruining his life. Poor guy, how was he to know she was a trap! But in the case of rape, victims simply do not have that luxury.

      Since everyone loves elevators, I’ll use that as an example. It’s 4am. A woman gets on an elevator with a man. Nothing happens. Yay! So let’s re-run that, but this time she gets assaulted. Not only does she have to deal with having been assaulted, she also has to deal with accusations of “but why would you get on an elevator with a strange man at 4am? Don’t you know that’s dangerous? I mean, I’m not saying it’s your fault, but you wouldn’t have been harmed if you had just known better.”

      Privilege is that men don’t have to think of how the world will react to every possible outcome of a decision they make, not quite the same way women do. Women have to not only avoid potential rape, but they have to avoid being BLAMED for potential rape.

  20. "Privilege is that men don’t have to think of how the world will react to every possible outcome of a decision they make, not quite the same way women do."

    What study is that from? If I went into a dark alley at 4am and get stabbed, I think people would be at least as likely to ask me "why would you go into a dark alley at 4am? Don’t you know that’s dangerous?"


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