Several years ago, I came across a woman standing on a street corner at night, obviously lost. She asked where the nearest train station was and I told her – about 20 minutes walk away. I offered to drive her to the station but she refused, saying she’d catch a cab instead.
When I got home, I told my partner about the incident and how puzzled I was that the woman refuse my offer of a lift. My partner said “why would she get into a car with an unknown male. For all she knew, you may take her somewhere and rape her”. While I understood this, I was a little offended – “why would anyone think that”?
Late last week, I read a blog post that reminded me of the “woman on the street corner” incident. The article is “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.
The title is based on Schrödinger’s Cat – as the author explains:
“Essentially the point is that the cat in the box is either alive or dead. We don’t know, because it’s in the box. We can calculate the probability, but until the box is opened, the cat exists in a state of uncertainty. Dead? Alive? Somewhere between the two?… Upon meeting a man, we have no information about him other than the general stats. We collect more information as we go, but that information does not erase the uncertainty. It just changes the odds. The only way we know for sure-the only way the box can be opened, as it were-is if the man proves himself a rapist by committing a rape, either against us or against someone else.”
“Novelist Margaret Atwood writes that when she asked a male friend why men feel threatened by women, he answered, “They are afraid women will laugh at them.” When she asked a group of women why they feel threatened by men, they said, “We’re afraid of being killed.”
Some of the comments raise legitimate concerns about “profiling”:
“You know, if you replace “man” with “young black male”, and “rapist” with “mugger”, and substitute the appropriate statistics, you’ve got yourself an argument you’d see on Stormfront. Is it OK for me to go with “Schrodinger’s mugger” and assume that any young black guy I see on the subway is a mugger until I know otherwise? Because assuming that any man could be a rapist is about the same mentality.”
Others have replied to this line of argument:
“Here’s the thing. In my experience, being treated as a potential rapist hasn’t harmed me in any way. I haven’t been hassled by the police for driving while male. I haven’t been kicked out of bars or followed around stores or whatever because my masculinity was threatening people… ABSOLUTELY THE ONLY CONSEQUENCE of the “sexual profiling” that I face as a man has been that I have to be a little more polite and considerate around strange women, especially if we’re alone together or it’s dark. Okay, I can do that. No skin off my nose.
People of color have a very different experience with racial profiling. They do get hassled by the police more because of it, often with really dreadful consequences. They do lose out on good jobs and a lot of social perks – and so on. It is a big, serious, hairy deal that harms them in a lot of ways. I figure that gives them a good reason to complain about it when they experience it.
I think if I lived in some mirror universe where I faced serious, persistent, life-altering harmful consequences for being male, I’d be more likely to get angry at the women who crossed the street to avoid me – and I’d be more sympathetic to other guys who get angry over it. As is, I just don’t feel like us men have a legitimate grievance here.”
I read most of these comments on a late night train trip back to Sydney over the weekend. At one point I was interrupted by a young male, obviously drunk, who came into the carriage and started making sexually explicit gestures at two young females who were outside the carriage. He then held up his fingers to try and give them his mobile phone number. As the train began to move away from the station, he turned to me and said “Do you go to church?”. When I said “no” he angrily replied “I do. I believe in Jesus”.
What sort of world are we living in where it is ok to sexually harrass females, but not ok to miss going to church?
“We are all doomed”, I thought.