Via Elmyra, I was directed to a guest article on the Shapely Prose blog entitled 'Schrödinger's Rapist: or a guy's guide to approaching strange women without getting maced'. Here's an excerpt.
Gentlemen. Thank you for reading.
Let me start out by assuring you that I understand you are a good sort of person. You are kind to children and animals. You respect the elderly. You donate to charity. You tell jokes without laughing at your own punchlines. You respect women. You like women. In fact, you would really like to have a mutually respectful and loving sexual relationship with a woman. Unfortunately, you don’t yet know that woman—she isn’t working with you, nor have you been introduced through mutual friends or drawn to the same activities. So you must look further afield to encounter her.
So far, so good. Miss LonelyHearts, your humble instructor, approves. Human connection, love, romance: there is nothing wrong with these yearnings.
Now, you want to become acquainted with a woman you see in public. The first thing you need to understand is that women are dealing with a set of challenges and concerns that are strange to you, a man. To begin with, we would rather not be killed or otherwise violently assaulted.
“But wait! I don’t want that, either!”
Well, no. But do you think about it all the time? Is preventing violent assault or murder part of your daily routine, rather than merely something you do when you venture into war zones? Because, for women, it is. When I go on a date, I always leave the man’s full name and contact information written next to my computer monitor. This is so the cops can find my body if I go missing. My best friend will call or e-mail me the next morning, and I must answer that call or e-mail before noon-ish, or she begins to worry. If she doesn’t hear from me by three or so, she’ll call the police. My activities after dark are curtailed. Unless I am in a densely-occupied, well-lit space, I won’t go out alone. Even then, I prefer to have a friend or two, or my dogs, with me. Do you follow rules like these?
So when you, a stranger, approach me, I have to ask myself: Will this man rape me?
Do you think I’m overreacting? One in every six American women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. I bet you don’t think you know any rapists, but consider the sheer number of rapes that must occur. These rapes are not all committed by Phillip Garrido, Brian David Mitchell, or other members of the Brotherhood of Scary Hair and Homemade Religion. While you may assume that none of the men you know are rapists, I can assure you that at least one is. Consider: if every rapist commits an average of ten rapes (a horrifying number, isn’t it?) then the concentration of rapists in the population is still a little over one in sixty. That means four in my graduating class in high school. One among my coworkers. One in the subway car at rush hour. Eleven who work out at my gym. How do I know that you, the nice guy who wants nothing more than companionship and True Love, are not this rapist?
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.
There's a lot more at the link.
I'm in two minds about this article. As a former prison chaplain, I've met many rapists behind bars, and understand the threat they pose to women. As a retired pastor, I've had to counsel the victims of sexual violence, both in terms of overt rape and in the rather murkier, less clear-cut areas of date rape and marital violence. I can (and do) understand the fears of many women in this area.
On the other hand, I'm not an American. My formative years were spent in a colonial culture in Africa. At that time, and in that place, the sort of violence against women depicted by the author of this article was - at the very least - at a significantly lower level. I can't recall the 'threat' against women being anything like as bad as the author depicts. I honestly don't know whether or not her depiction of the situation in American society is accurate.
So, I thought I'd turn to my readers. What do you say? Is her depiction, both in the extract above and in the full article, a fair and realistic description of the dangers women face in modern social interaction? Is the incidence of strangers approaching women in public as frequent as she appears to indicate? Is her attitude realistic, or paranoid?
I'd be grateful for your responses in Comments, please. They'll help me to adjust my attitudes in counseling situations, where necessary.