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Mon Dec 3, 2012, 03:59 PM

A bit about "potential rapists". [View all]

One of the most commonly misunderstood and misquoted ideas that come up when discussing rape is Schrodinger's Rapist. Schrodinger's Rapist basically states that when a strange man approaches a woman, she has no idea if he is or is not a rapist. It's not about defining rapists or accusing men of being rapists, it's about threat assessment and an attempt to explain that threat assessment to the people being assessed. (That would be us, guys.)

This is not the same thing as claiming all men are potential rapists. The claim being made is that a woman simply cannot tell if a man is a rapist or not by sight alone. This is not an extraordinary claim. Rapists don't wear “Hi, I'm A Rapist!” t-shirts. They don't have flashing neon signs over their heads. There is no physical characteristic that will allow a woman to pick a rapist out of a crowd.

Given all of that, it's often in a woman's best interest to assume strangers approaching them might be a rapist, especially since there's a not inconsequential segment of society that will blame them if they engage a man in conversation and he turns out to be a rapist. Also known as the "What was she wearing?" discussion.

It's why we use a username here instead of our real name. The vast majority of us aren't crazy people that might hurt someone from the internet, but someone might be. Since we can't tell who might be a psychopath, we hide our identity from people we don't know. We're all Schrodinger's Crazy Person That Might Kill Me Over A Disagreement On The Internet.

It's the same reason that if I asked you what your Social Security number is you'd ask me if I'd lost my fucking mind. I'd never steal someone's identity, but you have absolutely no way of knowing that. To hand that over requires trust, which I, as a completely anonymous person in the crowd, don't have. It doesn't mean you think I'm an identity thief or even a potential identity thief. It just means you have no way of knowing, and without any way of knowing, it's better to be safe than sorry.

Our desire to interact with a woman does not trump her right to be left alone, and it certainly doesn't trump her right to set her own acceptable level of risk. We're not entitled to a conversation. Men actually turn out to be rapists at a far higher rate than parachute failure: This doesn't make someone wrong for refusing to go skydiving, it just means they have a different level of acceptable risk than we do. We all have different levels of acceptable risk, and none of them are wrong.

Women are simultaneously expected to keep themselves from being raped and expected to be courteous to every single person that approaches them. When they aren't, they're accused of hating men, wanting to outlaw attraction, and being stuck up. (Among other things) Society cannot demand women be responsible for their own protection, then insist what they decide is necessary to protect themselves is unreasonable. We can't have it both ways.

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