I'm as young as I'll ever be.
You want to say Hi to the cute girl on the subway. How will she react? Fortunately, I can tell you with some certainty, because she’s already sending messages to you. Looking out the window, reading a book, working on a computer, arms folded across chest, body away from you = do not disturb. So, y’know, don’t disturb her. Really. Even to say that you like her hair, shoes, or book. A compliment is not always a reason for women to smile and say thank you. You are a threat, remember? You are Schrödinger’s Rapist. Don’t assume that whatever you have to say will win her over with charm or flattery. Believe what she’s signaling, and back off.
If you speak, and she responds in a monosyllabic way without looking at you, she’s saying, “I don’t want to be rude, but please leave me alone.” You don’t know why. It could be “Please leave me alone because I am trying to memorize Beowulf.” It could be “Please leave me alone because you are a scary, scary man with breath like a water buffalo.” It could be “Please leave me alone because I am planning my assassination of a major geopolitical figure and I will have to kill you if you are able to recognize me and blow my cover.”
On the other hand, if she is turned towards you, making eye contact, and she responds in a friendly and talkative manner when you speak to her, you are getting a green light. You can continue the conversation until you start getting signals to back off.
The fourth point: If you fail to respect what women say, you label yourself a problem.
There’s a man with whom I went out on a single date—afternoon coffee, for one hour by the clock—on July 25th. In the two days after the date, he sent me about fifteen e-mails, scolding me for non-responsiveness. I e-mailed him back, saying, “Look, this is a disproportionate response to a single date. You are making me uncomfortable. Do not contact me again.” It is now October 7th. Does he still e-mail?
Yeah. He does. About every two weeks.
This man scores higher on the threat level scale than Man with the Cockroach Tattoos. (Who, after all, is guilty of nothing more than terrifying bad taste.) You see, Mr. E-mail has made it clear that he ignores what I say when he wants something from me. Now, I don’t know if he is an actual rapist, and I sincerely hope he’s not. But he is certainly Schrödinger’s Rapist, and this particular Schrödinger’s Rapist has a probability ratio greater than one in sixty. Because a man who ignores a woman’s NO in a non-sexual setting is more likely to ignore NO in a sexual setting, as well.
So if you speak to a woman who is otherwise occupied, you’re sending a subtle message. It is that your desire to interact trumps her right to be left alone. If you pursue a conversation when she’s tried to cut it off, you send a message. It is that your desire to speak trumps her right to be left alone. And each of those messages indicates that you believe your desires are a legitimate reason to override her rights.
For women, who are watching you very closely to determine how much of a threat you are, this is an important piece of data.
an excerpt from Phaedra Starling’s “Schrödinger’s Rapist: or a guy’s guide to approaching strange women without being maced” (via lostgrrrls)
The idea of Schrödinger’s Rapist is pretty brilliant and this whole post is worth clicking and reading through. Some good stuff.
I would like to add something: I frequently read and hear in conversation about the way women are treated in media and how it trains them to react to their own bodies and feelings. It’s all part of the larger rape culture, something every person needs to be vigilant about.
One thing I hear very little about is how media trains men. Consider how many romantic movie plots revolve around a man chasing a woman. That is, how many movies are about a woman sending all of the “I’m not interested” signals in her arsenal to a man who ignores them, presses on, and wins her over in some grand romantic scene. Think of Ryan Gosling’s persistence in The Notebook. Or how creepily single-minded Joaquin Phoenix’s Johnny Cash is in Walk The Line. In teen movies like 10 Things I Hate About You and She’s All That. One of the most iconic romantic movie images is that of John Cusack with his boom box in Say Anything, definitely not respecting boundaries. Out of Sight is an extreme example but movies like Avatar and The Terminator push the idea that if he saves her, she’ll love him. The first Back to the Future movie is about Marty ensuring his parents will get married by engineering a situation where his father can be the hero even though his mother, who clearly is more interested in Marty himself. It happens in “dude” movies, too. Comedies like The Wedding Crashers and Anchorman love this device.
What does all of this add up to? Men are constantly told by the media that they are responsible for the first move and if the girl doesn’t immediately respond, it is also the man’s job to win her over. Those barriers she has set up to protect herself are keeping her from true happiness and it’s in her best interest to break them down and show her what love is really about. I don’t think most men are explicitly thinking that thing but it’s certainly what they’ve been led to believe.
As media influences men in this way, women can be influenced as well. Some women expect romantic gestures from men. I’ve heard female friends talk about “making him work for it.” It’s more training for men to feel like they’re responsible for “winning” the girl, which objectifies women in the truest sense and creates a precedent where the man doesn’t do the most obvious thing that humans should be doing: listening to one another.
It’s all part of a larger landscape that I don’t think can be ignored. It’s not simply a matter of telling men “you’re doing it wrong” but also asking “where did you learn this?” Something to think about.
We have a government that says it’s okay to eat Twinkies and Cocoa Puffs and Mountain Dew, but it’s illegal to drink raw milk and eat compost-grown tomatoes and Aunt Matilda’s pickles.