The “Teach Men Not to Rape” Line

So, I was scrolling through my Facebook so-called newsfeed. When something caught my eye. It was a comment by a former student on a post shared by another former student of mine. Before we continue, I need to stress, nothing contained herein is an attack of any sort on my former students. They are wonderful people and even if they were evil (I assure you, neither of these two are even remotely evil), I am merciless on bad ideas, but refuse to attack the person who has the ideas. It’s part of my charm.

Anyway, I saw this:


I wanted to comment, but for some reason held my tongue. Probably because this is a line that is force-fed on university campuses in my country.

The teach men not to rape is a very popular line used widely on University campuses in the U.S. It is an easy answer, and when you call out the foolishness of the plan if it is to be implemented as a tactic against rape, you end up being called many names and are accused of being blinded by rape culture and even admonished for your victim blaming.

Here is the base issue with this line: even if you have mandatory “No no, don’t rape” classes, there will still be men stupid and selfish enough to rape. Teaching rapists not to rape is as asinine a plan as teaching burglars not to burgle. And dontcha just love the way that they sneak in the assumption that all men are rapists? Change rapists to men and you will start having college girls shouting “Teach men not to rape”, which is an incredible slight of hand for the uninitiated.

Most men would never even consider rape. Sorry to bust the narrative. Look at the number of men who rape versus the number who don’t. And speaking as a non-rapist I can assure you that men everywhere are quick to condemn a rapist with very little in the way of evidence. The accusation alone is enough to cause a person the become an outcast.

Aside from the shift of language, there is the subtle shift of responsibility.

You are responsible for your safety. Counting on other people to NOT harm you is silly. While most people would not ever harm you, some will destroy you for fun. A few might try to save you, but there are many who would actually watch your demise without even the slightest impulse to help you.

And it isn’t really teaching women to not be raped, it is teaching women how to stop the threat. I’ve never taught a class where I mentioned, “this is how to not be raped”. I have, on the other hand, taught classes where I said, “this is a way to make someone drop to their knees and beg forgiveness”.

Learn to protect yourself because your safety starts with learning what you can do to avoid unnecessary risks, how to identify predatory behavior, and how to stop the threat when they initiate violence.

Look, your safety is not always going to be able to be kept within the confines of a neat little soundbite. The real world can get freaking ugly, and some of the things that people do to each other are a reflection of this fact. Take charge. Put your first line of defense in your own hands instead of putting it in a catchphrase. In practical terms, pithy slogans will not save you from the bad guy, but properly applied violence can. As long as you understand that there are some really screwed up people in the world, you will still be able to see that sometimes force is necessary for staying safe from the predator humans.

To all of my students, past, and present, I love and respect you for the wonderful people that you are, but I seem to have little patience for the irresponsible answers that you are being taught to use to address serious issues. Can that be a part of my charm too?