Irradiated by LabRat
So I’ve so far managed to avoid ever commenting on anything related to Elevatorgate, which blew way the hell up on a lot of blogs I sometimes read and sometimes lurk in comments at, but nowhere all that close to home, and blew up in ways that were really ridiculously huge, and seems to get real stupid real fast everywhere it’s discussed. Including at Popehat, where I regarded the initial post as too reasonable to have issue with and therefore exploded in the comments.
So I recognize I’m basically failing as a pattern-recognizing organism in remarking on anything at all related, but apparently one repeated trend in discussions (other than the mass insanity) bothers me enough to do the internet equivalent of going in the bathroom, turning off the lights, and saying “Candyman” five times.
That trend is this: someone brings up Schrodinger’s Rapist, some people get REALLY REALLY OFFENDED by Schrodinger’s rapist, and things immediately devolve into a flamefit back and forth between “THIS IS NAKED BIGOTRY AGAINST MEN” vs “STOP BEING ENTITLED PIGS”.
The thing is, the basic premise of Schrodinger’s Rapist is true. Every woman I know has the idea of assault in general and sexual assault in particular ingrained in some way into the fabric of her life and routines in little rules like the blogger describes. Don’t go walking alone/without dogs at night, always make a first date/meeting somewhere public, always make sure someone knows where you’ve gone if going out with a new guy, etc. etc. Everyone follows rules basically like them; lock your doors, fasten your seatbelt, the friendly Nigerian who sent you an e-mail about the great financial opportunity probably isn’t telling the truth. The post itself goes pretty far in hammering down “BECAUSE A STRANGE MAN MIGHT BE A SEXUAL PREDATOR”, which is in fact the reason for the little rules, but most women that aren’t recovering from having been actually assaulted and possibly having PTSD aren’t explicitly thinking like that anymore than someone who gets into their car and buckles their seatbelt is thinking about all the maniacs on the road and how they might kill him. (Or, for this audience, any more than someone who showers, shaves, dresses, and puts on their carry pistol is thinking about how he or she might have to shoot someone in the grocery store.)
What it’s actually more like is that the question “If (unknown guy interacting with) asks for sex/proposes step toward sex, and I say no, what happens” is always somewhere in there, buried many layers down or closer to the surface depending on the interaction. 99% of the time this is a nonissue because strange men aren’t interacting or aren’t interacting in a remotely sexual manner or the answer is “I say no and then nothing remarkable even could happen unless he’s a raving psychopath, and I don’t see any drool and bloodstains on his shirt”. Raving psychopaths aren’t really what women are concerned about, since they are very rare; the guy they are actually concerned about is the one that just can’t seem to hear the word “no” without assuming it’s either only tangentially relevant or a negotiable point that he just needs a harder sell to answer.
In an elevator, the answer to “what happens if” isn’t a given anymore, and late at night/early in the morning when not many people are around, and the guy being maybe drunk, raises the alert level more. That’s why it’s “creepy”- as in creates a sense of potential threat- in a way that has absolutely nothing to do with how good-looking a guy is or how awkward he is. (Awkward guys with bad social skills are perfectly capable of ignoring “no”, and so are good-looking guys.) Not every or perhaps even most women would experience actual fear, but “this is a bad situation I would like to leave as soon as possible”- yeah, sure. Or even just “offputting”. Which is probably not the goal of anyone hitting on a woman unless he’s doing it to mess with her* instead of actually date/sleep with her consensually.
“Don’t hit on women in elevators late at night, it’s kinda creepy” isn’t akin to “don’t hit on women ever”, or “don’t be male in case someone finds that threatening”, it’s more akin to “don’t stand inside strangers’ personal space”, “don’t approach a stranger on the street with three of your friends when he’s alone and ask for the time”, “while they’re otherwise alone in a dark parking garage is a bad time to approach a stranger for any reason”. Basic courtesies for interacting with strangers comfortably most of us don’t need to be told about because they’re on everyone’s radar.
*Yes, some men do this. It’s another context that most guys don’t really think of because it’s not a thing that happens to them nor a thing that would ever occur to them to do.