The “Don’t Rape Her” meme

TRIGGER WARNING: more hypothetical examples of rape to illustrate points.

Yesterday, I posted some facetious thoughts on the Don’t Rape Her meme. Today I’m going to explain what I really think. It boils down to this:

Do you want a world in which women trust men, or not? That’s the only question here. You can’t expect us to trust you and be emotionally available to you and bear the burden of sorting out which ones of you intend to rape us now or five years from now. Don’t kid yourself about karate classes and a woman’s ability to recognize a “bad” guy. Do you have any idea how many of the people you know are rapists? Statistically it must be a few… and yet I’m betting you don’t think you know any rapists.

If you don’t know them, why the hell do you expect us to?

Besides, many rapists have very good impulse control and can:

  • Pretend very convincingly to be nice guys who support women’s rights until they’ve got a victim where they want her.
  • Rapists can pull a gun on you the instant you get into their car for your third date, even though you know karate, don’t drink and were cleverly able to recognize that guy your sister dated last year as an abusive personality.
  • Seemingly nice boyfriends can suddenly reveal themselves to be rapists (or killers) when you attempt to break up with them.
  • Rapists can hit you over the head and render you unconscious, which makes your karate, tea-totaling and rapist-recognizing skills a moot point (and also the gun I talked about in the earlier post)

You think, “Yes, yes, but these are rare cases. It would prevent all the other rapes, which is most of them!” I disagree. The reason why most women who get raped are raped by a man they know is not because women are stupid or incautious. It’s because rapists are frequently not stupid. They know the rules; they circumvent them. They mimic Nice Folks to pass themselves off as Nice Folks. That’s what criminals do.

And even our legal system doesn’t get it. We are stuck with precedents that conflate lust with the urge to rape, consensual sex with non-consensual. Lust does not cause rape. Period. It may or may not be present in a rapists’ mind, but it’s a sense of entitlement, a need to punish, etc. that actually causes someone to rape.

Do I think women need to change their behaviors? No – we need to learn new behaviors. But even that’s not going to work until some of the rest of society’s on board with our absolute entitlement to live an entire lifetime without being raped. To correct an imbalanced society, everyone has to get some retraining. Not drinking and learning karate are way insufficient.

Here are some things I think need to happen to prevent rape. The list is US-centric in places, due to my lack of knowledge about rape and the law in other countries, but feel free to chime in with your examples. The list also sticks just to adult male-on-female rapes because in other types of rape the power dynamics are different – some of these solutions could help prevent any form of rape, others not so much.

  • Parents and society need to entitle girls to say no, to negotiate assertively (like we teach boys), to come at interpersonal relationships from a position of authority. Not domination or even necessarily control – just authority and autonomy.
  • Parents and society need to stop thinking of women who are assertive (not aggressive, just assertive) as “bitches” when they don’t think of men that way. Yes, this still goes on – just trust me. When you get punished for showing that you will not take shit from anyone, it’s a catch-22. Take shit, and we become targets, and it’s our fault when someone hurts us. Don’t take shit, and we make enemies, and it’s our fault when someone hurts us.
  • Girls need to learn from early on that “having a man” is not important. You heard me. It can be wonderful and all that, but being paired off romantically is just absolutely non-essential to life (for men, too). So no girl should ever take a chance on a guy she gets a bad feeling about just because she’s not attracting a lot of other guys to choose from and is terrified this will be her last opportunity for sex/a boyfriend/to find a husband.
  • Representatives of religion need to stop teaching that wives have no right to deny their husbands sex even if they’ve just given birth and are half-dead from complications. Yeah, call it state interfering with church all you want, but we also have rules against child beating that some religious folk claimed flew in the face of “spare the rod, spoil the child”.
  • Marital rape needs to carry the same penalties as other forms of rape. It should not be a freakin’ misdemeanor, but in many states it is. And it is so much more common than you think.
  • Women need to be taught that looking unlike Barbie won’t protect you from rape – I’ve talked to and read accounts of women who thought because they were “fat” or somehow “ugly” they were safe from rape. And believe me, that’s the message we get loud and clear, so this is not a case of women being “stupid”. Elderly women are raped on a regular basis here in the States, and you know how, like, totally grossed out we Americans feel about anyone who looks older than twelve.
  • Rapists need to be convicted and put in jail for length of time sufficient enough to really annoy them. It’s estimated that only between 1 and 11% of all rapists are actually brought to trial and convicted. Not much of a deterrent.
  • Men (and women) need to turn in their rapist buddies. If it’s too late for the law to address a particular rape incident, then men can at least warn the women they know.
  • Manufacturers of potential date rape drugs should put dyes in them that will alter the look of a drink they’ve been added to. I heard something about this the other day, so it may already be happening.
  • Boys need to be educated on what constitutes consent and what doesn’t. So do girls, actually.
  • I may be missing some bad ramifications of the following proposition, but it seems to me since rape is such a tough crime to prove, relying so much on the claims of those involved, prosecutors should be given more free rein to introduce prior rape accusations, accusations of sexual harassment or other behaviors that indicate the accused has a tendency to abuse women. For the victim, the only prior behavior that should ever be introduced is that which indicates a serious problem with her credibility. Being an “immoral tart” does not mean she’s a liar, contrary to what some jurors seem to think. Committing adultery does not make her any less credible than about 60+ percent of Americans. Borrowing money from boyfriends then accusing them of beating her up to get out of payment does present a credibility issue which the jury should hear.
  • Maybe rape should be declared a hate crime. This needs more research, but I think we need a serious debate on the possibility.


  1. geri says

    Most rapes are caused by men you know, they know they can get away with it. The law doesnt care, it is just another (WOMENS ISSUE) womens get the blame.(What is that) they get you to consent or you just consent because you want to(NOTHING wrong with that), then they attack. i was told, i am lucky to be alive. geri

  2. Bast says

    Maybe a better idea would be to remove the statute of limitations altogether on sexual based crimes.
    And here is a scary one, allow women to testify via camera or without their rapist/attacker in the same room.
    Rape affects all it’s victims/survivors the same way, whether they be male or female, adult or child.
    Recently in Australia we have started allowing child victims to simply record a statement and have that played to the courts, why can’t we do the same for adult women?
    What really worries me though, is the fact that some misogynistic morons out there still think that prostitutes can’t be raped. Apparently that’s theft, not an assault. Does that mean when a soldier is shot by someone whilst he is barracks it was a “work accident” not attempted murder?

  3. Meghan says

    maybe i should post this on the more facetious post, but i’m here, so it’s going here: personally i feel that making rapists into eunuchs would be a highly effective punishment and deterrent.

    on a more serious note, i doubt that rape will ever be eliminated from our world. it’s the sister of all other evils in the world, where they go, she is sure to show up. where wars are happening, rapes increase; where there is disease, rapes increase; where there is famine, rapes increase. on and on, name any evil and i’m sure that rape is a connected phenomenon.

  4. SunlessNick says

    True, although I’d be inclined to characterise rape as a brother, given the usual sex of the perpetrator.

  5. says

    I think rape actually *could* be all but eliminated (as much as anything will ever be eliminated permanently) from our world if our culture stopped condoning it as an acceptable way for a man to express himself to women. Seriously. Because while there seem to be a small number of people born with physiological inabilities to control urges or engage in empathy or conscience, I believe the vast majority of sociopathic/psychopathic behavior is learned. Then it’s encouraged and constantly reinforced by our culture.

    Who knows how much rape could be reduced if we stopped tacitly and explicitly accepting it as a perfectly acceptable thing for a man to do to a woman?

  6. says

    Or, as I hear more often that I’d like, men raping other men in prison “because the a-hole deserves it”. But that’s a whole ‘nother topic, isn’t it?

  7. says

    Making a rapist’s sentence in prison longer? The rapist may very well get raped. I’m not saying this in refutation or wish a raised eyebrow, but merely as a way of adding another bullet to your list:

    End judicial rape.

    It may not exist formally as a punishment, but we can’t kid ourselves that it’s widely perceived as one of the many “reverse-perks” of sending someone to prison. It’s as much a part of the rape culture as anything else already listed.

    I will say that giving prosecutors more power to do anything is a horrible, terrible, indefensible idea. Prosecutors already engage in routine misconduct. When they get their act together, maybe we can have a discussion of what powers they may need, but otherwise I’m not inclined to believe they’ll use it in a way that will be less prejudicial and unjust than the way they use their powers now. In the meantime, however, prior behavior on the part of the victim should certainly be thrown out the window as a defense.

  8. says

    What do you mean by judicial rape?

    “Some/Most people misuse the system” is not an argument against changing the system. It’s an argument for changing the people involved in it or deterring their duplicitous behavior.

  9. Nina says

    Rapists know that every guy who feels that he got a raw deal from a woman is a potential & usually a true ally in covering up rape.

    The vast majority of men believe that, since they work next to women & may have a female supervisor, that equality is an achieved fact, so there can’t be as many rapes as there are allegations of rape.

    The majority of young women believe that there is roughly equal representation in government & the courts between men and women. They’re taught that if they stay home to have children & raise a family that it’s really their choice & that they’re safe from harm because having a husband will protect them from rape or give them an advocate in case they are raped.

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