Zerlina Maxwell had the audacity to suggest, on Fox News no less, that to end rape we should teach men to NOT RAPE

What a concept.

In response, she received of messages from FOX viewers intent on intimidation by calling her names, dismissing her ideas, and even threatening her with rape. This is a typical tactic of misogynists, to try to silence articulate women who speak out. 

Did not work. 

Since then, Maxwell has published these suggestions for how to teach men not to rape.

The context of Maxwell’s comments was a conversation on Fox News’ Sean Hannity Show about gun ownership maybe preventing rape.  Maxwell, herself a rape survivor, took issue with how the topic was framed:

“I think that the entire conversation is wrong. I don’t want anybody to be telling women anything. I don’t want men to be telling me what to wear and how to act, not to drink. And I don’t, honestly, want you to tell me that I needed a gun in order to prevent my rape. In my case, don’t tell me if I’d only had a gun, I wouldn’t have been raped. Don’t put it on me to prevent the rape.”

As a rape survivor, the conversation about how to best combat rape and domestic violence is personal and can be very challenging.  Rape culture is a pervasive part of our society because of social conditioning. Yet we struggle to find ways to avoid patterns of victim blaming and many of us would rather advise women on the precautions they should take to avoid being raped as opposed to starting at the root of the problem: teaching men and boys not to be rapists in the first place.

Way back in October, Colorado prosecutor Ann Munch spoke in Seattle about blaming rape victims for their attacks. She was not the first to notice how jurors would often torpedo a case with solid physical evidence because the victim did something to bring it on herself, such as leaving her home to go out for pizza, riding the bus, or being at work.

Maxwell’s point is that when men and boys commit rape and the victims get blamed, it perpetuates a cycle of acceptance that men and boys will be men and boys, and that rape is a natural, expected occurrence.  Almost makes it seem as benign as April showers.

Rape is not a natural, expected occurrence. Rape is a deliberate, planned act of domination. Rape happens not because of how a woman dressed, or how much she drank, or what she drank, or which dark alley she may have walked down. Rape happens because a rapist was present.

I don’t give out list of what to do or not do in my self-defense classes.  Any good self-defense class should give you tools to better navigate the world you choose to live in, not lock you up “for your own safety.” Any good self-defense class should place the responsibility for sexual assault and rape squarely on the perpetrator.  And any good self-defense class should equip you to make safety choices for expanding your presence in the public world.

Attention Parents of Tweens and Teens: wishing all of you a wonderful holiday season with your children. During this school recess, between visiting and feasting and caroling and skiing, make some time to have one or more meaningful conversations about sexual consent (and sexual assault) with your children.  Make it your New Year’s Resolution to keep on engaging in conversation

Perhaps you remember “the talk” from your own youth, and you’re cringing. For some help, take a look at  P.O.P!, a project of King County Sexual Assault Resource Center, and their 100 Conversations programs.

P.O.P! (Power of Prevention) is a group of young people who reach out to other young people in their communities by incorporating social media, video, written material, and face-to-face conversations. Their goal is to create healthier communities and end sexual assault by dispelling myths, encouraging positive attitudes and behaviors, and increasing access to resources like KCSARC.

I particularly like two features of their conversation lists. First is the emphasis on understanding what boundaries are, how to find yours, and how to communicate them to others. Second is the social nature of behavior, how others affect what you do, and activating bystanders to do something other than stand by helplessly. BTW, these are two essential topics I cover in my self-defense classes.

As with any other meaningful topic, safety and consent and sex cannot be a one-time conversation with those you care about. Check out the list of 100 topics on the P.O.P! site to help you keep it going, and not fall by the wayside as do most New Year’s Resolution.

Heck, this article is so short I might as well insert the whole thing:

A 24-year-old man arrested Oct.11 for kidnapping, attempted rape and gross sexual imposition said the woman he was visiting had actually been giving him “mixed signals,” according to an Elyria police report.

Melvin Jackson III, of Elyria, got naked and tried to have sex with the woman at her Washington Avenue home, the report said. The woman said she invited Jackson over to watch movies, but he began to touch her inappropriately, got undressed and refused to let her leave the room. The woman was able to run to a neighbor’s home and call police.

Good self defense on her part! She escaped and called the police.

Now, go to the story in The Morning Journal of 10/15/10 to look over the readers’ comments. As of the evening of Saturday, Oct 16, they are short and to the point: that poor guy was set up or played. Like, “everyone knows” if a woman invites a guy over to “watch movies,” she’s “asking for it,” right?

For all you women reading this, who cherish your freedom of association guaranteed by our great nation’s Constitution (including the right to watch a movie with whoever you’d like without that being mistaken for a promise of sex), you are almost certainly sending “mixed signals” to someone. Yes, there are still those who assume that being alone and together means you want “it” (and they’re not always men).

So here are just a couple of red flags that you should be looking out for. While it’s not an all-inclusive list, these are 3 biggies:

  • He makes snide or even outright nasty comments about women in general, or about ex-girlfriends,
  • He seems to want to get intimate very quickly, and gets upset if you’re not comfortable with his timetable, and
  • He ignores you when you have objections or otherwise say no to his plans.

For those of you in the Seattle area, this is covered in Session 4 of Self-Defense 101.