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.