Thursday, December 10, 2009

Rape and Parenthood

One of the top priorities on my parenthood to-do list, in addition to paying the rent next month, is to raise my daughter so that things like this don't happen to her. Forget all the horse/barn door advice; I'm going with Franklin's recommendation, and signing her up for kung fu classes as soon as she's walking steadily. Not only will some physical confidence stand her in good stead, but apparently, guys really dig kung fu chicks.

Because I don't want to raise my daughter to be afraid of men. I want to raise her with a little bit of common sense. And that includes giving her a few basic facts about life--for instance, "Guys are going to want to f*ck you."

Lord knows, my life would have been easier if someone had been willing to lay things out like that. I was raised by parents who believed that ignorance = innocence = virtue, and that they could protect me from all the bad things in life by sending me to the right schools. They implicitly believed that if you follow all the rules, you'll be okay, even if you have no idea why you're following them.

There are a number of flaws in this logic. One of them is that it's a terrible idea to teach people to be unquestioningly obedient to authority; that's how you get Guantanamo, the Holocaust and corporate America. Another is that however much you try to shelter someone, they're bound to meet people eventually who don't know the same rules.

So it was that I was sent out into the world by my clueless parents with this view of sex: Men would ask me out on dates. Any man who asked me on a date would 1) not be dating any other women, and 2) would want to be my boyfriend. After we'd been dating for several months, this boyfriend would try to talk me into having sex with him.

And I had my pretty, confident, non-judgmental little speech all ready for him.

Twenty-odd years of mayhem and miscommunication later, I don't know exactly what I'm going to tell my daughter when she's old enough to parse my sentences, but in some way it will include the information, "Guys are going to want to f*ck you. Some of them will be decent guys, and some of them will be predators. Many of them will assume you want to f*ck them, too, regardless of what you say about it.

"So it's a good idea to get to know guys pretty well before you go off into dark, secluded corners with any of them. Don't assume that a man believes everything you say, or that he's even listening; a dude in the grip of raging hormones is just watching your lips move while he maps the fastest route to your panties. Predatory men will get you drunk, tell lies, and use any kind of social or physical pressure they can think of in order to get laid. They'll also use all kinds of rationalizations to avoid the consequences of their actions, physical and emotional.

"That doesn't mean that all guys are jerks. It does mean that you have to keep your wits about you. And when you decide to go into a dark, secluded corner on purpose, with a decent guy, please take a condom with you."


Franklin said...

The wording of the first paragraph might imply, creepily, that I dig kung fu chicks, and am therefore recommending that PL sign her daughter up for kung fu lessons. PL knows me better than this, but let me assure her readers that this is not the case.

Rather, there are many healthy reasons why the little one should go into kung fu. The benefits to coordination and grace appear immediately, and later, strength and endurance. The art itself is beautiful. It requires memorization and discipline, which will serve her throughout her schooling and benefit her the rest of her life.

As a side effect, it will familiarize her with a variety of scenarios which start with an aggressor wanting to touch her in a bad way, and end with said aggressor lying on the ground in excruciating disrepair.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go back to watching Jeeja Vismistananda.

Pretty Lady said...

Oops. Sorry about that, Franklin; I didn't mean to indirectly slander you. I've noticed that the precision of my writing style tends to suffer while I'm simultaneously attending to the needs of a pre-toddler.

Carol said...

It goes the other way too - i raised my boys to know that although they would want to have sex early and often it's not the best idea... That the woman gets to make the call and if she is impaired taking advantage is unacceptable. Respect and Condoms are required regardless weather in a relationship or one night stand.
Boys need the retraining, sorry it falls to the girls... glad your on it.

Pretty Lady said...

Right on, Carol. I always wondered what the hell these guys' mothers were teaching them; I suspect that the moms never mentioned sex at all, or just said 'don't do it,' while the dads were winking and nudging. Nothing else explains the enormous gulf of assumption between genders.

Chris Rywalt said...

If there's anything I've learned from 12 years of parenting, I feel I've learned this: Kids can't be taught. Oh, they learn stuff. Just none of it is anything you consciously try to teach them.

It's my contention that human beings arrive on this planet with most of their personality all set. Thus I feel fairly certain that those guys' mothers could have been telling them any number of things. I've met lovely people whose kids are assholes and I've met assholes with lovely kids. Usually assholes breed true, but not always.

I would caution against any program which attempts to teach that all men are bad. I know it'll be argued that no self-defense class will really say this, but I'd still caution you to watch out. I had my son in a karate class for a while and it was excellent in many ways, but there was what I felt to be an unhealthy emphasis on bullies attacking you or strangers abducting you.

There's also one final important point to be made: No martial art is going to wholly protect someone smaller and weaker from a larger, stronger attacker. Ever look at competitions? All the weight classes are very narrow. This is because the bigger, heavier opponent almost always wins.

That said, Franklin could probably kick my ass, but I'd worry for him if I fell on him.

Chris Rywalt said...

Oh, and: Some guys really do dig kung fu chicks. There were a couple of women at the dojo I was totally in love with. They could beat me up any time.

Franklin said...

Not only are the weight classes narrow, but whole classes of attacks are proscribed so that competitors can fight more than one match in their lifetimes. When we drilled in Chin Na, a two-handed grab to the collar was answered with a double-slap to the ears, which can burst the eardrums. Self-defense isn't a sport, it's a massacre. Nothing will perfectly guarantee your safety, and my favorite thought on the subject comes from the writer who said that the best defense is good karma. That said, the techniques presuppose imbalances of strength, and emphasize quick strikes on soft targets.

(Also, just to put the thought in your head: Brooklyn Krav Maga.)

Chris Rywalt said...

I worked for a guy once who was really into martial arts (although I forget which one). In fact while I worked for him he was recovering from an injury caused when a big guy fell on him, so you really do have to watch out for that. He was going over a list of moves he had to demonstrate for me and one of them was the eardrum-bursting clap. I asked how you do that in a competition and he explained you just clap over your opponent's head.

This kind of worried me, since your body learns things through practice -- wouldn't you reflexively clap over the head of a real assailant?

I don't seriously worry about these things since I don't use martial arts. I've been musing on taking up kickboxing just to have something to do. The dojo where my son was going teaches jiu jitsu, karate and muy thai and I liked it there.

On the other hand, I'm old and fat and lazy.

Krav Maga always looks intriguing to me because it's so very violent.

Oriane Stender said...

Martial arts training is a good idea, but I have a bad association with it due to my having grown up in a moral sewer. When I was in high school, karate was all the rage and all the boys and a couple of the girls that I hung out with went to one particular dojo and talked about "sensei" like he was just the greatest. Turned out sensei was not only seducing the girls, but was everyone's drug supplier.

So, not to freak you out even more, but the dangers lurk everywhere.

Oriane Stender said...

ps Yay! PL is back!



Chris Rywalt said...

It occurs to me that it's a peculiarly American attitude -- especially a New York attitude -- that if you are disciplined, if you practice the right teachings under the right expert, if you're careful and diligent, you'll somehow avoid calamity. Meanwhile it seems to me you can spend your whole life learning how to deal with a rapist or mugger and end up killed by cancer or a car. Just a few years ago, PL, not far from where you live, five people were killed when an airplane fell on them from out of the sky. Not long after that a woman was killed in Manhattan by ice falling from a building; another woman was electrocuted by a sidewalk grate. Do you teach your daughter not to live above ground, not to walk on the sidewalk, not to step on the metal grating?

Somewhere out there is a bullet with your name on it. But so many people seem to think if only they take those martial arts classes, if only they eat the right foods, do the proper exercises, take the correct supplements, avoid the bad neighborhoods, go to the best schools, if they do everything right, they'll be okay.

It seems to me you can spend too much time worrying about the bad things that can happen to you and not enough time enjoying the good things that do. Personally I never drank, smoked, or did illegal drugs, never drove crazily, didn't party, didn't skydive or raft whitewater rapids, and now I'm dying of not one but two fatal, degenerative diseases. Should've smoked a few doobies, really.

Anonymous said...

Yep, we're all gonna die. Chris, why not start getting high now?

Chris Rywalt said...

At this point my life isn't structured in such a way to make drug use likely. Any sources I might know already have me pegged as the straightest of straight edges and I wouldn't want to ruin my rep by asking them for supplies. And I've got a wife and kids, none of whom are real big on illicit substances.

Not to mention all the unfun drugs I'm on keeping me alive, which might not mix well with other stuff. As it is I'm not allowed to drink alcohol or eat grapefruit.

Yes, grapefruit. How they figured that out I don't know.

Franklin said...

Still Gonna Die

Chris Rywalt said...

Great song. I looked it up and found out it was written by the great Shel Silverstein, who died, for the group Old Dogs, consisting of Waylon Jennings, Jerry Reed, Bobby Bare, and Mel Tillis, half of whom died.

Shel Silverstein and I have something in common: "In his childhood, Silverstein began as a cartoonist by tracing the works of Walt Disney" says Wikipedia. Me too!

Anonymous said...

It is definitely bizarre and dangerous that you were raised with such pure and innocent ideas and then sent out into the world in general to do the best you could with them. The problem is not with these ideas specifically but how incongruous they are with the mainstream world of dating, etc.

Also, men may dig martial arts chicks, but in my experience a guy is still likely to be stronger (of course), faster, and often simply meaner. And in the kind of culture where girls/women date a lot and that whole lifestyle, they are simply statistically quite likely to have these kinds of bad, abusive, or criminal experiences with guys.

I think Chris is right with what he touches on, that we need to take a view that transcends instead of attempts to address and manage every detail. It's sometimes really hard to do in parenting, but just as important, IMO.

Anonymous said...

"And in the kind of culture where girls/women date a lot and that whole lifestyle, they are simply statistically quite likely to have these kinds of bad, abusive, or criminal experiences with guys."

Anon, that sounds uncomfortably close to blaming the victim. What I mean is, you're making the woman who gets raped the active participant here - women who date and "that whole lifestyle" are likely to "have . . . experiences", rather than saying that a certain number of men who date women will rape them.

Some men also rape women who don't date a lot, or engage in "that whole lifestyle," whatever that means.


Anonymous said...

Far from my intention is to blame the victims. Correlation isn't causation, I guess. Different subcultures have different incidence of happenings within them; they just do. Different lifestyles and dating/relationship practices, different regions or cities/towns, these things do have effect. Just as much if not more than whether or not a girl knows kung fu. I wouldn't either blame the girls who don't know advanced self defence (or their parents) for getting hurt when maybe some other girl WAS able to physically defend herself. Good guys don't abuse women, and if we like it or not there are choices we can make as parents that maximize the likelihood of continued safety of our children, and choices that do not so much. It is my view that the culture, parenting, and lifestyle/personal choices of a girl contribute to making her a victim in many of the sexual assault cases. They simply are not most commonly snatched off the street by a stranger in a van. Men have been raping women since the beginning of time, and where is any end in sight?

But again, I really like what Chris said on this, because instead of letting in fear or bitterness on this issue, wondering what will we do, there is a way to take a larger view on it and on all of life, that instead brings a greater measure of peace and wellness. Karma is real, God is real, all of it is real, and it is this that holds our life and what happens to us. We take reasonable responsibility (often less than we fret ourselves into thinking we must do) and trust the rest to that which is greater.

Pretty Lady said...

Different subcultures have different incidence of happenings within them; they just do.

Are you so sure about that? If you are sure, can you be more specific about which subcultures have more incidence of 'unfortunate happenings'? You might be surprised as to what, exactly, correlates to what.

I know that in my own experience, there was a heck of a lot more teenage pregnancy, alcohol, drug abuse and eventual spousal abuse among the Christian youth camp set than among the more worldly of my acquaintance. Telling your kids, "just don't do that or you'll go to hell" is a famously ineffective technique for preventing problems.

I think what we're all discussing, more or less, is that women are less likely to become victims when they're raised with informed self-confidence, rather than artificially sheltered, either with ignorance or unrealistic expectations of self.

A girl who is martial-arts trained is going to genuinely know her own limitations, and is thus less likely to walk blindly into a dangerous situation. I don't think any of us believe that any training is going to compensate for radical differences in weight, strength, and aggression.

But most predators look for easy targets. Looking like you'd put up a fight is enough to forestall a lot of problems.

Pretty Lady said...

Also, living with the constant awareness of one's inevitable death is crucial to living a full life. People who must remain in constant fear and denial often fail to live at all.

Chris Rywalt said...

PL sez:
I think what we're all discussing, more or less, is that women are less likely to become victims when they're raised with informed self-confidence....

Actually I'm questioning this directly. I'm not sure anyone can control whether they become victims or not. That was my point, really: This idea that you can somehow improve your odds through improving yourself is questionable. Americans would like to think they can improve their odds, but I'm not sure there's any evidence they can or do.

New Yorkers always seem to me to be especially bad about this. I remember the case of the Central Park Jogger: All the news outlets would never say anything like this, but the feeling on the ground at the time was "What the hell was she doing jogging in Central Park at night?" The old "she asked for it" argument.

New Yorkers, in my experience, really believe this: They're so used to having detailed street-to-street knowledge of their neighborhoods, and a good sense of the rest of the city, that they feel they can avoid "bad" neighborhoods and things like muggings, rapes, and murders by keeping to the correct streets at the correct times. Thus when something bad does happen, the question is, "What did you expect in that neighborhood?" Unless of course the victim happened to live there, in which case they're clearly part of the problem anyway.

Americans love blaming the victims when they can. And this "if you only are possessed of informed self-confidence" attitude is just the flip side of the "she asked for it" coin. It's a short walk from "If you take this martial arts course you'll reduce your odds of getting raped" to "If you had taken this martial arts course you wouldn't have been raped".

Also I object to the use of the word "predator" with regards to criminals and criminal behavior. The key point about real predators is they instinctively do what they need to survive. Human beings are capable of rational thought and choice; and no one needs to rape to survive. Calling a rapist a predator denies their humanity and responsibility for what they've done.

Pretty Lady said...

Chris, you're making the same mistake that some girlfriends of mind do, when I use the word 'predator.' You're assuming that I mean 'violent criminal who springs on you out of the shadows, beats you up, robs you, rapes you, and leaves you for dead.'

I don't think about those kinds of predators much at all. I figure they're like meteorites, or trucks with no brakes--if one hits you, you're done for, and there's nothing you can do about it and no way to prepare. So why worry about them?

When I use the word 'predator' in relation to men, I am far more concerned about the emotional vampires--the manipulators, the users, the liars, the disingenuous triple-timers, and the parasites. They don't technically rape women, usually; they just play on women's best qualities to get something for nothing.

These guys CAN be avoided, if you've got high self-esteem and a good bullshit detector. Both my self-esteem and my bullshit detector were seriously damaged by my Good Girl training, and that's what I'm attempting not to do to my daughter.

Chris Rywalt said...

I didn't make a mistake at all. I object to the use of "predator" to refer to humans in general (except in the very specific sense that we are, in fact, the top of the food chain. But I don't think you were talking about cows or tuna). I don't think either type of bad person qualifies as a predator, since none of them need to do what they do in order to survive, and all of them have choices.

A lion doesn't attack and eat antelopes because it's too lazy to farm. A lion can't farm. That's a predator. I have pet toads. They require live food. I can't feed them lettuce or carrots. They need living crickets they can shove down their gullets. Toads are predators.

A human being preying on another person, for emotional or monetary sustenance, is not a predator. They're evil.

Pretty Lady said...

They're evil.

Well, we agree on that much.

Brett Stevens said...

I liked the first part of the article: know that other people want to use you, including for sex.

The conclusion seemed to step off the real point.

Having seen what casual sex did to my generation, I'm against it. It's people using people for temporary means, not a sensible one.

And it's not that much fun. Kind of like drugs and TV, another way to waste your time instead of working toward something constructive.

Pretty Lady said...

Brett, where in this article did you see me advocating casual sex? Do you believe that the only way to 'work toward something constructive' is to never have sex unless you're married?

That's both unrealistic, and as potentially damaging as casual sex. Marrying someone without knowing whether or not you're sexually compatible can get you into some ugly and miserable situations. Surely there's a middle ground?