“Blaming the Victim”

Earlier this week, I happened upon a blog article trending on Twitter (courtesy of a progressive who retweets anything reflecting poorly on men or white people) in which a young woman details two experiences she had with men at an EdTech conference. She posted the stories as part of the #YesWeCan – sorry, #YesAllWomen – movement, which is short for “Yes, all women live in fear of male violence,” or some variation on that theme.

One of the stories involves a man being overly forward with her and not getting the hint she wasn’t interested. We all have to deal with creeps and jerks of various stripes (and genders) in our lives, so there isn’t much to comment on there, unless we’re going to dredge up every upsetting or awkward encounter we’ve had with the opposite sex, of which I’d say I’ve had the typical amount.

The second story is the one I found meriting serious discussion in that it involved a messy social situation full of mixed messages and gray areas that goes all kinds of wrong in the end with what may have been a sexual assault (there are two sides to every story and we only have one here, but we’ll assume she reported accurately for our purposes).

Now there is a type of person who would prefer to stop the discussion here. The fact that a sexual assault occurred, to such a person, becomes the only relevant fact one should ever consider or discuss, and any scrutiny or attention paid to the surrounding events or context constitutes “blaming the victim.” To engage in any thoughtfulness beyond out-and-out condemnation would be condoning rape, and so on. If you are of this mindset, please don’t bother reading any further because it will only waste your time. Tell yourself I am a “victim blamer” and feel free to move along. Oh, I could go on about how much I deplore rape (consent is the core principle of libertarianism), or about how I began my legal career prosecuting rapists and child molesters and helping victims in the sex crimes division of a District Attorney’s office. This type of person doesn’t care about any of that, and playing defensive really isn’t my style in any case. Victim Blamer. Rape Condoner. Got it – happy trails.

For those who are genuinely interested in a discussion about responsibilities and consequences of behaviors, be warned in advance, the story reposted below is painful. Although there is nothing funny or entertaining about it, in many ways it’s like the often brutal dramatic ironies that develop in series like Curb Your Enthusiasm or The Office, where characters unwittingly dig themselves deeper and deeper into a oncoming social catastrophe as the audience knowingly cringes in expectant horror. The author said she hopes her piece will be shared and spur discussion, so I’m taking her at her word and attempting to accomplish that here.

The story begins innocently enough with an invitation:

As I was standing outside the convention center waiting to help my friends pack up their booth, a man I had chatted with about his company approached me and asked if I would be interested in grabbing a beer with him that night. I said yes, we exchanged contact information, and went our separate ways.

There’s a familiar level of ambiguity here. Is this business, or pleasure, or both? At a minimum, nighttime + invitation + alcohol + opposite sexes means this could *potentially* turn romantic at some point. If the woman isn’t aware of that potential, we’re already tipped off that her social radar might be a bit limited. But even so, as a free and independent adult, she should absolutely accept the invitation if drinks or dinner sounds like fun.

That night, we met at a restaurant and talked over a couple of beers about some of the major challenges in EdTech, fund raising, and our personal startup journeys.

Is this a date? Yet unlear, but it’s becoming more like one the more they hit it off and the later the night drags on. Ambiguity serves an important function here as a safe means of testing waters, affording each party the opportunity to save face through plausible deniability in the event of being rejected. But with ambiguity also comes the risk of unpleasant misunderstandings; it’s a double-edged sword to wield to be sure.

When the restaurant closed (since everything in downtown San Antonio closes early), we went to a dive-y metal bar he insisted was open and a good place. We got another round of drinks and talked about cultural differences, startup life, and politics.

For any of our visitors from Alpha Centurai, this now officially counts as a date on this planet. It doesn’t mean sex is necessarily in the works, but the situation is screaming romantic possibilities to anyone who is listening for them (and you can be sure the man is). If the woman wants to clear up any justified misunderstandings by her devoted late-night companion, now would be the perfect time to do so. But alas:

After round #4, I started to fell unwell. Drunken sickness was coming. I went to the bathroom, threw up, rinsed out my mouth, and returned to the table. He had ordered another round. I cracked open the beer partly out of politeness, and partly because I was hoping the beer would wash out the bitter acid taste in my mouth. I attempted my best to continue the conversation, but after five minutes of nodding, deep breathing, and worrying “If I open my mouth to respond, will I throw up?”, I excused myself and went back to the bathroom to continue my routine. When I reemerged from the restroom I found him sitting at the table with two oversized shots of whiskey. “I can’t drink this,” I told him. “I should go home.” “We can leave once you take the shot” he said. I grimaced, took the shot, and immediately went back into the restroom.

Actions send social signals, so it’s important to be aware of the signals you send, especially in a heightened-risk situation, such as a dive bar you’ve never been to before. Wherever alcohol is involved, the potential for Bad Things to happen is greatly elevated, warranting a higher standard of caution and care. Drinking to the point of extreme intoxication causes risks to grow exponentially, especially if you’re out alone without any friends or family to look out for you. Not a good idea for anyone, man or woman.

As we walked out of the bar, he said “We should get you some coffee.” I agreed, and asked him if he knew anywhere that was open. “I know a place, just trust me. As we wandered around the Riverwalk for what felt like hours, I asked him “Where are we going?” “My hotel,” he said, “It’s nearby and they have a coffee bar.” I kept following him. I was so intoxicated and ill feeling, I couldn’t wait to sit down and have water and coffee.

The lack of social awareness in this scenario borders on autistic. If the woman doesn’t realize that “coffee” in a man’s hotel after barhopping at midnight doesn’t actually mean “coffee,” somebody failed to provide her with a crucial social education a long time ago.

We went through the side entrance of the hotel and he pressed the button for the elevator. “Where are we going?” I asked again. He didn’t respond. When the elevators opened, he lead me down a hallway and inserted his key card to what I discovered was his room. This is weird. Maybe he realized how late it was and that the coffee bar would be closed. Hotels have coffee makers in their rooms; it’s not that weird. 

The freight train is barrelling down the tracks at 100mph. I can feel the audience cringing. This mismatch of expectations can only end badly with some sort of physical or emotional confrontation. It never should have gotten this far.

“Here’s the coffee maker, but I don’t know how to use it” he told me. I went into the bathroom got a glass of water and started fumbling with the coffee maker. It finally started brewing, and I breathed a sigh of relief. Finally, coffee. By the time I finish this cup and walk back to my car, I’ll be fine to drive home. “Why don’t you sit down?” he asked, motioning to the bed. There weren’t any chairs that I could see, so I sat down on the bed.

On the bed. His bed.

He scooted in close to me and started kissing my neck and then my face. His kisses were sloppy and tasted overwhelmingly of cigarettes. He leaned into me and backwards, so we were soon lying on our sides. He started trying to undress me.

This is where the story gets truly sad.

He kept fumbling with my shirt buttons and trying to slide my shirt over my shoulders. Every time his hands moved away from my chest, I pulled my shirt back on and started buttoning. I repeated “no” as he kept attempting to undress me, with each “no” he became more aggressive.

Things have gotten far out of hand. The man should stop now and make the best of the humiliating situation he finds himself in. Instead, he makes the worst of it.

“Can’t you just take your skirt off?” he asked. I refused. He climbed on top of me- straddling me- and fumbled with my skirt some more. Thank god even my skirt is being uncooperative. He eventually became so flustered trying to undress me that he gave up the task and just pulled my underwear to the side. I kept repeating “no” as I started to cry. I turned my head during the whole encounter so I couldn’t watch him and he couldn’t watch me cry. After what felt like an eternity, I started feeling more sober and forceful. I mostly composed myself as I started repeating “you have to stop.” He finally relented right before he finished. I went into the bathroom and turned on the sink so he couldn’t hear me cry or heave again. I blotted my skirt to remove any traces of him, and washed my face of my crying stains. I grabbed my purse to leave, and he insisted on walking me back to my car (because a girl walking alone at night might be raped or murdered, and I clearly needed his protection from that). He spent the walk back to my car talking to me about his travels and telling me that he hoped we would run into each other again. He told me that my interest in politics was the sexiest thing about me, and joked about meeting my parents. His words made me feel sicker than I already felt. I realized when I got back to my car that I forgot the coffee. I gave him a ride back to the hotel because that was the polite thing to do. I hadn’t made eye contact with him throughout the walk to my car or the drive back. When I pulled into the hotel driveway, we finally made eye contact. He paused for a moment and then apologized for being “so aggressive.” I told him “It’s okay” because I frankly had no idea what to say, and I was always taught to answer politely.

One reason I’ve highlighted this story is because I have been that man a few times in my life right up until the first “no” was uttered (she kissed me back instead). I doubt any red-blooded American male would *not* have been utterly confused and frustrated by the woman’s behavior and the mixed messages she was sending that night, even if she didn’t mean to send them. This is why social awareness and taking basic situational precautions are so critical.

Individual responsibility, at the end of the day, means taking ownership of one’s behaviors, no more and no less. The woman is responsible for putting herself in a high-risk scenario. The man is responsible for not stopping when he should have. I don’t blame either party for the actions of the other – only what was in his or her direct control. Certainly there is more than a single valuable lesson here.

A popular feminist slogan is: “Society teaches don’t get raped, not don’t rape.” I happen to think both are solid wisdom.

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29 thoughts on ““Blaming the Victim”

  1. These are murky waters.

    While I am partial to your analysis in an _idealistic_ sense, I’m afraid piling further idealism on top of the “idealism” displayed by the woman in question only serves to confound the situation.

    First let me say it seems clear to me there was at least _some_ interest on the part of the woman. A woman without a scintilla of desire in such a situation would have nipped it in the bud. But women can be ambivalent…torn…wrestling with desire vs. propriety, etc. So in that sense I don’t consider her to be “raped” in the significant sense of that word.

    Nevertheless it was an icky situation.

    To be fair to the man in question, I would say there was a time in this country where, culturally, his invitations, advances and offers of alcohol would have been seen _clearly_ by the woman in a romantic/sexual context. It would just be “understood” as “common sense”. But with the cultural programming done by feminists and progressives, young women today are led to believe that their idealistic notions of how life “should” be supercede raw reality. I’m reluctant to place full blame on women for indulging these fancies, since the idealism is of course appealing. It is the same sort of idealism involved in those “Slut Walks” where women demand the freedom to dress like hookers and not be accosted.

    So when I say I don’t think piling further idealism on top of idealism is wise, I am saying that indulging in the fantasy of everyone being perfectly rational actors can be counterproductive. It leads to these sorts of icky situations. Much better IMO to see people in the full context of their environmental influences and act accordingly, if only to defend oneself from jail time. THAT is true responsibility.

    Of course, ideally, women would be taught to think rationally, but until such an unlikely state of affairs come to fruition, I believe it is incumbent on men to do what they have always done throughout history and be the “bigger person.” Yes I am a chauvinist, and yes I don’t think a world where women can be expected to be rational actors is likely.

    It is for this reason I advocate for men making their sexual intentions know at the outset, in some form or another. This can be a tricky art unto itself, and fraught with peril, but it does tend to avoid the sorts of situations we are discussing.

    And at the end of the day, the only peril a man faces for being somewhat forward is an emotional rejection from the woman in question, e.g., the Rebecca Watson “Elevatorgate” scandal. But in such situations, it is not likely the women was ever interested to begin with (not interested _sexually_ anyway), and so therefore could be considered a good filtering mechanism for weeding out golddiggers, attention whores, etc.

    • What I’m attempting to do is replace the destructive ideals of radical feminism (“I should be able to do whatever I want with no consequences”) with more constructive ideals (“I am responsible for my behavior at all times”). I’ve long said one should not martyr himself to idealism, but ideals are important to strive for nonetheless.

      This aggressive new brand of “rape culture” feminism is growing to the extent where it’s hard to find women left who don’t fall prey to it. Unfortunately, more men seem willing to lend themselves as useful idiots out of a false sense of chivalry than stand up to it as the bullying tactic that it is.

    • I’m curious what your concept of the opposite of “idealism” is.

      In other words… how would you describe a worldview completely purged of idealism? What would that be like?

      • You’re probably asking Mordecai, but I see the opposite of idealism as pragmatism. I try to hit a sweet spot of advancing and living by ideals to the extent feasible while bowing to pragmatic concerns when necessary to maintain relevance or survival. For example, a libertarian might pragmatically support a marijuana decriminalization bill if he recognizes that a legalization bill has no chance of passing. The idealist might vote against the decriminalization bill on the basis that it doesn’t exactly match his concept of how society should be, and as a result marijuana use would remain criminal.

      • I’ll answer your question if you answer mine:

        You listed the fact-claims, which you do not dispute. The contention seems to be the “doom-and-gloom conclusions.”

        Seems to me the trends listed are all negative and snowballing. I think that’s a fair assessment. What statements of ours go over and above that fact into hysteria or “doom-and-gloom”?

      • To help you out, I will start by saying the answer to the question you have put to me is: it is what a REAL Godless Universe looks like. Not the concocted Sentimental Universe of progressives.

  2. ” Unfortunately, more men seem willing to lend themselves as useful idiots out of a false sense of chivalry than stand up to it as the bullying tactic that it is”

    Where are you getting the “bullying” from?

    • I’m not sure to what exactly the fallacy refers – the originating comment was a bit ambiguous. If it’s the feminist fallacy that because apex men (CEOs, world leaders) are visibly more powerful and numerous than apex women, then this would also hold true at other levels of society, I’ve written about how and why this is not the case in many of my online comments. I frequently point out that feminist proponents of “equality” never seem to concern themselves with the widely available facts that 9 out of 10 violent crime victims, homeless, prisoners, individuals killed on the job, etc. are men.

  3. I guess you can only nest so many replies, so it’s impossible for me to reply directly under the question I’m responding to.

    MD – Read the time stamps. I asked first. What is your antidote to “idealism”. Answer me that, and we’ll talk.

    • I apologize for the piece-of-shit software that was featured on WordPress as a fully functional blog theme but, alas, is not. As they say in the movie Spaceballs, even in the future nothing works. There are a few backdoor methods of tricking the software into functioning correctly, but it takes some playing around.

    • That’s incorrect. My question was originally time stamped June 11, 8:25 pm, in the Millenial thread.

  4. On a separate note – in case you’re wondering, I will no longer complain when you and Dan call me “liberal” or “progressive”. Coming from you guys, I feel perfectly comfortable being characterized that way. I’d much rather you considered me one of “them” then one of “you”… whatever that might be.

    Now, if a liberal ever considered me a liberal… or if a progressive ever called me a progressive… THEN I’d start to get a bit nervous. But since that has never happened, and it’s only hard-right-wingers like yourself (people who consider anyone not of their own stripes to be progressive/liberals) who ever call me that, I still sleep quite easily at night.

    Now, the day you guys stop considering me a liberal… whew… I’m not sure I’d want to see that day!

    • Kacy – Where did I call you a liberal/progressive? Examples please?

      What specifically gives you the idea I am a “hard-right-winger”? I’m fairly certain most hard-right-wingers do not want the U.S. to let Iraq fall as it may, to name one obvious counterexample (of many). Do you think it’s a bit hypocritical to go throwing around labels like that willy nilly when you interpret doing the same to you as a sign of “disrespect”?

      P.S. Still waiting for any evidence supporting your uncalled for and baseless character attacks on me last night. Didn’t you used to hate when Christians would tell you it wasn’t their job to provide evidence of their claims?

  5. Getting called a “liberal” or a “progressive” by an extreme right-winger is akin to getting called a “fag” by a member of the WBC. It means you’re probably on the right track.

  6. You’re probably not so far over as MD.

    I’m not concerned with lat night. You made a harmless comment. I made one. Ping. Pong. I’m not worried about it. I think it’s amusing that you are all fired up about these “character attacks”… particularly since you love to paint me out as red-faced and furious – clear projection of your own emotions onto me. What can I do but shake my head and smile?

    • I made a fairly innocuous comment, which you overreacted to by launching into another of your regressive splitting sessions of “He is so horrible. He is the worst. Etc.” Play it as cool as you want, but it was uncalled for and hypocritical from somebody so heavily concerned with “disrespect.”

  7. “Seems to me the trends listed are all negative and snowballing. I think that’s a fair assessment. What statements of ours go over and above that fact into hysteria or “doom-and-gloom”? ”

    Can we just agree up front that it’s unreasonable for either of you to expect me to go running searches through all prior dialogue in the multitude of forums we’ve communicated in over the years in order to dredge up citations to support my current assessment of your positions? Whether you agree or not, I’m not going to do it, so any of these “show me where I said” requests will not be honored. I’ll go as far as to cite lines form *this* blog forum upon request, but that’s as far as I’ll go.

    Now, if I specifically quote you as having said something, I’ll pull the citation up from where ever it came. But I haven’t done that yet.

    In light of that, I’m not necessarily speaking of specific statements, rather a general tone coming from years and years of written and spoken dialogue. You both seem to think that this country is spiraling downward into a shithole. I don’t see it that way at all.

    • Kacy – If you are going to make accusations against people or insult them, then it is only reasonable for them to ask for some shred of evidence to back up your claims. If you don’t have such evidence – and indeed can’t even paraphrase it loosely – then perhaps you should stop disparaging people in this way. If you are going to draw from your experience with us outside this blog to make claims about how we think, behave, or feel, then why are we limited to what was said here in asking you to back up those same claims?

      FYI, you did accuse me of calling you a progressive/liberal, so I think it’s now reasonable for me to ask to see the source.

    • Regarding the U.S. “spiraling downward into a shithole,” I have never made this claim. Hence the importance of relying on people’s actual words (evidence) instead of shooting off at the mouth about how you are sure they think or feel. I am making a much more specific claim on this blog, which is that liberty is declining in the United States. Do you dispute this assertion, and if so, what is your evidence?

      • Eh… gay people can get married now, serve in the military. Drug laws are being relaxed and prohibition is on its way out. Civil rights have come a long, long way since the 50’s and women just got through fighting a long, hard fight for political equality only a few decades back. Religion and theocracy are loosing their foothold in politics.

        I know you’re concerned almost exclusively with economic issues, and that makes it easy to ignore all the positive changes that have taken place and continue to take place. But I see good things happening and continue to happen.

        “I have never made this claim. Hence the importance of relying on people’s actual words (evidence) instead of shooting off at the mouth about how you are sure they think or feel.”

        Wow… hypocrite much? I can’t remember the last time we had a conversation that didn’t involve you telling me how angry I am. Nor can I remember the last time we had a conversation where I was actually angry.

      • If I assumed you were angry (you won’t provide examples, so I’ll have to make it hypothetical), then it was an assumption I made based on what you had written, such as hurling insult after insult at me, using CAPS, using bold, italics, or underline, or making statements that implied a certain mental state. Now if you would give me an example, I could show you why I made that (perhaps reasonable?) assumption. But you’ve said you won’t do that, so we’re at an impasse. At least you’ve proven my point that you don’t like when people make assumptions about you without evidence. Yet you’ve done the same to others here over and over again.

      • One additional comment regarding your assertion that I am “concerned almost exclusively with economic issues.”

        This is yet another baseless assertion that the evidence does not support. While I believe the erosion of “economic” liberties has been more severe than the erosion of “social” liberties (and defy anyone to provide evidence to the contrary), a review of my postings here reveals that there are in fact more definitively socially-oriented posts than economic.

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