You want to say Hi to the cute girl on the subway. How will she react? Fortunately, I can tell you with some certainty, because she’s already sending messages to you. Looking out the window, reading a book, working on a computer, arms folded across chest, body away from you = do not disturb. So, y’know, don’t disturb her. Really. Even to say that you like her hair, shoes, or book. A compliment is not always a reason for women to smile and say thank you. You are a threat, remember? You are Schrödinger’s Rapist. Don’t assume that whatever you have to say will win her over with charm or flattery. Believe what she’s signaling, and back off.
If you speak, and she responds in a monosyllabic way without looking at you, she’s saying, “I don’t want to be rude, but please leave me alone.” You don’t know why. It could be “Please leave me alone because I am trying to memorize Beowulf.” It could be “Please leave me alone because you are a scary, scary man with breath like a water buffalo.” It could be “Please leave me alone because I am planning my assassination of a major geopolitical figure and I will have to kill you if you are able to recognize me and blow my cover.”
On the other hand, if she is turned towards you, making eye contact, and she responds in a friendly and talkative manner when you speak to her, you are getting a green light. You can continue the conversation until you start getting signals to back off.
The fourth point: If you fail to respect what women say, you label yourself a problem.
There’s a man with whom I went out on a single date—afternoon coffee, for one hour by the clock—on July 25th. In the two days after the date, he sent me about fifteen e-mails, scolding me for non-responsiveness. I e-mailed him back, saying, “Look, this is a disproportionate response to a single date. You are making me uncomfortable. Do not contact me again.” It is now October 7th. Does he still e-mail?
Yeah. He does. About every two weeks.
This man scores higher on the threat level scale than Man with the Cockroach Tattoos. (Who, after all, is guilty of nothing more than terrifying bad taste.) You see, Mr. E-mail has made it clear that he ignores what I say when he wants something from me. Now, I don’t know if he is an actual rapist, and I sincerely hope he’s not. But he is certainly Schrödinger’s Rapist, and this particular Schrödinger’s Rapist has a probability ratio greater than one in sixty. Because a man who ignores a woman’s NO in a non-sexual setting is more likely to ignore NO in a sexual setting, as well.
So if you speak to a woman who is otherwise occupied, you’re sending a subtle message. It is that your desire to interact trumps her right to be left alone. If you pursue a conversation when she’s tried to cut it off, you send a message. It is that your desire to speak trumps her right to be left alone. And each of those messages indicates that you believe your desires are a legitimate reason to override her rights.
For women, who are watching you very closely to determine how much of a threat you are, this is an important piece of data.
an excerpt from Phaedra Starling’s “Schrödinger’s Rapist: or a guy’s guide to approaching strange women without being maced” (via lostgrrrls)
HOLY FUCK THE TRUTH.
Can every one of my male followers read this? And please, before you get defensive (“I would never rape anyone!”) keep in mind, women being afraid of Shrodinger’s Rapists (oh my god i still can’t get over the encompassing brilliance of this phrase) is a conditioned, learned response from being immersed in rape culture and the evolution of sexism and sexual violence in our society from the day we’re born. And unfortunately, it’s very difficult to unlearn without the efforts of all genders to dismantle it. Which is where you come in.
And, let’s be clear about this: we have no good reason to UNLEARN it. It’s sensible and your wanting to talk to us when we don’t want to talk is a very excellent reason to keep up the behaviour.
Even without Schrodinger’s Rapist YOU DO NOT HAVE THE RIGHT TO ANY WOMAN’S ATTENTION JUST BECAUSE YOU WANT IT.
Imagine you decide you want to talk to a random man on the train, on the street, in the park. You just think he looks like someone you might get on with. So you say something like ‘Hi, where are you going?’ or ‘What are you reading?’ or ‘What are you writing?’ - does this already feel like weird behaviour, it does to me. It’s none of your business what this man’s plan’s are, where he’s going, what he’s reading or writing. In fact, if he’s reading or writing he’s otherwise occupied, and you know it, so what you’re doing is very rude.
This is different to, for instance, noticing that he’s reading a book you also like or commenting on something else you are both currently experiencing, like the weather. That’s still a little intrusive, but it’s actually something he might conceivably want to talk about. People do sometimes like getting to know people who like the same things as them, and they do often like to comment on the weather as an easy way of harmlessly assessing whether someone is open to conversation in a way that makes it very easy to drop the conversation if the other person indicates that they’d rather not. This is a very useful technique: ask yourself ‘What would be appropriate behaviour if I were approaching a man?’
Similarly, if you do get a response from the guy that indicates that whilst, yes, you both like the same book or yes, you are both currently experiencing the same weather, he was actually enjoying reading the book and would like to get back to that - monosylabic response, turning away from you, avoiding your gaze after responding, etc. - imagine carrying on trying to get his attention, talking at him regardless of whether he responds, getting annoyed if he doesn’t respond… you can see that you’d be being a dick, right? In fact, you probably wouldn’t do the above, as, with the exception of people who are generally not good at judging boundaries or reading body language, this rarely happens. It some times happens, but much more rarely than the commonplace behaviour directed at women.
If you’d feel really awkward trying to carry on a conversation with a man in the same situation, you probably shouldn’t be trying to carry on a conversation with a woman.
As for people who genuinely find it difficult to read behaviour, I have sympathy. I don’t want to patronise you by giving advice you may have heard before, or which may even be bad advice. This isn’t really about you. The point is rather than lots of men start acting like they can’t read body language when addressing a woman, even though their behaviour towards men indicates that they don’t have any issue with it at all. They just choose to ignore the body language with a woman. They are habituated to ignore it.
And remember, just because it’s embedded in your culture doesn’t make it OK. Being habituated to behave in a certain way doesn’t mean you don’t have a choice. Schrodinger’s Rapist is not a pattern that women have to unlearn. It’s a pattern that men have to recognise as valid.
Something that I think sometimes gets lost when people hear the phrase “Schroedinger’s rapist” is that it says “rapist”, so people think a) our only concern is rape and we think every guy might rape us b) if they don’t want to rape us, it’s okay. Being stalked is also traumatic. Being assaulted is traumatic. Having somebody grab your arm to not let you leave a “friendly” conversation is scary. And just being harassed on a regular basis is upsetting. There are many things you can do that’s screwed up and hurtful that’s not rape, that can frighten, upset, and scar a person in these situations, especially when they happen a lot.
The whole thing about SR isn’t just “we don’t know if you’re a rapist” but also that we don’t know what might happen if we say no, or try to walk away, will we have our arm grabbed? Will we get spat on? Will you block our car so we can’t leave? Or de-gender us? Be racist to us? Stalk us? Harass us? Refuse to leave us alone while telling us your explicit sexual fantasies? Attempt to/succeed in touching our bodies without our permission? Threaten us? And these are just things from my experience. (And yes, possibly worse. I’ve had a guy literally chase me down a street, and I don’t know what would have happened if he had caught me.)
When you approach us on the street, all of these are in play in our minds, and we’re constantly weighing every single possibility because for many of us, this has happened, and will continue to happen, and each one hurts, and stays in our memory, and they add up. Just try to keep that in mind next time a woman says “sorry I’m busy” and you consider trying to get around that, the possibility tree you’re now opening up for her.
I have been seeing this pop up quite a bit on Tumblr recently, and for the most part I have been skimming through it, because I had already read Phaedra Starling’s brilliant piece sometime before. However, while seeing it again today, it occurred to me that this piece has a value to me beyond what Phaedra might have originally intended. Being an autistic woman in an ableist and sexist society, I am frequently told that a man who is creeping me out is not really a threat—that I have misunderstood because I have misread social cues. Since reading Phaedra’s piece, I have gained the confidence I need to say to myself, “No, that really is creepy,” or, “You know, I do not know if that is creepy in any non-relative sense, but other people people must accept that I, like Phaedra, ‘set my own risk tolerance’.” That information has helped me many times now, perhaps keeping me out of several unpleasant situations. I cannot thank Phaedra enough for that.