Content note: non-descript mentions of sexual violence
I have heard some very conflicting messages in my life on the topics of sexual assault and gendered violence. They fall into two main schools of thought, which I will call Not All Men and Why Take the Risk? These two philosophies complicate and burden the lives of women and other victims of gendered violence or sexual assault.
Not All Men theory prioritizes precision in discourse, and the feelings and reputations of men, above all else. So long as there is one good man, it is unfair to malign him by implication. An offshoot of NAM is Give Him a Chance, a theory which obligates women to at least try returning the affections of any man who desires them.
Why Take the Risk theory, by contrast, urges women to plan where they live and work, how they commute, and what they drink around the apparently uncontrollable criminality of men. This is the school of thought in most “rape prevention” campaigns aimed at modifying female behavior.
Combined these theories tell women to let their guard down, give chances, and ignore tgeir instincts around men they know, and to be hyper vigilant around strangers. Yet in reality, men they know pose the greatest threat to women. The majority of violent and sexual crimes are perpetrated by people known to their victims.
Instead of telling women to live in two contradictory worlds, we should recognize that the root cause of gendered violence is not anything women do or say or wear. It is in the choices and actions of men. Our efforts should not focus on teaching women to survive as hunted animals, but on teaching men not to hunt us.