I've generally been an advocate of the common advice given to women: don't go out by yourself at night, always carry a cell phone, learn self defence.
That's why I was a little surprised to hear someone complaining viciously about it.
Toronto has been the stalking ground of a serial rapist and police have been issuing the usual warnings. However, one woman is sick of being told to protect herself. Deb Singh organized a Take Back the Night march in part to raise awareness. She feels the onus still is on women to protect themselves from rape rather than teaching men not to rape.
I had to sit back and think about that one for a moment. And I had to concede, she has a point.
A culture of fear isn't good for anyone. Having to be constantly on guard from attack isn't fun and when danger is seen as preventable, an undertone of blaming the victim begins to emerge. We probably could use more guy-oriented programs which talk honestly about sex and relationships and consent rather than featuring women on trampolines.
I think men get a lot of bad information, particularly from their peers when they're young. Guys don't analyze relationships and encounters the way women do, which probably saves them a lot of heartache. But it means they miss out on some of the lessons. And sadly, macho posturing jerks are still the ones doing most of the talking when young men get together. I've heard guys tell how they kept quiet because they assumed they were the only ones who felt differently and didn't want to get singled out as less of a man.
Education for men: good thing. No question. It doesn't have to be the flip side of the fear culture: blaming them for everything anyone with a Y chromosome has done since the beginning of recorded history. An opportunity for young men to explore their uncertainty, figure out face-saving ways to gently discover if interest is mutual, I could see guys being interested in that.
Now we flip back to the other side of this debate. Education will not stop a serial rapist. That's someone who is after power and domination and is chasing the thrill. He knows its wrong. That's why he's doing it. Taking extra precautions in that case is the smart thing to do. When the lions are in the grass, the antelope run. And they don't waste time whining about it to the other antelope after the fact. No antelope has ever felt like a moron for running when he or she was afraid. Even if it turns out it wasn't a lion after all.
I hope the police catch this rapist soon. I hope there is some intelligent debate and brainstorming of solutions sparked by Ms. Singh's comments. I hope this doesn't fade back into the national unconsciousness until the next outrage.