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Last week, we discussed a public masturbator operating on Metro’s Orange Line. Commenters disagreed on how victims ought to react to a public sexual assault—-and why they sometimes feel ashamed.

kza writes:

It’s important to report this to the police. A cop can actually do something unlike a regular citizen. I’m not quite sure how you could blame yourself or feel shame …

Emily WK writes:

kza, telling a victim of sexual assault what they should do afterward is in a general sense not very helpful at all. Neither is dismissing their very real and valid feelings of helplessness or shame. You might want to learn a little more about sexual assault and why people who have been victimized feel the way that they do before you start proclaiming what’s best and what each person should do in a particular instance.

Until then, you don’t really know what you’re talking about.

kza writes:

I think shame comes about after doing something shamefull. I don’t believe being a victim is a shamefull act. And I know I don’t know what I’m talking about here but I’m going to go out on a limb and say the women in these stories weren’t soliciting the guy so it’s not as if they are to blame…

Emily WK writes:

kza, try this.

That’s a start for what you might be able to find out about shame and why it isn’t always what you expect it to be. Human emotion, particularly when it relates to something like sexual assault, is a lot more complicated than “You have to do something shameful to feel shame.” You’re way over simplifying it.

Nobody here posting thinks these women should feel shame. But when we live in a world where women are routinely blamed for being raped, what on earth reason do you think these women would have NOT to feel shame? Jeez, dude. Like, think for a few seconds.

kza writes:

Rape is different. People blame victims of rape so I can understand that of course. Anyone who blames the girls that had to forcibly watch some jerk off jackin off is a lunatic who should not be listened to. No person can blame them.

Emily WK writes:

You are willfully not trying to understand. Have a great day, kza, and enjoy your little bubble of ignorance. Hope it serves you well.

kza writes:

You know what Emily? I probably am wrong. I think that victims should not feel blame but in the society we live in it’s understandable that they feel that shame. I would love to live in a world where victims didn’t have to feel that way. Maybe figuring out a way to stop making victims feel blame could lead to more of them being able to take a stand and force police into actually stopping this shit. I just feel like the best way to combat sexual assualt is with 1st hand accounts. They have 0 responsibility to stop future assaults but I think they can do more to change people’s minds then people like me, a random male who gets outraged by assualts I read about online.

groggette writes:

kza, I think you’re wrong about that last part:

“I think they can do more to change people’s minds then people like me, a random male.”

Whether we like it or not, men’s (or white people’s, straight people’s, able bodied, etc.) voices are heard more often then women. In general, people are more likely to listen to what you have to say on this, just because you are male. And I want to make it clear that I would never ask someone to do anything they perceive would put them in harms way, but if you see something like this going down and feel safe, you telling the creeper to stop is almost always going to be a hell of a lot more effective than the woman (who should have been paying more attention, shouldn’t have been wearing those shoes/that shirt/those earrings, is just looking to be offended, etc.) saying or doing anything.

And it’s not just with the assholes doing what the guy in the OP does. If your friends are always talking about how this or that woman (that they probably don’t even know) is a slut for whatever reason, call them out on it. Your words will carry more weight than the women they are talking about.

I agree with you that these women shouldn’t feel shame. But that doesn’t change the reality. Men calling out other men is just as effective (if not more than, at least for now) as women trying to call them out and sharing their stories.

Saurs writes:

kza and others like him are merely parroting the party line. Only in a misogynist culture can the majority of people (women) have to fight to get a powerful, vocal, furiously self-centered minority (men) to recognize that their experiences are valid and true. “Changing people’s minds” is a neat little code phrase for “getting men to appreciate that women know what they’re talking about when they talk about themselves and their lives.” It’s a nearly impossible task to actually pull off. Privileged dudes don’t recognize how fucking privileged they sound when they talk about the necessity of “changing people’s minds” or “educating people” – “people” not actually signifying people in this instance, but ignorant men who want desperately to stay ignorant.

Man becomes the default person, his point-of-view the default point of view. Women, who actually outnumber men, become a fringe group that out of necessity must work in a unified fashion to mold their opinions into something palatable for men, to work hard not to worry male insecurity, and placate their delicate, fragile world-views in order to be “believed.” Sometimes this requires that every woman a man has ever known profess the truth of some perspective; otherwise a complaint is not universal, and therefore not worthy of interest. Other times, like all paternalists, anti-feminist men need other men to explain to them why misogyny is awful; otherwise, it’s just a bunch of bitches crowing and clucking, and who the fuck cares what dumb whores think, anyway? The person of the messenger and the appearance of the packaging really become irrelevant, because they’re always lacking; women are always fucking up and making men ignore them and discount them.

Why men are the arbiter of truth and reality – those who constitute a group that must “be convinced” of something in order for it to be true – remains to be seen, as most have a vested and entirely selfish interest in disproving or ignoring sexual inequality. It’s frankly laughable why anyone should take anything a man says about sex and gender seriously. When anti-feminists feign dispassionate, would-be scientific skepticism about feminism, they’re being disingenuous; like all conservative counter-reactionaries, anti-feminist men are threatened by feminism and have every reason to be frightened of it. Women, meanwhile, have nothing left to lose. The opposite of a feminist world is the here and the now; things can’t get very much worse, comparatively speaking. The dominant culture in the United States is violent, woman-hating, racist, capitalistic, greedy, and very, very dumb. If we don’t succeed, we know what to expect because we’re living it, and each day we become more backwards and more subject to repressed, oppressive ways of thinking. Men, on the other hand, would very much like things to stay the same – barring bigger tits, more housewives, more houseboys, more male privilege. Most can probably barely fathom a world and a culture in which men do not have the final say, in which what constitutes progress is not decided and fashioned solely by men, in which the minor inconveniences they mistake for grievous injuries against themselves and all men are put into their proper proportion, in which they can actually muster up empathy.

It’s little wonder why a lot of men need “convincing,” but convincing men is probably not actually a worthwhile cause.

Photo via stevebott, Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0