ethernight
fear
April 27th, 2008 07:12 pm
In a recent post about the silly OSBP thing, (if you are not familiar with the concept, I don't particularly recommend you change that,) ursulav mentioned the following quote, "Men are afraid women will laugh at them. Women are afraid men will kill them."

This echoes the sentiment that I have heard in many modern feminist writings. That modern existence as a woman includes, by default, a very pervasive element of fear for their basic safety. I have heard tales ranging from a women relating the feeling of walking alone at night, to explaining that every encounter with a new man is twinged with suspicion of potential violence.

Hearing these women share their stories breaks my heart. The life of fear that they describe is tragic, and it is horrifying to me that anyone in modern times endures this.

The thing is? I don't understand. Fear is not a part of my life as a woman, and it never has been.

When I was a teenager, I certainly did not think particularly well of males. I believed that all men wanted something from me, and were willing to go to all levels of deceit and trickery to get it. I imagined that men sat in dark smoky rooms, laughing menacingly with steepled fingers as they formed their evil schemes to get in my pants.

I have since learned that most men, especially of the age range that I was dealing with in those days, are merely bumbling along awkwardly, trying to make a connection. The scheming I imagined was more likely boys trying to untangle the mysteries of the world, the baffling enigma that is girls, and the seemingly herculean task of getting one to pay attention to them.

But back then? I was defensive, sure. One might even say that to an extent, I was afraid. Afraid of heartbreak, afraid to trust. But I was never afraid for my safety.

While I am aware that women are the victims of sexual assault and violent crimes far more often than men, I see this in the context of the many other horrible, but relatively rare things that happen in the world. I am far more concerned about the idea of getting run down by a San Francisco cabbie than I am with either having my home destroyed by earthquake, or being raped in an alley.

This is not to say that there haven't been moments when, walking alone at night past an unsavory looking group of people, I might be acutely aware of my own relative strength, and my chances of defending myself if it became necessary. However, I also don't think that I would feel any less unsafe, all other things being equal, if I suddenly had a penis between my legs.

What I would like to ask you, if you are a woman and would be so generous as to share is -- are you afraid? To what level does it impact your life? Is it an undertone of every encounter with a strange man, or is it confined to certain situations? And most importantly, please help me understand -- why are you afraid?

I do not ask these questions to belittle the fear of any woman, nor do I mean to imply that anyone should or should not be afraid. I ask honestly, because I wish to understand.
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(no subject) - zare_k
From:reverend_kate
Date:April 28th, 2008 - 05:48 am

Nope.

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I don't get it either.

But something I'm coming to understand is that, once you explain you're from california, people will write you off as a freakish outlier.
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From:ethernight
Date:April 28th, 2008 - 06:26 pm

Re: Nope.

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"But something I'm coming to understand is that, once you explain you're from california, people will write you off as a freakish outlier."

And we very well may be!

When considering questions like these, I always try to keep in mind the fact that my experience, in so many ways, is very different from the vast majority of people. One aspect of that is living in a progressively thinking regional area.

Of course, I am guessing that living in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, or any of the other metropolitan areas is likely to be the same in this respect. But of course, the population of urban areas actually is far greater than the population in rural areas. So then, how can we be considered outliers?
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From:rednikki
Date:April 28th, 2008 - 06:31 am
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I am not afraid like that. I have had situations where I get nervous (walking in abandoned parts of SoMa solo at night - specifically 6th south of Market), but I'm not afraid of men as a group.
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From:serafaery
Date:April 28th, 2008 - 08:08 am
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I probably fall into a similar category as you. I'm 5'8", grew up an athlete with three big brothers and two fathers, and never have seen everyday men as particularly threatening to my safety or physical well-being.

But I do fear *gangs* of men. Even gangs of boys. I've been spit on and shouted at by them (in Boston), and have read news stories of groups of 12-13 year old boys raping grown women. I've seen their hostility towards a lone female, and I do not feel the slightest bit safe around them despite my relative physical strength when their numbers are so much greater than my 1. I have never feared packs of girls in the same way, even when they've behaved with hostility.

I've noticed recently that the only time I am ever treated with aggression is in public when I am alone, and it is always by a male that has at least one other companion with him. Never does it happen when I have even one other person with me, and never by a lone male. I have been teased by packs of females before, but it's just not quite the same kind of fear that runs down my spine when that happens, and that hasn't happened to me since I was middle-school aged.

I don't know if this helps shed light on anything at all. I don't consider myself fearful of men. I love men. Quite a bit. But gangs of males do scare me when they're behaving aggressively.
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From:wolflady26
Date:April 28th, 2008 - 09:33 am
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No, I'm with you. I don't consider every man's potential to be a rapist or murderer when I meet them, and I have never been overly concerned about sexually-related violence. In fact, a few times when I have been in bad situations, the best way to get out of them was treating the other people involved like, well, people and not monsters.
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From:nelliebelle
Date:April 28th, 2008 - 05:16 pm
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when i meet men i'm always wary to some degree, but that's more because i'm naturally skeptical of the intentions of everyone i meet, regardless of sex. i'm not naive and i don't let strange men buy me drinks or put me in any sort of compromising position, but i wouldn't call that fear, just street smarts. i always assess every situation to determine what could go wrong and how i would react.

i think that intelligent people can read other people and get a pretty good idea of how guarded to be around someone they don't know, and it's probably the less intelligent women among us who live in fear.
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From:adamwiggins
Date:April 28th, 2008 - 08:40 pm

Statistics

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"...women are the victims of sexual assault and violent crimes far more often than men..."

Actually, men are more likely to be the victim of violent crime: stats from the US Bureau of Justice. Interesting to note that a few decades ago, victims were men nearly twice as often as women, where today victims are men 50% more often than women. A strange reflection of increasing gender equality, maybe?

I couldn't find any charts for sexual assault, but the raw data shows that rape victims are more than ten times more likely to be men than women. So the first part of your statement is correct, as intuition suggests.
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From:adamwiggins
Date:April 29th, 2008 - 07:15 am

Re: Statistics

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Oops, what a typo: "men" and "women" in that second to last sentence should be swapped.
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From:ethernight
Date:April 29th, 2008 - 06:18 pm

Re: Statistics

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I gathered.
From:suburban_gypsy
Date:April 29th, 2008 - 05:37 pm

Re: Statistics

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Men may be the victims of more violent crimes, but women are more likely to experience sexual violence. Alissa, after reading your post I went and looked through my stuff and finally found my pamphlet from this year's Take Back the Night at UCSB. Here's a section directly quoted from the flier:

"1 in 4 women, by the time they graduate from college, will experience a sexual assault or attempted assault.

84% of college-age women who are sexually assaulted know their assailent. In the UCSB/IV community, it is 98%.

89% of sexual assaults are intr-racial.

91% of survivors of sexual assault are female.

Statistics from CalCASA, the US Department of Justice, UCSB's RPEP, Johns Hopkins School for Public Health, and the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault"

Of course there are always oodles of methodological problems to consider when taking in the information from any survey, like WHO was sampled, how were the questions asked, and how likely are people to tell the truth. I have the feeling many men would not admit to being sexually assaulted, even in an anonymous survey. But, the fact is that the general message of these here numbers line up with my experiential knowledge and other statistics I've come across in learning about sexual violence through my work as a safer sex student health intern at UCSB.
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From:suburban_gypsy
Date:April 29th, 2008 - 05:48 pm
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"While I am aware that women are the victims of sexual assault and violent crimes far more often than men, I see this in the context of the many other horrible, but relatively rare things that happen in the world."

I thoguht this sentence wwas so interesting because it is so far removed fro my experience at UCSB. Maybe ie is something about the college party environment (and the fact that the vast majority of survivors know their assailant), but sexual assaults are just part of my reality. I have never experience one, and certainly do not walk around in fear of this expectation, but it does not surprise me when a friend mentions that this has happened to her. I also know a male friend who was sexually assaulted while he was drunk, and as far as I could tell his friends let him get dragged into a bedroom by someone he clearly had no interset in earlier in the night and treated it with huor because at least he was getting laid. Clearly, that dynamic is problematic as well.

And to answer your greater question, no in day to day life I am not afraid. As a child, I grew up around easily angered adults and alcoholics and have since then done a fine job of crafting a life where violence is not considered appropriate at any level. But I can say that it is easy to reconnect to those feelings, because of the reality that I am rather small and I remember what it was like to be worried about being hit by something. I think a lot of what causes people to live defensively stems from what happens in childhood, when there is so much vulnerability and dependence that learning to adapt to awful situations is oftentimes a required survival mechanism.
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From:mehninja
Date:May 3rd, 2008 - 05:13 pm
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Nope, doesn't affect how I view guys in the least, and you'd think that I'd have a seriously skewed view at this point. I don't ever really fear for my safety -- and I'm originally from Tennessee, not California, so I'm even a female from the SOUTH, by God.
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