Random stuff that came up during the workshops.
Is “giving in” to a mugger like “negotiating with terrorists”? Someone raised that. I’d say nope, unless you’re gonna see that mugger again and again. You’re not establishing any kind of ongoing relationship, hopefully, so issues of power imbalance become fairly moot. If it’s a kid at your school stealing your lunch money, that’s a different story. But if you treat every interaction as a power struggle you gotta win, for whatever reasons, that can affect both your arsenal and how you’ll evaluate your results.
Gender. There’s currently a push to eliminate the gender bias in discussions about rape and domestic abuse. It’s a good push inasmuch as rape and domestic abuse affect all genders, and treating them like they’re women-only issue is fucking up a lot of people. However, some of the pushing ignores the fact that gender has a huge influence in how the aftermath goes down. If I go up to my friends and tell them that someone tried to take advantage of me while I was drunk at the pub, I have the absolute certainty that their response won’t be “hurr hurr hurr was he hot?!” Guys get that kind of shit all the time. If I trawl the bars for drunken 20 yr olds at closing time, I’m a “cougar” and “empowered” and “sexually liberated”. A man my age doing the same would be a perv and a predator.
I don’t know where I sit on this, but I feel that we can’t eliminate gender from the conversation until it stops being a factor. I can’t see that happening in my lifetime.
Corollary: I was describing to someone how once a Dreaded Ex tried to pick a fight with me in a pub. I didn’t hit him, though I was sorely tempted, but I pushed him* and walked off. I was the first and the only one to go physical, and people were coming up to me to see if I was ok. That reaction was very surprising to a whole load of people. I was confused by that surprise. But they’re nice people, and they’re genuinely not sexist, so to them it was a shock to find out that the game is that rigged.
*I will forever use the words “just a push” to describe that, even though that’s a massive red flag for abuse.
Talking about the risk-reward ratio. You can never lower the reward enough that nobody will see you as a potential target; homeless people mug each other. You can raise the risk enough that a lot of potential attackers will leave you alone, though, because the ratio just doesn’t stack up for them.
Transfer that to sexual assault. You cannot lower your ‘value’ enough to take yourself out of the victim pool. It just can’t be done. You can, however, send out signals that will put off at least some potential attackers.
Transfer that to interactions with a romantic/sexual component. You can never be offputting enough to be left totally alone. You can, however, send out signals that will put off most nice, reasonable, well-meaning people. If you’re sitting on a train with a giant set of headphones reading 2 kg of “Lord of the Rings”, with your head buried in a laptop, asleep*, etc., most people will leave you alone. If they like you a lot, they might be bummed out at the missed opportunity, but they understand the game enough to realise that very few good relationships start with someone irritating the shit out of someone else. People who don’t understand social mechanisms, who don’t much care about balanced power dynamics, or whose game is extremely short, however, will still bother you. The reward is still there, and they either don’t see or don’t care about the risks.
Reverse it. To someone who doesn’t care about how you feel, who lacks sympathy or empathy, bothering you while you’re busy or creeping the fuck out of you is a non-issue. I’m tempted to treat that lack of consideration as a Sign. I might not know what it’s a Sign of, ’cause my telepathy is still underdeveloped, but I’d have to be very, very interested in someone to ignore it as a potential issue. Ok, so he’s so attracted to me that just he can’t stop himself pestering me; do I want to live with that?
Theory: Making yourself a hard target in romantic/sexual settings amounts to pre-sorting for assholes, because only assholes will come near you. This can skew your opinion of humanity at large, make you feel that being a hard target is superimportant, and round and round the spiral goes.
Other theory: I’m full of shit on this one.
- Gatwick airport, 2015. I was settling down to sleep overnight in the terminal, because I had an early flight and I’m poor. This dude first tried to share a bench with me, even though the place was empty, and then literally started a “do you sleep here often” kind of conversation. I’ve seen some clumsy shit in my life, but this was a whole new level of clueless.