This essay from 2009 is the best thing I’ve read so far this year. It’s called Schrödinger’s Rapist: or a guy’s guide to approaching strange women without being maced. And I think it might be perfect.

The comments are now closed, but there are 1200+ of them, and they are (mostly) good reading as well.

The essay is about how there’s no way for women to know if a man who is approaching us is a good guy or a rapist. So we constantly have to observe and calculate levels of danger. It spells out five points that men can and should be aware of if they want to approach women. From the essay:

When you approach me in public, you are Schrödinger’s Rapist. You may or may not be a man who would commit rape. I won’t know for sure unless you start sexually assaulting me. I can’t see inside your head, and I don’t know your intentions. If you expect me to trust you – to accept you at face value as a nice sort of guy – you are not only failing to respect my reasonable caution, you are being cavalier about my personal safety.

The title is based on Schrödinger’s Cat:

Essentially the point is that the cat in the box is either alive or dead. We don’t know, because it’s in the box. We can calculate the probability, but until the box is opened, the cat exists in a state of uncertainty. Dead? Alive? Somewhere between the two?… Upon meeting a man, we have no information about him other than the general stats. We collect more information as we go, but that information does not erase the uncertainty. It just changes the odds. The only way we know for sure-the only way the box can be opened, as it were-is if the man proves himself a rapist by committing a rape, either against us or against someone else.

Some commenters feel it’s not fair that women start from a baseline of fearful-of-men-who-are-strangers. I would say it may not be fair, but it is realistic. Think of it this way: If you get bit by a dog, you’ll likely be scared of all dogs — and I don’t think anyone would blame you.

Other commenters worry about potential profiling:

You know, if you replace “man” with “young black male”, and “rapist” with “mugger”, and substitute the appropriate statistics, you’ve got yourself an argument you’d see on Stormfront. Is it OK for me to go with “Schrodinger’s mugger” and assume that any young black guy I see on the subway is a mugger until I know otherwise? Because assuming that any man could be a rapist is about the same mentality.Source

While still others don’t feel like profiling is accurately comparable:

Here’s the thing. In my experience, being treated as a potential rapist hasn’t harmed me in any way. I haven’t been hassled by the police for driving while male. I haven’t been kicked out of bars or followed around stores or whatever because my masculinity was threatening people… ABSOLUTELY THE ONLY CONSEQUENCE of the “sexual profiling” that I face as a man has been that I have to be a little more polite and considerate around strange women, especially if we’re alone together or it’s dark. Okay, I can do that. No skin off my nose.

People of color have a very different experience with racial profiling. They do get hassled by the police more because of it, often with really dreadful consequences. They do lose out on good jobs and a lot of social perks – and so on. It is a big, serious, hairy deal that harms them in a lot of ways. I figure that gives them a good reason to complain about it when they experience it.

I think if I lived in some mirror universe where I faced serious, persistent, life-altering harmful consequences for being male, I’d be more likely to get angry at the women who crossed the street to avoid me – and I’d be more sympathetic to other guys who get angry over it. As is, I just don’t feel like us men have a legitimate grievance here.Source

I hope you get a chance to read the essay, because I’d love to discuss it with you. It’s interesting to read something like this from before #metoo, before “grab ’em by the p*ssy” and see how well it still holds up. Makes me wonder if we’ve seen any improvements on this front in the last 11 years, since the essay was first written.

It also has me thinking about how many rapists I likely know, how many we all know — and how we’re not aware of it. One commenter did some math to try and figure out how many rapists live among us, and the numbers are pretty shocking:

RAAIN published the 1/6 women is a victim of rape or sexual assault statistic. The census estimates the female population of the US in 2008 was 154 million. Which mean 25.5 million women will be raped or assaulted. The male population is almost 150 million.

If we assume, for simplicity, that every sexual assault is reported and, for worst-case-scenario numbers, that every rapist will only rape 1 woman and then stop, then one out of every 5.83 men is a rapist. That doesn’t take into account gray rape or men who “convince” their partners to have sex they do not want.source

Yikes is an understatement. What are your thoughts? Have you ever tried to comprehend the idea that statistically, you are sitting with rapists on the subway, at church, at every sporting event and cultural event?

Do you agree with the advice in the essay? Is it the kind of thing you would want the men in your life to read? Or was it hard for you to relate to?

P.S. — 100 Cats found here.