The debate between teaching women to protect themselves from rape and teaching men not to rape – a debate that flared up in the New York Times and the Washington Post last week – is a false choice. It should not be one or the other. It should be both. In fact, it really needs to be all three, because a critical component is far too often ignored.
No one thinks twice about other security precautions – No one is accused of enabling thieves by advising people to have anti-theft protection for their smartphones, not to leave their valuables unattended and lock their cars. Yet somehow, when women are advised in good faith to take precautions to avoid being victimized, the person giving the advice is lambasted as enabling rape culture, blaming the victim or excusing the rapists.
It does not help women for feminists to shout down legitimate advice on self-protection. At the same time, it does not help when all men are cast as rapists, with messages in men’s urinals telling them that they hold in their hands the power to stop rape. (Grow up, by the way.)
It should not be either/or. It should be all three. Women should be advised not to put themselves in a position where they could be attacked, and if they are attacked it should be very clear that the rapist, and only the rapist, is responsible. Parents should teach their sons to respect women and not take advantage of them, and both high schools and universities should teach the same message.
But we always ignore the critical third component, something that could stop a lot of this from happening – especially at parties where alcohol is flowing. Men should protect women. Instead of laughing and taking pictures or video, real men should step in if they see a woman being victimized and stop it. Men who see women who are inebriated and unable to protect themselves should make sure that woman is safe. That is what a real man does, and sadly many of the high-profile rape cases over the last few years has demonstrated that there is a lack of real men.