Don\’t Be That Predator

A while back there was a response to that anti-rape campaign that used posters telling all men “Don’t be that guy: just because she’s unconscious doesn’t mean she wants to f**k”.

The response was a poster saying, “Don’t be that girl: Just because you regret a one night stand doesn’t mean it wasn’t consensual.”

I don’t really need to describe the ensuing donnybrook, because this is one of those rare cases where your imagination is likely pretty accurate. After all, you’ve seen this picture before (and likely will again).

Earnest and sincerely concerned people had reactions that expressed sadness and disappointment. Less temperate voices accused the counter-campaign of promoting rape culture (which exists).

In both cases there was a complete absence of concern for the lived experience of the average man, and apparently a complete ignorance of the data concerning who commits rape.

The data strongly suggest that about 10% of men are rapists, and that perhaps as few as 4% of men are responsible for something like 75% of rapes. Which is to say: 90% of men are not rapists.

This creates a common statistical paradox: while it is true that for any given accusation of rape there is a 95 to 98% chance of it being accurate, for any given man there is an 85 to 95% chance of him being innocent. How both of these statements can be true, and why people’s perceptions differ, has to do with conditional probabilities, which we are very, very bad at thinking about.

The trick is that under the condition that a man has been accused of rape there is a 95 – 98% chance of him being guilty, but under the condition of all else being equal there is an 85 – 95% chance that any randomly selected man is not a rapist and never will be.

So most men, seeing a “Don’t be that guy” ad are, frankly, insulted. It is a misandry at its worst, a complete failure to communicate to your target audience. It perpetuates a vicious myth about men, women and rape: that all men are rapists.

For comparison, consider a comparable ad showing a young black man with a gun, with text that read, “Don’t be that brother: just because they dissed you doesn’t mean you have to kill them”. Such an ad would be rightly condemned as perpetuating a heinous lie about blacks even though blacks have rates of violent crime that are seven to ten times that of whites in the US, because the reality is that the vast majority of young black males just want to get a bag of Skittles and get home to their father’s house without being harassed and murdered.

The counter-campaign in Edmonton would have done better to use the race comparison than the poster they actually put up: it would make their point more effectively and turn the conversation toward evidence-based social policy, rather than endlessly unproductive back-and-forth between people talking past each other.

For the average (that would be non-rapist) man, campaigns like this make them irrationally uncomfortable and reactive for the same reason that terrorism makes so many people irrationally uncomfortable and reactive: it reminds them of a danger that is random, life-wrecking and that they are completely helpless in the face of. Every day in Canada an innocent man gets falsely accused of rape. Even though the risk is extremely low, these factors of randomness and extreme consequences and helplessness tend to bring out the worst in people, and that’s not what you want an anti-rape campaign to do.

We should be aiming to bring out the best in people, yes?

A far better anti-rape campaign would be focused on the 5 to 10% of men who are rapists, and especially on the 5% who commit 75% of the rapes, the serial predators who go commit their crimes with planning and deliberation, and likely with the tacit acquiescence of the people around them.

It is time to drop the failed and false “gender war” approach to rape (because really, the “war model” is always the stupidest approach to any issue) and adopt an evidence-based model that recognizes most men are not rapists… but they may very well have friends or acquaintances who are.

How about an ad showing some guys in a locker room, one of them clearly holding forth on his exploits of the previous night, and one of them holding up his hand and saying, “That’s not cool, bro” (translated from my Old-Man-Speak pidgin version of Young-Speak into the real thing, of course.) With a line underneath saying, “5% of men commit 75% of rapes. Your silence helps them get away with it. Be a man: speak up.”

There is a final fact I’d like to mention here: 8 – 10% of reported rape victims are male, and rape is the only violent crime where men are the minority amongst reported victims. We don’t really know how many men are raped, because we don’t know what their rate of under-reporting is. No one has studied it. If a man is 10 times less likely to report a rape than a woman is (not implausible) then it is possible that there are actually more male rape victims than female (nor are men who rape men necessarily gay, so the homophobes in the audience can drop their pitchforks, thanks.)

This fact is one of the more important casualties of the “gender war” model of rape, and it’s time we started paying more attention to it. Many victims of rape are men. Isn’t it odd that of the hundreds and thousands of posts from rape-survivors we see in the forums discussing these things, I’ve yet to see a post by anyone who identifies themselves as a male rape survivor, although there have been a goodly number by self-identified female rape survivors. I wonder why that is?

Rape is not about men against women. It is about predators against the rest of us.

It’s time for us to stop fighting each other, and start fighting them.

About TJ

Scientist, engineer, inventor, writer, poet, sailor, hiker, canoeist, father.

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