"How To Avoid Rape" Satire Mocks the Prevailing Wisdom Around Sexual Assault

We've all heard the standard "How Not To Get Yourself Raped" advice: don't dress provocatively, don't leave your drink unattended, don't go anywhere secluded where you could be accosted by a stranger, and so on. A video by artist Cat Del Buono, aptly titled "How to Not Get Raped," takes all this standard advice and helpfully represents it via an increasingly dismayed female protagonist who dresses, parties, and fights back in all the recommended rape-proof ways.

The video is satire; an artistic statement condemning the conventional advice for its alternately contradictory, victim-blaming, and downright absurd nature. A commenter at Upworthy agrees, and points out that time and energy spent focusing on (mostly female) potential rape victims' actions is time and energy not spent on "how we get men to understand consent and stop being creepers."

I enjoyed the video (and by "enjoyed," I mean "was thoroughly depressed by," of course). The trouble is, not everyone is in a position to do much to educate men not to rape. If you're just one woman, with no particular interest in, aptitude for, or opportunity to speak out widely against rape, then how do you stand to benefit by not being offered advice of the kind that's mocked in the "How to Not Get Raped" video? By not feeling offended? By not feeling depressed?

While those who proffer How to Not Get Raped-style advice oversimplify the situation by not mentioning rapists (in this case, men) and their responsibility for their actions, those who push back against that advice oversimplify things badly, too. While no one "asks for" or deserves to be raped, learning to carefully live in the world as it currently exists is a critical skill in healthy adult life.

Notice that not all of the advice represented in the How to Not Get Raped video is equally as bad. Keeping your hair short so that a potential rapist can't pull you around by your ponytail is probably overkill. An no one should feel the need to literally wear a jumpsuit with a rape-proof belt at all times — to whatever extent this prevents rape, it must be tiny and not worth it. But not accepting open drinks which could have been drugged? This seems eminently reasonable to me. Fighting like hell if someone does try to take you somewhere with ill intent? Very, very good advice. I resent that critics of this type of advice ask me to abdicate my own good judgment when some of these particular tips strike me as good ideas.

As far as I can tell, no one is seriously morally defending, for instance, the fact that being drunk may increase your chances of getting raped. They're just pointing out the correlation between the two. This is supposed to be a conversation amongst the very most thoughtful, concerned, and well-informed adults who all care about individuals not getting raped. So why do critics repeatedly assume that women are too dumb to grasp simultaneously that rape victims are not to blame for their assaults, but that some precautionary measures really can work in preventing some rapes? That's just plain insulting.

And anyways, in response to the Upworthy commenter, what's to say that education about consent and how to "stop being creepers" is all that'd be required to prevent men from raping? This is another glaring oversimplification in the anti-How to Not Get Raped message. Not most, not many, but some rapists know full well that what they're doing is wrong, and they want to do it anyways. All the "Understanding Sexual Consent" educational seminars in the world won't prevent them. But fewer drunken, alone-in-desolate places women might.

Cat Del Buono on YouTube

Image: pinkpotatochips / Flickr