I’m traveling to Columbus, Ohio for the Secular Student Alliance conference, and CaitieCat has written a guest post so that you’re not too bored in my absence!
I was thinking about Schrödinger’s Rapist, the concept that to a woman faced alone with a man she does not know, it is rationality in action if she decides to be careful about how she interacts.
Now, this concept makes MRAs lose their NUT, and I can’t help but think it’s got to do with an inability to understand how reasoning works. That’s the charitable answer; the uncharitable ones are, I think, obvious.
So here’s an analogy: You’re walking down the street. You see a dog, loose, no collar. You don’t know whether the dog is escaped from someone’s house, or feral. You know nothing about the dog or its history.
Would you go over and start petting its muzzle?
Probably not. Why? Because you don’t know. It could be that this dog is feral and rabid, or it could be a sweet-natured lap dog. Basic rationality says that there’s little to be gained by treating the dog as anything but a possible object of fear at this point. You don’t know the dog, you don’t know its habits, you don’t know its mind, you don’t know if it’s been trained as an attack dog. You just don’t know.
Now, that rationality? That’s not in any way saying “all dogs are trained attack dogs which will bite you if you give them any chance at all”. That would be irrational; many dogs you encounter will be with people who love them, people who care about them, people who would help that dog not be a dog who bites people.
So you act as though any dog you don’t know could bite you, because it’s basic common sense, no?
Now go back up there, and change the concept of “dog” to “man”, and “bite” to “rape”.
THAT is Schrödinger’s Rapist. Not a belief that every man WILL rape. Simply a common-sense approach that any man you don’t know could rape, and when alone with such a person, taking a reasonably cautious approach.
How can men interact with this belief? By putting themselves in the mind of someone who doesn’t know what a wonderful person they really are, and thinking – hey, how would I as someone else know that I the real person aren’t a rapist? Well, they don’t. So you make a little effort to show the ways you’re not: you try not to walk close behind her, you don’t stare at her, you visibly involve yourself in other things, whatever.
It’s a simple issue in formal reasoning, the difference between:
- all dogs are dangerous animals which bite
- ANY dog could be a dangerous animal which bites.
One is an argument from the specific to the general, and is bad reasoning. The other is of an unknown-truth-value situation, where caution is obviously the prudent and rational answer.
And if you can’t see the difference between those two, maybe consider taking an intro course in reasoning.
CaitieCat is a 47-year-old trans bi dyke, outrageously feminist, and is a translator/editor for academics by vocation. She also writes poetry, does standup comedy, acts and directs in community theatre, paints, games, plays and referees soccer, uses a cane daily, writes other stuff, was raised proudly atheist, is both English by birth and Canadian by naturalization, a former foxhole atheist, a mother of four, and a grandmother of four more (so far). Sort of a Renaissance woman (and shaped like a Reubens!).