I think it might finally be time to address the R- word.

I have tiptoed around it since I entered the gun owning population, partially because it is an attention-grabbing taboo that comes with its own laundry list of connotations and associations, but mostly because it is something that I have very strong feelings about.  I didn’t want to slap together some off-the-cuff rant about how I think guns will put an end to rape.  This topic deserves a more nuanced treatment.  I planned on waiting and gathering data and doing research.  But today I was reading this article and I felt like my brain was going to explode at the absurdity of the assertions the author makes.  Then I ran a quick Google search on guns and sexual violence and found this  and this and I just can’t keep quiet on the subject any longer.

Whether or not you believe guns will prevent sexual assault, the language and tone of these articles is infuriating and demeaning.  It implies that while the threat of sexual violence is very real and entirely reprehensible, if we’ve gotten ourselves into the situation that results in rape, there’s nothing to be done about it.   We should just close our eyes and wait for it to be over.  They claim that we have no viable chance of defending ourselves against a rapist and even if we do, no one will believe our sad story anyway. The fact that these articles are all written by women, for women makes them all the more galling.  This line especially made smoke come out of my ears  would a judge and jury really believe a woman who says she shot her husband in self-defense because he was trying to rape her? Furthermore, a gun won’t protect you if someone takes advantage of you while you’re too drunk to consent to sex, nor will it stop someone from slipping a date rape drug in your drink.” (Hodrick, http://www.PolicyMic.com, July 25, 2012)   It sounds an awful lot like premptive victim blaming to me. Why bother learning to defend yourself?  It’s not going to work and everyone is going to think you are a lying, boozing slut anyway.

Then there’s this neat, little package of condescending problem-solving: “Guns are not the solution. Education is. There are ways to protect yourself: don’t walk at night alone on campus, don’t run at night on campus with earbuds in, when going to a party or bar only accept drinks that you have seen made with your own eyes, try to stay in well-lit, people-filled areas, don’t wear your hair in a ponytail because it is easier to grab, be observant of your environment to see if you’re being followed in any way, always listen to your gut if your instinct is telling you something is wrong, and if given the chance, take a self-defense class”  (Alvarez, http://www.twodaymag.com, August 4, 2011) Oh! Just don’t wear a ponytail! Perfect!  We will all be so educated and happy, in well-lit, people-filled areas sipping drinks that we have meticulous observed the production of, listening to our guts (but not our earbuds! Dear no!) with our hair down.  It will be utopian.  There will be no guns there, for they are not for us ladyfolks.  Maybe we can have mace, or a bat or a knife.   We definitely should take a self-defense class.  But a gun won’t do us a lick of good.  In fact, Alvarez goes on to say, guns can only create more problems.”  Well, I’m so glad she told me.  I’ve had my gun for almost two years now.  When should I expect the problems to begin?

I hope that by now we all know that guns don’t do anything on their own.  They don’t prevent or cause anything to happen.  Yet a palpable fear of firearms exists in our collective subconscious.  We demonize guns even as we fetishize them as an icon of violence.  There is a perception that a gun will turn a sane man, or woman, into a crazed, trigger-happy criminal, or that a gun is a gross over-reaction to the threat of rape.  I contend that the gun is a great equalizer.  Why do only criminals, police and nut-cases get to have guns?  Do we, the potential victims, not get access to these same implements, so that we might properly defend ourselves?  In fact, might we have these tools so we no longer have to be victims?  Maybe we can take some action in preserving our own safety instead of just staying in well-lit areas and hoping for the best.

Most importantly, the act of shooting and owning a gun has a profound impact on the way most women see themselves and the world around them.   Shooting a gun is empowering, energizing, stress-relieving and confidence-building.  In my experience, women who shoot walk taller and apologize less.  They are also sensitive, caring and protective of their loved ones.  Women who carry guns have already decided that their lives and their bodies are valuable enough to protect.  Carrying a gun, and training to defend oneself with it, is a huge responsibility, not to be taken lightly.  It requires a vast amount of situational awareness, mental fortitude, education and commitment. In fact, gun ownership fosters just the kind of attitude and awareness that Ms. Alvarez suggests is the solution for preventing sexual assaults.  And that might be enough.  You might not ever need to pull the gun out.  But at least you have it and you know how to use it, if you do.

I’ve never been under the illusion that a gun is some kind of magical talisman that can be carried to ward off menacing attackers.  No amount of training, nor tools, nor mindset can deter all violence, all of the time.  The best we can hope for is a chance—an opportunity to run, a chance to call out for help, a moment to draw our weapon and fire a shot.  Why not employ all the tools at our disposal, and acquire as many skills, and as much knowledge as is available in order to improve that chance?

Get educated.  Investigate all of the resources you have access to.  And PLEASE don’t believe anyone who tells you that you don’t have a chance of defending yourself.

25 thoughts on “Women, Guns and Sexual Assault

  1. What a great article! I posted this on FB to share with not just my conservative female friends but for everybody. I read somewhere 78% of sexual assaults are done without a weapon. By my reasoning, if more women have guns, there will be less sexual assault. Very good job!

  2. I’ve read articles that advise women to urinate or vomit to stop a rape in progress. I see the suggestion made by gun opponents that women just need to limit where they can go. What that translates to is the idea that women should be submissive and in their homes.

    As a man with a brain, I oppose such stupidity. A woman has the right to be anywhere she wants to be. Advising situational awareness is good, but let’s take the step further: She has every right to have a tool that can improve her odds in protecting herself.

    The kind of “blaming the victim” attitude represented in the articles you quoted is sickening. Rapists aren’t the kind of people who can be reasoned with. They don’t follow the social conventions that the rest of us accept. They’re also cowards and need to be made to fear the force that good people will bring to bear on them if they act.

  3. Pingback: Good Read «
  4. My dad (who lived in New Orleans) sent me the newspaper clipping about how the Uptown rapist in New Orleans was stopped circa 1980-81. He grabbed the wrong woman (reaching for her in her car if memory serves) and she grabbed a Smith & Wesson and put an end to him and his series of crimes.

    There was a security guy named Frederick Storaska whose advice in the 1975 Cosmopitan included vomiting on a rapist and just seizing your opportunities to gross him out.

    1. It was the March 1975 issue of Cosmopilitan. It had a lot of other good advice about listening to one’s inner inclinations as often one had noticed things subconsciously that didn’t seem right.

  5. Hi Rebecca. Thanks for reading SexyFeminist.com and linking to my piece on guns, sexual assault and education. The debate is an important one for us all to have. I only ask that you accurately represent my article. You lump it in with media reports that essentially defend the “she was asking for it” perspective. Mine couldn’t be more opposite. It does, in fact, call out those exact reports and put forth a call to action for our society to spend as much time on sexual assault awareness, prevention and education (for all) as it does arguing the pros and cons of gun ownership. For your readers, I leave this excerpt from the post that more accurately represents my argument:

    “I’m not against women practicing their Second Amendment right to bear arms if it makes them feel more safe. They should be properly trained to use them safely and know how to kick a little ass, too. But it’d be far more effective if we also did a better job of educating the masses about violent and sexual crimes against women so that fewer instances occurred, and that more people knew what to do about them when they did.”

    1. Heather, I see what you’re saying, but I think that we’ve reached the saturation point on this message. The ones who are going to listen have heard it. I’m an educator, so it pains me to say this, but some people simply can’t be reached by an education. For them, force has to be met with force.

    2. I think education is important too, but I contend that we should instead educate the rapists. In order to be effective however, this education needs to be in a language that criminals understand and respect. That language is the gun. We need to educate them that if they choose the wrong person to assault, they will get shot. That’s a “language” that criminals understand very well.

      Ever wonder why violent crime rates are lower in states and cities with the highest rate of gun ownership and concealed carry permit holders? It’s not hard to figure out. The more properly armed citizens that we have, the less violent crime we will have.

    3. Rapists understand fear and fear alone. The only thing that will stop a rapist is a series of center mass GSWs, or the fear of such. “Teaching” all the people who are already not going to rape anyone does nothing about the people who are going to do it anyway. My wife should be allowed to defend herself from a physically stronger individual, anything that stands in the way of that is racist and misogynistic, and anyone that supports things that would prevent her from being able to do so should wallow in their own shame.

  6. I’ve always liked the idea of educating rapists with immediate negative reinforcement. I think shooting them in the upper chest area would work fine. That’ll teach him to assault women!

  7. As a woman, I will fight back against violence or rape. With, or without, my gun. Being gay, I have that target on my back, as well. I’ll fight those f*ckers too.

  8. I believe in education! I believe in educating women how to defend themselves in as many scenarios as possible. The people that commit these violent acts cannot be educated, just like they can’t be reformed.

      1. Jo, I hate to say it, but the judicial system just doesn’t seem to work very well when sexual assault is involved. They let these people out of jail and to many times they end up killing someone, and it just heart breaking!

  9. Hi, Rebecca, Thanks for a fabulous article. I’ve written a response to this (and shared some of my story) on my blog, which is linked to my name. But I really agree that the confidence, empowerment, and awareness that come from shooting are huge for women. In fact, I’d say they’re big factors in reducing the likelihood we’ll be victimized in the first place – after all, predators usually want the easy, helpless, passive, weak prey.

    1. Tammy, I’m so sorry it took me so long to approve your comment. It somehow got stuck in my spam folder. Your article is honest and brave, and I was honored to be mentioned in it. Women like you are the most powerful voice in the firearms debate. I look forward to reading more of your writing in the future.

  10. Nice article. I couldn’t agree more. What really struck me the most was “Shooting a gun is empowering, energizing, stress-relieving and confidence-building.” That’s true for all shooters. It’s also fun! I’ve taken numerous people out to the range to shoot for the first time, and they always leave with a big smile.

  11. My wife is a better shot than I am. My 6-year-old daughter is already a yellow belt in Jujitsu and a pretty good shot too. As Dylan Thomas said: ‘Do not go quietly into that good night… Rage, rage against the dying of the light.’

  12. I read the articles you linked to. The big problem with our world, the inability to decipher and reason an argument, and follow it to it’s logical progression. They made me very frustrated. Their comments don’t even make sense if you reason them out. Thanks for this article.

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