I was thinking about the post over on the mainpage, It Doesn't Have to Be This Way: The Infuriating Reality of Womanhood.

I made the following comment, and I'm posting it here to see what any of you might think, whether you agree with me.

The OP talks at length about how she asked her boyfriend to pin her down in order to see if she could succeed in stopping him, and how she was disappointed that she couldn't get out of his grip.

But this is a flawed experiment, because if you are 'playing around', no matter how hard, you are never going to have to do what it takes to stay unpinned, and the man you are playing with is never going to voluntarily hurt you to try and stop you from defending yourself.


Why? Because we don't want to hurt those we care about. Right?

But this is exactly where a huge problem comes in for women and self-defense: If the majority of attackers are, in fact, people who the woman being attacked already knows - from immediate relatives to friends, work acquaintances, that friendly neighbor - then all that training we have to be nice to people comes into direct conflict with the self-defense training of take-no-prisoners violence that is what gives a woman a chance of escaping a real assault with intent. Eye gouging, knee to the groin, finger-breaking, etc - you really think most women will be able to switch from one type of training to another so quickly?

I spent my teens and twenties being assaulted at various times, from random but scary gropings to near-rapes by 'friends' to a 'nice guy' from the neighborhood strangling me and trying to force me to the ground. In most cases, I was lucky that a forceful and angry "Stop it!" was enough. The strangling guy, though, took a bit more convincing. And that was the only time I remembered that I had training in something other than being nice and telling the person to stop - I broke his stranglehold, punched him as hard as I could in his solar plexus (thanks, aikido!), and took a fighting stance, while telling him he better run, because if I caught him, I'd kill him.


I was lucky. He wasn't armed, he wasn't absolutely intent on hurting me, he was alone, and my first punch had landed well. But I was shocked at the lapse between when I first realized I was in real trouble (hands around the neck) to when I reacted with the necessary physical violence to stop the attack. Because I knew the guy - we'd talked on the subway, we had some mutual acquaintances, and he seemed perfectly harmless and friendly. Making the jump to punching him was a big deal for me. And I can't emphasize enough how lucky I was that he was neither determined, armed nor with a bunch of buddies, or even just one buddy. (Edit: And if instead of a passing acquaintance, he'd been a relative, friend or work buddy, I'm not at all sure I would have done the same thing, at the time. I hope I would have, but I can't know.)

I guess it goes without saying that the real re-training has to happen on the side of those who rape, or who try to rape. The take-home message being: Don't Rape.

Still, when these discussions come up, I often think how all the training we get as girls growing up comes into direct conflict with what it takes to fight back while we wait for the 'don't rape' training to take effect