Michael Eriksson
A Swede in Germany
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Rape and the blameless victim


In the years following the original writing, I have seen a number of cases which are more in line with the feminist portrayal—repeatedly with other women doing the blaming. While I stand by the analysis in the main, the number of exceptions not covered is higher than I thought at the time.

After a rape, the issue is sometimes raised that the victim was provocatively dressed in a biker bar, walked around alone in Central Park after midnight, or similar.

This almost invariable results in accusations that the speaker is “blaming the victim”. (Possibly as a side-effect of women, themselves, being much more prone to blaming people, condemning others as morally corrupt, and similar; while men tend to focus on cause and effect in a more value-neutral manner.)

While there may be rare cases when someone actually does try to do just this, most cases will be something completely different. I see at least the following special cases:


Use of words like “crime” below should be seen as statements about the logical and ethical situation. I do not in anyway guarantee that the local law is sensible in this regard.

  1. Most cases will be rapes where no-one blames the victim, but where lack of common sense and unnecessary risk-taking is pointed out. Consider an analogy: If I cross the street at a zebra crossing and when I have a green light, then I should be safe, I should not need to look both ways, I should not need to worry about a car hitting me—yet, people are hit by cars in situations like that, some are hospitalized, others are killed. Not looking both ways, even with a green light, is the mark of a fool. Similarly, more eloquently put:

    Here lies the body of William Jay
    Who died maintaining his right of way
    He was right, dead right, as he sped along,
    But he’s just as dead as if he were wrong.

    (Attributed to the Boston Evening Transcriptw)

    Further, it can be argued that at least some victims were “playing with fire” in an extremely irresponsible way. To, hypothetically, give a drunk Hell’s Angel a lap dance on a park bench after nightfall is comparable to crossing a street with a green light—in the middle of the night and with a steady stream of drunk drivers.

    I see no reason to think that the typical issue raiser had anything more than this in mind—that William Jay was a fool, no matter how impeccable his moral standing, and no matter how much to blame his killer was. We feel for poor Will (or, depending on personal preference, consider him an idiot), we pity him, and we try to learn from his example—but we do not blame him. Whether the “blaming the victim” accusations arise out of inability to think and consider others POV, is a deliberate rhetorical trick or an overemotional reaction based on prejudice about men, or whether yet another explanation applies, I cannot say; what I can say, is that it is usually unfair, misplaced, and destructive.

  2. In some cases the woman behaves in manner that, while an event may seem like a rape to her, the other party had no reason to consider it a rape. Assume for instance that the parties engage in a consensual make-out session, that the woman intends to withdraw before intercourse follows, but that she passes out (e.g. due to excessive drinking). Here the man (presumably also severely drunk) may not even notice that the woman is no longer able to give legally valid consent—or he may have had probable cause to believe that consent was implied by her actions up to that point. (Notably, if a consenting woman were to change her mind just because she passed out, then this would be like two people planning on going to a concert together, one having to forfeit due to a work-crisis, and then forbidding the other to go—ensuring that both lose out on the fun for no good reason.)

    In such cases, the event is not a rape, but an accident—just like killing someone in a car accident is not murder, and may or may not be a crime of negligence. Depending on the exact circumstances, one or the other party may be to blame or at legal fault; however, in most cases it will be a non-event—and, unlike the car accident, only rarely will any crime of negligence be so severe that it is worthy of even involving the authorities.


    As a particularity, the woman has no legitimate reason to feel violated, fear a repetition, or to blame the man: It was in her power to prevent the event from taking place (even without making any non-trivial sacrifices)—and it remains in her power to prevent a recurrence. Equally, the psychological damage associated with true rapes will not occur in a reasonably well-functioning woman after this type of event.

  3. In rare cases the woman’s behaviour is such that, while she is to blame, she is not a victim (and, thus, no-one can be blaming the victim): Consider this non-rape incidente: There are very many men (likely myself included, at least when highly excited or intoxicated) who would simply not have been able to hold back in that situation—anymore than a drowning woman could avoid swallowing water: Any non-consensual penetration at that moment is entirely the woman’s fault. Even those men who could resist, but deliberately chose not too, would have my full understanding (not necessarily encouragement)—her behaviour is grossly unethical and fraudulent, and the man helping himself is no worse than a house-owner who forcefully evicts a trespasser in accordance with the castle doctrinew, rather than calling the police. Further, those who did resist the natural impulse to proceed should be in their full right to sue for compensation (at a minimum for the cost of the condom and the going rate for a hooker of roughly the same attractiveness as the woman).

    Worse, consider the thirty-second rapiste—a man who was sentenced to 4 years of imprisonment because a woman withdrew consent after penetration (to make matters worse, in a deliberate attempt at entrapment). The mere thought that a man should be obliged to desist in this situation is preposterous and utterly unconscionable—like offering to drive someone from A to B and, without anything having changed since the offer was made, to throw him out of the car half-way there. Further, even if his non-desistance was deemed a crime, by some stretch of imagination, or through a perverted legislation or justice system, the punishment is so out of proportion that we might as well be executing first-offense burglars, throw people in the slammer for a single incident of false parking, or drag people to court for unspoken thoughts. When I saw this type of dystopic on Charmede, I never thought to see something similar in the real world—I was wrong. (Considering the state of mind of the respective populations, however, the X-Files episode Arcadiae may be a better analogy.)

  4. A special case is implied by common formulations like “Just because I wear a mini-skirt, doesn’t mean you have the right to rape me.”, which is just odd. There may or may not be rare cases of rapists that feel they have a right to help themselves to women in certain clothing, but there is no a priori reason to assume that they will be more than a small minority.

    Not being a rapist, I cannot claim intimate knowledge of what goes on in their minds (but then this applies even more to women); however, there simply is no reason to assume that a rapist would base his actions on some odd feeling of entitlement to women who have, according to some twisted logic, “volunteered”. On the contrary, the same factors should be considered as for other crimes: Need (of money, sex, release of anger, whatnot), opportunity, intoxication (and other factors affecting judgment), peer pressure (in the case of groups), ...


    This is not to be confused with a criminal, irrespective of crime, who tries to rationalize the crime after the fact, by means of “He got what was coming to him.”, “He would have done the same to me.”, or similar. This would typically be a reaction to guilt and an attempt to combat cognitive dissonance; and, importantly, is not a motivator to commit the crime, but to excuse it at a later date.

Note that in most of the above cases, with the roles reversed, the risk for the woman of being considered a rapist, let alone being convicted, would be minuscule.


Similar disputes occasionally occur about other events, say domestic violence. The same applies to these, m.m., but with the major reservation that the proportion of cases where the woman is too blame is typically higher, e.g. by her having provoked her husband into slapping her by an unconscionable verbal abuse, or by hitting him first—on at least some occasions, this provocation is even deliberate (as opposed to a side-effect of the abuse).

(Please, do not give me that “It is never right to hit a woman!” crap: Emotional abuse is worse than physical abuse of the same degree; and, while one wrong does not justify the other, humans have limits—there are situations were restraint is just as impossible, even for a mentally healthy and perfectly well-adapted human, as defying gravity or walking unharmed through a fire.)