One of the myths I’ve seen about women’s* self-defense has been that it is only effective if the attacker is the “stranger in the ally.” I’ve heard this, even, from some self-defense instructors which is truly sad (not the really GOOD ones, though), but it’s most often heard from those giving reasons why it’s pointless to bother to learn to defend oneself. It’s usually the main reason, even, going along with “it’ll make you take too many risks” and “a small woman with training is never going to beat a big man if he is trained too.” The theory is that as most rapes and other assaults against women are committed by dates, long-term boyfriends, husbands, family members, supposed friends, business associates that either women are going to be unable to use such methods against someone they know and possibly care about and/or most of these assaults are really violent enough to warrant the abilities gained in self-defense training.
Why do these naysayers believe that a woman trained in self-defense is going to be unable to use it on a man who they know just because they know him? This seems to go back to the “nice girls don’t hurt anyone” belief, that it’s innate in our being as women not to cause anyone physical damage. However, we probably could, apparently, learn to hurt the unknown stranger in the dark alley. But never, ever, ever the guy that thinks he can hurt us even if he knows us.
I believe that part of self-defense training is that we learn that anyone who causes us harm is someone we can hurt in order to prevent ourselves from being hurt. It doesn’t matter if we know him or not, if he’s hurting us we have to get over any notion that we can’t hurt him. This must be part of the process. Even if, ESPECIALLY IF, the abuse is long term.
But the notion that “date rape” and other acquaintance rape and abuse doesn’t get violent has struck me as totally odd. Because battery and rape are always hand-in-hand. Yes, some date rape happens with only verbal coercion, but if that doesn’t work it can quickly escalate. Even some situations where consensual sex is intended by the woman, things become violent…as is the case of someone I know whose date found himself on the floor after letting her know she had no choice in the matter, he liked it rough, on the woman, and fully intended to hurt her. She had full-impact training and she was not the one in the most pain by the time she walked out the door. (Remember, you can say “no” even after you said “yes,” ANY time you no longer, for any reason, want to continue.)
Even in the most “charming” coercive behavior there is that threat that things could “get ugly” if the woman doesn’t go for it. Many women who gave in to verbal demands, with no overt violent threats, have noted that even without it being stated they were afraid of being physically hurt if they didn’t give in. In fact, I’d say nearly all. That “I’d be helpless if it got that far, he’s bigger and stronger” message that is so prevalent in our society.
By having the knowledge that they have the ability to fight back if the man turns violent, women may be more confident in their “nos.” Many times it probably will end there, other times perhaps they’ll have to actually use those skills. But they’ll have them. And either way, they’re more likely to come out of it not having been raped.
Which makes me wonder…is that the sort of “risks” we’re not supposed to want to take? Being more confident in the things we’re doing, around the people we are with? I think if those are “risks” they’re more than well worth taking.
*I’m maintaining the language that “he” is the attacker and “she” is the potential victim in part because this is a blog about physical feminism and mostly because these are still the higher odds. This is not meant to negate in any way that women are abused by other women, men by women, men by other men…or any possible combination. We do still live in a world where women are considered weaker, men stronger and this is the basis of much of the abuse women face from men and why the odds are still in favor of this mix. Physical feminism, in fact, seeks to remedy that by empowering women to find their physical strength….we do have it!
Copyright © 2008 Kym Lambert