Twitter is abuzz today, and some men are crying misandry, over a series of tongue-in-cheek “rape prevention tips” posted by the American comedian Sarah Silverman on March 21. The unapologetically potty-mouthed Emmy-winner tweeted the list, based off a blog post from a few years ago, out to her followers with the suggestion, “send to all the men in ur life.” It was quickly re-tweeted thousands of times.
The list highlights a common double standard in the way we talk about rape prevention. Unlike countless guides directing women on how to stay safe from rape, these tips are aimed at potential perpetrators. It includes such gems as “When you encounter a woman who is asleep, the safest course of action is to not rape her,” “Don’t put drugs in women’s drinks,” and my personal favorite: “Carry a rape whistle. If you find that you are about to rape someone, blow the whistle until someone comes to stop you.”
Predictably, not everyone was pleased. Silverman’s feed was crowded with comments, plenty complaining that the list was offensive or unfair to men.
While it’s true, of course, that not all men commit rape or would ever consider doing so, the reaction seems to miss the point. Rape is depressingly common: In 2011, a national survey found that 1 in 5 American women reported having suffered a sexual assault.
The list Silverman shared has been cheered by advocates frustrated by prevention campaigns that still suggest women who dress or behave in a certain way or drink too much are at least partly to blame for their assaults. The fact that these PSAs are often devised by government agencies and even police departments is particularly galling.
Besides promoting the illogical assumption that rape victims somehow deserve it, these campaigns do nothing to address the underlying causes of rape. Rape is not about sex, it’s about power and violence—meaning no amount of restrictive curfews or dress codes will stop rapists from raping.
We will never reduce sexual violence if perpetrators are allowed to hide behind language that implicitly or explicitly blames victims. The simple fact underlined by the list Silverman tweeted is that rape is a choice—one that the rapist makes.