Saturday, March 21, 2009

Women feel unsafe on college campuses, but men are the ones who should worry

Several years ago a major survey of UK college students found this: "Three quarters of female students do not always feel safe walking around their university campus at night. . . ."

That's a hell of a lot of fear. But how rational is it?

It turns out, not very. In fact, it's really the young men who should feel unsafe: ". . . 16 to 24-year-old men were twice as likely as young women to experience violent crime."

Did you get that? It isn't that young men are as likely to be victimized by violent crime as women; young men are twice as likely to be victimized.

And just like women, men don't "ask" to be assaulted. But they are. Twice as often as women.

We've all heard similar statistics, but we don't talk much about them. Why?

Is it because people are in denial about male vulnerability? After all, men aren't supposed to feel vulnerable. Or maybe people care more about women's safety than men's? Or is it because men are still relatively safe, all things considered, and they are not overreacting to the danger?

Put it another way: why is it that, despite the fact young men are at much higher risk, they go about their business pretty much without fear -- or with much less fear -- while women, who as a class are much safer than men, have a near-monopoly on fear?

I don't know. I suppose it has to do with our socialization that says women are vulnerable and need to be protected while men aren't vulnerable and can take care of themselves.

Since this socialization doesn't mesh with the facts, isn't it fair to conclude that women's fear about their own safety is largely irrational?

You could, I suppose, make the case that women's fear is actually rational and that the men should be twice as fearful as the women. But twice as fearful as three-quarters fearing the night would mean men would need to be off-the-charts fearful -- fearful to the point of immobilization; hiding-under- their-beds fearful.

And that would be utterly ridiculous. So, it would appear that women are the ones thinking irrationally.

But it isn't just the women. Men are overly-fearful about women's safety, too. Not their own. Women's.

And, you see, it's exactly that sort of fear for women's safety -- that sort of hysteria, if you will -- that enables false rape accusers to have instant credibility when they lie: "A woman was raped you say? Well of course I believe it! It's not safe for women out there, you know." And the false accuser knows that virtually any young man who is even accused of this vile crime will be considered not merely a plausible suspect but a presumed felon.

And it's all based on irrationality.