I remember firefighters coming to my elementary school. They showed off all their cool gear and even wore their SCBA units so that we’d know what they look like in a fire and not be scared of them. They taught us stop, drop, and roll. They taught us to call 911. And they also drilled us on one other very important thing: don’t set fires.
What do you do if you find matches or a lighter? Give it to mom or dad or your teacher!
What do you do if you see someone playing with fire? Tell an adult!
Are matches toys? No!
Are lighters toys? No!
This is what fires do, kids. They hurt people. And you can stop fires from happening by not setting them. And you can stop fires from happening by not letting your friends set them. And you can stop fires from happening by getting help if you see a stranger setting them.
So of course, this isn’t actually about fires. It’s about rape. And apparently self defense is a fire extinguisher. Don’t blame me, man, I’m not the one who came up with that metaphor. If you’re in the mood to grind your teeth, here is a do-not-link-ified link of Larry Correia being a jerk about the “naive idiocy of teaching rapists not to rape.” Instead you could just read Jim C. Hines’s response, which is quite succinct.
I went off on a Twitter rant about this last night, and it’s still pissing me off, so I’m going to get it all down here.
Let me be clear: I’m not trying to equate rape and surviving a fire. The experience of assault and being caught in a fire are two very, very different things. But maybe there’s something to be said about the concept of prevention.
The point of fire prevention is that it’s a multi-pronged approach. Laws make arson illegal. Regulations require every day objects to not spontaneously combust, be less likely to burn, etc. Fire extinguishes, sprinkler systems, and smoke detectors can stop fires before they get bad, or help people escape. And early education plays an important role. When firefighters aren’t off saving lives or training, one of their other major duties is public outreach and prevention education.
Because this is the thing: the best way to fight fires is to do your best to keep them from happening in the first place. And a big part of that is telling people to not fucking set fires. And to not let other people set fires. And to call for help immediately if you see a fire.
So let’s go with self defense being like a fire extinguisher. (And yes, Mr. Correia, I do agree that it would be incredibly silly to trash one’s fire extinguisher because they’re not effective against forest fires.) Are private citizens expected to carry fire extinguishers on them at all times? No. It’s awesome if you’re prepared, but you don’t have to be. If an arsonist burns someone’s house down, doe the victim get harassed because they couldn’t put the fire out on their own? Are they asked repeatedly if they’re sure they didn’t do everything they could to stop their house from getting burned down? Do they get publicly shamed because they couldn’t afford to have a sprinkler system installed? Does the arsonist who burned their house down get a sympathetic media portrayal because this has ruined their life? No. (Well, maybe if they’re a football player in certain sectors of the country.)
(By the way? The above is basically part of the “rape culture” that Correia dismisses out of hand.)
I think you get my point.
If you want to get self defense training, that’s great. (I’m not being sarcastic.) I actually do agree with Correia on the point that there is absolutely nothing wrong with getting self defense training, and people who advocate for it shouldn’t get shit on—at least up to the point that advocacy turns to preaching or shaming. I know that there are some excellent courses out there. There are also some incredibly shitty courses. And there are miles of difference between a self defense course that’s aimed exclusively at rape defense and martial arts classes that claim to be for self defense, by the way. A good self defense course is going to be focused, specific, and involve a lot of rote practice and paired exercises.
You never know how you’re going to react in a terrifying situation until you’re there and it’s too late. The point of training is to turn techniques into muscle memory, so even if you can’t think, you can still react. Sometimes self defense training can work really well. Sometimes even if you’re scared out of your mind, you’ll remember one useful thing, and that will be enough.
Sometimes, people never get to that point. They might not mentally be in a place where that works. They might not have time for that kind of practice or the money to pay for it—make no mistake, these are skills that can take time to develop, and free time is something of a privilege these days. Sometimes you bring your fists to a gun fight. Sometimes the person who hurts you is someone that you love and thought you could trust. There are people who cannot defend themselves for a multitude of reasons, such as disability or infirmity or the existence of an insurmountable power differential. And that’s okay.
And don’t tell me that the solution is for all women to carry guns. (Thanks MoJo.)
Myth #6: Carrying a gun for self-defense makes you safer.
• In one survey, nearly 1% of Americans reported using guns to defend themselves or their property. However, a closer look at their claims found that more than 50% involved using guns in an aggressive manner, such as escalating an argument.
• A Philadelphia study found that the odds of an assault victim being shot were 4.5 times greater if he carried a gun. His odds of being killed were 4.2 times greater.
Statistics aside, fuck you. Not in my house.
So is self defense training wrong? No. There is no single solution to a big problem, and there will always be bad people out there. But self defense is also a last resort to be used when everything else has failed, not the first and only solution. It should be our undying shame as a society if violence is treated as the optimal answer while the entire concept of prevention by education is dismissed. Not when people stand by and turn a blind eye to assaults. Not when people admit to rape as long as you don’t call it rape, or think rape is okay under certain circumstances. Education may not change the mind of evil people who like to rape, just like education doesn’t change the minds of bad people who like to set fires.
But it does take away their unwitting accomplices.
Don’t set fires. Don’t let others set fires.
Don’t rape people. Don’t let others rape people.