EARLIER THIS month, social media’s perpetual-outrage machine went into overdrive when the Miss USA pageant winner, Nevada’s Nia Sanchez, suggested that one answer to the problem of sexual assault on college campuses was for women to “learn to protect themselves.” A flurry of Twitter posts lambasted Sanchez, a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, for promoting “victim-blaming” and “rape culture.” Journalist Emily Yoffe encountered a similar backlash last year when she wrote that teaching young women (and men) to avoid excessive drinking should be part of preventing campus sexual assault. Indeed, the very fact that women are given rape-prevention advice is often cited as proof that our culture condones sexual violence: Otherwise, we would apparently “teach men not to rape.”
But this logic seems almost entirely at odds with how the real world operates with regard to all sorts of criminal acts. No one would ever suggest that companies selling home alarms are promoting a “burglary culture” or that public transit crime prevention tips urging vigilance against pickpockets promote a “theft culture.” No one would argue that, instead, we really should be teaching potential criminals not to pick pockets or break into homes. Nor would anyone claim that we are condoning pedophilia by educating kids about inappropriate touching instead of teaching people not to molest children. In most areas of life, urging caution among people who are at risk of being victimized is simply a matter of common sense.
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