Self defense, victim blaming and feminism

I believe everyone should have at least a basic degree of skill in self defense, for the obvious reason of defending oneself, a loved one or even a stranger, when in danger. In the Netherlands, in short, self defense is (by law) grounds for not being prosecuted for using violence. This generally happens when you have used the minimum amount of violence necessary to protect your body (physical violence), property (theft/damage) or virtue (rape).

Over the last few years, a lot of discussions have popped up everywhere about feminism, rape culture, patriarchal societies and so on. One common topic in these discussions is the rape of women, which is ridiculously prevalent in countries like India, but also a big problem in Western, developed (?) countries. In these discussions, you will occasionally find someone stressing the importance of self defense. An almost inevitable response is that of the critic, that telling a woman to take self defense classes is a type of victim blaming. After all, rape is always the rapist’s fault. Discussions about bullying or harassment in general sometimes go in this same direction.

I’m sure these critics also don’t insure their possessions against theft, because theft is always the thief’s fault.

Here's your first lesson. Courtesy of Endure and Survive.
Here’s your first lesson. Courtesy of Endure and Survive.

Yes. Of course rape is the rapist’s fault. If someone claims that the victim is to blame, for example by saying that the victim asked for it by dressing provocatively, that someone is quite possibly a complete assnozzle and you are probably wasting your time giving this personany attention.

If the ‘victim’ instigated the ‘rape’, for example by saying something along the lines of “fuck my brains out, you manly stud!”, the ‘victim’ would not be a victim and the ‘rape’ would not be rape. It’s really not that complicated. Really.

The ridiculous “Self defense advice is victim blaming!” line is usually followed up with “It’s not the victim’s fault, we should educate people to stop raping!”. While true and most likely part of the solution, there is a big problem here. Education is not always enough to instigate change. Point in case: The number of fat dieticians. The number of people smoking. Oh, and the number of rapists too. While not based on solid numbers, my belief is that the number of rapists exceeds the amount of people that don’t know that rape is wrong. You could educate the whole world on rape (or attitudes towards women or whatever), decrease the amount of rapists to some extent (?) and there is still a risk, albeit smaller.

Does the story above mean that rape is a victim’s fault? No, and I have no idea why some people would think that. It is completely asinine to liken a recommendation for self defense to even insinuating that rape is ever a victim’s fault.

I do agree that a woman should be able to walk out in the streets at night without reasonable fear that something happens to her. I want kids to be able to hang out with other kids without the fear of being bullied. I want people to be able to do their jobs without them being harassed. But until I can safely assume that these things are the case, I will recommend self defense classes to people.

Next up, a more in-depth post about self defense where I discuss several martial arts and forms of self defense to help you pick.


“I don’t even call it violence when it’s in self defense. I call it intelligence.” – Malcolm X