When a little kid is bitten by a dog, it’s understandable that they might be scared of all dogs from then on. When one hears about someone else being bitten by a dog, it’s understandable for them to be scared of all dogs from that moment on. When a woman is harassed, abused, or assaulted by a man, she might be scared of all men from then on. That is also understandable. And it cannot be disregarded.
91 percent of rape and sexual assault victims are women and 99 percent of their perpetrators are men, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Justice. Rape and sexual assault are an incredibly prevalent topic, and with these statistics, people must acknowledge that assault is an issue most often victimizing women and perpetrated by men. In conversations surrounding assault, there is an omnipresent fear that women will be harmed by men.
Even if a woman has not experienced rape or sexual assault, she still might have a reason to fear men. Women frequently deal with violence, danger, and overall unsafety that is most often perpetrated by men. They are also surrounded by the stories of women who have experienced what they fear most. From a young age, women are taught to protect themselves because they know there is a possibility of it happening to them.
Stella Wellborn, a senior at Berkeley High School said that she carries a bottle of pepper spray, shares her location with her friends and family, and pays close attention to her surroundings when she’s out because she’s been told horror stories of what could happen to her. She isn’t alone — women are constantly informed that they are inherently vulnerable and that they need to worry about their safety. They’re conditioned to feel like someone’s prey, so they shouldn’t be blamed for fear of their predators.
More than just physical assault, women are afraid of men in other social situations. 32 percent of women report receiving unwanted attention from male strangers, which often result in avoiding walking near men.
While it may be understandable for women to have a generalized fear of men given the experiences they’ve had or heard of, not all men are to blame. There are certainly men that women don’t have to worry about and don’t deserve to be put into the same category as those who do such awful things, but women don’t always know that. It’s not a matter of which man a woman is afraid of because there isn’t a formula to tell whether a man will hurt them or not.
“Even if I pass a man who doesn’t seem suspicious, I’m still on edge and a little bit scared, and I’ll try to avoid them,” Wellborn said.
It’s safer to be cautious of all men than to be irreparably hurt by someone who took advantage of your vulnerability. This is a reflection of the female experience, not an inherent reflection of men.
Imagine that 99 percent of animal bites came from a dogs. At that point, a fear of dogs would be more than understandable. Because of a dangerous experience with one dog, or hearing about someone else’s experience, people see all dogs as threatening. People can’t know whether every dog will hurt them, so they are cautious around each one they encounter. Men cannot be equated to dogs, but the analogy serves to compare people’s recurring experiences that lead to fear. It’s understandable for women to develop a wariness for men and act cautiously if the vast majority of women have been harmed by a man. It’s not all men, but it’s almost all women. It’s not a choice women make, it’s the world they’re forced to live in.