When Schrödinger’s Rapist Meets Schrödinger’s Sexist

Saving the Damsel in Distress

It hasn’t been all that long ago that men in general were being castigated by news agencies around the world for “being selfish” by heading for life boats and refusing to give up their seats to women during the sinking of  the Costa Concordia. A couple of years ago, I remember news accounts of how a man noticed a little girl who was all by herself and simply passed her by without stopping to help due to fears that he may be accused of wrongdoing. The girl was found dead; apparently drowned in a fountain (if memory serves correctly). The media was shocked that this man could have been so callous. There were those that believed that he should have been charged with some sort of crime.

Now this story comes along (Man Who Offered Lift To Teen Girls Says He’s Victim Of ‘Good Deed Gone Wrong’). A man saw two teenage girls walking along the road during a snowstorm without coats or hats to keep them dry and warm and asked if they needed assistance. When they refused, he drove away. According to police, the girls were “alarmed and disturbed” by the man’s actions. They took down his license plate and called police. Three days later he was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. Apparently, in Barrington,Illinois it is a crime for a man to speak to a teenage girl.

The Barrington Police chief said that he should have called police rather than speaking to the girls. Given police response times, especially for non-emergent calls, the girls may have frozen to death before they could have arrived. They may have ended up exactly like that little girl who drowned in the fountain.

Schrödinger’s Rapist is a man who approaches a woman who is uncertain as to whether or not he poses a threat (specifically the threat of being a rapist).  She is afraid of him and acts as though he is in fact, a threat in order to protect herself. In her mind he is both a rapist and not a rapist at the same time (this is an analogy to Schrödinger’s cat). In a recent article, I define the woman as Schrödinger’s Sexist. She is attempting to defend herself by treating the man as though he poses a threat, but by so doing, her actions are based solely on gender stereotypes. (In the Schrödinger analogy she is the person viewing the box wondering whether or not the cat is alive or dead.)

These girls (and the police officers who arrested the man) are acting as though he was (is) a rapist. That he had no such intent and was merely offering help makes no difference. He is a rapist simply because he might be a rapist. This makes the girls and the officers into Schrödinger’s sexists. They are the ones who treat the man as though he is a rapist whether he is or whether he is not. When all men are seen as threats, society loses. We end up with little girls drowning in fountains instead of being happily reunited with their mothers because men are afraid of being treated like Schrödinger’s rapist.


Thanks to Christian J. for finding the story.


  1. Thankl you for an interesting link. I don’t think the man should be arrested or suspected of being a pedophile for doing what he did. It’s strange those girls even complained, seems like a normal behavior.

    As a child I had my share of encounters with pedophiles as well as with helpful men. I had at least 5 different encounters with pedophiles: a guy showing me some child porn when I was about 10, a man asking questions about pubic hair saying he is a doctor at 11, grown men jerking off in front of us, girls, various men touching me under my skirt in a full bus. I have to admit I never reported any of these incidents, was too embarrassed. After the child porn incident some older women who saw a man approach me and my sister actually asked us what he was talking to us about, they were suspicious. We told them nothing 
    Somehow these incidents never made me distrust men in general and didn’t leave any deep psychological scars. I only thought of them recently, when someone said how come in old times we used to walk to school and nothing happened? Well, it did always happen.

    I also remember some nice men who helped me find my way around several times when I was lost, a man who stopped and helped me and my mom change a tire on a highway. I remember more of those.

    Oh, and recently (last month) a white normal looking man in a business suit who sat next to me on commuter train started touching me. I just froze, then he left at a next stop. I am not afraid to ride a train still 
    Not that I can’t understand a woman feeling threatened or as a victim, I guess I am just saying it’s possible not to become sexist even if you did have some negative experiences in the past. After all, some men are hurt by a woman in their lives and don’t automatically turn into woman haters.

    • There are bad men out there. There are bad women out there. There are more good of each than bad. Incidents like you describe having happened to you probably should be reported, though I can understand being too embarrassed to report them. But when a man does nothing wrong and it not only gets reported, but he gets arrested and charged with a crime because of the way a couple girls felt about what he did; that’s just wrong.


  2. I agree!

    Regarding reporting an incident, especially as an adult woman, yes I felt mad at myself for doing nothing. It’s kind of like somebody insults you and later on you come up with all sorts of good ways you could have reacted, but at the time you just freeze. In addition, I don’t want to participate in lengthy police investigation and/or a big scandal. I know it’s selfish, but it’s easier to do nothing. Possibly my reaction is presciecely because there is too much hype, too much villification of these kind of mini assaults. In my mind it’s nothing more than bullying or any kind of verbal assault. They are all wrong, they all hurt the victim, yet mostly the ones where sexual motives (and of those only man -> woman) are involved or some hint of a hate crime, get all the attention.

    This creates a culture of hysteria, which explains why those girls might have been needlesly scared. I am sure there has to be a ballance where the girls are cautious and not too trusting, yet respectful to a man who might have only the best intention. After all, not getting into a stranger’s car is very different from calling the guy in and accusing him of being a pedophile. I don’t think it’s only men who have to go out of their way to not offend. Implying a man has bad (in this case criminal!) motives is IMHO more offensive to a man than making a sexually suggestive statement to a woman. It’s very hard for a man to clear himself of such an accusation. We need to be much more mindful! The smart thing to do for those girls would be to refuse politely and ask a man to call for help if they needed help. However, what’s more disturbing here is the reaction of adults, not girls!

  3. Why don’t you get mad at the male rapists who cause women to fear for their lives when a strange man approaches them, rather than the women who treat the men as a potential threat? It’s the male rapists that cause women to fear for their lives when strange men approach them — not some sexist bias on part of the woman. [Note: I only address male rapists here because that is the context of your article.]

    It’s a Catch-22 that I often see in antifeminist arguments: Women who get raped are stupid for not protecting themselves from strange men. Women who treat all strange men like potential rapists are stupid for acting that way.

    Look at it this way. If a woman treats a strange man as a rapist, and that man is not, then the worst that happens is his feelings will get hurt. If a woman trusts a strange man to not be a rapist, and he is a rapist, then her sexual integrity [and possibly her life] is lost.

    Better to be safe than sorry.

    Could you link me to an article or police report that states a man got arrested for doing nothing wrong, just because a few girls thought he was suspicious? Chances are he was actually doing something wrong.

    • “Why don’t you get mad at the male rapists who cause women to fear for their lives when a strange man approaches them, rather than the women who treat the men as a potential threat?”

      In a previous article ( I do talk about this. I stated:

      “I’m not a person who has a problem with anyone who feels the need to be on guard against a perceived threat whether real or imagined. If a woman becomes afraid when in a dark alley because she sees a man approaching; then she’s probably being reasonable even if her fear is unfounded. Fear can be a lifesaver in the right situations. Human beings have a natural fight or flight response.”

      I don’t begrudge any woman who thinks she must act in order to protect herself. However, if her actions are based solely on the sex of the person she perceives as a threat, she is a sexist. It may be what some refer to as benevolent sexism, but it is sexism nonetheless. Some women are rapists, but should we view all women as rapists just because some are? Better yet, more mothers kill their own children than fathers. Should we remove all children from their mothers to protect them simply because a few mothers kill their children?

      “Could you link me to an article or police report that states a man got arrested for doing nothing wrong, just because a few girls thought he was suspicious?”

      Follow the link provided in the article. Follow it.


      • Look, you have no way of knowing whether or not that man is true to his word. I’m sure you’ve been indoctrinated as a child about “stranger danger,” the foremost lesson of which is to NEVER take a ride from a stranger. Those girls felt scared and reacted to protect themselves. And you’re calling them out on it?

        And once again: If a woman thinks a man is a rapist when he’s not, his feelings will get hurt, big deal. If a woman thinks a man isn’t a rapist when he is, she gets raped and possibly murdered. It’s a man’s feelings getting hurt vs. a woman getting raped and/or dying. Which is worse?

        And no to your hyperbolic comparisons. With so many women in the U.S. getting sexually assaulted every year (232,960), we have to be on the look-out for ourselves. Not all men are rapists — far from it! It’s just that when a strange man approaches you, you must consider the possibility in order to potentially save your own life. And if you are disinterested in the man or feel threatened by him, you have every right to take measures to protect yourself, as the girls in the article did.

        I’m not condoning what they did or saying we should call the police every time a man offers a girl a ride. If I was 13 and a middle-aged man offered me a ride, I’d just say no. But the extent someone goes to defend themselves against a perceived threat is up to them.

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