There's been a lot of discussion lately about "rape culture" and consent, prompted partly by incredibly stupid stupid statements from politicians ("legitimate rape", anyone?), partly by shocking events in Steubenville and New Delhi and...well, too many other places to name.
It's certainly useful and necessary to talk about consent. Anything that gets us communicating about sex can only be to the good, and a conversation about rape can increase respect for victims, help us understand and believe their stories, and make us more determined to catch the assholes who commit it. That's all to the good.
But the people doing most of the raping aren't going to be listening to that discussion. When I hear some folks suggesting that we don't need to teach women how to protect themselves against rapists, we need to teach men how to not rape, I fear that they are mistaking the nature of the problem. I'm sure there are some edge cases, but by and large it's not that the rapists don't understand consent; it's that they don't care.
There's an interesting analysis at Yes Means Yes:
...the sometimes-floated notion that acquaintance rape is simply a mistake about consent, is wrong... The vast majority of the offenses are being committed by a relatively small group of men, somewhere between 4% and 8% of the population, who do it again … and again … and again. That just doesn’t square with the notion of innocent mistake. Further, since the repeaters are also responsible for a hugely disproportionate share of the intimate partner violence, child beating and child sexual abuse, the notion that these predators are somehow confused good guys does not square with the data. Most of the raping is done by guys who like to rape, and to abuse, assault and violate.
The sort of beasts who not only rape a woman but (taking Steubenville as an example) urinate on her in the most primitive possible display of primate dominance, and take pictures to show their friends, are not going to be changed by any sort of discussion. (Short of intensive psychotherapy, at least.) They're not operating at that mental level.
Yes, we also need to talk about how we raise kids, especially boys, so that they don't grow up into people who like to abuse, assault, and violate; and what we can do with someone who has grown into such a person once we catch them.
But to stop these people once they've gone bad and before we catch them, we need to talk about personal safety and self-defense strategies.
(BTW if someone in the Baltimore area has a space, I'd be happy to put on a community self-defense class, for women and men.)