I always feel guilty when walking alone in the dark and approaching a woman or women. I’ve had this guilt since college, when I learned about “Take Back the Night” marches wherein women united to march fearlessly in large crowds around campus, taking a stand about the injustice of women’s having to be afraid to walk alone in the dark lest they be raped. I can sort of identify with the fear; as strapping or at least solid and not-fuck-with-able as I probably appear all hunkered down loping along in the dark, I often tense up when I see another man or men walking toward (or, possibly worse, behind) me. I instinctively hunker down a little more and unconsciously make an effort to look even more un-fuck-with-able, broadening my already broad shoulders, leaning into my gait a little more as if to give the appearance of momentum and of aggression, generally trying to look a little more badass, though I’m really pretty much a wimp.
So, burly as I am, and with less physically at stake than what I suspect most women feel they have at stake, I can sure understand how frightening it might be for a woman walking around at night to see even harmless little old me walking toward her. And every time it happens, I feel a pang of guilt and wish there was something I could do to signify that I’ve got no ill intentions.
You can’t exactly walk around saying “I’m not going to rape you” or holding a sign to that effect, because to do so would invite suspicion that for some women might not already be there (perhaps I’m wrong, in other words, to assume that women share with me – but to a greater degree – this fear of other passers by). Or I’d just look crazy, which, again, wouldn’t be exactly reassuring under the circumstances. Maybe I could always juggle while I walk. Or wear a clown nose (ok, bad associations there, and the crazy suspicion). Or affect feminine mannerisms. Or always move around at night in a wheelchair or otherwise lurch around as if crippled and therefore unlikely to indulge in rape. Or always walk with a woman (or will they think I’ve kidnapped her?). Or maybe just not walk anywhere in the dark.
There doesn’t seem to be a really workable solution. In any case, if you happen to see me walking around at night, I promise I’m not going to rape you or beat you or ogle you or even just steal your purse. I hope you’ll extend me the same courtesy.