Zerlina Maxwell Discusses Gun Control & Rape Culture; Receives Threats of Violence

(trigger warning)
Zerlina Maxwell, a media pundit and activist, went on Hannity to talk about gun control and sexual assault. (Specifically whether making it easier for women to be armed can lower the rates of sexual assault and rape.)

Maxwell said,

“I think that the entire conversation is wrong. I don’t want anybody to be telling women anything. I don’t want men to be telling me what to wear and how to act, not to drink. And I don’t, honestly, want you to tell me that I needed a gun in order to prevent my rape. In my case, don’t tell me if I’d only had a gun, I wouldn’t have been raped. Don’t put it on me to prevent the rape.”


People are reporting that Maxwell has received a huge backlash on the internet, filled with of course, rape threats and racism.  Talking Points Memo discusses the backlash here.

But Maxwell went on to restate her argument on Feministing.  And there is now a twitter hashtag #tyzerlina for people to support her.

As for the content of the discussion, there are reasons to think that focusing on the perpetrators works.

And as messed up as the backlash is, it’s actually doing a decent job of demonstrating what people mean when they talk about “rape culture.” (Here’s a link to the tweet below.)

“Got a rape threat for tweeting about @ZerlinaMaxwell getting rape threat. #Rapeculture is a thing, y’all. #TYZerlina

6 thoughts on “Zerlina Maxwell Discusses Gun Control & Rape Culture; Receives Threats of Violence

  1. Those rape threats are despicable.

    There isIt’s never been fully clear to me why an approach to rape reduction and deterrence in which potential victims play a role has to be conflated with victim-blaming or relieving the perpetrator of culpable responsibility. This doesn’t ordinarily happen with prevention/deterrence strategies for many other kinds of crimes.

  2. I would say it’s more that overwhelmingly the burden is placed on potential victims to prevent this sort of crime, which is victim blaming.

    As a contrast, while we encourage people to lock their doors so that they don’t have their house broken into, we don’t put the burden of prevention and prosecution on them. We take seriously accusations of people’s houses being broken into (even if people do occasionally lie about this.) We don’t ever (or only very rarely) say things like, “Are you sure you want to accuse this person of having broken into your house? Are you sure you didn’t invite them over? Because you know, this could ruin their whole life if they’re convicted. Maybe if you had had a gun, and been sitting out on your porch with it, this wouldn’t have happened.”

  3. Stacey,

    I’m in partial agreement with you. But even if overwhelmingly placing the burden on potential victims to prevent a sort of crime were necessarily the same thing as victim blaming – which is not obvious to me – I’m not sure that the particular contrast you are drawing is as pronounced as you make out there.

    Let’s take your example of burglary. Is there any other felony for which the burden of prevention falls more overwhelmingly on potential victims? Certainly, there is a megabillion-dollar global industry dedicated to promoting the idea that prevention and deterrence of burglary falls first and foremost upon responsible homeowners/renters, though the home security industry is arguably more an effect than a cause of that widely held notion. In addition, public strategies and campaigns to reduce the incidence of burglary make those developed to combat pretty much any other felony seem positively perpetrator-focused by comparison.

    Not to say that there are not arguably objective reasons for this. Burglary is habitually the felony with the lowest clearance rates. This probably dilutes the effects of at least those perpetrator-focused deterrence strategies that are based on the threat of criminal justice penalties. And although I’ve seen any number of anti-burglar campaigns in my time, I can’t recall the last time I heard of one that devoted significant effort to encouraging or shaming potential burglars into showing more respect for the rights, homes, privacy and belongings of potential burglary victims. I daresay it’s plausible, even likely, that potential-victim-focused burglary prevention and deterrence approaches get more bang for the buck – which of course doesn’t mean others get none, or that a combined or complementary approach is not appropriate.

    As for taking seriously allegations of peoples’ houses being broken into – and assuming that there’s more to “seriousness” than mere superficial credence – I wonder how much seriousness you’d find the police according your case report of a theft from your house or car in the all-too-common circumstances of there being no unambiguous evidence of forced entry (especially if you actually left a door or window unlocked), no obvious property damage, no surveillance video, few easy means of tracing ownership of the stolen property, etc. I’d guess that your local constabulary would be virtually certain to give you a “here’s what you should do from now on to prevent this” speech (quite possibly even a glossy pamphlet on how to become less of a target for burglars), while simultaneously showing little or no interest, sua sponte, in things like gathering evidence.

    I wasn’t fully sure of what you meant by contrasting rape with other crimes in terms of placing the burden of prosecution on the victim (as opposed to the burden of prevention, which I addressed above). Or rather, I’m not sure what the burden of prosecution means here. Certainly there are other crimes where the victim must ordinarily contact the police to report the crime and press charges, where he or she is a key source of testimony and of non-testimonial information, where his or her participation in perpetrator identification (through line-ups or otherwise) is crucial, where he or she is often called to make a victim impact statement at sentencing, and so forth. This is probably true of most nonsexual assaults, for example. Is that the sort of thing you had in mind by “burden of prosecution”?

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  5. […] Which brings me to why I write this post. I write this post firstly to contribute to creating a culture where we encourage women who have been raped or in any way molested to ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS report the crime if only they can. Not reporting rape is like not reporting a robbery (or any other crime, for that matter). And of course often worse. I truly regret not going to the police. Especially as I knew exactly where I could have pointed the police to in order to find the men who raped me. If I had reported the case, those men would forever have to live with a rape accusation, if not a conviction, on their records. They may for legal, or other reasons have needed to share this with their wives and children in the future. It is this act – of when rapists have to come to terms with their violence, anger and misogyny – that ultimately has the power to change rape culture. […]

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