Titanic: Not a Damsel in Defense

When the Titanic crashed, she was no damsel in defense.  I saw the movie recently, and while I love it, I couldn’t help but see the parallels to how we can all sink if we aren’t careful.  No way to save herself, sending off desperate flares, and sinking into the ocean without any way to minimize the tremendous loss of life that occurred.  But how did she get to that situation?  Primarily two things, if I lump all the smaller technical factors together.  And these are the same things that can sink a damsel in defense as well.

1.  Overconfidence (led to running the boat too fast, not getting binoculars for the iceberg lookouts, and not turning in time).

2.  Refusal to acknowledge unlikely but possible risk factors (led to not having adequate lifeboats or proper emergency planning).

Everyone thought Titanic was unsinkable.  Why would anyone think such a thing about a huge hunk of metal?  Less sinkable, unlikely to sink maybe, but can you ever say something is impossible?  Marketing, that’s all it was.  Great marketing to get people on a big boat.  And you’ll see the same marketing from self defense weapons sometimes.  They’ll promise you’ll be unsinkable.  But you never know what can happen, and you should plan for the worst while hoping for the best. A damsel in defense watches out to make sure that the doesn’t think she is unsinkable and lead herself into a bad situation.

Self defense training and weaponry should always be a way of helping you be aware that all ships are sinkable and that there are icebergs everywhere, so you should have lifeboats on board and you should be careful how you steer.

That’s why I take issue with companies that promise you that their products will make you unsinkable, when really, there’s a lot of things you need to do to ensure you have the proper “lifeboats” for your ship.  If you are going to carry a weapon, make sure you are good enough with it that you can use it better than it will be used on you, and make sure you are strong and fast enough.  If not, and you just pick up some plastic defense toy and think it makes it fine to jog in the park at night, you are just like the Titanic, heading out into iceberg laden waters with no lifeboats.

If you are going to let anything make you feel invincible to the dangers in the darkness (or even broad daylight) make sure you prepare lifeboats for possible catastrophes.  If you are going to assume you are safe enough to go risking a metaphorical crash, make sure you have rehearsed and prepared for that crash.

1.  Acknowledge that you can sink.  Actions under this category include avoiding dangerous situations, jogging with friends during the day (jogging alone during the day and with friends at night are both still somewhat dangerous), taking awareness classes, volunteering at rape crisis centers to be really aware of the reality of rape, and anything else that keeps you aware of the “icebergs” out there.

2.  Prepare based on that acknowledgement.  Actions under this category would include getting weapons and training with them.  Also taking self defense courses that teach you how to use weapons, how to grapple, how to get away, etc.  Getting a concealed carry permit is another one.

None of these suggestions mean that you live in constant fear.  But would anyone have called the Titanic makers and captain paranoid for just putting the right number of lifeboats on and doing a lifeboat drill?  Who cares?  It would have been a way of caring more about the passengers than their own egos and convenience.  You seeing yourself as a sinkable ship navigating icebergs is a way of caring for the people on your ship, you and your family and friends.

So learn from the Titanic.  Steer carefully, keep a good lookout, and be prepared for the worst just in case.

As usual, this blog just my opinions and not professional or legal advice.

True Safety

I have my degree in psychology, and a psychologist from my university once told me that what women fear more than anything is rape, and that what they crave more than anything is security.  As the writer of Damsel in Defense and a feminist, it’s a hard concept for me to accept.

I’m sure it’s an idea that many of us recoil from because it seems like a pretty unflattering thing to say about our gender.  What? We don’t fear global warning?  Our legs getting cut off?  The end of the world as we know it?

All joking aside, he had interviewed hundreds and hundreds of women, and concluded that women fear being violated more than anything else.

I don’t have to dig deep to come up with several reasons this may be true.  It is an intensely personal violation.  It is painful, and it proves to us that we are unprotected.  It leaves us feeling helpless.  It infringes on a woman’s right to choose even the most basic things for her body, like who enters, and who can possibly leave a child that she will have to figure out what to do with.  I know many rape victims.

I think we can all agree that when we sink into our lover’s arms, we feel safe and content in a deep way that is unsatisfied by anything else.  This safety comes from a contextually secure place of mutual respect, love, and protection.

But it’s also important to create a safe place within yourself.  One that can never be taken away, even by rape.  If you are ready, and you fight as hard as you can when the worst happens, and you make the right choice about how hard to fight because you have prepared, thought through, and trained, you will find you are safe wherever you go and whatever happens to you.  Even if the outcome is devastating you will know a litte more that it wasn’t you.  You will know more that you were prepared and did what you could.  And in preparing for the worst, you will hopefully begin to understand that you are no worse for what has happened and that you did nothing to deserve it.

When your life is threatened, it’s natural to want to submit.  While this often may not actually help you with an attacker, it is your choice.  And if you choose to do it, rather than innately do it from shock, you have a better chance of not shaming yourself later.  You will know you made an educated decision to save your own life.  The best decision you could make in the moment, based on extensive preparation.

It seems morbid to prepare yourself for the worst.  But think how much safer you would go to bed at night, having fully explored the things that can happen and the meanings you would attach to them.  Imagine the worst, and how you would feel about yourself after, and if the place you reach isn’t loving, work until you could see yourself in a loving way no matter the outcome.  Rape is not the fault of the victim, but that doesn’t stop victims from blaming themselves.  Prepare yourself to think critically about rape.  Work hard to think of (and study) all possible ways to avoid, escape, and deal with the “unthinkable” things that happen every day, everywhere.

Again, if you love that peaceful feeling of safety when you are promised protection, when you are in your loved one’s arms and they are in yours, or when you are safe under your blankets behind a secured door, make it a priority to create a safe space in your head as well.  One where peace comes from knowing that you care about yourself enough to protect yourself in every way, to work hard for it, as you would want someone else who cares and has promised to care for you to do.  Create a space where you can figuratively go under the blankets, unafraid because you have someone protecting you with everything they have: You.

Thanks and stay safe all.

That is what being a damsel in defense means to me.  A full woman, capable, knowledgeable, fully aware and sentient.  Feminine and defensive.  Acknowledging female vulnerability, human vulnerability, and defending it.  When I thought of the name for my blog, damsel in defense said it all for me.  I’m still a woman, or a girl, and I don’t have to give that up to be safe.  But being a damsel doesn’t put me in distress.  It puts me in defense.

Disclaimer:  The opinions expressed on damsel in defense are just my personal opinions and not professional or legal advice.

Sexual Harassment

At my last job, I was sitting in orientation and the lady next to me mentioned she had quit her last job because of sexual harassment.  Not towards her, but towards girls around her.  It had made her uncomfortable, and she had told the supervisor, but he wouldn’t do anything because the actual girl the harassment was targeted towards refused to complain or come forward.  I’ve seen this too often at different jobs I’ve worked at.  Girls will come up to me and complain about sexual harassment, whether it’s inappropriate language, or texts, or calls.  First off, I ask how the offender ended up with their number.  Then I ask if they have told the person to stop.  These women seem to think that they shouldn’t have to say anything, the man knows what he is doing is wrong, and therefore he is harassing by continuing.  Whether he does or not is something she won’t know until she tells him to stop.

I’m not sure what it is that makes us women so reluctant at times to tell an attacker off.  Even I have been in the awkward position of wondering if the harassment is worth pissing off a coworker or boss and delayed reporting it.  And I think many of us wonder if reporting it would do more harm than good anyway.  In my experience, reporting it means nothing unless you have told the harasser to stop what they are doing because it offends you.

I’ve noticed that I rarely get harassed now at work.  The creepers pass right over me for other girls, and I’ve realized a pattern in who they select for the most inappropriate behavior.  I decided to analyze how my behavior has changed to make me a more undesirable target than I used to be.

It’s all body language.  Sexual harassers seem to always do little tests before escalating behaviors.  They will rub your shoulder, ask for your number, and do other little things that while minor, seem a bit inappropriate.  They might make a dirty or inapropriate comment, they might curse, but they will always be looking at you to see how you react.  Watch your feelings, if you feel a bit uncomfortable, make sure you react honestly.  If you are nervous and smile back, or laugh, or turn away shyly, it has sent them the message that you are okay with what they do, or if you aren’t, aren’t going to do anything about it.  Then by the time you are ready to do something about it, it has escalated to a point where you hate your job and feel like he has all the power because if you report him he will say it is your fault too because you didn’t say anything.

It’s simpler than you would think to make yourself an undesirable target.  I just do what comes naturally instead of hiding it behind politeness.  If a man rubs my shoulder, I shrug away and look at him like “what are you doing?”  Sometimes I say “what are you doing?”.  If a man (or woman) says something offensive at work I say “That was offensive.  Ew.”  Etc.  People innately don’t like these reactions from other people, and it will often stop them in their tracks.

Now there are other cases, cases that won’t stop, cases that are more rare and pernicious.  But it’s best to figure out which these are early on, for your own safety.  If he’s the slightly awkward and creepy coworker who thinks you’re cute, he’ll back away when stood up to.  If not, you want to know early on so you can get to a supervisor.

It’s a lot like taking precautions while walking at night.  Make yourself the least safe bet to attack.  If you show in the workplace that you don’t like inappropriate behavior and call it out quickly, the really dangerous ones should be less likely to see you as an easy target.  This has worked for me.  At first it was hard to feel confident calling others out on their flaws, but you don’t know who is harassing on purpose or on accident otherwise.

You have the right to be comfortable at work, regardless of gender of victim or harasser.  You have the right to tell other people when they make you uncomfortable, and doing so will keep you much safer, even if it’s scary at first.  I feel that as a woman there is an innate need to please, to not cause trouble.  But avoiding conflict doesn’t alleviate trouble, it leads to it.

Just a few thoughts.

Disclaimer:  The opinions expressed on damsel in defense are just my personal opinions and not professional or legal advice.

With peace in your heart

Someone asked in a class where we are studying conflict if you can defend yourself in a violent way, yet still be at peace within yourself and towards the person.  My answer was a definitive yes, and I shared an experience as a damsel in defense to illustrate my opinion.

When I was 18 I was waiting at a bus stop.  An older man was there, and he didn’t speak a lot of English, but he was obviously trying to communicate.  He pointed to me and asked my age, and wrote his on a piece of paper.  79.  He guessed mine at 30, and I could only stare at him incredulously.  Things took a turn for the worse when he put his hand on my thigh.  I froze, and then started to scoot away.  He continued, moving his hand up my waist, saying “very nice, beautiful, very nice”.  He moved towards my chest and held me with his other hand so I couldn’t merely squirm away.  My mind starting flashing through scenarios.  I could kill him, I thought, a normal attack on a 79 year old man could have devastating consequences, for instance a normal strike that could hurt a young male could trigger a heart attack in an older man.  It may sound weird that I was worrying about him at a time like that, while he was invading my space and wouldn’t pull away or let go, but the truth is, even as you are deciding that you must take action to stay safe, you don’t have to have hatred, you don’t have to WANT to do harm. But let me be clear, I would not have even been considering his welfare if I truly felt endangered and not in control of the situation.

I feel that we as women are compassionate by nature.  We aren’t cowards, but truly we do not like the idea of harming others.  There is no reason we have to let go of the compassion to defend ourselves.  That’s what it means to be a damsel in defense.  Especially in a case like the one I was in.  I fully support grip it and rip it in a dire straight, but in lesser situations I believe that the least force necessary to escape is the right way to go.

So I grabbed his hand, and pulled it away as I stood up to go.  He wouldn’t let go, and the way I had grabbed him is a way I was taught to move an offending hand, so that if they let go and let their hand drop away, they won’t be hurt, but if they resist, it will start to break bones.  Sure enough I heard a crunch, and I figure I probably broke his wrist.  And I ran.  Was I happy?  Yes, to get away.  But I was sad I had to hurt another human being, I was sad that I couldn’t stop the assault through words and pulling away.  But I would have been sadder if I hadn’t fought back at all.

A lot of factors went into my fairly non-violent reaction.  His age, his relatively minor level of assault (at least to start), his lack of weapons, the fact that it was broad daylight and in public so the assault was unlikely to go beyond a certain level.  I’m not suggesting that you act the same way as me, but I am suggesting that you weigh your defense options against the nature of the assault and the offender.  If you aren’t like me, and think you’ll panic, then forget it and defend yourself to the fullest of your ability.  As I heard in concealed carry, it’s better to be tried by twelve (a jury) than carried by 6 (pallbearers).  The law will hold you accountable if you use excessive force, but if that’s the only deterrent, then play it more safe towards protective your life and your privacy.

I don’t want this post to stop women from defending themselves, but I do want them to realize that you don’t need to be a hate-filled or violent person to stop someone from hurting you.  It’s okay to feel reluctance to cause pain and damage, as long as your first priority is stopping pain and damage to yourself.



Veteran’s Day: The Cost of Freedom

We love death. The U.S. loves life. That is the difference between us two.
Osama bin Laden

We studied the movement of the radical Muslims yesterday in political science, and while I knew a lot of the info, I hadn’t realized just how much they want to annihilate us.  It is a culture of suicide-bomber hopefuls, of women who raise their kids with the hope that they can be martyred while killing non-muslims (us).  Here we have a generation of young men whose only hope for a life with any happiness is the next life.  Many suicide bombers went with the promise of paradise, of women, of happiness and all things they are not allowed here.  They were indoctrinated from birth, and it is still happening today.  Regardless of your political inclinations it is important to realize that we are still under attack, that we have been under attack, and we will be under attack.  That’s why we must be damsels in defense, not damsels in distress.

We have so many freedoms we don’t think about.  In Iran a woman who is raped must be killed by her family to regain the family’s honor.  A woman must cover her body because it is “dirty”.  The only reason we have the freedoms we are granted in the constitution is because we have men and women who put their bodies and souls on the line to defend our country and all that it stands for.

So today remember those that have died, and those that live with invisible and significant wounds for our sake.  We are so lucky to be here in America, and we need to recognize a high price is being paid for us in a fight we don’t see.  I recommend looking for a veteran’s fund to donate to, and of course, thank the vets you know.

And since this is a self defense blog, remember that we should fight just as hard as they do for our safety and well being.



Mental Defense

So my main purpose in writing this blog is to give women tips that don’t require them to do much more than think in a different way about their safety.  While I encourage self defense training and looking into concealed carry, those options are for you to explore, and I only have a few minutes of your attention each day to tell you whatever I can that may help.

A couple of thoughts on mental defense, by which I mean ways to stay safe through intelligence.  Knowledge is power, and all that, so knowing a few new things about escaping predators should empower you.

1. Confidence.  Attackers look for women who look like they won’t fight back, women who look away nervously and act afraid.  If someone is being odd and creepy, make eye contact and glare.  This is no time to be polite, and try to avoid hurting feelings.  Trust your instincts.  If someone is following you, don’t shyly shuffle forward hoping you are wrong.  Turn around and face them, and let them pass.  If they are a normal person, they’ll probably give you an odd look and go on ahead, but if they are a bad person, it’s better to show them up front you have noticed them.  They may decide you’re not a good mark and move on, or they may attack, but either way is better than you allowing them to follow you until you are somewhere secluded enough that they feel safe attacking you on their terms.  I was once on a date and we sensed we were being followed.  My date, nervous, sped up and started towards the parking garage.  I turned around to face the man.  If there was a confrontation, I wanted to happen out on the street, not in a dark garage.  As it happened I startled him and he walked off mumbling.  You never know, but I would rather have someone look at me odd than bet that nothing would have happened.  Plus when you turn around and face them without fear they think “why isn’t she scared, what does she know that I don’t” and that throws them off.

2.  Fitness.  This sounds more like physical than mental defense, but it takes some thought to put together.  Other than learning self defense something that will really help you is working out.  1. It makes you faster, stronger, and better able to fight off an attacker and escape.  But more than that, it gives you confidence, and confidence also deters attackers.  Double whammy.  So work on cardio for running and weight training for strength and muscle endurance.

3.  Be smart.  First this entails being careful about where you go in the first place.  If there is a dark area that you have to walk through, keep your cell phone handy, or even pretend to be talking to someone on it, it will give the impression you are less alone, and an attacker will think you have someone that will hear if anything happens.  Yes, I thought that one up with my own paranoia.  Once I had someone following me and I made sure to say over the phone to my friend “I’m so glad I learned a dozen ways to maim the genitalia of a man twice my size.”  He disappeared.  Yeah it sounds funny and in retrospect it was, but being followed is scary, however you cut it.  Also keep your mace or keys handy if you are being followed and about to turn around and start a confrontation.  But even better is avoiding dark areas alone.  Period.  Nothing is worth that late night trip.  Even if you are driving, you will be getting out of the car at one point, right?

See?  There are things you can do just to trick an attacker into thinking your dangerous, or in my case above, to let them KNOW you are dangerous.  I’m sure if you think about it you can come up with more as well.  If you do, please share them below.

Thanks, and stay safe and protect yourself damsels.


A New Kind of Rescue Fantasy

You walk outside the party, towards your car.  As you turn to unlock your door, you feel a threatening presence behind you.  You turn around, frightened, and see a cruel looking man lean over you, one hand on either side.

“Let’s have some fun” he says.

He grabs you roughly and presses into you, you try to scream but he covers your mouth.  For a moment you think about Damon, who you left inside, mentally willing him to save you…and then…

You slam your head forward into his nose.  As he falls back reeling, you follow by slamming your foot as hard as you can in a pushing motion into his abdomen pushing him away from you.  Not a damsel in distress, a damsel in defense.  As he stumbles back you pull your mace from your keychain and spray directly at his face, making sure to quickly turn around and away from the spray so you aren’t affected too.  At nearly the same time you run.  Either back to the party or the nearest group of people, or if you had nearly opened your car, into the front seat where you quickly slam and lock the door.  And of course then you call the police.  You were expecting a damsel in distress.  He got a damsel in defense and it left him the worse for wear.

I know, it’s not romantic.  It’s not the fantasy that fuels the sales of thousands of romance novels.  If you find rescue fantasies erotic, the kind where a handsome man appears just in time to deliver you from danger with his “always stronger than 10 other men” strength, you don’t need to be ashamed.

A psychologist told me once that in polling thousands of women, he had discovered that what women want more than anything is safety, and what they fear in connection with that is rape.

He explains that women, from a young age, accept many things.  From the time they play with dolls they know that they will grow up and give a lot of what they are to a man.  They will take his last name, have his children, and go where he goes.  I know this isn’t all little girls, but it certainly applies to a lot of the women I’m reaching out to.  Women raised in gentle and conservative environments.  He says that women are fine with this because the man they are with will provide safety.  I know this is going to upset feminists and liberated women, but I really do feel that there is something in a woman’s nature intrinsically connected with wanting protection.  From a biological standpoint it makes sense because we are smaller.

Men have a hard time understanding this.  They think romance novels are about the sex.  They aren’t.  The twilight series asserts this, with it’s frequent rescue fantasies and extremely limited physical intimacy.  If you took the time to open romance novels at the drugstore, you’d notice far more rescue fantasies where a man saves a woman from another man than you would see sex scenes, in my experience.  No women like talking about it, and no women like admitting it, but it’s still a reality.

In the mental image at the beginning of this post, I’m sure there was excitement, and then a letdown.  Even if it isn’t erotic to save yourself, there should a be a rush because taking care of yourself is empowering.  The next time you are reading or thinking a rescue fantasy, I encourage you to take a moment to visualize the same moment, but with you taking control of your own safety.  Even if that’s only screaming.  Picture yourself hitting and kicking and fighting for your life.  And if this inspires you to go take a self defense class all the better.  If nothing else, it will help you be more prepared mentally, because if your only mental image of being attacked is erotic helplessness, how will you be ready to fight for your life?  As I mentioned in my Your Own Knight post, men can’t be everywhere.

Besides, being able to take care of yourself is super hot.  Imagine how happy Damon in the above fantasy was when he came outside to see his lover ensuring her own safety.  It’s fine to still let yourself have rescue fantasies at times too, but I hope you’ll mix it up and let yourself be the hero sometimes too.

Disclaimer:  The opinions expressed on damsel in defense are just my personal opinions.  Damselindefense.com is not liable in any way for actions arising from reading it.  Additionally, damselindefense.com is not affiliated with the recent company damselindefense.net that was founded nearly a year after my blog.

Girls Should Fight Dirty

Lots of men, when they find out I’ve been practicing martial arts and self defense, like to ask me to punch them.

“Come on, punch me as hard as you can.”  And they point to their arm.

What th-…really?  Who on earth trains to punch someone in the arm?  This is usually a misguided attempt to prove that I’m a little girl who is ineffective even with training, and to impress me with what a tough guy they must be.

Here’s the thing, I’ve boxed, I know how to fight with my fists, how to properly wrap my hands and go at a bag for an hour.  I also know that for a woman, a punch is not even close to the most effective way to fight.

Men have rules about how to fight with honor.  We don’t need to follow those rules because a man attacking us has already been proven to have no such honor, and since he’ll probably be bigger, stronger and faster, we have to be tricky if we want to win.

Sure sure, with a lot of training and a very fit body I can probably disable an opponent with no training even if he’s male.  But I’m just saying that even if I have training, there’s no guarantee I’m not going to come up against someone else with the same level of training, who’s taller and stronger and a man.  What then?

This brings me to what happens when a man invites me to punch him on the arm.  I usually respond with something like, “I don’t think punching is effective.  Even so, I could probably really injure you, and it seems like a lose-lose situation for me to try to injure your body while you try to injure my pride.  I’ve been in real fights, and I don’t enjoy hurting people.  But if you fight me understand that I fight extremely dirty, and with the intent to maim.  Not to play.”

And it’s true.  I trained in Krav Maga in California.  It’s the Israeli Defense system.  They train women in a very different way from other martial arts.  Instead of partnering with another woman, I was told that women weren’t what I needed to know how to defend myself against.  So I was paired with a 300 pound male instructor, and we grappled in awkward and frightening positions.  And it gave me more confidence than any amount of other self defense training.

Now ladies, I’m about to get icky and get into some pretty graphic details on what I mean by fighting dirty.  If you are easily offended think carefully before going further.  However I strongly believe that it is better to face the icky things now, than have ickier things happen to us later because we didn’t consider them.  So continue on to part 2 if you want to hear a few examples of dirty techniques.