How to Say “NO” to a Rapist (1970’s mis-education)

When I was in Middle School I was not the most athletic of children.   You can imagine how happy I was to arrive at gym class (or as I liked to call is “future topics for discussion with my therapist” class), to find that we were going to watch a movie!

All the girls were herded into a small classroom and we watched “How to Say No to a Rapist”.  There was no discussion before or after the film.  There was no “Does anyone have any questions?” or “This film is going to talk about rape.”  The gym teacher actually left the classroom.  It was just a bunch of 13 year old girls and a film about rape.

I remember afterward, staggering out of the classroom that had been filled with innocent little virgins, (this was the 70’s, most of us still were),  and none of us spoke.  We were still dealing with the staggering information shared with us in the film.  I remember a boy walked by, and we all cringed into a huddled mass and gazed upon him with newly opened eyes.  He could be…. a rapist. (It was actually David Foster, a sweet Jewish boy.  I’d just been to his Bar Mitzvah.)

I saw the film twice.  It was shown again the next year, just in case we girls had recovered from the trauma of the first viewing.

Keeping in mind that memory is very inaccurate, what I remember learning from the film  is that sometime, somewhere, someone was going to try to rape me.  Also, I was going to have to do some horrible terrible things if I wanted to live.

I’m sure the movie had more to impart than that.   However, what stayed with me over the years was that there were TWO and only TWO ways a woman could defend herself from a rapist.  First was, gouge out his eyes.  GOUGE THEM OUT!!!  Not poke them, not scratch them, you have to actually GOUGE OUT HIS EYES.

Second, you had to twist his balls off.  Not punch in the balls.  We learned most men have an instinctive ability to protect their private parts.  That knee to the groin?  Never would work. You had to grab his balls and twist them OFF.  Not try to twist them off, TWIST THEM OFF!

How were we to do this?  Well, you may have to play act some.  Go along with the rapist, let him think you are resigned, or even that you find him a little sexy.  THEN GOUGE AND TWIST GOUGE AND TWIST!

Why would we do this?  Wasn’t it better to just not fight the rapist, after all he’s probably much bigger?  No, the movie (or what stuck with me and my girlfriends) taught us  “He’s probably going to kill you anyway, so why not go down fighting?  It’s your only way to save your life.”

If you were raped, you were also going to be murdered. We all believed that.

I, and my friends, were haunted with a fear of rape for  years.  Not because we feared the rape as much as we feared having to gouge a man’s eyes out.  We used to talk among ourselves about our fear of actually being able to gouge out eyes.  We knew we had to gouge out both eyes also, you couldn’t leave one for the rapist to still be able to see and find you. We would encourage each other, saying “YES YOU CAN GOUGE HIS EYES OUT!”  The entire twisting off of the balls we ignored.  We weren’t even going there.

I  remember a sleepover at a friend’s house, and her mother served us dinner.  We each had a half melon for dessert.  My friend said “Let’s practice gouging rapists eyes out!”  Before my friend’s parents horrified eyes, we  dug into the melon with our thumbs,  pretending to scoop out the eyes of our rapist.  My friend’s parents, when told what we were doing, were slightly surprised their daughter even knew what sex was, but supportive of our rapist eye gouging practice.

We also decided to practice the loud yelling of “FIRE!” because the movie also advised yelling “FIRE” instead of “RAPE” as people would be more apt to help you if they thought you were on fire than being raped.

I can not quite remember if it was in this movie, or it was from another source,  an explanation that yelling “FIRE” was also more helpful as the firefighters have a faster response time than the police.  Where ever this advice came from I remember telling  me “A bunch of firemen running up with axes should scare off any rapist!”

I believed that for many years if someone had broken into my house, I would call the fire department, not the police department.  This was before 911, and you had the numbers to both police and fire department posted near your phone. Potential rapist in your home? Call the fire department!

I did learn some good tips from the movie.  First, when you say “no” say “NO”.  Be firm and clear from the beginning.  This advice served me well.  It also probably scared off a lot of dates, because it took me a bit to figure out many men I dated would perhaps have responded as well to “You know, I’m not ready for that yet” as “NO!”  Also yelling “NO!” loudly in a movie theater should not be your first choice of defense, a firmly whispered “NO” works just as well most of the time.  Save the yell for if the date is persistent.  Learn from my mistakes.

As I grew older I learned not all rapes end in murder.  I also wondered, considering how many young girls were shown this film in schools all around the country, why so many rapists still had their eyes.  I even began to wonder if any woman being raped had ever taken out the eyes of her attacker or twisted off his balls.  I began to suspect eye gouging in real life  might be a lot harder to do then squishing holes in a melon.

foiled rapist crossing?
I don’t think so…

No one ever talked to the us about rape in Junior High.  It was “show the film” and they had done their duty.  I remember asking my gym teacher  “Are the boys in their gym class shown a film called ‘How Not to Be a Rapist’?”  I was told not to be silly.

I have had a close family member raped.  I have had friends that have been raped.  At no point did they have even the option or chance of fighting back.  The only good thing, was that they had not seen the movie “How to Say No to a Rapist” ,and thus did not feel guilty about being raped.  Their anger, and their ability to follow through with prosecution and deal with the police (who were actually quite supportive in these cases), showed me that they understood this was a horrible, violent crime that was not their fault.  I know if I had been raped, the guilt at not being able to say “NO” by gouge out eyes, would have haunted me.

You aren’t shown films “How to Say No to a Pick Pocket”, or “How to Say No to a Car Jacker”.  When those crimes happen, no one says “Well, if  you had only gouged his eyes out..”

I suppose somewhere this film, updated, is probably still being shown.  I hope also updated is the advice and also the support given to young girls that watch the film.  If nothing else, a question and answer session, or even a hug, would have been helpful.

Meanwhile, I still have one major problem with this film.  “How to Say No to a Rapist” ignores the fact that, rapists don’t ask if they can rape you.  They just do.

Categories: Friends, History, Uncategorized

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17 replies

  1. I’m a little younger than you, but I heard the same advice: “gouge out your attacker’s eyes.” Since I never saw anyone with his eyes gouged out, I assumed the chances of being raped were overstated. I never considered how guilty I would feel if I were unable to gouge out an attacker’s eyes!

    Great piece. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I think there was a book out, and I read it – your article brought back memories!
    It also had helpful advice like “tell the rapist you’re having your period” or that you were pregnant and please don’t hurt your baby.

    Yep, here it is – written in 1975. I would have been in high school

  3. Thanks for writing this. I grew up aghast at the perspectives and attitudes of many of my male friends in regards to women but I never could imagine ANY of my friends being rapists. Then over time I learned that often times the rapist doesn’t think of it as rape. I saw how many of the attitudes friends had towards women could lead to such a date rape situation. I try to make sure my son is aware that as he hits puberty and as secondary sexual characteristics begin to become more pronounced that the way girls view him will change in ways that can make him seem much more threatening than he intends.

    When I talk to guys about this I use the situation of kissing a girl in a back room at a party. If you are standing between her and the door and she is backing towards the bed, that is not necessarily an invitation. Situational awareness, ESPECIALLY if there’s a pronounced size difference between people involved can make a big difference for both men and women.

  4. Well from a males perspective the part about twisting off a rapist balls is a bit far fetched.
    I do remember being shown this film and have even read the book. Gouging or poking out an attackers eyes seems effective and simple enough, however when it comes to grabbing below the belt – there are some things that do need to be clarified as mentioned in the book.
    As strange as it may seem and what most females don’t realize is that as a very last resort a guy will let you grab hold of his balls as long as your not kicking, punching or putting up a fight. It’s true that the testicles are very sensitive to even the lightest taps and blows but when they are very gently handled, caressed and fondled with it actually serves as an act of pleasure, he thinks your doing him a sexual favor. Once you have gained his trust and when he least expects it, then you can finish him off and be rid of him for good by cuffing one of his balls in your hand and “squeezing” as hard as you can. Applying pressure to one testicle is much more effective as it allows more force to be applied to one organ rather then being evenly distributed on both of them which is usually more than a handful. A males testicle is much like a ripe plum without the pit and can easily be squashed, crushed and flattened by anyone. This will cause the attacker to go into shock and unconsciousness or possibly even death if immediate medical attention is not available.
    Not much of a choice between being blinded for life or having one of my balls popped. If more females knew of these two techniques and more males where aware of them than there would be far fewer rapes.


    • I attended a self defense course offered by my college long time ago. We were instructed that if the attacker has a loose scrotum sac it is actually better to grasp one of his testicles tightly, twist it as much as possible and jerk hard. Use the whole momentum of your arm, and if possible, also your weight. This move will tear the spermatic cord and/or detach the epididymis from the testis causing immediate debilitating shock. You can even do it with both of your hands, each testicle in one hand which would basically castrate him.

  5. actually there was a woman in africa who killed her 22 year old rapist by squeezing his testicles so hard he died on the spot.

    • Not only that, a 24 year old woman named Grace Mutingwende from Zimbabwe squeezed and twisted her attackers testicles so hard that she saved herself from being raped just a couple of weeks ago. Her attacker did what all men do when their testicles are forcefully squeezed – he curled up in agony and very quickly lost all of his strength. He was still still in the same spot unable to even stand up when the police arrived because he was in so much agony ! It’s so good to learn that we are starting to fight back so effectively, and many women are successfully using this extremely effective technique.

      • yep they go into shock fast. too much and hes dead. In 1994 two women in Papua New Guinea killed their husbands by applying force to their testicles during a domestic dispute. Apparently they were charged with manslaughter.

    • Eso no es cierto,una mujer no tiene tanta fuerza como para exprimir los testículos y matar

  6. Classic example of early feminist atrocity propaganda in dsiguise. Today we see its great success. Mistrust, fear and hate all men and believe such ludicrous statistics as 4/5 women will be raped in their lifetimes, while carefully moving the definition of rape to include any form of sex whatsoever. If she “feels” it was rape, it must be.

    All the while utterly dishonoring the few women who have truly suffered rape and throwing the very small minority of men who truly carry out rape as the norm.

  7. Females should not think of males as sexual predators and that we only view them as sex objects, most males are good caring people and we do understand when no means NO. Maybe there is fault to be found on both sides as some girls will overdo it by teasing males (yet they do have a right to flirt). The chances of being raped by a stranger is very rare, in fact most sexual assaults occur from someone that the victim already knows such as date-rape or even family members. As a very “last resort” is often best to defend yourself by using a play-along submissive approach and wait until he is most vulnerable rather than an aggressive approach which can lead to more harm (even if the first instinct is to fight back which is often difficult to resist). Of course those two most vulnerable areas to target…being his eyes or testicles (balls, nuts or whatever you wish to call them).

  8. I dunno about twisting the balls off entirely. But in my fairly limited experience, squeezing and twisting them will put most guys out of action.

  9. I was in high school I think my last year when I saw the movie. I have to say it to save my ass, among the few other things, on a few occasions. The point of the movie was not about the violence it was about breaking the rapists train of thought. As fear, power, & control drives the rapist, you have to break the train of thought by not showing fear and turning the tables on the attacker. I’d love to find a link for this movie. I also don’t know why they didn’t show at the girls after that first year or two.

  10. During my first year at university a man dragged me into some bushes and tried to rape me. He was very strong and held me down with one hand around my neck, ripping off my knickers with the other hand. He undid his trousers, but as he struggled to pull them down I saw my chance and grabbed for his testicles. He saw what I was trying to do and jerked away, but I managed to get a grip on one ball and squeezed it as if my life depended on it, which it may well have done. Expecting him to punch me, I shielded my face with my free hand, but the punches never came. He actually seemed to be paralysed by the pain, able to do no more than paw at my hand and make a pitiful whimpering noise. As I kept squeezing, yanking and twisting his ball, hell fell sideways off of me and tried to curl up. I maintained my grip until I had got to my feet and ran off towards the dormitories. I hammered on the first door and three big guys appeared. When I explained what had happened they asked me to show them where I was attacked while someone called campus security. Incredibly, although several minutes had gone by, the man was still there on the ground, literally writhing in obvious agony!
    I never was told what damage I had caused him, but I know he went to prison for a long time.
    The thing is, I had taken a self defence course at high school, and nothing I had been taught would have helped me in this situation; it just happened too quickly for me to react. I only knew to do what I did because I grew up with two brothers!
    I just cannot understand why they don’t teach this to all girls at school. If all girls of age 11 or 12 were taught how to do this all over the world, it would surely practically put an end to rape and sexual assault.


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