Not every man will become a rapist; but a rapist *can* come from *anywhere*.

Schrödinger's Rapist is a term coined by novelist and PI Phaedra Starling to describe the experience of women encountering unfamiliar men in a society with rape culture, where any man could potentially be a rapist. The term was first used in Shapely Prose guest blog post Schrödinger's Rapist: Or a Guys' Guide to Approaching Women Without Being Maced.

The term Shrödinger's Rapist is an erroneous reference to an aspect of the Schrödinger's Cat thought experiment, namely the one where, until the box is opened, the cat inside is simultaneously both dead and alive. Similarly, as an example, a woman walking alone in the streets cannot determine whether an approaching man is an intending rapist or not until the encounter has reached its conclusion, so it logically follows that every man is both a rapist and not a rapist at the same time.

Unlike the cat-in-poison-box thought experiment however, the Schrödinger's Rapist is a prolonged situation, since one rape-free encounter with a given man does not prove anything about his potential of raping later on. This even more true for the experience of women who know that the majority of rapes occur between people who know each other, and those aware of rapists employing grooming and similar tactics to gain social leverage against their victims.


Counterarguments to the original blog post and the concept of Schrödinger's Rapist mainly consist of the "Not all men" argument. This misses the point of the concept, which does not mean that women think every man is a rapist, just like no player of Russian roulette thinks every chamber is loaded. Rather, it is about how women need to consider the possibility of any man being a rapist, and how this affects their everyday life and social activities. See also creepiness.

Another argument sometimes used is "but I'M not a rapist nor could I ever be", which not only misses the point but also reveals a skewed perspective. Schödinger's Rapist, just like the concept of rape culture, is not about individual persons being or not being rapists.

A Formal Analogy

The prolonged nature of the situation compared to the instant "dead" or "alive" result for the box does not destroy the analogy. This just implies it is not a projective measurement - i.e. one that collapses the observed system into a 'maximally known' state (eigenstate). Rather, the relationship is a continuous weak measurement and information is slowly gained over time through interaction, eventually leading to an eigenstate of near-certainty (allowing for decoherence, or relaxation over time that could flip the state of the man).



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