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  • Susan Schorn @

Below The Belt

I’m not trying to deny any biological realities here. Far from it; I’m well aware that men—on average—are bigger and stronger and faster than women—on average. The odds of biology mean that, if I have to fight a man, I’ll be fighting above my weight class. That’s a given, and I’d love to believe there’s some magical potion bubbling through my ovaries that would help me out in those circumstances. But the way people are going about looking for such an “advantage” does not fill me with confidence.

Meanwhile, there are any number of things a woman can do that will definitely give her an advantage over a man in a pitched battle: Practice evading, because you’ll probably be fighting someone with a longer reach. Learn to off-balance or throw your opponent, so you can take advantage of his greater relative mass and higher center of gravity. And most importantly: Go for the groin.

This next part may be a little uncomfortable for some readers. And by “some,” I mean “male.” Because by “groin,” I mean “testicles.”

“Protect the groin” is a phrase I’ve heard thousands of times in the dojo, even though my school doesn’t permit groin attacks in sparring. A few martial arts systems and some lower-profile MMA fights allow them, but they all require fighters to wear groin protection. Still, in karate, covering the groin is a primary concern during almost any shift in position. In fact, the basic movements with which we begin and end every exercise are explicitly designed to provide protection for the groin.

It’s a little mystifying, as a woman, to see so much concern lavished on a part of the body I don’t even have. Yes, it hurts when I get kicked in the groin, but the risk of that happening doesn’t dominate my strategy during a fight.

The delightful irony here is that, if you’re looking for biological rape-prevention features, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better one than the placement of the human male genitalia.

Incredibly, the very organs that generate the hormones which make men bigger, stronger, faster, and more aggressive than women, are one of the easiest and most convenient parts of the body to attack and injure. They’re such an obvious and devastating target that “No groin shots” is a sacrosanct rule in almost any (male-dominated) sport. One of the most important and sensitive male body parts, integral to the process of rape, and—Oh look, there they are! Right there, easy to reach and practically impossible to protect. So vulnerable that we’re reduced to creating a code of honor forbidding anyone to attack them. Isn’t that funny, how that works out?

How did that set-up evolve? That’s what I’d like to know. What natural forces leveled the playing field below the belt? Why isn’t anyone studying this? Where are all the books and research papers and articles about the mind-boggling vulnerability of male sex organs? Why aren’t there any studies where 192 male undergraduates are asked to read a story about a young man getting kneed in the crotch while scientists monitor their blood pressure?

Could it be because people—and by “people” I mean “men”—would be uncomfortable reading about that kind of research? Is it possible that rape prevention research isn’t as entertaining when it’s focused on damage to the male body? Why do we ignore this angle? The biology is undeniable. You can fight it or compensate for it or try to work around it, but you can’t make it go away.


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