Sexual Dimorphism In Self Defense

Sexual dimorphism.  Sounds a great deal more exciting than the reality.  The phrase simply means that men and women have distinct physical differences, most noticeably when it comes to size.  As a general rule, human women tend to be smaller than males.  Hardly a surprise.

celebrity couple

Although a big part of the self defense course is the use of my handguns under close supervision in the classroom and shooting range, I certainly do not supply firearms to my students for their defense.  But there have been times when circumstances forced them to go about a large portion of the day unarmed.  An example would be graduate students who work and study at a college or university.  Since Federal law in the United States prohibits carrying a firearm on school grounds if one is taking part in activities offered by the school, some of my students would have to leave their guns at home or risk arrest.

In that case, I would work to train my charges in the use of less-lethal options.  Particularly expanding batons and defensive spray.

defensive chemical spray

expanding baton and sheath

If there was only one student, then there would be no issues to speak of.  I would choose the size of the baton based on the relevant physical capabilities of the student.  Hand size, upper body strength, and body size would all factor in deciding the length and weight of the self defense tool.  As long as they can wield it effectively, and are big enough to carry it comfortably, then they would get the object best suited to their needs.

But if there was a couple involved?  Well, that was a different story altogether!

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The Toughest In The World

This news article from two weeks ago reveals the details of a brutal attempt at rape.

A female US Navy sailor was on 24 hour leave in Dubai, and decided to go shopping.  She boarded an otherwise empty bus to get back to base, but the driver instead parked the vehicle and attempted to rape her at knifepoint.

threatening knife

This was probably the worst mistake he has ever made in his life, as the erstwhile victim disarmed him before beating the accused almost to death!  She snapped the blade of the knife, bit her attacker, and went all out to defend herself.  Sounds like a real knock down, drag out kind of brawl.

What ended the fight?  She got his head in a leg lock. Wouldn’t surprise me if the bus driver blacked out.

head lock scissors lock

Afterwards, the victim walked out of the bus and contacted police.  The accused was arrested at his home, drunk.  Since Dubai law is largely based on Islamic religious teachings, his consumption of alcohol was a crime.  He has admitted to that offense, at least, but has also made it the cornerstone of his defense against the charges of attempted rape and assault.  He says that he was too drunk to remember anything that happened on that fateful afternoon.

This story dovetails nicely with my own observations, as well as research that has been conducted on the subject.  As this report from the National Institute of Justice details, resistance to a rape reduces the chances that the crime will be successful by 80%.  Give in and it will happen, fight back and you have a four-in-five chance the rapist will break off his attack and scurry for the hills.

A quote from the article last linked ….

“A separate study found that even when a rape was completed, women who used some form of resistance had better mental health outcomes than those who did not resist.”

That is also consistent with what I have observed amongst my own students.

In the spirit of full disclosure, there are those who insist that compliance is the only way to avoid injury.  This paper from doctors working at the Centers for Disease Control has been cited since it first gained attention in 1990.  Their conclusions are that the chances of receiving some injury by resisting forcible rape approaches 100%, which is true on the surface.  What is not revealed until you purchase the article and dig down through a whole bunch of obscure jargon is that they are counting any physical injury at all, no matter how minor.

So a person assaulted by a rapist manages to fight off their attacker, but they received a few scratches or a black eye for their trouble?  Good enough for the authors of the study  to include the results in the GOT INJURED category!

paper cut

This isn’t to say that no one is ever seriously hurt when going toe-to-toe with a rapist, particularly if the criminal is armed with a weapon such as a knife or gun.  But I would love to see some sort of leveling scale applied to this.  After all, sexual assault is a crime that screws up the self esteem and mental health of virtually every victim.  I think it is worth a few bruises to keep it from happening.



One of the sources that counsels potential rape victims to simply lie back and submit to the crime is the US Air Force.  Seems that the head of the Air Force’s sexual assault prevention and response branch has been accused of sexually assaulting a woman in a parking lot.

Lucky thing that she didn’t heed such advice, and fought back.  While it seems that at least sexual assault occurred, rape was prevented.

(Hat tip to Glenn.)

How Much Ammo Can One Man Carry?

Long time reader USN was kind enough to send me a link to this article on  It concerns an incident where a police officer was confronted by a criminal determined to kill any cop he came across.  Even though the suspect was riddled with fourteen .45 ACP rounds, six of which would have been fatal, the perp kept fighting until suffering a head shot.

Please note that the officer decided to switch from a .45 to a 9mm handgun, in order to have more rounds available the next time something like this happened to him.  It seems he came to the conclusion that shot placement is most important, and he wants more chances to put a round where it would do the most good.

Give Me More

The number of rounds someone has available for defense has always been of great concern to those who actually do have to defend themselves.  Back when single-shot handguns were pretty much all that was available, most people carried two in order to have another chance at life if the first missed.

louise brooks with flintlocks

(Click on all pictures to see the largest versions.)

This really wasn’t good enough to keep people from feeling uneasy.  Inventors tried various gimmicks in order to increase firepower.

reproduction of a brass 3 barrel pistol from 1775

side image of a 16 barrel brass pepperbox

the business end of a 16 barrel brass pepperbox

Pepperbox handguns were a solution, but a seriously flawed solution.  All those barrels increased the weight of the gun to the point that it was almost impossible to carry concealed if the gun was chambered for a serious self defense caliber.  If the gun was chambered for a small and underpowered caliber you might have plenty of shots, and the gun was small and light enough to carry around wherever you might travel, but it wasn’t going to do you much good if you fired them all into a criminal attacker only to see them keep coming without being able to inflict a disabling wound.

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A Day in the Life

It started out like any other class.

I was tired, worn out, since I had just come off the midnight shift. But by this time I had refined my technique to be as efficient as possible. First the poster with the rules for safe gun handling went up on the easel. (These are the laws which are never to be broken!) Then it was a discussion as to the different parts of a firearm and cartridge. (This is the trigger, this is the barrel, this is the casing and propellant and bullet.) Then it was time to uncase the guns themselves, and let her handle them.

She was nervous at first, but I could tell that she was drawn to the big handguns. The manstoppers. Perfectly understandable, considering what she had been through. One of the revolvers held a particular fascination for her, the big imposing Magnum with the six inch barrel.


It kind of settled in her hands while she was dry firing, nestling in her grip. Her eye became steady, the line of her mouth firmed. She was thinking about what would have happened the last time if she had a gun like that, and what would happen the next time after she bought her own. I knew that I was witnessing a personal thing, a turning point in resolve. For that one brief moment, it was a very good day to be alive.

And then her husband came home, and everything went to hell.

He stopped dead in the doorway, brought up short by the hairy-scary guy and the guns spread out across the kitchen table. His face changed when she told him who I was and what I was doing there, much like her own did when she imagined having the means to defend herself. But where she became resolute, he became coldly furious. He ordered me out of their home.

I didn’t say anything, just turned towards her and waited for her decision. “I think you’d better go.” she said, never meeting my eyes.

Before I packed the last case in the trunk of my car, I paused to press one of my business cards into her hands. It was a futile gesture. Her husband was standing right next to her at the time, watching my every move. There was no doubt that the card would be ripped up and in the trash before I was able to drive more than a block or two. But I had to try all the same.

Rape is a particularly odious crime. Besides the obvious mental, emotional, and physical damage, it is also sometimes very difficult for the families of the victim to offer the support that is so desperately needed. Up to 90% of the victims know their attackers, even if it is only in the most casual of ways. It is not unusual for the intimate partner of the victim to react with anger and denial when confronted with the facts of a sexual crime. Many rape victims find that they have to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives, but they also have to do it all alone.


Although I have a great deal of sympathy for people who have to endure the aftermath of a rape, it isn’t my job to help them get through such a trying time. My focus is instead on preparing them to make sure that it never happens again.  Statistics are very clear in this area (NSFW). Less than 1% of the people who resist rape with a gun or knife in their hands become victims. My student would have been able to live free from fear if her husband would have only let her.

The dogs were happy to see me when I got home, but they soon settled down. You can’t hide your mood from a dog, they smell it on you. They rested their chins on my knees while I sat on the couch, offering what comfort they could. I should have gone to bed, grabbing a few hours of sleep before I had to get up and go back in to work. But instead I just sat there while the light faded, thinking of a woman I couldn’t help and who I was never going to see again.

A fierce wind was blowing in from the north. The rest of the day was dark and cold.

(The student mentioned above never did call me back. I’ll still be here, if she ever changes her mind.)