How to know when to use pepper spray in self-defence?
August 29, 2017 6:39 AM   Subscribe

My girlfriend is interested in using pepper spray or mace for self-defence, but is unsure when you know when to use it – specifically, it seems like there are lots of times at night when it’s ambiguous whether someone is following her. The line between a harmless (?) creep vs. a potential attacker seems impossible to know. Can you help her out with this?

She's worried that using it when it's not actually a real attack could be borderline traumatic for her (and also that it's not good to mace innocent people).

She would really appreciate any other wisdom you may have about using pepper spray or mace,

and more generally, self-protection as a woman in public spaces.
posted by skwt to Health & Fitness (32 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Why not take a self-defense class? It sounds like that would be right up her alley. Was it her idea to carry the mace?
posted by amanda at 6:51 AM on August 29, 2017 [4 favorites]

Pepper spray is a prohibited weapon in Canada under the Firearms Act. Carrying and using it carries significant risk.
posted by notorious medium at 6:54 AM on August 29, 2017 [15 favorites]

I would never mace someone just for following me, even if I was very skeeved out by them. I might discreetly make sure I had my mace at the ready, though, and be prepared to use it if the follower placed their hand(s) on my person.

But if you're in Canada, it seems like a mistake to carry a prohibited weapon, especially if your girlfriend is concerned about knowing when to use it appropriately.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 7:04 AM on August 29, 2017 [15 favorites]

Even leaving aside the question of whether this is legal in your jurisdiction at all, nobody should ever carry a weapon (and make no mistake, pepper spray IS a weapon) without proper training in threat identification and de-escalation, proper use of that weapon, and the legalities of its use. Anything short of that is a recipe for absolute disaster.

The fact that her main concern about macing an innocent person seem to be primarily "it will make her upset", followed by "it's a bad thing to do to an innocent person", with no consideration whatsoever for "there's a very real chance that I'll wind up in prison for a very long time on an assault charge if I don't stick to an extremely narrow course of what the law considers permissible action for self-defense" suggests that this is a particularly bad idea.

As far as what to actually do: train in a martial art that actually involves training for real combat rather than for the art's sake (e.g. Krav Maga or SAMBO, rather than, say, aikido). This will both give her the tools she needs to defend herself without winding up on the wrong side of weapons laws, and (if the class is good) teach her how to recognize unsafe situations and ideally defuse them wirhout having to resort to violence.
posted by Itaxpica at 7:18 AM on August 29, 2017 [46 favorites]

As people have mentioned, carrying pepper spray in Canada is illegal and can get you sent away for up to 10 years under the Firearms Act. Setting that aside for the moment, attacking a 'potential attacker' is also illegal in Canada, and is not considered self-defence. If she is actually assaulted, then she may be legally justified in using no more force than is necessary to enable her to defend herself from that assault. But if you attack a 'potential' attacker -- that means you're the attacker.
posted by Jairus at 7:20 AM on August 29, 2017 [17 favorites]

when walking alone at night as a woman, practice looking and acting confident. Not overly alarmed, but, chin up, eyes a few yards ahead or toward horizon, arms at sides and relaxed, pace not too fast. If somebody seems to be following you, I have been told it is better to look back directly at them than avoid them. You can turn a different route, or slow down and let them pass. A self defense course will teach you to be confident and what to do if you are attacked. There are lots of ways to de-escalate an attack before resorting to actual physical defense. Keep in my mind she could carry pepper spray (or a lookalike) and pull it out and not use it, too. Here in California there are also little stun guns-- I've seen people "zap" them into the air as a deterrent without deploying them onto a person.
posted by shalom at 7:44 AM on August 29, 2017 [5 favorites]

I am in the US and I do not know the laws regarding carrying mace in any jurisdiction, but I have been pepper sprayed. Voluntarily. How that came about is a long and in hindsight, embarrassing story, but suffice it to say that just because you can eat the spiciest food anyone has ever thrown your way, just because you have taken a small bite out of a ghost pepper, just because you think you are tough and mind over matter matters, getting pepper sprayed IS a traumatic experience, mostly for the person on the business end of the spray. I have never been shot with a rubber bullet (or any bullet), or a bean bag or been tased, but given a choice between being pepper sprayed again or any of those supposedly non lethal alternatives, I would choice any of them over the spray. (The one upside is that I have been pulled over for potentially speeding in the jurisdiction in which the demonstration was given, and the police officer recognized me and gave me a warning rather than a ticket.)

Having said all that, I think there is a big difference between carrying pepper spray with the intention of using it and with the intention of not using it but using it as a deterrent first, and weapon a very much distance 2nd. Have your girlfriend take a class, learn about self defense, the proper use of pepper spray, the legalities of pepper spray, and think through whether she is actually willing to use it in a critical appropriate situation.

As a gun owner, I know people who have given up their guns because after all the training they received on safety, proper use, aim, etc, they did not think they could ever actually use it even in self defense. Do not ever carry a weapon that you are reluctant to use even under the proper and appropriate situation. You do not want to give your attacker a weapon they did not have because of your hesitation to use it.

(If you search YouTube, there are many videos of people going through police training getting voluntarily sprayed. Watch one of those.)
posted by AugustWest at 7:49 AM on August 29, 2017 [12 favorites]

To expand a bit on the legal aspect of self-defense that I and Jarius touched on, I'd like to dive a little bit in to what the legal process around an assault in self-defense looks like. Two notes:

1. I am not a lawyer, this is not legal advice. I'm a martial artist who has familiarized myself with self-defense laws in my jurisdiction as they apply to that, but that's it. This is my best understanding of NY self-defense law, and I can make no guarantees to its accuracy.
2. This statement only applies to New York State; other states in the US can have more or less stringent laws, and I'm sure that Canada is entirely different. I'm just putting this out there as an example.

So, you (/your girlfriend, but I'll just use "you" as a shorthand for brevity's sake) have just maced someone who was attacking you. First things first, you'll be arrested. You don't just say to the cops "oh, I was defending myself" and then they go away - claiming self-defense is what's referred to as an "affirmative defense", meaning that when you are charged with a crime and in court, you can then argue "yes, I did that, but it was not illegal because of reason X". So, you will be arrested, and you will wind up being arraigned, and depending on your ability to make bail you may wind up in jail until your case can be heard.

Now, you'll stand trial for assault. You'll plead not guilty by way of self-defense, which now means you have to convince a judge or jury of three things: 1. whether that self-defense is proportional, 2. whether you believe that you must use violence to defend yourself, and 3. whether that belief is objectively reasonable.

1 is fairly self-explanatory: if someone punches you, you may be justified in punching them back, but not in shooting them. I don't know where pepper spray falls in this hierarchy; if you're much smaller than an attacker it may well be found a justified defense against physical assault. 2 is also fairly self-explanatory, you just need to be able to argue that you felt that you needed to defend yourself. 3 is where it gets hairy; you need to show that any reasonable person would make the same choice that you did. Between 1 and 3, pepper-spraying someone who is just following you very much does not fall in to the legal definition of self-defense, they basically need to be very in the process of starting to attack you.

("Deadly physical force" as opposed to just "physical force" - so, shooting someone instead of punching them - is an entirely different thing with a different, even more stringent set of standards, but I'm less familiar with it because it doesn't really come up in the context of martial arts.)

If you can't prove all three of these things in court, congratulations: you've just been convicted of a felony.

[S]he could carry pepper spray (or a lookalike) and pull it out and not use it, too. Here in California there are also little stun guns-- I've seen people "zap" them into the air as a deterrent without deploying them onto a person.

This is legally referred to as "brandishing" or "menacing", and is also against the law, though self-defense can apply as an affirmative defense (with all the stuff I wrote above applying).
posted by Itaxpica at 7:56 AM on August 29, 2017 [12 favorites]

By the time you know for sure you need your weapon, it's probably too late. She should not be considering macing people just because they are walking behind her. Weapons are for attackers, not potential attackers. If she is that scared to walk alone at night, she should not walk alone at night.

She needs a self defense class that focuses on situational awareness, but getting out of the situation (running away) is a far better option than trying to fight off an assailant. She needs to learn to be proactive about seeking safety and help if she feels threatened.

Weapons are more likely to hurt you than your attacker.

If you are scared, go into a populated area/ store and tell the cashier and call a cab/ flag down a bus and tell the driver/ pull the bell and pretend to get off and watch your follower leave/ quietly ask to get out in between stops closer to home/ask someone for help/ cut and run. Look around you a lot. Look at the person who is following you. Call someone and tell them where exactly you are and keep them on the phone. Go to the other side of the street. Backtrack and take a different route. Be evasive. It's much safer.
posted by windykites at 8:22 AM on August 29, 2017 [8 favorites]

OK, everyone's already telling you/her not to do it, but I just want to emphasize that pepper spray can be profoundly debilitating and even fatal. You do not pepper spray someone for anything short of actually physically attacking you, and if you do, you need to understand that you could kill that person. And no, you should never physically attack someone for following you (that's not even illegal), or for being a potential attacker (everyone is a potential attacker).

If you're reliably describing your girlfriend's concerns, she sounds really really jumpy. She may have good reasons for that, of course, but while she's in this state, she should not be walking around armed and prepared to preemptively attack people. She needs to work on her anxiety.

The self defense class idea sounds like a good start, but she may need to work through her fearfulness from other directions too.
posted by ernielundquist at 8:27 AM on August 29, 2017 [3 favorites]

Well, I'll tell you what happened that time a big SUV pulled up and 3 dudes with baseball bats jumped out and demanded I "give them the shit" while I was walking home at 3am. I remembered what they tell the kids these days: "don't yell "HELP", yell "FIRE"...nobody wants to help you... but everybody wants to see the fire." Let me assure was like a fucking. magic. trick. Every single light in every single window for a 3 block radius popped on instantly as I took off running. The dudes freaked, jumped back in the car and peeled out. It was epic. So yeah, show her this, and even if she still gets the tear gas, maybe try the 'fire' trick before hosing down strangers (and quite likely herself) with dangerous chemicals.
posted by sexyrobot at 8:41 AM on August 29, 2017 [16 favorites]

Nthing self-defense training and the power of confident walking. The former will probably make the latter easier.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:44 AM on August 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

Here are some Toronto-specific programs. I took a wen-do seminar in university which was good. Can't tell you anything about the Krav Maga women's program.

Krav Maga's women's self-defence
posted by girlpublisher at 8:48 AM on August 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

In addition to the primary concerns above, a secondary consideration: even in event of a pepper-spray-level attack, carrying pepper spray without proper training can escalate a physically dangerous situation for your girlfriend and anyone she is with, if she loses control of the device and the potential attacker obtains it. No one should own/carry a weapon they don't feel very confident using.
posted by juliplease at 8:51 AM on August 29, 2017

As a gun owner, I know people who have given up their guns because after all the training they received on safety, proper use, aim, etc, they did not think they could ever actually use it even in self defense. Do not ever carry a weapon that you are reluctant to use even under the proper and appropriate situation. You do not want to give your attacker a weapon they did not have because of your hesitation to use it

This was me, although I kept the gun for sport shooting. When I took the gun safety class the first thing we did was role play a whole bunch of different scenarios where I might reach for a gun. Whether the gun was on my person or not, there wasn't a single scenario in which I wasn't disarmed by my instructor, usually before I realized what was happening. I believe my instructor did this specifically to discourage me from using the gun defensively. So while it's been mentioned above, I want to specifically warn her that there is a very good chance any weapon she carries could be used against her.

Also, I'm sure Canada is less litigious than the US, but if there's any chance she could be sued over the matter she probably would be.
posted by Room 641-A at 9:05 AM on August 29, 2017 [4 favorites]

The line between a harmless (?) creep vs. a potential attacker seems impossible to know

The point where you can make a decision about disengagement is when they engage, which generally means physical contact or verbal assault. No, even in Pepper Spray City, you do not get to mace someone for walking the same direction as you.

Buy her a copy of The Gift of Fear and have her take a self-defense class. ANY self-defense class, she can worry about martial arts or whatever later, but have her take any class from a legitimate entity (check any local higher education institutions, as you'll often find something there as an adult education class you don't have to be an enrolled student to take; also check your city/county), and have her take a friend or go with her yourself.

80% of what these classes do is teach you how to deploy proper situational awareness and how to make a noise when necessary. Classes that go on for more than one session usually spend some time practicing and developing the muscle memory to yell "fire!" and "I don't know you!" so that, under real circumstances, it actually comes out. Maybe 20% is the four basic methods for making someone let go of you: break a knee, break a nose, break a finger, and bite (there is a fifth, but you have to learn to void when panicked on your own, nobody wants that in a classroom).

If she wants something to carry to threaten walking people with, have her carry an emergency whistle on her keychain. It can't be used against you really, and it will annoy someone within earshot into caring what's going on.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:37 AM on August 29, 2017 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I have never done this but the work-around to pepper spray being illegal is to buy dog or bear spray. I think the only time it would be appropriate to use it would be if she were being outright attacked or harassed, like if she's yelling "leave me alone" and they're engaging or trying to engage.

I grew up in the west-end of Toronto, commuting a lot, walking in bad-ish downtown neighbourhoods, and taking public transit at all hours and then walking to save cab fare (from age 14-20's) and never got into a situation where I would have needed pepper spray so maybe that will help your girlfriend to feel safer. I know how scary it is to have that feeling that someone could be watching or following you though, it sucks to feel on guard when you're just trying to go home or get to work.

Most people out at night are also just trying to get from A to B, so I pay attention to people's pace of walking (you can tell if someone is intoxicated, loitering, or experiencing distress, or walking with purpose), and cross the street in advance if I was worried. I'd walk in well-lit areas only (no alleys or parks), I'd walk with my phone in my hands, even with "9-1" dialled, or I'd walk with my keys in my fist as self defense. I've had men apologize to me for walking past me drunk, and men apologize for walking behind me (most men know it's scary for women at night and try to cross the street or pass you, or they'll be talking on their phone so you hear them coming).

From years of walking around by myself in Toronto I was only followed where I was really upset and scared once because the guy was for sure following me as we got off the TTC, and it was in broad daylight, lots of people around, I walked up to a hotdog vendor and talked to him until the guy went away.
posted by lafemma at 9:45 AM on August 29, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I think before your girlfriend can start spraying people with pepper spray, she needs to be comfortable saying, "Leave me alone!" very loudly. Like, if someone looks like they are following her, she first can try to duck them - by either speeding up or slowing down her walking speed to see if they are actually following her. If they are, whirling around, stepping out of the direct path, and saying "Leave me alone!" is a great way of sorting things out- innocent people will be horrified and move on, and people who turn to move towards you probably have ill intent, in which case I would feel confident in breaking out the pepper spray and saying, "Get back". I would never, ever spray as a first resort.
posted by corb at 9:57 AM on August 29, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: My best friend in high school was terrified of being mugged and got a can of pepper spray. She sprayed it on a garage door as we were walking and the wind blew it right back in our faces and blinded both of us. That's what I still think of when someone mentions pepper spray as a defense to this day.
posted by effluvia at 10:03 AM on August 29, 2017 [3 favorites]

It is specific to the US, but an excellent book on the legalities of self-defense is The Law of Self-Defense by Andrew Branca.
posted by scivola at 10:31 AM on August 29, 2017

La femma, carrying dog or bear spray as a substitute for pepper spray would be illegal in my jurisdiction, so don't assume it would be legal in anyone else's unless you've carefully reviewed the laws about it recently.
posted by decathecting at 10:41 AM on August 29, 2017

Best answer: Jairus: "As people have mentioned, carrying pepper spray in Canada is illegal and can get you sent away for up to 10 years under the Firearms Act."

No. In Canada carrying pepper spray for defense against humans is illegal. Carrying pepper spray for defense against dogs or bears is legal even if you happen to use it against a person who is assaulting you.1 But you better make sure it was an indisputable attack and not just someone following to close or something even if it turns out the guy was a serial rapist.

[1] So if a cop asks you why you are carrying pepper spray/baseball bat/knife/length of chain it's never for protection from people rather always for scaring away dogs/batting practice/apple peeling/locking your bike.
posted by Mitheral at 11:12 AM on August 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

Here in the United States, one of the leading manufacturers of pepper spray, SABRE, coordinates personal safety classes that include instruction on peppers spray—what it is, how and when to use it, legal considerations, etc. In the jurisdictions I'm familiar with, the classes are offered through local gun clubs. The curriculum is somewhat standardized. You might investigate whether something similar exists near you.

My best friend in high school was terrified of being mugged and got a can of pepper spray. She sprayed it on a garage door as we were walking and the wind blew it right back in our faces and blinded both of us.

In the classes I mentioned, SABRE provides attendees with a safe, water-filled practice dispenser so everybody can see, right there in class, what happens when you spray. This is crucial. If you choose to carry any kind of self-defense tool—pepper spray, handgun, taser, whatever—you absolutely need to be familiar with what happens when you use it.

If that means you need to buy an extra pepper spray and go to an empty parking lot to spray it into the air, well, that's the cost of doing business. If you haven't used it, then you shouldn't be carrying it.

She would really appreciate any other wisdom you may have about using pepper spray or mace

Setting aside legal considerations that may be relevant to your jurisdiction, I advocate for pepper spray as a self-defense tool. It's designed to incapacitate. That's what you want. A handgun, by contrast, is not designed to incapacitate. It's designed to punch holes in things, which isn't an easy or reliable way to incapacitate quickly. Also, pepper spray doesn't implicate the very serious legal concerns that arise when you draw a firearm. (In my judisction, that is. Maybe not yours. For what it's worth, some of the speculative scenarios people have discussed above would be ridiculous to consider in my jurisdiction.) It poses less risk to you and is more likely to accomplish what you need, when you need. I'm a fan.
posted by cribcage at 11:34 AM on August 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

Your best and first choice of a weapon should be your voice. This is one of the basics they teach you in self defense classes. Sounds like she should definitely take a, class before considering carying any other weapons.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 11:47 AM on August 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

RAD (Rape Aggression Defense) is a great self-defense program. You can find a class near you:

I carried pepper spray one winter when my work schedule meant that I had to walk about 10 minutes to my car in the late evening, through a dark, mostly empty college campus. I eventually stopped carrying it because it always seemed to fall to the bottom of my purse and I knew I wouldn't be able to reach it in time to use it anyway. But here's the advice that I got about pepper spray in self-defense class: buy two cans, one to practice with and one to carry. To practice, go outside, make sure you are upwind of the direction that you're spraying, make sure there are no other people or pets around, and practice taking off the safety and spraying. It shoots out a lot farther than you might think.
posted by donajo at 11:47 AM on August 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

She'll know it's appropriate to use because she will have already been physically assaulted. If she has not already been physically assaulted, it is not an appropriate time to use a weapon.
posted by 256 at 11:57 AM on August 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Canadian police aren't so oblivious that they'll buy the excuse that your bear spray is intended for use on bears if you're carrying it around in the city. It's like those people who think they can dose lunch thieves with laxatives and claim they were intending to eat it themselves. Nobody is that clueless, so lying about it just confirms they know what they did is wrong.

And legalities aside, if the way you've described her concerns is accurate, your girlfriend sounds like she's got way too much of a hair trigger right now to be carrying a weapon around. It would be reckless.
posted by ernielundquist at 11:59 AM on August 29, 2017 [5 favorites]

If she is afraid of someone simply walking behind her, instead of whipping out the mace, she should practice walking confidently and above all, not smiling. At all. And wear an expression that says, if you fuck with me, you will be sorry.

It won't be enough protection in very bad situations/areas, but on a day to day basis, such as walking down the street or (in moderation) in work situations involving somewhat inebriated customers, it's proven to be quite an effective technique. There's something about transmitting "and I mean it" with one's face, that just works very well.

Failing that, the most useful thing I learned in Judo was, if you feel you are being threatened and can run away without the use of force - then RUN. Yelling "fire" while running if you think of it. (Thank you for the tip, sexyrobot.)
posted by Crystal Fox at 1:18 PM on August 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have to take issue with a few things mentioned so far.

Firstly, be very very careful of the woo-woo BS found in stuff like the "Wen-do" link posted above. Taking such a class is worse than useless and will give a false sense of confidence. From a 20 second perusal of that site, anyone with any practical martial arts experience (i.e. practice or real fights against actual resisting adult opponents) can tell it is BS. This:

"She remembered from Wen-Do that the collarbone was one of the easiest bones to break, so she made a hammer fist, and, recalling the focus of breaking her pine board, she smashed her fist through the guy’s collarbone. He immediately let go of the bike, dropped to his knees..."

is absolute fantasy. It did not happen. This would be ridiculous in a Mortal Kombat game, let alone real life. The technique they show prominently of breaking someone's hold of you is the opposite of what you should do and does not work, and their absurd Kung-fu stance is more likely to elicit a laugh than serve as a base for resisting an attacker.

The non-fighting elements of a self-defense class that people suggest would likely be good: awareness, assertiveness etc. I'm not familiar with the typical offerings and cannot comment. However, take it from someone who has been burned by ignorance of the reality of fighting and subsequently learned and experienced a bit of the things that DO work: be extremely cautious of anyone purporting to teach you to effectively defend yourself in less than several YEARS of hard, consistent training. Training in stuff that works for the people who fight other people for real: professional mixed martial artists. Real fighters train boxing, Muay Thai, BJJ, wrestling, etc, and they do it for years before becoming competent enough even for an amateur fight. And though you see a lot of rear-naked chokes, boxing-style hooks, and head kicks, you sure as HELL don't see fighters "smash their fist" through the other guy's collarbone with a HAMMERFIST. Especially not while being presumably much smaller than their opponent and doing it from a standing position with training consisting of a fricken "seminar" once uears and years ago!

Also: To add a dissenting opinion, I would rather be in trouble with the law than dead or maimed, and if it's a scared timid woman's first offense, I wouldn't be too worried about the jail time everyone else seems so freaked-out about. Yes your SO might need some other tools and training, but put her safety WAY above concern for the nuances of self-defense law.

I've got more to say but I'm tired of writing.
posted by hypercomplexsimplicity at 9:20 PM on August 29, 2017 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Nth the walking. I used to live right downtown and go for a walk at any hour at pleased me. Then I spent a little time in a very rural area and was constantly told that I had a "city walk. I had never really spent much time outside of a city and was confused, and asked people to elaborate. I got: I didn't look afraid. I didn't mind stomping or otherwise making myself noticeable. A general fuck-you gait and look. Oh! Fascinating stuff. Nobody in the city, of course, had ever said word one about how I walk...

Definitely do not discount martial arts. I am small and weak, and my daughter is a 10yo with a yellow belt in judo, and I give it one more year before she can get me on the ground without much fuss. (She has also been taught about appropriate times to yell things like "FIRE!") I know, I know -- the typical idea of a street thug is not "small and weak." But the one time I was assaulted on the street, the guy was...small and weak. I was taken totally by surprise and hollered JESUS FUCKING CHRIST YOU FUCKING PERVERT and swung at him, and, him being drunk, too, saw him crumple to the ground with my one punch. OMG! I lived on the block and went tearing home to see if I could find my (burly) roommate to sit on him until police showed up; sadly he wasn't home.

The really misery-inducing part of that was that of course I told everyone I knew, and EVERY woman I told, except for those in the two generations above me ("Good for you! Hopefully that'll make him think twice in the future"), looked at me with wide eyes and said "Yikes. I really don't think I would have been able to do that." Why not? This puzzled and depressed me for a long time. Attitude is, apparently, very important. I have decent self-esteem and an overblown sense of entitlement, and I think those help a lot more than anything else. I mean, I was just bowled over that the dude would grab me like that, and once he was down I actually quickly scanned the area for a random bit of lumber or something because my knee-jerk was to give him a serious beating. I have never engaged in a fight and abhor violence, but. This dude assaulted me! ME! I was disgusted. That sense of self-worth and firm conviction that one is fully entitled to safety and personal autonomy is invaluable. Your description of her as so worried that she might resort to spraying innocent people is...I may be reading too much between the lines here, but, I really think a lot of this stuff has to come from within. I don't mean to sound flaky, just: dealing with the fear sounds like it could be a big help here.
posted by kmennie at 9:55 PM on August 29, 2017 [11 favorites]

Best answer: I don't give a fuck about giving her legality lectures because if you are competent to carry it, nobody will ever know. as others have eloquently explained, you have to passively allow a man to assault you in a way that, if he does not escalate, he will never be arrested or convicted for, before you are legally allowed to respond in kind. and at that point, if he is not overpowering you such that you are unable to fumble out your pepper spray, he will be running away and out of range. Many people who are dead deserve life, and many men grope away unscathed who deserve an entire can of mace to the face; can you give it to them? You can, but you will go to jail, probably. It isn't practical.

so, I don't care whether it's legal wherever she is, because she should understand the practical purpose of carrying a weapon is not to be sure you can fight back and win, you can never be sure, but to make yourself feel tough and powerful and superior. there's no "false confidence;" it's all false because someone else can always kill you, even if you are a big armored gun-toting male soldier. Carrying illegal pepper spray or brass knuckles or whatever is supposed to make you feel better about living in this miserable world. that's it; that's its function. Not to count on whipping out for defense, to make you feel good in your day-to-day.

so if it is not making her feel better, if it is giving her new anxieties she didn't have before, it isn't working. even before she's bought it, it has failed. If she is really worried that a hair-trigger fight reflex will have her assaulting somebody by accident, she should get a LOUD noisemaker or whistle. the worst that can happen with those is embarrassment. or if she is dead set on illegal weaponry, some kind of punch-assister -- you're less likely to accidentally punch someone with a sharp something unless they're way up in your space.

but really: the point of having one of these things is to _feel better_ and if it doesn't make her feel better she shouldn't do it.
posted by queenofbithynia at 5:30 PM on August 30, 2017 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you all for your responses, this has been really helpful. I showed her this thread and we've been talking about it.
posted by skwt at 8:34 AM on September 8, 2017

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