The Cornered Cat
Strength and Weakness

On Facebook, one of my friends linked to Larry Correia’s blog post about the Miss Nevada controversy. As you might recall, Miss Nevada (now Miss USA) is the beauty pageant contestant who suggested that women might want to learn self-defense as she replied to a question about college sexual assault.

Apparently, the idea that adults should be prepared to defend themselves from violence still causes controversy in some corners of the internet, and so it was here; the twitterverse woke up with shrill calls-to-action, and that, in turn, woke the dozing Correia. In his usual Hulk-SMASH! style, Larry Correia wrote:

Let’s take two potential victims, Miss Nevada versus any of the morons yelling at her on Twitter. Both are violently assaulted. Which one do you think has a better chance of surviving the encounter in one piece? The lady who reacts with capable, directed force, or the wishful thinking wuss who demands that this shouldn’t be happening at all? My money is on the woman groin kicking and throat punching the rapist. If criminals wanted to work for a living they’d go get a job.

Now me personally, I’m a fan of guns, because groin kicking and throat punching is hard work, especially when the defender is usually giving up a bunch of weight, muscle mass, and bone density against her assailant.

Can’t really argue with Larry’s sentiment, though my own conversational style tends to be (I hope!) a bit more restrained. Anyway, in the way that Facebook conversations tend to go, someone’s friend of a friend took exception to this. She was upset by it because, she believed, Larry had just said that women are weak and unable to protect themselves without guns. She thought Larry’s words would take away a potential victim’s hope, and sap her will to defend herself. 1 She thought that Larry had just said that women should not even try to fight back unarmed, because men are bigger and stronger than we are.

Why am I telling you all this? Well, because the objector did in fact have a point. And it’s an important one. Here’s what I told her.

I understand what you’re saying in a lot of ways. For self defense instructors (which Larry was, and I am), there’s a very delicate balance as we work with students. The balance is between the student’s confidence and the student’s accurate grasp of the reality of the situation. (See my blog post titled Confidence and False Confidence for more about this. It’s too long to put here, but maybe an interesting side note.)

The physical reality is that women are at a physical disadvantage when fighting against men using only bare hands. On average (with many exceptions!), adult females in the United States are 4% shorter and 8% lighter than the average adult male. On average, women have roughly 40-60% the upper body strength than men do, with proportionately more strength in the lower body – approximately 75% that of the male average. With size, weight, and physical strength all working against us, we do in actual fact have to work harder to achieve the same result. (Charlotte Whitton had it half right, apparently. Where she erred was in assessing the difficulty of the endeavor.) 2

Does that mean we give up, quit and die? Just lie back and enjoy it? OH HELL NO.

It means that we understand the physical reality of the situation for what it is and is likely to be, and work to overcome the difficulties stacked against us. It means that – because humans are tool users – we use tools wherever possible. Yes, including guns if that’s an option for us. It means that we avoid physical fighting wherever possible. 3 And it means that if we have to fight, we’re going to fight like a cornered cat.

Fighting like a cornered cat means fighting all out, ignoring the odds stacked against you and any size disparities you might face. (Ever tried to pick up a feral kitten with your bare hands? I have, and don’t recommend it…. no matter how much bigger and stronger you are than the sweet little kitty, you’re going to draw back a bloody stump where your hand used to be, and probably decide that grabbing that kitty is Not Worth It.) It also means that you’re going to fight with a very specific goal in mind: not “winning”, not “beating the bad guy,” not “teaching him a lesson.” Nope. Your goal is simple and single minded: GET TO SAFETY. That kitty is dangerous because it’s not fighting you. It’s simply doing whatever it takes to get away from you.

Does all of that take away your hope? Tough patooties if so, because that’s the world as it is. In the real world, you’re not bigger, badder, or meaner than the male criminal seeking to dominate and control you. You’re not physically tougher than the rapist, and you will very likely be fighting at an extreme disadvantage – due to surprise, he picks the time and place, due to your relative strength issues, due to any number of very critical social variables. So freaking WHAT?? Do what it takes to get away, get home safe to your family. Avoid, deter, de-escalate, lie, trick, cheat … and if you have to fight, fight like a cornered cat.

Stay safe.


  1. Never mind what Larry actually said, which is not that; but I think it’s safe to say that Larry is quite capable of fighting his own battles about such things!
  2. “Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult.” ~ Charlotte Whitton
  3. “Fighting is essentially a masculine idea; a woman’s weapon is her tongue.” ~ Hermione Gingold

One Response to Strength and Weakness

  1. larryarnold says:

    She was upset by it because, she believed, Larry had just said that women are weak and unable to protect themselves without guns.

    Just to add one point, it’s not just about male v female. It’s disparity of force.

    I may be male, but I’m 67. I can’t run any more. I no longer have the upper body strength I had as an Army officer. I break a lot easier, and heal a lot slower. You better believe a gun is a better solution for me.

    Not that I’m complaining. Some of the folks who have gone through my CHL classes live in wheelchairs. I’ve had students who have to lug oxygen around, and sit down between stages.

    So yeah, if at all possible have a gun. If not, “It ain’t the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”

    Except for groin-kicking. The knee is a much better target.

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