Why did the Good Men Project publish a blog by an unrepentant and unconvicted rapist?

The intentions of the gender issues website may have been good, but their action was foolish in the extreme

Share
Related Topics

One of the healthiest developments in the ongoing struggle to reduce sexual violence in society has been the changing nature of rape prevention campaigns. Although, as Zoe Williams recently noted, there is still work to be done, the Home Office, police and other bodies have started aiming their advertising more at would-be rapists than their potential victims. Whereas traditionally posters and adverts would say “don’t be that woman” they increasingly say “don’t be that guy.”

This is important, because it places responsibility for rape (and rape prevention) squarely where it belongs, with the rapist rather than the victim. It matters as well to survivors, who can find the trauma harder to heal when surrounded by messages suggesting, usually wrongly, that they could have prevented the attacks if only they had behaved, dressed or acted differently. 

If this lesson has been important to learn for public service advertisers, it is equally important that it sticks with journalists, writers and sex educators.   

A nice rapist

A couple of weeks ago the Good Men Project (GMP) published an article by Alyssa Royse entitled Nice Guys Commit Rape Too.   If you’re not familiar with GMP, it is a large and successful US-based blog site and online magazine aimed at men, focussing on gender-related issues, and tending towards the introspective and painfully liberal. They do host some brilliant writers and astute commentators, along with others who are a bit more patchy (throw my own name in there, for disclosure) and had always managed to attract the disdain and disgust of the more radical fringes of both the men’s rights movement and feminism, which is generally a healthy sign. I’ve always been ambivalent about the site, not least the very name and concept - I’ve never really been sure what a good man is, far less whether I qualify for the label. Any doubts have now been removed. It appears that you can be a "Good Man" or a "nice guy" even if you’re a rapist.

Royse’s article was, not surprisingly, greeted with a storm of protest, with Jill Filopivic leading the charge. As opinions hardened and tempers rose, the editors responded first with an article in defence of Royse and then when that didn’t quell the storm, quite astonishingly, they published in which the writer admitted to having committed rape at least once while drunk and concluded that he would rather risk raping again than stop “partying.” There is not a shred of remorse, shame or self-awareness in the article, or any sense that the author even thinks what he did was particularly wrong. It is hard not to conclude that he had taken the first article as a vindication, confirmation that his act of rape was just a silly mistake. He’s still a nice guy - nice guys commit rape too.           

Taken together the two articles could form an object lesson in how not to write or talk about rape, at any level and in any context. Like most journalists and writers who cover these topics, I’m acutely aware that an ill-chosen word or argument can have traumatic or damaging consequences, adding to problems rather than resolving them. Some readers have themselves been raped. Others will have committed rape or could at some point do so in the future. It is depressing that any of the following still needs saying, but recent events have proved it necessary.  

Demonizing victims

It is always dangerous and rarely relevant to discuss a victim’s behaviour before a rape. A promiscuous history, flirting, dancing or dressing sexily might invite interest, they certainly don’t signify consent or invite rape. In her article Royse explicitly stated that the victim’s flirty and sexually charged behaviour led to the rape. That is disgraceful. Even worse is to actively dehumanize or demonize the victim, best illustrated by Royse’s line: “if something walks like a fuck and talks like fuck, at what point are we supposed to understand that it’s not a fuck?” When we remember it is a person, I would think.

Related to this is empathy for the victim, and acknowledgement of the vicious cruelty and traumatic consequences of rape. Neither of the GMP articles even attempts to offer this reminder. The victims are relegated to a supporting cast in a drama that is suddenly about how a rapist copes with the inconvenience of being described as a rapist. It’s well acknowledged that for human beings to inflict suffering on others, we first have to stifle our empathy, dehumanize and demonize our victims. How much easier is that when we write the victim’s suffering out of the story?

Rapists are not slavering beasts or monsters, most are not clinical psychopaths. They do indeed often appear to be perfectly normal people, even “nice guys”. It is important to acknowledge that plain truth without falling into the trap of portraying rape as a normal act. It is not, it is an aberrant, nasty crime committed by a relatively small proportion of men. I won’t dwell on the statistics, but the best evidence  is that a relatively small proportion of men are rapists, most who are will rape repeatedly, and a small proportion of those will rape prolifically.

Even allowing for repeat victims, the proportion of men who will ever commit rape is almost certainly much smaller than the proportion of women who are raped. Rape is not normal, most men are perfectly capable of detecting and respecting consent, and those who do not respect it should never be allowed or encouraged to claim mixed signals or drunken confusion. Rapists are quite capable of concocting their own justifications. They don’t need them presented ready-made on a plate.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Data Warehouse Developer / Analyst (SQL, SSIS, stored procedures)

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Year 6 Teacher

£110 - £130 per day + D.O.E - Competitive Rates: Randstad Education Maidstone:...

March On Cancer™ - Local Marketing and Promotions Volunteer

This is an unpaid voluntary role.: Cancer Research UK: We need motivational vo...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Scottish independence: Learn from Quebec's mistakes and beware last-minute promises. Vote Yes.

Sol Zanetti
 

Daily catch-up: odd pub names, final polls in Scotland and war historians

John Rentoul
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week