Nice Guys Commit Rape, Too? A Response

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About Matthew Salesses

Matthew Salesses was adopted from Korea at age two and lives in Boston with his wife, baby, and cats. He has written for The New York Times Motherlode blog, NPR, Hyphen, The Rumpus, and other venues. His new book is I'm Not Saying, I'm Just Saying. See more at his eponymous website. Contact him via email or @salesses.

Comments

  1. Richard Aubrey says:

    Society is responsible for the messages and lessons it sends and the results therefrom.
    In this case, the guy figured he wasn’t likely to get any action from a woman who was conscious and decided to take the low road.

    I don’t care for parsing social messages because anybody can pick one or another and claim it has sovereign powers to affect/infect everything it touches, while another person can claim the same for some different message. Meantime, we have free will.
    That said, I don’t see anybody actually reducing the guy’s blame. Claiming that is a bullshit tactic used against people who commend caution.
    It’s like saying somebody who tells you to drive defensively is pre-emptively reducing the blame attaching to the falling-down drunk going the wrong way on the expressway.

    • Except that it’s not like that at all. Because there is a major social and public movement AGAINST driving drunk. There are PSAs on television warning against driving drunk. Kids are taught in public schools about drunk driving–the risks, the consequences, the penalties, *why it’s wrong,* *how not to do it.* Former drunk drivers go on lecture tours around the country to try and prevent drunk driving. Police officers don’t ask victims hit by drunk drivers why they weren’t driving more defensively. And no one views drunk driving as ambiguous or makes apologies for drunk drivers–no one’s out there saying, well, s/he didn’t realize s/he was drunk, so it’s not *really* his/her fault–we should really blame society for not teaching us how to recognize the symptoms of intoxication.

      Women KNOW the risks. We are taught to be cautious, taught to be afraid, taught that we’re all potential victims *all the time.* No one is saying that no one should ever say “if you’re going to a frat party, be aware that you’re more likely to be in danger.” The problem is that this is almost exclusively the only solution people offer. Imagine a world where only defensive driving is taught; that the fact that people are driving drunk is shrugged off with a “welp, that’s just the way it is.” What do you think the death toll would be then?

      Also, nice job not only completely trivializing the crime but also *completely* ignoring the experience of the victim. Here is a situation for which “the guy figured …. and decided to take the low road” would be an appropriate description: “The guy figured he didn’t have enough change left in his pocket to satisfy his drunchies and decided to take the low road and shoplift a bag of frito lays.” This guy didn’t exercise a five-finger discount and bilk Wawa out of a dollar twenty five: he horrifically violated and traumatized another human being. Maybe try and acknowledge that?

  2. Thank you. Rape is what happens when someone rapes someone.

  3. If I’m reading this right- it is in response to the previously published “Nice Guy” rapist story, based upon the recollection of a couple of fools with Asmuch veracity as the shirtless fools drunkenly proclaiming on Fox’s COPS.
    Christ on a bicycle “they fell asleep” my ass. They fell asleep like the drunk who falls asleep with a lit cigarette and incinerates her family.

  4. So, what you’re saying is “Ignore all details and circumstance and grab this pitchfork and join this mob.”

    “You don’t get to say rape is what happens when a man has sex with a woman while she is asleep and then say rape is what happens when society does so-and-so.”

    Uh yes, you do, when society doing so and so IS WHAT LEADS DIRECTLY TO a man having sex with a woman while she is asleep.

    • tinfoil hattie says:

      What led directly to this man raping this woman was his arrogant belief that he had a right to her body without her explicit consent. That’s rape! Not society’s messages, not misunderstanding, not poor men being sooooooo confused about whether women have to be awake before well-meaning nice guys penetrate them.

  5. Wasn’t the point of the article to lay blame on a society that doesn’t clearly teach boundaries and allows mixed signals to exist in the first place? Yeah the guy raped, but WHY did he rape? I can see that society’s views on sex n consent may confuse some people so he may have genuinely thought it ok at the time.

    Trying to work out why someone rapes isn’t always rape apology and whilst her words may seem that way I think her intention was solely to find out why a nice guy (up to that point) could suddenly rape someone. Rape is what happens when someone either willfully ignores consent, or has no decent idea of what consent means. This person may have believed consent was her being in the bed naked, so society as a whole needs to figure out why would he think that? Is it taught somewhere? Is there a lack of decent consent talk?

    Calling rape rape and leaving it at that is lazy and ignorant, you won’t stop it if you don’t figure out why it happens.

    • Mr Supertypo says:

      I agree Archy, in my opinion, it get’s lame when people jump out and point the finger at somebody. Rape is rape and its wrong. I don’t think you find lot of people around here who condone rape. But I think we need to set aside the ‘ blame ‘ factor. We need to understand what, how and why happens. What are the dynamics involved, what are the circumstances ect. So we can learn from it, and prevent it. To me the blame is intellectual laziness, perhaps even lack of interest (hey look at me, blame blame blame, and then walk away with a good conscience). No we need to understand and then learn from it. Otherwise, no matter how many forcs and angry mobs humanity can deploy. Rape will always happen.

  6. What bothered me most about the original “Nice Rapist” article was that the writer said they (the guy and the woman) have known each other for weeks. To me, it doesn’t matter so much what kind of and how many signals she had sent and whatever role society plays in this – the striking point to me seems to be that he had had PLENTY of opportunities to make a move on her while she was awake, while she could accept or decline. Why didn’t he? Why did he choose to not only come on to her for the very first time, but even penetrate her, while she was sleeping? If they had been around each other for that long and if she indicated interest and he wasn’t sure, he could have just asked, really. But he chose not to.

    • Thank you for this. This is a great great point.

    • My guess is liquid courage, he may have been too shy beforehand to make a move. From my understanding they fooled around in bed and fell asleep naked together so before the rape it appears he and her already made their moves? But I’m guessing alcohol made one or both pass out and he woke up? It’s pretty unclear though, I hope the author can elaborate further because it’s at best a guessing game. Was he caught up in the moment drunk n horny? Only he knows.

      • It’s also unclear why she didn’t make a move earlier either. The whole thing is extremely murky, we don’t have the information the author has and while this post has spurred dialogue, I’m not sure how useful it winds up being because we have extrapolations right and left, and no understanding of what really happened.

        The best case scenario around sex is that both partners are excited eager and engaged in the pursuit of mutual pleasure and funtimes. That takes a particular level of communication, honesty, and clarity. Many people it seems (and in this case at least) wind up literally and metaphorically fumbling in the dark hoping for the best, and often winding up in the worst situations.

        I’ve been there and it was not good. Most of us have, I suppose. Some never get past that point.

        I feel so very very sad about it. It winds up being exhausting trying to figure out the dynamics. When it’s just stupid, clumsy, rude, fumbling behavior and when there is an intent to harm/take/ for their own gratification. Or both, sometimes.

        There’s been so much written about objectification on this site, and for me, what objectification is is when I (or anyone) loses sight of another’s basic humanity. So, if someone is so drunk and horny that they think penetrating a sleeping person is a good idea? They really aren’t thinking of that other persons’s needs, desires, etc. That might be because they are a sociopathic type and get off on cruelty, and it might be because they just don’t engage in basic empathy and well, she/he’s there why not.

        We won’t get where we need to be with the communication, honesty, and clarity unless we start talking about sexuality as a good and worthwhile thing for men and women both.

        In a state like mine where all schools have to teach abstinence, where “purity balls” are common, where sex is seen as a commodity that good girls sell to the highest price, where sex is considered sinful (like actually sinful) how could anyone expect people to come to the bedside with communication, clarity and honesty? There are so many places where the brain and heart and pelvis will just seize up in shame, fear and anxiety that it’s a wonder we don’t have more cases like this made known.

        You wind up with a situation where a fellow is so excited by the prospect of a sex positive partner, that he (and she) get inebriated to the point of sleep and he acts on an impulse that could have waited 30 seconds to rouse the partner and ask. Simply state what he wanted. (or that’s what we are led to assume through the article). And then we argue for days about whether she led him on or if he should reasonably have expected sex, should she, such high risk! Etc.

        How crushing for us as a culture that that’s where we are. Where we don’t have sex as a mutually pleasurable form of joining and communication that we can speak about with each other easily. Where we wind up accusing women of playing the slut, or men of being scum (or both and vice versa) because none of the rest of us are probably any better at figuring it out than they were.

        It’s just heartbreaking to me really, all this arguing and moving of goal posts and having to wind up using wallet metaphors (which I’m the one what started that) to state something that should be so obvious. My body belongs to me, yours to you, if we are to join them we need to be in agreement, like a dance where partners have to be in sync. Otherwise feet get stepped on and badly.

        They were not in sync in any way, so maybe that’s when the music needs to stop, everyone takes a break, and if they had done that perhaps the dance would have gone on and beautifully.

        It isn’t even about nice people. It’s about how we deal with sexuality. And we don’t.

        • Maybe one of the reasons conversations like these are so hard, is because we have all (at least most of us) fumbled blindly in the dark and have had situations come up that don’t sit well with us over time. And we want to not feel that we were like that, or are capable of “that” and so we engage in defense and magical thinking about it all, we move goal posts, hoping to find the most precise line where this is ok and “that’ is not because if we intellectualize it, it won’t have happened in the past, or won’t happen in the future.

          I don’t know. I do know that I’m a little too exhausted to continue with this particular thread.

          • I’d love to hear from the OP’s man in question to give his side. Too many assumptions flying around, this could be purposeful rape or accidental rape.

          • Archy, I think the conversation of we-don’t-know-the-details is irrelevant, because we have been told the relevant facts (I am taking the author’s narration of the story at face value here). What is relevant? He did something everyone can agree on being really, really intimate, with another being that did not give consent because she wasn’t even able to. He should have asked. He should have woken her up, at least. Full stop. Alcohol doesn’t excuse lack of consent. Being horny does not excuse lack of consent. Her behavior up to that moment doesn’t excuse lack of consent. Shyness doesn’t excuse it (and frankly, shy people should feel insulted at the suggestion that this particular character trait is somehow causally linked to accidentally raping someone). Pale green milkshakes don’t excuse lack of consent. Liking or disliking Taylor Swift doesn’t excuse lack of consent.
            It’s really that easy. Ask. Talk. Communicate. It’s our vocal organs that distinguish us from animals, why not use them?

            • Yes yes let’s get them pitchforks, RAPIST RAPIST BURN HIM AT THE STAKE. We know for a fact he purposely raped her and never was under any indication he had consent or was confused about her stage of alertness (it’s not mentioned that I see if he realized she was awake or asleep).

              Seriously, no wonder sex crimes get an automatic reputation killer on accustion, because so few are willing to actually talk about why someone rapes.

              If you want to call it irrelevant, then leave and don’t talk about it? The rest of us who want to talk about the why’s n how’s should continue to do so in order to actually figure out what the failure of communication was. Murder is murder but at least we have dedicated experts in the field studying why it happens. This is a case where the author may be able to contact this person to get clarity or can answer the questions I’ve asked, hence I’d like to see her response on it.

            • tinfoil hattie says:

              Dearest Archy, since you seem so muddled: If you penetrate a woman when she’s asleep, you are raping her. That makes you a bad person, even if you save puppies and carry old people’s groceries for them in your spare time.

              There is no such thing as accidental rape.

            • ( No need for the name calling. – GMP Moderator)

              There is such a thing as accidental rape, it has to do with the intention of the rapist. Drugs n alcohol can impair a person’s judgement hugely where they may not notice someone has passed out during sex so at the point that person has passed out they are now raping them, the time period from then until they realize would be the accidental rape area. It’s no excuse but it does separate them in my mind based on intention, I have more hate for those who purposely rape.

              I’d say accidental sexual assault would be more common though, someone misreading a signal thinking it was ok to touch someone else and that person doesn’t want it then you can have cases of accidental sexual assault. It’s still sexual assault but it wasn’t intended to be.

              If a person is asleep, then it isn’t accidental, BUT if they were both fooling around in bed and one passes out there is the potential for accidental rape, as in the rapist was under the impression the other was still awake and consenting.

              This black n white view of rape is not helpful at all, otherwise we might as well lock up millions of men and women who technically rape each other whenever they’re drinking since alcohol removes consent.

        • Well said. The way we approach, and discuss (or, more usually, fail to discuss) human sexuality is a big part of the problem.

          For quite some time, I remember beleiving that I was expected to just be able to read my partners signals, the whole “If you have to ask, you ruin the mood” attitude. And that always bothered me, because I never knew what the signals were and it felt like the only way I’d be able to learn was trial and error. In effect, I’d have to take my best guess and hope I didn’t overstep someone elses boundaries.

          And I really hate the idea of having to play guessing games with someone elses boundaries. But it just didn’t feel like I had a choice in the matter, and that sort of thinking is really part of the problem.

          Think about the stereotypical scene of a guy putting his arm around a girl for the first time. It typically involves some form of subterfuge such as faking a yawn and stretching out his arm. It doesn’t tend to involve asking permission. I do tend to ask permission when I put my arm around a girl (usually with a simple “may I” and raising my arm in a way that clearly shows what I’m trying to do), but it feels awkward whenever I do it.

          Let me repeat that: It feels awkward. The simple act of actually asking for permission feels awkward. That really shouldn’t be the case, and it goes a long way towards explaining why consent gets messed up in modern society.

          No means no is a vital point on the discourse about consent. But it’s really only the tip of the iceberg, there needs to be more discussion around how to handle consent well, and there needs to be more examples for people to look to of consent done right. There needs to be more done to dismantle the shame that prevents people from owning their own desires and sexuality, and makes the simple act of being forthright feel awkward.

    • FlyingKal says:

      “He had plenty of time to make a move, why didn’t he?”

      IDK, but fooling around naked together in bed sounds pretty much like “making a move” to me.
      (No, it’s not consent for penetration, but I’d still say it counts as making a move.)

      Also, we don’t know what happened prior to them/her falling asleep.

  7. These type statements lead to a very slippery slope of what is and what is not rape. If This was rape then I’ve been raped by my wife……I been wheedled and whined, shown that there would be negative consequences if I demurred. That’s life. Most guys have a few stories of unwanted/unwelcome sex, where they did what was expected of them to smooth over what would otherwise become a problem in the relationship. If these rules apply at all then they need to be applied too all.

    • FlyingKal says:

      Nah, did you have consent to enter her…?

      Actions doesn’t mean anything. Just because she’s sitting on you doesn’t mean you have been given consent. You Sir, are also a Rapist. Better pack your stuff and get out of town before thay come for you with the pitchforks…

  8. Yes, we need to talk about rape as a society in better context than we do now. Yes, we need to better educate people about consent, particularly when it comes to alcohol and consent. But framing the debate around someone who commits a rape and talking about using nuance to try to really *understand* him takes the responsibility away from the rapist and turns it into a “well, yeah he raped her. But she totally was giving mixed signals, and so society is to blame,” non sequitur. The message is muddied by the personal relationship with the rapist. There are things that society has done horribly wrong. But ignorance of the law, or misreading a situation because society has told you to have sexy sex, does not equal innocence.

    • Personally I’d just like women to held to the same standards as they tend to hold men to. These statements that require clear verbal consent before every action, need to be applied to all……the idea that drunken sex is always done under the man’s agency, is ludacris. “Suger and spice and everything nice” is just a nusery rhyme.

      • tinfoil hattie says:

        Of course women should be held to the same standard. Men should not be “coerced” into sex (i.e., raped).

  9. I agree with Archie and Mr Supertypo.

    A major problem with societal discourse in the U.S. currently is that many people think declaring “personal responsibility” absolves us from having to examine the sources of our problems. This simply reflects the attitude that “I cannot imagine this happening to me, so its not my problem.”

    I consider this attitude to be an excuse society uses to avoid dealing with its problems.

    • Yup. Upper class white people love to reduce crime in the ghetto down to “Murder is what happens when someone murders someone!” and “Theft is what happens when someone decides to steal!” or “Drug use is what happens when someone decides to use drugs!”

      To them, daring to discuss distal factors such as economics, racism, education, hopelessness, etc.. well, that’s “apologism”.

      Or even better, “there’s a place for that kind of discussion, but we can’t apply it to THIS individual circumstance. In THIS circumstance, we should just say the bad person did the bad thing!”

      I really don’t understand – if there’s a time and place to discuss the overarching social forces for rape, or murder, or any other problem in society, why NOT this specific case, as a launching point? For which case WOULD that kind of conversation be appropriate? Or does it have to take place without one? And if not on a socially progressive website like the Good Men Project, then where?

      • John Smith says:

        “Upper class white people”… Way to start a comment with a racists statement. Yes, “upper class white people” are responsible for stopping all debate. The problem is not “upper class white people” at all, if such a group even exists as a cohesive identity. The problem is society as a whole, at all levels and all races, tends to look on the idea that there must be a reason for crime to be looking for an excuse. Unable separate the cause and the crime itself as if finding a reason takes away from the impact. Unfortunately the US is so backwards in this. When you look to places like Norway where they treat crime as a symptom and try to treat the cause you see the good that can bring.

        Part if it in the US is the individuality people demand. On the one hand they try and promote individual responsibility yet are shocked when people become disconnected from society and believe they have no responsibility to those around them. It is not an “Upper class white people” problem, it is a US problem and until the US gets over the idea that “social responsability = communism” there will always be a problem.

        • So, did you notice that I was referencing how upper class white people ***conceptualize crime in the ghetto***? And not how “upper class white people” are the problem for everything?

          Analogies are hard to understand sometimes. I get it.

  10. QuantumInc says:

    At first I was thinking that the original essay existed because the author had a need to rationalize this “Nice Guy” doing something horrible. It’s tempting to think of him as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. But, if she has seen him being genuinely nice on multiple occasions, it would be far-fetched to say that was all a lie. Even if he did fit the stereotype of a misogynist Frat-Bro desperate to get laid, there would still be certain life experiences that led to that. It’s never as simple as saying “Bad People do Bad Things”.

  11. Thank so much for this article Matthew. I know the writer of the previous article was trying to fix rape problem in society, she tried to see whats wrong with it. But I feel the article is an excuse, a horrible excuse. And also it’s a shaming to actual nice guys who don’t commit rape.

    He had sex with sleeping women, and he knew it. Then he raped. Its not society’s fault, its hes fault. Hes not a nice guys. Nice guys don’t rape.

    He maybe not a really bad person and he was making a fault, but don’t put him in the same category as many guys out there who wont have sex with woman who is asleep, Nice Guys. Hes clearly a rapist, and no, rapist is not a nice person.

    • tinfoil hattie says:

      Amen.

    • I second that!

    • I third that. He is a rapey rapist, and not a nice guy, and the article may have bordered on apologist in places if it weren’t for the constant reinforcement that all blame is his.

      However, now that we have apportioned blame correctly to the rapist, we should look at how he became a bad person who didn’t care about consent. He doesn’t appear to fit the coercive, recidivist “Meet the Predators” mold and I assume he wasn’t born a rapist so clearly a look at what led him to rape is necessary.

      Finally, since he sounds repentant – is there anything he can do to redeemed himself and become a nice person? Obviously owning it and never doing it again are the first steps – but what else? Or is it impossible? The “Meet the Predators” rapists don’t sound altogether changeable, however this guy might be?

      • That’s what I”m talking.

        I’m waiting for everyone to get the “But….he’s a raaaaapist!!!!” out of there system so that they can realize that constantly calling him a rapist from here to eternity really doesn’t address the problem.

        The “Meet the Predators” rapists don’t sound altogether changeable, however this guy might be?
        Yes. It’s like folks are actually okay with this guy having no hope of changing as long as they get to stand on their moral high grounds and call him a rapist for like the next forever.

        • “Yes. It’s like folks are actually okay with this guy having no hope of changing as long as they get to stand on their moral high grounds and call him a rapist for like the next forever.”

          On the other hand you have to remember that there are people who have been raped that *will* read this, and I don’t think the original article did a good enough job of cushioning the impact on them of exploring the seeming normalcy and niceness of some rapists to their friends and loved ones.

          A lot of the criticism has I think totally missed the point of the article by centering around blame, which I think Alyssa saw as an obvious issue – but in the end, victims’ mental well-being is worth more than discussion of his rehabilitation or psychology, and so they should have been safeguarded.

          In other words – I don’t think the GMP is actually rape apologist at all but the execution of the article(s) has been poor and should have done a better job of asserting the position that only the rapist is to blame and that his behavior is not normal or acceptable. Only once this position is fully established can further exploration occur, because otherwise victims feel blamed or belittled – and that is the worst thing we could ever do when discussing rape.

          However I’m hoping that a conversation of “What was this rapist thinking, how did he get there, and how can we spot/fix this” is still possible – because it is an important conversation to have, so that we can avoid, see, and prevent the same patterns in the future.


          • On the other hand you have to remember that there are people who have been raped that *will* read this, and I don’t think the original article did a good enough job of cushioning the impact on them of exploring the seeming normalcy and niceness of some rapists to their friends and loved ones.

            But that’s not what the complaints are. It wasn’t “you’re don’t doing a good enough job of accounting for the feelings of rape victims” it was “you’re teh rape apologiizers OMGWFTBBQeleventyone!!!!”


            A lot of the criticism has I think totally missed the point of the article by centering around blame, which I think Alyssa saw as an obvious issue – but in the end, victims’ mental well-being is worth more than discussion of his rehabilitation or psychology, and so they should have been safeguarded.

            Is it worth so much more that an entire space (not to mention the people behind it) should be treated this way? Of course not (and I’m glad you agree).

            And not to get too nasty about it but I wager that if the ones that are screaming bloody murder over this were getting the same treatment they wouldn’t give the slightest inkling of a damn for safeguards for other people.


            Only once this position is fully established can further exploration occur, because otherwise victims feel blamed or belittled – and that is the worst thing we could ever do when discussing rape.

            But when the slightest mention of “What was this rapist thinking, how did he get there, and how can we spot/fix this” is taken as rape apologism I’m wondering if this position can ever be fully established. And mind you some of this complaining has come from people who themselves have worked establishing that position.

            The treatment that folks at GMP have been getting over the last few days wasn’t a call for clarity or understanding, it was an attempt at silencing. An attempt at silencing that the complainants wouldn’t dare stand for if it were lodged at them.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] piece entitled Nice Guys Commit Rape Too. I strongly criticised the piece here, as others did here and here, and in the face of criticism, and presumably in the hope it will act as a trump card in [...]

  2. [...] Since the publication of Nice Guys Commit Rape, Too both here at GMP and at our content partner magazine, xoJane, Alyssa Royse has experienced a lot of fallout. She’s been called a rape apologist by people like Ally Fogg, and been told that she is making excuses for a rapist, by GMP’s own Matthew Salesses. [...]

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