Men and Goodness

Tom Matlack believes that good isn’t something we are, it’s something we do.

I’ve been watching with a heavy heart as the topic of rape has exploded on our pages, causing yet another round of bitterness among a few readers who see us as somehow doing quite the opposite of pursuing the stated mission of sparking a national conversation of what it means to be a good father, a good husband, a good worker and a good man. I am going to leave the topic of rape for others to discuss since it has been such a difficult, and painful, topic already. Suffice it to say that I join my colleagues in wanting to do everything in my power to eliminate sexual abuse of any kind.

But the very first article in the series that sparked so much controversy caught my attention for a reason other than the rape. The writer posed the question of whether a good man could commit such a crime. What caught my attention was not just the difficulty the writer had understanding how her friend could have in fact committed a crime, but her belief that he was a “good” guy in some absolute way that colored everything else she wrote.

For the last four years I have had conversation after conversation on this very topic. What constitutes male goodness? How do we know it when we see it in ourselves and others? Are some men good and evil in some fundamental way?


From our founding, The Good Men Project does not attempt to be prescriptive. We want to spark a conversation from as many diverse points of view as possible. Our form of goodness is a journey, an aspiration, not an end point. Any absolute judgment of human character is the realm of God’s, not bloggers on our site.

When I think about my own life as a dad, husband, friend, writer, son and man–and my aspiration to be “good” at all those things—I sometimes imagine my life as analogous to hitting in the big leagues. Ted Williams famously described the strike zone as containing a grid of 77 baseballs each with its own batting average.

The pitcher throws all kinds of junk–fast balls, curves, sliders, change-up, cutters, even knuckle balls–and as a batter your job is to anticipate which of those pitches will make their way into any part of the three dimensional strike zone. And if it is a strike, whether it’s in a location you can actually hit.

My kid is sick, my wife has a big meeting, my dad fell and broke his arm, one of my companies is facing bankruptcy… the list of “pitches” as a man is continuous and endless. Each one demands focus and consideration. What is the best course of action? The thing that will prove in the moment that I am a good guy?  More important, how can I be of most service to the people I care about?

My reason for thinking about Ted Williams as I go through my day is that he was the greatest hitter of all time. He wrote a book about the science of hitting. And he reached base successfully less than half the time. I’d like to believe that my batting average in life is a little better than that. But sometimes I am not so sure.


I believe that goodness, male and human, isn’t something you are; it’s something you do. Intent counts for very little. Behavior counts for a lot.

Men are not good or bad to their core. They are a collection of actions assembled over a lifetime.

My profound hope is that we learn muscle memory in life like Ted Williams did as a batter. We get better and better at responding to the vicious fastballs and curves that come our way. And over time we manage to shift our hips to go the other way with the most difficult strike to hit of all—low and away—punching it into the opposite field for a hit. But more often than not we are going to strike out, ground to the short stop, or otherwise fuck up. It’s the nature of the human endeavor.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not implying that all men are rapists or criminals. I am just saying that more often than not, when my wife asks me to take out the trash I don’t jump up and do if without giving her that one sideways glance which we both know is my bad attitude coming out before I can control it. Progress, not perfection, is my goal.


It’s fair enough to ask “if there are no absolutely good men, are there absolutely bad men?” Using my little baseball analogy, there are those batters who charge the mound and beat the shit out of the pitcher. This is well beyond the question even of getting a base hit. It’s criminal.

But even the worst of men has a beating heart. They are human. They deserve to pay for their criminal acts but not to be given up on, in my view.

That’s why I did what some would find more than ironic: I started the “good” men project book tour inside Sing Sing with a dozen lifetime inmates, most convicted murderers. I told my story and they shared theirs. One told me about visiting his mother at her deathbed in shackles. He was unable to hug her goodbye. He cried and I cried. He said that was his turning point when he decided to “try to do the right thing by going to school inside, even though I may never get out.”

The part about the muscle memory of goodness that hits me most is that I am always so inspired when siting with another man listening to his story. It’s not linear. In that way it is profoundly not like hitting a baseball, which is learned gradually over the course of thousands of hours of practice.

With goodness you can be living the same way, making the same mistake year after year, and in a flash everything changes. Things slow down and you can see what before was invisible. A deeper truth is revealed that changes everything. It’s those turning points that are the guts of what we are doing here at The Good Men Project. It’s the idea that every man has a story to tell and all include profound failures that led to change and redemption of one sort or another. Goodness includes the concept that it’s never too late for redemption.


One of the things I have written about frequently is the way that popular culture plays a role in the negative stereotypes that have come to frame out any conversation about gender, both female and male. Women are sex objects and guys are Bud Light commercials, would be a neat way to summarize the messages shown over and over to us.

Here at the Good Men Project our passion is providing a platform for men (and women) to discuss manhood in all its many shades and colors. You cannot sum that up by saying all men are anything, because we are not. The assumptions one might make based on stereotypes is like muscle memory working in reverse. It’s a habitual pattern of behavior that makes it impossible to see the truth of that person’s individual being.

A guy gets into the car and you assume, simply because of his skin color, that he is a criminal. Little do you know that he is actually a famous poet and will soon be the love of your life.

Your best friend, a guy who you have witnessed to be nice and friendly and well-intentioned over the course of months and years calls you out of the blue to report that he has been accused of murder. And you quickly discover that he is guilty.

Appearances don’t mean shit. Batting averages are merely a collection of past actions. What matters is this at bat. This pitch.

The goal here is to provide a forum for us as men to collectively become more skillful at living our lives well, to being good dads, husbands and friends. But there is no way to summarize that up, to reduce manhood to its core elements, to judge us as anything but individual human beings capable of heroism and failing to take out the trash without an attitude.


About Tom Matlack

Thomas Matlack is a venture capitalist.


  1. @Adrian

    “This site has made several poor editorial decisions. From the original piece about the man who had sex with a sleeping woman, I wasn’t quite sure what the author’s intent was. If it was to open up a discussion about how consent can be a clouded issue at times, why use an example that was as clear and blue as the sky can be?”

    Except Adrian , the sky isn’t blue, people perceive it as blue when in fact the sky is clear. See , your saying actually illustrates a bias on your part that you see the sky as blue and will call it that because that is what we are taught. Same as your connection to the incident in question, you have a bias that says that everything is clear cut, clear as the sky is blue, is black and white that it was rape and you don’t leave any room for doubt at all. This closed mindedness is what alot of people fighting against within the criminal justice system when it comes to sexual assault/rape that “If the woman says it happened, then it happened”.

    • The color of the sky is a fascinating example, and incredibly a propos. I recommend a listen to this Radiolab segment, Why Isn’t the Sky Blue? The whole episode is fascinating, but this segment includes: “Then Guy Deutscher tells us how he experimented on his daughter Alma when she was just starting to learn the colors of the world around, and above, her.”

      SPOILER ALERT: Mr. Deutscher carefully avoided any mention of the color of the sky to his daughter as she was growing up until, one day, out of the blue (ha ha!) he asked her the color of the sky. And she couldn’t identify it! In fact, she was flummoxed by the question.

      Even the fact that we think of the sky as self-evidently blue is a wondrous demonstration of the subtle and unexpected ways culture shapes our perceptions.

      • Colour is oddly learned from society. Scientists have been studying The Himba of northern Namibia – who had never even set foot in a local town – call the sky black and water white, and for them, blue and green share the same word. The Himba have been a fascination of psychologist, biologist, linguists and anthropologists for years. The best anyone can explain the Himba is “If you don’t have a work for something, it just does not exist.”

        Of course once you do have a word it tends to get Conretised and immutable. In that case you have to invent new words to gloss over the older one’s. It is a factor in generation gaps – them new fangled youngsters using woods like Fab, Groovy and Trip.

    • @Aspire,

      But that is my point. There are examples that could be used to better illustrate the way consent can be difficult to assign a weather condition to metaphorically, but the example chosen, for me and many people who were troubled by this site’s choices, was easily assigned. Clear sky, blue sky, cloudless sky, the point is that some weather conditions provide higher visibility and a starker contrast visually, while others provide less. The example might have been more comparable to a cloudy, lower visibility day. And yeah, the sun can be blinding,

  2. Ray Martin says:

    I greatly appreciate what you and the writers are doing with GMP, because you are courageous enough to explore subjects considered taboo, and to explore the grey areas of issues. And in the exploration of these subjects you will engender criticism. That criticism is generally a sign that you are providing a service that is needed. As one of my mentors used to say, “If you’re not getting someone mad at you, you’re probably not doing your job.” Kudos to you and the team at GMP.
    Best regards,

    • Tom Matlack says:

      Thanks Ray I love you like a brother, even though you are some kind of cousin-in-law-once-removed that I don’t see as much as I would like.

  3. To go with the Ted Williams/baseball analogy, I think this site forgot William’s fitst rule of hitting which was to get a good pitch to hit, you then fell behind in the count 1-2, and you now seem intent on trying to pull that pitch that’s low and away. To confuse things with another sports analogy, maybe this is a drive where you run a draw play on 3rd and 22 and then punt.

    This site has made several poor editorial decisions. From the original piece about the man who had sex with a sleeping woman, I wasn’t quite sure what the author’s intent was. If it was to open up a discussion about how consent can be a clouded issue at times, why use an example that was as clear and blue as the sky can be? If the intent was to discuss, as your piece does Tom, the complexity of people’s moral landscapes, why confound that message with the man’s claim that he was somehow confused by circumstances. Are we talking about the complexity of individuals and their choices, or the context, or both? If it’s both in one piece that’s a tall order and it needs to be clearly stated and argued. The lack of clarity of intent makes it tough to even say “good idea poorly executed”.

    Subsequent pieces have been more focused, this one included and the “I’ll party on regardless” bit a grand exception, but to the extent that any of them are efforts to defend or explain a mistake, they’re misguided. This piece included.

    Good sites with good intentions make mistakes. People running those sites sometimes have a hard time admitting they “fucked up.” It’s 3rd and 22. Trust your defense. Don’t even run the draw play. Line up in punt formation and kick the ball away. It’s a long game and you could just lose it right here if you keep hanging on to the idea that you have to win it right here.

  4. thank you tom for this exquisite piece. it made me cry.
    i love your words, and i love the good men project, it makes me wanna be a better woman.
    and yes, i will share & share & share.

    • Hear, hear – this site and the conversations I’ve had on it make me want to be a better woman too. I’d like to think it’s working – but a work in progress.

  5. Wow. You’re completely missing the point here. The piece you ran was not by some guy who made a terrible error and was trying to atone for it, but a SERIAL rapist who said that given the choice between giving up partying or being a rapist, he chose being a rapist. This is not, emphatically, someone trying to be good, someone we shouldn’t give up on. Stop digging, guys–you have a great website that’s exponentially losing all of its credibility as you defend this piece of trash.

    • Tom Matlack says:

      Colin no one is defending any rapist in any piece.

    • @Colin – I do have to ask a simple question. Have you ever sat down with a Guy or a Gal who is seen as terrible and evil and spoken to then face to face? You and so many others are willing to decide so much about people you have never met, so I wonder how you react to people you would be face to face with.

      • Tom Matlack says:

        MH which is why I went into Sing Sing. I wanted to see what it was like to sit with men who had done horrible things. I was surprised by what I found.

        • Tom – I find people fascinating and very odd.

          People go to the Cinema – they watch The Shawshank Redemption and they think all of the characters are amazing. They Cry when Brooks kills himself – and they even have the haunting music on their iPods.

          People go to the Book store and they buy books like “The Green Mile” by Stephen King. They even grab the film and again they love the characters. They wonder about the guy who trains Mousey – Mr. Jingles and then dies in old sparky… the prisoner, not the mouse.

          Then filled with so much music, cinema and ideas of jail house mouses they come to GMP, read about a person they don’t know, have never met and know even less about that a film character ….. and they Throw Away The Key.

          I’d hate for some for the Key Throwers to see the inside of a real jail, with real people, and no trained mice to entertain folks. I’m sure many would be unable to cope and they would be regretting every key the handled so badly.

          Worst of all the Key Throwers have this habit of throwing away the key even when people are not in jail and have done nothing wrong. Some say build more jails. Me? I say, there are enough minds there already.

      • I guess I just wonder what the reaction would be if the piece was about a woman who partied and raped men, or child molestation with the same tone “Hey, just the price of doing business.” I have to say I think the reaction would be very very different.

        I get sitting with people and hearing them. I do that. I get seeing the full humanity. I do that too and try to practice it daily. I get compassion. I see nuance.

        I don’t think this piece, about the party boy and his willingness to rape, told us anything new.

        • If posted with a disclaimer similar to what was on the Anonymous piece, I’m not sure I would have reacted too differently. I may have had different visceral emotional reactions to the piece, but NOT towards the publisher(s).

        • I guess I just wonder what the reaction would be if the piece was about a woman who partied and raped men, or child molestation with the same tone “Hey, just the price of doing business.” I have to say I think the reaction would be very very different.

          Oh different indeed. The people that are attacking would switch to sympathy. In short yes, the reaction is gendered.

          I don’t think this piece, about the party boy and his willingness to rape, told us anything new.

          This is one that’s puzzled me as I’ve seen it a few times. I’m sure you don’t subscribe to this idea but is there some sort of law in the gender discourse that if someone somewhere has read it/heard about it/done it/etc…. already then it should automatically not get run/published/written?

          If it’s nothing new then just bypass it and keep going.

          This line of sounds just people who enjoy a fandom and then take it to the extreme where they look down on others because they aren’t on the bleeding edge of the latest news in the fandom. Or maybe some desire to sound like the all knowing authority on something that they will say there’s nothing new even they read the entire thing.

          To me people like that are too caught up in the articles and no really looking at the discussion. I’ve been looking at the comment sections of these recent rape threads and frankly I think there has been some good stuff going on. Sure it might no be the newest and latest and someone somewhere may have already said these things before but there are way too many people in this world to act like information, understanding, and compassion have some sort of expiration date that is arbitrarily set by whoever gets “first”.

          • So you think that if a piece was written by a child molester happily molesting children, that people would have sympathy for him? Or do you think if a woman rapist wrote, that women would have sympathy for her?

            I figured that if that piece was written the men here would be outraged that she was given a voice, and they would be right to be outraged, especially if she was as unrepentant as this person.

            I can have sympathy, and even empathy for the partier, all while knowing he’s selling a bit of his humanity away every time he does what he does, and wanting justice done and wanting him off the streets, knowing he is a predator who apparently feels no remorse. I just don’t think it makes the GMP look good to publish something from someone who doesn’t care about keeping his humanity.

            There’s all this talk about seeing humanity in the monster. I can see the humanity in the monster, that’s what makes it so painful. If all I saw was a monster then I wouldn’t care at all if he lived or died.

            I do care, that’s the thing. He’s the one that doesn’t seem to care and I don’t know what we gain from letting him tell that story in this particular way, I don’t.

            If a woman told that story, I’d think she was a sociopath and deserved jail and punishment and I’d wonder why on earth we’d ask good men to read that piece.

            I’m not sure how to continue having this conversation.

            FWIW, I think what’s happening in the feministe/inside baseball stuff is terrible and extraordinarily disappointing to me. But I’m not too happy with these pieces either.

            • So you think that if a piece was written by a child molester happily molesting children, that people would have sympathy for him? Or do you think if a woman rapist wrote, that women would have sympathy for her?

              Yes. It may not be as clear cut as who would have sympathy for who but I do think that despite the assurances that all abuse/rape is bad the “who” in the crime gets so much attention that to some people yes the “who” will take a larger role in determining reaction than the “what”. And I think that “who” is drawn a long gender lines for a lot of people.

              I also think this plays out in not only the conversations about crimes like we are having here but also in the very investigation of the crimes. I recall about a year or so ago when Sandra Cantu was found sexually abused. Law enforcement actively ignored the possibility of a female suspect for the first week or so of the investigation. And even when the female suspect did come to light people defended her on the grounds of “No woman, espcially a mother, would do such a thing to a child.”.

              That’s what I’m talking about when I say that the “who” seems to have taken more priority than that the “what”.

              There’s all this talk about seeing humanity in the monster. I can see the humanity in the monster, that’s what makes it so painful. If all I saw was a monster then I wouldn’t care at all if he lived or died.

              I’m sure that you do but Julie you also aren’t a part of the crowd that has been calling GMP a bunch of rapists and rape apologizers over the last week or so either. So yes while a lot of people can see the humanity in the monster there are still a lot of people who either cannot see it or refuse to see it. Regardless of which one it is and why they feel that way does that stand to reason that no one, GMP or otherwise should talk about it? Just stay silent because there are people out there that don’t want this conversation to happen?

              He’s the one that doesn’t seem to care and I don’t know what we gain from letting him tell that story in this particular way, I don’t.

              1. Someone that is on a path similar to his may take a lesson from it and try to change.

              2. It might contribute to getting this needed conversation to a larger stage.

              It’s not just about him. I’m sure that a lot of those criminals that speak up on those scared straight programs don’t care about their own humanity anymore. Does that mean scared straight programs should just stop?

              If a woman told that story, I’d think she was a sociopath and deserved jail and punishment and I’d wonder why on earth we’d ask good men to read that piece.

              And I’d tell those good men the same thing that I’d tell the people that are getting their undergarments bunched up over this. If you see no value in it, don’t read it. If you despite it, don’t read it. If you think the rapist is scum that shouldn’t be heard, don’t listen.

              There have been stories on sites that I didn’t care to read or listen to, sometimes even on feminist sites like Feministe. Funny thing is they had no problem telling me that if I don’t like the material then I could just move on. And they’re right. Oh but now that they are getting bent out of shape over something all the presses are actually supposed to stop?

              It’s one thing to say that these pieces may not have the desired effect. But it’s quite another to go off acting like they shouldn’t be run. Hell there have been pieces run here at GMP that I thought shouldn’t here and didn’t have value but I bet that if I went at Joanna trying say she was wrong to run them and acting like she needs to meet my approval on content (much less calling her names over it) she’d laugh my ass out of the conversation.

              I’m not sure how to continue having this conversation.

              I think the firs step is going to be people getting over themselves long enough to realize that on a topic that affects so many people, like rape, they don’t get to arbitrarily decide who gets to have a say in the conversation.

              • If that is what you think I’m doing then I don’t know what to say. I was speaking for me personally.

                • Of course you don’t engage in such behavior.

                  You said above that you see the humanity in the monsters. I think a lot of the other folks around here are getting to the point of actively denying the humanity in these people. The best way to make someone into an enemy is to deny their humanity. Makes it eaiser to view them as monsters.

                  However it seems that either those that don’t are either too few in number compared to those that do or if not too few in number to too quiet in voice.

                  From what I’ve seen most of the reaction to these GMP pieces is to either accuse people of being rape apologists, accuse them of not liking/hating women, or storming off. However a few of the responses have been more like yours where you are saying that “This may not have been the best way to go about it, but I’m not going to try to control what content gets run either.”

                  When you said:
                  I’m not sure how to continue having this conversation.

                  and I said:
                  I think the firs step is going to be people getting over themselves long enough to realize that on a topic that affects so many people, like rape, they don’t get to arbitrarily decide who gets to have a say in the conversation.

                  I didn’t mean that to say that you were doing this. I was saying it to mean that there are too many people who are doing this and as a result people like you are left wanting to have the conversations but with no clear way to do so, partially because of people like the ones I’m talking about who are perched like snipers waiting to attack anyone that doesn’t hold the conversation in a manner that doesn’t meet their approval.

                  Or do we give in to the their demands and only talk about rape and rapists in ways that they like? I’m sure the editors at GMP would have no problem going back and getting rid of every mention of “rapist” that doesn’t call them scum.

        • Julie,

          I want to thank you for writing back to me yesterday in the other thread, I’m still working on the response, I’ve just been REALLY busy the past 24 hours or so.

          I just wanted to comment here that I’m not entirely sure what the response would have been if the article were from the standpoint of a woman who raped men, but I suspect that it would be very surprising.

          I’ve been thinking about this the past several days, and I’ve come to the conclusion that, as a man, I fundamentally experience the idea of “consent” different from the way women do within my society. I tried to get at this (badly) in the other thread by talking about the times I’ve been groped by women in public, but I think my point really got muddled.

          In my own life I once experienced sexual contact that I did not want when I was too intoxicated to give consent. Many of my (male) friends knew about this when it happened. Their response was almost diametrically opposed to what I’ve seen here. Statements like “Let me get this straight, you were too drunk to remember but she went down on you anyway? Dude, that’s awesome!” were said to me repeatedly. No one I know ever suggested that I was attacked. Indeed, speaking for myself, I don’t feel like I was attacked.

          It’s hard for me to say, but I suspect my feelings match up closely with those Joanna Schroeder described one of her male friends having following a sex act he did not want. He wasn’t happy about it, but he didn’t feel like he was raped either.

          As a man in America, if I go to a bar and get groped, it doesn’t occur to me to find a bouncer and have the woman who groped me thrown out. However, I also know that all of my female friends want gropers thrown out immediately.

          When I was in college, I would attend parties where sometimes young women would drink a lot and decide to “flash” guys at the party. When this happened someone would usually suggest that made it a “great party.” Meanwhile, we all know that men who engage in flashing behavior, intoxicated or otherwise, usually tend to get arrested.

          I’m still working out how to describe all of this, but the best I can put it right now is that, as a young man in America, the message I seem to get about consent is “Do as we say, not as we do.” I’ve never had a woman ask me if I wanted to be groped, or flashed, or if she could dance up against me in a club. Yet I’ve had all of these things done to me without my consent.

          I think the major problem with the articles put up on the Good Men Project have been an actual lack of male perspective. For the most part they’ve been written by women about things that happened to women, without the consent of those women. As a result, the view of what “consent” is and how it should work is decidedly female. As a man, I have a very different view of consent simply because of the way women have treated me. But we don’t have any articles describing that yet.

          Now, maybe you’re correct. I know that there are commenters here who were treated violently by women, or who were molested as children, and I suspect they would have a great deal of vitriol for pieces that went “inside the mind” of that behavior. But as a man who went through the college “hook up culture” just a few years ago, I really would have a very different reaction to a piece about a female rapist.

    • Jonathan G says:

      Did you read the same piece that I did? I read a piece by a guy who does not want to be a rapist, but knows that there is a non-zero chance it could happen unintentionally due to his lifestyle choices, and has made the cost-benefit analysis and decided to continue partying.

      And I’ll say it again because the analogy is an exact fit: He’s exactly like a person who does not want to be a murderer, but knows that there is a non-zero chance that it could happen unintentionally due to their lifestyle choices, and has made the cost-benefit analysis and decided to continue driving automobiles.

      • And no judge would have any sympathy for a person who felt that the cost benefit analysis meant drunk driving and killing someone just so he didn’t have to give up his lifestyle choice.

        I see a guy who doesn’t really care if he’s a rapist or not, or if he gets raped. Which, if he were saying the same thing about driving drunk I would be just as appalled at.

        • Jonathan G says:

          But Julie, I categorically reject that comparison. Making the connection between partying and drunk driving based on alcohol is entirely too facile. Driving an automobile sober has an inherent risk of harm to others, and it is your choice to engage in it. The connection here is the concept of engaging in an activity, by choice, that carries an inherent risk of harm to others because of the benefits to oneself.

          What I find mordantly funny is that this is exactly what what “rape culture” proponents complain about. To paraphrase Wikipedia: “[…] car-death culture is a concept used to describe a culture in which death and physical trauma inflicted by automobiles are common and in which prevalent attitudes, norms, practices, and media normalize, excuse, tolerate, or even condone automobile-caused death and physical trauma.” It’s a cultural blind-spot that doesn’t allow us to see the harm caused because “it’s normal” and “everybody does it,” or “that’s just the way it is.”

          But check out this map. Those were not all drunk-drivers.

          • Your response doesn’t surprise me at all. All life carries risk. That’s a given. But casually risking more and more just because to consider due diligence to others cause it will get in the way of your (his) good time, is callous.

            And frankly I think education around driving should be more thorough, training last longer, laws be more stringent and expectations that we are using these vehicles in a system that nearly requires them be higher.

            And rape is damaging.

            He can do what he wants, but it won’t make his action any less callous or any less problematic. His orgasm isn’t more important than someone else’s No. Your “no” should be more important too.

            And, I’m out for the night.

            • It’s gratifying that you’re not surprised by my response; it shows I’m not totally out in left field conceptually. What may not be so clear is my intent with this line of logic to try to induce a little empathy in GMP readers. I see too much piling-on to beat up on Anonymous, an action which can warm us up with the fire of self-righteousness, but it doesn’t change anything or help anybody.

              Look, I understand that rape is damaging. I’m trying really, really hard to elide the sarcasm from this comment, but that’s such low-hanging fruit, I’ll stick to this: Rape is damaging. So is the front bumper of a Prius when your body bounces off of it. Okay, okay, enough.

              Here’s the fact of the matter: Just like driving, people like to party. I live in a college town in which, on any given Friday night, thousands of young college students go to bars, apartments and houses to party. They like to get drunk on cheap booze, maybe use some illicit substances, get loud and rowdy, try to get laid, or just have experiences that they’ll never forget (providing they remember them in the morning). And this campus is in no way atypical, this collegiate ritual has gone on for how many decades all across the nation and world?

              And it’s not just college students! Think back to how well Prohibition worked in this country. See how well prohibition of other recreational drugs is working today. Hundreds of millions of people like to drink and like to party. Anonymous, the author of that article, is in no way atypical in that respect.

              What might be atypical about him is that he’s cognizant of the risks. He has thought about the issues surrounding consent. He’s enlightened and, having thought it through in advance, can generally make better decisions than somebody who’s never thought about it. In this important respect, he is superior to the tens of millions of people who decide to go out and party without thinking it through. In the same way that a person who thinks through the dangers ahead of time and drives defensively makes a better driver, he’s probably a much safer party-person.

              Yet he gets excoriated now that he has made the same decision that those tens of millions of other people have, to continue with drinking, drugs and partying, except he’s informed and aware of the risks and has discussed them frankly. Should he have just kept quiet? Should he have just gone out to a party and not opened up a discussion?

              I applaud his frankness and his effort in writing that piece. People are going to party, end of story. No matter what I say, they’re going to continue to drive automobiles, too. The rewards are well worth the risk for most of us. Given those facts, I believe that we should discuss and acknowledge the risks and issues (as Alyssa Royse did, too) in order to enlighten as many people as possible, because that approach has an outside chance of actually changing attitudes and behavior–possibly preventing rape!–something that self-righteous fury at Anonymous will never do.

              That’s my point with flogging the driving analogy: Anonymous is not unique, nor uniquely evil. He’s a guy who’s made the same kind of decision that virtually all of us have. The difference is that his is a calculated, considered risk, and I respect him for that.

              • Wow, really interesting perspective. I can see where you’re coming from.

                When the Amherst stories (and related) came out, I thought of my younger brother, who is finishing up college at one of the biggest party schools in the country. I don’t believe he himself has ever committed the act, but I couldn’t help wondering about all his friends. The house he lives in is a frequent party site, I’ve been there for parties myself. Packed with people on all three floors and spilling out the doors and windows. I wonder if it’s ever happened under his own roof, or at a party he’s been to. I wonder whether the people he marches side-by-side with in the school’s enormous marching band are victims, perpetrators, or “innocent” standers-by.

                I wonder if he’s ever thought about it. I remember when we were young, he was very anti-alcohol, counting my parents’ empties every night (and they didn’t drink a lot, he just kept a vigilant eye on them). When he went to college and started drinking himself, I asked him why he’d changed his mind, and he told me he’d actually given it quite a bit of serious thought before he reached his conclusion. I wonder if he’s given the same though to the relationship between alcohol and r___ – and the possibility that it could be (and in all likelihood, is) happening around him, to people he knows, at parties he hosts. How would he feel if it happened to one of his close friends, or one of his roommates, at their own house? Does he know if it’s happened already?

                That’s quite a thing to come to terms with. For the person who wrote the Anonymous piece, the existence of r___ is a fact, a given – he’s witnessed it personally, participated in it as a first-person player. But I wonder about all the third-persons, the “innocent” standers-by, who either never face the question (does my partying style permit or enable r___) or have faced it and decided it’s worth the risk to keep partying. I’ve never quite understood the term r___ culture, but this must be what it is – that sense that people can accept r___ as something that just happens, something inevitable, but doesn’t need to be dealt with until it hits close to home. Out of sight, out of mind.

    • Colin

      Firstly, there is no indication the person in that article was a serial rapist. He was speculating about the possibility that he may have sexually assaulted people on several occasions when he was inebriated, given that he was completely unaware that any of his past conduct could be described as rape, until a woman called him to say she felt he had raped her. Even that event is very confusing because apparently it was in a public setting including men and women who were cheering them on and he describes the encounter as a sort of ‘harsh third base’. It’s not even clear if he actually did rape her, meaning penetrative sex.

      Secondly, he does not say he chooses to be a rapist over giving up partying. He says he chooses on occasion to give up full command of his sensibilities for the sake of partying, which presents the possibility that he may both sexually assault others and be the victim of sexual assault, unbeknownst to himself.

      Given the realities of the world and our own limitations, there is a risk factor in anything we do, from crossing the road to getting drunk at a party. I think the point of that piece was for men and women to be careful and be aware of the risks in these environments. It was not a declaration of the writer’s intention to rape people in the future. He’s saying that despite his history with this, he’s too attached to partying to give it up and avoid these risks altogether. In some sense he can be seen as an addict, unable or unwilling to give up his current lifestyle.

      I think his mistake in the way he approached the piece was to use provocative language, such that some people could not see past the would ‘rape’ and missed the nuance altogether.

  6. I appreciate you noting that even men who have committed terrible acts are still human. This is something i struggled with internally while reading that series. I felt anger and hate towards some of the people described, but I also felt pity and compassion. Some people are monstrous or have committed monstrous acts, but they are not monsters, they are still human. Compassion is not the same as forgiveness, or apology, or justification. And I think when we refuse to offer compassion and refuse to see the human in the monster, we all suffer for it.

    • Tom Matlack says:

      “Compassion is not the same as forgiveness, or apology, or justification. And I think when we refuse to offer compassion and refuse to see the human in the monster, we all suffer for it.”
      Thank you so much for this KKZ. It is honestly why I get so upset by the vicious attacks on our editorial team who are trying to wade deep into very difficult waters with no agenda but to force us all to think about it hard. No one here is forgiving a murder or a rapist. There is no justification. Period. But that doesn’t take us off the hook of looking for compassion, for humanity, for some definition of goodness which is all encompassing and doesn’t exclude anyone, even the guys I met with in Sing Sing. I think Mother Teresa would agree with us.

      • You’re welcome. I found the attacks upsetting too. I’ve come to really cherish this website and have great respect for the editorial team. Shining a light on our darkest parts and looking for ways to understand them is a painful but critical exercise in growth.
        Mother Teresa would agree. My personal models are the Dalai Lama and the Buddha; their words are the ones I turn back to when I feel myself clinging to hatred and blocked from extending compassion. Others turn to Jesus, or to the (biblical? or just Christian-originated?) phrase “Love the sinner, hate the sin.”
        So in that spirit, even though the attacks were upsetting and vicious, I extend compassion to the attackers. It’s not easy. It stings a little bit. It means I have to put aside my selfish notion that I see clearly while they are clouded, by recognizing they likely think the same of me. In the end, we’re all in this together, and pretending that they are so so different from me is delusional.

    • Compassion is not the same as forgiveness, or apology, or justification.


      I think one problem seems to be that even the slightest hint of compassion is taken as forgiveness/apology/justification. Problem being that there is a very strong desire to keep those three things at an extremly high price (perhaps intentionally set so high that no one can pay it).

      And yes given that the recent turmoil at GMP has been about rape I firmly believe that this is a gendered matter. You can find regular every day media sources that will go out of their way to offer female rapists a sympathetic protrayal that is not extended to male rapists (first and foremost it’s still not very common for a mainstream media source to actually use the word rape when talking about woman/boy rape).

      It’s a nice little game. Demand that men meet some undefinable or extremely difficult to outright impossible standard for forgiveness/sympathy/compassion and then get all upset when they fail to meet it.

    • Jonathan G says:

      Compassion is not the same as forgiveness, or apology, or justification.

      And empathy is not the same as sympathy.

      Yet in far too many of the reactions to the “rape pieces” I’ve read recently, people offer so little empathy that they refuse to even read the article closely enough to get their facts straight. I speculate that they deeply fear that real empathy would tear down their cherished certainties and could even lead to sympathy.

      The horror!

  7. Right on! Action’s what it’s all about – Bruce

  8. Excellent article, Matt.

    My only concern is that there seems to be a lack of cultural support for the men who wish to break out of the stereotypes. The Bud men and the Marlboro men of the past had a whole industry and capital to support that stereotype even if it was physically destructive.
    Not to be nostalgic, but where is the Atticus Finch of America today? Where is the will to support that enduring symbol of virtue who lived out his goodness? Where can we find men and women who embody these ideals in our political and social life?

    The search continues for men and women who DO good.

    I’ll keep believing, Matt.

    • Not to be nostalgic, but where is the Atticus Finch of America today?

      Well, I would be using the Plural – ask where are the Finches?

      I do look out for them, the Finches – I’m a bird spotter. I’ve seen on or two round here and very particular species “Finchus Atticai coetus virorum bonorum”.

      Finches like Tom Matlack and others who flit about. Some wonder why there would be so many Finchus Atticai in one place. Some are blind to their environment and being in a Yellow Wood.

      TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
      And sorry I could not travel both
      And be one traveler, long I stood
      And looked down one as far as I could
      To where it bent in the undergrowth;

      I shall be telling this with a sigh
      Somewhere ages and ages hence:
      Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
      I took the one less traveled by,
      And that has made all the difference.

      I keep seeing Finchus Atticai in this Yellow Wood called GMP. It’s almost a scared place, a place where so many rush past and believe they know all about it – if you look long enough you just can’t miss them. Finchus Atticai, sitting and reading and writing and chirping in when its the right thing to do.

      It’s the noisy types who are blind to the true nature of others and just keep missing it all – Cue Tweet Of Photo On A Muddy Path in Trees(YUCK) – where’s my Starbucks…. Twit, Twit, Twit!


  1. […] in holding men accountable for the misogynistic values of male dominance. Indeed, as TGMP founder Tom Matlack writes, ”The goal [on this site] is to provide a forum for us as men to collectively become […]

  2. […] account­able for the misog­y­nis­tic val­ues of male dom­i­nance. Indeed, as TGMP founder Tom Mat­lack writes, “The goal [on this site] is to pro­vide a forum for us as men to col­lec­tively […]

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