Why It’s Dangerous to Say “Only Bad Guys Commit Rape”

It may be comforting to believe that all rapists are bad people, but in truth, rape most often happens between friends, lovers, acquaintances and pals.

 

We see it all the time in the movies and on TV.

There’s a guy and a girl, and you know they’re gonna end up together. They have a super-hot dynamic that consists of witty banter, challenging each other, and doing things to really piss each other off. They may fight, but they also watch the other walk away with a combination of both longing and disgust.

Eventually, there’s the scene where the two of them hook up. They’re arguing, and it’s intense. There’s a lot of sexual tension. They watch each other, connecting through their eyes. They’re both fired up and have flushed cheeks. Maybe she bites her lip…

He steps forward, grabs her arms and tries to kiss her. She says, “No, stop. I can’t—”

He interrupts, “You can. You know you haven’t stopped thinking about this since we met.”

“I have,” she says. “It’s just…” She turns away from him. She’s torn.

He spins her back around, pushes her up against the wall. She turns her head, but she doesn’t pull away entirely. He takes her face in his hands, his body pressing into hers, turns her lips to his, and kisses her forcefully. She pushes him off for a moment, then she gives in to the passion, kissing him back and wrapping her arms around him, maybe her legs too.

At this point, they may move to the bedroom and have the best sex of their lives, fueled by conflict and heat and challenge. Or maybe she walks away, conflicted but breathless.

Either way, we know they’re going to end up together.

One thing we know for sure is that she’s not going to press charges against him for sexual assault.

But what actually was it that happened between them? Regardless of whether she walks away or consents to glorious sex, she said “no” and he didn’t stop. In fact, he pressed her against the wall and held her arms. Or maybe he did something more forceful, like in the scene below between James Bond and Pussy Galore.

It’s a scene so common I bet you can think of 5 or 10 movies and TV shows where it happens. Moonlighting, 9 and a Half Weeks, Boardwalk Empire, An Officer and a Gentleman, Goldfinger, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and almost every made-for-TV movie and soap opera.

And it has everything to do with Alyssa Royse’s article, Nice Guys Commit Rape, Too, where the author tells the story of a guy she knew well—a guy whom she believed was a nice guy—who was accused of raping a woman by penetrating her while she was asleep.

How are the two things related? Because the forceful kiss is an easily-relatable example of how our society actively teaches people about consent in a way that is incredibly dangerous.

She says “no”? Nothing to worry about. Just push her up against a wall. He says he doesn’t want to? It’s okay, just take off your top and press your breasts into him.

♦◊♦

My husband and I recently watched an early release of the film Save the Date. In this sexy, fun, edgy drama, Sarah (Lizzy Caplan) goes through a big break-up but quickly becomes interested in a new guy, Jonathan. When Jonathan (Mark Webber) goes to her house for a date, it’s clear the two are interested in one another. Sarah acts adorable, Jonathan acts adorable, they flirt, and she makes eyes at him. He smiles and says something like, “I really want to kiss you right now.”

Save the Date – IFC Pictures

She replies, “Then why don’t you?”

“Because you just went through an awful break-up”

“I want you to kiss me,” she says.

And he does. And it’s hot.

I turned to my husband and said, “I believe that may be the first time I’ve seen a model for sexy, healthy communication about consent in a film. I mean, maybe ever.”

Now, I’m paraphrasing the dialogue above, but he told her what he wanted, how he felt, and was considerate of her emotional state. She replied, communicated directly and clearly what she wanted, and he gave it to her. And it was sexy as hell.

But Save the Date is a rare exception among thousands of forceful TV and movie kisses. And it’s the direction we need to be moving in. As Jamie Utt explains in his piece Want The Best Sex of Your Life? Just Ask!, enthusiastic consent is hot because it helps us know what will turn our partners on, and makes very clear the fact that we are desired.

♦◊♦

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.

The truth is, Alyssa Royse is not apologizing for her friend having raped a woman. In fact, she puts blame squarely upon him many times, including saying, “what happened to her was wrong. My friend raped her.” But there is a misunderstanding in some of the response pieces and many of the comments, about the way in which responsibility can be divvied up here.

Alyssa’s guy friend is 100% responsible for the rape he committed. In saying that society is also partially responsible, we aren’t now making Alyssa’s guy friend less responsible. Responsibility is not a pie to be divided. Instead, these are overlapping responsibilities. The space where they meet is what we need to talk about.

Alyssa’s guy friend AND society are responsible. It’s not an either/or, it’s a both/and. Below are two wildly crude diagrams I just scribbled on my legal pad. I hope you’ll forgive the elementary school-quality of my artwork and handwriting.

On the left we have our either/or pie. In this model, when we give some responsibility to society, we are taking some responsibility away from the rapist. This is wrong. It is a false binary.

On the right, we see how the two different forces come together to create a rape. Alyssa’s guy friend entered that situation with problems, clearly. His ideas about sexuality were deeply flawed and his ability to empathize with another person was probably also lacking. Along comes society, with James Bond (the model of successful masculinity) and Pussy Galore and every other forceful kiss that leads to super-hot sex, and it overlaps with this guy and his issues, and what we’re left with is a grey area of consent that leads to a woman being raped.

♦◊♦

Matthew Salesses may be right. Alyssa’s guy friend may have never actually been a nice guy at all. He may have been a guy that seemed nice but was actually really bad. I don’t know him, neither does Matthew. But I’m more likely to believe Alyssa that he was generally a good dude. A good dude who had a very messed-up idea about consent. A good dude who raped a sleeping woman.

See, he can be both. No, seriously, he can.

Let me tell you another story. I had this guy friend in high school whom we’ll call Rob. Rob was a cool guy that everyone liked, not a jock but very popular. He came to me one afternoon, confused. At a party he’d hooked up with a girl named Maria, whom he’d gone out with a few times. They were making out heavily, rolling around, and engaged in heavy petting. He was cool with her putting her hand down his pants, but when she lifted up her skirt and pulled over her underwear, he got nervous and said, “No, I don’t want to do that.”

“Why didn’t you?” I asked, flabbergasted. He’d had sex with girls before.

“I didn’t want to have sex with her right then. I don’t know.”

“But why not?” 17 year-old me couldn’t quite grasp it. I mean, he wasn’t a virgin, wasn’t a born-again Christian who was waiting for marriage. And he liked Maria.

“I just didn’t. But she sat on top of me anyway and, like, shoved me inside her.”

“What did you do?” I asked.

“I pushed her off and said I didn’t want to.”

It was disturbing, but also confusing to me.

I don’t think Rob felt like he was raped, but it definitely seemed fucked up . And while he didn’t go out with her again, he wasn’t exactly mad at her. He just felt weird and sort of irritated about it. I’d guess that if you’d asked him if he’d been raped, he would’ve said, “no way.”

But if you ask me, she raped him. Did she know she was raping him? Almost certainly not. Did she set out to rape him? Definitely not. In fact, I asked her about it a few years later. She told me that she regretted it terribly and felt like a horrible person. She was 16 when it happened and had been fed a story her entire life about how all guys want is sex, and how guys will screw anything that walks. She also had a profound problem with insecurity and only later did she realize that her main sense of validation came from being sexually desired.

Maria simply couldn’t conceive of a guy saying “no” and meaning it. Not a guy like Rob, at least, a guy whom she knew had hooked up with, and even had sex with, a few girls from our school. She also thought it would make him like her more if she were sexually dominant, like Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct, whose no-panties leg-crossing scene was considered the sexiest thing ever in the 1990s—when in reality, it is disturbing and intrusive.

Is Maria a bad person? I don’t think so.

Did she do a bad thing? Absolutely. And in my opinion, it was rape.

♦◊♦

Does this story sit with you differently than the story of Alyssa’s guy friend and the girl whom he penetrated while she was asleep? Why or why not? Be honest with yourself here.

If it does, it’s probably because of a number of factors. First, in our society, a woman raping a man seems impossible. I mean, if he didn’t want to have sex, why would he have an erection?

Also, don’t guys always want sex?

The truth about male sexuality is that contrary to what we’re taught, guys do not always want sex. As much as Rob desired Maria and was enjoying their make-out session, he didn’t want to have sex that day. His desire may have given him an erection, but an erection does not equal consent.

We might also ask why he didn’t stop her before she forced penetration? Wasn’t he stronger than her? It doesn’t matter. His “no” should be enough to make her stop. But it wasn’t.

So what do we think of Maria? Should she have been tried in a court of law? Should she have gone to jail and been put on a sex offenders list?

God help me, I have no clue.

There are a number of factors that make Alyssa’s guy friend different from Maria: First, and foremost, he was an adult. And the situations were different.

But what else? Alyssa’s guy friend is a man and Maria was a young woman?

Maria got a clear “no” when she proposed sex, but did it anyway. Alyssa’s guy friend put his penis inside a sleeping woman with no warning at all.

Both seem equally bad, for different reasons.

But are either of these people “bad people”?

I don’t know what the rest of Maria’s life has been like. We’re in our mid-30s now, and I know she is married and has a family. Even at 19, she was hugely regretful of how she’d violated Rob, so I assume she never did that again. And while I know nothing about Alyssa’s guy friend, I believe Alyssa when she says that he was truly remorseful about committing rape. I looked in Maria’s eyes and saw her pain and remorse, and I do not think that Alyssa’s guy friend’s maleness makes him exempt from feeling the exact same way.

♦◊♦

So, does saying Alyssa’s guy friend is a good guy and a rapist excuse his rape? Certainly not. As we said before, I believe a person can be guilty of these types of rape and be good. Would I trust him alone in a room with me? Probably not. Would I set him up with my little sister? Absolutely not. But would I say he’s all-bad? No. Or at least I would say, “I don’t know.”

I understand some critics’ fear that saying Alyssa’s guy friend isn’t necessarily a bad guy might cause people who have raped, or will rape in the future, to think it’s okay. I think both Matthew Salesses and Ally Fogg believe that saying a rapist could be a nice guy might minimize the act of rape he committed, and I respect that. I understand it. What would happen if a person thought he could rape a woman and then walk away as a good guy? That would be a dangerous precedent to set.

But I also think it’s dangerous to continue framing rape as a “bad guy thing” for many reasons. First, when we say “only bad guys commit rape”, we’re disengaging any guy who thinks he’s a “good guy” from having a conversation about how he can help prevent rape. And we’re also disengaging all women from that conversation.

That’s why our understanding of who rapists sometimes are needs to change. First, we need to have active, engaged conversations with everyone—young people especially—about consent. We need men like Jamie Utt speaking and writing about sexy ways of communicating desire, boundaries, and  limits. We need mainstream media examples of healthy, sexy conversations about consent—like in the film Save the Date—to be replicated everywhere, and we need the forceful, non-consensual kiss to no longer be an example of what’s hot. Let James Bond and Pussy Galore’s scary sex scene die with Sean Connery’s reign as 007.

And we need to be able to recognize the nuances of humanity. That a good person can do a very bad thing. That people can see the harm they’ve caused, feel great remorse, seek help and make real change to become a good person once again.

If we say “only bad guys commit rape” we’re actually creating a more dangerous society for both men and women. We need everyone to recognize the fine line we dance when we engage in sexual acts with another person. We need women to realize that guys have as much right to sexual autonomy as women. We need good guys and girls to realize that even if you’re not trying to hurt someone, without clear, direct and specific consent, you could still rape them.

Because the truth is, as Alyssa Royse said, the majority of rapes don’t happen in dark alleys where predatory men wait for a victim to pass. They happen between friends, between lovers, between partygoers and schoolmates. Rapes sometimes happen when someone thinks their partner really means “yes” when he or she says “no”. They happen when girls are taught that guys are sex-obsessed animals. They happen when people aren’t taught the communication skills that educators like Jamie Utt, Alyssa Royse, Cliff Pervocracy, Scarleteen, and others are trying to teach.

They happen, sometimes, when good people do bad things.

♦◊♦

For articles and resources on enthusiastic consent, please visit the pages below:

Want the Best Sex of Your Life? Just Ask! by Jamie Utt

Driver’s Ed for the Sexual Superhighway: Navigating Consent from Scarleteen

The “Yes, No, Maybe” Chart – A Tool for Talking About Consent by Jamie Utt

A Concise Kink Worksheet by Cliff Pervocracy (a consent tool for the Kink community and others)

Lead photo: Flickr/pheezy

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About Joanna Schroeder

Joanna Schroeder is the type of working mom who opens her car door and junk spills out all over the ground. She serves as Executive Editor of The Good Men Project and is a freelance writer whose work has appeared on sites like xoJane, hlntv.com, and The Huffington Post. Joanna loves playing with her sons, skateboarding with her husband, and hanging out with friends. She just finished her first novel. Follow her shenanigans on Twitter.

Comments

  1. This whole “nice guys commit rape too” stuff is not congruent with the science. Yes, it may very well happen occasionally but the a solid majority of rapists are dangerous predators, committing multiple assaults and using alcohol and drugs as weapons to isolate, weaken, and make vulnerable their prey. In fact, Lisak’s research shows that the repeat offenders (63% of the total sample of self-reported rapists) were committing an average of 5.8 rapes each. I’m sure someone smarter than me can figure what percentage of the total number of rapes committed by that sample this adds up to – I haven’t had coffee yet.

    http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2010/03/25/predator-theory/ is a good analysis of the findings.

    Interestingly 70% of the total rapists exclusively raped intoxicated women, rather than using obvious violence, or threats.

    tl;dr: your average rapist is far, far more likely to be a psychopathic predator than just a confused nice guy (or even a confused Nice Guy).

    • This whole “nice guys commit rape too” stuff is not congruent with the science.

      I’ve looking at this claim and it is simply incredible – so I do think that the science has to be revealed. What is the science behind the claim, because it looks to me to be the psychology of making it up as you go along!

    • Interesting read of those studies.

      I took a completely different message away from them. Specifically, from the McWhorter. “Of the 865 total attempted or completed rapes these men admitted to, a staggering 95% were committed by 96 men, or just 8.4% of the sample”.

      10% of rapists doing 95% of the raping? To me that indicates that a small number of psychopaths performed the vast majority of the crime.

      Not really sure how this science has ANY bearing on the current debate, but still interesting read. Thanks for the link!

  2. Oh bloody hell, just spent about 20 minutes responding to this and GMP refreshed and my work vanished. Let’s try again.

    Joanna, I think most of this article covers points which are simply not disputed or up for debate.

    This man raped a woman while she was asleep. Alyssa knows this, we all know it, it’s not up for debate.

    Rape can never be excused or justified. Alyssa knows this, we all know it, it is not up for debate.

    Nobody is suggesting that Alyssa thinks her friend did not commit rape or that what he did should be excused.

    Nobody is disputing that the rapist should be held responsible for what happened, and nobody is suggesting that Alyssa thinks he shouldn’t be.

    All of the above can now be agreed and filed.

    Here are the questions which I think *ARE* still up for debate.

    1. Was Alyssa right to say that the man did not know that what he was doing was rape? In other words, did he genuinely think he had the woman’s consent to penetrate her at that moment, or genuinely not know that rape means having sex with someone without their consent?

    2. Should the responsibility / blame / fault for the rape lie solely with the rapist, or is there a kind of parallel, additional responsibility and fault lying with all of us, society at large?

    3. Is it politically / morally acceptable and wise to look for social, collective explanations for a rape which are extraneous to the individual behaviour, decision making or psychology of the rapist? Most specifically is it acceptable or wise to look for explanations which in any way reference or involve the behaviour of the victim?

    Here are my answers. I won’t speak for anyone else. But I’d love it if Alyssa or Joanna or anyone else would offer theirs.

    1. It is utterly irrelevant what had been happening in the run-up to the incident, because the woman was asleep. They could have been having all the flirts, all the foreplay, indeed all the full-blown sex for weeks before or just hours before, and it STILL wouldn’t change the fact that she was asleep, and therefore incapable of consenting. Perhaps if he’d made a move before she fell asleep, or if he’d woken her up and asked if she fancied it, she would have said yes. But the simple fact is, he didn’t.

    The points about mixed-messages, flirting, sexualized culture etc etc are irrelevant. Did he or did he not know she was asleep? Yes he did. Did he know that someone who is fast asleep cannot consent to sex at that moment? Of course he did.

    2, I don’t see how any responsibility for this particular incident can lie anywhere but with the one man concerned, because the issue here is not one of flirting, sexualization or anything else. The ONLY issue is consent.

    Now I’m a keen advocate of the Yes Means Yes, enthusiastic consent model of relationships. There are social problems with poor sex & relationship education. I can believe that some rapes and sexual assaults, particularly involving younger people, occur partly because of confusion as to what real consent looks like, sounds like, feels like and how it should be expressed.

    However at no point in her article did Alyssa attempt to make a case that her friend genuinely did not know what consent is, or that he genuinely believed he had her consent to have sex at that moment. If that were the case, I could just about accept that we, as a society, have failed in our duty to educate people about true consent. But it doesn’t arise. Everything else is guff.

    3. I think Alyssa’s article was harmful and dangerous. While she does not make excuses or apologies for the act of rape, she most certainly does make excuses and apologies for the rapist. If you like it is not rape apology, but it is rapist apology – and I don’t think that’s any better.

    Any argument that deflects or detracts responsibility for a rape away from the rapist is harmful, and that is what Alyssa does. I can also easily imagine her arguments being used by another potential or actual rapist to justify his behaviour to himself, and that is incredibly dangerous.

    Finally, since this is the GMP I feel comfortable making this point, I find her argument quite insulting to men. The idea that we’re all helpless slaves to our dicks and too simple to understand the nuances of consent is really quite wrong and offensive. Alyssa left a comment on my blog last night implying that “at least 50% of men” would behave as her friend did. Fuck that shit. No. What her friend did was rape, and the vast majority of men never have raped anyone, never will, and never would.

    Right, will try to post this before the auto-refresh eats it again!

    • You should “copy” your comments periodically. That way if you get hit by the refresh bug, you can paste and pick up where you left off. Works for me. Or type in Wordpad and paste..Just a suggestion.

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      1. Was Alyssa right to say that the man did not know that what he was doing was rape? In other words, did he genuinely think he had the woman’s consent to penetrate her at that moment, or genuinely not know that rape means having sex with someone without their consent?

      2. Should the responsibility / blame / fault for the rape lie solely with the rapist, or is there a kind of parallel, additional responsibility and fault lying with all of us, society at large?

      3. Is it politically / morally acceptable and wise to look for social, collective explanations for a rape which are extraneous to the individual behaviour, decision making or psychology of the rapist? Most specifically is it acceptable or wise to look for explanations which in any way reference or involve the behaviour of the victim?

      1. We cannot ever know whether he was telling the truth about knowing that penetrating a sleeping woman was rape. We just can’t. Even she can’t. But if she knew him well, she can presume as best as anyone can about his honesty. As I said, his maleness doesn’t exempt him from deep and profound regret.

      Who teaches people that they shouldn’t penetrate or force penetration upon someone who is sleeping? We see images of women waking up men by climbing on top of them, or by performing oral sex. This is considered sexy. As I said in the article, Alyssa’s friend brought a whole pile of dysfunction into that equation, including a lack of empathy. I don’t say he didn’t. But the problem happened when his personal dysfunction met the lack of education our society presents.

      2. As I said, he is responsible for committing the crime, but yes there are parallel responsibilities. Are there many crimes that happen in a vacuum, void of any parallel responsibilities? I’d say few. Probably only the ones committed by psychopaths.

      3. I did not, in any way, reference the behavior of the victim in this article.

      But, in a hypothetical, it is a useful tool when discussing consent. Why? Because saying, “No means no” is insufficient when teaching consent and real-life examples are crucial. Because “no means no” creates a situation where one person is the “wolf” and one person is the “mouse”. If you put your penis inside her when she’s sleeping, and she says “no”, and you take your penis out, is that not rape? You stopped when she said no, right?

      I know it feels a bit like victim-blaming to tell the story of why Alyssa’s friend might have thought he had consent based upon the victim’s previous behavior. But that example is also the way people learn. He clearly thought that all her actions leading up the penetration were indicative of consent.

      He was DEAD WRONG. He did NOT have consent.

      You and I agree with that. Even if she had had sex with him twenty minutes earlier, he had *no right* to penetrate her. But we must discuss the factors that led him to believe he did, so that other people can truly understand how a rape like this happens and the absolute necessity of teaching enthusiastic consent the way that people like Jamie Utt teach it.

      You and I do agree on many, many points. I just almost never take absolutist positions on anything (ironic near-absolutist statement), and feel that there is nothing that shouldn’t be discussed – if done correctly and with compassion.

      I think yours and my goals are the same, and I deeply respect your position, Ally. We are not adversaries in this fight, we are allies. We have different approaches, but we both have the ultimate goal of making rape significantly more rare.

      • Joanna, what do you mean by “actions leading up to penetration”? The woman was asleep!

        • Joanna Schroeder says:

          They had been hooking up all night. Then she fell asleep. She did NOT give consent for him to penetrate her. That was rape.

          But he was clearly confused by their hook-up hours prior.

          I am 100% in agreement with Ally (and you) and even said it just above, that it doesn’t matter what her actions were when determining whether it was rape or not.

          Where that matters is when we’re teaching people that consent must be given BEFORE any sexual contact is made, regardless of any activities that happened leading up to that contact.

          In this case, we’re using Alyssa’s friend raping a woman as an example, in order to explain how dangerous our current state of sexual education is.

          We are NOT EVER saying that anyone’s actions (asleep or awake) justify or condone penetrating a sleeping woman (or any non-consensual person.

          We’ve already established that.

          • I do not believe that this man thought this woman’s flirtations equated to a desire to be penetrated in her sleep. It’s a laughable idea. It’s far more likely that he is just a predator seeking to justify himself, as all abusers do. Actually society does teach men who care to listen that violating unconscious women is wrong no matter what. I don’t buy his supposed confusion at all. Decent and ethical men would never do this to someone unconscious and entirely helpless.

            • I do not believe that this man thought this woman’s flirtations equated to a desire to be penetrated in her sleep. It’s a laughable idea

              But – CMe – You are in no position to to say what was and what was not in a person’s mind – so I wonder how you judge laughable – see gap insert joke and laugh? I am amazed at how many are fixated on taking their view of anything – filling in gaps with personal prejudice and dogma and then going on about what they believe.

              Funny how Alyssa wanted to open up debate and thinking and some are so determined to close it all down and control it all. Looks like Control issues to me!

            • “But – CMe – You are in no position to to say what was and what was not in a person’s mind – so I wonder how you judge laughable – see gap insert joke and laugh? I am amazed at how many are fixated on taking their view of anything – filling in gaps with personal prejudice and dogma and then going on about what they believe”

              This reminds me of the Eminem song where a girl is caught cheating, Dre tries to defend her and Eminem says “you think she slipped, fell and landed on his dick”. Your right we can’t know what he was thinking. But we can make reasonable assumptions:

              1. The vast majority of people would know this was wrong.
              2. People lie to get out of difficult and embarassing situations
              3. Human can be extremely good at deception.

              I think he knew what he was doing. He didn’t think the girl would press charges but she did. He then had to explain this situation to his feminist friend. So he calls her up acting all confused about what he did and acting completely clueless. He has every reason to lie and in that type of situation the first instinct is to lie. I place enough credit in his basic intelligence to believe he feigned ignorance of what he did. That even as he was talking to her he knew he was manipulating her. I think this explanation is far more likely than the alternative:

              1) he is a really nice guy
              2) he really thought pentrating a women in her sleep was ok
              3) he was actually confused about what he did

              I think he is a selfish, manipulative morally weak individual who is really good at deception. But he seems nice so I guess its all ok. BTW, this is example of why I have never believed women when they say they can tell a guy is a creep.

    • Alyssa Royse says:

      I’m going to try, but it honestly seems futile as you seem to have decided that your view point is the only valid one. Which is dangerous to me, because it shuts out the possibility of seeing the perspective of the people who do this, and it is those perspectives that we need to understand, so that we can change them. It is very easy to stand on a moral high-ground and say “i am right in all ways,” but it is not productive. It is imperative to try and accept that some people may genuinely not understand, as it is those people we need to reach and change. If someone kept harming themselves by using a product incorrectly, and it was because the instructions were in Chinese and they only spoke Spanish, we’d re-write the instructions in Spanish.

      This is why I asked these questions to begin with. Not to excuse or apologize for the behavior, but to try and understand it so that we can create change.

      1. Was Alyssa right to say that the man did not know that what he was doing was rape? In other words, did he genuinely think he had the woman’s consent to penetrate her at that moment, or genuinely not know that rape means having sex with someone without their consent?

      Yes, that was the case in this instance. And in MANY instances of sexual assault that happen around the world. After weeks of talking about having sex,making out, partying, falling into bed together, that’s what he thought. And he was WRONG. Dead wrong. As I have made abundantly clear. So the question is, WHY DID HE THINK THAT? It’s great that you have made clear that you are above ever making such a mistake, but a lot of people aren’t. And just because something is crystal clear to you and me, doesn’t mean it’s crystal clear to everyone else. Which is what we need to work on.

      That is not letting him off the hook, nor is it blaming her. It is saying that things are not black and white for everyone, so we need to understand the places in which misunderstandings happen and shed light on them. To deny they exist is dangerous. And to write them off as a small number of sociopaths is just insane given the number of sexual assaults that are committed by “normal people” all the time. Honestly, the myth of the “dangerous psychopath as rapist” is part of the problem. It is what makes it impossible to solve this problem. To acknowledge that reasonable people do this, with alarming frequency. Perfect men like you may not, in which case, I applaud you, you are better than the rest of us.

      Yes, it sucks to think that you could misread someone’s signals and cross their boundaries. But you could. And so could I.

      2. Should the responsibility / blame / fault for the rape lie solely with the rapist, or is there a kind of parallel, additional responsibility and fault lying with all of us, society at large?

      Yes, there is absolutely parallel responsibility with society at large. And that doesn’t take ANY blame away from the rapist. It generates whole new blame. Society as a whole needs to do a better job of not using sex as a tool and goal for everything from selling toothpaste to cars. Society as a whole needs to educate people better on affirmative consent, sexual agency, freedom of expression, and everything else. You bet, plenty of blame to go around.

      3. Is it politically / morally acceptable and wise to look for social, collective explanations for a rape which are extraneous to the individual behaviour, decision making or psychology of the rapist? Most specifically is it acceptable or wise to look for explanations which in any way reference or involve the behaviour of the victim?

      Not just acceptable. Imperative. Because our ideas about self and the world around us are informed by the society in which we live. That is a pretty basic tenant in every form of social science. Our sense of right and wrong, ideal, good and bad, successful etc…. are informed by the messages around us in society. Family, peers, media etc….. So to think that anyone is making decisions in a vacuum is dangerous because it renders us helpless to change anything. It justifies us saying “that’s their problem,” without looking at the role we play. It is a complete and total cop-out.

      I didn’t let my friend off the hook in real life, or in the piece. Every time he said “but I though she….” I pushed back hard and re-educated him. And I did it often enough to know that this is a real problem. Because, like it or not, some people do think that “she wanted it.” They are all wrong, but getting at WHY they think that is the only way to solve the problem.

      Joanna did a brilliant job of pointing out the myriad ways we tell people that this is how sex happens. And it does happen this way all the time, it’s just called rape, not sex. Because that’s what it is.

      And no, I don’t say that men are helpless to their penises. Never suggested that in any way. That’s an easy trope to pull out, and popular too, but I did not say that. I said exactly the opposite, more than once.

      • I’m going to try, but it honestly seems futile as you seem to have decided that your view point is the only valid one. Which is dangerous to me, because it shuts out the possibility of seeing the perspective of the people who do this, and it is those perspectives that we need to understand, so that we can change them.

        Brava – Brava – Brava – questioning the perspectives to see if the need to be changed. So like Loretta Ross, Yulanda Ward and Nkenge Toure. Asking questions can get you answers, but only if you have the courage to believe it’s possible you don’t know the answer, or even the answer or answers you have already heard are not the Whole Answer.

        I just wish so many would stop with that blocking tactic of filling in gaps with their own prejudices and dogmas. If you see a gap and don’t know what fits there, I wish people would not simply take any old thing and attempt to paper over!

      • Hi again Alyssa, thanks for continuing to engage on this.

        Yes, that was the case in this instance. And in MANY instances of sexual assault that happen around the world. After weeks of talking about having sex,making out, partying, falling into bed together, that’s what he thought.

        I’d really like to clarify that I’ve understood this, because I think it is at the heart of our disagreement.

        You are telling me that your friend honestly believed that he had this woman’s consent to penetrate her (for the first time in their relationship) at any time of his choosing, even though she was asleep?

        You go on to talk say “it sucks to think that you could misread someone’s signals and cross their boundaries”

        You genuinely believe that this man thought that the woman’s “boundaries” might include being unexpectedly penetrated while she was asleep? Not just that she might or would be consenting when she woke up, but that there was an open ended invitation in place to fuck her at any time of the guy’s choosing, without discussion, involvement or indeed consciousness?

        Have you any idea how far-fetched that is?

        2. Yes, there is absolutely parallel responsibility with society at large. And that doesn’t take ANY blame away from the rapist. It generates whole new blame.

        I realise it’s not your intention, but I’d ask you to accept the possibilty that it may be your unintended effect. The problem is, by inviting discussion and thought about sexualised culture, affirmative consent or whatever, you’re inviting readers to gloss over or even forget the conscious decision of your friend to commit a rape.

        We can talk about the broad social, political, collective context in which all rapes occur. We can debate, research and discuss different theories as to why rapes happen within our societies, and why a proportion of people become sex offenders. I’m actively involved in those kinds of discussions and welcome them. My own background is in psychology and social science, so I’m with you on that.

        But to attempt to do that with one individual based upon on what he said to you as a friend, is deeply flawed and dangerous. Apart from anything else, as I said in my blog, how do you know your friend is being honest with himself, far less anyone else?

        But since you bring up the issue, there is a lot of good social science on the prevalence of rape and sexual assault. There are some very good books examining the psychology of different types of rapists. None of them in any way tally with what you are suggesting, that your friend’s behavior was likely to have been accidental, that it is statistically normal or even common. The actual research suggests the opposite. You can’t make a plea to social science based upon a single case in which, as a personal friend of the rapist, you are significantly emotionally involved. It doesn’t work like that.

        To deny they exist is dangerous. And to write them off as a small number of sociopaths is just insane given the number of sexual assaults that are committed by “normal people” all the time. Honestly, the myth of the “dangerous psychopath as rapist” is part of the problem. It is what makes it impossible to solve this problem. To acknowledge that reasonable people do this, with alarming frequency. Perfect men like you may not, in which case, I applaud you, you are better than the rest of us.

        Where does this “dangerous psychopath” thing come from? I have never suggested your friend is a dangerous psychopath, or that all rapists are dangerous psychopaths. I don’t believe that for a moment.

        It seems to me it is you setting up a false dichotomy here, that either a rapist is a dangerous psychopath or there must have been some kind of terrible misunderstanding. You seem to be refusing to accept the more obvious explanation, which is that an otherwise apparently decent and reasonable guy did a bad thing on the spur of the moment, maybe even something “out of character” as they say in court.

        That happens all the time. Otherwise decent people sometimes do stupid, cruel or selfish things, in all sorts of contexts. (Especially if they’ve been partying in whatever ways.) Then struggle to explain to themselves (and others) why they did it, maybe don’t even know themselves why they did it.

        That’s what I think is the the most obvious explanation here. I don’t believe your friend really, genuinely believed he had the woman’s consent. He might have tried to convince himself at the time and later that she wanted it really, but that is the mantra of rapists everywhere. I think he’s convinced himself, and then convinced you. I’m sorry, but that’s the only way this whole story makes any kind of sense.

        Oh, and as to your swipe about being a ‘perfect man,’ that was bang out of order and you know it.

        • Alyssa Royse says:

          Please refrain from telling me what I know and believe, especially when it is in direct contrast to what I am saying. (Irony?) (She said “this,” but I’m sure she meant “that.”)

          I have told you what I believe about my friend, and explained why. And you simply continue telling me that I should believe something different. I do believe that he really and truly, in the moment, thought that what he was doing was okay. I also believe that it was wrong. I believe that an otherwise decent person did a stupid, cruel and selfish thing. Exactly.

          And THAT is exactly the point I was trying to make. How does that happen? Why? What responsibility to we all need to take for that? What do we all need to change for that to happen?

          I have given you no reason to believe that I am not capable of making up my mind for myself, and coming to a conclusion that is different than yours. I was not brain-washed, thank you very much. But your determination to believe that is one of the things that makes it virtually impossible to dialog with you.

          It is possible that as someone who has worked in the prison system, studied anthropology and spent years working with both victims and survivors that I have world-experiences that lead me to conclusions that are different than, and just as valid as, yours.

          That said, I do have the added benefit of having been there, and knowing this person very well. So I think my opinion might have a bit more information in it’s formation on this particular issue.

          That said, this issue was only intended to start a dialog about a larger issue. I find it fascinating that people want to debate the merits of our differing opinions rather than deal with the much larger, much messier, much harder and much more important issues.

          • Brava!

            Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex… It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.
            Albert Einstein

            • Joanna Schroeder says:

              I have given you no reason to believe that I am not capable of making up my mind for myself, and coming to a conclusion that is different than yours. I was not brain-washed, thank you very much. But your determination to believe that is one of the things that makes it virtually impossible to dialog with you.

              Ally, I don’t know you. I don’t even know your work all that well. But I can tell you that what Alyssa wrote above is exactly what I feel from you as well. I have heard you’re an ally to women, and yet the feeling I get when I read everything you’ve written here is, “Poor dumb girls. They don’t even know when a rapist is lying to them. I better go in there and tell this woman that not only do all of her years of experience not count in assessing the situation in which she was in with her friend, but her feelings and assessment of the man she knew quite well don’t count. Poor Alyssa. Good thing Ally is here to tell her she’s been misled.”

              I think the truth is that you really do think that because YOU and your friends understand that penetrating a sleeping woman is sex, that it is an absolute truth for all men. But that’s a ridiculous assessment. And as MediaHound explained, “Asking questions can get you answers, but only if you have the courage to believe it’s possible you don’t know the answer, or even the answer or answers you have already heard are not the Whole Answer.”

              Ally, you don’t have the whole answer here. Alyssa and I read your blog post thoroughly, we considered it, we discussed it with one another and our friends. I personally thought long and hard about what I agreed with and what I disagreed with before I wrote this.

              I don’t think that I know for sure how any rapes happen, and I certainly don’t know for sure what any particular rapist was thinking. Because of that, because I cannot be in any individual’s mind, I cannot say that all rapists are “bad” — the only truth I know is that we are all bad on some sliding scale, just as we are all good. I could never be so sure of my own “rightness” as to say, “This is what he was thinking” — especially not to a degree that would lead me to call another writer a rape apologist.

              You realize, don’t you, that your argument hinges upon the fact that you are certain you know what Alyssa’s friend was thinking better than Alyssa does.?

              Take a moment to really examine what that sounds like.

            • You realize, don’t you, that your argument hinges upon the fact that you are certain you know what Alyssa’s friend was thinking better than Alyssa does.?

              Take a moment to really examine what that sounds like.

              Hmmm – From a Freudian Perspective a lack of care in the nappy zone leading to reactive dermatitis – from a feminist perspective “Control Issues” and a dominant male exhibiting Patriarchal Tendencies and excessive mansplaining * – and from a good man way of looking at it …. I don’t know…… Rude?

              I keep on with the wild guess thing in the hope that one day I may hit the target!

              * I have actual been shocked that I have found it appropriate to use the term mansplaining for real , even with ironic overtones. I may have to Lie Down!

            • Alyssa Royse says:

              Um, yup. That. I was biting my tongue and trying to be nice-ish. But admit that I am hearing nothing but overwhelming patriarchal arrogance and mansplaining so drenched in righteous privilege that I was having a hard time typing.

              Further, it set off all of my red-flags. That guys like this, who preach, tell you what is right, what you should believe and don’t listen to you are, more often than not, the problem.

              But I don’t know him either, so I will refrain from making further guesses. Except to say that I run into these White Knights often and, without exception, approach them with extreme caution. Far more caution than I approach men who can accept and appreciate the nuance, accept and appreciate their own flaws, weaknesses and confusions, accept and appreciate that opposing views may hold valid kernels and that regardless, it is the ability to hold open our minds and our dialogs that create change.

              I cannot remember the last time I felt so condescended to by someone who so clearly did not understand the issues. It is RARE that I will pull the gender card. But I’m pulling it here because he is so clearly so cozy in sanctimonious privilege that he cannot understand what it is like to spend a life trying to navigate complex signals sent and received as a way to avoid harm.

            • Damn – so the guess on the nappy zone reactive dermatitis was not then one. I thought I had it nailed there! P^)

            • This is clearly now generating more heat than light, so this will be my last post on this thread.

              I’d just like to reflect how it has gone from my point of view.

              A man raped a woman as she slept.

              His friend wrote an article which went to great lengths to explain and understand his behavior.

              I called her out on her rape apologism..

              And I’m told:
              that guys like this, who preach, tell you what is right, what you should believe and don’t listen to you are, more often than not, the problem.

              I am the problem. Me.

              I don’t think I’ll be around here much from now on.

            • Joanna Schroeder says:

              Ally, really?

              I firmly believe you can stay and have a conversation without packing up and going home.

              You’re not addressing what we’re saying at all. You’re not addressing the fact that you have dismissed the possibility that the one person who actually knows this guy has formed an honest, conscious, well-informed and even somewhat professional opinion of him.

              The crux of your argument is that Alyssa is *wrong* in her assessment of a person *she* knows. Whom you’ve never met.

              You can’t see how troubling that is?

              Just take a moment with it. Really, honestly. What can it hurt to sit with it and wonder what it is that makes you so strident that you are correct? What can it hurt to let the possibility of a truth you didn’t expect infiltrate you for a moment?

            • Alyssa ROyse says:

              Further, that you cannot look past that one point to understand than an exploration of “why” is not the same as an apology. Because it isn’t. I never in that article, or in any comment since, have apologized for my friend’s behavior in any way. Or for rape in general. But you are very keyed into that, which many of us have told you is not there in fact or intent. But you keep saying “yes it is.” It’s similar to how children see bogeymen in the closet even after their parents point out that it’s a hat and a coat on a broom.

              The point was that for some reason, this otherwise decent guy thought that it was okay to stick his penis in a woman he’d been engaging with for weeks, when she was asleep. We all agree it was rape. And you are stuck on the idea that we are apologizing for him by asking “What the fuck happened to make you think that was okay?”

              That’s not an apology in any way. But you can’t move past that. To willingly explore the idea that maybe, just maybe, lots of things leading up to that moment started this process ticking. And indeed do so all over the place, all the time. That VERY MANY otherwise decent men and women have crossed this line, or had it crossed, and not reported it, not called it out, not even known what to call it.

              That is not an apology, that is a call for help.

              And yes, the fact that you are approaching it as if you not only know better, but know all, and are correct in all your assumptions, makes it impossible to engage you.

              If you choose to leave the discussion rather than look at your assumptions that is your right. But in so doing, you also give up the right to say that you openly engage in the tough dialogs to try and create positive change. You remain part of the problem. Of those actually unwilling to address the harsh reality that sexual violence is not just a case of good vs. bad, it’s a case of a whole lot of signals crossing our wires and many of us getting stung.

              You can do all of that without excusing rapists and without blaming victims. But you can’t be part of this solution if you ignore that.

            • Ally, could you maybe be a little less of drama queen? It’s not helping.

              When a woman tells you you’re mansplaining, take it as an opportunity to have a good, hard look at yourself and how you’re approaching the conversation. You don’t have to agree. But don’t just go dismiss it, and don’t give us the “I’m sooo upset you could even say that”. It just make you come across as someone who is refusing to listen and learn; which, btw, is what you’ve been told already.

              Also, that you are being told that the way you approach this discussion is a problem is not the same as being told that you are THE problem, or the only problem. No-one is saying that the rape is not a problem. Funnily enough, there can be more than one problem in the same conversation. One of them being a person insisting that everything is either black or white.

            • This comment thread has got to be the funniest thing I have read in a long time. I sympathize with you Ally. Don’t get angry though. If you step back you see the humour in this.

              “You realize, don’t you, that your argument hinges upon the fact that you are certain you know what Alyssa’s friend was thinking better than Alyssa does.?”

              YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSSSS. I do. A billion times over I do. I think based on an article she wrote and very limited information I am more right about her friend than she is. And I can understand how that seems breathtakingly arrogant to you. But your wrong. Allow me to mansplain:

              Just because you know more about something doesn’t NOT mean you are a better judge of something. You can know more, you could have a PhD, you can be an expert in the field and still be wrong. In some cases its possible you are even more likely to be wrong the more you know. Schumpeter knew this, Nietzche knew this and the Doskevsky knew this better than anyone. Its a basic part of human nature. And finally after a long fucking time scientists are finally beginning … just beginning to study this. Read Daniel Kahemann’s latest research.

              Why does this happen? Because judgement is not just knowledge. Its knowledge + motivation. Its not just what you know. ITS WHAT YOU WANT TO BELIEVE. Humans use reason to support the ideas they believe in. They don’t use reason to determine the truth about something. Being an expert and havng more knowledge can in some cases be a bad thing because you can use your knowledge and facts to find more reasons to believe what you wanted to believe in the first place.

            • So, explaining and understanding his behavior is ‘rape apologism’ now?

              How about trying to figure out why suicide bombers commit terrorist acts? is that “condoning terrorism’ like some of the wingnuts claimed back in 2001?

            • Actually, it’s worse than that. Not only is he basing is argument on a belief that he knows both my friend and my mind better than I do. He’s basing it on the belief that because he personally would not react the way my friend did in a situation, no reasonable guy would. It’s like saying that his experience is a universal truth on which we can all rely.

              That’s what frightens me so much. It actually makes him a perfect illustration for why this piece was so very necessary. And “it couldn’t happen” is such a nonsensical response when looking at something that happens all the time.

              Regardless of how you choose to label the situations that lead up to rape, you have to acknowledge that they exist, that people do – whether you think it reasonable or not – interpret them in different ways, and rape is often the result. You can judge people good, bad, reasonable, stupid, evil – whatever you want – but it doesn’t change the fact that they do the things they do for a reason, and we have to figure out what they are so we can change them.

              But universalizing the personal, well, that’s a quick way to cross boundaries. After all, it is the same thing that lets a rapist think “well, if I was acting that way, doing those things, it would mean I was ready to fuck,” and the plow forward without asking “hey, what are you thinking, what do you mean by this?” And I mean that in general, not just in the case illustrated in the original article. But by all means, beat that dead horse, and we’ll all respond the same way, and as such, we’ll get nowhere.

            • If I may interject myself into this conversation…

              “Not only is he basing is argument on a belief that he knows both my friend and my mind better than I do. He’s basing it on the belief that because he personally would not react the way my friend did in a situation, no reasonable guy would.”

              He’s actually basing his opinion on the belief that penetrating a sleeping woman without her consent is wrong. All this wordplay, arguing and commotion is detracting from this original point.

              Understanding the minds of rapists is something that undoubtedly needs to be improved. The more knowledge we have on why people commit crimes, the better chance we have of preventing them. Indeed, Alyssa makes that point very well in her article, as well as the point that what her friend did was rape.

              However, this conversation is degenerating into an “Ally bad, Alyssa good” conversation, and that isn’t how it’s meant to be. Alyssa explains that her friend didn’t realise what he did was rape. Ally thinks that is bollocks. But nobody knows for sure, except for Alyssa’s friend.

              All we know for sure is he penetrated a sleeping woman, and that is rape.

              Discounting Ally’s opinion and calling him part of the problem is out of line. I find it hard to believe that any person in our society could truly believe that what happened wasn’t rape.

              Quite frankly, the way this discussion has developed is embarrassing. A conversation needs to be had about rape, and why people do it. But if this is how it’s going to develop, it’s no wonder it hasn’t been had before.

            • Joanna Schroeder says:

              Andrew, I really respect your response here and I apologize if my frustration with Ally’s dismissal of Alyssa’s assertion came through in a way that seemed out of line.

              But my frustration comes down to the fact that we – you, me, Ally, Alyssa… – all agree that penetrating a sleeping woman is rape. No one questions that.

              The chasm between you and Ally vs me and Alyssa comes with the fact that you guys don’t believe *anyone* truly thinks that penetrating a sleeping woman is not rape.

              We think there are people who believe that penetrating a sleeping woman is not rape.

              That’s the only real gap here.

              We don’t excuse his behavior in any way, shape, or form. And that’s what my entire article is about, really. That all these things exist together, it’s a tangled web.

              When one author calls another author – particularly a sex educator – a “rape apologist”, it has to be expected that tempers are going to flare.

              When you look at it, we all agree on 99% of the facts, but somehow what Alyssa and I are saying – that this man can be both a “nice guy” and have a deep flaw inside of him that led him to believe that his act was not one of rape (until it was explained to him). He is a rapist AND potentially a good guy – is enough for us to be called rape apologists. Or “rapist apologists”.

              That’s not going to met with snuggly bear-hugs and “I”m so glad you called me a ‘rapist apologist'”.

              Particularly when our goal here is to prevent as many rapes as we possibly can. That’s why I curated a 6-part section over the last week all about consent from many, many angles.

              Only to be met with being called a rape apologist.

              So, for my anger and frustration, I apologize.

              But for sticking to what I believe? I do not.

            • I accept that there may be people who think penetrating a sleeping woman without consent is not rape. I will also admit to struggling to understand how a rational member of society could think that. Someone with learning difficulties, maybe, but a rationally-thinking human thinking that is something I do struggle with. I think raising understanding of this is important. I just feel this discussion has gone quite a way off that original track.

              Finding out why people rape is important, and preventing rape even more so. I wish this discussion had stayed on that subject.

              For what it’s worth, I respect that you published these essays, even though there are parts I struggle to accept.

            • Joanna Schroeder says:

              Thanks for that, friend.

              What shall we do to get this conversation back on track?

              I’d love to discuss the idea of “forceful kissing” and the effect the sexualization of aggression has on society.

            • @ Andrew All this wordplay, arguing and commotion is detracting from this original point.

              Could you state what the “Original” Point is and “Who” made it, or are you just using word play?

              Please Do answer the questions – What and Who – if you don’t the answer will be clear!

            • Media Hound – The original points were “Nice Guys Commit Rape Too” and “Why It’s Dangerous To Say Only Bad Guys Commit Rape”, as made by Alyssa and Joanne. The discussion has veered off that original point into an angry debate around what people think of what other people think, and people taking sides.

              Joanne – I think aggressive sexuality is something that needs to be examined in a wider context. After all, grabbing someone and kissing them can be seen as both passionate and sexual assault – there needs to be a greater understanding of where the line is. The recent example of Justin Bieber and Jenny McCarthy is a perfect example of the boundaries becoming blurred, as highlighted here the other day.

            • So you chose to not answer – which is the most revealing thing of all!

              Please do learn to answer direst questions with direct answers, and that way you may be able to speak with some form of authority – and not look silly because you accuse others of word play when it’s you doing just that!

              And that’s after you strayed so far over the line of Disability Discrimination in an attempt to bolster a rather flimsy argument!

            • Joanna Schroeder says:

              I think that’s the tough part, with forceful kissing.

              But if you watch that 007 scene I embedded with the sound off, it’s bizarre. I’ve never pushed someone off me and said “no” and then enjoyed the kiss.

              Have you?

              On the other hand, a strong, commanding kiss IS sexy, but holding someone down (without permission to do so) is problematic.

            • The only time I could suggest where I have said no to a kiss and then enjoyed it would have been in my youth. I had a girlfriend at the time, and another lass I was attracted to forcefully kissed me. I stopped it and said no, but then she continued and I reciprocated.

              Would I have done it sober? No. Do I think I was sexually assaulted? No. But if somebody did that to someone I was in a relationship with, I feel my thoughts may be different. I also think my opinion would be different if I was female, and the person aggressively kissing me was male.

              Gender does play a part in the thinking of these situations, and it shouldn’t. That is something that society needs to work on urgently.

            • Media Hound – what are you on about? You asked me the original point, and who made it. The original point of these essays is clearly defined in the titles, and the authors are underneath. If you are referring to what caused me to comment, it was that Ally felt, rightly or wrongly, that these essays were attempting to excuse rape. For expressing that opinion, among many others, it appeared to me that it became a bickering contest, perhaps understandably, but the comments, for a while, became an argument.

              As for saying someone with learning difficulties MAY not understand what consent is, that’s not discriminating, that’s understanding the nature of learning difficulties and how they affect people. I work in the field, have done for 6 years, and like to feel I know a thing or two about the subject. I’d engage more, but as you have responded to everyone with comments designed to inflame, provoke and cause a row (bar Joanne and Alyssa’s comments) I am no longer going to engage with you.

            • Alyssa ROyse says:

              Thank you Andrew. That was both lovely and fair.

              But Ally did say, several times and several ways that the facts of a situation that I reported – which contained the perspectives of people who were there, as well as my own as i was there – were factually inaccurate. He was not there.

              I understand that this likely stems from a difficulty that you also have – and that makes sense to me – of “how could anyone think that.” The irony is that THAT was the entire point of both my and Joanne’s pieces.

              As difficult as it is to accept that some guys think this is reasonable, we have to accept that they do, or else it wouldn’t happen. It makes no sense to me either, which is why I told you – and everyone else – that what he did was rape. But why the primary question remains “what the fuck would make anyone think that’s okay?” And not in terms of consensual agreements between partners ( I have such an agreement with my sweetie) or in the dismissive “because they’re bad people” way, which is the end of a conversation. An end with no solutions.

              Fine, I get it, it’s awfully hard to understand that someone could think that was okay. But someone did. So, why? Was it her signals? I agree that that is not permission, but he took them that way. So what has to change? As I said in my piece, she has every right to behave however she wants without it being contsrued as permission to rape her. IT is likely, however, that it was construed precisely thusly. So, why? What messages have we as a society sent in which this + that + this other thing = automatic penetration?

              What conversations have we failed to have? What conversations do we need to have? How does our media need to change? Our interpersonal communication skills? The questions we ask each other as part of routine social intercourse?

              But Ally, and indeed many people, are hung up on “it’s not possible that he didn’t know” and “if we talk about her behavior it’s victim blaming and rape apology.”

              It is possible that he didn’t know what he was doing was rape until after the fact. It happens all the time. We have to accept that the people who do this have different thought patterns than the people who don’t.

              Further, when there is any sort of accident or unintended consequence in any arena, the first thing we do is dissect the parts and figure out what went wrong. We do that when a train derails, when someone gets sick, when a relationship falls apart. Identifying and understanding patterns is the only way we can change them. And that’ starts with accepting the givens, just like in geometry. In this case, the given is “this guys brain processes data differently than mine” and we have to understand why.

              It is far easier just to write him off as an asshole, but he is not. He wasn’t then, and he isn’t now. And a large portion of the people who cross the same boundary he crossed aren’t assholes either. These things happen on the spectrum of relatively common behavior from relatively ordinary people. Asking why is imperative.

              I am sorry if it seemed like it became and Ally vs Alyssa & Joanne match. But when someone continually tells us we must not be able to see things, or think about things, or have knowledge about situations that we were in and he was not, it is the worst kind of “there there little woman” patronizing. Especially from someone who cannot, by virtue of his gender, have any idea what it’s like to have to be so careful about the sending of receiving of signals as a matter of personal safety.

              When called out, his response was to disengage rather than think honestly about how his own signals could be received as such. That, in and of itself, is an illustrative irony.

            • Brian O'Reilly says:

              Funnily enough, it looks like I should’ve placed my comments on Alyssa’s piece somewhere here.

              It’s a terrible thing that, when discussing tragedy, even well-intentioned people have a tendency to grow heated when they are not face-to-face with their conversants.

              You’re both right, you know, probably. The person of the male gender described in Alyssa’s piece can simultaneous know what he was doing was wrong while, (in a multi-drug intoxicated state, I might add) convincing himself that he didn’t know any better, and actually believing that he thought he had consent after the fact. That’s not even strange, by cognitive psych standards.

              I would like to note that, even if Ally is entirely correct about this specific case, that doesn’t matter. The general point stands unchallenged – even good people do bad things. The fact of the matter is, they, not the sociopaths, are more likely to change behavior to keep themselves out of bad situations, so regardless of by whom the preponderance of crimes are committed, it is their behavior that the most effort should be put into changing.

  3. Turning cat and mouse in to rape, is over the top for me.

    • Explain this please. Because I don’t understand how this example is “cat and mouse”. If a woman falls asleep and you have sex with her without permission it’s rape. What’s over the top about that?

      • Lilith – you are dragging ideas and views from one thread to another. You may find it easier to leave one set in one place and deal with just what a single thread is addressing. P^)

        • I replied directly to TraceyD’s comment “Turning cat and mouse in to rape, is over the top for me.” I fail to understand what that comment has to do with this blog or the issues described within. This blog and Alyssa’s original blog are both primarily about a guy who raped a woman while she was sleeping. So I’m asking TraceyD, what her comment on this blog is supposed to mean, because I fail to see the relevancy.

          • Actually, most of this blog post concerned our cultural narrative that men must “win over” or convince women to sleep with them – sometimes forcefully. In that narrative women don’t know (or cannot admit) what they actually want, therefore men must intervene.

            This narrative, sometimes called “cat and mouse” is what TraceyD is responding too, when they assert “Turning cat and mouse [into] rape is over the top for me”.

            Which is why MediaHound replied that you are dragging thoughts over from a different thread, namely “Nice Guys Commit Rape Too”, when you brought up the raped-while-asleep example. The “NGCRT” article primarily discusses that event, while this one, instead, expands on some of the questions that article raises.

            Although this article touches on the nice-guy-rapist example, that isn’t its primary thrust, and it isn’t what TraceyD was talking about. I hope this cleared up any confusion, Lilith, MediaHound, and TraceyD feel free to correct me if I’ve misinterpreted your words.

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      Tracey, if a person enjoys “cat and mouse” all that person has to say is “I love a ‘cat and mouse’ game” and then establish a safeword or boundary points at which they want to stop “playing”.

      But a person saying “no” and then being held down or forced into a sexual act without a previous conversation about boundaries and expectations?

      That’s sexual assault.

      Someone said to me, “Daniel Craig can forcefully kiss me anytime he wants.”

      And I said, “And by saying that, you’re giving consent, and it’s no longer sexual assault.” We’re not trying to remove aggressive sexuality. We’re trying to make it safe.

      • I just don’t understand what that has to do with this example… unless she’s implying that the victim was playing cat and mouse IN HER SLEEP.

      • Someone said to me, “Daniel Craig can forcefully kiss me anytime he wants.”

        And I said, “And by saying that, you’re giving consent, and it’s no longer sexual assault.” We’re not trying to remove aggressive sexuality. We’re trying to make it safe.

        Unless Daniel Craig was there when she said it, then, no, it would still be sexual assault because he would have no reason to believe he had her consent, unless he goes around assuming that of every woman…which is the kind of bad guy behavior we’re talking about. If she (or women generally) think unexpressed consent makes it okay, that would be an area where they bear some responsibility in improving communication to prevent this sort of thing.

        • Joanna Schroeder says:

          Well, it was a joke about BDSM and the kink worksheet.

          So no, not literally do I think that Daniel Craig, somewhere in the world, was just given permission to forcefully kiss Alyssa Royse!

          But if she were in a room with him, and said, “Hey, Danny, go ahead and shove your lips into mine whenever you damn well please” I’d call that consent fro a forceful kiss.

      • Alyssa Royse says:

        And I meant it when I said that Daniel Craig can forcefully kiss me anytime he wants. Although, what I really said was “take me.” And if I saw him, in person, I’d look him in the eye and say it, and we’d be good to go. (Okay, I’d have to check with my husband, check STI statuses etc…. but….)

        But what Joanna and I were talking about was that there is nuance, and people’s tastes do vary, and what people want varies. That matters, a lot, because what is typical and understood behavior for one person may not be for another. But, as humans, we approach most situations by looking at them from our perspective – it’s fundamentally impossible not to. What we must learn to do – what we must teach – is that we all have to take a pause and realize that we are looking at everything through the lens of our own perspective. So we have to ASK what someone else sees and wants and understands.

        It might be productive to look at these things as cross-cultural communication more than gender or value binaries.

        I have talked to friend who had what they called “party hook ups” that sounded a lot like rape to me. And to me, they would have been. But for them, it was regrettable sex that in some cases was “kinda fun.” I don’t get it, it’s not how I roll, it makes me uncomfortable. But to them, it was something different. Stepping back from that (this is a woman I was talking too,) the guy with whom this happened has now been given information that “hey, that was okay to do.” So that data point goes into his perspective, his decision making matrix as a valid experience. So what if he goes to a party and reenacts that entirely, but the person he’s with is more like me and calls it rape? But the last time he did the exact same thing it wasn’t?

        Yes, consent should have been gotten in both cases.

        I’m not defending or protecting anyone, just illustrating that there is such a spectrum of “acceptable” behavior, and each person’s is different, and informed by their life experience. To pretend that it’s binary is to ignore the problem entirely. We have to accept that there are A LOT of messages that go into people’s perspectives and figure out how to approach those.

  4. I agree that Alyssa’s friend is 100% responsible for what he did. I don’t doubt that our society’s rape culture is also partially responsible. However, I do NOT accept the claim that “misread signals” played any role here and I do not accept the claim that her friend “didn’t know” it was rape.

    I think addressing the way society teaches men to interpret women’s actions is a very valid and important issue. I just don’t think it has ANY bearing here. In fact, I think equating this rape with “confusing” “gray” “mixed signal” rapes is very dangerous. And it’s so frustrating that when someone disagrees with you, they feel the need to say we “misunderstood”. No, we understand Alyssa’s point and yours – we just think it’s wrong.

    Let’s talk about misread signals, let’s talk about society’s role, but let’s not pretend that the guy in Alyssa’s story had ANY question of whether or not he had consent. Let’s not pretend that this case is a result of misread signals or misunderstood boundaries. SHE. WAS. ASLEEP. I don’t think Alyssa is a rape apologist or a victim blamer or a slut shamer and I think she has some very valid points. But by making her very valid points in relation to THIS situation, she’s perpetuating the very things she claims to be so against. By pretending that THIS rape was some kind of a confusing, gray situation (when it couldn’t have been clearer – she was ASLEEP) she IS giving rapists yet another excuse for their behavior. So let’s have this discussion about signals and society, but let’s have it about a different example because this guy is not a “nice guy” and he wasn’t “confused” and he didn’t “misread” shit.

    • Let’s talk about misread signals, let’s talk about society’s role, but let’s not pretend that the guy in Alyssa’s story had ANY question of whether or not he had consent.

      Okay, let’s stipulate that Ally’s friend knew exactly what he was doing, thought it was okay to penetrate a sleeping woman, and should be dealt with accordingly legally and morally.

      Now consider some hypothetical guy in a similar but not identical situation. This other guy has all the same circumstances as Ally’s friend leading up to the rape, from the extensive flirting to the drinking (and drugging) together and falling asleep. Hypothetical man (HM), still not sobered up, awakes in a spooning position, both undressed, and begins to get aroused. Hypothetical woman (HW) is asleep, but is one of those people who is not a motionless lump of snoring flesh when she sleeps, so though she *really* is asleep and not capable of consent, her body does some moving and reacting that HM in his sleepy, impaired state, misinterprets as interest and consent. Maybe, for example, he starts to move his hips away to avoid her feeling his erection (remember, they’re spooning), but her hips press back to keep the cuddle close. (This may be impossible for sound sleepers you know, but you don’t have to look long to find abundant examples of behavior sleeping people are capable of that’s a lot less subtle than a slight hip movement.) HM mumbles a question to ask for consent, and she grunts something unintelligible back that sounds affirmative to him, so he proceeds to penetrate her. Shortly thereafter in this hypothetical, she awakes to what is happening, and still impaired and unaware that her body or vocal chords could have sent false signals while she slept, does not say anything because now she’s just scared, so when he finishes and she’s obviously awake, he’s unaware that she had any objections. Later, she tells him she was sleeping, and he has terrible regret and remorse for what he did, so he’s not disputing whether she was asleep or whether he violated her, but at the time, he sincerely believed she was awake and consenting.

      So, in that hypothetical – which is *not* being claimed as what happened in the case of Ally’s friend – is the guy still a rapist for having violated a woman whose consent he thought he had? The violation still isn’t in dispute, but would this guy really be no different from a serial rapist who truly doesn’t care if he has consent or not, for whom knowingly penetrating a sleeping woman is just par for the course?

      • wellokaythen says:

        I think this is a very good point and a good example of something that could be primarily a miscommunication or mistake more than an intentional disregard of her consent. (Note that a man can do both, not only one or the other.) The “go-ahead” may be partly the product of some wishful thinking and hearing what he wanted to hear in his interpretation.

      • I think in that hypothetical situation, it’s still rape, because she did not consent. However, I could at least understand if someone made the argument that he didn’t really know he was raping her. (I wouldn’t necessarily agree, but I could at least understand that argument.) It’s a much murkier, grayer example than the one Alyssa has given us and I think it could be a jumping off point for the larger discussion about implied consent vs. explicit consent, about interpreting signals, about society at large, etc. However, I don’t think the example Alyssa has given us is the appropriate example for that discussion.

        That’s where my objections lie – not about her points about society (which I agree with for the most part) but with her claims that these points are at all relevant to the specific incident.

        I will admit that it is POSSIBLE in both situations, that he really truly believed that she consented, but in the example Alyssa gave the far more likely explanation is that he made a conscious decision to commit rape. So even if he is the exception, what purpose does making this argument serve in this case? It serves none. The details of this specific rape are overshadowing the good points Alyssa and Joanna would like to make. Make these good points separate from this rape, because they don’t apply here and it does come off as defense of his act because of that.

        • Joanna Schroeder says:

          This conversation HAS TO go along with real-world examples, otherwise we don’t have a firm grounding for challenging the notion that the guy was a “nice guy”.

          Think of it this way, I suspect that if we presented 3 hypotheticals about this, and made judgements, people wouldn’t engage emotionally.

          But this really happened, so we know it’s true. That’s what makes it so fucking hard.

          • Yes, use real world examples. But when you use a real world example of a man penetrating a woman while she SLEEPS to bring up the question of “misread signals”, it comes off as rape apology because a woman does not give off signals while she sleeps. Use a different example to make that point. Or use that example to make a different point. Or make both, respectively, but SEPARATELY.

            What irks me the most about this whole situation is the repeated times I’ve seen reference to your/Alyssa’s critics “not understanding”, “not reading thoroughly”, “not grasping the concept”, “not being open minded,” “not being brave enough to accept it”… maybe the problem isn’t that we’re too dense/closed-minded/___________ to understand your very valid points… but that these very valid points were made in a REALLY PROBLEMATIC CONTEXT.

            • Joanna Schroeder says:

              Sure. Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe we are truly too stupid to grasp how problematic this situation is.

              And we ran that risk in discussing rape in a way that almost nobody ever does.

              But to us, it was worth the risk.

              Call us rape apologists. Fine. You know what? I’d rather be called a rape apologist while working my ass off to change the way we discuss consent, because the way we’re discussing it in this society right now isn’t working, than to assume that Alyssa’s friend is a lying scumbag who just wanted to get his jollies off inside a girl who was asleep. I trust her assessment of him to be accurate, and because I saw in Maria the same sense of, “OH MY GOD I can’t believe I made such a horrible choice, I had no idea…” I believe he’s capable of having truly not understood.

              I’ll sit with what you’ve said. In fact, I have been sitting with it since I published Alyssa’s piece. You and Ally aren’t the first one’s who’ve said it. And I’m willing to try to understand it even better.

              But we’ve had such an overwhelmingly positive, grateful response to Alyssa’s article that I have a feeling we’re on to something.

            • Just to be clear, once more, I NEVER said you or Alyssa WERE rape apologists. Only that I understand why it’s coming off that way and I disagree with the choice to address this issue in this way. I don’t think that the questions you’re asking are new or unusual or controversial – I only think they don’t apply to this situation in the way that they have been presented.

            • Joanna Schroeder says:

              I can respect that, and appreciate your ability to engage with us in this dialogue.

              Ultimately, we need to remember that we all have the same goal and to respect the people who are our allies in this mission. Even if our paths toward that goal aren’t the same, the first way to engage in healthy discussion is to go into it **in good faith**.

            • Joanna Schroeder says:

              WOW this is a great example of how NOTHING in this conversation is black and white.

              In this case, she never for a moment intended to violate him, but he felt violated.

              Both things happened. We have to judge each situation individually, really.

              There is no room for black and white here. I think we’re only harming our progress in thinking that there is.

    • Let’s talk about misread signals, let’s talk about society’s role, but let’s not pretend that the guy in Alyssa’s story had ANY question of whether or not he had consent.

      I’m shocked at this because the only way to communicate with such absolute certainty is to ahve been a witness to very specific events. If you have witnessed events so closely that you can be so 100% certain on the consent issues, I would advise you to contact the relevant police and make full report – it’s the rational course of action.

      • Joanna Schroeder says:

        MediaHound, I don’t want to presume that this is what Ally means, but I don’t know how else to interpret it… As I said above, it seems to me that for some reason Ally assumes he knows better than Alyssa what her friend thought/felt/chose to do.

        I just can’t see how he could presume this. I honestly don’t get it.

        • But Joanne – I was responding to Lilith Not Ally – and I’m lying down in a dark room, having had to use the word mansplaining for real. Scheesh ! … I may be some time!

          I keep guessing why other people keep filling in gaps, but it gets so hard to keep up because as soon as they find the gap filler does not fit, they try something new – and even more bizzare, mixed up, contorted and off the wall. I’m sure that there is an Internet Axiom in there somewhere – and it does rival Poe’s law and Godwin!

          • OK, I’ll clarify then. This is not a situation of “I didn’t know she was that drunk” but rather “I KNEW she was asleep”. He has ADMITTED this much.

            Perhaps he really truly BELIEVED that he had consent to penetrate a woman for the first time, without her being conscious…. I find that so hard to believe because common sense tells us that sex is something both partners participate in. If she is unconscious, not only can she not consent, but she can’t participate, so why he would think that this was okay is beyond me. I find it extremely implausible.

            But okay, fine, for argument’s sake, let’s say it’s possible thta he really is truly that privileged and that selfish and that screwed up that he thinks it’s totally acceptable to do this…. then can we at least stop calling him a “nice guy”?

            The problem I have with Alyssa and Joanna’s explanations, is that they keep going back to society having to teach men how to interpret signals, but that’s not what happened here. She wasn’t giving off ANY signals, because she was ASLEEP. She wasn’t giving implied consent, because she was ASLEEP.

            So if you want to make the argument, that we, as a society, need to explain to men that women’s sleeping bodies are not theirs to do with what they please, then okay, that’s worth addressing. If you want to make the argument, that we, as a society, need to explain to men how to interpret “mixed signals” from women, that’s another valid issue to address, but it doesn’t apply here.

            • OK, I’ll clarify then. This is not a situation of “I didn’t know she was that drunk” but rather “I KNEW she was asleep”. He has ADMITTED this much.

              There is a second hand report, which you as a third party are interpreting and extending upon – the Common name for such behaviour is Gossip! I would use Idol Speculation, but you are far too active to be idol!

              You really do need to learn the boundaries of rational and even socially acceptable discourse. I hope you never get called for jury duty or as a witness to a serious crime. You have a disturbing lack of candour when dealing with what you know – as opposed to what you think you know!

            • Alyssa has not claimed that he didn’t know she was asleep. She has made it clear in the original blog that he knew she was asleep. I’m not interpreting that fact, I’m simply repeating it.

              Alyssa has not tried to claim that it wasn’t rape or that he wasn’t responsible, this is her interpretation – one I agree with – based on the facts as they were presented to us.

              What I AM interpreting is the likelihood of a sane, rational, adult male thinking that it’s okay to penetrate a sleeping woman without her consent. It is POSSIBLE that the really, truly believes that.. but it is far more likely (and far more common) that he made a conscious decision to disregard her consent and then tried to rationalize and defend it after the fact. I just feel that it’s so implausible, that even if it is true, it doesn’t serve a valid purpose in presenting it as absolute truth. This is why so many have accused Allysa of rape apology and victim blaming – not because she actually feels that way, but because her example is so far-fetched that it’s difficult to suspend your disbelief long enough to get to the real point she’d like to make.

            • Joanna Schroeder says:

              Lilith, where is your evidence that the vast majority of men who rape a woman by penetrating her while she is asleep consciously know that what they’re doing is wrong?

              No, seriously. What is that based on? Do you know any men who penetrated a sleeping woman?

              Does Ally?

              I don’t. Alyssa does.

              Also, WHERE IS THERE APOLOGISM in examining the rape in a broader context?! Seriously, I need this explained to me by SOMEONE.

              When does Alyssa take blame off her friend?

              When does she place blame on the victim or make her responsible?

              When do I?

              Examining the causes of cancer doesn’t stop you from naming it and treating it.

              Examining the many causes of rape doesn’t stop us from naming it and trying to treat it.

            • Also, WHERE IS THERE APOLOGISM in examining the rape in a broader context?! Seriously, I need this explained to me by SOMEONE.

              Joanne – there is no apologism in it, so no one can explain to you anything. It’s back to front!

              I may have to stop guessing now! A great many need to be explaining why they are so deeply emotionally, socially , psychologically and Dogmatically immersed in their tropes of rape, that they can’t do anything but be grossly reactionary and blinded by their own arrogance. They are so empowered by their self appointed rectitude that they don’t even need reality to be considered – just what they demand and decide!

              I think they need to be explaining why they have those issues, cos from where I’m sitting you have none to answer for!

              PS – if that’s me mansplaining could you just delete the post so I don’t look a total dick head?

            • What I AM interpreting is the likelihood of a sane, rational, adult male thinking that it’s okay to penetrate a sleeping woman without her consent.

              Did I just see someone introduce a negative mental health trope?

              If he was not sane – I mean Totally LOONEY TUNES would it alter your argument? Why not say able bodied or are you worried the crips might complain they are being treated negatively and as none rapists? Why did you miss out white? Too controversial there is it?

              That sort of using a minority is a negative way is pure Black Washing – It’s The same as White wash it’s just that the person doing it claims that have no prejudices.

            • It would alter my opinion, yes. I might be more prone to believe him that he “didn’t know” or “misread” signals. It’s not a negative mental health trope – I know people who struggle with mental illness and perceive the world in a way that does not match reality and are not always capable of rational decision making or consent in the ways that you and I are. As far as I know, Alyssa has not claimed that his capacity to understand or reason was diminished.

              I don’t think being or not being “able-bodied” or “white” would absolve someone of rape, so not seeing your point here.

            • OK, so my comment above was edited without an editor’s/moderator’s note, which I find inappropriate. If there’s something wrong with what I said, I apologize, but I don’t think anything I wrote was less offensive than MediaHound’s “looney tunes” comment.

              But I’ll rephrase – I find your use of “looney tunes” to be EXTREMELY OFFENSIVE and insensitive and self-righteous and disrespectful.

              I’m OUT of this conversation right now because apparently the moderators of this site accept slurs like that, but don’t accept calling them out. Later

            • Joanna Schroeder says:

              We don’t want you to leave the conversation, and I just asked MediaHound to tone it down above.

              Both of you need to knock the name-calling off. I’m not a moderator, but I see it unfolding and it will go to a bad place.

              Let’s redirect and refocus on what matters here.

            • Using disability in a negative connotation as a frame to add emphasis to your argument is abuse!

              If I was to say that a women was neurotic or acting insane because she had been treated badly – of that any sane person would not at ash she did… Well those oppressive views and ways are terrible and slip out when people least expect them!

              Worse still you state ” I know people who struggle with mental illness and perceive the world in a way that does not match reality and are not always capable of rational decision making or consent in the ways that you and I are” ????????????

              You know people… and you still use their experience as a negative frame in the attempt to won an argument?

              I have two questions for you

              1) Are You A Nice Person?

              2) Do nice people who know learning Disabled – Neuro divers people talk about and around them in negative and dismissive ways?

              If you answer 1 and say yes you are wrong – liars are not nice people – if you say no to number 2 it makes you a hypocrite and they are not nice people. You are not a nice person so why are you so critical of others…… what are you hiding under all that Critique?

            • Joanna Schroeder says:

              While I don’t disagree that we should be careful with our language regarding ability, let’s try to keep on topic here. We’ve already diverged enough.

              Let’s all try to be respectful of one another, and honor others’ points of view.

            • Where was your moral outrage when Alyssa used the term “insane” in one of her comments?

              “And to write them off as a small number of sociopaths is just insane given the number of sexual assaults that are committed by “normal people” all the time.”
              http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/why-its-dangerous-to-say-only-bad-guys-commit-rape/comment-page-1/#comment-381161

              “Sanity” is a legal term — one that can be used as a legal defense to crimes such as rape. I don’t view all people with mental illness in a negative way and I was NOT framing the situation as such. But it is FACT that some people with certain kinds of mental illness do not have the ability to understand the consequences or ramifications of their actions.

              I’m sorry if you’re offended by the use of “sane” (which is a LEGAL term) but I’m more offended by the use of “looney tunes” (which is a SLUR).

            • I called him a Jack*ss because he was behaving like one. Trying to derail the conversation by claiming that I am bigoted against the mentally ill – and using the term “looney tunes” to do so is OUTRAGEOUSLY OFFENSIVE. There is nothing inherently wrong with the legal context of term “sane” which is the context in which I was using it. I didn’t say “it’s crazy to think that” or “it’s insane” (like Alyssa said). I said I find it hard to believe that a man of legally sound mind would not realize that he didn’t have consent. I can’t believe his comment was allowed to go through unedited but mine wasn’t. This site is not for me.

            • Alyssa has not claimed that he didn’t know she was asleep. She has made it clear in the original blog that he knew she was asleep. I’m not interpreting that fact, I’m simply repeating it.

              This has been asserted many times over, and I even think it accurately characterizes how Alyssa interpreted what her friend admitted to, but I don’t get why people accept this as a given. If it’s a given, it was not phrased in a way to make it so. The most damning line from the article that speaks to this point says:

              …And by all accounts, when she woke up, he was penetrating her.

              Which is to say that she was asleep when he started to penetrate her.

              To me, assuming the guy’s account was one of “all accounts”, it’s a clear admission that after the fact, when she said she had been sleeping and woke up with him penetrating her, it was something he did not deny, but that description is neutral about whether he realized she was sleeping when he did it. Many people have characterized sleeping people as inert lumps that couldn’t possibly be mistaken for “sending signals”, but that just doesn’t jive with the reality that *some* people do move, makes sounds, or even talk in their sleep. So, maybe it’s just careless phrasing, but I do think the claim that he knew that she was asleep is an interpretation of the story as given, and not just a repetition of fact.

              Consider a more benign scenario. Let’s say I’m sleeping with my wife and getting too hot under the covers, so I mumble to her, “Do you mind if I throw this comforter off?” and she makes a grunt that I interpret as an affirmative reply. Both my wife and I have been known to vocalize or even say stuff to each other asleep that we don’t have any memory of doing later, so it’s not some wacky scenario to imagine. So if I throw off the comforter, and the next morning my wife tells me she woke up cold because I threw off the comforter, I would totally agree with describing what happened as, “I threw the comforter off while she was sleeping, so she got cold,” even though it wasn’t what I intended or knew at the time, when her sleeping self relayed an unconscious message that I interpreted as being awake enough to agree.

              So, if this guy knew at the time that she was asleep, that isn’t in the original text. If he told Alyssa after that this woman woke up with him penetrating her, that alone is not confirmation that he knew it then and not just after the fact. None of this bears on whether she was violated, but it does bear on the whole issue of how nice or awful he was, and whether he’s someone who thinks it’s okay to penetrate a sleeping woman.

          • Joanna Schroeder says:

            Oh, no, I knew you were. I was just building off of what you said. I see now how unclear my last comment was!

            • Lolcat Axiom “The higher the divergence from reality there is in contributions to a discussion, the more attempts at correction is an example of herding cats”.

  5. I agree completely with Ally. He sums it up perfectly in his article with this quote:

    “He became a rapist at the moment he decided to rape. Whatever we mean by ‘nice guy’, whoever a nice guy is, he is not someone who knowingly rapes.”

    Alyssa uses a very specific example – that of her friend, who had intercourse with a woman whilst she was asleep. She then claimed he “was genuinely unsure”. I don’t see how that is possible. Inserting your penis into a sleeping woman is rape. To do so is not the act of a nice man. Someone who may have been charming, friendly and pleasant beforehand loses the title of ‘nice guy’ the instant he forces sex on someone who has not consented, which is what Alyssa’s friend did.

    Talk of “understanding” rape is misplaced, in my opinion. The motivations are clear – the rapist wants to have sex with somebody, and doesn’t feel like their consent matters. Whilst I’m sure there are instances of genuine mistakes, the examples stated by Alyssa and Joanne are both clearly rape. The motivation behind them is one person wanting sex, and either doing it against someone’s will, or whilst the person was unable to give any consent.

    I think the conversation needed is not “why do people rape?” but “why are people so god-damned selfish nowadays?” Because that is what the vast majority of crime comes down to – people assuming their needs and wants are more important than those of someone else. Whether it’s a need for sex, power or possessions, it’s all about selfishness and greed. Society needs to treat kindness, decency and respect as essential values, not as optional values.

    Of the four articles, Ally is the one who nails it.

  6. “He smiles and says something like, “I really want to kiss you right now.””

    That’s the kind of thing a Nice Guy ™ would say.

  7. wellokaythen says:

    “Alyssa’s guy friend is 100% responsible for the rape he committed. In saying that society is also partially responsible, we aren’t now making Alyssa’s guy friend less responsible. Responsibility is not a pie to be divided. Instead, these are overlapping responsibilities.”

    I think of responsibility the same way that you do, but it’s not a philosophical point that is all that common in today’s culture.

    You’re right, responsibility is not a finite thing that gets diluted by adding people to the list of those who are responsible. It’s not like a pie, where the more people who have a slice the smaller the slice. Just because a man in a particular case is not alone in being responsible doesn’t make him less responsible. One can’t reduce blame just by putting in onto other people, though people sure do try, don’t they?

    If two people are convicted of committing a bank robbery together, they don’t split the armed robbery sentence between them. They both get a full sentence. Ten people robbing a bank don’t get lighter sentences than one person robbing a bank.

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      I think your armed robbery example is PERFECT and I was trying to think of how to explain that when I was writing this, but you’ve done it perfectly.

      Also, you gotta love my graphs.

      • wellokaythen says:

        I did like the graphs. They warmed my antiquarian heart. Very old school pen-and-paper. I remember when Venn diagrams were part of the “New Math” and all the rage in elementary schools. (I think we’re on the fourth “New Math” by this point, so the phrase is pretty meaningless. Yay, innovation for the sake of innovation!)

        I think what gets conflated in people’s minds are “responsibility” and “attention.” The attention about an event can definitely be divided, and in general attention to one person’s role takes away from attention to someone else’s role. But, that doesn’t mean the person with the most attention is solely responsible, or that giving him all the attention makes him solely responsible.

        Moving the discussion into a discussion about society’s expectations takes attention away from the guy himself, but it doesn’t take responsibility away from him. They’re related to each other, but not the same thing. Drawing attention away from him makes it sound like “he’s getting away with it,” but that’s not necessarily the case.

        I guess what I’m suggesting is multitasking. It should be possible to hold his responsibility, unchanged, in my mind, while we also examine related issues. Turning away for the moment is not setting him free.

        • wellokaythen says:

          P.S. Another way to put it: there’s a difference between explaining and excusing.

          • Agreed – and there is also a big difference between running away and exploring. Some seem to want to represent Alyssa and others are running away from reality and yet she’s saying let’s explore reality – there may be more to find.

            Some folks just can’t accept wide open spaces, or that they may even exist. P^)

  8. Because Girls Can Do it Too? Wild Guess from just the title trope!

  9. Saying that someone’s flirtations have nothing to do with rape and then going on and on about the flirtations and potential “mixed signals” and then repeating that it’s definitely rape is rape apology.

    This is like someone seeing a friend steal money off a sleeping a person and then saying “You know, she was flashing that money around a lot all evening. It was still theft. My friend stole from that person, but I wonder what made my friend think it was okay to steal from that person. Maybe society is sending mixed messages about stealing. She did flash money around a lot.”

    The flirtations, as many people have stated, have absolutely no bearing on whether it’s okay or not to have sex with a sleeping stranger. Nor do society’s messages about anything.

    We can have a great separate discussion about heterosexual dating dynamics and mixed signals… and that should never accompany an article about a man sticking his penis into a sleeping stranger.

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      How do people keep missing this.

      Her actions did not make her in ANY way responsible for the rape, nor do they diminish his responsibility as the rapist who made the choice to penetrate a sleeping woman.

      However, her actions bring to mind a discussion that needs to be had -NOT a discussion about why women shouldn’t do what she did (people should be able to do whatever they want while flirting, that doesn’t impinge on another person’s safety/security/autonomy — but a discussion about how society has taught people to receive messages about others’ sexuality.

      Join us in the world of “Both.and” and feel free to leave behind “Either/or”.

  10. If you draw a Venn diagram of relevance between Alyssa’s rapist friend and society’s mixed signals, there would be two circles not touching and very far away from each other… on separate pieces of paper even.

    • Love this.

    • I find glib two dimensional analyses highly informative – as they just illustrate over and over again why they are not the way to model, look at, discuss or understand complex issues. As one of me professors said Some use Occam’s Razor and achieve nothing but insisting they can reduce everything to the point of cutting their own intellectual throats.

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      A.Y. – because society doesn’t influence people’s choices?

      Ridiculous.

  11. Peter Houlihan says:

    “So what do we think of Maria? Should she have been tried in a court of law? Should she have gone to jail and been put on a sex offenders list?”

    Should she have been tried: Not so sure about that. I think she should possibly have been given the opportunity to rethink her actions before being given a criminal record (and it sounds like she did). Also, unless she confessed to the police I don’t think she should be tried on his word against hers.

    Should she have gone to jail: Only if there was a likelyhood she was going to reoffend. Criminal sentences should try to fix society, not threaten people. It sounds alot more like she just needed to be sat down and told “no means no.” I also think her anonymity should be protected, at least for the first offence.

    Should she have been put on a sex offenders list?: Sex offenders registers should be reserved for extremely violent and unrepentant criminals. But then, people like that probably aren’t ready to live in mainstream society anyway. The ritual of shaming sex offenders (and I don’t agree that it actually achieves anything more than that) is a dangerous one.

    Incidentally, I’ve also been guilty in the past of exactly what you were. A guy in my final year of school was asleep at a party one night and another girl in our school (who he’d said no to earlier in the evening) had sex with him while he was asleep. My initial response was exactly the same: Don’t all guys want to have sex all the time. I honestly thought it was only women who could say no. Even though I’d used the word myself in desperation once when I was 14.

  12. wellokaythen says:

    I guess this raises the question of what a “bad man” is, then. If not all rapists are bad men, some of them are good men, then I’m not sure where we should draw the line. I tend to think rape is pretty clear watershed divider. Is the difference that a good man feels some guilt about raping someone and a bad man doesn’t? Or maybe a “good guy” rapes only if there’s a real gray area? I’m tempted to say that there are no bad men or good men, just good and bad behavior, but I know that sounds wishy-washy and New Agey to some people and sounds like “love the sinner, hate the sin” to others.

    Not all rapists are bad men? On behalf of my fellow “bad men,” I would also like to remind everyone that the flipside is also true. Not all bad men are rapists. Don’t tar all bad men with the same brush. Some of us are better than the good men are….

  13. Tom Matlack says:

    No one is purely “good” or purely “bad”. We are all human. Rape is an evil act, as is killing someone. It’s a false pretense to say that “good” guys commit rape because no human being is purely “good”. We all do bad, even evil things to some extent or another. And at least in my view even the worst of the worst have the chance at redemption. That is why I started the GMP book tour inside Sing Sing sharing with 12 life-time inmates, most of them murderers. They made me cry not because they are purely on thing or another, but because even men who had done horrific things aspired to goodness and showed me great courage in their stories.

    • Well Tom – it’s interesting what happens when it’s people talking about you, and if you are good. I do prefer to hear people speaking for themselves. I like stories that come from real people about their lives, their experiences and their views of events they live through – and I’m not that keen on what turns into lectures, wild speculation fests and worst of all Gossip.

      I’d love to see more of the first and a reduction in the second. The first opens up dialogue, the second only promotes it’s own dogma.

      • Joanna Schroeder says:

        That is why I’m horrified by the assumption that one person can tell another’s story — without having met that person.

        Alyssa’s friend has a story that goes with this rape. It’s complicated, it’s ugly, it’s not good vs evil. And we’re not equipped for that type of story. We want to believe that he *has to be a bad man* to have done that. Because… Well, not only is it what we’re used to being told, but it means that *we* will never do anything bad. Because we’re good, right?

        Wrong.

        • Joanna – it is possible to look at a story, see recurrent patterns and attempt to fill in gaps. It becomes a Statistical Game and some folks are terrible at craps or is that crap at statistics?

          I am equally horrified (But Not Remotely Surprised) at the easy with which so many want to fill in gaps – will take anything they can lay their hands on in an attempt to fill in gaps – they will even take other people’s speculation about filled gaps and then repeat it as fact – and the insanity goes on until it’s impossible to get out from under the Fiction that people have created and demand is reality!

          Hell some have filled in the gaps and demand I’m a Nice Guy! How deranged can you get! P^)

          I deal with gap fillers all the time. They get excluded from Juries because they don’t treat evidence and facts with respect – they get quized to show they have made false report of events they have been a witness to, but they have filled in gaps such as Motive and what the person thought, rather than expressing their views and impressions of what they witnessed.

          What do you think – what do you know – what can you prove!

          Too many do not think at all and then demand what they construct is reality.

          Some actually check facts, weigh facts and reality and people and events and they have knowledge which is structured and and be linked to the word know.

          A very few can prove – and that is very few indeed! But so many take a little bit of thinking and demand it’s knowledge and them progress to proof – and all I see is a Field Of Jack Asses.

          Anyone who doesn’t take truth seriously in small matters cannot be trusted in large ones either.
          Albert Einstein

          So many ignoring, disregarding and falsifying small truths and demanding they know all the big truths! Sometimes I wish I had a pet black hole handy! P^)

          • Joanna Schroeder says:

            I think I need to transition into becoming more of a gap-filler, if only so as to avoid serving on a jury.

  14. wellokaythen says:

    Perhaps this would be just semantic wordplay, but another word for “asleep” is “unconscious.” Is penetrating someone who’s “sleeping” really at all different from penetrating someone who is “passed out” or “unconscious” or “in a coma”?

  15. Alyssa Royse says:

    Trying to understand why people rape in order to prevent more rapes is NOT rape apology any more than trying to understand cancer in order to prevent more cancer is cancer apology.

    • Congratulations – you have just gone to the very root and foundation of Rape Culture and why it was given a name.

      It was there to allow study, understanding and to address both the causes and effects of rape – including where do rapists come from. Praise the lord and happy, happy for Loretta Ross, Yulanda Ward and Nkenge Toure.

      Of course so many will miss that one and keep filling the gaps. I was thinking of marketing a new tool to spread wet gap filling material – “The Man Splane”. It comes with a built in spoon to help get large amounts of filler up to the really really deep gaps. I keep wondering how big the market would be?

  16. Alyssa, you seem to be saying that your knowing this guy gives you an insight that the rest of us lack.

    In fact, I would argue the opposite – that your knowing this guy is blinding you to a basic truth: that rape is not the act of a ‘nice guy’. He can be sensitive and kind and never forget his mother’s birthday and be great with the kids, but he is not a nice guy if he rapes someone.

    That doesn’t preclude a debate about the social environment – how we approach dating, how we think and talk and act about sex. It doesn’t stop us examining what the media does that makes the problem worse or better. In fact, such a debate is extremely valuable.

    But it is a fact that a rapist is not a nice guy.

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      That’s a legitimate interpretation.

      But hers happens to be different. Fact is, none of us truly know whether he believed he was committing rape or not. Maybe he had a brain tumor that impaired his higher cognitive function for just a fraction of time? Maybe he is a sociopath who spent his entire life seeming “normal” and “nice” and was actually just waiting to make out with a girl all night and then rape her in the morning. Or maybe he was a good person who did a deeply fucked-up thing because his particular dysfunction caused him to lack understanding of basic sexual respect.

      We don’t know. We’re all entitled to our interpretations. It’s the DISCUSSION about how we can STOP anyone – from a guy like Alyssa’s friend to the woman in my article (you did read it, right?), Maria – from committing a sex act that they didn’t understand was rape and would live the rest of their life wishing they could take back.

      THAT’S the point.

    • Alyssa, you seem to be saying that your knowing this guy gives you an insight that the rest of us lack.

      In fact, I would argue the opposite – that your knowing this guy is blinding you to a basic truth: that rape is not the act of a ‘nice guy’,

      @Samuel Palin – Hmmm?????? – now isn’t that an interesting little twisty?

      BUT sorry – cos I know nothing about this person except what has been made public, and I agree with Alyssa. You see for your “Alyssa to not know her mind and own cognition” gambit to work she would need to be the only person with the views you question – so Alyssa plus 1 means you have to go back to the drawing board!

      If you are going to tell anyone that they don’t know their own mind you really do need to have some pretty strong proof and not some personal supposition wrapped around an brick of ignorance!

      What do you Think – What Do You Know – What Can You Prove!

      You have proved you can think but you know nothing! Sorry – better luck next time and do try to stay the right side of being so controlling as to tell other people they Don’t Know Their Own Minds! It’s not only rude it’s worse than Crass!

      • MediaHound,

        “If you are going to tell anyone that they don’t know their own mind” – I’m not, I’m merely pointing out that there is a reasonable counter to Alyssa’s assertion that knowing this man gives her a special insight. She said:

        “That said, I do have the added benefit of having been there, and knowing this person very well. So I think my opinion might have a bit more information in it’s formation on this particular issue.”

        Being in this particular position cuts both ways. Your agreeing with her doesn’t change that. And disagreeing with someone isn’t “being controlling”.

  17. Lynn Beisner says:

    I am going to wade into this one because I find the parsing and arguing about consent painful and infuriating. By my standards, the man in this story was probably a nice guy, and o he did not have consent. He did not have consent. Now, let me tell you about a guy who did have explicit enthusiastic consent and nearly killed me. By all the parsed out definitions here, I was not raped, and the woman in this story was. Yet I ended up needing transfusions and emergency surgery. You can read the whole story here: http://www.rolereboot.org/sex-and-relationships/details/2012-12-why-consent-isnt-everything

    But I am sorry, but if these definitions of rape are what we are going with, I can’t even begin to make my brain work. The problem is that this nice guy did commit rape, but the monster who nearly killed me had consent.

    Consent is not everything.

    • @ Lynn Beisner – Brava – thank you Lynn for doing the same as Alyssa and being brave and working to open up issues so they can be seen and addressed – not closing everything down into a Micro View and enforced control over people in a micro lens around one word!

    • Lynn, thank you for telling your story. It has been haunting me all morning. I am sorry the police would not help you because even if you agreed to sex, you did not consent to the vicious mauling you endured. As an attorney, I think he could have been charged with aggravated battery at the very least.

  18. I keep wondering if some have got such large issues, that if they believe they are being denied control of a man they have never met, that they will seek to control Alyssa? If they can’t have him as a bad man, they will still have to get blood so Alyssa had to be bad. It’s bizzare conduct and worst still the people displaying it can’t see it – or themselves.

    • MediaHound,

      Your insinuation that people who disagree with someone are trying to ‘control’ them is more than a little unpleasant. No one ‘has to be bad’ – but the individual we were original discussing is. Alyssa isn’t, but the assertion she made, to my mind, is a dangerous one.

      Lynn, I’m incredibly sorry to hear your story. Reading it, the question still seems to be about consent – that you consented to sex, but not the violence you sadly experienced. You weren’t raped, by the legal definition of rape, but you were abused – consent is a concept that transcends the legal.

      Anyway, I’m done with this thread. Thanks for engaging sensibly, those who engaged sensibly.

      • @Samuel Palin – I do love it when people start displaying Righteous Indignation on the net ….. and they say that there is no issue with control but then say “I will control communication by not communicating”.

        It is comical how people keep saying the same things and not recognising themselves! P^)
        At times the only way to cope is accept the absurdity that gets let loose upon the Net on a daily basis and find a way to articulate it’s presence. When you see a Witch Hunt you call it just that – so Here’s an example of what it looks like, and just how well observed some patterns of human conduct are. She’s a witch!

        I’ve only been studying Net Communication dynamics for 30+ years, from before the internet was made public in 1992. So, sorry if I have seen so much and have so little difficulty in spotting dynamics – even none co-operative mobbing which occurs when individuals with no connection form a mutually supporting dynamic around an idea or even just a word. Some are so convinced they know their on minds, and yet yet carried along mindlessly when they get into the meme canoes that get flushed across the net – like it’s Magic Mountain!

        I find it amazing (Truly Shocking) that myself and another person on this thread are standing back to back, because we Disagree on so much. The one thing we do agree upon in the need to open up subjects and not allow gangs and tsunamis of we all agree canoers to shut down everything to preserve their comfort zones.

        I object to people using language to close dialogue and ideas down. I object to people repeatedly using negative and even ever so subtle stereotyping of minorities to peck away at other people – and I’m sort of famous for claiming people on it too. I even show people how to make the same points and leave out the bias and abuse of stereotype.

        I have been questioning why the issues around rape have been repeatedly closed down and controlled when ever certain people turn up. I’ve been asking the same question and making the same points for over 12 months just here on GMP.

        I’m so happy that Alyssa has said there is more to look at than the “He Rapist – Cut Off Head!” meme and just how controlling so many are around that. I mean, it’s not like Alyssa doesn’t have any expertise in the field, compared to some who are calling “Witch, Witch, Burn the Witch!”.

        But then again, so many others have rejected the narrow views that so many demand for their personal comfort zones, and have been treated the same way. I’m impressed that Lynn has posted and also opened up more issues….. and I’m not surprised that it’s so many men who are suddenly saying that they have to withdraw and not dialogue because they are unhappy with matters. Funny that – the guys who have been so certain of rape and all about it suddenly exiting when the reality is being questioned.

        It’s the first time I have seen that dynamic play out so clearly – and it’s quite a revelation.

        I’m neither feminist or mascualist – I do Equality. In the past here on GMP I’ve seen men’s views and opinions dismissed and thrown under the bus, and I’ve also seen it change. I’ve also seen women’s views dismissed and thrown under the bus and that has changed.

        But this is the first time I have seen so many Supposed Knights In Shinning Armour Turn Up and use lanaguage to and about women which is so Insidious that it’s beyond Stereotype and Caricature. So please do be righteously indignant along with some others, and please could all those who have been watching too much Camelot and Merlin please take your wonky round tables away.

        If some really do demand the right to play certain characters, I hear that they are recruiting cast for a world tour of Spamalot! All those with appropriate levels of talent welcome to apply! P^)

        So Brava – Alyssa
        Brava – Joanna
        Brava – Lynn

        … any one else got the courage to get up on the stage and see if there is a better view than the one from sitting back in the stalls and waiting for the next Curtain Up?

      • Responses still in mod land?

  19. wellokaythen says:

    By the way, I’m unclear about the reference to Sharon stone’s leg-crossing scene in _Basic Instinct_ and what it has to do with the issue of “nice guys” and rape. When you say “disturbing and intrusive,” do you mean that it was intrusive of the viewer to look there or intrusive of her to flash herself that way? Or disturbing to you that society might find this sexy?

    Theoretically, Stone’s character could be charged with indecent exposure to police officers and therefore become a registered sex offender. I don’t think of it that way, and most other people wouldn’t either, but it is a good example of different standards we have for men and women’s behavior. It should be treated as no different from a male flasher exposing himself to women, but the fact is that isn’t. A hairy old guy like me in a kilt doing that would generally be called disgusting and creepy….

  20. Why it’s dangerous to say only bad girls abuse their kids……only bad girls commit murder…..etc, etc. This topic is getting really stale really quickly. The fact is rates of sexual violence, domestic violence, random violence, and violence of all types have never been lower in the states. Incarceration rates for nonviolent crimes in the states, on the other hand, especially those for men of color, have never been higher. How about a piece or three on that?

    • I do agree that the “Bad” label is both under used – used excessively. It’s also used as bad shorthand and it’s just assumed that people understand that and don’t need it spelling out. People don’t want talk prison or prisoners, which is odd given that this whole site is built on those experiences.

  21. Are we really still having a conversation about why he came to the thoroughly considered conclusions that his actions were okay while he was heavily intoxicated by both alcohol and other drugs?

    • No – the conversation has moved well beyond that. Please Do Try To Keep Up. P^)

      • I don’t know. The argument seems to have been reduced to “Alyssa believes her friend thought it was okay for him to have sex with a sleeping woman and Ally believes he knew it was wrong but did it anyway.”

        From either side you have the assumption that he was able to consider his actions.

        But I will Try To Keep Up, Thanks.

        • As I said – It has all moved on a long way from limited views and ideas of Good Vs Bad etc. But then again, It seems that the bigger conversation has been going on, even if some just keep on attempting to make it Binary and One Dimensional. Even bad people exist in Three Dimensions.

          • You seem to be missing my point, as it was neither about limited views or ideas of Good Vs Bad.

            But after the condescending “Please Do Try To Keep Up” comment, I’m not particularly interested in continuing on, so we’ll just let it go.

            • Well Drew – there is that thing about Humour from different countries. Some assume good faith and practice it, others don’t. It’ all a matter of choice. Anglophone does not mean just the USA.
              P^)

            • Ah. Well then, I’m the one guilty of missing a message.

              Mea Culpa, sir.

  22. I’ve had trouble mustering the courage to post this comment.

    A lot of people flat-out refuse to consider the possibility that the man in the original story honestly did not realize his actions were wrong until after the fact, or imagine that in just the right (wrong?) situation they could make a similar mistake. I don’t have to use my imagination for this.

    I am also a rapist. Here is my story:

    Sometime over 20 years ago (the details are fuzzy), when I was in my 20’s, I was in bed with my then wife. It was early; the lights were on or there was daylight, and she was asleep. She was apparently having a sexy dream, and was aroused.

    I decided it would be playful for me to penetrate her. I assumed that she would awaken in a mental state of arousal comparable to that of her dream, and she would be interested in sex.

    Instead, when she awoke she said “Don’t ever do that again!” I realized from her tone that I had made a serious mistake. I have never done anything like that since, with her or anyone else.

    We never discussed the issue again. About 10 years later I asked for a divorce, for completely unrelated reasons.

    To my recollection no intoxicating substances were involved in this incident.

    I think I was capable of making this mistake because of my ignorance regarding issues of consent. My Catholic sex education (again, memory faded over 35 years) was limited to plumbing, and “sex outside of marriage is a sin.” In college orientation discussion of the subject may have been limited to “don’t rape.”

    I would not have performed this act if I realized it was rape. I believe that education on the subject of consent would have convinced me not to perform this act. To my recollection I had never heard, or read, any discussion on consent before this incident.

    I realize that I am probably below the 50th percentile in ability to grasp social concepts that others assume “should” be obvious to everyone. Still, I cannot be the only one to have ever made a mistake like this.

    • Do you think you would have made the same mistake if she hadn’t been your wife? If she had been a woman with whom you had NEVER had sex… who had NEVER give you permission to penetrate her before… with whom you were not in a relationship with… would you still have thought it was a good idea to penetrate her without permission, for the VERY first time that you are penetrating her? I don’t think it’s likely that you would have. And I don’t think it’s likely that anyone would have.

      Did you truly believe you had her consent to penetrate her? Or did you think that because she was your wife and apparently “aroused” that you didn’t need her consent? To be clear, what you did was still wrong – marriage does not mean you are entitled to sex at all times without your partners permission. (Unless of course, there’s been some kind of prior agreement that this behavior is okay.) However, I can more understand how that mistake was made because of prior consent and sexual activity with your wife. It was still rape, it was still wrong, but I find it less difficult to believe the claim that you really didn’t know that’s what it was.

      I’m not debating that the man in Alyssa’s story might have been confused. It’s possible he would not have associated what he was doing with the WORD “rape”. But I find it difficult that he would not have realized it was wrong in some way. I find it difficult that he would not have realized that, at the least, that he was being selfish or inconsiderate. I find it difficult to believe that he truly felt he had permission to penetrate her, for the first time ever, in her sleep, without her consent, or request, or participation, or awareness. I think it’s much more likely that he decided that he didn’t need her consent, that it didn’t matter whether or not she consented.

      And okay, I will allow for the slim slim slim possibility that he really was that foolish and that screwed up that he truly felt he had her consent. If that truly was the case, then I still fail to see what benefit Alyssa’s story serves. I understand that she wants to open up the discussion about why men rape, but in by opening up that discussion in THIS context, she’s simply giving rapists yet one more potential excuse for their behavior “I didn’t know! I’m a nice guy!” That may be true for a small percentage of rapists, but what does making that claim it do for the rest of them?

      • Lilith,

        I read a comment elsewhere from Alyssa that read: “There are many women who have been victimized by men who didn’t realize that what they were doing was wrong.” Perhaps she originally did not intend to focus exclusively on the scenario of her friend, but the conversation took on a life of its own.

        That said, in reviewing comments from earlier, I seem to have had one of your comments in mind when sharing my story.

        In my case, I was naively trying to initiate sex in a playful way. I wasn’t trying to use her unconscious body for my pleasure. I hadn’t discussed consent while sleeping or otherwise with my Ex or anyone else. I simply didn’t know any better. I wish I had known better. I didn’t intend to cause harm.

        Between the lack of specifics regarding the friend’s scenario, and my difficulty in recalling my mindset from my younger days, I cannot be certain what I would have done in that scenario, I can, however, create my own hypothetical in which I had been engaging in what I interpreted as foreplay with a woman, then I could possibly have been sufficiently horny and inebriated to overlook that she had stopped responding just prior to beginning coitus.

        Perhaps we don’t talk enough about the risks involved with using intoxicating substances. “Don’t drink and drive” gets hammered into us, but experienced drinkers still misjudge their level of impairment when impaired. Less often discussed is the similar impairment of our ability to empathize with others or consider the possible consequences of our actions when the consequences have not been spelled out in PSAs.

    • I think it’s safe to say that Alyssa spent less time vetting her protagonist than she would have, say, shopping for the next Jane Roe.

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      Arium, thanks for sharing your comment. I know it probably did take a lot of courage, especially considering the knowledge that people would probably attack you for it.

      I think you’re so right that we don’t talk enough about the risks involved with using intoxicating substances. What is it about being drunk and high that makes people more likely to rape, when they wouldn’t have otherwise? We must explore that.

      • In Vino Veritas. Because people lose inhibitions, because when inhibitions are lost, people act without thought. Because if the core cultural messages are “I should have this” we take what we want. Because they can use “I was drunk/she/he was drunk” as an excuse. Those all come to mind. I guess we should also look at people who have been really drunk and really high and HAVEN’T raped, assaulted, stolen, driven.
        So what kept those particular core inhibitions in place?
        I’d say if we could identify that, we’d have more luck teaching it to more people.

        • The few times I’ve been really drunk “I’me drunk, so I can get away with it” has never come to mind. The only time it does is when I’ve been buzzing (IE not drunk) and I’m considering doing something out of character, I consider “I was drunk” could be a fallback excuse. I also think that core cultural message isn’t one sent to young men, and it has only been sent to young women over a very short period of time. The cultural message to men is “you must earn, and continue to earn, anything you want”. And I’m sure any guy here will support that assertion.

          That said, I do agree with the loss of inhibitions. I believe when drunk, people act on their bass desires (not cultural ones), and sex is one of those desires. They do what feels good, or what feels unnecessary in the moment. They don’t consider the consequences, unless those consequences are understood at a base level and make the action not worth it. Drunk driving is an example of this, it has become less problematic since police crackdowns and increased penalties made increased the consequences beyond acceptable levels, that it registered even at the base emotional level. All laws are like that, but there will always be people who ether don’t respect the law, or who see the risks as worth the outcome, especially while they’re drunk (or in a crowd/mob), and this applies for any crime.

          That’s my 2c

    • In light of this post I feel the need to share a story as well…I am a rape victim, and here is my story…

      A year and a half ago I was seeing a guy and we had messed around, but never actually had sex. He was very good to me, very great guy, but I did know that he had ‘been around’ prior to us starting to see each other and it made me uneasy. I wasn’t completely ok with it, but he drew me in, we had been friends for almost a year and I had had a crush on him for months. My recent relationship had ended so I had a chance to start seeing him.

      We had been seeing each other (not in an official ‘relationship’) for about a month. On the night of my birthday, I got extremely intoxicated, blacking out most of the evening. He also got extremely intoxicated. When we got back from the evening we went to bed. The next morning I woke up, realizing both of our clothes were off and I was sore…I knew that I never said yes. I don’t even remember it starting! I just remember waking up in middle of it, towards the end I suppose…and then falling back to sleep. I thought it was a dream! Sadly, it was not. What makes it all worse…this was my first time ever having intercourse and I was 22. First time ever black out drunk, first time having sex. No consent, no condom, no remembrance of it happening, better yet enjoying it. Having to wake up the next morning and buy plan B. Thank God I didn’t get pregnant. Yes I know, 22 is old…but through high school I wasn’t dating anyone serious (and wanted the first time to be with someone who loved me) and then through college I was dating a guy who was very religious and celibate. So I was celibate. So I was waiting till either marriage with him, or a new relationship with someone who loved me. And with the first time getting black out drunk…alcohol scares me because my mother was an alcoholic. So I have always been very careful. This was the first and last time I ever let go and just ‘got drunk’. Never again.

      I’m still seeing him, a year and a half later. I don’t know why I didnt just end it. I believed he didn’t know what he was doing. I believed it was a mistake and didn’t think it was rape because we were seeing each other so I must have ‘set myself up for it’. And after time of thinking about it I realized it was full out rape. But I really liked him, and we’ve built a great relationship that I don’t see ending. But that night still haunts me and always will. I cry and cry when I remember that I waited so long to have sex with that perfect man and it was just taken from me. I cant even remember it. Honestly, we should have never been that intoxicated, and now I know, I will NEVER get that intoxicated again because bad things can happen. Im even more scared of alcohol now.

      So my point of telling this story…please take this seriously. Men and women alike. Do NOT GET THAT DRUNK because you have no control over what is happening after a certain point. It’s a horrible idea and leads to horrible things. So please, realize that you MUST have consent. When someone is asleep, they are a no go. Waking them up is probably even a no go because their still in and out of sleep…make sure they are 100% there. And don’t get so drunk that you cannot ask for consent or cannot give consent. If your planning to get that drunk, plan to say away from the opposite sex. And cars. And anything of value to you.

      Just thought I would share…and I hope that it hits home with some people. I will always regret getting that drunk that night…because the one thing that was mine, that I had held back from everyone for all the years of my life, was taken from me. I would have never said yes sober because we weren’t ready, and I wasn’t conscious when it happened. So be sure you practice and preach consent. Please and thank you.

  23. Whether a person is good or bad is determined by their actions. Hence people who commit rape are bad people by definition of their bad actions. It’s why you don’t generally hear people saying things like: “that child molester is a really good person.”

    Language has a social function and by trying to challenge whether raping someone makes someone bad (which it obviously does) you lose the very understanding of the words within the dichotomy. More importantly, you also lose all ideas of redemption. A bad person can become a good person, a rapist can redeem themselves by doing right by their victim and accepting the seriousness of their actions, e.g. apologising to the victim sincerely and/or reporting themselves to the police based on the needs of their victim.

    Issues of consent can be addressed without the challenging of useful dichotomies. For example:

    “When engaging in sexual acts always make sure the other person is happy with what is happening and enjoying themselves. If you are not given consent, or have any reason to believe the consent given is not due to the happiness and desire of the person (e.g. drugs or alcohol abuse) then do not continue. Communication is important to any sexual encounter, not only for consent, but also mutual enjoyment. Don’t be afraid to ask the other person if they are okay with what you wish to do, or whether there is anything they would like you to do. Always be considerate and respectful of others, especially with regards to sexual encounters.”

    • I think we need to acknowledge that people are good or bad on a scale. Somebody who commits rape because of poor decision making, and feels remorse afterward, is not nearly as bad a person as someone who knows they are committing rape at the time, and doesn’t care, and will do it again. This distinction is important because the poor decision maker would choose not to rape if they were accurately informed about consent. Rapes by this kind of rapist can be prevented by education. Perhaps we should say not that this kind of rapist is still a ‘good’ person, but that they WANT to be good. That desire to be good means that they can be deterred.

      The depth of the harm a rapist causes is to be determined by the victim/survivor, and the intent of the rapist is irrelevant to how much harm they cause to an individual. But if you lump both kinds of rapists together, you prevent the rapists who want to be good from identifying themselves as rapists. The point of saying that ‘good’ guys commit rape is to say that ‘normal’ guys can rape. It’s not always a shadowy figure with a weapon and malicious intent.

  24. Between the two stories, the legal question is quite easy. The guy and the sleeping woman: rape. Penetrating someone while unconscious is rape (curiously, probably even if they consent to it beforehand, e.g. “I want to wake up with you inside me.” But that’s a different issue.). Having sex with someone who says, “No,” when they are not intoxicated to the point of being unable to resist, where you do not use force or the threat of force – not rape. Good article. Just wanted to clear up that point.

    http://www.lexisnexis.com/lawschool/study/outlines/html/crim/crim25.htm

    • Having sex with someone who says, “No,” when they are not intoxicated to the point of being unable to resist, where you do not use force or the threat of force – not rape.

      Wait – what? Was this poorly worded or did you mean to say that having nonviolent, non-forceful sex with a sober person who says “No” is not rape?

      • Legally (at least under California law), under the definition of rape, the intoxicated person must be so intoxicated that they cannot “resist.” Intoxicated people are legally capable of consent. Cal. Penal Code 261. http://codes.lp.findlaw.com/cacode/PEN/3/1/9/1/s261

        Having sex with a sober person who says “no” is rape (legally) if you use force, threats, or duress. Often, the victim will say no, but then not resist because they are afraid of being hurt. This is still rape under the modern definitions of rape. (It didn’t used to be. 50 years ago, many statutes said that the victim had to physically resist or was deemed to consent.)

        • Please be very aware that in most states this is not the case and intoxicated persons are not able to consent to sexual intercourse.

          Also, having sex with a person who says “no” is rape. The end. It doesn’t matter if you use force, threats, or put them under duress. If they say no, and you continue to have sex with that person anyway, you are raping that person.

          • I don’t know where, you’re getting this, Tara, but what Sarah says about California law is true of most jurisdictions that have any legislation on the subject at all. I think there are few *if any* jurisdictions with a “one drink” rule, that any degree of intoxication whatsoever nullifies consent, which is a rather extremist view in my estimation. Ethically, one shouldn’t take advantage of somebody who is falling down drunk and out of control (much less passed out) no matter what the law is. But simply tipsy and disinhibited? Sorry, no harm, no foul.

            • I’m getting this from what we were taught in our SAPR classes, courtesy of the military. I happen to believe that there is a huge grey area, but someone who is just tipsy can also be led to make a decision that they normally wouldn’t make sober as well (pulling that information from personal experience with 5+ years as a bartender).

            • “someone who is just tipsy can also be led to make a decision that they normally wouldn’t make sober as well”

              Of course they can, and often do. That does not make it rape. Doing something different from what you’d normally do does not equal lack of consent, or lack of ability to consent.

            • Are you kidding me with that right now? So, you’re saying that you would sleep with someone who was a little tipsy, and then the next day if they told you, “well, I wouldn’t have slept with you if I was completely sober” that you wouldn’t feel bad?

              That’s skeezy. And gross.

            • If I was you, I would be more concerned about the person who uses a little bit of alcohol to excuse their own choices. “I was a little tipsy when I got behind the wheel of that car, so I can’t be held responsible for the outcomes” I don’t think so. Consent is consent. If your inhibitions are so drastically swayed by alcohol, perhaps that’s a sign to avoid alcohol instead of accusing anyone you have sex with while under the influence of it of raping you. Having sex with someone who is passed out drunk is rape, plying someone you know doesn’t want to have sex with you with alcohol until they are so drunk they lose that inhibition, that’s sleezy. Having completely and enthusiastically consensual sex with someone who’s “a little tipsy” and finding out the next day they regretted their choice… not my problem.

            • Does your reasoning work in reverse? That is, if a guy who’s “a little tipsy”, say a slight buzz after two slowly-consumed beers, has sex with a woman and tells her the next day he wouldn’t have done it without his beer goggles on, then the woman should feel bad for raping him? Because if that’s not what you mean, I don’t see see why it should only hold true if the woman is the tipsy one. (Or what if they’re both a little tipsy?) To answer more directly, if a woman told me the next day after being “a little tipsy” but showing enthusiastic consent at the time it happened, that she’d never have had sex with me without the drink, the only kind of bad I would feel would be either hurt feelings or anger at the bitchy insult. I sure wouldn’t think I’d raped her because she had one drink.

              When this kind of discussion comes up, one of the preconceptions women often battle to convince men is incorrect is that they (the women) are saying that if a woman consents and then later regrets sex, that’s rape. When they make progress and start getting past that hangup to where men are listening and there can be actual dialogue about consent, someone comes along to argue that any drink, even “a little tipsy”, removes a woman’s (but only a woman’s) ability to consent, and either asserts or implies that it is rape. Bye, bye, dialogue.

              I have one question that might soften me a bit to your point of view, if I haven’t pissed you off too much to answer it. Are you expressing this view that even the slightest intoxication makes consent impossible as a personal standard that you adhere to and wish others would, too, or is it your view that it’s what the legal standard should be, such that people who violate it should be convicted and sentenced for rape? If it’s the former, I still don’t agree, but I don’t feel that threatened by someone “practicing what they preach”. It would be like being opposed to premarital sex, but without any legal consequence for others who disagree. If you’re arguing it as what you think the law is or should be, then I find it more objectionable.

      • BTW, violation of PC 261 applies to “sexual intercourse” which is defined elsewhere in the code as penetration of the genitals by a penis, but men can be the victims of what is called unlawful sexual penetration by women, under PC 289. The language about consent, intoxication etc. in 289 largely mirrors 261 and penalties are similar.


  25. It may be comforting to believe that all rapists are bad people, but in truth, rape most often happens between friends, lovers, acquaintances and pals.

    Agreed. It’s a rush to judgement that people are quick to make for whatever reason (personally I think they make that rush to judgment in order to distance themselves from it and make themselves feel superior but oh well).

    Instead of attaching the stigma to the person it might be better to attach it to the act or else the badness of the act could get lost (and I think this might be why people are far more lenient and sympathetic to female rapists for example).

    • Eee! In the past few weeks, after spending a fair amount of time on this here website, I’ve come to the conclusion I’ve been the victim of rape on a dozen occasions and the perp on a dozen occasions. Wow. who knew? How do I feel in my anonymous place, my identity safe as do-gooders and lawyers try and convince me that I’ve been damaged in hideous and irreparable ways? Should I float accusations in the local news destroying a presumably innocent life? Or, on the other hand, should I be the person in the crime reports posting my birthdate, full name, hometown, and occupation peppering the web before my trial? Should I just turn myself in? America needs to know.

  26. “They happen when people aren’t taught the communication skills that educators like Jamie Utt, Alyssa Royse, Cliff Pervocracy, Scarleteen, and others are trying to teach.”

    Hmmm, the same Cliff Pervocracy who keeps telling people that if there’s no such thing as non-verbal consent, that you have to play a “mother-may-I” verbal permission-getting game for each and every sexual act? That’s the “communication skill” we need to be “educated” in? In other words, micromanagement of communication style by so-called “educators” who are completely tone-deaf to nuance or anybody else’s style of sexual play or communication besides their own.

    I give a big “no thank you” to these so-called “sex educators” and the glorified version of the Antioch Rules they’re trying to pass off as the one and only model of affirmative consent. And, of, for the record, I’ve never played these stupid Antioch Rules games, and yet somehow managed to have the *common sense* to not put my dick in a dead drunk sleeping person the way “educator” Alyssa Rose’s “nice guy” friend did. Imagine that.

  27. The problem I have with the first part of this article is with how it sends a conflicting message to what other women are saying. Where does the ravishing end and the rape begin? Does the acknowledgement that the line has shifted, so that what is now called rape was once called exciting, demonstrate some kind of support for rape? Was this always rape, or is this a shift what women think of themselves, of men and of social interaction (did the woman in the white uniform consider herself sexually assaulted, or was it an exciting, if somewhat unexpected, kiss?)?

Trackbacks

  1. […] my piece, “Why It’s Dangerous to Say Only Bad Guys Commit Rape“, I talk about how “No Means No” consent education doesn’t work. I talk […]

  2. […] Joanna Schroeder wrote this piece for Good Men Project in response, as did Ally Fog. Both take different angles on the issues, and dig into the ideas beyond consent, even as there were disagreements between authors. […]

  3. […] comment is from Marcy on the post “Why It’s Dangerous To Say  ’Only Bad Guys Commit Rape.’” There are many reasons to talk about rape, and consent, and the harm done. At The Good Men […]

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