Redefining the rapist: The line between ‘nice’ and wrong

By — December 20, 2012

Are there shades of rape? The author argues that answering this isn’t about being a “nice guy”—it’s about right and wrong.

It takes a lot to make me angry. My patience is so legendary, this one time a partner couldn’t take it anymore and threw a chair at me for not getting angry at her for something she’d done.

On Tuesday, however, something really got to me.

I read two pieces on a blog named the Good Men Project that appear to have been meant to open up a conversation on rape. The first one, by Alyssa Royse, dances around whether her friend “accidentally” raped a woman by starting to have full-on intercourse with her while she was sleeping. The guy then calls Royse and informs her that he’s not sure what he did was rape because the woman’s behavior while awake suggested she might want to have sex with him. She then goes on to blame other factors for the unfortunate mishap, going as far as to say: “we all—as a society—are responsible for the culture that created the confusion.”

(Oh, but it’s a little bit his fault:)

“The rapist is just a person who may genuinely not realize that what he’s doing is rape.”

(Although:)

“Nice guys commit rape.”

The second story is by an unnamed rapist telling us that he likes to have sex with drunk women—i.e., rape them. He then informs us that just because one of the drunk women that he had sex with—in front of a large group of people—told him he had raped her doesn’t mean he’ll stop.

The theme of the two articles is that rape is somehow, well, you know, pretty normal. That any kind of man might rape. Not because most rapes are committed by men who are predators, but because A) we’ve defined rape loosely and B) women…they just don’t know how to not get raped by perfectly “nice guys.” Both pieces got some serious Internet blowback. In response, the blog’s editors did everything they could to defend the pieces, such as calling their detractors “extreme cyber feminists.”

Here’s what angered me to the point of shaking uncontrollably for 5 minutes. Unlike the editors at the Good Men Project, I found the stories to be appalling—and I didn’t even need to see the editors’ reaction to critics or their co-founder’s attack on feminists. 

I may sometimes be an angry guy, but even when I’m not, I’m still not a nice guy. Some, however, might say I’m a nice guy because: 

Several months ago, I was out in town with a woman having a fun-filled night. At some point, I realized I was utterly charmed by her and would love to take our conversation to my condo—and maybe later to my bed. At that moment, however, I decided that I was going to scrap the plans I’d made for us to drink at my favorite bar because I didn’t want her answer to my question about sex to be influenced by alcohol.

Last year, I was with another woman. We were both really turned on and she said she was willing to have sex with me—which I was finding really hard to resist. The problem was that she was inebriated. She was so drunk, she was passing out in my arms—regularly waking up to ask me if we were going to have sex. I tried in vain to get her to stop. She wouldn’t. Then I realized that she was drunk to the point that she was forgetting what I was telling her seconds ago. So I said I didn’t have condoms, hoping she’d forgotten about my having them. That made her stop.

Several years ago, I was having a sexual relationship with yet another woman. One night, I was out working far longer than she was. The whole day, we had been texting each other about how we were going to spend the entire night doing indescribable things to each other. When I got back, she was asleep on the bed, after an evening of heavy drinking alone. I tried to wake her up, but she was clearly not interested in waking up. I was very turned on. No, I was turned on like I’ve never been in my life—but I just lay beside her and watched TV. It didn’t even cross my mind to take her clothes off and penetrate her because we’d been having sex in recent days anyway, or because she was already planning on having sex with me that evening, letting me know all day in graphic detail.

But, like I said, even after these and other similar stories I haven’t recounted here, I’m not a “nice guy.” I just know what’s right and what’s wrong and I stick to it.

The reason I found the articles appalling was that they’re trying to create multiple categories in order to somehow muddle the facts, which are very simple:

  • If you engaged in sexual activity with a partner who is under the influence of a mind-altering substance, even if they say they’re willing, you raped.
  • If you willfully engaged in sexual intercourse with someone who was asleep, even if she seemed willing before, you raped.

Being nice or not nice has nothing to do with your actions. You need consent before you engage in sexual activity with anyone—including people you are in a relationship with. 

Not raping or taking the risk of raping the three women I mentioned here doesn’t make me “nice.” It just makes me a responsible person—toward myself and other people. But if you read the Good Men Project’s articles and others like them, you might think differently because they poorly attempt to present you with other “in-between” types of men, beyond the responsible and the criminal:

The “Accidental Rapist” who had sex with a sleeping woman because she looked like she wanted to have sex with him when she was awake. The “Occupational Hazard Rapist,” who has sex with drunk women, some of whom might call him to tell him he raped him, but whatevs. Beyond these, there are other types of rapists I’ve heard of and you probably have, too. The “No-Contest Rapist” is still a “nice guy” because the woman was too traumatized to stop him. The “She-Was-Asking-For-It Rapist” can’t seem to view women as human beings who have a purpose in life other than getting men to sleep with them. For the “We’re-in-a-Sexual-Relationship-So-I-Don’t-Need-Consent Rapist,” Google “spousal rape.” There are lots more. And guess what? Most of these guys are “nice guys,” not monsters, we’re told.

By using sympathetic narratives and then peppering them with how the woman dressed, how she bragged about her sex life—so unladylike, right?—and how she kissed him on the lips, looked at him a certain way, touched him on the thigh, the pieces published by the Good Men Project weave utterly confusing scenarios. Then, with their liberal use of clichés, dehumanizing characterizations of women, and misrepresenting criminality, they are playing mind games with their readers to make the facts murky and advocate that these men are “nice guys.”

But they raped. And since nice guys don’t rape, the responsibility partially or fully rests on someone else’s shoulders. Whose could it be? Drumroll, please!

The woman’s.