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Nice, Horrible Monsters

Trigger Warning for Rape

Amelia McDonell-Parry responds to this post about rape by Alyssa Royse at The Good Men Project:

Royse goes on to emphasize multiple times throughout the piece that this friend of hers did rape this woman. She does not deny he is a rapist. However, many who have read this piece have a hard time with this being an example of a “nice guy” who “accidentally” commits rape, as there was no confusion or misread signals as to whether this woman wanted to have sex. She was asleep. She could not give consent. Period. “Nice guys” don’t stick their dicks in sleeping women.

Jill Filipovic of Feministe doesn’t want to let Royse off the hook so easily:

Even though Royse says this was rape and rape is wrong, her piece is rape apology. Because she uses the same narratives and excuses that rapists have always used to get away with raping. She says she wants to talk about our culture and how it enables rape, but then she uses the exact same cultural memes to act like rape is at all fuzzy, and rapists don’t actually know exactly what they’re doing.

Personally, I think Royse was trying to start a conversation about how even otherwise “nice” people, who don’t think of themselves as horrible people, can still do horrible things like rape. She got sidetracked, instead, into blaming “culture”, which ultimately boils down to—at best—blaming no one, and—at worst—blaming the victim. Muddled thinking and poorly-thought-out writing ended up conveying a message I have a feeling she didn’t intend to convey.

The good point I think we should draw from this episode—since “The Good Men Project Sucks” is not a real point—is that painting all rapists as horrible monsters hurts the attempt to combat rape culture. Some rapists are not (otherwise) horrible monsters, so people—including the rapists themselves—assume they can’t be real rapists. But they are.

If we want people to become more self-aware about obtaining consent for sex, we need to help them realize that even though they are not horrible monsters, they could still rape someone. Our message should not be: “Don’t be a horrible monster who rapes people”, but “Don’t rape people.”

Focusing on bad actions instead of bad character is usually more likely to produce change.