I'd Rather You'd Quit Partying Than Raped People

A response to an article by a rapist in the Good Men Project.

One of the endlessly fascinating things about the internet is that it forever seems to throw up new and eye-opening ways to really make you feel ashamed to be even broadly associated with other human beings. Football fan? Why not log onto the internet and see what other football fans think? (Note: don't ever do this). Maybe, like me, you're an atheist! Have fun logging onto the internet and getting embroiled in discussions about whatever stupid shit Richard Dawkins just said!

And so it is with men. Good old men. Perhaps the second most damning indictment of men as a group is the fact that 'The Good Men Project' is a thing. Men are genuinely so terrible that we have to have niche movements of dudes clubbing together to scratch their heads and try to figure out how not to openly be arseholes all of the time. I say that's the second most damning indictment of men, because the first is that said Project still manages to go ahead and publish an article by a rapist, about how he's not quite bothered enough about rape to stop drunkenly flailing his dick around. You can read it here, although obviously trigger warnings apply here in spades.

The article is genuinely called 'I'd Rather Risk Rape Than Quit Partying'. A reminder is due at this point that he's not talking about risking becoming a victim of a rape, although he goes on to make that argument too, but becoming a repeat sex offender. It begins with the line "When you party, when you move in party circles, you accept certain tradeoffs", the piece's anonymous author thus immediately setting himself up as the kind of Andrew WK of rape apology. It kicks off with three self-serving paragraphs explaining how super awesome it is to party, and how, hey, if you're going to be a wild party guy, some people might end up getting raped! Shit happens! Deal with it! Observe;

I swear to God, it is only after the fact that you start figuring out that one of the tradeoffs you’ve accepted is a certain amount of rape. The way crooked businesses accept paying fines for their infractions as the cost of doing business, you gradually, an inch at a time, realize that some of the stories you’ve heard, some of the stories you’ve lived, didn’t involve what they call good consent nowadays.

To this guy, rape is just one of the costs of doing business. PARTY BUSINESS! Whoop! Hey, you know what they say, you can't make a party omelette without seriously sexually assaulting a few eggs! So, this dude occasionally doesn't get "what they call good consent" when he has sex at a party. 

Maybe he's not so bad though. I mean, he's probably not a real rapist, right? Maybe it was kind of a borderline thing that somehow a reasonable guy could accidentally do. What's his story?

I’d been in a drinking contest and she’d been drinking and flirting with me (yes, actually flirting) all evening. As blurry and fucked-up as I was, I read her kiss of congratulation to me as a stronger signal than it was, and with friends hooting and cheering us on, I pressed her up against a wall and… well. Call it rape or call it a particularly harsh third base, I walked away with the impression that it had been consensual, if not really sensible. (She had a boyfriend at the time, but their boundaries were fuzzy.)

Now we can see that he was merely forcing himself on a woman for his own pleasure and that of his no doubt equally cool-guy friends. "Call it rape or call it a particularly harsh third base". Yeah, I think I'm probably gonna just go ahead and call it rape there, because "particularly harsh third base" sounds uncomfortably like what a dickhead would call it.

Years later, she was in a recovery program—not for alcohol, ironically—and she got in touch with me during the part where she made peace with her past. She wanted to clarify that what had happened between us was without her consent, that it hurt her physically and emotionally, that it was, yes, rape.

Hint: this is the point where you're supposed to develop a sense of shame and a kind of humility about the thing you did. And yet, there's not even a hint of an apology or contrition about finding out that you've left someone emotionally scarred for years. Because, if he accepted that he'd committed a rape, then he would be, gasp, a rapist, and he really, really doesn't feel like one.

We talk about who is and is not a rapist, like it’s an inextricable part of their identity. “I’m a Libra, a diabetic, and a rapist.” That doesn’t work, though. Evidently I walked around for years as a rapist, totally unaware. Nobody stuck that label on me, I certainly never applied it to myself, even now it only feels like it fits when I’m severely depressed. The label, the crime, simply coalesced for me one day, dragging years of backstory behind it.

So, here's the thing, right? A rapist is just someone who has committed a rape. It's one of those things that you only really have to do once for it to be a name we can apply to you. It doesn't mean you wake up every day and plan your life around your next rape. It's not that kind of label, in the same way that just killing one measly dude is enough to land you with the uncomfortable term 'murderer'. If it sounds a bit harsh that people are calling you a rapist because of that one rape you did ages ago, it's because you're not supposed to rape anybody, ever. It's one of those awkward little rules we came up with after we figured out that rape is a bad thing. I'm sorry this causes you party problems. I'm doing a proper sadface.

Essentially, the piece is about how Rapists Are Bad, but this one guy doesn't feel like he's a bad rapist, so maybe we can invent another word for it? Tell him it's all okay? It's an awkward position to take; he's essentially arguing for a bit of maturity and nuance to the debate, but the reason he's asking for it is because he's set up 'rapists' in his mind as this massively evil group of people that a guy like him could obviously never be in. He's just a good guy trying to have loads of drink-fuelled orgies, and you can't expect him to be responsible for his actions because that would totally harsh his freakin' buzz, man.

The neatest illustration of how he simply Doesn't Get It comes toward the end. Told by society to stop drunkenly raping people, he somehow interprets this as a demand not to get drunk and have a good time. He asks, plaintively, "Do people who’ve been in car accidents give up driving?". Well, no, we don't tell people who've had accidents not to drive, but we absolutely do tell people who are drunk not to drive their cars around drunkenly running people over. When you hit someone with your car while drunk, you don't get to go "Hey, I was DRUNK! Can't a man fuckin' PARTY around here any more?" as a defence. You have to face responsibility for your actions. I'm happy to let people get as drunk as they want. We're asking you not to commit a rape. And if you can't judge whether you're committing a rape, it might be time to just fucking put it away.

This piece was originally posted on No Sleep til Brooklands

Photograph: Getty Images

Ropes to Infinity is a South Manchester-based internet loudmouth, occasional musician, and freelance nobody.

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How the mantra of centrism gave populism its big break

A Labour insider reflects on the forces behind the march of populism. 

For just under a quarter of a century, British politics has been dominated by what might be called, paradoxically, a “theology of centrism” - the belief that most people were more concerned with what works than ideology, and that politics should principally be the art of improving the delivery of public goods. It was a theology that, for all their policy differences, united Tony Blair and David Cameron. Anyone who thought electoral success could be won anywhere but from the centre was either naïve or fanatical, or both... but definitely wrong.

Now, populism is on the march across the West. In Britain, as elsewhere, the political class is unnerved and baffled.

So what happened? Partly, as with all revolutions in politics, the answer is: “events”. Unsuccessful wars, economic crashes and political scandals all played their part. But that isn’t enough of an explanation. In fact, the rise of populist politics has also been a direct result of the era of centrism. Here is what has taken place:

1. A hollow left and right

First, the theology of centrism was the culmination of a decades-long hollowing out of mainstream politics on the left and right.

In the mid-20th century, Conservatism was a rich tapestry of values – tradition, localism, social conservatism, paternalism and fiscal modesty, to name but a few. By 1979, this tapestry had been replaced by a single overriding principle - faith in free-market liberalism. One of Margaret Thatcher's great achievements was to turn a fundamentalist faith in free markets into the hallmark of moderate centrism for the next generation of leaders.

It is a similar story on the left. In the mid-20th century, the left was committed to the transformation of workplace relations, the collectivisation of economic power, strong civic life in communities, internationalism, and protection of family life. By the turn of the 21st century, the left’s offer had narrowed significantly – accepting economic liberalism and using the proceeds of growth to support public investment and redistribution. It was an approach committed to managing the existing economy, not transforming the structure of it or of society.

And it was an approach that relied on good economic times to work. So when those good times disappeared after the financial crash, the centrism of both parties was left high and dry. The political economic model of New Labour disappeared in the first days of October 2008. And when a return to Tory austerity merely compounded the problem of stagnant living standards, public faith in the economic liberalism of the centre-ground was mortally wounded.

2. Fatalism about globalisation

Second, Labour and Tory politics-as-usual contained a fatalism about globalisation. The right, obsessed with economic liberalism, welcomed globalisation readily. The left under Bill Clinton in the US and Blair in the UK made their parties’ peace with it. But globalisation was not a force to be managed or mitigated. It was to be accepted wholesale. In fact, in his 2005 Conference speech, PM Tony Blair chastised those who even wanted to discuss it. “I hear people say we have to stop and debate globalisation," he said. “You might as well debate whether autumn should follow summer. They're not debating it in China and India.” (I bet they were, and still are.) The signal to voters was that it was not legitimate to fret about the pace and consequences of change. No wonder, when the fretting began, people turned away from these same politicians.

3. A narrowing policy gap

Third, the modernising projects of Blair and Cameron ended up producing a politics that was, to use Peter Mair’s term, “cartelised”. The backgrounds, worldviews and character of party elites began to converge significantly. Both parties’ leaderships accepted the same external conditions under which British politics operated – globalisation, economic liberalism, sceptical acceptance of the EU, enthusiasm for closeness to the US on security issues. The policy space between both main parties narrowed like never before. As a result, economic and class divisions in the country were less and less reflected in political divisions in Westminster.

The impression arose, with good reason, of an intellectual, cultural and financial affinity between politicians across the main divide, and between the political class and big business. This affinity in turn gave rise to a perception of “groupthink” across the elite, on issues from expenses to Europe, and one that came with a tin ear to the concerns of struggling families. It may be misleading it is to depict all politicians as snug and smug members of a remote Establishment. Nevertheless, social and economic convergence inside Westminster party politics gave populists an opportunity to present themselves as the antidote not just to Labour or the Tories, but to conventional politics as a whole.

4. New political divides

Lastly, the populist moment was created by the way in which new electoral cleavages opened up, but were ignored by the main political parties. The last decade has seen a global financial crash that has restored economic insecurity to frontline politics. But at the same time, we are witnessing a terminal decline of normal party politics based fundamentally on the division between a centre-left and centre-right offering competing economic policies. 

Of course economics and class still matter to voting. But a new cleavage has emerged that rivals and threatens to eclipse it - globalism vs nationalism. Globalists are economically liberal, positive about trade, culturally cosmopolitan, socially progressive, with a benign view of globalisation and faith in international law and cooperation. Nationalists are hostile to both social and economic liberalism, want more regulation and protection, are sceptical of trade, see immigration as an economic and cultural threat, and have little time for the liberal international order.

The factors that drive this new electoral divide are not just about voters’ economic situation. Age, geography and education levels matter – a lot. Initially both main parties were tectonically slow to respond to this new world. But populism – whether Ukip, the SNP or Theresa May's Tories – has thrived on the erosion of the traditional class divide, and sown seeds of panic into the Labour party as it faces the prospect of sections of its traditional core vote peeling away.

Centrists thought their politics was moderate, pragmatic, not ideological. But signing up to free market liberalism, globalisation and an economistic view of politics turned out to be seen as a curious kind of fundamentalism, one which was derailed by the 2008 crisis. The exhaustion of the theology of centrism did not create populism – but it did allow it a chance to appeal and succeed.

Those on the left and right watching the march of populism with trepidation need to understand this if they are to respond to it successfully. The answer to the rise of populist politics is not to mimic it, but to challenge it with a politics that wears its values proudly, and develops a vision of Britain’s future (not just its economy) on the foundation of those values. Populists need to be challenged for having the wrong values, as well as for having anger instead of solutions.

But calling for a return to centrism simply won’t work. It plays precisely to what has become an unfair but embedded caricature of New Labour and Notting Hill conservatism – power-hungry, valueless, a professional political class. It suggests a faith in moderate managerialism at a time when that has been rejected by events and the public. And it tells voters to reconcile themselves to globalisation, when they want politicians to wrestle a better deal out of it.

Stewart Wood, Lord Wood of Anfield, was a special adviser to No. 10 Downing Street from 2007 to 2010 and an adviser to former Labour leader Ed Miliband.