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.

Photo: Getty
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The Prevent strategy needs a rethink, not a rebrand

A bad policy by any other name is still a bad policy.

Yesterday the Home Affairs Select Committee published its report on radicalization in the UK. While the focus of the coverage has been on its claim that social media companies like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are “consciously failing” to combat the promotion of terrorism and extremism, it also reported on Prevent. The report rightly engages with criticism of Prevent, acknowledging how it has affected the Muslim community and calling for it to become more transparent:

“The concerns about Prevent amongst the communities most affected by it must be addressed. Otherwise it will continue to be viewed with suspicion by many, and by some as “toxic”… The government must be more transparent about what it is doing on the Prevent strategy, including by publicising its engagement activities, and providing updates on outcomes, through an easily accessible online portal.”

While this acknowledgement is good news, it is hard to see how real change will occur. As I have written previously, as Prevent has become more entrenched in British society, it has also become more secretive. For example, in August 2013, I lodged FOI requests to designated Prevent priority areas, asking for the most up-to-date Prevent funding information, including what projects received funding and details of any project engaging specifically with far-right extremism. I lodged almost identical requests between 2008 and 2009, all of which were successful. All but one of the 2013 requests were denied.

This denial is significant. Before the 2011 review, the Prevent strategy distributed money to help local authorities fight violent extremism and in doing so identified priority areas based solely on demographics. Any local authority with a Muslim population of at least five per cent was automatically given Prevent funding. The 2011 review pledged to end this. It further promised to expand Prevent to include far-right extremism and stop its use in community cohesion projects. Through these FOI requests I was trying to find out whether or not the 2011 pledges had been met. But with the blanket denial of information, I was left in the dark.

It is telling that the report’s concerns with Prevent are not new and have in fact been highlighted in several reports by the same Home Affairs Select Committee, as well as numerous reports by NGOs. But nothing has changed. In fact, the only change proposed by the report is to give Prevent a new name: Engage. But the problem was never the name. Prevent relies on the premise that terrorism and extremism are inherently connected with Islam, and until this is changed, it will continue to be at best counter-productive, and at worst, deeply discriminatory.

In his evidence to the committee, David Anderson, the independent ombudsman of terrorism legislation, has called for an independent review of the Prevent strategy. This would be a start. However, more is required. What is needed is a radical new approach to counter-terrorism and counter-extremism, one that targets all forms of extremism and that does not stigmatise or stereotype those affected.

Such an approach has been pioneered in the Danish town of Aarhus. Faced with increased numbers of youngsters leaving Aarhus for Syria, police officers made it clear that those who had travelled to Syria were welcome to come home, where they would receive help with going back to school, finding a place to live and whatever else was necessary for them to find their way back to Danish society.  Known as the ‘Aarhus model’, this approach focuses on inclusion, mentorship and non-criminalisation. It is the opposite of Prevent, which has from its very start framed British Muslims as a particularly deviant suspect community.

We need to change the narrative of counter-terrorism in the UK, but a narrative is not changed by a new title. Just as a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, a bad policy by any other name is still a bad policy. While the Home Affairs Select Committee concern about Prevent is welcomed, real action is needed. This will involve actually engaging with the Muslim community, listening to their concerns and not dismissing them as misunderstandings. It will require serious investigation of the damages caused by new Prevent statutory duty, something which the report does acknowledge as a concern.  Finally, real action on Prevent in particular, but extremism in general, will require developing a wide-ranging counter-extremism strategy that directly engages with far-right extremism. This has been notably absent from today’s report, even though far-right extremism is on the rise. After all, far-right extremists make up half of all counter-radicalization referrals in Yorkshire, and 30 per cent of the caseload in the east Midlands.

It will also require changing the way we think about those who are radicalized. The Aarhus model proves that such a change is possible. Radicalization is indeed a real problem, one imagines it will be even more so considering the country’s flagship counter-radicalization strategy remains problematic and ineffective. In the end, Prevent may be renamed a thousand times, but unless real effort is put in actually changing the strategy, it will remain toxic. 

Dr Maria Norris works at London School of Economics and Political Science. She tweets as @MariaWNorris.