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.