The Good Men Project: How Not to Have a Conversation about What It Means to Be a Good Man – Part 1

First, a full disclosure. The Good Men Project (TGMP) has published three pieces of my writing. I will be discussing that fact in more detail in the second part of this series, but for those who don’t know my work, or who want to see it in context at TGMP–which, given the title of this post, I can imagine some might want to do–the three pieces are For My Son, A Kind of PrayerMy Feminist Manifesto; and Towards a Discussion of Male Self-Hatred. At the same time, I recognize that there may be people reading this who will not want to click through to TGMP, so you can, if you want to, also read those pieces on my own blog here, here, and here.

I started writing this post more than a week ago in order to respond to Alyssa Royse’s rife-with-rape-apology TGMP essay, “Nice Guys Commit Rape Too” and to Joanna Schroeder’s follow up piece, “Why It’s Dangerous to Say ‘Only Bad Guys Commit Rape.’” (Schroeder is TGMP’s senior editor.) As it turns out, this post focuses pretty much exclusively on what Royse wrote; I will say what I have to say about Schroeder’s article in Part Two. In any event, the circumstances of my life and the inevitable end-of-semester pileup of work, got in the way of my finishing this in a timely enough manner to say what I originally wanted to say. As a result, a good many people were able to respond before I did, and so I think the most appropriate thing to do is provide you with links so you can read what they wrote for yourselves:

There is, however, one particularly insidious aspect of Royse’s argument that I have not seen anyone else address, the way she defines rape more as a matter of bad manners and poor etiquette than as the sexual subjugation of one human being, almost always a woman, by another, almost always a man. Egregious as the rape apology is in how Royse analyses the specific situation that motivated her to write, it’s important not to let this other aspect of her argument pass. First, it falsifies the social, political, and cultural function of rape and, second, in this falsification, confuses more than clarifies the conversation about what it means to be a “good man” that TGMP claims as its mission.

In the event that you haven’t read what Royse wrote, here’s the gist: A “dear friend” of hers, the “nice guy” of the title, raped a woman who’d been “flirt[ing] aggressively with [him] for weeks.” Given that, according to Royse, no one disputes that the woman was sleeping when he penetrated her without her prior consent, there is no question that he raped her. “This part,” as she puts it, “is simple.” What is not simple, at least to her, is trying to understand not only why he did what he did, but also how, in such clearcut circumstances, he could possibly have been “genuinely unsure” about whether or not doing it would constitute rape. As she tries to answer those questions, Royse engages in the worst sort of what used to be called bleeding-heart liberalism. She can’t change the fact that her friend raped a woman, but the real culprit, she says, is a society that makes it unreasonably difficult to recognize sexual boundaries and/or the difference between actual and imagined consent:

The problem isn’t even that he’s a rapist. [I'm sorry, but I need to repeat that again, because she really did write those words: The problem isn't even that he's a rapist.] The problem is that no one is taking responsibility for the mixed messages about sex and sexuality in which we are stewing. And no one is taking responsibility for teaching people how the messages we are sending are often being misunderstood.

What’s worse, according to Royse, is that these mixed messages actually make rape inevitable:

Rape is what happens when we aren’t allowed to discuss sex and sexuality as if it [sic] were as natural as food, and instead shroud it [sic] in mysterious languages and grant it [sic] mysterious powers and lust for it [sic] like Gollum after the ring. Rape is what happens [when] we don’t even understand what sex and sexuality are, but use them for everything anyway.

As the writers I linked to above point out, Royse’s reasoning throughout her piece leaves apologetic loopholes large enough for a rapist to walk through without even having to duck his head, but her reasoning also does something else, which is why it’s important to remember that her argument is not that her friend did not actually commit rape, but rather that “society” did not teach him well enough how not to rape in the first place. As Royse defines it, in other words, rape is really a matter of inadequate education and poor impulse control, really not so different in kind–though obviously different in degree–from what happens on the playground between very young children who have not yet learned that hitting is wrong. Indeed, just as one might say of such children that they don’t really understand what they are doing, Royse wrote, in one of the most disingenuous passages I have ever read, “More often than not….the rapist is just a person who may genuinely not realize that what he’s doing is rape.”

Leave aside the profound infantilization of men contained in that statement, and consider that this line of thinking excludes from discussion the fact that, whatever else rape may be, it is now, and has been for millennia, the conscious, purposeful, willful sexual subjugation of women by men. Or, to put it another way, consider that by excluding this fact from discussion, Royse is able to argue, primarily by implication and allusion, that because her friend is a “nice guy rapist,” he is essentially different from, say, the soldier who rapes women as an act of war, or an abusive husband who repeatedly rapes his wife as a way of controlling her, or the men who brutally gang raped an unmarried young woman in New Delhi recently for being out with a male friend who was not her father or husband. “[Ridiculous] as it may sound,” Royse insists, her friend “is a really sweet guy,” by which I assume she means that he’s the kind of person who, unlike the men I’ve just mentioned, would never intentionally rape a woman. She goes on:

He was devastated at the allegation of rape, and even more so at my confirmation that it was rape. We spent a week or so exploring how this could have happened. Not excusing it, but trying to understand it. [T]he conversations were painful and beautiful, and he understood. He claimed it, at least to me, and learned a hard lesson: he had committed rape.

As far as it goes, and taking Royse at her word not just that her friend was devastated, but that he fully came to understand what he’d done, I am willing to accept that he might in fact be different from the other rapists I described above. The fact that he left town–largely, according to Royse, because of the fallout from the rape–may suggest otherwise, as does the fact that she reports no restitutive or restorative action on his part; but just for the sake of argument let’s assume either that he already has–and that Royse didn’t report it because she did not know about it yet–or that he definitely will perform those actions. The difference they would make–and I don’t want to deny that it would be a real difference–would not change the fact that he was not being, that there is no way he could have been, “a really sweet guy” while he was raping his victim. Nor could you characterize him as “sweet” in the moments just before, when he decided he was going to rape her. Nor would anything change the fact that, in raping her, he was being, as a man, just as presumptuous and dehumanizing and entitled as those other rapists I mentioned above. The fact that he was less brutal than they were, or that he deceived himself into believing that he was doing something his victim wanted him to–”To a large degree,” Royse says, “my friend thought he was doing what was expected”–is entirely irrelevant.

Royse gets this last point. Not only does she not shrink from calling her friend a rapist; but she also insists that his victim’s experience is pretty much all that is necessary to characterize the sex he had with her as rape. This is from the introduction to her essay:

However, I was not used to getting the call in which a dear friend of mine says, “I am being accused of rape.” And I was certainly not used to saying, “did [sic] you do it?”

It seems like a simple question to answer. But he, like many people, struggled with it. He didn’t answer. So I asked the question from another angle, “What did she say happened?”

“She said I raped her,” he answered.

“Well, then you probably did. What exactly happened?”

Presumably because she doesn’t identify as a feminist (scroll down to the comment’s end), Royse does not point out that her position in that last sentence is a quintessentially feminist one, borne of the need first to resist how men have for millennia denied, trivialized, and otherwise excused the rapes we’ve committed and, second, to make the rape survivor’s narrative central to how we talk about rape in the first place. Rape, according to this way of seeing things, is rape regardless of who commits it, where it is committed, or under what circumstances, meaning that there is no essential difference—though there is certainly one of degree—between the experience of a woman whom a “nice guy” penetrates while she is sleeping without her prior consent and the experiences of each of the women raped by the men I talked about above. More to the point, according to this way of seeing things, women’s common experience either of living under the threat of sexual violation by men, or of actually having been sexually violated, is also always the experience of a male dominant value system that explicitly excludes women’s full humanity.

I don’t think anyone, including Royse, would deny that this was the value system embodied by those four men in New Delhi, each of whom might also have been, in other aspects of his life, “a really sweet guy,” though I somehow doubt that Royse would so easily include them in the category of “nice guys” created by her title. Those men knew exactly what they were doing and why they were doing it. They were not confused because they had received “mixed messages” from their society about consent or “what sex and sexuality really are.” Rather, they were taught very precise lessons, including the fact that raping women “who deserve it” is their right as men. It may be difficult to imagine that a likable, friendly, considerate-of-others “nice guy” in these ostensibly enlightened United States would share this disbelief in the integrity of women’s personhood; but if you want to understand how he, a man of good will could rape a woman while honestly, if self-delusionally, experiencing himself as having consensual sex–and let’s take Royse’s word that her friend was such a man–then you cannot pretend that the rape he committed was at all different in its hatred of women, though it was certainly different in the level of its brutality, from the rape committed by those men in New Delhi.

To put it more plainly, the self-delusion Royse’s friend practiced upon himself, in order to be effective, had to be rooted in the presumption that a woman who flirts, who lets you know that she wants you, who may even say while she is flirting, “You know what would be really hot? To have someone wake me up by fucking me,” is actually issuing to the man she’s flirting with, whether she intends to or not, an anytime anywhere open invitation to her vagina. By the same token, the men in New Delhi clearly believed that a single woman out in public without an appropriate male escort is issuing an identical, if perhaps less personal, invitation. If Royse is right that her friend truly came to understand the injustice of this, that understanding did not reside in the fact that he’s a “nice guy.” Rather, if we are to assume that Royse’s conversations with him were in keeping with what she says in the passage I quoted above, he most likely owes that understanding to a decidedly feminist analysis of his actions, his assumptions prior to acting, and, one would hope, his values concerning women and sex. Indeed, any discussion of men and rape that is not explicitly rooted in such a feminist analysis is unlikely to be one which fully holds men accountable, not because feminism in all it various forms is always unerringly accurate in its depiction of men, but because feminist analysis is the only one I know that places the misogynistic values expressed through rape at the center of the discussion.

Neither that analysis nor the accountability it makes possible appear anywhere in Royse’s essay, not in what she tells us about her friend, not in the brief mention she makes of male sexual entitlement, and certainly not in the way she trivializes rape by calling it the inevitable result of a society refusing to be sexually honest with itself. Royse’s conclusion, in fact, in which she throws her hands up in inarticulate frustration, demonstrates that she wasn’t really interested in accountability to begin with. Rather, she seems to have been more concerned with working through her inability to comprehend emotionally what she knows without a doubt intellectually, that her friend is a rapist:

What happened [to the woman my friend raped] was wrong. [He] raped her. But I am still trying to figure out why. And no, it’s not as simple as the fact that he put his penis in her. It is a lot more complicated than that. And we need to talk about it.

The fact that The Good Men Project published Royse’s piece as if it were revelatory (it is not) of an aspect of rape that simply has not been discussed–i.e., that rapists often look like “nice guys”–suggests that TGMP is also not really interested in holding men accountable for the misogynistic values of male dominance. Indeed, as TGMP founder Tom Matlack writes, “The goal [on this site] is to provide a forum for us as men to collectively become more skillful at living our lives well, to being good dads, husbands and friends. But there is no way to summarize that up, to reduce manhood to its core elements, to judge us as anything but individual human beings” capable of doing both good and bad. Alyssa Royse’s friend, in other words, and those four New Delhi rapists were acting not as men, but as individuals whose actions can only be fairly judged in isolation from each other.

I will have more to say about what Matlack wrote in Part Two. For now, I would just point out the inherent contradiction in claiming that one wants to foster a conversation about what it means to be a good man while at the same time insisting that one cannot generalize about what it means to be a man in the first place. This kind of contradiction is also apparent in how Matlack defines TGMP’s concept of goodness, “a journey, an aspiration, not an end point.” There may be wisdom in understanding goodness as a process rather than a static quality–the metaphor of the path, after all, is common to religious mystics and spiritual seekers throughout the world–but a process that doesn’t end is meaningless, a journey without a final destination is a journey to nowhere, circular and self-indulgent. Alyssa Royse’s article takes us on that kind of journey. As her publisher, sadly, so does The Good Men Project.

Cross-posted.

This entry posted in Feminism, sexism, etc, Men and masculinity, Rape, intimate violence, & related issues. Bookmark the permalink. 

19 Responses to The Good Men Project: How Not to Have a Conversation about What It Means to Be a Good Man – Part 1

  1. 1
    Manju says:

    Am I to understand that the victim was asleep? Maybe I’m a simpleton but that’s the End of the Story. Royse is defending a friend. There’s nothing in worth analyzing here.

  2. 2
    Manju says:

    Even this rebuke of her friend:

    2. He believed that everything she was doing was an invitation to have sex. (He was wrong.)

    …seems wrong. If Royse’s description of the victim’s behavior is accurate, she probably was inviting him to have sex with her…while she was awake!

  3. Pingback: Friday Link Encyclopedia and Self-Promotion | Clarissa's Blog

  4. 3
    AMM says:

    Am I the only one who was not the least bit surprised by these latest developments from GMP?

    My impression of the GMP, from reading a bunch of articles there several years ago, was that it was about men trying to seem like they’re divorcing themselves from Teh Patriachy without actually giving up any male privilege. And what is rape culture but the privileging of a man’s desire to f**k a woman (for whatever reasons) over that woman’s right to control her own body?

    I have to agree with Amanda Marcotte’s post
    Why Progressive Mens Movements Are Bound to Fail
    . I have yet to see a “male feminist” or “men’s issues” website or on- or off-line group that didn’t end up being about supporting misogyny and/or male privilege, and Amanda describes pretty well why.

    Ultimately, not being an MCP starts with a choice (a choice that must be made anew every day): to (a) take the Red Pill and see the sexism that is within us and without us and (b) to give up our male privilege. If you don’t make that choice, or stop making it, then no amount of educating will make a difference — you’re solidly on the MRA spectrum, differing from the men Manboobz mocks only in degree. It’s a choice the GMP never made, and it was a choice that “No Seriously What About Teh Menz” never demanded of Teh Menz.

    Even if you make that choice, a men’s group doesn’t make any sense. There’s a whole lot to learn about privilege, sexism, etc., and you’re not going to learn it from people who’ve spent their whole lives being trained that privilege, etc., don’t exist and that things are the way they are because Ghod made it that way.

    If a bunch of people with no medical training whatsoever want to learn brain surgery, would it make sense for them to get together in a “medically ignorant brain surgery learner” group? No, the obvious thing is for them to go to brain surgeons and learn from them. If you’re a man who wants to learn about sexism, etc., and wants to give up and get rid of male privilege, you need to go to experts on the subject: i.e., feminists, most of whom are female.

  5. Surprised? No. Disappointed? Yes. I had hoped Noah Brand and NSWATM would have made a difference. They didn’t. Which is too bad.

  6. 5
    mythago says:

    AMM @3, not really following your argument. You seem to posit belonging to a ‘men’s group’ as an either/or choice, where men can’t simultaneously be participating in feminist spaces with women. (Really, also not following the analogy to brain surgery.) The point of spaces like NSWATM was intended to be somewhere that men could talk about their experiences of being hurt by patriarchy and a sexist culture without doing the “That’s nice, ladies, now let’s talk about me” routine that so often happens in feminist spaces.

    The problem, of course, is that spaces like NSWATM and GMP tend to attract the sort of person who attributes men’s problems not to kyriarchy but to those dang overprivileged females, and when the people controlling those spaces are well-meaning but ineffectual (as at the original NSWATM) or actively sexist themselves (as at GMP) it doesn’t work.

  7. 6
    ballgame says:

    Interesting observations, Richard. While I’m not interested in defending the GMP posts under discussion, I do take issue with what appears to me to be a very misleading framing of the discussion:

    There is, however, one particularly insidious aspect of Royse’s argument that I have not seen anyone else address, the way she defines rape more as a matter of bad manners and poor etiquette than as the sexual subjugation of one human being, almost always a woman, by another, almost always a man.

    Richard, what is your definition of “almost always”? To me, it would have to be in the 95%+ range, and if your definition is similar, then what you say is rather dubious according to the 2010 NISVS Report from the CDC (as reported by commenter Tamen over at Feminist Critics:

    Then look at the tables on p 18 and 19 which reports that 18.3% of women reports being raped (according to the CDC’s definition) while 1.4% of men report being raped and 4.8% of men report “being made to penetrate someone else”.

    These were lifetime figures, BTW.

    Page 24 states that 79.2% of the men who reported being “made to penetrate someone else” reported only female perpetrators.

    If you consider “being made to penetrate someone else” to be “rape” (which is not the view taken by the report), then applying some crude math to this suggests that about one out of six rape victims were victimized by women, and one out of four rape victims were, in fact, male. These figures belie your notion that rape is “almost always” a man-attacking-a-woman thing in my book — it’s like saying, “you almost always survive a round of Russian Roulette.” In fact, the chance that any given rape victim is male is actually higher than the chance that any given woman had been raped, so if we were to use your presumed threshold of ‘3 out of 4 = “almost always”’ then it would be even more true to say that ‘women are almost always able to avoid being rape victims.’ I trust that you would, in fact, find such a statement just as offensive as I do.

    Tamen continues:

    This is where every feminist I’ve ever seen comment the NISVS 2010 stops reading. They skip the last 12 months prevalency which is also included in those tables:

    1.1% of women reports being raped in the last 12 months

    1.1% of men reports being “made to penetrate someone else” in the last 12 months. …

    The NISVS 2010 Report only says something about the perpetrator for the lifetime figures, but I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to assume that the same distribution of perpetrators applies to the last 12 months figures.

    In other words, this survey tells us that in a recent 12 month period, there were about 1.3 million female rape victims (raped mostly by men) … and about 1.3 million male rape victims, most of whom were raped by women, if Tamen’s very reasonable supposition about the predominant gender compelling the penetration is correct. Note that these figures do not include prison rape* where a very significant number of men (and some women) are routinely victimized, as you well know.

    Now, these figures raise a number of questions, but if they’re accurate they cast doubt on the way most people think about rape as something “almost always” done by men, and whose victims are “almost always” women. This suggests a reality quite at odds with the picture you — and many others loyal to the classic feminist conceptualization of sexual violence — are painting (and frankly what I myself believed prior to seeing some of the information that’s been presented in discussions at FC, NSWATM, and elsewhere).

    I should point out that while I’ve taken the time to verify the specific data that Tamen has pointed out, I have not given the report an exhaustive review, so if there’s some important caveat in the study that I’ve overlooked, I’ll certainly give it full consideration.

    * Except, perhaps, among a presumably small number of men who had been released from incarceration in the past 12 months but who had been compelled to penetrate someone immediately prior to their release.

  8. 7
    mythago says:

    ballgame, if the definition for rape of men is limited “made to penetrate” that would leave out a lot of sexual assaults committed against men, regardless of the gender of the perpetrator, and I would guess such a limited definition tends to skew towards female perpetrators. (It may be, indeed, that the majority of perpetrators of sexual assault when the victim is male *are* female; but I am leery of erasing the experiences of male survivors.)

  9. 8
    AMM says:

    Mythago @5

    You seem to posit belonging to a ‘men’s group’ as an either/or choice, where men can’t simultaneously be participating in feminist spaces with women.

    It’s like the recurring question over on yoisthisracist.com:
    Q: Isn’t it racist that there’s Black History Month, but no White History Month?
    A: Yo, all 12 months are White History Month.

    If you (male) are at the level of participating in feminist spaces with women (that is, willing to see past your own sense of entitlement to actually listen to feminists), what’s the point of participating in a “men’s group”? Why do you need a group that focusses on men’s concerns and/or men’s viewpoints, when at a WAG 90% of the net already does that?

    The whole point of “women’s groups” is that in society at large, women’s concerns and women’s viewpoints are mostly ignored, dismissed, or shouted down. By explicitly excluding men and their viewpoints and concerns, women’s groups provide a place where women’s concern’s and viewpoints can be heard and discussed.

    Men’s viewpoints and concerns do not require the protection of excluding women or women’s viewpoints (to put it mildly.)

    There are already plenty of spaces where patriarchy-hurts-men topics come up. Most feminist blogs (feministing.com, in particular, but also feminist.us and the Skepchick family) have posts on the subject when events make them relevant. Progressive blogs with a feminist sensibility (Pandagon, Pharyngula, etc.) also do this.

    What these spaces don’t have space for is men agonizing about how hard patriarchy is for them or how painful it is to give up any part of their privilege. Or for spoon-feeding people who can’t be bothered to educate themselves about basic feminist concepts. Or for giving out feminist cookies on demand.

  10. 9
    ballgame says:

    mythago, I see your point. The only reason I don’t include the ‘men who are penetrated’ figure in the 12 month prevalency statistics is because the survey itself omits them, having been unable to elicit sufficient numbers of positive responses to generate data which they deemed statistically reliable (i.e. with standard relative errors of less than 30%).

    However, when we apply crude math to the lifetime figures (1.4% male “rape” victims with ~100% male assailants plus 4.8% male “made to penetrate” victims with ~80% female assailants), you still get a substantial majority of male victims having been sexually assaulted by females.

    At any rate, the omission of male penetrated victims in the 12 month male rape victim count suggests the overall figure is low, which means Richard’s assertion that rape is something which “almost always” victimizes a woman is even shakier than my first comment contends.

  11. 10
    Mandolin says:

    I think it’s okay for feminist blogs to have focuses, though. A feminist blog could focus on talking about rape culture, or about the intersection of feminism and trans rights, or whatever. A blog (or space) could be set aside to talk about men’s issues from a feminist perspective. Or, like, there are university courses with specific topics, and I think it would be reasonable for there to be a feminist class on men’s issues in patriarchy. (I’m sure there are such classes.)

    I actually think (and have thought) a space like that would be cool, and if I could pick a staff of writers out of the ether, Amp and RJN would be top of the list. But they both are, you know, busy, plus I think they like writing without a specific focus.

    I think it’s useful to draw a distinction between a men’s right movement and a conversation about men’s rights within feminism. The former seems to not produce amazing results, while I think the latter is important. I thought NSWATM was trying to set aside the latter kind of space and I have no objection to that. If it worked, it would be so awesome.

    But I’m also interested in feminism not as an analysis of “women’s role in the patriarchy” but as something more like an analysis of “the operation of sex and gender, particularly with regard to power dynamics, in living cultures.” By that definition, a men’s rights movement falls under the umbrella of what I’m calling feminism, which I think was part of Amanda’s point (and probably yours too, AMM).It’s not, though, the definition that opponents of feminism seem to think is operative.

  12. 11
    mythago says:

    There are already plenty of spaces where patriarchy-hurts-men topics come up.

    Well, we don’t need any feminist blogs then either, we’re at quota.

    Look, I really don’t know what you’re arguing here: nobody is saying that men need to go into their drumming cave, only that some men who are feminists or allies want to talk about issues that affect men in a way that doesn’t suck up all the oxygen on existing feminists spaces because, you know, that’s what nonfeminist discussions already do; insist that men’s issues are the most important and the wimminz ought to shut up and talk about them only. I don’t really have a problem with the kind of space NSWATM was trying to be when it was founded (that is, a space to discuss issues that affect men in a feminist and social justice context, rather than one devoted to preserving male privilege).

  13. 12
    Mandolin says:

    Also, while it’s true that talking about men is the default in many not-feminist situations… that’s different than saying that all men’s issues are represented as part of the default. I think there are men’s issues that are excluded from the conversation in dominant culture. I don’t see my husband’s experience of being a feminine man being something that’s safe to talk about in dominant culture, or something that occupies much of its dialogue.

  14. Ballgame:

    I am in the middle of packing for a trip so I don’t have time to say very much, but I would simply point out this: I am not going to dispute the data you cite, nor am I going to debate with you whether or not I am “loyal (which is, I think, a telling choice of words) to the classic feminist conceptualization of sexual violence.” I would simply point out that, as far as I can tell, the data you cite refer to the United States; they are not worldwide statistics, nor do they look back in history. One of the points I was trying to make, and this is why I gave the example of the men in New Delhi who raped that woman, as well as the example of soldiers/armies who use the rape of women as a weapon of war, is that if you want to talk about rape as something other than “miscommunication” or “a result of society’s mixed messages and poor sexual education”–which I think it is irresponsible not to do–then you can’t look at it (rape) as a purely local phenomenon–i.e., what happened between these two people, or what happens in a given country. You need to look at rape worldwide and throughout history, and from that perspective, I would, for now, stand by my “almost always” characterization, though I agree it is imprecise and open to correction.

    What I do think is hard to dispute is that rape has been used systematically by men against women in a way that it is not used by women against men. And it is also, I know, used by men against men they want somehow to treat like/turn into proxy women, as in prison rape or the rape of men in war (which is grossly under reported), but this is an extension of how rape is used against women, not a separate phenomenon. Now, having said that, let me also say that I agree the experience of men who survive rape/sexual assault is all too often erased, denied or otherwise trivialized; and, frankly, I think our experience (I am also a survivor)–as opposed to the experience and motivations of the men and women who commit this sexual violence–is profoundly under-theorized, and theory is important in talking about stuff like this. (Edited for clarity.)

    I don’t really have time to say much more right now. I will be away for about four days and I have no idea how often I will be able to check back on this thread. So let me wish you all a happy holiday and a wonderful New Year.

  15. 14
    Tamen says:

    Manju:
    One would think that the victim was asleep would make it a clear cut case, I certainly do, but apparently it isn’t: http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2012/09/19/is-it-rape-if-you-dont-mean-for-it-to-be-rape/

    I find that many have used absolutist terms saying that there is no way there could be any mixed signals which could lead to the man thinking it was ok to have sex with that woman and he is a rapist. When I see (I must point out that I haven’t seen you do it) some of the same people saying there are exceptions which could make someone think it was ok to have sex with the other person even though they actually were asleep and that they wouldn’t think the person was a rapist then. When it seems like the exceptions mainly crop up in women-on-men cases I, as a victim of a woman who had sex with me while I was asleep, find that deeply disconcerting.

    AMM: In a discussion about a piece which many believes to contain victim-blaming I find it pretty ironic to quote Amanda Marcotte who is no stranger herself to victim-blaming:
    http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2012/09/19/is-it-rape-if-you-dont-mean-for-it-to-be-rape/#comment-526368
    http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2012/09/19/is-it-rape-if-you-dont-mean-for-it-to-be-rape/#comment-526375

    Richard: I agree with ballgame that the assertion that rape is “the sexual subjugation of one human being, almost always a woman, by another, almost always a man” seem misleading. Even conflict rape like in Congo* and Liberia** have a not insignificant number of female perpetrators. Sexual abuse of female prisoners comes mainly from other female inmates while a not insignificant minority of sexual abuse of male prisoners are perpetrated by female prison officials***. Ballgame have pointed out the findings of the NISVS 2010 Report**** which shows that the victims of sexual violence is not almost always women and that male victims report a majority of female perpetrator for almost all categories measured by the NISVS 2010:

    The majority of male rape
    victims (93.3%) reported only male
    perpetrators. For three of the other
    forms of sexual violence, a majority
    of male victims reported only
    female perpetrators: being made to
    penetrate (79.2%), sexual coercion
    (83.6%), and unwanted sexual
    contact (53.1%). For non-contact
    unwanted sexual experiences,
    approximately half of male victims
    (49.0%) reported only male perpe-
    trators and more than one-third
    (37.7%) reported only female
    perpetrators

    Note that CDC defines rape as being penetrated, hence the category “being made to penetrate” being important to note as I assume most here would agree that amounts to rape.

    Mandolin, the problem is perhaps not the focus by itself as I see it. The problem is when it’s just about the only focus. The problem is when victims who does not fall into the “vast majority” group of victims are feeling they are a hair in the soup when they bring up their issue (like I felt in the Male Privelege Checklist comment section) . And when these victims are conflated and villainized into an MRA label (for instance like Jill Filopovic did to Jacob of Toysoldier) when they do discuss their issues regardless – even if they do it elsewhere the problem grows. When there are complaints that bringing up the specter of female-on-male rape obscure the real issue of rape and that female-on-male rape is qualitative different than male-on-female rape the problem grows. And when the rape discourse pretty much uniformly consists of “Men can stop rape” we are pretty much at the conclusion that Soraya Chemaly makes: “only men can stop rape”. Which is a slap in the face to me, other male victims of female perpetrators as well as female victims of female perpetrators – like the majority of female prisoners who are experience sexual abuse at the hands of a fellow female inmate.

    In fact, if we are to take the concept of rape-culture seriously I’d say that the one-sided view of the issue that feminist and society at large tend to take despite statistics appearing that decry the “vast majority”, “almost always” claims are in fact contributing to that rape culture.

    * http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=186342
    ** http://www.poli562c.moonfruit.com/download/i/mark_dl/u/4008218952/4537427941/Reading%25203.4.pdf (footnote page 6)
    *** http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/svpjri0809.pdf
    **** http://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/pdf/NISVS_Report2010-a.pdf

  16. 15
    Danny says:

    If you (male) are at the level of participating in feminist spaces with women (that is, willing to see past your own sense of entitlement to actually listen to feminists), what’s the point of participating in a “men’s group”? Why do you need a group that focusses on men’s concerns and/or men’s viewpoints, when at a WAG 90% of the net already does that?
    Because men are not a monolith. Just like any other group of people in existence you can’t just point to a a random subset of that group and prop it up at a representation of the whole.

    Men’s viewpoints and concerns do not require the protection of excluding women or women’s viewpoints (to put it mildly.)
    I must disagree with this respectfully. Just like other walks of life on this planet men need to be able to come to terms with the changing world and just like others there will be times when men will actually need their own spaces to work the kinks out so to speak. To try to declare that men don’t need any protection to do that working out is an attempt to force them to change under conditions that would not be tolerated if imposed on other groups.

  17. 16
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    If you (male) are at the level of participating in feminist spaces with women (that is, willing to see past your own sense of entitlement to actually listen to feminists), what’s the point of participating in a “men’s group”?

    I don’t participate in them, but I’ll take a guess:

    The ability of women to understand the male experience may be inherently or functionally limited, to the same degree as the ability of men to fully understand the female experience. (I say “may because I note that there seems to be a fairly widespread belief that certain groups can’t really understand the experiences of other groups. I’ve never really seen a good reason beyond “argumentative convenience” as to why the reverse is, in mot cases, stringently denied.)

    Of course, women can understand men well enough to include men in their policy decisions (as with the reverse) but some folks may think it nice to be able to have a discussion in which all of the participants are centered towards a particular goal and in which they have similar background understanding. If you want to be able to preach to the choir, you need a choir. Presumably that’s why women-only groups (of diverse viewpoints) and viewpoint-specific groups (of diverse membership)

    And of course, it’s sometimes nice to be able to have a conversation without too much delicacy. In women-centered feminist spaces, men are often required to act with a bit of restraint,to avoid demonstrating (or being accused of demonstrating) patriarchal silencing. I’m sure the reverse is also true.

    After all, there are certain times in which it’s worthwhile to put forth, discuss, and eventually reject an argument. You can’t easily have a “why don’t we castrate everyone accused of sexual misconduct?” discussion (even as a hypothetical one that you plan to reject it in the end) in a space containing lots of men. Etc.

  18. 17
    Tamen says:

    Gin-and-whiskey: What assumptions were you making since you think a discussion of “why don’t we castrate everyone accused of sexual misconduct” is only easily had in a space not containing lots of men?

    Everyone accused of sexual misconduct includes a number of women as well.
    Female castration is a thing or two: Oophorectomy (which has hypoactive sexual desire disorder listed as an adverse side-effect) would work fine. Female Sexual Castration was also used as a term for FGM in the 80′ies (FGM became the more common term). I am sure FGM probably have a negative impact on female sex drive as well, but I can’t stomach even the idea.

    Now, I suspect the assumption or rather error you made were that even though you wrote “everyone accused of sexual misconduct” in reality you meant “men accused of sexual misconduct” (I will not comment further on how this is a complete erasure of female perpetrators and their victims whatever gender they may have).

    Castration of convicted male sex crime offenders are a thing and it is put into law in for instance Louisiana Sex Offender Chemical Castration Bill where offenders can chose between chemical or physical castration. I haven’t examined if they still are on the books, but both Florida and California have laws allowing using chemical castration as punishment for certain sex crime offenders. The laws are seemingly gender neutral in language, but the drug administered is MPA (Medroxyprogesterone acetate) which is perhaps more commonly know as a female contraceptive under the name Depo-Provera* which I suspect would not have the same desired effect on female sex crime offenders.

    * http://www.law.fsu.edu/journals/lawreview/frames/252/spalfram.html

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