But no does, in fact, mean no, and it’s impossible to make it to adulthood today without at least hearing that consent has to be affirmative — that the absence of a no is not a yes.
Listen, I’m a guy. I’m well-aware of rape culture, and how pervasive it is. I joked about roofies as a younger man, even as I found the very concept abhorrent. I can well-understand how some men could use rape culture to justify their actions, to tell themselves that it’s okay that they drugged a woman and raped them. It’s still rape, though, and they know it.
For all her concern about the difficulties men face in trying to navigate this horribly difficult world, it’s actually pretty easy to avoid raping someone. If you don’t have sex with someone who isn’t both willing and capable of giving an affirmative yes, you will never rape anyone. If you decide to bend the rules — to have sex with someone who isn’t saying no because she can’t, because she sure seemed to want to earlier — well, then you’re a rapist.
Contrary to Royse’s assertion, this isn’t confusing. It isn’t hard. If a woman flirts with you, she hasn’t consented to sleep with you. She consents to sleep with you when she tells you that she wants you, now.
I sympathize with Royse to some extent. A man who seemed nice, who she considered a friend, turned out to be a rapist.
To some of you, it may sound ridiculous when I say that my friend is a really sweet guy. 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. With him, the conversations were painful and beautiful, and he understood. He claimed it, at least to me, and learned a hard lesson: he had committed rape. That “nice guys” can do that.
After the fact, he said all the right things, and acted like he felt really bad, and maybe he did feel bad that he got called out. I can understand the temptation to let him off the hook. It’s much easier to blame a friend’s failings on society than on his own recklessness and disregard for others.
What he did, though, was not remotely a close call. What he did was rape, and he did so in the clear light of day, after he had time to sleep it off. If he didn’t realize he was raping his partner, it was only because in his mind, he had devalued her so much that her consent was completely irrelevant; either way, he is a person who did a horrible thing, and frankly, nice is as nice does.
I suspect he knew what he was doing, and I suspect his contrition was as much about saving face as remorse; as often as not, rapists are truly unrepentant. As if to underline and highlight that point, The Good Men Project added in a post from an anonymous addict, who says that he’s raped at least one woman, and as many as six, but won’t stop because when you party hard, “you’ve accepted is a certain amount of rape.”
Where the Problem Lies
The Good Men Project keeps patting itself on the back, talking about how this is all so nuanced and difficult, and we can’t just say that rape is bad, because some rapists are friendly. “We cannot ignore this reality any longer,” wrote Joanna Schroeder, explaining why they thought posting addicts’ musings on rape made sense. “Dismissing all these folks as ‘bad guys’ only serves to feed the problem, because the reality of rape is that most often it does not look like what we think it does—a psychopath with a weapon and intent to do harm.”
That would be a brave stand, if we weren’t already aware that most rapists aren’t masked psychopaths. Most rapists are known to their victims, and 40 percent are considered friends. Moreover, far from being the confused, well-meaning guys that The Good Men Project claims, most rapists are fully aware that they are raping their victims.
There is always room for education, of course. We should continue to clearly and repeatedly articulate the idea that consent must be given affirmatively. We should continue to educate people about the risks of drug and alcohol abuse. And yes, we should be aware that most rapists are able to behave like decent human beings most of the time.
But when we spend our time talking about how confusing it all is — how it’s just so hard for men to know where the lines are, how alcohol makes it impossible to know whether you’re raping someone, how confusing signals can lead to rape — we do not make rape less likely, but more. We are handing excuse after excuse to rapists, who are able to tell themselves and others that it wasn’t really rape, because she was flirting, or because she was drunk, or because he was drunk or because it seemed like she wanted it.
Not raping someone is really, really easy. Most men manage to go their entire lives without raping anyone, and not because they spend their time trying hard not to commit rape.
If you view your sexual partners as human beings, you want their consent. Indeed, you know full well that if they’re happy with what’s going on, you will be too. For most men, and most women, this is not a difficult concept to grasp. There will always be those who choose not to seek out consent, of course — people who enjoy violating boundaries, people who choose to act without consent, people who choose to ignore what their partner wants. They are people, not monsters, and we should recognize them as such, but they are also rapists, always — and nice people don’t hurt others.
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