The XX Factor

Rapists Say They Rape Because of Mixed Signals, and the Good Men Project Believes Them

It’s that simple.

Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/GettyImages

A brief summary of the current war waging between the Good Men Project and various feminist blogs, most prominently Feministe: GMP, which markets itself as a progressive website exploring masculinity, recently published two articles giving rapists a chance to tell “their side” of the story. The first rapist’s story was written by his female friend and titled “Nice Guys Commit Rape Too.” The second, penned by the rapist himself, was titled “I’d Rather Risk Rape Than Quit Partying.” GMP did not obtain or publish the victims’ accounts.

Both articles tout a very old, repeatedly disproven rape myth, which is that rapists rape because they’re confused about whether they have consent. Research shows that rapists actually do know what they’re doing and target drunk victims in part because they know victims will not be believed if they report. From David Lisak’s work, we also know that rapists love to brag about their conquests, though obviously they tend to tell their stories in such a way as to limit the social and legal consequences of their behavior.

So rapists love to brag about getting one over on their victims. But rapists also spin the truth when faced with potential consequences for their actions by leaning heavily on rape myths about how women send “mixed signals.” Reading the stories at GMP with these facts in mind makes for a disturbing experience. A sampling of quotes from Alyssa Royse’s attempt to bring nuance to her friend’s choice to penetrate a sleeping woman: 

In this particular case, I had watched the woman in question flirt aggressively with my friend for weeks. I had watched her sit on his lap, dance with him, twirl his hair in her fingers. I had seen her at parties discussing the various kinds of sex work she had done, and the pleasure with which she explored her own very fluid sexuality, all while looking my friend straight in the eye.

Only she knows what signals she intended to send out. But many of us can guess the signals he received…..

But if something walks like a fuck and talks like fuck, at what point are we supposed to understand that it’s not a fuck?

Notice she did not say “sleeps like a fuck,” because someone can’t actually do that.

From the anonymous rapist’s story, explaining how he just gets a little overexcited when drunk and concerns about consent fly out the window:

With what I’ve learned as an adult, I’m pretty sure I’m technically a rapist. Technically nothing. One woman told me herself. Our encounter was years before—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…..

The ones that bother me are the ones where I got loaded, had some fun with a lady, and then she never wanted to contact me again. Messages go unanswered, social contact is dropped.

Roundly attacked, GMP rationalized publishing these pieces by claiming an educational motive—that airing these stories can help us all better understand rape—with a whiff of accusing their critics of living in a fantasy world: “But the real world is a harsh, cold place full of mixed messages, drunken desire, Ecstasy-fueled touching, and the rush of cocaine. The real world is a place where ‘no means no’ simply isn’t enough,” wrote GMP senior editor Joanna Schroeder. Education is a great thing, of course! But it can’t really be accomplished by giving unchallenged voice to known violent criminals who have a good reason to lie about their motives. People such as rapists.

It’s hard to believe the people at GMP could be naive enough to think that rapists are a good source for the unvarnished truth about rape. Which leaves us with the other explanation: That far from being a progressive website, GMP is now in the business of defending rape.

“Guys tell us all the time they are confused by the signals that society sends them,” GMP publisher Lisa Hickey told me when I reached out for further explanation. “Not just about rape, not just about sexuality, but even about what it means to be a man, about what it means to be good.” Let me clear it up for all the supposedly confused guys out there: If you want to be “good,” don’t insert your penis into a sleeping woman. That’s rape.