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December 23, 2012 4:53 PM News flash: “good men” do not commit rape

By Kathleen Geier

Those of you who keep up with the feminist blogosphere may be following a controversy that has developed between feminist bloggers and a site called the Good Men Project. The Good Men Project, which I’m not linking to because I don’t want to give them the traffic, is a site that began in 2009 and at first its politics, while vague, appeared to be at least somewhat feminist-friendly. Feminist writers like Amanda Marcotte were occasional contributors.

But at some point — I’m not sure when, but certainly by late 2011 — things began to go seriously off the rails. They increasingly became a home to feminist-baiting trolls and organized misogynists, otherwise known as “men’s rights activists.” When feminists began to sharply critique the site, founder Tom Matlack refused to engage their criticisms in good faith and instead responded with disrespect and defensive name-calling. As a result, former contributors like Marcotte and Hugo Schwyzer cut their ties to the site.

Sadly, the site has continued its downward spiral. Last week, Marcotte reported that

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.

The creepy, rapey turn that this site has recently taken is deeply upsetting. This is because, in the guise of “having an open discussion” about allegedly “murky” or “grey” areas involving sexual assault, GMP is reinforcing the cultural scripts that support and enable rape. In an excellent post at The Guardian’s Comment Is Free, Jill Filipovic cites research showing that cultural support of victim-blaming rape myths leads to more rape:

What is true, researchers have found, is that cultural opposition to rape myths makes men less likely to commit assault, and acceptance of those myths makes sexual assault more likely. In social groups where there is wide acceptance of rape myths - for example, the beliefs that acquaintance rape is a problem of communication or “mixed signals”, that rapists simply can’t control their sexual urges, that women often lie about rape, or that women invite rape upon themselves by their actions or manner of dressing - rape proclivity is higher. When men internalize rape myths, they are more likely to commit rape or see rape as more acceptable.
When men perceive these rape myths as being widely-accepted social norms, their rape proclivity increases. When men believe their peers are using coercion to “get” sex, those men are more likely to engage in the same behaviors. But when men see that rape myths were challenged or not accepted, their rape proclivity decreases.
In other words, challenging rape myths means less rape.

By running gross articles by unrepentant rapists and their apologists, the Good Men Project is spreading pernicious rape myths and doing real harm. I don’t know whether the site has explicitly adopted a misogynist ideology, or whether they’re merely trolling for links, but whatever they think they’re doing, it’s creepy as hell.

Until recently, a number of progressive sites would occasionally run GMP content. However, I have heard that, in response to the recent slew of icky GMP rape articles, most of these sites recently pledged not to do so any more. The excellent progressive news site, Alternet, for example, has cut its ties to GMP.

But distressingly, xojane.com, Jane Pratt’s online magazine, continues to run GMP content, and has not announced any plans to stop doing so. I’ve written before on this blog about my fondness for xojane, which is an online women’s magazine that’s much smarter, hipper, and more fun than any of its newstand counterparts. It’s not an explicitly feminist site, per se, but much of its content is feminist in nature, and its most talented writers, like Lesley Kinzel, Emily McCombs, Marianne Kirby, and S.E. Smith, often write about feminist themes. I’m deeply disappointed that they continue to run content from such a gross source. I don’t want to stop reading xojane, because I really do enjoy it, but if they continue their association with GMP, I may have to forego that pleasure. It’s not worth the knot I get in my stomach every time I see the words “Good Men Project” and think about how they should change their name to the “Rape Apologists’ Project.”

Kathleen Geier is a writer and public policy researcher who lives in Chicago. She blogs at Inequality Matters. Find her on Twitter: @Kathy_Gee

Comments

  • Jenna Karvunidis on December 23, 2012 7:29 PM:

    I have no respect for The Good Men project. They regurgitated false information about me they gleaned from a highly disreputable site. When I emailed them with corrections, they ignored me and instead continue to enjoy traffic on a post with outright misinformation. A libel suit would be too costly for me to pursue, so I'm stuck with this horrible "article" about me and my "beliefs".

    It is no surprise to me The Good Men Project is being discredited. My only criticism is it took long enough.

  • Matt Kramer on December 23, 2012 7:31 PM:

    All organizations, no matter how pure their intent, are vulnerable to infiltration by predatory opportunists. Sadly, the more samaritan the agency, the more that it will give grace to individuals whose sole motive is to seek opportunity for personal gain, albeit personal, psychological or material. I dare say that GMP has been compromised and its administrator probably doesn't know it.

  • schtick on December 23, 2012 10:56 PM:

    What prison do they operate from? Or is it just a former inmate blog? Or just a blog for predators?

    And Matt, saying the administrator doesn't know GMP has been compromised is like saying Murdock didn't know his news organization was hacking everyone's phones and then lying about it besides.

  • exlibra on December 23, 2012 11:32 PM:

    It's amazing that, 106 years after Galsworthy made it plain that even marital rape was still rape and "not OK", anyone in civilised world can still defend it as being perpetrated by "good men"...

  • thebewilderness on December 23, 2012 11:46 PM:

    "Good men" has gone the way of the "nice guy" euphemism with their latest explanation of how nice guys stick their dicks in people while those people are asleep.

  • toowearyforoutrage on December 24, 2012 7:35 AM:

    Puritan tradition is no help.
    Ladies who would like to be more obliging with trysts are called nasty names thus there exists a peer pressure to profess resistance when they'd rather not pretend to be chaste. This encourages the "mixed signals" that rapists of every variety like to call upon for defense.

    Condemnation of men who might be inclined to pay for professional amorous assistance may refrain from doing so finding coercion of unwilling females preferable in terms of social status and risk. A criminal record due to vice squad prosecution is more certain as well. What are our priorities here? Perfectly willing women placed off limits to what end?

    None of this justifies any of the foul behavior, for sure, but I'm impatient with the American insistence that all intercourse must be festooned with good Christian intentions of family and lifetime commitment. It causes not insignificant amounts of damage in its quest to produce good morals. Call it weak and pathetic if you like, just fix the problem.

  • Karmakin on December 24, 2012 10:05 AM:

    I'm not a big fan of the GMP myself (don't care either way), but quite frankly, I think the outrage over this article is beyond overblown. I think it's entirely non-serious.

    My TL;DR take of the article (yes I read it), is that there are social/cultural scripts in our society that often result in cross-communications and as such results in rape, and it's trying to start a dialogue on how to change these scripts. That's the point of the article. It states that yes, rape is horrible and it shouldn't be done, and we should take active steps to make sure that it is NOT done.

    How that is being a rape apologist is beyond me.

    Now, I do think that the particular example used in this case is a particularly egregious case, and probably doesn't fit the rest of what she's talking about. But that doesn't change the fact that the rest of what she's talking about is a reality in our culture, and if we're going to do anything about it, we need to take it seriously.

    Something that the criticism, by and large, is basically rejecting.

    It's a very real problem in our society, IMO, that in terms of sexual matters often No and Yes are intermingled. And this is something that's often enjoyed by people of both genders. Both myself and the author think that this is wrong..not necessarily ethically (although I would make the argument that it is), but it does result in rape, and as such it's something we should change.

  • delagar on December 24, 2012 11:47 AM:

    Karmarkin, if you don't understand the outrage, I suggest you stay out of relationships until you do. The "nice guy" in the article had sex with the woman in question (among other things) when she was asleep. How can a sleeping woman give consent?

    Furthermore, the "she was giving me mixed signals!" is a typical excuse. You can read that as "she really wanted it." "She wouldn't have dressed that way if she hadn't wanted it." "Why was she at the bar if she didn't want it?" "She knew she had a vagina when she left the house, right?"

    The very real problem in our society is rape apologists -- people who think that women exist for men's use. Get that through your head and keep your mouth shut until you do.

  • Keith M Ellis on December 24, 2012 1:48 PM:

    I worked in rape crisis and have been a feminist for almost thirty years. And I'm not that happy with either Kathleen's post, nor delagar's comment.

    Let's stipulate without any ambiguity that the "men's rights" movement is an abhorrent facade for misogyny, including rape apologia. Also, let's stipulate without any ambiguity that having sex with someone while they're asleep is sexual assault (unless explicit blanket permission for this specific activity was given beforehand).

    However, in some sense "good men" do commit rape. The notion that only totally evil people commit sexual assault is part of the problem. It's intimately connected with the deep denial within our society about the scope of sexual violence against women and the similar denial about sexism in general. It attaches sexual violence to something safely exotic rather than familiar. It's very akin to the inappropriate emphasis placed upon stranger rape, the threat of rape in a dark parking lot from some out-group male, as opposed to an emphasis on acquaintance rape, which accounts for the vast majority of rape and is perpetrated by friends and coworkers and those considered "safe" and, well, "good people".

    Rape is best understood as violence expressed sexually. It it not best understood as sex expressed violently, though this is our culture's regressive comprehension of it. That said, and very much because we live in a patriarchal society that sees women as sex objects, it is simply true that some amount of sexual violence is closer to sex expressed violently than it is violence expressed sexually. It is a continuum, and on one extreme end of the continuum there is some amount of rape that is a kind of miscommunication made possible by a patriarchal culture that denies that women have sexual agency in the first place. Some of those rapists don't intend to be rapists, even by the (correct) expansive definition that we're working with here. In short, some of those rapists aren't "bad".

    But that's really mostly beside the point. Any kind of rape apologia is wrong and repugnant — I agree wholeheartedly. But the issue simply is not who is "good" or "bad" and all such discussions are diversions, whether arguing that some are "good" or arguing that all are "bad". Rape exists within our culture as an expression of the patriarchal oppression of women and, as such, rape is part of rape culture and there's no hard and fast line between different forms of sexual violence, from the extreme stranger rape to sexual harassment.

    There is a difference between arguing that some rape isn't wrong and arguing that some rapists don't intend to do wrong. You can deny the former while affirming the latter; and, more importantly, you can affirm the latter while not excusing the rape or otherwise affirming in any sense that it's acceptable.

    I have been involved in a large number of public discussions about sexism and sexual violence. I well understand how tiresome it is when such discussions become, as they far too often do, all about how men see things, and their intentions. And, worse, when there are some who use cherry-picked examples that act, in the context of the discussion, as minimizing or apologetics. I understand and share the strong impulse to shut down with extreme prejudice anything that smacks of "but you say this is rape, but it's really not, because it wasn't intended to be rape". Rape is rape.

    But asserting that only evil people rape, that otherwise normal well-intentioned men don't rape, is unfortunately contributing to the problem, not the solution. Rapists are not, for the most part, exotic. They're people we all know. Every one of us knows, and likely is related to, a rapist. That's the reality. If you find it more comfortable to imagine that all rapists are people you'd never imagine as a good person, then you're deluding yourself. That doesn't make the rapes

  • Keith M Ellis on December 24, 2012 1:57 PM:

    I'm not even sure what exactly was truncated. Probably something to the effect of "that doesn't make the rapes any less wrong, or more acceptable. It just underscores that this is a social problem, not a problem with a few bad people".

  • Libra on December 27, 2012 2:16 AM:

    "feminist-baiting trolls and organized misogynists, otherwise known as “men’s rights activists.”"

    Amusing. Who is trolling here lady? So cesspools of misandry otherwise known as feminists can't stand open discussion or criticism? Little Hugo and Amanda ran like the wind when Matlack refused to back down to usual feminist manipulation. Don't worry, GMP still tolerates your kind. We however, see you for what you really are. Hateful, sexist, racist girls who use 'rape culture', 'patriarchy' and 'male privilege' as power leverage and as an excuse to bash men. You see men's right growing and you're terrified that 'evil men' will take away your privilege. You're livid that you didn't get your matriarchy. You hate to share power and you hate equal rights. Despite the lies your kind spreads, we don't. Men's rights are for equal treatment of men and boys. Look it up on Wikipedia.