The Bad Men Project

If you’ve managed to avoid the Good Men Project thus far, lucky you. I only learned about them recently due to the shitstorm they’ve managed to stir up by being bleeding idiots.  It started with an essay called, “Nice Guys Commit Rape Too.”  I wish the writer was being sarcastic, but alas no, under the guise of discussing why rapists rape the article goes on to claim exactly what the title says.  Rather than retracting and apologizing and doing the soul-searching that ought to follow such a ridiculousness, they then followed it up with a second piece by an admitted (but non-convicted) rapist about how consent is just so confusing and labeling people who rape as bad people and, well, rapists is just not fair.  For a good description and rebuke of the piece, complete with the article itself in quotes, check out the following, but be wary of triggers as it’s full of rape-apologism and awfulness:

And just when you thought the Good Men Project couldn’t get any worse….

I wrote this in the comments section, but in case you don’t want to wade through the many, many outraged responses, here are some of my own thoughts on it, and on the issue in question:

Once upon a time, alcohol and other substances enabled me to do dangerous, irresponsible, and stupid things that I was able to rationalize or convince myself weren’t that bad, but it didn’t put any ideas in my head. Nothing came out that wasn’t already there, which is why I never raped anyone. As for the things I did do, part of my recovery is taking responsibility for them and recognizing that there is a difference between an explanation and an excuse. The explanation is that I am an addict, but there are no excuses.

This guy claims to be only offering an explanation, but the fact that he mentions his victim’s behavior (“actually flirting”) and that she later entered recovery screams victim-blaming and undermines any possible claim he could have on rationality. As if either of those facts have anything to do with what he did to her. Moreover, the fact that he still questions whether he’s a rapist despite the fact that she straight-up told him speaks to a complete disregard for his victim’s experience and humanity. The comparison to his friend’s experience? BS. Yeah, he made a different call: the wrong one.

I know plenty of women who got sober after being assaulted or raped, sometimes as a result of the experience. They realized they were putting themselves in danger by being vulnerable around guys like this one, but they are also clear on the fact that just because you’re vulnerable doesn’t mean anyone has to take advantage of you. Forgetting to lock your door doesn’t make anyone rob you, and the fact that you learn a lesson from it and never forget again doesn’t retroactively excuse the burglary.

Though inadvertently, the essay in question does bring up one point that I do find interesting and worth discussing, and that’s the vulnerability and perceived un-rape-ability of addicts.  Between the common dehumanization of alcoholics and drug users as a whole and the (reasonable) perception of them as liars, addicts make the ideal rape victims (this is particularly true when they also belong to other “un-rape-able” groups such as sex workers or women of color, who are in turn perceived as likely addicts).  Sexual assault is all too often seen as the “natural” consequence of intoxication for women, and for people who struggle with addiction this is even more potent; rape is understood as the punishment for their lack of self-control and discipline.  What’s ironic is that so frequently it is the other way around: many people of both genders develop addictions in response to experiences sexual assault and/or childhood sexual abuse.  Based on my own anecdotal understanding, I would venture that most women and a substantial proportion of men who suffer from addiction have experienced some form of sexual trauma.

If you’re interested in learning more about what’s going on with the GMP and the responses to their rape-apologism, here are a few pertinent links. I particularly recommend the first one, and the Yes Means Yes blog and book in general. I kept the later in my bathroom for months and it’s awesome.

Good Men Project’s Rape Faceplant

What In Holy Hell is This

Nonsense at the Good Men Project

The Good Men Who Only Occasionally Rape Project

Shame

Disgrace.  Humiliation.  Indignity.  Degradation.  Never has a movie been more aptly named than Shame.  In a sentence, the film documents one man’s compulsive, tormented search for connection.  I’ve been looking forward to it ever since I saw Hunger and fell into complete awe of Steve McQueen and Michael Fassbender.  Now I’ve seen it twice in the three days since it came out in theaters three days ago and my awe has only grown.  Both times the force of it left me staggering, not the way Hunger did, but somehow in a manner equally depressing and if possible more disconcerting.  Still, there is no mistaking whose work it is.  The way McQueen uses the sound of words unspoken, a kind of blank, heavy silence only punctuated by explosions of rage and despair; despite the divergent settings, it’s the same in both.  And the settings are vastly different, not just by default either.  Hunger is all concrete walls and industrial gray-greens, dark spaces and bright white hospital sheets, whereas in Shame everything sparkles, towering skyscrapers reach for the heavens and rivers dip down to depthes unknown.  It’s a New York City movie, the kind where the city functions as almost a character in itself, the sort of film that could not be set anywhere else.  There have been several very different promotional posters released, but this one is the best in my opinion:

Image

It speaks to the unvarying presence of glass in the film, windows and screens, invisible barriers that give the illusion of openness but nevertheless are solid and impenetrable.  Their presence is no accident.

It’s the perfect metaphor for Brandon, the main character, who lives his life in such a state of profound isolation that he doesn’t conciously feel the ache of his own loneliness.  He’s like the anorexic whose been hungry for so long that she doesn’t even feel it anymore, her body has given up asking (begging, pleading) for nourishment, except what he’s starved for is connection.  In this 21st century world obsessed with replacing connection with consumption, it’s easy to see and to use addiction as a metaphor, and such comparisons are especially tempting with sex addiction. Aren’t all men sex addicts? someone invariably quips when the topic arises.  Well no, they’re not, and Shame commendably resists the urge to claim otherwise.  Brandon isn’t a stand-in for Every Man, he’s not American society distilled into a single personality, and to reduce him to that would be to do him and us a disservice.  This movie is no morality tale, no grand statement on the state of the human condition.  It’s something more complicated and in some ways difficult: a character study, no more and no less.

Sissy, Brandon’s sister, is his other half, the flipside of his coin, the physical embodiment of all the neediness and desperation for contact, for connection, he is disgusted and revolted by in himself.  She begs to be loved, almost literally at times, by Brandon and anyone else who falls into her orbit.  Brandon alternately cares for her, letting her stay with him, making sure she has money and giving her his own awkward form of advice, and erupts into fury at her.  “I don’t know why you’re so angry with me,” she tells him, but to me it felt clear enough.  When he rages at her, calls her disgusting and pathetically dependent, the projection is hopelessly transparent.

It’s never clear what industry Brandon’s in, but my best guess from the few hints given is marketing.  With that in mind, it’s hard not to compare him to another character, one who, in his own words, “more or less redefined promiscuity.”  But while Brian Kinney of Queer as Folk does his best to fuck, drink and drug the pain away, flirts with suicide, and proclaims to one and all that he “doesn’t believe in love,” his declarations never really ring true.  Even he doesn’t truly seem to buy what he’s selling.  Brandon, on the other hand, believes his own story with heartbreaking intensity and sincerity.  He seems to honestly think that sex is his salvation and that connection is a fairy-tale for suckers, and he feels betrayed and humiliated by his own desire for meaningful human contact.  The slightest crack in his façade sends him reeling into a whirlwind of rage, self-destruction and loathing, played out through a mad scramble for sexual energy in any possible form and mindless encounters with every warm body he can get his hands on, and though his partners are invariably beautiful and he is undeniably gorgeous, there is absolutely nothing sexy about the acts, not even a little.