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

Recently two friends told me about their experiences of childhood sexual abuse.  I was angry and sad but not surprised.  Sometimes I feel as though I am drowning in a river of sexual violence (and by violence I mean the literal, physical kind, but also the emotional kind, the kind done by words and, just as bad, by silences).  It makes me want to scream and rage.  It’s at the point where I feel like I need a word to describe the point in the evolution of a female friendship when stories of sexual assault are exchanged.  It’s that routine.

It reminded me of a piece I once read by Katie Roiphe in which she insisted that she “would know if one in four of (her) friends had been raped.”  It stuck in my mind because of the violence of my reaction: I wanted to sneer at her that no, you wouldn’t.  I wanted to reply, have you asked?  The proportion of my friends is far higher than one in four.  Granted, it’s not exactly a random sample; I tend to gravitate toward the damaged and the scarred, young women who’ve lived hard and thus are more likely to have histories of trauma and violation.  I can’t believe that my friends are all that unique though.  Truly, I wish I could.

Recently…

Shameless in a Bad Way

I like the US adaptation of Shameless.  I really do.  I dare say I like it even more than the original, UK version (except for Steve: Justin Chambers is fine, but James McAvoy was perfect).  I’m happy it’s recently returned for a 2nd season and I have high hopes for its future.  I like capable, long-suffering Fiona with her barely-hidden vulnerability.  I like ‘Lip with his perfect SAT scores, dry sense of humor, and creativity criminality.  I like Ian with his adulterous Muslim boyfriend, sweet face, military aspirations, and hard-on for the neighborhood delinquent.  I love Debbie, who is somehow both depressingly old for her age and achingly young.  I like Kevin and Veronica, especially Kevin, and want them to be my next-door neighbors.  I don’t really like Frank, that’s pretty much impossible to do, but I find him extremely accurate and enjoyable in a laugh-so-you-don’t-cry, did-he-really-just-do-that kind of way.  The plot-lines are generally fun and sometimes clever and almost always heartfelt.

There’s just one thing that bothers me, and unfortunately, it bothers me a lot.  I’d like to know who decided that Sheila, an otherwise sweet lady dressed like a 50’s housewife who’s good with kids and imprisoned by anxiety, should also be a rapist? And that her cynical, sarcastic, over-sexualized adolescent daughter should be one too? I know it was supposed to be funny when the former handcuffed Frank to her bed  and did kinky things to him despite his loud and unmistakable protests. When the later videotaped herself having sex with him while he was drugged nearly to the point of unconsciousness, but not so out of it that he didn’t object repeatedly.  To state the obvious, it wasn’t.  What it was was the epitome of a trend I just don’t understand, in which men being raped is a punchline.

It’s not just that these jokes are in extremely poor taste and irredeemably offensive; I also honestly don’t get where the humor is supposed to come from.  Is it the role reversal?  The perceived-humiliation of a man being sexually overpowered by a woman?  The supposed impossibility of the scenario? The mere concept of a sexually aggressive woman?  The unexpectedness, that shock of the unanticipated, two things that don’t belong together (women as sexual predators? Men as victims? Men who don’t want sex? Women who do?).  In a world where the rape of men and boys is hardly confined to the realms of fiction, this kind of humor is a mystery to me, and not one I can easily set aside while I enjoy the rest of the show.  So Shameless writers, take note:  Frank screaming “stop” and being ignored isn’t just unfunny, though it certainly is that;  it’s also downright nauseating.  Lose it or lose me.

A World of Trauma

I think if it were possible for someone to snap their fingers and cure all the post-traumatic stress in this world, things would get much, much better.  That sounds obvious, but I don’t just mean in the obvious ways.  First of all, I think many more people would be affected than just those with PTSD diagnoses, or even just those who fit all the criteria for such diagnoses.  I would be willing to bet that most of the world’s population, if not all of it, would experience some kind of relief.  After all, take all the people who’ve witnessed or been victims of violence, be it multinational war or a neighborhood gang conflict, domestic abuse or state-sponsored terrorism, civil war, child abuse or assaults related to the trafficking of drugs, weapons or other illegal products.  Take those who’ve been threatened with violence.  Take all those who’ve survived sexual assault, attempted or completed rape, or childhood sexual abuse.  Who’ve experienced natural disasters: fires, earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes, heatwaves, floods.  Take most of the people who’ve been incarcerated in jails, prisons or refugee camps, or who have addictions or eating disorders, as trauma has been shown to be nearly universal in those groups.  Take nearly everyone who’s ever been in a car accident.  Take everyone who has ever feared for their life or their bodily integrity, who has ever felt unsafe to their very core.  Granted, those groups overlap greatly, but even accounting for that, lucky is the individual who has never experienced trauma.

Working with that understanding, the next question becomes, how does all that trauma affect us as groups, nations, and societies? How has it influenced the way that we relate to each other, those we know, those we hold dear, and those we’ve never even met?  People who study the affects of trauma on individuals have noted that it can create a survivor’s mentality.  Empathy and morality are left behind as extraneous and even hindrances to protecting the self.  A basic assumption of every-man-for-himself takes hold.  This state of mind can be extremely effective in crisis situations, which is why, evolutionarily, it exists.  The problems come after the emergency is over, when individuals remain in that mode of self-protection and survival at all costs.

Knowing this and given the prevalence of trauma across the world, I would go so far as to venture to suggest that we have built entire systems, governments and institutions on this mindset.  I have to wonder if the arguably-pathological lack of empathy visible in everything from an individual’s scorn for the homeless to an international body’s protection of pharmaceutical profits over human lives can be traced back to this survivor’s mentality.  Perhaps this is naïve of me.  Perhaps the only other explanations I can see, greed, indifference and outright meanness of epic proportions, are really what’s going on.  I prefer a more optimistic view of human nature, one that says we hurt others because we have been hurt, not because we are sadists.  If for no other reason, I prefer this understanding because it allows for the possibility of something different.  The potential for change.  Looking back over the sheer quantity of trauma we as human beings have suffered and continue to suffer and impose on each other, the probability of healing looks far-fetched at best.  But at least the possibility exists.