Good Men Project and the idea of nice guys

Trigger warning, rape and discussion of sexual dynamics.


I have been following the debate over the posts made by the good men project about rapes that are committed by men who are drunk or who claim not to realize what they are doing is rape. These seem like exploitative ploys for page views, so I won’t link to them, but I will link to authors who discuss them.

I have a hard time understanding the side of the Good Men Project in all of this. The claim is that these articles where meant to show that “nice guys commit rape too”. The thing is, they don’t, not if they are really nice. A good partner of either sex should be concerned about whether what they are doing to another person is okay and if the person is getting anything out of it.

I’ll just address one of the peices, because otherwise we’d be here all day. One of the articles was a defense of a man who penetrated a woman while she was sleeping. He met a woman and talked with her all night, flirting heavily, she apparently flirted back, then she fell asleep. Up until she fell asleep, that does sound like the beginning of an interaction that might lead to sex, so it is not unreasonable that he thought she might want to have sex with him, but then she fell asleep. That means no sex, it is unfortunate, inconvenient,  but not that big of a deal, wait until she wakes up, or see her again. When someone falls asleep, sex is not on the table for now. That is simple.

The author argues that he was confused, that he was horrified by the idea that it might be rape, that he is a good guy. But he is not. He penetrated her because he felt like she promised him sex, not because he wanted to have a sexual experience with her, because she was not awake to experience it with him. A good guy wouldn’t want to just use  her body, he would want to engage with her. This is not confusing, it is selfish and disrespectful and criminal.

The only reason to find this confusing is if you do not see sex as an interaction between to equally important participants. If you are checking in and trying to make it enjoyable for your partner, if her experience is as important as yours, then her being asleep would be a problem. If you see sex as something men get from women, at the end of any sexually charged encounter, as a promise, then you may be confused by this. If it does not matter whether she enjoys the encounter, if it does not matter what she gets out of it, then it may be confusing, but then you’re not a good guy.

Of course others have pointed this out, but I think we are not careful enough to say, this is not only clear because of what we know about whay rape happens. Sure, we know that this crossed a legal, moral and ethical line into rape, but even if we did not know that he is still not a nice guy who just got confused. Even if we were to grant the point, which I don’t, that rape can be “grey”, he is still an awful, uncaring, disrespectful and selfish person. It is possible he appears to be a nice guy in other arenas, but he can’t really be nice if he thinks it is ok to take his satsfaction from a woman without any concern for hers.

Sex is a negotiation, and both parties should have a say at all times about what is done to them. Any time they can’t is not ok. That is a simple rule, and if someone can’t trust themselves to tell if what they are about to is rape, that should be a good start.


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