Alyssa Royse, apparently a sex educator and feminist dedicated to empowering women, is nevertheless dead wrong in everything from the title of this article to her contentions within it. Briefly, she has a male friend whom she believes to be a genuinely decent guy. He confided in her that he had been accused of rape, and then admitted that he had penetrated his victim sexually while she was unconscious. To be fair, Royse labels this as rape and never backs down on that characterization. But (as far as I can tell simply because she feels she “knows” the rapist) she then launches into a grandiose examination of mixed signals, societal imperatives, nuances and subtleties etc, in order to explain how this “nice guy” did such a bad thing.
I quote the brilliant sex offender treatment-provider and victim advocate Nikki Vallierie, PhD: “Nice is a behavior, not a trait.”
Royse takes pains to avoid victim-blaming by repeatedly acknowledging her friend committed rape. But she then describes how she had seen the victim aggressively flirting with him, sending “signals” that clearly indicated a desire for sex. But both Royce and her friend must understand that no signals can be sent from a human body that is unconscious. And whatever signals went out before, they are vitiated by that lack of consciousness.
It sounds simple. It is simple. But not enough for Royse, who bemoans the fog of alcohol and the necessity of nuance and innuendo that pervade sexuality in our culture. She remarks (baselessly) that 50% of men are probably committing these same “accidental rapes” because of the terrible tangle that is the modern hook-up culture.
I’ll end with the comment I posted to her piece, as I think it says what’s most relavant:
Ms. Royse, while I appreciate what you have tried to accomplish both with this piece and by moderating this discussion, I believe you are terribly misinformed and being dangerously misleading. To the extent that readers are rushing to accept both your (or others) inaccurate portrayals of the reality of sexual violence, there is potential harm being done. Briefly:
-You have continued to insist, because of the “countless hours” you’ve apparently spent with him, that your friend (the original subject of this piece) is a “sweet” guy. A nice guy. And you know this because….? Nice is a behavior, Ms. Royse. It is not a trait. Nice is what this man does- apparently to you as well- but it is hardly what he is. Sexually penetrating an unconscious person is rape (as you fairly point out) but it is not the kind of thing that is in any way difficult to avoid or easy to fall into. One doesn’t mistake a lack of consciousness. It is often accompanied by urinating on oneself, vomiting, or at least closed eyes, somniferous breathing, and an utter lack of cooperation/participation in the act. My guess? He was horrified not by his “mistake” but by her accusation. Since the vast majority of women who are violated even more clearly than his victim do not report, he was acting rationally in believing that he could rape her and get away with it. He probably has before. He probably will again, despite your protestations regarding his character to the contrary.
-I beg you to google one name: David Lisak. Dr. Lisak is a ground-breaking researcher in this area who has determined with far more scientific discipline how undetected rapists like your friend actually work.
-I’m sorry, but the issues at work here are far less complicated than you are attempting to make them. And forgive me, but when you attempt to make them more complicated you are putting more women (and some men) in danger. That’s right- that’s my contention. What you’re doing here is creating an elaborate cocktail party conversation with many willing participants about a highly misunderstood and controversial issue. But instead of clearing the air, you’re darkening it. In so doing, you are in fact being an apologist for the relatively few but highly prolific rapists out there who depend on a well-intended but foolish obfuscation of their crystal-clear intent. Please refrain.