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Nonsense at the Good Men Project: “Nice Guys Commit Rape Too”

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.


  1. “the necessity of nuance and innuendo that pervade sexuality in our culture” is undoubtedly a bad thing, and probably leads to a lot of misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and damaged relationships. But the idea that raping an unconscious person is a matter of nuance and innuendo is absurd. Thanks for posting this, Roger.

  2. Patricia says:

    Hi Roger,

    After reading through the entire comment thread at “Good Men”, I want to let you know how much I appreciated your knowledgeable and thoughtful comments. Especially in the face of the many ludicrous assertions made by the OP and many of the other commenters….thank-you!

  3. It is curious- I can’t begin to read the Royse article as anything but a story of a couple of confused drunks passing out at a fuckfest and awaking more befuddled…
    They fell asleep- like the drunk who passes out every Christmas season with a cigarette and incinerates her family
    To start a discussion about consent and what constitutes rape amongst adults based upon the experiences of thee two sorry specimens is absurd.

    My complaint at GMP is that right smack in the middle of story after story of abuse and recrimination is drugs and booze which is not identified as a catalyst for whatever may or may not have happened.

  4. Thanks for your comment, JADD. I disagree with your take on the issue, though. You seem to believe, as many do, that alcohol somehow creates what is or appears to be rape or sexual assault. This simply isn’t true. Alcohol facilitates rape because rapists use it to their advantage. The typical acquaintance rapist is quite happy with the misinformed view you hold- rapists want very much for non-rapists to 1) blame victims (“two sorry specimens”) and 2) throw up their hands in frustration and declare alcohol the real perpetrator.

    The situation Alyssa Royse wrote about, and that prompted a great deal of criticism toward her (some fair and some unfair) seems to have been complicated, for her, by her belief that the rapist she dealt with is someone she knows to be an otherwise decent person. I have challenged her on how much she truly knows him, but in fairness I don’t know him at all. Still, I’ve never bought the story he sold Royse about how he “accidentally” and with no ill intent sexually penetrated a sleeping person. For Royse, this act by someone she believes she knows not to be sexually violent led her to wonder aloud how all of us can better understand this kind of “accidental rape” and prevent it. It is there where Royse and I part ways; she believes that the research out there doesn’t cover all of the bases. I believe it covers far more than she does, and that her friend’s act is explained simply, if unfortunately, because despite what she believes about him, he’s a rapist.

    My challenge to you would be to see 1) rape for what it is (a planned and premeditated attack in almost all situations) and 2) alcohol for what it is: a substance that does not create rape or the appearance of it, and a catalyst only in the sense that it is a tool for the one choosing to rape.

    Again, thanks for your comment- stop by anytime.

  5. tyciol says:

    “whatever signals went out before, they are vitiated by that lack of consciousness.”

    I am confused by this, why shouldn’t past signals matter? Really ANY signal we get from someone will ALWAYS be past signals by the time they are received, processed and reacted to.

    However consent should be specific so someone consenting to sex while awake shouldn’t be assumed to mean they consent to have it done while asleep. But I think if someone does explicitly say sex-while-sleeping is fine that it shouldn’t be considered rape.

    Consent really does rely on a more explicit kind in this case though since it can’t be withdrawn while unconscious, so assuming from ongoing reactions in body language (kissing, receptive acting) can’t be done in the same way.

  6. Thanks for your comment. I believe you’re technically correct to say that all signals, by the time we receive and process them, are “past.” But I think you’re suggesting something of a distinction without a difference; a signal just received is technically “past” but also very close in time to the intentions behind the signal. With regard to consent to sex (as with most things) the more time passes, the less that previously sent/received signal can still be thought to convey the same state. In any event, the unconsciousness that occurred in the situation Ms. Royse wrote about was an utterly clear and unmistakable intervening event that vitiated whatever signals might bave been sent before. She was asleep when he penetrated her. She was raped.

    I suppose a person can tell a partner, lover, or anyone that they are now giving consent for that person to be sexually penetrated despite a state of unconsciousness. I, for one, would not rely on it.

    Again, thanks for your comment- drop by again.

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