I’ve been trying to figure out how to talk about this Reddit thread for a while now. In the thread, rapists talk about why they raped. (Some survivors talk about their experiences too, and it’s also terrifying, but hearing from rapists isn’t as common.)
The explanations are simple. Scary simple. Like:
- Mixed messages (she wasn’t into it… but didn’t say no)
- Peer pressure (drunk friends pressured drunk guy into raping drunk girl)
- Because he could (she was unconscious or too scared to say no)
- Biology/”I can’t help it” (she’s there for the taking, consent doesn’t matter when you have an urge)
- Bad influences (it’s society’s fault, the rapist is the real victim here)
He describes himself as a student leader, community volunteer, and popular guy. He says he is tall and muscular – over 200 pounds. He says girls liked him. He goes on to describe a systematic targeting of women. He says he would purposefully go for “damaged” girls who were average looking, self conscious, and about half his weight. He would go on a date in public first, then persuade her to come over for the second date. During that date in his dorm room, he would start escalating physical contact over a period of a couple hours, despite any signals from her. He would premeditate what he was going to do when she got there.
“The girls usually didn’t know how to respond. Some of them were into it, and those nights were usually consensual and boring sex, sometimes followed up by a few more nightly visits before getting the boot. However, the great nights were the ones who squirmed, ones who didn’t want to give in.”
This guy says he’s married now, to a woman who knew him in college but wasn’t raped by him. He says in a later post that he’s almost raped again, but has been stopped by friends. He says he feels remorse sometimes, but he takes solace in the fact that he was never told “no” by his dates.
A comment from Jezebel:
I’ve had several heated conversations with men who take women’s fear of sexual assault so personally, but I think this Reddit thread really validates that fear. Of course, not all men are rapists, but sussing out who is (or who could be) and who isn’t is hardly a simple task.
This really gets to the heart of the topic: what in the heck should we be learning from this? Don’t be a woman? Don’t go on dates? Don’t watch movies with guys who are popular and smart?
One 2009 study reported serial attackers can target someone just based on how they move. It came down to confidence: does the person move like she is aware of her surroundings and calm? Or does she look passive and docile – even frightened? Just like the guy on Reddit, serial attackers have an eerie ability to read for vulnerability.
And this is where the conversation usually devolves into blaming women for getting into situations where they are raped.
Every woman knows how to “reduce her risk,” as if her body is an object that must be protected from thieves. She knows how to hold her keys to make a weapon, not to get drunk, not to wear short skirts or show her cleavage, to always meet in a public place the first time, etc etc.
But those things are just victim blaming.
The one thing consistent in all of the rapist’s stories is: they never heard “no”.
So simple. They never heard “NO”! In a weird double-negative way, not hearing “no” meant consent to them.
I think it’s time to re-educate our population on what consent is – what it looks like to give/receive consent, what counts as consent, and how to ask for it.
I really like this image. Basically, anything besides YES means no. I think that’s beautiful.
So it’s time to reprogram our peers, partners, kids, siblings, parents — that only YES means yes. Any response other than YES means you need to stop. If everyone asked for consent, and waited for a YES, we’d have a lot less rapes from misunderstandings or people taking advantage of not hearing “no”.
THIS needs to be the new standard. Say it with me: “Only YES! means yes.”