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“But I thought he was a nice guy?!”

This post – which includes frank discussion of rape and sexual assault, fyi – has been swirling round in my head for a while. I almost wrote it a few weeks ago, when student George Lawlor feigned horror at being asked to go to consent classes and held up a sign saying ‘this is not what a rapist looks like.’ Then I almost wrote it again after watching the BBC3 programme ‘Is this rape?’ Now a number of porn performers have come forward about James Deen and – because I think it’s important to support people who speak out – I figured now’s as good a time as any. I believe them, obviously. Please read their stories:

Stoya

Tori Lux

Ashley Fires

TM

I don’t want to put words into their mouths or make any assumptions about their experience, which is why I’ve put all these links at the beginning of the post so you can read, and offer your own support however you like.

From now on the rest of this post is not specifically about any individual – just our response to hearing someone’s personal story of rape or assault. Specifically, it’s about this phrase:

“But I thought he was a nice guy?!”

It comes back to the George Lawlor thing: ‘This is not what a rapist looks like.’ Let me tell you about some nice guys I have known.

Some nice guys

The BBC3 documentary called ‘Is this rape?’ showed a group of young people a few dramatised scenes of a student party, and asked them at various points as the story unfolded whether what the protagonist had done was rape (it was). They had some often pretty frank and sometimes deeply uncomfortable discussions about it. I was particularly struck by one girl’s insistence that (to paraphrase):

‘everyone’s had this, haven’t they? Like, you know how you’re at a party and there’s a guy who wants to get it on, and you keep saying ‘no’ but eventually you get bored of saying ‘no’ so you just let him get on with it.’

There were a fair few nods around the room, and if you’d said the same to me ten years ago I’d have nodded too. I may have told you about one particular bloke: let’s call him X. We all knew about X – bloody great guy, really fun at a party, always brought loads of booze and cracked the best jokes. I didn’t know him that well, but I saw him at almost every event. We were on drunk-hugging terms, and occasionally shared a bong or whatever was being passed around. However, alongside all the other stuff I knew about what a ‘great guy’ X was, I also knew that at the end of the evening, when people were grabbing sleeping bags and fighting for crash space on the floor, you needed to try never end up next to X. At a different party a while ago someone had fallen asleep next to him and woken to find her trousers round her knees. At another party someone else had woken to find his hands busy up her top.

This was (very notably now that I’m older and I understand this stuff) not really a ‘thing’ for us at the time. It just was. A fact. Immutable. That’s X – it’s what he does. Try not to fall asleep next to him.

Christ.

Later in life – and I’m keeping this very vague because if I’m ever outed I don’t want these guys to sue me – I had a friend who I massively fancied. He was hot and funny and all the things that made me melt at the time. He flirted with me when we were pissed, and we’d shared a couple of drunken snogs at the end of a couple of fun evenings.

One night, after a super-late party, I went to sleep on the sofa. Almost everyone else had gone either home or upstairs, and it was just me, this friend, and his mate left in the lounge. They chatted shit for a while, passed a bottle of cheap flavoured vodka back and forth, and I drifted off to the comforting sound of their voices.

I woke up a while later with one of them grabbing my tits, and the other fumbling to remove my top.

“Wha…?” I mumbled. “What’re you doing?”

See, up until that very moment I’d thought he was a nice guy. Him and his friend. I thought they were great. Even as I woke up and found them groping me I thought ‘this is weird. Maybe I told them they could do this? Maybe in my sleep I gave some encouragement?’

I still wanted to believe that they were good. And I continued to convince myself they were, right up until my mate put his hand on my forehead and pushed me back down onto the sofa, saying:

“Ssssh. Go back to sleep.”

Not, in fact, a nice fucking guy then.

Here’s the thing about that phrase: most people seem nice, and most people think they are too. Very few people actually think they’re the baddies.

But thinking you’re nice isn’t a defence against doing appalling things. Thinking someone else is nice is no guarantee that they’ll never do something awful. In general, we all think that our choices are the right ones. That terrible things like rape are done by other people: the Big Bad Wolf. Hence I – and I suspect many other people – struggle with using words like ‘rape’ and ‘sexual assault’ where they apply to personal situations. When you say ‘I was sexually assaulted’ the words carry a huge amount of weight. They also often come with a nagging feeling that what happened wasn’t – couldn’t be – assault, because the person doing it to you did not, in George Lawler’s words, look like a rapist.

This is why people repeatedly hammer home the fact that most abusers are known to those they abuse. Why rape does not always happen in dark alleys with strangers. Why it’s possible to rape or assault someone who loves and cares for you. Or in some cases is an actual colleague who works with you in an environment where sexual consent should be sacrosanct. Those facts are important – for the people assaulted as well as those who rape and assault. Because it can make it so much harder to fully understand what’s happening when we’re desperately trying to persuade ourselves that this person is one of the good ones. That is why it is so fucking harmful when people like George Lawlor try and imply that there’s a certain ‘look’ to a rapist, or that people who are nice just don’t do this stuff. It makes it far harder for people to put a name to the awful things that are happening, and it also means that people who rape and assault can often kid themselves that they’re doing anything but.

Even while raping and assaulting, rapists may well still think they’re one of the good ones.

Whenever I write blog posts about rape or sexual assault, or even just posts about consent, I get people in the comments asking: how can I make sure I’m never accused of rape? They talk about rape accusations and consent ‘tick-boxes’ and ask me what they could possibly do to guarantee that they’re never accused of being a baddie.

What they’re asking for is a guarantee that they’re ‘one of the good ones’ that they can show to potential partners or hold up and wave in a conversation to prove beyond doubt to everyone that they’re on the right side. Well, sorry, but none of us has that guarantee: there is no such thing. We need to work to earn trust, prove we’re worthy of that trust, and never try to excuse a breach of that trust by saying: ‘hey! I thought I was one of the good ones!’

Here’s a link to the Rape Crisis website, which has a lot of information on rape and sexual assault as well as advice on where to seek help and support. There are also organisations that provide dedicated help to men and boys who have experienced rape and sexual assault. 

46 Comments

  • Pankfon says:

    Knew that prick was fake.

  • RB says:

    In a way I can see why people use the phrase ‘But I thought he was a nice guy’, as a defence mechanism for themselves; learning that someone you know, or respect and admire has something like that must be awful. The problem obviously comes when they flat-out refuse to believe it and don’t give way to the reality of it, or offer any support to the victim. Automatically looking for ‘proof’, that sort of shit.

    I hope you didn’t come to any harm from those fuckers on the sofa. Cunts.

    • Girl on the net says:

      True. I think that’s why accepting that ‘nice-seeming people’ do bad things is so important in the discussion around rape and sexual assault. It’s the link between ‘he seemed so nice’ to ‘it doesn’t seem plausible’ which I think also goes through a lot of people’s minds. Like ‘this is happening to me but X is nice so it’s not plausible’ and it makes a lot of stuff much harder.

      No harm from sofa fuckers. At the time I pretended I thought he was joking, I think, and went ‘oh haha, don’t be a nob’ then disappeared upstairs so I could put a door between us. I don’t think any of us mentioned it again.

  • N says:

    And the trouble with the “He’s always such a nice guy” thought is that even after it has happened to you *in a relationship*, you can fool yourself that it didn’t happen, because “he’s not usually like that, he’s always such a nice guy”. (Ironically happened about the time that it became illegal for a husband to rape a wife in the UK) Have you seen the Consent is Everything video by Thames Valley Police? http://youtu.be/pZwvrxVavnQ Should be shown to everyone as it clearly illustrates situations like the ones you experienced and I did.

    • Girl on the net says:

      You’re right about the post-hoc justification – so much often comes down to ‘but X isn’t like that!’ and it’s really difficult a lot of the time to see that someone who is not ‘like that’ can still *do* that. So sorry to hear you’ve been through that.

      The consent + tea video has been sent to me a few times, and I love what it’s trying to do although I do struggle with it a bit. It seems to be saying ‘consent is really hard’ and offering a set of rules which, if followed, give someone something akin to the guarantee that ‘you’re a nice person because you don’t make anyone drink tea.’ As I say, I really like what it’s trying to do and I think it’s important to address everyone with messages around why consent is important. I just think that the guys (for example) on the sofa in my second story would *never* have seen themselves as ‘making anyone drink tea’ – they’ve probably both watched and shared the video and wouldn’t see themselves in it, so it is something that might need a more proactive approach. Not necessarily ‘don’t do these things’ but ‘*do* do these things – where you’re encouraging people to actively seek consent, consider what they’re doing and how it feels to them + other people, etc. I haven’t explained that very well at all, I’m afraid, but I took part in one of Justin Hancock’s ‘handshake’ workshops a while ago and I thought it was a great exploratory way to teach consent: http://bishtraining.com/three-handshakes-an-activity-for-learning-how-consent-feels/ Like I say, though, I do like what the tea vid is trying to do, and it’s certainly a hell of a lot better than ‘prevention’ measures that focus on teh behaviour of people who are raped and abused rather than the behaviour of those who do it.

      • N says:

        See your point. It’s the fact that it is aimed towards those who carry out these actions that appeals I think. A definite improvement on the “Don’t wear provocative clothes/don’t drink too much/don’t behave in a ‘loose’ way” preaching that I became aware of in the early 90s. (Because of course this sort of thing never happened in the 80s when I was a teenager, obviously)

      • Vida says:

        Oh – I didn’t get the ‘consent is really hard’ message from the tea video. I got more of a ‘duhhhh you fucking idiots, it’s not complicated’ sort of a vibe from it. Plus the message that the policeman voicing it announced that he was off for a wank at the end of it.

  • Tim says:

    “how can I make sure I’m never accused of rape?”

    I’ve always found not raping anyone to be an excellent way of making sure of this. And I’m friends with plenty of the kind of feminist activists who rapey dickheads seem to think want all men to be locked up for rape regardless of whether they’re actually rapists or no.

  • Dealing with rapists and people who sexually assault others is so much more complex than it ever should be. We all agree that a rapist is a monster – but that leads to one of the problems. Monsters aren’t people. Monsters shouldn’t be people who you can have conversations with. Monsters can attack you in dark alleys but they shouldn’t be people you can spend an evening with or lots of evenings with. The ‘nice guy’ defence is tied into that. Subconsciously, we believe we should be able to recognise a monster, so if someone appears nice and then commits sexual assault, we question our own judgment and there can be a desire for it not to be true to protect our own confidence in our own judgements.

    We need to support victims who speak out and share their stories so that people understand that no-one looks like a rapist, or rather anyone can look like a rapist. Nothing they do at any other time, even if they are saintly at all other times stops them from having sexually abused or raped someone if they ignored consent.

    I would also recommend Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre (RASASC) to anyone who needs any support.

    • Girl on the net says:

      Thank you for the comment – and the recommendation too. My comment thing puts links in a comment queue so just in case – here’s a link to it http://www.rasasc.org.uk/ Thanks again. And I agree – we need to support people who speak out, and I think put a lot more effort into encouraging people to come forward and share. I think a lot of the difficulty around rape conviction as well as consent education stems from this shock and disbelief when it’s attached to an individual. Listening to more people’s stories helps us realise that it’s not this ‘big bad wolf’ that happens to one in a thousand people, at the hands of a monster – it’s more common than we think, and needs to be addressed much more broadly.

    • Orathaic says:

      Yes, this. Hutler is also portrayed as a monster. Which hides the crimes of our leaders – because they are nice guys – this is the same ‘them vs us’ dichotomy which is central to, among ither things, the immigration debate. They are scarey ‘others’; We are ‘nice guys’. They are monsters; we will wait til you are asleep until we sexually assault you. Ok, so blame is still to be had from sexual repression. But the existanc of this problem is huge. If we can’t recognise our own crimes (both individually and culturally) then we can’t address them and ultimately stop them. Noam Chomsky has a policy if critcising US foreign actions, far more than anyone else’s. He believe that in a liberal democracy, your voice criticising your government can actually make a difference… He doesn’t believe in wasting his effort criticising Russian foreign actions, because the Russians are unlikely to listen – yet almost every other media source propogandas out negative stories about their ‘enemies’ and positive ones about themselves. This kind of self-analysis is important. However getting a guy to admit he raped and apologise (in the hopes of changing his behaviour) is impeded by the law. As soon as he gives evidence to his victim they can immediately take it to the police, and he becomes a monster – despite the fact that he is ine of the few men who have actually managed to reflect and try to improve their behaviour… ie the least monsterous of the monsters. There is a great example of this which made national news in Ireland, a woman speaking out about her boyfriend who repeatedly raped her in her sleep (she woke once or twice, and really her words: http://www.thejournal.ie/niamh-ni-dhomhnaill-2367037-Oct2015 ).

      Now i’m not defending the lax sentencing in this case – please don’t mistake this for a rape apologist. People should know better, they ahould do better, and both schools and parents should address these issues – but the media has only two people, us nice guys, and other monsters.

      If we want to have less rapists in the world we need a more nuanced description of them. We need to encourage people to look at themselves and accept where their behaviour has been problematic. Criminal punishment may not be the best way to do this.

      • SpaceCaptainSmith says:

        If it’s not too late for another reply on this thread…

        The suggestion above seems to be that those who own up to committing rape should (potentially) be spared a criminal sentence. I can see where you’re coming from, but I don’t think I can agree. It is a serious crime, and should receive some kind of significant punishment. Someone who committed rape and is genuinely remorseful about it should be willing to accept the consequences.

        As I understand it, the courts already give shorter sentences to those who plead guilty, as an incentive to own up and spare the victim the pain of a criminal trial. And while it is true that some rapists are different from others – the person who commits rape once is not the same as the one who commits is dozens of times – but the courts already reflect that, and will hand out longer or shorter sentences in accordance with the seriousness of the crimes and the dangerousness of the offender. But I believe all who are convicted of rape receive a prison sentence, and that seems intuitively right to me.

        Where I agree is that the media coverage of rape doesn’t help; it rarely does. (I suspect the way the media divide people into ‘nice guys and monsters’ as you put it has something to do with libel laws: the media are reluctant to print serious criminal accusations against someone who hasn’t yet been convicted of anything, for fear of being sued for libel. As a result, they have difficulty dealing with cases where there are allegations about someone, or serious concerns about their behaviour, but they haven’t actually been arrested.)

        I also agree that ‘we need to encourage people to look at themselves and accept where their behaviour has been problematic’. Many rapists would likely benefit from education and rehabilitation classes, and at least some could be reformed. (It would be better to provide the consent classes to someone *before* they commit a crime, but still.) Unfortunately at present rehabilitation is not something our criminal system is currently well designed to provide; I’m sure many people go through a prison sentence and come out the other side without having learned anything but not to get caught next time.

  • Excellent post GoTN. Well articulated and thought provoking as ever.

    KW

  • Jessy says:

    I agree to what you’re saying and its interesting article. It’s definately true that we associate people who can rape to a certain factors: looks, social class (where I come
    from, the latter matters) and I feel we do this because something like rape or assault, some of us don’t accept that ‘it can happen to anyone.’
    And you know what shocks one the most: when it happens within the family, a space where you least expect it. My uncle inappropriately touched me as a child (really not looking for sympathy or pity when I’m stating it, I just want to make a point) I was alarmed that ‘he’ could ever do such a thing. Why? “Because I thought he was a nice guy.”

    • Girl on the net says:

      God, I’m so sorry. I know you’re not looking for anything but I’d be disingenuous if I didn’t acknowledge in my reply – that’s awful, I’m so sorry you went through that.

      There’s definitely something about the ‘looks/social class/etc’ thing – I think quite a bit of it was under the surface in George Lawlor’s attempt to show ‘this is not what a rapist looks like.’ It felt quite like he was hinting that he was white, MC, etc, and therefore of COURSE he wouldn’t rape. Which seems so ridiculous because as a white, MC woman, most of the men I know match the same profile, and therefore most guys who’ve sexually assaulted me or people in my friendship group meet that profile too.

  • D says:

    [This comment has been removed at the request of the poster]

    • Woodyyy85 says:

      I’m glad that a man has posted this because it shows men can be on the receiving end of sexual assault, by women as well as other men.

      Let’s make a couple of things clear though. “Rape” can only be committed by men, legally at least, because it requires a penis and penetration. And this in itself is a risky business because it paints men as the baddie at every turn. The consent element of it also means that men are now required to tick consent boxes at every single turn, in every sexual situation they get into, whatever their status or the situation. Unfortunately, the social stigma around men being sexually assaulted, as D shows, also means that men are in a horrible situation now.

      However, as D shows, men can be on the receiving end of sexual assaults as well, and the media and law would paint a much fairer picture of these instances if they spoke in terms of “sexual assault” rather than “rape” as it would put everyone on an even keel when discussing this critical issue. It would also put everyone in a position where everyone felt that they needed to ask for consent at every turn.

      What’s even more pathetic is that we’re getting to the stage where women are using “rape” as a threat against men – before anyone criticises this point, it’s happened to me twice. On neither occasion had I done more than kiss either woman yet they both felt confident enough that they could threaten a man with this in order to get their way. This in itself undermines all instances where rape actually happens, which is a crying shame as sexual assault of any kind is not something that should ever be belittled.

      Basically, rape is horrible, as is sexual assault, and thank you to D for sharing your story. But this is an imbalanced issue at the moment where journalists paint the “men are bad guys” image at every turn is damaging. A more effective solution would be to educate both men and women as to what consent is, how to ask for it, what the law is, and how to ensure they don’t get into situations where they are at risk. And then, if something does happen, to ensure that the victims know where to go to get the help they need, whilst also giving them the confidence to go to the police.

      • Girl on the net says:

        You seem to have piggybacked onto someone’s very personal story to make extremely generalising, gendered political points. Please don’t do this.

        • D says:

          [This comment has been removed at the request of the poster]

          • D says:

            [This comment has been removed at the request of the poster]

          • Girl on the net says:

            Hi D. OK, if you’d like to argue feel free to continue. I hope you understand why I don’t want this to happen here, though, because every single time I mention sexual assault, my comments are always hijacked by people who insist on lamenting their sadness about false accusations.

            The only point I will make in response to Woodyyy above is that despite his protestations that what he did to two women was ‘just a kiss’, sexual assault is any unwanted physical contact, and I’m pretty sick about the fact that he’d use a discussion on sexual assault to try and lament his sadness that two women say he sexually assaulted them.

            And D – I have deleted the second half of your comment. I don’t know what or who you’re alluding to, but when people try to hint at or guess my ‘identity’ in blog comments, or in my inbox, it terrifies me. Like, genuinely terrifies me to the point of panic attack. I am sure you didn’t intend to do this, but please don’t do this again.

        • D says:

          [This comment has been removed at the request of the poster]

      • D says:

        [This comment has been removed at the request of the poster]

    • Girl on the net says:

      Hi D. I’m so sorry, this sounds awful and I’m so sorry to hear you’ve been through this. I think your point that “because that would be unthinkable, and they don’t want to think about it” touches on something really important, especially when talking to close friends who have been assaulted – there *is* often this underlying worry that talking about it means accepting that something really horrible happened, and a lot of people do turn away from that. I think we’re getting better at this, very slowly (young people these days seem, for instance, way more aware about consent and abuse than I was when I was younger). But there’s a huge amount still to deal with. I am obviously not qualified to offer you any advice, and I don’t want to sound like I’m dismissing you at all, but if you do want to talk to someone then the links at the end of the post point to orgs that I know have helped many people. Anyone who tells you to ‘man up’ is fucking awful, and I hope that they *grow* up and examine what they’re actually saying.

  • D says:

    [This comment has been removed at the request of the poster]

  • Aj says:

    I agree with you for the most part, except when you bring in Lawlor. While I’m old enough for this not to have been an issue when I was in university, I do find the idea of mandatory consent classes, particularly targeting men, to be incredibly patronising. Rather like “don’t steal” classes for black men, or “don’t kill your kid” classes for new mothers.

    I really can’t wrap my head around the suggestion that ‘X’ didn’t know that what he was doing was wrong before he did it. Further, it seems absurd to me that if only ‘X’ had been given a consent class, he wouldn’t have acted the way he did. Likewise with Deen, I have no doubt that he understands consent. He’s talked about it enough times to demonstrate that he does.

    And, it’s not that I’m totally against the idea of discussing consent in a teaching environment. I think it’s particularly that it’s done in universities that offends me. That seems way too old for something that should be handled in late primary school; rather like including ass wiping instructions as part of orientation for new employees.

    The problem, it seems to me, is not that people don’t understand consent, but that some people think the rules don’t apply to them. I don’t see how patronising all men (or shaming individual men, like Lawlor, who point this out) contributes to solving that problem.

    • Z says:

      But the problem is that this is never taught to boys at school. I went to an all girl school and I’ve lost count of how many ‘personal safety’ classes we had to take – with all the usual lessons of policing how you dress, how you travel, how you even behave around men, because it’s *your* responsibility to not get sexually assaulted.

    • Girl on the net says:

      No. Firstly, saying ‘we need consent in primary school’ is right, but massively contradicts ‘we don’t need it at University!’ – people at Uni these days have not had any decent education around this in primary school, or you wouldn’t be advocating that they needed it. Secondly, the reason people like Lawlor get offended by ‘consent workshops’ is because they think consent is just a yes/no tickbox – the ‘guarantee’ thing I mentioned in the article. Thirdly, your examples are really offensive and they’re also totally unnecessary given that consent classes were not just for men: http://www.warwicksu.com/execresources/training/signup/iheartconsent/ Moreover, they were only mandatory for a couple of members of clubs and societies, with the aim of fostering a more positive and helpful culture around sex and consent. I don’t think you understand what consent classes are aiming to teach people – it is not about saying ‘if someone says no don’t fuck them’ – they’re way more important and involved than that. I have been to the ‘handshake’ consent workshop as mentioned by Bish in this (brilliant) piece (http://bishtraining.com/Have+you+seen+that+tea+and+consent+video), and I found it incredibly useful and interesting. I am massively suspicious of anyone who would flat-out say they don’t ‘need’ better understanding of consent. I think we all do.

      • Aj says:

        Being offensive was the point. I have the same offence to those examples as you do, but I also do to the idea of consent workshops. Perhaps the press involved is particularly bad, but every article I’ve read on the idea leaves me feeling they are doing more harm than good. It comes across to me as teaching one’s grandmother to suck eggs, and then patting oneself on the back at how well they’ve taught her. Put another way, it’s seems to be the old political trick: Rape is a problem, something must be done! Consent classes are something, therefore we must have consent classes.

        I’m actually not advocating they need it, just that there’s no harm in including it as part of good, age appropriate sex education. I think it naturally flows from a well developed Theory of Mind, and pre-teen interaction and experimentation (and not being a sociopath or thinking the rules don’t apply to you). Helicopter parenting and the idea that we can eliminate all risks is a bigger cause of problems for this generation, as they strongly contribute to the idea that if you follow a formula then you will get the result you want. I certainly agree that consent isn’t a yes/no tick.

        Maybe the tea analogy doesn’t translate to non-UK people that well, but it fails for me too, although in not quite the same place as the article you linked. The idea that by simply offering tea in the first place is potentially inconsiderate to the offeree. In any situation where one is offering tea, it would usually be considered rude not to offer (or not happily comply with another beverage request, or accept a no).

        Ballroom dancing is a better analogue for me. It only works if both partners are working together, but there’s a leader and a follower. The whole dance falls apart if the leader tries something the follower doesn’t want to do or isn’t ready for, but you can get something truely spectacular if both partners trust each other, the leader can sense the follower’s state and the follower can read and anticipate the leader. And it takes practice, trust and good faith in your and your partner’s intentions.

        • Girl on the net says:

          You either didn’t read my comment or didn’t actually take it in: consent workshops are not just for men. They’re also not about what you seem to think they’re about.
          “The idea that by simply offering tea in the first place is potentially inconsiderate to the offeree.”
          This is at no point said or even hinted at in the consent/tea discussion. In fact, pretty much all of your comment seems to be arguing against things that do not exist (compulsory consent classes only for men, classes which are just about teaching ‘don’t rape’ etc). I’m pretty gutted that you read my blog post and all it made you want to do was argue against hypothetical consent classes that you seem to have imagined/assumed, rather than engaging with the points I actually made.

  • Exquisite Catastrophe says:

    Thank you for this, you’re absolutely spot on. It took me years to fully acknowledge what happened to me (though I still can’t bring myself to say the word out loud. I’ll get there).

    When he apologised the morning after he just looked so small and pathetic, it just didn’t compute that someone like that could have done something so monstrous. I mean, no way he could’ve made me a victim, right? I’m stronger than him, I could’ve stopped it if I’d wanted. So he punched me in the face. He’s an idiot when he’s drunk, it barely left a mark. No, much easier to believe that it was merely a drunken misstep rather than a sexual assault.

    So I carried on seeing him for the best part of a year, attributing the nightmares and panic attacks to general uni stress, until his possessive stalky behaviour started to become painfully apparent. Stopped seeing him, but still didn’t accept what he’d done. He was a creepy prick who’d done a bunch of prickish things, but I still didn’t see him as capable of rape, or myself as capable of allowing it.

    It was only after about five years of reading accounts of similar things from others (your book, in particular, had a story that hit home pretty hard) that I was able to view the whole thing objectively and start to deal with it. It’s been a couple of years since then and things are getting better, but I’ve got a ways to go. Still troubled with bouts of anxiety, depression, panic attacks and night terrors. My partner doesn’t know, and I’m not sure I ever want him to. Maybe one day I’ll be able to tell friends about it. This is actually the first time I’ve laid it out in public, so thanks for providing the catalyst. It can sometimes be difficult to keep believing that it wasn’t my fault. Pieces like this help remind me :-)

    • Girl on the net says:

      God – he sounds like a fucking appalling and creepy prick, and I’m so sorry you went through that. And thank you so much for sharing here, I do hope things get better for you.

  • Anonymous says:

    This is an important post. I’m guilty. I am still a nice guy. My partner loves me, and we are together still, and have been for years. But I’m still a rapist. And she is still a victim.
    And it is something that haunts me. It is something that happened when I was younger, and not as up to this shit as I am now. And I regret it. Even though she probably forgot it happened.
    I wish I had had better self-control, and better empathy, etc.

    Nice guys can be rapists too.

    • Hazelthecrow says:

      That must be such a hard thing to type out – thankyou for owning it. That you do is (sadly for most) remarkable; I hope time heals both of you

  • There’s another elephant in the room and that is the legacy of thousands of years of a society in which women’s sexuality was owned by men (as were women themselves) so rape, initially, was a crime against property and the severity of the crime was calculated against the ‘value’ of the woman raped but the *victim* was considered to be that woman’s male owner. So we have the lingering idea that rape is ‘worse’; if the woman raped was a ‘valuable’ woman (a virgin, a schoolgirl, a respectable wife&mother) rather than a ‘slut’ (known to have had several sexual partners in the past).
    There’s also the associated idea that women don’t like sex/never seek to have sex, and that men must ‘get’ sex from women – sex is a prize that men must win and it’;s OK for them to win by lying or using force. In terms of human history, we have really only just begun to accept that women are fully autonymous human beings rather than a resource to be shared out among men for domestic, social, breeding and recreational-sex purposes.

    I am not for one moment denying that women can be predatory and can and do abuse men as well. But the vast majority of rapes and sexual assaults still consist of men attacking women, and there are deep-seated cultural reasons for that.

    • Girl on the net says:

      Absolutely – it will take a long time to unravel this stuff. I have nothing to add I just wanted to say I agree, and thank you for adding that – it’s really important.

    • Orathaic says:

      I am up to agreeing with you 100%,

      But this: “I am not for one moment denying that women can be predatory and can and do abuse men as well. But the vast majority of rapes and sexual assaults still consist of men attacking women, and there are deep-seated cultural reasons for that.”

      The majority of rapes and sexual assault is by people in power who have the opportunity to take advantage of others. That this is more often men is a problem of a lack of equality.

      But it is teachers, priests, family members, scout leaders. It is men, more often than not, which goes to a deeper issue of power and status in our society. For the same deep cultural reasons you mention.

      But victims of rape are also the more easily exploited. Children, disabled, etc. And these can just as easily be men.

      • Girl on the net says:

        I think that’s a lot of beating about the bush when in fact you are basically agreeing with ZJK’s comment.

        You said people in power are:
        “men, more often than not, which goes to a deeper issue of power and status in our society.”

        And

        “But victims of rape are also the more easily exploited… And these can just as easily be men.”

        So men are simultaneously *more likely to be in positions of power* and *equally likely to be in positions of vulnerability*? There must be way more men than I thought.

        That sounds facetious but in reality I am genuinely sad that anyone would struggle to accept this – for what purpose? To what end? The world will not collapse if we admit that women are more likely to be sexually assaulted than men. It is a fact, and it is a fact that is borne of a society that generally hands men more power than women. This does not mean that men cannot be assaulted, or that assault on men is somehow less serious, or that we should not do anything to tackle it. All it means is that our power structures make it more likely that certain people will be victims of assault. Exactly the same as the fact you state, which is that people in *other* positions (through physical disability, age, etc) are also more likely to be assaulted. It is not a nice fact. It is a fucking horrible fact. But it is a fact.

  • As usual a brilliant discussion. Something Zak said concerns me a little. If one of his points is taken to its logical conclusion could we be saying that a man who tells a woman he loves her to get sex, and the woman gives him sex because he says he loves her, has she been raped?

    We all know that that happens all of the time. Is it rape or not? Is consent obtained by deception actually rape?

    Sorry to kick a potential hornet’s nest, but what do you think?

    • Girl on the net says:

      OK, I’m not sure where you got that from ZJK’s comment, but here goes: in a discussion about sexual assault I’m always really wary of turning the conversation round into something more like ‘but what about the potential abusers?’ This is because, since time immemorial, every single time people have tried to talk about this stuff, it descends into ‘but what about the potential abusers?’ meaning there is rarely a space free from this kind of detail-mining where people can simply share their experiences, and discuss how to solve the (not insubstantial) problem of assault.

      There is a discussion to be had about rape by deception, although I think that particular branch of it is probably better focused not on ‘what if men pretend they’re in love?’ than on what our current laws around it say, and the ways in which they potentially really screw certain people over (trans people, for instance – this article by Jane Fae gives an interesting overview on what the law says on this issue: http://www.newstatesman.com/voices/2013/06/trans-or-otherwise-its-time-overhaul-law-rape-deception). So yeah, sorry to seem like I’m shutting this down, but it’s been a very long day, and I am not really up for a debate about the nuance on this.

  • Like the topic and how you approached the “good guy” mentality

  • SpaceCaptainSmith says:

    And on the original post: I feel like ‘nice guy’ is one of those phrases that just needs to be eradicated from the language. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen anyone use it non-ironically, anyway.

  • Anon says:

    I think you’re spot on with all of this, thank you for writing it. I was raped when I was 15, by a nice guy, and not just a nice guy, a clever good guy, who was just about to take his A levels at grammar school and had been predicted straight As. A relative who was mates with him had been telling me for years what a nice guy he was, how quiet and shy he was, coz he was so sensitive. And I was very far from a nice girl…I was more a smoking pot in the loos at school, shoplifting at the weekends, about the flunk my GCSEs kind of a girl. So I went into the woods with him, all smokes and swears and showing off.

    It took a few weeks before I grasped what had happened, before that word, rape, formed in my head…but when it did, immediately after my next thought was “but everyone really likes him, they’ll say he hasn’t got it In him” “he’s clever and shy and good, well I’m gobby and rude and always in trouble”. He was not a nice guy, but I’m pretty sure that’s what everyone would have said.

    Me and said nice guy crossed paths again a yr or so later, his mates went out with my mates, we were at the same college, we wound up at the same parties. And I was still so bought into him good, me bad that I still didn’t tell anyone…even when he found me on my own, at parties, outside clubs and bars and hurt me again. He died in the end, and it was over, then I definitely couldn’t say anything coz how could I say bad shit about a good, sensitive, shy bloke who wasn’t even alive to defend himself whilst his mum and his sister grieved “but he’s such a nice guy”….not cool & also a little bit dangerous and damaging…

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