I think talking about rape is a good thing. I'm glad that the recent Daniel Tosh controversy got so much media coverage, not because I think that no one can ever tell a rape joke without being a horrible person, but because calling attention to an issue that is so often treated flippantly or viewed as an uncommon occurrence is a good thing. If one out of every four college women has been the victim of a rape or attempted rape, then it's an issue that we should all be talking about often and until we change things. The reasons that rape is so prevalent are obviously complex, but a culture of masculine entitlement doubtlessly influences the actions of some rapists.
A current thread on Reddit titled, Reddit's had a few threads about sexual assault victims, but are there any redditors from the other side of the story? What were your motivations? Do you regret it? has, as of publication, 11,426 comments. While many of these comments are in reference to other stories, and many are survivors of sexual assault speaking out, there are plenty of stories from the rapists themselves. Underlying a great number of the stories is a refusal by the men to take real responsibility for their actions. The men couch their actions in the context of being under the control of manipulative women. They talk about their drunkenness, their blackout drunkenness, and not perceiving a women's level of drunkenness. And they talk a lot about being under the influence of their hormones, of being so turned on that they couldn't see a boundary being drawn.
This thread, while at times difficult to read, is important. The rationalization that occurs is important to note. It is this rationalization, this reliance on problematic social constructions of gender roles and of sexual consent, which leads to many sexual assaults. It is the fact that in our culture we don't all truly believe that a woman can halt a sexual encounter at anytime — that it's okay to sexually excite a man and then stop the encounter when we feel uncomfortable – that becomes obvious in the comments in this thread. The men's reactions are varied: some are angry, some contrite, some depressed or confused. Here are a few comments that I found noteworthy.
"My hormones were going insane, I didn't have any empathy…"
We went into her room and began to undress with what started as consensual, as we did she seemed preoccupied. We jumped into bed. Little of this, little of that. Slowly as things progressed I can't recall what happened. I honestly can't, it's not that i'm scared or afraid, I really don't remember. All I do remember is she was crying. She was having a flash back from her father raping her. I remember pulling off her and she kept crying. I then do remember doing something i'm probably most ashamed of is asking her to finish me off, more begging for it. My hormones were going insane, I didn't have any empathy in my heart at that moment just my own concerns. She wasn't a person anymore just a path, a tool, a means to an end. Then once again, I can't remember. I don't remember what happened, I never asked her. I almost don't want to know. But I know I got off.
I hate to say it but after it was done I went to bed, she stayed up crying.
"Much later I realized she had said "no…" very quietly.":
she was really tired, so she said she wanted to stop and sat down a little ways away. I said okay, thought for a minute, and went back over to her.
Being the genius I am, I thought "hey, I'll do the work for her!" I rolled her over, got on top, and put my dick on her face. She put it in her mouth for a second (I think, I'm honestly not sure), and I started to finger her. She had a tampon in (I guess that's why she was tired, period stuff) and she mumbled something. Much later I realized she had said "no…" very quietly.
She ran to my bed and didn't want me to touch her. I didn't understand what had happened. This hypersexual person who had offered to give me head suddenly didn't want to touch me.
A particularly unsettling account of a man's escalating sexual assaults:
This girl and her mom were visiting when I was about 14-15. She was about 16 with huge tits. I kept fantasizing about sneaking into the room next door and playing with her tits.
Then about 16-17 this girl falls asleep on the couch next to me. I felt I just had to touch her. I gently brushed my hand across her shirt. I immediately had to go to the bathroom and masterbate [sic]. I came back out to her with my dick out. Almost ejaculated on her. I have no idea what was going through my head. Just images and urges. I pulled it together though.
19-20 at a party, these two girls pass out and are dumped into an empty room. I'm already half asleep, I lay down next to them. I wake up with my hand down one of their pants.
At 24-25, I was really drunk and horny. She was asleep on the couch. I just needed to touch her and see her tits out of that tanktop. A friend of a friend saw me, told my friend. They never said anything. Wish they had.
Ended up happening again after a party. She was a good friend. I was drunk and super horny. I looked at her and knew I could never be with her. She had already hooked up with my friend. It was that feeling of never being able to do something, or have something. I looked at her and just saw something I would regret not trying for. So I thought if I could feel her I would know what it was to be with her. I grabbed her boob, over the shirt. I touched her lip and she moved her head. I stop dead thinking I woke her up, but she relaxed again. I started going upstairs but felt a sudden urge to lift her skirt. I ran my hand across her ass and between her legs. I was so drunk I turned on the light to get a better look, then quickly realized that it would wake her up and turned the light off.
The "I was extremely horny and we were already close to doing it anyway" rationalization:
was a freshman and hooking up with this girl who got naked in bed with me, then said no. I think she just wanted to do oral. I was extremely horny and already close to doing it, so I ignored her and did it. She realized what was happening and tried to clamp her legs shut, but it was too late and I was much stronger than her.
The back-story on this one is that the man was in the clutches of a "manipulative" woman who couldn't make her mind up about whether she wanted to continue a romantic relationship. This caused him to repeatedly get drunk and sexually harass women in his dorm hall:
Apparently during my blackout I went into a girl's room who I had a class with and volunteered with, and I woke her up by rubbing her thigh. She asked me what I wanted and I said 'you know what I want'. At which point she said she had a boyfriend, and instead of answering 'who cares' like she thought I might I turned into a mewling drunken bitch who eventually left the room.
Crime statistics on rape are notoriously unreliable. Studies put non-reporting rates at anywhere between 75 percent and 95 percent. The largest study in the United States into false rape allegations, published in 2005, put the number at approximately 3 percent of the 2,643 cases of sexual assault reported. But to hear Redditors talk about it, many women falsely accuse men of rape. There are several stories of the falsely accused and numerous comments in their support. Of course it is possible for a woman to falsely accuse a man of raping her, and of course it does happen, but it's not an epidemic. But from the disproportionate number of stories detailing a false accusation (far more than 3 percent), you might think it is. A sober military solider began hooking up with an extremely intoxicated female soldier and she accused him of assaulting her:
Yes, women lie about rape, they are very good at it. I have been a victim of it. I look at women differently now…
Read the thread. Notice the reasons that the men say they raped women, the extenuating circumstances they cite. It's necessary to listen to the stories of the perpetrators of sexual assault, to understand how they think about their own actions, in order to more fully understand a culture in which sexual assault is so common.
Follow Kelly Bourdet on Twitter: @kellybourdet.