A couple of days ago, Reddit ran a conversation, asking rapists about their perspective of assaults they’d carried out. Following Megan Carpentier’s article on The Guardian’s infamous Comment Is Free, detailing the conversation, I found myself heading over to Reddit to read the thread myself. Between Reddit and The Guardian, an interesting perspective emerged. On Reddit, rapists were forgiven, excused, and told they were now “great” guys. On The Guardian, the CiF saw an attack on feminism, the definition of rape and comments asserting that those rapes didn’t happen. Even when men admit to rape, there’s still people in the corner, claiming that it’s a false claim.
I felt nervous about the idea of a forum giving a voice to rapists. Seeing as so many rape survivors end up silenced, I personally think that the one narrative that doesn’t deserve a public airing is the unedited voice of the rapist. As a user of Reddit said: “Giving a voice to shitheads who don’t even feel any remorse about what they did isn’t a good thing.” And he’s right. A lot of these rapists, telling their stories, didn’t show any remorse, tried to blame the survivor, and tried to claim that they were as much victims of their crimes as the women they’d raped had been.
But for the rapists who aired their stories, a more interesting narrative unfolded in the responses. We began to see how far some men would go to excuse rape. Memorably, AntiDamage tried to argue that pressuring a woman into sex wasn’t rape. It is.
Coercion is a concept I feel that many people overlook. Whereas the rape apologists claim that feminists try to widen the definition of rape, I’d argue that rape apologists try to narrow the definition. To me, rape is simply defined as a man penetrating another person who does not wish to be penetrated, with his penis. Simple, leaves no questions. If your partner doesn’t want sex, it’s not your place to try and change her mind. If you pressurise her into sex she doesn’t want, that is still rape.
One thing that struck me through the stories where men had claimed they’d stopped just short of raping a woman is how many of them had claimed it was seeing something in her face, usually fear, that made them stop. But there lies the problem. Were these men so removed from the woman they wanted sex with – the woman they believed wanted sex with them- that at no point they chose to look at her face? It highlights our culture that objectifies women – the person you’re having sex with no longer matters enough for little gestures, such as looking at your partner. Women are becoming products from a standard factory line in too many men’s eyes, designed to be in a constant state of consent. It’s why the “she didn’t say no” line of defence is so dangerous. Women are not autonomous, and consent is not a guaranteed right. Assuming a woman wants sex with you is a dangerous viewpoint – If you don’t want to be a rapist, assume a woman doesn’t want sex with you, until she proves otherwise.
But the most important thing Reddit proved last week was simple, and a message feminists have been trying to get across for ages. The men, relaying their stories of how they’d raped women, were telling stories of how they’d raped acquaintances, whilst in a domestic setting. Reddit proved what we’ve been saying all along – Rapists aren’t lurking down every alleyway; they’re not deranged psychopaths. They’re the friends who we trust, the boyfriends, family acquaintances. For all the “Not My Nigel” arguments that women throw about in defence of their partners, the men of Reddit have proven that, yes… It really is our Nigels who pose the threat.