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You know the guy who “accidentally” rapes women? The acquaintance who “misreads” the situation and “goes too far”? The longtime friend who genuinely thought you had consented, and is shocked when you tell him that, no, it was rape? Well, we’re not going to take that guy’s bullshit anymore. Thomas MacAulay Millar over at the Yes Means Yes! blog has crunched the numbers on “undetected” acquaintance rapists to figure out who this “accidental rapist” actually is.
Thomas looks at a study of 1882 college students who were asked four questions to determine if they had ever raped (or attempted to rape) anyone:
1) Have you ever attempted unsuccessfully to have intercourse with an adult by force or threat of force?
2) Have you ever had sexual intercourse with someone who did not want you to because they were too intoxicated to resist?
3) Have you ever had intercourse with someone by force or threat of force?
4) Have you ever had oral intercourse with someone by force or threat of force?
Questions like these are bound to lead to underreporting—-what guy is going to admit to forcing a girl to give him head? As it turns out, a lot of guys will admit to this, 120 to be exact: That’s six percent of the survey’s respondents who copped to either rape or attempted rape. Importantly, Thomas notes, the survey does not actually ask these guys if they’ve ever exactly “raped” anyone:
If a survey asks men, for example, if they ever “had sexual intercourse with someone, even though they did not want to, because they were too intoxicated (on alcohol or drugs) to resist your sexual advances,” some of them will say yes, as long as the questions don’t use the “R” word.
And they didn’t just admit to raping—-they admitted toraping repeatedly (as long as it’s not really “rape,” of course!) According to the study, a small percentage of men are responsible for committing a large portion of sexual assaults—-that’s a whole lot of “accidents,” “misreadings,” and “gray areas”:
Of the 120 rapists in the sample, 44 reported only one assault. The remaining 76 were repeat offenders. These 76 men, 63% of the rapists, committed 439 rapes or attempted rapes, an average of 5.8 each (median of 3, so there were some super-repeat offenders in this group). Just 4% of the men surveyed committed over 400 attempted or completed rapes.
What does this mean about our “accidental” rapists?
a) The vast majority of acquaintance rapes are committed by the same people;
b) These people don’t see themselves as “rapists”;
c) They are, however, able recognize that they regularly threat, force, and intoxicate women in order to have sex with them.
Oops! There’s no “accident” here—-these guys just deny, evade punishment, and repeat.
So, what do we do to stop these guys? Well, here’s a start: Let’s call them rapists. It’s not just rapists who fail to recognize these behaviors—-threatening, forcing, incapacitating—-as “real” rape. We all have to stop making excuses for calling a rapist a rapist—-and doubting, minimizing, or lashing out against the people who do use that word. Women need to know that they can call their experiences “rape” and report them as crimes. They need to know that they can call their rapists “rapists,” even if the rapist is also someone’s “friend,” “acquaintance,” “co-worker,” “fraternity brother,” or “respected member of our community.” As Thomas says:
The men in your lives will tell you what they do. As long as the R word doesn’t get attached, rapists do self-report. The guy who says he sees a woman too drunk to know where she is as an opportunity is not joking. He’s telling you how he sees it. The guy who says, “bros before hos”, is asking you to make a pact.
The Pact. The social structure that allows the predators to hide in plain sight, to sit at the bar at the same table with everyone, take a target home, rape her, and stay in the same social circle because she can’t or won’t tell anyone, or because nobody does anything if she does. The pact to make excuses, to look for mitigation, to patch things over—to believe that what happens to our friends—what our friends do to our friends—is not (using Whoopi Goldberg’s pathetic apologetics) “rape-rape.”
. . . The rapists can’t be your friends, and if you are loyal to them even when faced with the evidence of what they do, you are complicit.
That last point is an important one. People who excuse rapists usually see that equation from the other end: “He’s my friend, so he can’t be a rapist.” We need to reverse that equation—-“He’s a rapist, so he can’t be my friend.” Perhaps them we could begin addressing why the dictionary definition of rape is overlooked—-threatening, forcing, and incapacitating for sex—-in our to avoid applying the word—-“rapist”—-to anyone we know.