Tuesday, June 3, 2014
The Good Guy Rapist
A few days ago I visited an ex whom I hadn't seen in over five years. I don't really know why it had been so long, because we always get along great. I can honestly say we split up because we were incompatible in our life plans and nothing else.
Speaking of incompatible creatures getting along just fine, here's a baby monkey cuddling with his bestest friend to balance out all the horribleness behind the cut.
(Content note: rape, rape culture, rape apologism)
During the course of the evening the topic of another ex of mine came up, a guy he knew very well for a time. I'm not a big believer in editing the truth to make things easier for bad, bad people, so when he asked me why that guy and I didn't work out, I told him that the man was a rapist and an abuser.
These things never elicit much reaction. I would love to live in a world where a stone cold truth like that causes people to wail and rend garments. Or maybe offer a kind "oh dear, I had no idea, how awful for you," if that's the sort of company you keep. In my experience it leads to a short beat of awkwardness and a topic change. That's alright. I understand why that is, rules of conversation being what they are. But I will never for the life of me understand why, after an admission like that, I always get a list of the dude's less rapey qualities.
"Well, he did run a great game of Shadowrun."
"He is a lot of fun to hang out with."
"Yes, he does prey on insecure and psychologically vulnerable women, but dude's funny."
No shit. If he'd been a nightmare amalgamation of every horrid rapist stereotype out there, I probably wouldn't have moved in with the dude. Contrary to popular belief, most women do not wake up in the morning and say to themselves, "you know what I need in my life? A dude who rapes me in my sleep. That'd hit the spot nicely."
But never mind that. What I really want to highlight here, what upsets me most about these interactions, is the unspoken assertion that "rapist" is a character trait.
Highlighting good qualities is something people do to balance out the negative. If you comment that you find a certain person rude, they may counter that they're just shy and a real delight once they open up. If you comment that you find it pretty gross that so-and-so leaves dirty dishes festering in the sink for weeks, they may inform you that it's only happening because so-and-so is working so hard at their career and studies and parenthood all in one. We want to be fair to people. For every bad trait, there must be a good one. Nobody is all good or all bad, so most things do balance out in the end. And that's fine if you're talking about things like shyness or cleanliness or extrovert tendencies or rudeness, the inherent or cultivated character traits we all acquire growing up.
It does not work for rapists, or any other sort of abuser.
Because "rapist" isn't a character trait.
I will never, ever stop explaining to people that rape is a choice. Too often, way too often, rapists are described the same way a force of nature might be. Like tsunamis and earthquakes, rapists simply happen, and it's on us to barricade the windows and pile up the sandbags. The rapist is the inhuman slasher movie villain, the masked man in the bushes on your way home late at night, the monster on the evening news. Rape and abuse are so accepted it's almost like we regard it as a rite of passage for young women. Rapists gonna rape. Shrug.
So the rapist is The Horror What Lurks Below. He is never our buddy. He's not our neighbor or our brother or our teacher, because those people are human. They tell jokes and have beers with us and have the best table to play the Firefly board game on. They're not monsters or hurricanes, they're people! So we must treat them with fairness. Sure, he molests drunk women in their sleep, but his meat loaf is to die for!
This give-and-take of saying nice things to counter the bad things ignores the fact that rape is a choice. The rapist is not the monster in the closet or the force of nature that washes over women's lives as sure as time does. He's a man, any sort of man, just a man, who at some point in his life decided to force himself on a person without their consent. That is not a character trait. That is not an inherent flaw that must be balanced out with kindness in the interest of being fair.
Rape is a choice.
I hear so many women describe how their partners raped them, or still do, without using the r-word. He's so nice, they say. He always listens to me and he's so feminist (for some horrifying reason these dudes are always "feminist") and he cleans up the house while I'm out, it's such a shame I keep waking up with him grinding away on top of me.
I want to tell these girls and women that rape is not a bad habit. No matter what he tells you, no matter what society at large wants you to believe, it is a simple choice. He chooses to do that.
A rapist cannot be a good guy. The two are mutually exclusive. There is nothing that can lessen or negate a choice like that, no good trait that can balance the karmic books. We don't cut murderers any slack because they have excellent table manners. Why do we partially absolve rapists because they throw an awesome Halloween party? No good quality you may have can balance out a crime you choose to commit.
So do whatever you must when I tell you the guy I lived with for years raped me. Rend garments, spill blood while you weep and wail and tear the hair from your scalp, shrug, offer sympathy, open a dialogue about it, whatever's in your heart, bro. If I didn't want it discussed, I wouldn't have brought it up. But please, for the love of god, please do not tell me or imply that for all the rape he got around to, you gotta admit, dude plays a mean game of Tekken.
Posted by Clementine Danger
The Good Guy Rapist