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Talking Past Each Other

March 24, 2010

I recently read a social psychology paper, “If A Girl Doesn’t Say ‘no …’: Young Men, Rape and Claims of Insufficient Knowledge,” by Rachael O’Byrne and others. (hat tip Vampire Kitten, who linked the paper.) Social Psych is not my field, and so some of the terminology was new to me. It provided an interesting perspective, and the language to describe a lot of what happens in online discourse about rape. One aspect of that I will take up here, and I will probably discuss another in a companion post.

The paper provided a description of the models for rape, many of which are unstated by assumed in the arguments people make. (O’Byrne’s typology is drawn from earlier work that I have not read.)

The first is the “victim precipitation model,” which many of us might call the victim-blaming model:

The victim precipitation model is derived from psychoanalytic theory and suggests that every woman experiences unresolved conflict between their conscious wishes and unconscious desires for coerced intercourse. … While subsequent feminist scholarship has repudiated the victim-blaming conceptualization of rape (e.g. Brownmiller, 1975) inherent in this approach, it is apparent that many of these ideas, particularly those regarding appropriate female behaviour, still remain endorsed, albeit implicitly, by a number of contemporary psychological accounts of rape and more explicitly within Western culture.

For example, media coverage of sex crime cases is dominated—almost without exception —by accounts of rape in which the (usually female) victim ‘is either pure and innocent, a true victim attacked by monsters. . .or she is a wanton female who provoked the assailant with her sexuality’. Noting this tendency in the American media more generally, the US journalism pressure group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) summarized a 1991 survey of American reporting by noting that: ‘helpful reporting on rape is the exception not the norm. Instead of hearing the cries of survivors, the press is hearing the complaints of apologists; instead of condemning cruelty, the press promotes excuses’. That little seems to change in this respect is suggested by more recent research. Thus, for example, in their analysis of the reporting of two rape cases in the Israeli popular media Korn and Efrat suggest that, via a focus on the victims’ prior sexual history, newspapers ‘reinforce[d] the myths that a woman who is having consensual sex cannot be raped’ and, if she is raped, that she is both culpable and likely to have been ‘asking for it’.

[Pp. 169-70, some internal citations omitted, emphasis supplied.]

The second model is the “social-structural model,” which is the feminist view that rape culture contributes to the prevalence of rape. The authors say:

A second way of viewing sexual assault, described by Crawford (1995) as the social structural model, conceives of rape not as a ‘women’s problem’, but rather as a logical corollary of the structure of western heteropatriarchal societies … the social structural model of rape identifies cultural justifications of inequality, such as the beliefs that women are the property of men; that women’s sexuality is inherently evil and that men are entitled to the sexual services of women as crucial factors in nourishing the sexual violence of men.
Indeed, one of the most consistent findings in the social psychological literature is the effect that the existence of traditional sex roles, adversarial attitudes towards women and the accompanying acceptance of rape myths have on the reported proclivity of men to rape. Furthermore, rape myths promote self-blame by the victim, particularly in the case of acquaintance rape, an effect that may discourage women from reporting the crime, result in ‘secondary victimisation’ and deter victims from actively seeking recovery resources.

[Pp.170-71, internal citations omitted, emphasis supplied.]

Finally, the authors describe the “miscommunication model”:

<blockquote>[T]he majority of contemporary rape prevention campaigns and programmes … are, rather, informed by Tannen’s (1992) ‘miscommunication’ model, as evidenced by the assumed need to say ‘No’ presented in campaign slogan after campaign slogan (e.g. Commonwealth of Australia, 2004) or, alternatively, the necessity for a clear and unambiguous verbal ‘Yes’ to sex: thus the British government has recently launched a rape prevention campaign which is predicated on the proposition that ‘this campaign aims to reduce incidents of rape by ensuring that men know they need to gain consent before they have sex’. Clearly, such a campaign presupposes that at least some men simply may not know that they require the consent of their sexual partners.

The miscommunication model is then arguably the dominant current account of acquaintance rape, informing both professional and ‘lay’ understandings . Briefly, the model proposes a dichotomy in conversational styles between men and women, making miscommunication inevitable. From this perspective, acquaintance rape is understood as an (albeit extreme) instance of miscommunication, where both man and woman fail to interpret the other’s verbal and non-verbal cues, with the resulting communication failure ending in rape.
[P.171, some internal citations omitted, emphasis supplied.]

It often seems that people talking about rape in online communities are talking past each other because they have vastly different models in their heads for what happens. This typology systematizes that. The out-and-out rape apologists often apply a victim precipitation model. Feminists generally apply a social-structural model. The problem arises with the miscommunication model, which is just plausible enough to suck people in to talking as though that were the prevailing situation, when we ought to know otherwise.

I know that the miscommunication model describes, if anything, only a marginal subset of all rapes because I know that about 90% of all rapes are committed by a small population of repeat offenders who do it again and again, with premeditation, taking advantage of the prevalence of the victim precipitation and miscommunication model to provide cover for what is really the deliberate use of alcohol and isolation to rape their acquaintances. See here and here.

After describing these models, O’Byrne’s paper analyzes the language used by nine young men in focus groups to discuss rape. I am more interested in putting the models out there than in the findings of the study, so I will summarize it only briefly and trust that readers can do their own follow-up. The gist of it is that these young men evidenced an understanding of and even a preference for nuances and diplomatic communication to refuse sex, but then when discussing rape, reversed course and began to argue that anything the least bit ambiguous was unintelligible. They framed rape as largely a problem of miscommunication, and further framed the miscommunication as a problem with women not nowing how to say the right thing.

That doesn’t square with the research. It doesn’t square with their own discussion of communication when they’re not talking about rape. And basically it’s just self-justifying bullshit. Yet Lisak’s research and others shows that the vast majority of these guys — seven or eight out of nine — probably do not rape. What gives? Why create a social framework where rape is accidental if they don’t have to cover their own asses?

I have a lot of thoughts on that, and no answers. When rape is overwhelmingly the work of a small segment of the male population, why do other men (and I am mostly talking cis men here, not because only cis men or only men rape, but because I know of little or no research that acknowledges, let alone examines, rape by anyone other than cis men) make excuses for them?

I’m just going to leave that one hanging.

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50 Comments leave one →
  1. March 24, 2010 11:36 am

    “Miscommunication” is a victim-blaming model. It’s saying that it’s the victim’s fault for “not being clear enough.”

    • March 24, 2010 11:42 am

      Yes. I agree. But it’s a stealth victim-blaming model.

  2. March 24, 2010 12:16 pm

    Thomas asked: “Why create a social framework where rape is accidental if they don’t have to cover their own asses?”

    One of the reasons is disrespect for the perspective of of women in general and more specific disrespect for the perspective of women who were sexually assaulted. I’ve read men claim that if they wouldn’t want to put a man to death after hearing about a rape of a girl or woman then that man can’t be a rapist.

    This often relies on the all rapists are the worst kind of monsters model so that if a man isn’t the worst kind of monster he can’t be a rapist. If someone who subscribes to this model cannot deny the experience from the victim’s perspective then the rapist must be someone who merely misunderstood the victim’s lack of consent.

    Also if we eliminate most rapes as a simple misunderstanding or relationship issue then the harsh reality of how pervasive sexual violence is will be obvious and denial will be a much harder task.

    • Lugg permalink
      July 12, 2010 6:38 pm

      “One of the reasons is disrespect for the perspective of of women in general and more specific disrespect for the perspective of women who were sexually assaulted.”

      I disagree. Speaking as a cis het man who has had that kind of discussion before, I think that one factor promoting this kind of discourse is the need to cope with the fact that the rapist is “one of us”. The normative dominance of masculinity (i.e. the perceived need to be assertive, strong, etc., which is in a way taken to the extreme by the rapist) here interacts with and contradicts the other pervasive discourse of how women should be treated with respect etc.

      The only “logical” way out from that contradiction is to assume that there must have been a misunderstanding. That way, “we men” get to stay comfortable with our masculinity and don’t exclude ourselves from the informal consensus of mainstream male society.

      So, I think it has much more to do with men’s fear to lose their feeling of manhood than with disrespect for the perspective of women.

  3. Clarisse permalink
    March 24, 2010 2:11 pm

    Part of it comes down to fear of being accused of rape, I think — men make excuses for rapists partly because, if you buy into this miscommunication framework, then one logical result is that *you* could miscommunicate too, so you’ve got to promote the miscommunication idea as much as you can in order to protect yourself. I mean, it’s not like guys are sitting around saying, “Hey, we should make excuses for rapists,” right? It’s not just that they support the social framework — the social framework shapes them and makes them afraid.

    I think the “rapists are the worst kind of monsters” thing feeds into it too, though, as noted above. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately but I’m having trouble sorting it all out with clarity. What you said about different legal types of rape in the last post kind of touched on it ….

    I think … part of the problem with discussing rape has become (maybe has always been) the massive stigma around rape. I’m not saying that rape shouldn’t be stigmatized, but … if we are trying to get people to recognize that some of their speech supports rape, that some of their friends have probably raped, etc. then they will naturally react with shocked negativity given extreme stigma around the identity “rapist”. I’m not sure what the solution is here, because I don’t want to destigmatize rape.

    • March 24, 2010 2:43 pm

      That was why I ultimately rejected Dripp’s proposal for misdemeanors. (That got totally overlooked in the discussion of the post, I may reiterate it in its own post so it gets thought about, even though I’m unpersuaded.) I think we both stigmatize rape but define it so narrowly that we end up not calling anything that really happens “rape”, leaving this yawning chasm between the rapes that so many women experience and that Lisak’s respondents admit to, and the stereotypical stranger rape that appears on movies and tv when they’re trying to be unambiguous. I just think that enshrining that gulf into law is moving in the wrong direction.

      I think you’re right that men see themselves as the potential accused. But the “worst sort of monster” idea is inconsistent with that. If as Lisak’s research tells us the vast majority of rapes are by recidivists, do men really think they even arguably fit the profile of a guy who keeps looking for heavily intoxicated partners who are not really interested but won’t or can’t resist? It would seem to me that the revelation that even the alcohol-fueled acquaintance rape is the work of the deliberate premeditated serial rapist would set most men’s minds at ease.

      • March 24, 2010 6:25 pm

        On men fearing accusation: I’ve encountered quite a few (white, privileged, heterosexual, cis) men both in my social circles and online that have a really paranoid “victim of misandry” complex. They think that all women (feminists) are really misandrists or sadistic whores and scheming to screw men over via denial or ending of relationships, divorce settlements, gold digging, affirmative action, and false rape accusations.

        These are usually stereotypical “nice guy” types who think they’re god’s gift to everyone and resent that the world doesn’t revolve around them.

        So there are some sexist men that resent and hate women, and are paranoid that women always lie and are out to get them in general.

      • Clarisse permalink
        March 25, 2010 1:00 pm

        It would seem to me that the revelation that even the alcohol-fueled acquaintance rape is the work of the deliberate premeditated serial rapist would set most men’s minds at ease.

        That’s a good point. I’m not sure how to address it.

        (thinky thinky thinky)

        I have a couple exes who initiated things with me at drunken parties, as you and I recently discussed. Those encounters were definitely consensual, and relationships of various kinds resulted. It’s not uncommon for relationships to begin this way among my demographic.

        I think it’s probable that guys who hear this stuff about “rapists deliberately getting women drunk in order to take advantage of them”, who are accustomed to doing the mating dance at highly alcoholic parties or bars, feel anxious because they think: “Hey, I go to parties in order to meet women, and often we use alcohol to break down barriers before we have sex, but this person is calling that rape!”

        … On a similar note, I think it’s possible that the whole “rape is a crime of power, never sex!” thing is not useful. That’s been a really standard feminist idea for quite a long time now, it seems to me, but in actuality, most of the rape cases I’ve encountered personally seemed quite transparently to be about sex. (Of course sex and power are intertwined for everyone, not just us perverts, but still ….)

      • Sam permalink
        March 27, 2010 3:52 pm

        Clarisse, Thomas,

        “It would seem to me that the revelation that even the alcohol-fueled acquaintance rape is the work of the deliberate premeditated serial rapist would set most men’s minds at ease.”

        That’s a good point. I’m not sure how to address it.

        (thinky thinky thinky)

        From my perspective, that is pretty simple. The narrative of toxic male sexuality is age-old and deeply ingrained, and is repeated by feminist talking points like “all men are potential rapists”. I was raised with thought that there is something in me that I have to suppress if I don’t want to become one of the monsters I don’t want to be.

        I think there is something to be said for the saying “you need to love yourself before you can love others”. With respect to sexuality, that doesn’t work for most men – in the classic narrative of toxic male sexuality, wether religious or feminist, it is really hard to “love your own sexuality”, to think of it as a force of good.

        So, Clarisse, I think this is a very obvious expression of the Foster-Wallace dynamic (comment #70 in your manliness thread – As long as we’re believing that having sex equals taking more than giving, everytime, then I think I uderstand why most men would come up with hedging scenarios – 9 out of ten guys may not rape, but they have to live with the thought of getting more than they’re giving, everytime.

        And that, I’d say, is a very good reason for this kind of linguistic approach.

      • Wendell permalink
        March 27, 2010 9:52 pm

        This is in reply to Sam (3/27/2010), if this doesn’t nest properly.

        I have found that male sexuality stops being toxic when one starts to recognize and respect women’s sexual agency. You paint a bleak picture, implying that men don’t have the resources to find a sexuality they feel respects both themselves and their partners. There are so many different voices among feminism, and many pro-sex feminists’ ideas, patterns and examples have given me the tools to feel good about mine. I have found that patriarchal constructions of male sexuality thrive on the status quo, on keeping men always on the defensive against “threats” like the idea of a monolithic feminism. All this does is get in the way of men seeing what other options there are regarding sexuality. The process of doing this is very much a creative (and collaboarative) one, and it’s this process of self-actualization which can be the most fulfilling part of one’s identity. I will also submit it’s why feminists have such great sex. 😉

        The context for the sentence, “all men are potential rapists,” is many women who have been raped, sexually assaulted, and subsequently silenced whether due to the legal system, their peers (as some commenters have heartbreakingly shared here), shame, any of these and more–these women start to see any particular man as a possible threat to them. If you have an interest in this not happening, let’s start to believe women when they tell their stories, let’s call other men out on sketchy shit towards women. Let’s fix this shit.

      • Sam permalink
        March 27, 2010 11:17 pm


        “I have found that male sexuality stops being toxic when one starts to recognize and respect women’s sexual agency. You paint a bleak picture, implying that men don’t have the resources to find a sexuality they feel respects both themselves and their partners.”

        I had to work long and hard to get past the toxicity point for myself. Since I was never even in the position to potentially not respect anyone’s agency during most of that process, I’d say that, at least in my case, your argument doesn’t get to the core of the problem. As for your second point, about the bleak picture I paint, I’d say that very much depends on your definition of “resources”. I do believe that men – in general – do have the theoretical ability to rationally and emotionally get to that point.

        But there really isn’t much of a narrative they can hook into. You mention non-monolythic feminism, and I’d say – click on the masculinity category in this blog and you’ll see how “non-monolythically” masculinity is treated by our host, Thomas. I’m really trying to see the positive, the opportunities for personal and sexual grwoth that you mentions, but most of what I read is *rape* and sexual violence. I’m glad you found a way to feel good about your sexuality. But by and large, I don’t see positive portrays of male sexuality in feminism – by feminists, sure, but not “in feminism”.

        I mean, just take Jaclyn Friedman’s assertion in the interview linked to in the latest post: “And then literally ten minutes into a first date I’m talking about rape culture.” I don’t see how I, how most men, would be able to not take that personally in such a situation? I mean, seriously?

        And when I mentioned that a different language may be equally useful in discussing the issue, but may be less accusatory, a commenter thought that guys thinking that way should “grow a spine” – in other words – become real men. Do you see the oxymoronic nature of the demands?

        Anyway, I shouldn’t repeat all of what has been developed in the discussion over at Clarisse’s blog – my comment was mostly directed at her, because I do find this particular issue to be a good case of what I have termed the “Foster-Wallace” dynamic, which I have explained more in the comment section of her thread, mentioned above, starting around comment #70. I invite you to have a look.

      • Wendell permalink
        March 29, 2010 3:36 pm

        Cheers to hard work! I would add to this continuing hard work not taking rape culture discussion personally in this sense–I see it calling out specific aspects of hegemonic masculinity (read: not the only sort out there), and certain men. And we should call these men on it when we see it.

        In another sense of taking rape culture discussions personally, whether on the first date or here, I feel we *should* take it personally because those men and those aspects of hegemonic masculinity are what perpetuate these notions of toxic male sexuality. It comes from patriarchy/kyriachy–feminism is doing the work of calling it out, and actually expecting better from men. I mention this in comparison to evopsych which does, in fact, paint het male sexuality as latently rapist. Instead of challenging this idea, they assume it’s true and then say once men can see this, they can move past it–all this does is set up a sort of soft patriarchy, kind of like the Promise Keepers. I find evopsych and the Promise Keepers more insulting to men than feminism could ever be. At least, it’ll have to try a lot harder! 😉

        I see the double-bind thing, though I don’t see it as inescapable. My favorite DFW work is “This is Water,” though the whole commencement address can be found online… in it he speaks about how we go to college to learn how to think, but amends this cliche to mean in college we learn that we can *choose* how we think about something. Whether it’s choosing to not get annoyed while stuck in traffic, or from my perspective, choosing not to be beholden to the ridiculous gender norms we were raised with. Examples and patterns of this are all around, but may be fragmentary. It’s our job to piece them together in a way that fits each of us.

      • Clarisse permalink
        March 31, 2010 3:30 pm

        @Sam — The narrative of toxic male sexuality is age-old and deeply ingrained, and is repeated by feminist talking points like “all men are potential rapists”. I was raised with thought that there is something in me that I have to suppress if I don’t want to become one of the monsters I don’t want to be.

        But that’s kind of why I’m confused, and why I think Thomas is bringing up such a good point when he says that “It would seem to me that the revelation that even the alcohol-fueled acquaintance rape is the work of the deliberate premeditated serial rapist would set most men’s minds at ease.”

        If many men are anxious about becoming monsters, or feel that they have to suppress their sexuality in order not to become monsters, then why isn’t it liberating for them to contemplate the idea that most actual rapists aren’t “miscommunicating” or doing it “accidentally” or “being overpowered by their own oh-so-dangerous masculine sexuality”? Why aren’t they relieved to learn that most rapists are doing it on purpose, with premeditation, and that therefore rape has little to do with our stereotypical narratives of toxic male sexuality?

        As long as we’re believing that having sex equals taking more than giving, everytime, then I think I uderstand why most men would come up with hedging scenarios – 9 out of ten guys may not rape, but they have to live with the thought of getting more than they’re giving, everytime.

        This makes sense, but it strikes me as kind of separate from what Thomas is saying.

        If many men are having anxiety because they feel like they’re taking more than they’re giving — because they fear thinking of themselves as rapists — then why wouldn’t it be helpful for them to learn that the vast majority of men who rape aren’t engaging in the same typical sexual scenarios that they are?

        Is it just that the word “rape” is such a scary word that we have to avoid it entirely in order to have a conversation? I’m starting to think this might actually be the case, but when we back down and use more careful words, we risk washing out the actual crime that happens and its awfulness.

      • Sam permalink
        March 31, 2010 8:20 pm


        “Why aren’t they relieved to learn that most rapists are doing it on purpose, with premeditation, and that therefore rape has little to do with our stereotypical narratives of toxic male sexuality?”

        Well, I think they are.

        “Is it just that the word “rape” is such a scary word that we have to avoid it entirely in order to have a conversation? I’m starting to think this might actually be the case, but when we back down and use more careful words, we risk washing out the actual crime that happens and its awfulness.”

        That’s why I think it’s so important to separate the issues. If rape were something conceptually different from masculinity, then there would be no reason for linguistic hedging. But both the classic narrative and the rape culture narrative implicate masculinity – and thus all men – either biologically or as a means of a social superstructure to oppress women. Add this to the fact that there is practically no discussion of men as rape victims or women as perpetrators of sexual violence, which means that sexual violence is something men have very likely only ever considered as part of the assumed perpetrator collective, not even neutrally. I would say that this narrative has been internalized to the degree where many feel the need to concentrate on the statistically improbable case of being accidentally accused – and become defensive.

      • April 20, 2010 12:19 pm

        “It would seem to me that the revelation that even the alcohol-fueled acquaintance rape is the work of the deliberate premeditated serial rapist would set most men’s minds at ease.”

        But it is! It is, for me, at the very moment i am reading this, and i don’t think it’s a coincidence, or something special to me.

        I do get the double-bind of “initiation and coercion” quite well, and i was born into culture that’s pretty heavily into commodity model of sex (ie: something that woman gives to man).

        I think i can explain why it persist. First, it’s not common to see someone deconstructing it, it’s not common to actually hear that most of the rapists premeditate, i think that both mainstream and, to lesser extent, feminist narrative, give different picture – it connects to our old gender norms, the passivity of women, especially sexually, and the effect is that in that narrative, any male initiation is potentially coercion.

        But i intended to write about something else – i think it’s impossible to get that concept while analyzing our current culture. Sure, it’s still fucked up, but it (the rape apology) wouldn’t surface that much if it wasn’t present already. I think that origins of it are back in times when the sexual desire/activity was all about men and not women, century or two ago. Then the women got personhood, but the gender sexuality norms lingered for far longer, and the effect is the miscommunication narrative. One that doesn’t easily go away, since it’s not obvious, straightforward, honest, etc. It was so clear when they (the guys in that discussion) at first talked about how they sent subtle signals when they don’t want sex, and the happily jump into heteronormative “guys are not subtle so they go by yes/no”. You need a lot of effort to see that contradiction when it’s you who do it.

        It’s really sad that there is great intellectual void when it comes to deconstruction of male gender norms (granted, it’s changing atm, but: faster!). It’s somewhat telling that Clarisse got the most interesting place/text on this (since it’s not even her main interest), and the rest is some weird MRAs misguided dudes.

        Also, it’s somewhat funny, because you have to actually perceive woman as a person to care about it (equality, non-coercion) in first place, so i guess actually targeths only the at-least-semi-decent boys.

      • Libro Ballante permalink
        May 16, 2012 9:34 am

        Why do so many men, wrongly but stubbornly, cling to the miscommunication myth of rape, which rejects the potentially comforting possibility that most rapes are committed by a small recidivist minority? I think Sam is on to something, which I’ll try to repeat in my own words. I think there are two reasons, both fallacious; one is a slippery slope argument, the other a false equivalence.
        In the mainstream, ideas adapted from feminism are used in sexual education to serve a sex-negative purpose: decent young men will not tend to have promiscuous sex if a partial false equivalence between failure of celibacy except for your one life-partner on the one hand, and sexual assault on the other, on the spurious grounds that both are “disrespectful towards women”. The false equivalence leads to a slippery slope: if you are immoral enough already to desire sex outside of the accepted model, then it’s only a difference of degree between this and rape, and probably only a matter of time before you are capable of intending to bully some poor girl into sex, since any sexually active (het) man is at least somewhat guilty of bullying. Repent now, or you’ll have to live with the guilt of being a Slavering Beast. This argument is equivalent to the “gateway drug” argument, that runs something like: if you are immoral enough already to drink heavily, maybe next you’ll try a “soft” illegal drug like cannabis, and then it’s only a matter of time before you’re swept off your feet, robbing and killing in order to get your fix of a “hard” drug like crack cocaine or heroin.
        So, Clarisse is right in most particulars. Rape is a scary word. Worrying so hard about mythcommunication does other women and does stem from narratives that deny their sexual agency; it’s a fallacious position and I’m not defending it, only understanding how young men (like my own self in the past) come to think this. The fear around the word rape is real: most men have been taught that if they let themselves go, eventually they will be rapists. So at every turn they have to provide mythcommunicational excuses to increase the distance that “real rapists” lie down the fallacious slippery slope in their heads.
        Finally, I must acknowledge limitations to my model: the story of the slippery slope leading to the Slavering Beast (@Holly Pervocracy) is not the only mainstream narrative; a variant is that only effeminate men stay on the virginal side of the slippery slope, and real men are sexual enough to advance some ways down it, becoming slightly less respectful of women perhaps, but certainly not rapists. Then there’s the women-as-sex-dispensers myth that I think Clarisse has mentioned earlier in the thread, and the women-as-status-symbols myth as well. So this reason for the fear of the word rape, and the clinging to the mythcommunication, is not intended to be true for all men. But I think it is true for at least a significant minority, particularly those accused of “Nice Guy”-ish behaviour; a better understanding of feminism and a gentle awakening to the way their kind of “respect” is hollow and even harmful would probably improve their lives and the lives of those women they pursue.
        It’s not the responsibility of individual women being propositioned to gently provide this information, however! They are on the spot, and have no duty to provide therapy, or detect bad thinking. Of course they can simply say no. There are plenty of opportunities for the willing to learn about feminism.
        Sorry for long reply.

    • March 25, 2010 12:43 pm

      I think it also stems from the model they have of consensual heterosexual sex, which is one that often fails to acknowledge the possibility of express consent. If a guy’s model for *consensual* sex consists of “push her boundaries a little, see if you went too far, if she’s okay with it then push her boundaries some more” then he’s very dependent on his ability to pick up on and correctly interpret those signals. He’s also going to be upset with people that tell him that boundary-pushing itself is problematic, because he doesn’t know how else to interact sexually. (Cf. all those “if we had to get explicit consent, nobody would ever get laid” complaints.)

      And on top of that, we’ve got a media that’s eager to frame all rape cases that can’t fit a “stranger danger” narrative into a “was it rape or wasn’t it?” narrative, because fear and controversy get viewers.

      • Clarisse permalink
        March 25, 2010 1:10 pm

        Yeah … and this is complicated by the fact that the “push boundaries” model really does work okay (at least, okay enough) for most people who use it, I think. So while I’m definitely willing to argue that the model contributes to problematic rape-encouraging sexual dynamics (and I often do), it’s hard to convince people that the model they see as working just fine for them and everyone they know is problematic and can be revamped to mutual benefit.

      • Libro Ballante permalink
        May 16, 2012 9:35 am

        Not to mention the cover and SLOp the model provides for real rapists to test boundaries and pick victims.

  4. March 24, 2010 3:07 pm

    Another issue which supports the miscommunication model is the shifting of legal duty from the actor onto the target. Many times those who advocate for the miscommunication model believe at some point the legal duty to prevent non-stranger rape must belong to potential victims. If that person failed to live up to some artificial duty then what was done to them against their will cannot be rape.

  5. christopher permalink
    March 24, 2010 4:55 pm

    “Why create a social framework where rape is accidental if they don’t have to cover their own asses?”

    Young men do this for two primary reasons… reasons that make getting through to them extremely challenging.

    1. Their own dating experience with girls/women and mixed signals.

    2. Their perception that their asses DO need covering.

    • March 24, 2010 5:03 pm

      Since, on average, nobody they know has ever been formally charged by any disciplinary body anywhere, ever, with any sex offense, and they don’t know anyone who has ever been convicted of rape …

      from where does the perception that their asses need covering arise?

      • christopher permalink
        March 24, 2010 5:51 pm

        I’m not trying to be short. I’m just pressed for time.

        Off the top of my head every young male student at Duke and Hofstra disagrees with you. You confuse know with know of.

        In addition…

        1. Experience with group dynamics in formal (student) discussions. Women lecture/chastise. Men squirm. Kind of like a pro life rally in reverse.
        2. The F Word. Having a cause championed by feminists is not the best strategy to get young American males to put down their swords.
        3. Rape codes referencing alcohol.
        4. The persona of victim rights advocates.
        5. Women’s televised behavior in high profile divorce cases.

        This why reaching them is an uphill battle.

      • March 24, 2010 8:01 pm

        You don’t need to be charged to be accused though, I had a woman tell mutual friends I raped her without going to the police.

      • March 25, 2010 5:21 am

        (*** marks the point if you want to skip the long story)

        I was raped in an on/off abusive relationship and knew there was zero gain for me to involve police. I finally confronted my ex over everything he did to me and then cut off contact with him. Friends asked why I cut him off, and I told them that he had been ignoring my boundaries and I had zero tolerance for it as he had raped me in the past.

        People reacted like I had slaughtered a newborn kitten and eaten its still-beating heart with my bare hands.

        Ex was protected, I was outcast. Nearly all our friends thought I was just making up the rape because of the ugly breakup. They hadn’t witnessed the years of abusive things my ex had done to me either, so they couldn’t fathom that he was Mr Hyde when he was publicly Dr Jekyll.

        ***So, I had made a rape accusation (true) but everyone in my social circle wrote it off as false, and then complained how awful I was to their other friends, and so on. This makes onlookers think that false rape accusations are common.

        (Apparently me confronting my ex and then cutting off all contact gave him a wake up slap. He realized he was turning into someone he hated: his own abusive dad. A few years later he messaged me and admitted that what he did to me was wrong and gave a genuine apology. He was a trainwreck in many ways back when I dated him, and he has been getting professional help since then.)

      • March 25, 2010 5:53 am

        To summarize that mess I wrote:

        1. Guys see a friend accused of being rapist or monster.

        2. Guys knew friend as Jekyll and have never seen the Hyde side.

        3. Guys come to conclusion that girl is lying.

        4. Guys tell all their other friends that crazy women make false accusations.

        5. Guys worry about covering their asses.

      • christopher permalink
        March 25, 2010 8:34 am


        Thank you for your story summary.

        It is one that I will use because as told the account is much more accessible to young men than your earlier description of paranoid nice guys. A description which as delivered – with vitriol and dismissiveness – proves to them that they are justified to be worried.

        You don’t convince someone that YOU don’t have a temper by getting in their face, shaking your finger, and yelling “I don’t have an anger problem”

        By the way, the mention of Jekyll and Hyde is ingenious… and ironic. The reference surely holds great value as a productive framing tool when talking about sexual assault as I envision that it can really improve the dynamics of many of these type discussions. I surely will use it going forward. Looks like I need to freshen up on my Robert Louis Stevenson.

      • March 29, 2010 9:06 pm

        @osborracho: Thank you so much for sharing your story. The same thing happened to me, with the only difference being that I never had the courage to tell anyone else about it – and honestly, I’m kind of glad I didn’t, because I’m sure my friends would have reacted the same way yours did. Because he was such a NICE guy, don’t you know, and he would NEVER do anything abusive, and I was a slightly unstable 18-year-old, and… yeah. It was better to deal with my panic attacks and fear of physical contact alone than for all my friends to think I was an evil psycho rape liar, basically. Fortunately, I got out of that relationship pretty early on, and found new friends not too long after, so I was lucky, but it literally took me years to get out of denial and start recovering.

        I know this is really off-topic and I hope the mods don’t mind, but I had to say something. I can’t quite describe the effect that reading this had on me – it was painful, but it also made me feel less isolated, for some reason. I’m really sorry about what happened to you, and I hope you’ve made some better friends and had lots of support since then. The fact that there are people like you out there who are brave enough to talk about your experiences really matters to me and, I imagine, to a lot of others. Thank you.

        (Again, I’m really sorry for being off-topic and not making any sense.)

    • Wendell permalink
      March 25, 2010 12:33 pm

      Regarding mixed signals–can women be sexually flirtatious without being obliged to “follow up” on such flirtation? Flirting be a fun thing in and of itself, no?

      Maybe their frustrations lie with the commodity/consumption model of sex they are operating under, and would be better served by changing the way they see it to a collaborative idea (see the YMY book). Now when they perceive “mixed signals” with the idea of collaboration in mind, they can take responsibility and maturely move on instead of perceiving this as some sort of slight to their manhood. In this way they avoid falling back on their old habits of pinning their problems on women, and now can take responsibility for themselves and other men around them.

      If men stopped raping, then other men would not feel like they had to “cover their own asses.” It is in men’s interest to call other men out on this, though I would argue the feeling of having to cover one’s ass is one of the least important reasons to do so.

  6. christopher permalink
    March 25, 2010 1:08 pm


    You can alienate young males all you want. It is your right. But as a practical matter, doing so while addressing them in the area of assault prevention will not get the desired results.

    For the sake of discussion, let’s assume I am alienating all 3 billion women on the planet right now. Can you please tell me how my NO alienating them is going to have a drastic affect on the rape rate?

    I read the article. My comment wasn’t a snark. It was a criticism of the most blatant problem with the commentary. Since the post was just a quote it didn’t appear that the poster wanted a discussion.. or was interested in the answering Thomas’ question.

    And from the style of the article, queenGeorge doesn’t understand practicality of speaking to young men in a way that they will become allies not enemies.

    If you have not done so, I recommend you listen to the Party School podcast because then you may understand that Penn State undergrads speak a language that queenGeorge is not willing to learn.

    • March 25, 2010 1:51 pm

      If young men choose to be enemies of rape prevention because of how some women address this issue then those young men have serious problems which cannot be solved by changing the way women talk to them.

      The issue is not communications but values.

      • christopher permalink
        March 25, 2010 2:01 pm

        Not true at all. And it is sad that you are so stubborn and defeatist. You care to the point that it becomes inconvenient for you.

      • March 25, 2010 2:27 pm

        Christopher, I’m not defeatist because I won’t put the responsibility for men choices onto women.

      • christopher permalink
        March 25, 2010 2:47 pm

        I’m not asking you to take responsibility for another’s actions.

        You are defeatist because you think that choosing to speak with young males about sexual assault in an accessible language that they understand and prefer is a waste of time and not worth a try.

      • March 25, 2010 4:19 pm

        Christopher, You actually were positioning me as being responsible for men’s actions if I don’t do what you said I should do. That might not have been your intention but it is the message which came across.

        Since I’m not defeatist at all, your labeling me as such means you’ve fallen back on a stereotype. That stereoype might be more comfortable for you than considering that I wasn’t jumping to learn better communication from someone who came across as patronizing, disrespectful and snarky.

        I’m familiar with a variety of primary prevention efforts directed at boys and men and have read research on the measurable effectiveness of different approaches, but because I didn’t get in line behind you I must be unwilling to learn.

  7. Christopher permalink
    March 25, 2010 4:51 pm


    You responded to me. I actually prefer avoiding you.

    I find your comments directed at me to be smug, rude, slanderous, unproductive and canned. Working in residential education over 10 years ago and returning to a university for a 2nd bachelor’s has opened my eyes to the change that hasn’t happened. Folks are still holding “take back the night marches” and by the sound of the “unwanted sex” rates at PSU it appears that maybe all the so called “experts” might want to listen to a simple suggestion.

    Anyway, the bottom line is that people like you were not doing a great job of getting through to young males 10 years ago and you aren’t now.

  8. Angela permalink
    April 1, 2010 10:36 pm

    I would rather be raped then stabbed or shot.

    I would rather be raped then drowned.

    I would rather be raped then shot out of a canon, or whipped and keel-hauled, or hung, drawn and quartered.

    I would rather be raped then have a limb mangled in a factory accident.

    I would rather be raped then sent to Guantanamo Bay.

    That is all.

    • April 2, 2010 10:10 pm

      …Your point?

      • Angela permalink
        April 6, 2010 1:20 pm

        …is for you to conclude.

        seems obvious to me.

    • Raechel permalink
      January 22, 2013 10:20 am

      I would rather be most of those things than raped, since the tortures you listed were primarily of the body, and rape is largely a torture of the soul. Thus many rape victims turn to suicide.

  9. Jonathan permalink
    April 3, 2010 6:34 am

    I don’t have the cite anymore, but a few years ago I read a report by a psychologist. It was a survey of male college students. In it something like 70% of the men said they would commit rape if they thought they could get away with it. Maybe it’s a matter of holding out the possibility they will one day want to rape someone and get away with it?

  10. April 24, 2010 7:16 pm

    On related note, Harriet J. at Fugitivus wrote something that’s related to ‘miscommunication’ idea, and it’s quite interesting (it’s her reply to a comment)

  11. christopher permalink
    March 25, 2010 8:46 am

    Seriously?? The article is on a site called Hysteria. That is soooo accessible to the young males we are trying to reach.

  12. March 25, 2010 10:08 am

    Christopher, you keep talking about women not alienating men but your approach to women (many of whom are rape survivors) is often shrill and at times comes of as hysterical.

  13. Christopher permalink
    March 25, 2010 10:57 am


    I am not here to make friends or enemies, though I would surely prefer the former, but to learn/teach where I can.

    Your perception of how I approach women extrapolated from a handful of posts is inconsequential. Likewise my hope that I wouldn’t be perceived as “shrill” or “hysterical” is also inconsequential.

    You and I are not the target audiences for sexual assault education. In that regard we don’t matter. This thread referenced a paper on very young men. Thomas asked a direct question about framework. Can we stick to the subject of how we reach these quys? And strategies to do that?

  14. March 25, 2010 11:49 am

    Christopher, I wasn’t extrapolating anything. You claim young males shouldn’t be alienated yet you have no qualms about alienating women and failing to listen to them once you decide they aren’t communicating to your standards.

    Did you even read the post at Hysteria? Did you understand why she found the usage of “decent guy” troubling? If so, why was your response nothing except snark?

  15. March 25, 2010 12:28 pm

    Christopher, When you ask to stick to the subject you are failing to understand that how men talk to and about women is an important part of the process of enabling or preventing men’s violence against women.

    Dismissing women’s opinions in one area such as in discussions of sexual violence prevention reinforces beliefs that women’s opinions can be dismissed by men in other areas such as during sexual interactions.

    When I read your instructions on how women are supposed to communicate I’m reminded of the man in the round table who said: “If you don’t give a verbal ‘no’ then you’re up shit creek.”

    Both of you are communicating: “Do it the man’s way or else.”


  1. The Problem with The Notion of the “Decent Guy” « Hysteria!
  2. Maedchenmannschaft » Blog Archive » „Ich werd gerade wieder nüchtern”
  3. Some Interesting Blogs and Articles About the Issue of Communication, Sex, and Rape « mindfulconsideration

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