News flash: “good men” do not commit rape

Those of you who keep up with the feminist blogosphere may be following a controversy that has developed between feminist bloggers and a site called the Good Men Project. The Good Men Project, which I’m not linking to because I don’t want to give them the traffic, is a site that began in 2009 and at first its politics, while vague, appeared to be at least somewhat feminist-friendly. Feminist writers like Amanda Marcotte were occasional contributors.

But at some point — I’m not sure when, but certainly by late 2011 — things began to go seriously off the rails. They increasingly became a home to feminist-baiting trolls and organized misogynists, otherwise known as “men’s rights activists.” When feminists began to sharply critique the site, founder Tom Matlack refused to engage their criticisms in good faith and instead responded with disrespect and defensive name-calling. As a result, former contributors like Marcotte and Hugo Schwyzer cut their ties to the site.

Sadly, the site has continued its downward spiral. Last week, Marcotte reported that

GMP, which markets itself as a progressive website exploring masculinity, recently published two articles giving rapists a chance to tell “their side” of the story. The first rapist’s story was written by his female friend and titled “Nice Guys Commit Rape Too.” The second, penned by the rapist himself, was titled “I’d Rather Risk Rape Than Quit Partying.” GMP did not obtain or publish the victims’ accounts.

The creepy, rapey turn that this site has recently taken is deeply upsetting. This is because, in the guise of “having an open discussion” about allegedly “murky” or “grey” areas involving sexual assault, GMP is reinforcing the cultural scripts that support and enable rape. In an excellent post at The Guardian’s Comment Is Free, Jill Filipovic cites research showing that cultural support of victim-blaming rape myths leads to more rape:

What is true, researchers have found, is that cultural opposition to rape myths makes men less likely to commit assault, and acceptance of those myths makes sexual assault more likely. In social groups where there is wide acceptance of rape myths – for example, the beliefs that acquaintance rape is a problem of communication or “mixed signals”, that rapists simply can’t control their sexual urges, that women often lie about rape, or that women invite rape upon themselves by their actions or manner of dressing – rape proclivity is higher. When men internalize rape myths, they are more likely to commit rape or see rape as more acceptable.

When men perceive these rape myths as being widely-accepted social norms, their rape proclivity increases. When men believe their peers are using coercion to “get” sex, those men are more likely to engage in the same behaviors. But when men see that rape myths were challenged or not accepted, their rape proclivity decreases.

In other words, challenging rape myths means less rape.

By running gross articles by unrepentant rapists and their apologists, the Good Men Project is spreading pernicious rape myths and doing real harm. I don’t know whether the site has explicitly adopted a misogynist ideology, or whether they’re merely trolling for links, but whatever they think they’re doing, it’s creepy as hell.

Until recently, a number of progressive sites would occasionally run GMP content. However, I have heard that, in response to the recent slew of icky GMP rape articles, most of these sites recently pledged not to do so any more. The excellent progressive news site, Alternet, for example, has cut its ties to GMP.

But distressingly, xojane.com, Jane Pratt’s online magazine, continues to run GMP content, and has not announced any plans to stop doing so. I’ve written before on this blog about my fondness for xojane, which is an online women’s magazine that’s much smarter, hipper, and more fun than any of its newstand counterparts. It’s not an explicitly feminist site, per se, but much of its content is feminist in nature, and its most talented writers, like Lesley Kinzel, Emily McCombs, Marianne Kirby, and S.E. Smith, often write about feminist themes. I’m deeply disappointed that they continue to run content from such a gross source. I don’t want to stop reading xojane, because I really do enjoy it, but if they continue their association with GMP, I may have to forego that pleasure. It’s not worth the knot I get in my stomach every time I see the words “Good Men Project” and think about how they should change their name to the “Rape Apologists’ Project.”

Kathleen Geier

Kathleen Geier is a writer and public policy researcher who lives in Chicago. She blogs at Inequality Matters. Find her on Twitter: @Kathy_Gee