“Nice Guys” Contribute to Rape Culture

Daniel Tosh makes jokes that support rape culture and he’s defended as a “nice guy” while feminists are threatened with rape for pointing it out. Joe Paterno is accused of participating in a cover up of child rape and his “legend” legacy is defended while Sandusky’s victims are slandered.

Misconceptions about sexual and domestic violence persist, despite feminists’ best efforts to educate the public. Rapists are assumed to be scary-looking strangers in a bush with a knife, not somebody you know and trust who uses coercion and alcohol. Batterers are assumed to be unshaven, drunken criminals, not the charming person you fell in love with.

Feminist women have taught me many things. One is that sexual/domestic violence can’t occur without sexism (racism, homophobia, etc.). Sexual violence is supported by a “rape culture” that glorifies objectification and male ownership of girls and women. Sexual coercion is painted as romantic–men are not only expected to use coercion to “score,” they are pressured and punished as “unmanly” if they don’t.

It seems the stereotype of rapists has a counterpart–the stereotype of those who perpetuate and benefit from rape culture.

Daniel Tosh tells jokes that trivialize rape and his apologists explain that it’s our fault if we are “offended,” citing free speech as his defense.  But the feminist women and men who have spoken out against Tosh’s “jokes” were not simply “offended”–they were alarmed that his actions made women unsafe. They were concerned that the “jokes” perpetuated (and benefited from) rape culture. Jennifer Pozner draws a “difference between the hilarity of jokes that undermine rape culture and the cruelty of those that normalize rape and demean victims.”

I’m less interested in the “did he or didn’t he” of this particular example of rape culture perpetuation, more the systemic effect of rape culture on rape victims, and the permissiveness and forgiveness that rape culture brings to guys like Tosh–and me.

Are men going to run out and rape women, having listened to Tosh? Probably not. But those who do rape are let off the hook by a culture that treats rape as a joke. Rape culture allows those who do rape to escape arrest, prosecution, jail time and social sanction.

Actually, men accused of rape and abuse are often vigorously defended. “He was the coach of the team–he was a pillar of the community” too often dominates media coverage of sexual and domestic violence. As if “pillars of the community” don’t rape and abuse.

The stereotypical images of rapists and batterers hurts victims. If a person’s rapist or batterer doesn’t fit the stereotype, why come forward at all?  For this reason, feminists have worked for years to tell the truth. Rapists and batterers often present quite well in public, while committing violence in private.

The stereotype of men who perpetuate and benefit from rape culture hurts victims, too. Joe Paterno did not report Jerry Sandusky’s sexual abuse, yet media coverage often focused on Paterno’s “legacy” and his coaching accomplishments. Daniel Tosh told jokes that trivialize rape, yet his defenders focus on him being “one of the nicest people in the world.” (Although the media tide is turning, particularly on Paterno).

If they can be defended by just saying, “but he’s a nice guy,” the defense becomes easy. But if someone can conceivably be seen as a “nice guy” and commit rape (and/or abuse), that defense becomes meaningless and more victims will be believed. And if a “nice guy” does things that support and perpetuate rape culture, we can insist that those behaviors be changed.

Once the “nice guy” defense is eliminated, we can look at how all men are socialized in a culture of sexism. Jay Smooth and other anti-racist activists have already urged us to look at someone’s racist behavior, instead of focusing on “is someone a racist” or not. The conversation should be about the behavior, not the person.

Men, we have a crucial role to play in this. We benefit from male privilege every moment of every day. We may not ask for it, but it’s there. So let’s use it to confront rape-supportive behavior, rape jokes and rape culture whenever we can. Let’s listen when we’re told we’ve done something that inadvertently supports rape culture, rather than getting defensive. Let’s learn from feminist women who speak and write about sexual violence and rape culture. Let’s support our local rape crisis center and state sexual assault coalition. Let’s be “aspiring allies” to feminist women, as together we work to create a world free from sexual violence.


  1. I agree with this, that it’s necessary to counter a culture in which rape is not taken seriously and “nice guy” rapists are often let off the hook. We also need somehow to empower women to stop being ashamed when they are victims of sexual violence and teach them to be pissed off, no less than we would be about a mugging or robbery or car-jacking or any other crime. I appreciate that shield laws may increase the likelihood that women will report and prosecute their attackers, but I find the secrecy to be problematic, contributing to the culture of tolerance this describes. Just as we need to dispel the stereotype of a rapist and make people understand that they are our coaches, teachers, husbands, executives, and so on, we must dispel also the stereotype of rape victims as careless, loose, slutty women and make it clear that they are our mothers, daughters, sisters, teachers, nurses, executives, ….

    • When you think about it, though, I think teaching rape victims not to be ashamed is going to be a much harder hurdle than you might think, because some rapes are carried out with the express purpose of making a woman feel ashamed and humiliated and worthless. Also, a piece of private property like a car or purse can be replaced. Your body is intimately connected with your identity. It’s easier to get over property damage and not feel so ashamed if somebody, say, slashes open your purse. Damage to your actual self, that’s something else.

  2. I had people saying to me about my (now ex) husband “oh but he’s such a nice guy, how can you say that about him?” when i was telling them how he had beaten me … even when i showed them the bruises – and it’s a little hard to mistake finger marks on my legs from the attempted rape as “i fell over” 😛 – they still would NOT believe that he had done it … one woman refused to talk to me, until he was convicted of another assault 4 months after the one i’d talked to her about … and then she was like “oh, he’s really not very nice is he” and i was like “talk to the hand ! you didnt believe me when i had proof and you walked away when i needed your support – well too bad, i dont need you now ! ”

    so even when we have proof we are still disbelieved ! and what most of these people didnt know in my case was that he had also assaulted the previous 2 wives 😛

    and i think the absolutely worst outcome of this kind of situation is that when it goes to family court, they do not think that his behaviour will have an impact on the kids, so he still gets all the “rights” that he is “entitled” to with regard to contact with the children … until they are penalised and it is ruled by law that if there is proof of domestic violence/rape, then there will be no contact with the children … and for all those who say “women make it up” i say bullcrap – the research shows that false allegations occur in less than 10% of cases and in fact men make more unsubstantiated claims in family court than women do (unsubstantiated meaning there is not enough information to make a decision either way – does NOT mean false) …

    and until assault is treated as assault regardless of the context in which it occurs, nothing will change – Topeka in Kansas is a prime example … here they no longer prosecute second class misdemeanours which means that if you beat a stranger, drive without your seatbelt or beat the dog, you will be prosecuted BUT if you beat your spouse, you won’t be … what the hell kind of message is THAT sending to the world ?? i mean, seriously – the DOG has more rights to protection than a wife ! :O

    • Wow you are really strong I am so glad that you got out of that unhealthy relationship I have know a lot of abused women who stay with the abuser and I cannot fathom why, I would rather living in a women’s shelter than being beaten. That’s sad that someone you considered a friend didn’t believe you about something so serious but they aren’t really a friend if they are so easily fooled by the acts people put on.

    • If no1 believed you, then how was he convicted. Obviously, the most important people–the authorities did believe you.

      • Eve Hunter says:

        She never said he was convicted of assaulting *her*, just that he was convicted of another assault. And it IS important that people besides the authorities believe it. It’s traumatic to come out about it when women know the disbelief, the insults, the excuses, that will be aimed at them, along with a lack of support. Besides, very often authorities DON’T believe abuse and assaulted women, because most of them do not have the correct training to make a determination. It takes specialized training, since abuse and assault victims don’t process or behave the same way victims of other crimes.

  3. Nice job Ben at hitting at the heart of the issue, “but he is such a nice guy”. A colleague wrote a book called “The Serpents Among Us” (millstonejustice.org) The nice guy image can be used as a tactic by many “nice guys” to lure victims and escape accountability. If men don’t stand up and get involved, those of us who try really hard to be caring, involved real nice guys, collude and give the silent nod of approval by simply staying quiet. It really is time for guys to Stand Up and put end to physical and sexual violence! What if the great Joe Paterno had just made the move from silence to action – woulda, coulda, shoulda…

  4. martin dufresne says:

    “The conversation should be about the behavior, not the person.” Oh…? Isn’t that convenient for abusers? Then we can agree that their behavior is wrong but that somehow it doesn’t impugn them and we can’t pass judgment on them? I disagree. People are the sum of their behavior; no more, no less. To avoid discussing whether he’s really such a nice guy or not is letting him off the hook and falling back on criticizing actions, not their author and his motivations.

  5. How is mentioning rape in a monologue about laughing at bad things in life in any way comparable to allowing actual rapes to happen? Are you seriously saying that if someone tells a joke involving rape that will somehow let someone get away with committing one? Some people just don’t understand dark humour, I guess.

    • Ev – I don’t think the author is saying that at all. What I hear him saying, and what I believe to be true, is that rape jokes (among many other things) trivialize rape. While you and I may not think rape is trivial, there are many who do – to the point of not even recognizing their own actions as rape. 1 rape joke does not equal 1 rape, but each one does, in a small way, help create a culture where rape can and does exist (in large numbers I might add – http://www.rainn.org/statistics). Think of it like this. One granule of sugar does not create a cavity, but lots of sugar combined with poor oral hygiene can and does create an environment where tooth decay is highly likely. So we brush and floss to prevent that from happening rather than waiting until our teeth are rotten. With sexual violence, sexist behaviors, rape jokes, etc. are like those granules of sugar and it is all of our responsibility to brush and floss them away from our environment to prevent decay (e.g. rape)- even if it is on some other “tooth”.

      • Martin A says:

        What really trivializes rape is the bland acceptance of false accusations as happened at Duke and in the Brian Banks case. In the latter, the false accuser got $1.5 million in a civil suit, – no one has asked her to return the money, no one is pressing charges.

        And under current rape shield laws, previous false accusations cannot be brought up in subsequent cases where the perpetrator might falsely accuse again.

        Why do women look down silently when false accusers are brought to light, along with the lives of the men they have ruined? Where is the advocacy to punish false accusers, the ultimate trivializers of rape?

        • Hey Martin,

          Do according to the FBI facts, only about 8% of rapes are considered “unfounded,” which does not mean that the rape did not happen. Often, cases of rape are considered I unfounded if the victim did not attempt to use physical force to fight back, if the victim and perpetrator were previously in a relationship, if the victim did not sustain any physical injuries, etc.

          And it’s believed that almost half of all rapes are not brought to the police, due in large part to the culture of victim blaming and shaming we’re talking about here. So no, I don’t think that men that are falsely accused of rape are the group we need to worry about first.

      • I think this is BS. Sorry folks. You’re correct, Tosh’s joke did trivialize rape. In the same way that jokes about the Titanic trivialize that tragedy, jokes about fat people trivialize decades of self-hatred, and Bill Hick’s entire recorded career mocks practically every pain a human can experience.

        It’s called black or gallows humour, and it’s been around for a long, long time.

        It doesn’t really help the aim of those who are trying to change opinions about the prevalence of rape in our society to use straw man arguments. The idea that Tosh – and anyone who laughed at his admittedly totally distasteful joke – are helping anyone get raped is stupid, and the very people who’s minds you seek to change will lose respect for you because of it.

  6. First of all, I’m displeased at the misleading headline.
    We need more honesty not less.
    If you mean to say there are a range of acts of rape ranging the spectrum from taking advantage of a vulnerable acquaintance to use of deadly force on a stranger, and the perpetrators, well then you barely made your point.
    You do seem to blur the line between contributing social factors, and of specific behaviors that deny ignore or cover-up a crime, especially in institutions like the Sandusky case.
    And if you are suggesting that we can better understand and grapple with rape, and change society to minimize it by understanding behavior, and not the seeming nice character of the people involved, then terrific.
    You’ve discovered behaviorism. Welcome to the 1970’s.

  7. Thank you Ben Atherton-Zeman for pointing out how the violence that men perpetuate against women, including rape culture is being abetted, sometimes unconsciously, by ‘nice guys’.

    Jackson Katz, a foremost anti-violence campaigner has noted this problem with regard to violence, observing our cultural problem with the construction of ‘masculinity’. And it’s serious:

    “In the US alone, over 85% of people who commit murder are men…90% of people who commit violent physical assault are men, 95% of serious domestic violence is perpetrated by males, and it’s been estimated that nearly 1 in 4 men will use violence against a partner in their lifetime.”

    Ben, your article is constructive, and suggests that men should be doing more to support women against abuse, whether it is not remaining silent after hearing a tasteless joke, or not purchasing the kind of media which sends a message demeaning of women. I think it’s an important message all men should be listening to in bringing about the kind of evolved, humane society we hope for.

    We can do this, as I think you argue, by ‘raising the cost’ for sexist humour and bigotry, which reinforce the notion that issues of rape are not to be taken seriously. Katz also makes 10 steps ALL men should adopt as bystanders to reduce violence in society, which I think supports your own article here too: http://imodernreview.com/2012/02/25/the-macho-paradox-jackson-katz/

  8. Thank you for painting all nice guys with the same brush.

    • What Ben is trying to convey is that the most common “defense” is people saying that their “nice guys.” The community then rallies around the “nice guy” defense by citing things which back up the “nice guy” statement, and avoiding the negative action entirely. Thus leading people to believe that the accused individual isn’t capable of committing such a horrible act. The community then rallies against the accuser who, despite opening themselves up to harsh and unjust criticism, is standing up for what is right publicly.

  9. While, I agree with the almost everything noted in this article, I think it oversimplifies issues and tries connecting two very distinct events.

    First, Paterno v. Tosh–> Paterno actively conspired to hide legitimate and continued abuse. With Paterno, the abuse the real, the violence was real, the victims were in front of him. With Tosh, he made a joke (albeit probably not that funny), but it was a broad statement at a comedy club with no particulars. While this is a slight difference, I think it’s legitimate because Sandusky/Paterno perpetuated abuse, Tosh did not.

    Second, I’m confused by what the author means by the “nice guy” defense. Does he mean, say a legal defense in a court? or how people percieve allegations of abuse? Or both? I think many times this so-called “defense” is really a disbelief that indivudals could do something out of character, violent, or just wrong. This “nice guy” defense is not limited to sexual or domestic abuse either. Having worked in criminal law I have seen defendants and families come forward and speak of indivduals as good people even after being convited of sexual abuse, assault, and even murder.

    Third, personally, I’m offended by the broad statement “Are men going to run out and rape women, having listened to Tosh? Probably not. But those who do rape are let off the hook by a culture that treats rape as a joke. Rape culture allows those who do rape to escape arrest, prosecution, jail time and social sanction.” To make a sweeping statement that “those who do rape” are “let off the hook” is patently false. Sounds nice and powerful, but is wrong. Do some alleged indiviudals evade prosecution for whatever reason (lack of evidence, no complaining witness, etc), it is hardly the majority of situations. In fact, look at the abuser mentioned in the case itself. Sandusky is going to jail for a LONG time. Paterno’s case is slightly different, but I would not be surprised that, with recent developments, he may face charges as well. Like ALL CRIMINALS, some evade arrest, prosecution, jail time, and social sanction. That is the criminal justice system. I could easily say that comedians who joke about their own drug use create a drug culture where illegal drugs are glamorized and yet they avoid social stigma. Yes, yes, yes, drugs vs. abuse are highly different, however, when the author paints a picture using broad, inflammatory, and inaccurate langue, comparisons should be made so we get to the heart of the issue. Overall, good article, but could focus it more to be more accurate

    • L. Young says:

      Alexis– Joe Paterno died. There will not be charges against him.

    • Actually, Alexis, most rapists will never see a day in jail. Sandusky is the exception, not the rule. As someone who works with survivors of sexual assault, most never pursue the legal system because we put victims on trial, and that is a product of rape culture.

      • Red Cedar Cat says:

        And let’s not forget that his victims were mainly males. Just like the Catholic priest scandal, it wasn’t even an issue until there were little boys involved in the abuse. It’s just assumed that little girls will be abused. That is exactly what rape culture is about. We see much more public and harsher actions when the victims are also male.

        Food for thought.

        • I doubt very much that the young men were sexually violated as much (by numbers) as the women have been violated since rape of women is accepted in the mainstream culture because it is so common. When women’s consciousness groups started in the late 60’s it was a real “eye opener” because I & other women joined women’s consciousness groups because they were “women only” so much more of the truths of our lives–for good or bad–could be heard. Many of the women’s groups encouraged their members to take action, as in reporting the injuries if the victim had sustained injuries from family members or even assaults by unknown assailants. This brought a level of support so that those women would have support if they wanted to file a claim w/their local police department.

          Those cases should have been taken to the appropriate court level so that the victims could find some measure of justice for themselves and their families if they had or have them.

      • J. Morrow says:

        Steve, but doesn’t not pursuing legal action also contribute to the rape culture in a dangerous and cyclical way? Many women don’t report, therefore other victims don’t see other women coming forward, therefore they don’t come forward? While rape convictions may also be hard, no rapist has ever spent a day in jail for a rape that wasn’t reported, instead they remained free to rape again, which is unacceptable.

  10. doubleN says:


    The point of the broad statement you are objecting to is to point out that rape culture helps silence and disempower people who have been raped. It makes it more likely that people who have been raped will not feel that anyone will believe them, and more likely that they will therefore not confide in someone and get help for themselves, let alone file charges and take things into the legal arena!

    That lets rapists off the hook, even before the “criminal justice” system gets into the picture.

    Your statement that “It is hardly the majority of situations” is patently false, particularly regarding sexual abuse, if we are talking about the percentage of actual incidences of abuse versus how many go to trial and get convicted. (perhaps that is not what you were talking about, but I will argue that is part of what we all SHOULD be talking about.)
    The same is true of sexual assault and rape.

    Then there are the kinds of rape trial cases where, for example, the judge focussed on the clothing of the woman plaintiff in letting the accused get off lightly or free, as if clothing is an excuse for sexual assault or rape. This is part of rape culture too, and it helps discourage women (and other survivors) from ever engaging with the legal system.




    • doubleN says:

      Though I do agree that the Tosh and Sandusky/Paterno are two cases that both actually had some consequences for some of the actions committed.

      Also, my understanding of the Tosh incident is that he said, in a comedy club, where the woman was in a crowd surrounded by a largely male audience, that he wished/hoped she would be raped right now.
      That may not be abuse, but it’s pretty horrifying. Imagine if you were a woman surrounded by a crowd of mainly men at an event and your objection to a rape joke was
      a) objectionable to many people in the crowd
      and then
      b) the comedian wished you would be raped.

      Rape and assault is far too common to make any part of that Tosh statement OK. Making a woman feel afraid for speaking up in public about rape by jokingly inciting rape on her in a general way is in no way acceptable. The _real_ danger of rape and/or assault constantly faced by many women makes his actions/speech appalling.

  11. Ben, I really appreciate the way you make it clear that for the Nice Guys, passivity IS complicity with rape culture. It’s not enough not to rape; we have to find ways to be advocates and activists, even on a small scale. It is doable and it’s past time for excuses.

  12. Jennifer says:

    Very insightful it would be great if more men shared your point of view.

  13. Thank you, Ben. It means a lot to see men writing about this stuff. Their voices get more credence (sadly), and while speaking out on this stuff “earns” you trolls and harassment etc, I note it’s not nearly as horrific, violent, and frequent as the kind of harassment women get for writing the same stuff (see A. Sarkeesian).

    Great piece.

  14. Fantastic article.

  15. The “nice guy” defense is only one breath away from the “boys will be boys” defense — and that one is regularly used in elementary and secondary school especially to excuse bullying. Yes it starts right there in pre-school/kindergarten.

  16. erm somehow you manage to talk about a highly racial issue without ever talking about race. #liberalfeminismfail

    Look, the stereotype isn’t a scary man. Its a scary black man. The term nice guy is totally entwined with the concept of whiteness. In fact, one of the big hurdles of early anti-rape movements was convincing people that white men do in fact rape.

    Its so frustrating to see this point constantly overlooked.

    • Disagree.

      To me, the stereotypical perpetrator was always the high-functioning “Mr. Goodbar” type–three-piece suit, big phony capped smile, earns five or six figures a year, middle-class or upwardly mobile, and white. To the generation that grew up on Lifetime movies and news reports in which the perpetrator was always described as “the ideal neighbor”, I suspect the stereotype is probably more widespread than we think.

  17. Thank you, everyone, for reading the article and commenting! Kelly, I’ve been thinking about that a lot – my feminist women friends get rape threats for writing things I get praise for. I think I need to write about that next.

  18. I kept thinking this was FB and kept trying to “like” what people said. Wonderful article Ben…and I can’t wait to read your next one.

  19. Alpha GareBear says:

    Have you ever heard Daniel Tosh talk? Have you ever heard someone talk about Daniel Tosh? Have you ever even heard someone talk about someone talking about Daniel Tosh? Because I don’t think you have. He’s an asshole. That’s his entire comedy routine. That’s what he does. Everyone knows that. Except for you, somehow. How are you this out of touch with what’s going on? Don’t comment on something you’ve obviously not looked in to at all.

  20. There are so many things wrong in this article. Firstly, no one thinks Daniel Tosh is a “nice guy”. His humour relies on shock value. A woman started heckling him about rape, and he did what any comedian should do – turn the joke against the heckler.

    Furthermore, domestic violence and abuse can’t happen without sexism? Did you know that lesbian couples statistically have the highest divorce and domestic abuse rates? How about the men who are abused by their female partner, both emotionally and physically? Are those caused by sexism?

    Opinion piece. No credibility or sources to back up claims.

    • “Nice Guy” is a general term that most of us have heard before. Your simply supplanting the “nice guy” term with “he’s a comedian”, I’m sure there are others as well. Whats the difference…. Your eating the cake right out of the “nice guys” hands….

      The point is that some topics, sexual abuse being one of them, shouldn’t be tolerated by society as being funny. Until we can stand up as individuals and not tolerate the act, we ALL have work to do.

      You have stated that there is no credibility or sources to back up his claims, yet you provide a nice little tidbit of information as well, I didn’t see you cite any sources….

      I’m just sayin….

      Great article Ben!

      • Martin A says:

        Sexual abuse by a woman partner has been reported by up to 50% of lesbians.

        Waldner-Haugrud, Lisa K., & Vaden Gratch, Linda. (1997). Sexual coercion in gay/lesbian relationships: Descriptives and gender differences. Violence and Victims, 12 (1), 87-98.

        Psychological abuse has been reported as occurring at least one time by 24% to 90% of lesbians.

        West, Carolyn M. (1998). Leaving a second closet: Outing partner violence in same-sex couples. In Jana L. Jasinski & Linda M. Williams (Eds.), Partner violence: A comprehensive review of 20 years of research (pp. 163-183). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

  21. Thanks again for all your comments! Sully, you’re absolutely spot-on correct – thanks for pointing that out. Wish I had run the column by you before submitting it – that was indeed an “epic fail.”

    To my other detractors: yes, I actually have seen Tosh’s routines on Comedy Central. And yes, at least one person thinks Tosh is “one of the nicest people in the world” – club owner Jamie Masada. This is referenced in the second link of my “opinion piece”: http://www.buzzfeed.com/amyodell/comedy-club-owner-says-daniel-tosh-incident-has-be. Those of you who think the piece is without sources: you click on the pink words and they lead to linked sources.

    And yes, sexual violence happens to men – usually at the hands of other men (usually heterosexual adult men sexually abusing boys). And it happens in the LGBTQ community. Both should be taken seriously.

    But the vast majority of sexual violence happens to women and girls at the hands of men. So I think it’s up to us men to stand against rape in whatever way we can – volunteer at our local rape crisis center, support the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, and yes – work to stop rape culture. Don’t tell or laugh at jokes that trivialize rape. Work for women’s pay equity. Stop objectifying women.

    I suppose I am “painting all nice guys with the same brush.” I’m painting us as guys who are not doing enough work to clean up the mess that our gender has made. I’m painting us as guys who would rather get defensive and argue about rape culture than actually do some work to change it.

    Thankfully, the picture of us as a gender is changing, due to guys like my friend Jackson Katz (referenced above, http://www.jacksonkatz.com), Pete Navratil (who commented above, http://www.standupguys.org). I am proud to be a part of this growing, multicultural movement of men standing against rape, standing against rape culture and supporting feminist women. If you don’t like the “brush strokes” of my picture of men, work to change it by joining me.

  22. Terri Pease says:

    What’s disturbing to me is not that an obnoxious comic (whose work I know only by reputation, I admit) told a rape joke. That’s objectionable enough. Comics get heckled, and are well within their rights to counter the heckler within their role as performer and commentator. That’s not what Tosh did.

    Instead, he responded to a woman who confronted him with a rape THREAT, and linked that with his comment: “wouldn’t it be funny?” And, that makes the point. That rape and the threat of rape are more about men (some men) thinking that it’s appropriate and even amusing to counter a woman’s legitimately saying “no” with a threat of sexual violence.

    Ben, you rock!

  23. Rape culture has silenced me for 27 years. My rapist was such a “nice guy” that he was the youth leader at our church, and church leaders told me that this individual was “too nice to do that” and that they didn’t believe me. This was a liberal denomination’s leaders, people that I knew to be feminist and kind, and even THEY were part of the culture that Ben writes and speaks about. Years later, networking with other people that were in this youth program, I discovered that he’d raped at least three other young women entrusted to his “leadership” — and two of them had also been called liars by church leadership. None of us went to the police after that treatment.

    I am tired of being silent. Gang-rape invocation from a stage to an individual woman in a largely-male audience is NOT funny and it would not be funny even if the audience was ALL female.

    I’m tired of apologists. If men are so great, then GET BUSY STOPPING RAPE. Now. If you’re so capable, strong, and protective, you can do it.

    Ben is right, and I’m so glad that I’ve known him for 26 years. The work he and other men like him have done gives me hope for my pre-teen daughter’s future.

    • Thank you for sharing your story such courage! I completely agree anyone who thinks rape is funny is fucked up.

    • Darrel Armstrong says:

      Yes, ‘rape culture’ is real…painfully and absolutely real.
      You show great courage in facing and talking about your experiences.
      Show a little more, ‘apologists’ be damned, defensively or otherwise, the issue and how to be supportive is on the minds of many men. Look at the gender of the author of this piece and the majority of the respondents…I’d wager that many of us have nearly as much reason to hate macho ‘rape culture’ as you do…
      “If men are so great, then GET BUSY STOPPING RAPE. Now. If you’re so capable, strong, and protective, you can do it.”
      Who said we are great? What we are is human…and usually any male who projects
      “capable, strong, and protective” at you is probably lying to you.
      The first thing that we need to do to together…male & female alike…is ending in ourselves stereotypes about half the human race, then go for eradicating the mechanisms that support brutality and machismo.

  24. Jen Pike says:

    I can’t believe that someone said that the majority of rapes are prosecuted. Incorrect. Out of every 100 rapes: 46 get reported to the police. 12 lead to an arrest. 9 actually go to prosecution. 5 lead to a felony conviction. 3 rapists will spend even a single day in jail. Doing the math, 97 walk free. (Courtesy of RAINN) I work with sexually abused children, I can tell you those staggering statistics are actually true. The amount of my cases that actually make it to the DA’s office are few and far between. However, it sends good chills down my spine when I hear the “guilty” verdict and then watch a rapist/child molester sentenced to 20 years in prison. I’ll get off my soap box now. But the majority of rapes are not prosecuted. Please do your research before you jump to such conclusions.

    • Desiree says:

      Well said. In my case, it was hard to even get someone to take a flipping police report and I WANTED that much. Getting a police report taken took enduring 4 years of being stalked by him which culminated in his breaking into my then apartment – at which point the police in that jurisdiction demanded that the campus police (the rape took place on a college campus) take a report whether they wanted to do so or not because having the rape documented properly was at that point in time important to THEIR investigation. Then the police where I was living took the report and took matters into their own hands, rather than handling it through the justice system so I’m not sure it was worth the trouble…but that’s a whole other matter.

      On the other hand, where I grew up had an actual “official unofficial policy” that guaranteed people who were “fine upstanding citizens” (something carefully defined by membership in various organizations or careers) wouldn’t be investigated for stuff like child abuse without “clearly visible physical evidence” (meaning you could see it without even slightly moving the person’s clothing) because “most allegations against such people are mudslinging, rumors, trying to destroy reputations, etc.” I only learned this when I became good friends during college with the child of the person who’d – almost – violated the policy, leading to her eventually learning the truth about my family.

      Both of these stories, my relationship with my now ex-spouse and tales like that of Daniel Tosh’s “jokes” point to what is really the problem with rape culture. It’s not any single problem. It’s a cumulative effect. Jokes like Mr. Tosh’s help to normalize rape and make it somehow acceptable in at least some circumstances (like to get back at hecklers). Policies like the one in the area where I grew up teach us that there are “safe” and “unsafe” people on a totally arbitrary basis that has no basis in reality – just like the ideas that rape only happens to the “slutty” or “irresponsible” women (again, both of these are myths with no real basis in reality, not when applied with the usual broad brush or that always avoiding certain behaviors will always prevent rape). And “nice guys” (or others) who don’t speak up against these things also contribute to them – as the Russian proverb says, “silence is a sign of agreement”.

      • I hate to tell you this, but that last Russian proverb does sound kind of like something a rapist would actually say.

  25. While i agree with the main idea of the article, i don’t feel the Tosh incident and people defending Sandusky and Paterno are comparable(or at least not in the way the writer is describing). One was a joke(Perhaps a badly done joke, but still a joke) and the other are people defending real life rapists and those who cover up for them.

  26. Fidelbogen says:

    “Rape culture” is an inherently problematic concept which not everybody deems to be valid. Some critical thinking and deconstruction of it is long overdue, but in the meantime, I wish that some people wouldn’t toss that phrase around so freely.

    I would also be gratified if false accusation and false allegation of rape were taken as seriously as rape itself. Yet I see no mention of this in the presence.

    Finally, I would like to see it more generally acknowledged that half of all domestic violence is committed by women.

  27. The new CDC report on interpersonal violence has some interesting insights.
    If you expand the definition of rape to include “forced to penetrate” then men account for 46% of those raped based on anonymous surveys for the respondent’s previous 12 months.

    There is a prevailing concept that men can’t be raped, because all men want sex.

    What is being twisted into a gender issue is really a human issue: 1) that psycopaths will rationalize their actions however they can and 2) the public tend to marginalize victims (look at Sharon Osbourne saying “it’s delightful” at a man being sexually mutilated by his wife and she tossing his severed member into the garbage disposal to a mostly female audience who all laughed uproarisly).

    These are HUMAN issues, not gender issues.

    • True that. And, of course, if you are a man who got raped by another man, why, then, you must be gay. You’re not macho enough. You’re not worthy of being considered male.

      There is a lot of nasty stuff going on in the minds of these criminals.

  28. Bulldogo says:

    Firtly I’m not up on what this comedian said or did so I can’t comment on that. But I will say that I don’t believe there’s is a :rape culture: anywhere in in the Western world. Rape has always been one of the most punishiable crimes.
    What I find interesting from a man’s point of view is that feminists & their supporters are saying there is a culture of misogyny because there are jokes & beliefs out there about rape & violence towards women. How does this stack up against the barrage of men are dumb, men are less than women, it’s funny when women beat up men, jail rape jokes etc. etc. etc. that are endemic in Western society. Evidence can be found constantly in MSM, Hollywood, TV. Does this mean there is a culture of misandry?

  29. Alejandra says:

    The minute a nice guy rapes, batters or abuses someone (be they woman, man, boy, girl), he is no longer a nice guy.
    It IS very hard for rape survivors to get justice because more often than not, we are the ones put on
    Because of the way the “system” works, my rapist is still out there, free to rape other women.

  30. Margaret says:

    My sister said she always thought Bob was such a nice guy after I told her he had raped me. I went to a party when I was fifteen and Bob was there… we were all drinking, I was very intoxicated. I woke up in an upstairs room with nice guy Bob on top of me raping me. I went downstairs and he kept telling me it was going to be just like upstairs and he did it again. What a nice guy, huh? I have loathed myself since then, still go to counseling, still feel violated, feeling like nothing. I wish I could confront Bob and tell him how he affected my life.

  31. That was a very good article, Ben. Thanks for posting it.

    The nice guy and the macho man are opposite sides of the same patriarchal coin. The nice guy passively supports male dominance while the macho man vigorously promotes it. We need responsible, pro-feminist men, not nice guys.

    Ben, I hope you will write an article titled, “Please don’t put pro-feminist men on glass escalators.” Pro-feminist men get a lot of ridicule, but they also get more affirmation than feminist women. We need to address this issue in the feminist community.

  32. Ben: I think the choice of titles is unduly provocative in a similar manner to Tosh being unduly provocative. You’re trying to get eyes on this by casting a wider net, misleading people into believing that you are accusing “Nice Guys” in being complicit in rape culture when you are really talking about the “Nice Guy Defense” and its role in rape culture.

    What Paterno did was patently wrong and absolutely we should vilify him for it. Educators are required by law to notify administration even if a student tells them in confidence.

    I agree with those who say you need to lighten up on the Tosh incident as there are conflicting stories coming out on that. If comedians are limited to only topics that will not offend anyone, this world is going to get a lot more boring in the same way that if we don’t allow writers to create characters like The Joker because some whack job in Colorado we’re going to have some boring movies. We need to ponder the dark side of humanity, not to be more accepting of it but to combat it effectively.

    Be careful on how far you go with saying guys can’t understand. Who will your role models for the next generation be if none of us are good enough?

  33. Nice Guy says:

    I agree that some men use the ‘nice guy’ defense, but you sound like you think all men may be complicit in rape, no matter what their character. That’s messed up! What about all the real nice guys out there? Trust is important in society!

    • Dude, face it, there’s a lot of distrust of men by women out there, and rightly so. Deal with it. Don’t worry, our male privilege more than compensates us for the occasional unearned distrust. If you want to play the victim, you’re gonna have to get in the back of a looonnnngggg line of people who’ve been a hell of a lot more victimized than you.

      • Recovering Humanist says:

        “If you want to play the victim, you’re gonna have to get in the back of a looonnnngggg line of people who’ve been a hell of a lot more victimized than you.”

        So it’s okay to play the victim as long you victimized more than others? Think about what you just said. That kind of behavior is self-destructive and counter-productive to living a healthy life. People who have truly been victimized don’t (or shouldn’t) see themselves as victims and nothing more.

  34. For a great historical commentary on this issue and history behind blaming the victim, go to http://nursingclio.wordpress.com/2012/07/21/its-her-fault-its-feminists-fault-the-tie-between-victim-blaming-and-scapegoating-feminists/

    I think you all will enjoy it. Ashley is a fabulous activist, historian, feminist, and writer.

  35. Recovering Humanist says:

    “The conversation should be about the behavior, not the person.”

    But the behavior is part of the person. You can’t seperate the person and the behavior as if the two are separate entities. I don’t believe human psychology works that way.

  36. So wait let me get this straight… you’re saying I as a teenage boy am being raised to think that rape is ok? because if that’s your message you really need to look at what
    a)teenagers do and
    b) what the average person is like, just because we see people make jokes about rape, doesn’t make it ok in our minds, I mean honestly that’s insane.

    Making jokes about rape is granted tasteless but it does no harm and is by no means “defending rape” or “making rape ok”.

  37. Okay so, I agree with this article completely, for starters. My freshman year of college I was manipulated into having sex with a guy. I did think he was cute, did like talking to him-when he wasn’t being nasty- so tried to ignore his rude “side”, and just speak with his good “side”. However, he had NO respect whatsoever for my refusal to have sex and if I called him out on beig demeaning he would call me names, ignore me, threaten me, and then- a week later would speak to as if nothing had happened and I was just “blowing it out of portion”. I finally gave in, after the fact the abuse simply got worse- the only thing I found toget him to back off was to start “speaking” to anther guy, made sure I was always with other guy friends when he was around. I have finally told people about the abuse- my own cousin claimed she was raped- and WOULD NOT support me! So men are not the only ones who flame rape culture, it is even done by past victims. I also made the mistake of telling my former boyfriend what happened… He simply said I was a “slut” and “probably asked for it”…. Though me and him had never done anything- not even kissed because I am VERY uncomfortable with it all! It is time for people to grow hearts…. And brains… And stop te victim blaming. ( also- the whole “did she say yes/ did she say no ” is complete and utter bs- it simply helps put more blame on the victim, just like the whole “what clothes did she wear?” Argument. Where does the guys responsibility lie? Why does no one ask- why did he not stop picking at her after she had refused him?)Thank you for understanding, and speaking out- you are a TRUE “good guy”

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