The Real Difference Between Men Who Rape and Those Who Don’t

By Robert Jensen on Friday November 17th, 2017

Are We Addressing the Real Problem?

I am not as abusive as Harvey Weinstein, nor as narcissistic as Bill O’Reilly. I’m more respectful to women than Donald Trump, and not as sleazy as Anthony Weiner.

Judged by the standards set by these public reprobates, most of the rest of us men appear almost saintly, and therein lies a danger. The public disclosure of these men’s behavior–from the routinely offensive to the occasionally criminal–is a good thing, and all those who have been harassed and raped should continue to speak out.

But we should not let the most egregious cases derail the analysis of how a wide range of men’s intrusive and abusive sexual behaviors against women (as well as against girls, boys, and vulnerable men) are so woven into the everyday fabric of life in a patriarchal society, that the intrusion and abuse is often invisible to men.

Pause for the required disclaimer: Not all men are rapists. To acknowledge that sexuality in a culture of institutionalized male dominance (a useful shorthand definition of patriarchy) takes place within a larger framework of male domination/female subordination, is not to accuse all men of rape.

We need to keep speaking upIntrusive and abusive sexual behaviors against women are often invisible to men.

Another required disclaimer: Not all sex in patriarchy is rape. To take seriously a feminist critique of patriarchy and men’s violence is not to suggest that intimate relationships can never reflect mutuality and equality.

How Society Makes Men

But we shouldn’t ignore how we men are trained to understand ourselves and to view women. In a society in which masculinity is routinely understood as the ability to dominate (think about how the phrase ‘be a man’ is usually a challenge to assert control) and in which sexuality is defined as the pleasure that men obtain from women (think about what men mean by the question “Did you get any?”), we might want to do more than denounce the behavior of the most abusive men and ask about how all boys and men are socialized into that masculinity and sexuality.

So, not all men are rapists. Not all sex is rape. The majority of men do not rape. Many couples have loving sexual relationships. But consider these other categories:

  • Men who do not rape but would be willing to rape if they were sure they would not be punished.
  • Men who do not rape but will not intervene when another man rapes.
  • Men who do not rape but buy sex from women and believe that payment gives them the right to do as they please.
  • Men who do not rape but are sexually stimulated by pornography featuring women in situations that depict rape-like acts.
  • Men who do not rape but find the idea of rape sexually arousing.
  • Men who do not rape but whose sexual arousal depends on feeling dominant and having power over a woman.
We live in a patriarchal societyWe live in a patriarchal society.

I shouldn’t need to repeat myself, but just in case: These men are not rapists. But should we take comfort in the fact that the men in these categories are not, in legal terms, guilty of rape? Are we advancing the cause of ending men’s violence against women by focusing only on the acts legally defined as rape?

The Deeper Issue

We have to let go of a comforting illusion–that there is some bright line between men who rape and men who don’t rape; between the bad guys and the good guys. That doesn’t mean all guys are bad, or that we can’t distinguish between levels of bad behavior. It means that if we want to end men’s violence against women, we have to acknowledge the effects of patriarchal socialization, and such critical self-reflection is rarely a pleasant task, individually or collectively.

I will be happy if Weinstein goes to jail and if O’Reilly is never allowed back on television. I will be happy if women win lawsuits against Trump and if I never read another news story about Weiner.

We must take responsibilityWe have a responsibility to change ourselves in order to set the example for others.

But just as important as the consequences are for individuals, the cascading stories of routine abuse should lead both conservatives and liberals to embrace a radical feminist analysis of men’s violence against women and a critique of the sexual exploitation industries (prostitution, pornography, stripping).

Changing Patriarchal Sexuality

Does the culture avoid radical feminist critiques of this violence and exploitation, out of fear of where such critical self-reflection leads–the recognition that the routine nature of sexual assault and harassment is a product of our culture’s taken-for-granted assumptions about the sex/gender system and patriarchal sexuality?

If we decide not to talk about patriarchy because it’s too challenging, then let’s stop pretending we are going to stop sexual violence and harassment, and recognise that, at best, all we can do is manage the problem. If we can’t talk about patriarchy–if we can’t face the myriad ways that we men are socialised to seek domination in sexuality and everyday life–then let’s admit that we are giving up on the goal of a world without rape and harassment.

NOTE FROM UPLIFT: The first step in any change is awareness, and identifying what the issue is. The starting point is understanding the problem and then solutions can arise. There is a crisis in masculinity in the world today and the more we talk about the issues and start to shift the consciousness around them, the more we can alter society to a free and equitable system for all people.

Words By Robert Jensen

Originally posted on Yes Magazine



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51 Responses to The Real Difference Between Men Who Rape and Those Who Don’t

  1. Thank you for this important essay. Within this examination of sexual violence, it is important to include all the ways boys (pre 18) abuse girls sexually, such as molesting female friends when they fall asleep after drinking at parties, behaving as though female friends are only as valuable as the sexual acts we give in to stop their begging, the physical touching that shows dominance and disregard for a girls’ boundaries. And the manipulation boys and men regularly engage in to coerce girls and women to have sex. None of these acts, which are common, are approached as criminal, but they are traumatic and life destroying. I know it all too well. I wonder if any of the (once) boys and men who have violated me sexually are thinking about their behavior in the light of the #metoo movement. If so, I bet they are quick to excuse thier behavior. Boys will be boys, right?

    • I’ve lost count of the times young men poured drinks down my throat as a 15yo and then “date raped” me. I wonder too if they’ve ever reflected on their ugly behaviour and made any effort to change it? Or are they still abusing 15yo girls? I always hope their Karma will dish out exactly what they deserve.
      And yes Women rape too but not on the colossal scale that men have been for centuries!

  2. You did however forget to mention female rapists, females who sexually exploit males to get their own way or hurt other people, pedo female teachers, women who commit unwanted sexual acts on men and blame alcohol etc. The list goes on. Your article is pathetic and loaded from the point that all men are potential rapists how ever you want to word. Guess what? So are women. Keep this rubbish out if the limelight and focus on societies real problems. This is cancerous feminist crap. Man up! (Pun fully intended)

  3. Woop, woop, SJW detected! Your patriarchy shtick is false. Get your head out of the Huffington Post or wherever it is.

    Why do rapists rape? Because they’ve either got issues, or they were once normal, but have been influenced by so much porn, that they’ve lost all touch with reality. Look at communities like the “incels” and “MGTOW” and tell me you don’t find it baffling that idiots like those exist. Porn and widespread oversexualisation are the big issues that convert men into… er… less-than-what-they-should-be men, to avoid using slang from the Urban Dictionary. There is no patriarchy, especially not when most men are weaklings who can’t control themselves, their emotions, and their desires.

  4. Excellent article and views and refreshing to hear it from a Man. It’s time to evolve beyond sexual domination. Even animals behave better than humans in this regard and on so many other levels imho.

    • Ever seen drake mallards ganging up on a lone female mallard? Animals do it too. And before anyone leaps on this as condoning rape, I’m not approving of it. It’s an observation.

        • hey !! Take it easy smh who is correcting who? was an observation….who is trying to be domineering here?…you might want to ask yourself that question.

        • If she is objectively wrong, then, yes. It’s never the “wrong” time, because reality doesn’t care how you feel. And her being a woman simply doesn’t matter. If you are saying something provably wrong, then you are wrong.

  5. Rape or any form of violence is out of question, but the problem is much deeper then everyone realise. Males only exist to serve females, and children to survive, Darwin tells us. Before there was mainly hemafrodite life, that was cloning itself. The male was ,,invented,, to bring only new genes to survive the female and child, by being consumed by the female, nothing has changed, the testosterone poison the males carry between the legs, on blendle s article about pornhub you can find out, that the most women aren’t very atrackted to men at all, as well by the school of life by Alain de Botton and the newest investigations. The rest is seduction so comercial bullshit illusion, all women know this to use, end of illusion, but does not rectify any violence, but very good to know these facts.

    • Very clever comedy, and from a jackass! Who would have thought. Kindly @#%! off and meet your little friends outside. Start a little boys club, just stay the @#%! out.

      • Being aggressive doesn’t help anyone, you could’ve at the very least given reasons as to why you’re kind of mad? Condescending remarks don’t help in debates..

  6. I just don’t know what to think. Raising sons to respect women is so important. Raising daughters to respect themselves is just as important.

  7. Let’s get this straight from the outset: I do not condone rape or the oppression of women. But this article is simply one-sided idiocy and it barely makes any sense nor is helpful to solving the problem. I don’t have time to address all the issues with this article but let’s start with these:
    “Men who do not rape but are sexually stimulated by pornography featuring women in situations that depict rape-like acts.
    Men who do not rape but find the idea of rape sexually arousing.
    Men who do not rape but whose sexual arousal depends on feeling dominant and having power over a woman.”
    Almost every woman I have been intimate with has had some kind of rape / domination fantasy, some have wanted to act it out, others watch porn depicting same, others simply like some light choking during sex. This is over a very broad cross section, I’m talking about vanilla types, kinky types, conscious women, women who teach tantra to others. Sexual dominance is not just a fantasy of men. If you’re a woman reading this and you like your hair pulled, a bit of choking or even just like getting f***ed really hard, guess what – you enjoy being dominated. Remember, I don’t condone rape or abuse of any form but do not blame men for healthily enjoying the same thing that most women enjoy.

      • No, just the majority of really, really smart people are men, and the majority of really, really dumb people are also men.
        Women tend to be central, whilst men tend to occupy the extremes.

    • This point is key to what we and by that I mean men and women, dont understand about rape. Most men cannot imagine truely using violence and force to take from a woman something she doesnt want to freely give. So they believe rape doesnt really happen because there was no real attempt at violence on their part. Once again miscommunication is at the heart of the issue. We are not understanding each other.

    • “Healthily.” I do not think this word means what you think it means.

      Also, your comment begs the question of whether it’s necessary to teach the majority of the public critical thinking skills before attempting to engage them in these kinds of higher thought experiments. It’s hard to say if your comment is a result of ignorance or intelligence, but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume the former. We really need to teach people how to think.

    • Omg sir you are sooooo wrong. I love a good fucking i like to be squeezed..spanked and played with but i have also been raped and it HURTS A LOT. It is very wrong! Being agressive…being rough…its consentual please understand women dont like to be violated at all.

    • As a women I agree. I think it doesn’t help women to deny their own desires. Now everything must be done with repspect of course. In bdsm the power is given to the submissive

  8. “Not all men are rapists”!! …. Are you kidding me? What an upside down perspective. It seems the author is trying to DISPROVE a commonly held belief that all men ARE rapists. This I feel is a highly misconceived premise.

  9. I never would have guessed that so many @#%!ing slimy, simple minded, boy-men read uplift if I hadn’t read these comments. There really is no place that’s safe for women. At “Uplift” really?!

  10. Wow… well said! I don’t like the conversation that beings with blaming half of the population for our ills, and that makes the other half helpless victims. This essay acknowledges the issues, but places the responsibility where it belongs – on both sides’ shoulders.

    • Not all men rape, really? Only a small percentage of people rape, so statistically speaking, a minority(not that I’m saying it’s okay to rape)..
      So the problem isn’t in the system itself but in the margin error of the population, the system is fine but some errors still exist, and what we actually need to do is address those issues instead of placing the blame back and forth between male and females..

  11. Accurate, excellent article. It’s a complex issue and must be dealt with the point that women are still considered “less than” men in life. E.g. Religious dogmas, men know more, employment, abuse in the home, sports, sexual power by men in entertainment, in business, etc. We women must raise our sons to respect women. Not playthings to be used and discarded when you’re tired of them. The draconian, patriarchal religious dogmas must be looked at and like any other issue be re-examined like any illness in society.

  12. Rape Crisis Line for Rapists (RCLR). Rapists may feel very traumatized after a rape, cuz they might be arrested at any time or this heinous crime & need someone to talk with & empathize until they get a blanket & coco.

  13. Joe, please tell me that we’ve evolved a little from animal behavior? Or at least emulate those animals with caring,sharing tendencies I.e.swans which mate for life and share childcare. An unrelated,I think,question – why do decent men rape in war situations?

  14. Can we first erase the tedious need to always have to put in the disclaimer .. Hey women rape too!! Research and we know this too shows that 95 percent of rape and violent sexual crimes are perpetrated by men against women..

    .. Ergo men routinely and in every culture constantly rape women. Until men take responsibility for this and patriarchal society is eradicated.. Nothing will change.. Controlling women as the quote from Susan Brownmiller in her seminal work on rape ” Against our Will” goes ” Rape is the way all men control and keep all women in a constant state of fear. I say all men becaus I’m on the planet a long time and nothing has changed.. men don’t speak out about rape.. They don’t care enough to stand beside their mothers sisters and daughters and start to shout NO ! They don’t challenge other men and they don’t protect and cherish thie women in their lives.

    Our society would be very different if men cared enough got angry enough and put deterrents and punishments in place that would prevent the daily onslaught of violence against women. Some men bleat about caring but thy do nothng. one organisation called WhIte Ribbon was set up by a man who’s wife was murdered in Australia . he had the guts to stand up and be heard but to a deafening silence.. A meeting od his organisation could be held n a tiny coffee bar… Where are the men ? There will be no change .. Just mor online rhetoric like this..

  15. 9/11 was perpetrated by men…victims included both men and women. Good men did not ask why only men are terrorists.

    School shootings in America are carried out by males….victims include both boys and girls. Good men did not ask why only men become shooters (they sure are asking why guns are allowed..but still haven’t asked why girls are not shooting).

    Perpetrators of homicide all over the world are mostly men…victims include both men and women (except for 7 countries, majority of homicide victims all over the world are males). Good men did not ask why only men are murderers.

    Majority of prisoners are males. Good men did not ask why most prisoners are males.

    Most of the tyrant rulers, who invaded others territories without any concern for the lives of their own soldiers or innocent citizens, were men. Good men did not ask why they were all men. (Instead good men praise their military strategy and call them Alexander the Great, Ashoka the Great, Genghis Khan the great while shaming the victims for being losers).

    Rapes in India are done mostly by men…victims are both males and females (in fact 52% of child sex abuse victims are boys). Now why do we expect good men to speak up, when they were silent in above four cases?

    If we want to end violence against women, we need to ask why some men harbor violent and oppressive mindset…not why they are oppressive towards women. Men who commit sexual violence lack respect for others, regardless of the gender. It is not that such men have respect for other men. These men either find it is difficult to over-power other men or other men don’t sexually arouse them.

    Scandinavian countries are known to be safest places for women. But it needs to be noted that these countries also have lowest overall crime rates.

  16. Males are all alike. Their minds are all alike. They all contribute to any abuse against women, not just rape. If they contribute, they are almost as guilty as the fuckers doing it. If they contribute, that means they agree with rape and it means they want to rape. Otherwise there is no way they would contribute to it in any way. They just don’t act on it, but only so they don’t get in trouble. Not because they care about the woman’s suffering. They are just thinking of themselves. If a male abuses a woman and puts her at risk of being raped, especially if their intent is to cause her to get raped they are as guilty or would be as guilty as the fuckers doing it. Either way all males are alike in one way or another in how they’re contributing. So they are all not worth shit. They are our enemies, they are not our protectors or our friends. No wonder they are attracting these false accusations. Even them they bring upon themselves because they are guilty of helping what gets done to us. I don’t feel sorry for any of them.

  17. watching pornography of rape is a problem…
    your treading on dangerous grounds..getting closer to you thought about a crime so we will arrest you…if you where ever a man, you would probably understand the deep rooted, inherently existent…programmed sexual drive that we have. we cant concentrate at school because of a girl wearing provacative clothes ( men are doing worse in school). rape, conspiring to rape is crime, period. Thinking about rape, watching rape fantasies and masturbating to that is not. Violence exists in all of us, its part of human nature, sadism, masochism, all of these emotions exist,art is born from this. you draw the lines but you dont step any further or you potentially end up with a world with living dead people, no interest, no flare, just like robots.

    • Sadism and masochism aren’t emotions.

      The author is a man who is much, much smarter than you.

      The real problem is how dumb people are. Smart people need to dumb it down and spell it all out. The author thinks his audience is fellow smart people. This is a cognitive error commonly made by smart people and one of the reasons we can’t change anything.

      • Can you at least give sound arguments instead of condescending remarks? Even if sadism and masochism aren’t emotions, that doesn’t mean that his/her(anonymity at its finest) argument is invalid, it just means that he has a different perspective in that regard.. ‘the author is a man who is much, much smarter than you’, and how does that show anything? You’re not getting your point across in any way..

  18. I agreed with everything I read in the article until I came upon the line, “The majority of men do not rape.” Had I not read the introduction or the name of the author this line would have revealed the gender of the writer. This sentence and others that imply the same thing are a major part of the problem. Saying that most men aren’t rapists, or making sure we aren’t being accusatory towards men in general causes men to disconnect from the real issue. They see sexual assault and rape as something bad that other guys are doing. Middle-aged white men driving mini vans are not the only rapists. Raising men correctly to respect women means teaching them that they, themselves, are very capable of raping a woman. It is very likely at some point in their life most men will be in a situation in which the lines between consensual and nonconsensual will be blurred. It’s important to teach our sons that this a pressing issue that impacts them as much, if not more so, as it does a young woman. All scenarios and possible situations including the influence of drugs and alcohol should be discussed with young teens, especially boys.

    • The hyperbolic use of the word “constantly” in some of the comments is amusing here. Men do not constantly rape. I have proof because I am not raping right now nor have I ever raped anyone.

      Now being a survivor of rape I can assure women are getting off the hook here with under-reporting from the male side plus the fact when men do report nobody believes them. But the law is not on our side men when it says men can’t be raped but merely “forced to penetrate. I was not “forced to penetrate” my mother raped me.

      Also males don’t just rape women they rape men too in fact men by the numbers are sexually assaulted more than women when you add prison and military numbers (which people rarely do because it fucks the feminist narrative) and even with those numbers I was raped not buy a man but as I said by a woman.

      But let’s leave all that aside. I want YOU ALL to do me a favor tell your sons or any young male in your life you see regularly over and over that he is a potential rapist (like these articles and much of the news does). And then report back what happens to his self esteem. You don’t need to shout it just be calm about it but make sure you say it over and over… just like these articles do.

      Men are going there own way because they are tired of the broad brushtrkes they are being painted with and fare enough in the tribal days men and women never really hung out much. The came together for the 3 Fs Food, fucking, and festivals. The whole monogamous pair-bonding nonsense really fucked up humanity that and there is just to many fucking people on the planet.

      But again tell those boys in your life they are potential rapists over and over and then ask them how it makes them feel.

  19. As usual, no mention of the reality that traumatic child abuse causes boys to grow up with anti-social and/or criminal behavior. Including rape. Want to stop rape. Stop abusing children.

    • I think that’s the case for most rapist, I think some might think they are entitled too. It’s all about empathy. Without ampathy the human race would be a disaster. I feel like women are encouraged to have empathy and men are discouraged from having empathy. I think men in the media are portrayed as not really empathetic. Now I don’t know the real nature of men but I think that having a y chromosome instead of a x chromosome must not change the entirety of your brain. But I can’t help but be suspicious of men

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