Span has written a fantastic post about knowing men who have raped:
But I can think of two men that I have been friends with over the years who I know for sure either raped or had to be stopped from raping. One started penetrating his girlfriend after she said no. When she protested further he did stop, but he never should have started. The other told me himself that he had to be pulled off a young woman once when he was drunk. In both of these cases never were the words rape uttered between us.I've known men that I knew had raped women, and men that I suspected. Every story I've heard involved the word 'rape' and most of them came second hand - and I'm graetful for that (I think that's somewhere near the definition of a small mercy). Because I don't particularly want to have a conversation where I tell a man I know that I think they raped someone, and I would hate to be the person who didn't say anything.
The first of these incidents (amongst other things) soured the friendship slowly but surely and I no longer see this man, and have no desire to. It wasn't really until a few years later, when I was running date-rape awareness seminars in hostels, that I put the pieces together and recognised his act as what it was - rape.
In the case of the second we are still friends. I turn my brain away from it as it is too horrible to think about, that he might have raped if he hadn't been stopped. And that he has never thought about it as attempted rape. And that there are probably many many other men I know who have similar stories to these two, in their sexual histories somewhere.
I'm not naieve enough to believe that the men that I know have raped someone are the only rapists among my friends and acquaitances. When the verdict came in from the police rape case one of my friends was told by a man she knew that he was scared of what she was doing, because he'd had a lot of drunken sex when he was at high school - and he was worried that a woman would say that he raped her. I'm terrified of men who are scared of women accusing them of rape. I think it's an acknowledgement that they're aware that not all the sex they've had was consensual.
I can imagine having some sympathy for young men, in theory. They're told that women's wants, women's needs don't matter, they're told that no means yes, they're told that rape is a stranger in a dark ally, and they're told they're entitled to sex. It shouldn't be surprising that some men believe this. Obviously that doesn't make them any less responsible for their actions, but I do hope that some men come back from that. That some men come to care that women are people. I think men who did that could be useful in the fight against rape. I imagine that many teenage boys would listen to men more than they'd listen to women.
It's just that I've never known any men like that. The men I've known who have had it pointed out to them that they had raped a woman have reacted with entitlement, and attacked the woman they raped. Everything they did made it clear to me that they had raped women and would do it again. I think the minimum starting point to stop being a rapist and start being a person is admitting that you had raped women and taking responsibility for the harm that they'd caused.
I've been able to cut contact with all the men I've known who have raped women. I don't know under what circumstances I wouldn't do that. I suspect it probably would have more to do with the ease with which they could be excised from my life, than anything that they'd done, which isn't a particularly comforting realisation.