Inside the Mind of a Serial Rapist

In case it’s not obvious, MASSIVE TRIGGER WARNING for this entire post and all outgoing links. Even if you’re not a survivor, you’re going to find a lot of this extremely uncomfortable and upsetting so please take care of yourself.

r/AskReddit, a section of Reddit in which people can ask each other questions, recently had a post with this title: “Reddit’s had a few threads about sexual assault victims, but are there any redditors from the other side of the story? What were your motivations? Do you regret it?

Reddit has what I would call, bluntly, a woman problem. Reddit’s users are 74% male, first of all–the highest percentage of all the well-known social networks. Many of its subreddits, such as r/MensRights, r/Atheism, and, of course, r/AskReddit, are notorious for general misogyny, rape apologism, and, at times, even tacit (or not-so-tacit) approval of violence against women, pedophilia, child pornography.

So, nobody familiar with Reddit will be surprised at the kinds of stories and comments that this AskReddit thread has attracted. However, it’s worth talking about for several reasons, which I’ll explain later.

The thread has nearly 13,000 comments as of this writing, so I couldn’t possibly read them all. (I’m pretty sure I’d lose my mind long before I finished, anyway.) However, there’s one particular comment that I want to examine:

First off, I must say, I was at a dark and horrible place in my life, that I’ve since grown from. I’m ashamed of the person I was, if the people who I’m close to now knew who I was, I would be ruined. I’m known for being a great guy, friendly and easy to get along with, a community/political activist, a fervent volunteer in the community, and a person who rises through the ranks quickly due to successes at work. That was my mask, and I was good at it, so good that maybe I convinced myself along the line that was who I could really be, and that may of helped me change, and stop doing what I did.

I’m somewhat remorseful for what I did to those girls, but I don’t think I could ever face them to apologize. I knew what I was doing was wrong, but I had this certain insatiable thirst that brought me to do what I did. I didn’t know how to stop, and just when I thought maybe I could, I’d find myself back in my pattern, back on the hunt.

Several things immediately jump out at me. First of all–and this will be a common theme throughout the post–this person seems very invested in his positive self-image, despite his supposed remorse. He makes sure that we know that he’s known as a “great guy,” that he’s friendly and easy to get along with, etc. Second, although he says he’s ashamed of who he was back then, the rest of this suggests that that’s mostly because he wouldn’t want to be found out. The creepiest part is definitely this: “I knew what I was doing was wrong, but I had this certain insatiable thirst that bought me to do what I did.”

The post continues:

I’m a good looking guy, and I can get girls pretty easily. I’m currently married to a beautiful woman that I met during this time of my life (not someone I raped, but someone who knew my mask during this time). So, anyways, after a while it became boring to go after the sluts and sorority girls that would easily throw their cunt after you. I wanted the thrill of the chase, and that’s what led me to forcing myself on girls. I would find attractive girls that were self-conscious about their looks….Hopefully a girl who was a bit damaged, had a shitty ex-boyfriend, or family issues, came from a small shut in town, that sort of thing. So, when I showed interest in them they’d be completely enamored, they’d almost be shocked that a popular, good-looking, and well liked guy would be talking to them.

Note that, once again, he mentions his good looks and that it’s easy for him to “get girls” (present tense). His misogyny becomes apparent in his language here (“sluts and sorority girls that would easily throw their cunt after you”).

The man then describes how he would meet these girls and invite them over to watch a movie. His need to have total control over the situation is very apparent: “They would come over, and I’d always make sure it was real cold in the room, cold enough so that when we started watching the movie I’d say something about being chilly, and grab a big fleece blanket for the both of us.”

After kissing and putting his hands under their clothes (without consent, obviously):

It was then that I could turn around and get on top of her. The girls usually didn’t know how to respond. Some of them were into it, and those nights were usually consensual and boring sex, sometimes followed up by a few more nightly visits before getting the boot. However, the great nights were the ones who squirmed, ones who didn’t want to give in. I’d have to shush them down, and try to work on them slowly enough so they didn’t know what was going on until it was pretty much already happening. I’m a muscular guy, over 6′ around 200 lbs. and most of these girls may have been 125-130, really tiny and easy to pin down. To be honest, even remembering it now, the squirming always made it better, they didn’t want it to happen, but they couldn’t do anything about it. Most girls don’t say no either. They think you’re a good guy, and should pick up on the hints, they don’t want to have to say “no” and admit to themselves what’s happening.

[...]Some girls left after about 15 minutes after. Some girls would stay until the morning and then leave. A few tried to call back, maybe blaming themselves for what happened or something. I never worried too much about being caught. Everyone knew me, and I worked with the police a lot, with administrators, and campus officials. I was on first name basis with the Chancellor and the President of Student Affairs, so if anything came down to a he/she-said I figured I’d be in the clear.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is rape culture: the fact that this man knew he was unlikely to be brought to justice because he was so respected and popular at school, the fact that he admits that some of the women probably blamed themselves, the fact that he knows that they don’t say no out of fear and not because they consent.

The man later edited the post to explain that he had answered questions posed by commenters and that he was deleting this account (it had been made only for this purpose, though, anyway). He also added this:

Let me leave you with this message, you never know who someone truly is, so be careful. I’m going back to my main account to do normal reddit looking at cats and posting pictures of bacon, and I think it’s kind of funny that no one will ever know if the person they’re talking to on reddit, or someone who moderates their subreddit, is me on my main account… just food for thought.

Most of the comments to his post were very angry, and many were basically homicidal. One person said, “You are why my daughter will be armed, to deal with filth like you.” The man responded, “Teach your daughter to be a strong willed, independent woman, and hopefully she’ll never attract the type of filth I was at that point in my life.” In other words, even though he claimed to be “remorseful,” he admits that he sought out “weak” women and seems to believe that it’s women’s responsibility to be “strong willed” enough for men like him to leave them alone.

In the midst of the angry comments, though, there were many that seemed steeped in admiration–or, at least, respect. References to the OP’s “bravery” were common. Here’s one: “Thank you for sharing. This is what I came to this thread for. You are brave to talk about it. Here is an actual look into how the predator feels.” Here’s another: “I just wanna say, thank you for posting this. It seems that every other guy in this thread is trying to guilt shame you but I’m pretty sure a total of none of them could possibly empathize with you.” And another: “I admit you are a really smart guy. I bet you know it yourself and probably are ashamed of it since you used it to do this. You are also really brave for sharing this story and being here to take the generic ‘fuck you’ from the mass.”

There seems to be some confusion on the part of these commenters about what “brave” means. What’s brave is getting up the next morning after you’ve been raped, and getting up every day after that. What’s brave is telling people about your sexual assault, knowing full well that they might ask you what you were wearing and if you’d been drinking. What’s brave is trusting another person sexually after an experience like that. Using a temporary, anonymous account to tell some people on the internet about what a Big Manly Man you are is not “brave.”

As a survivor of something much less horrific than what these young women went through, but scarring all the same, I can’t see the telling of this story as “brave.” Perhaps that’s just my bias talking.

Also disturbing is the fact that many of the commenters refuse to believe the story. One even asked the OP if he’s “a female IRL trying to make a point with this.” Others laugh it off. Their disbelief reveals their privilege. Most women will tell you that there is nothing unrealistic about this story, because they have either been victimized by men like this, escaped them narrowly (as I did), or have friends who did.

Finally, and unsurprisingly, several commenters jumped to the man’s defense, explaining how “difficult” it is to be a man and to interpret women’s signals and to get women to sleep with you, period. One comment:

This isn’t rape. This is the story of a guy who studied and played the game well. He went after certain girls and worked those angles to get laid. Some people will feel this is underhanded, sleezy, wrong. Others will praise him.

[...]These girls aren’t victims. OP’s behavior may be considered unethical, immoral, and wrong but that’s only moral constructs perceived by others looking at OP. I’m not a player these days but those of you blasting him for rape need to read some player’s books and websites. He did exactly why most players do.

[...]Overall OP isn’t a rapist, he’s a player who feels bad about how good he was at the game.

Another: “What the hell. You’re NOT A RAPIST! The didn’t say no. They wanted it. You’re a player. Actually, they should thank you because that’s probably the only sex those girls will get. You gave them a life experience and you should be proud about it.” And this: “I’ve been told this by female friends – girls purposely put up a bit of a fight before sex to not seem easy, even if they want sex, and they enjoy the back and forth and having the guy ‘try’.”

And one more:

Not defending his actions, but nearly every 19 year old college kid with a dick and a heartbeat is trying to get laid, and EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM has some sort of game plan they employ to coerce women into advantageous situations that their female counterpart might not want to be in, or otherwise find themselves in. Whether its through physical force or mental manipulation, some game plans fail miserably and some work every time. Some guys are obviously better than others at getting what they want, and some of course cross the line.

There’s many, many more where all of these came from. There was also the comments from rape survivors, to one of which the OP responded with some explanation followed by, “Anyways, fuck off you twit.” (How about that remorse?)

I should point out that this particular man’s post, and the responses to it, are unusual for several reasons. Most of the other people who disclosed having committed sexual assault (including some women) were more remorseful and generally did it only once. Some told stories of having nearly done it but stopped themselves. And the comments on those posts are much less condemnatory, and more full of apologism and praises of the rapists’ “bravery.”

Jezebel has a post about the thread and why we should listen to the rapists’ explanations. The article makes a good point in that the thread shows many of the reasons why rape happens and goes unpunished, and the cognitive fallacies that rapists subscribe to.

However, the article fails to note the negative consequences of sharing these stories on a site like Reddit. As I mentioned, Reddit users have a tendency for rape apologism. Many of the people who confessed having committed or attempted sexual assault said that they felt terrible for what they did, but commenters told them not to feel bad. The stories of backing off rather than raping elicited lots of “Congrats, you didn’t rape her!” comments–as if that’s something worthy of a gold star. One comment to such a story reads, “Shitty situation, man. Good on you for realizing what was up and pulling yourself out of that.” Another: “You aren’t a rapist, or close really, don’t beat yourself up about it.”

In other words, men (they were almost all men) who come to this thread with genuine remorse receive dozens of comments patting them on the back for not going ahead and sticking their penis into an unwilling woman–all the other nonconsensual stuff they did leading up to that, apparently, doesn’t really matter. (Although some of these commenters insist that the women couldn’t possibly have been hurt that much by it because they weren’t “actually” raped, I can speak from experience and say that attempted rape (or rape threats, or sexual harassment) can be traumatizing too.)

Furthermore, some of the apologism is directed at men who did actually commit sexual assault, and it really scares me that these men are getting the message that what they did was “not rape.”

It’s taken me a while to write about this because it’s been difficult to come up with any takeaway other than aisfa;ifja;sdfjas;df. However, now that I’ve had a chance to think about it, I think there are a few things to glean from this.

  1. Rapists usually know what they’re doing. Although there’s a pervasive myth that rape is caused by “miscommunication” (generally, women not being “clear” enough about not giving consent), this thread and this fascinating study show that this is completely false. They know what they’re doing, most of the time. But they don’t really care. They think they “can’t stop” because having a penis just “makes” you do these things. They convince themselves that the woman would say no (or say it louder) if she really didn’t want to do it. And so on.
  2. Rapists aren’t necessarily identifiable. None of the men in this thread seem like your stereotypical stranger in a dark alley type. Many of them have the ability to be very personable and likable, and they use this ability to their advantage. (This is, by the way, a symptom of psychopathy.) So, not only is the standard victim-blamey advice for women to avoid revealing clothing, bars, parties, etc. wrong, but it’s also ludicrous to suggest that women can avoid sexual assault by avoiding “certain types” of guys. Some victimizers (of any gender) certainly do give off a creepy vibe, but not all do.
  3. Sexual assault prevention is a very, very complicated thing, and I don’t think it’s as simple as “telling rapists not to rape.” As boys and young men grow up, they learn a series of messages about gender and sexuality, just like women do. If you’re interested in this, I’d recommend reading Brad Perry’s piece in the fantastic book Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and A World Without Rape. The piece is called “Hooking Up with Healthy Sexuality: The Lessons Boys Learn (and Don’t Learn ) About Sexuality, and Why a Sex-Positive Rape Prevention Paradigm Can Benefit Everyone Involved.” (Holy shit that’s a long title.) You can read it here. The piece focuses on teaching sexuality to boys in a way that prevents rape and promotes a healthy approach to women, dating, and sex. Unfortunately, right now our country is still besieged by abstinence-only sex education, which promotes rape culture in a million ways that I don’t have room to discuss here.
  4. Despite all the comments that “well everyone knows rape is bad” and therefore we should stop shaming rapists, it’s clear that there’s a sort of doublethink going on here. Yes, almost all people, except the most psychopathic perhaps, know that rape is “bad.” But many convince themselves that things that are definitely rape are not. Cognitive dissonance does scary things to people sometimes–they want what they want at all costs, but they don’t want to believe that they’re Bad People (i.e. rapists). Nope, they’re just “playing the game,” or the victim “should’ve said no (louder),” or “she wanted it anyway.”

So no. Even decades after the start of the modern women’s movement, not everyone knows what rape is. And that’s how we know that our work is not yet done.

All I know is that we need real sex education, and we need it now. We need to start it early. We need to stop believing that teaching kids about safe and healthy sex will “make” them do it. We need to stop teaching them gender roles that put women into the role of sexual gatekeepers, always needing to push their male partners off rather than being asked for consent first, and men into the role of aggressors, always needing to coerce their female partners or face losing their masculinity.

Mostly, though, we need to teach empathy in general. Because that’s lacking in our society in every possible way.

And this needs to happen now.

Note: This has been really difficult to write for many reasons, but I felt that I needed to do it. There will be extra comment moderation. Anyone who comes on here to explain to me how I “don’t understand” these men and their actions will be sent on their merry way. Thank you.

22 thoughts on “Inside the Mind of a Serial Rapist

  1. I start to think that it might be good to have some education about psychopathy in high school. The problem with psychopaths is that they are often very popular, charismatic and well liked, and then if they do something violent the victim cannot believe what is happening and has problems to react accordingly. They think they must be the ones to blame. As far as I have read, it is very typical psychopath behavior to intuitively know who they can choose as victims, so I am convinced that this guy is one of them. He also clearly enjoys to write about his crimes.

    I couldn’t agree more with your statement about ‘teaching empathy’. Our society seems to encourage lack of empathy, which is extremely dangerous. This gives a climate that helps psychopaths to thrive. I suspect it is linked to the extreme form of capitalism that rules in many parts of the world: everybody is supposed to be responsible only for themselves, society does not exist, etc. Not surprisingly, there is a high number of psychopaths among managers.

    • Yeah, you’re right. I’ve read a bit about this and the general consensus is that most people would be shocked to know how many psychopaths there actually are–and how powerful many of them are. Psychopaths aren’t necessarily violent, either. Many aren’t. I would say that some of them helped bring us the financial crisis.

    • Although it’s important to note that by definition, psychopaths cannot be taught “empathy.” They’re born without it, as opposed to sociopaths, who become desensitized to it (although they’re also considered untreatable). I’m certainly not saying that either diagnosis gives these people any license to commit rape or any other crime, and most don’t (http://www.sociopathworld.com/), which shows that there really isn’t any excuse for rape, not even mental illness. But education about psychopathy, sociopathy, or ASPD needs to be done in combination with treatment for those afflicted, and an attempt to lessen the stigma against them (how many times have you heard a distasteful person called a “sociopath”?), or it will lead to their ostracization, which will only make things worse.

      • That’s true; in my bit about empathy, I was referring more to the majority of the rapists (or almost-rapists) in the thread who clearly WERE able to show remorse. Psychopaths are probably a minority of rapists, if a large one.

        As regards actual psychopaths/sociopaths/people with ASPD, though, I agree with what you said about treatment and reducing stigma. Although I’m pretty sure there is no treatment yet, it doesn’t seem like that much research efforts are going into this–perhaps because of the stigma. That should be fixed.

  2. Love your articles as always, only 2 bits to put in.

    1: http://www.reddit.com/r/rapecounseling/
    Great sub-reddit that I post in, and try to help people through. Not all of Reddit is bad :)

    2: The example of “Approving violence against women.” is a bit of a stretch. (then again, Jezebel as a site HATES the men’s rights movement more than anything.) But I’m sorry if a girl you’re dating steals a condom after sex, and tries to leave telling you her intentions are to impregnate herself (And then blackmails you), you have the right to forcefully recover said condom. The condom is intent to prevent pregnancy agreed upon both parties, not a vessel for her to carry to later use for conception.
    I guess I would ask, how would you handle it if post-coitus (assuming they came inside) your partner stole your birth control, and started threatening your future. (in this dystopian future we’ll say that Plan-b and Abortions are not available)
    Sure, they advocated/approved attacking her to get the condom back, but what would YOU do if the situation was reversed? Allow yourself to be forced to become pregnant/a parent against your will after contraception was previously agreed upon?

    Also, here is Jezebel saying that violence against men is okay, for a much less serious event.
    http://jezebel.com/5878537/why-i-punched-a-stranger

    • Well, except that there is no documented instance of a woman actually stealing a man’s sperm to impregnate herself. This is some ludicrous strawman that the men’s rights movement made up.

      This is not the time or place to discuss this, however.

  3. This is a brilliant post – I was reading through that thread on Reddit earlier and I wanted to write something about it but wasn’t sure where to start from. You’ve articulated a lot of what I was thinking, so thank you for putting that into words even though it was difficult.

    I completely agree that sex education should be reviewed so that it advocates positive sexual relationships instead of only teaching abstinence. ‘Yes means yes’ is a much healthier maxim to go by than ‘no means no’, as the latter places responsibility on the potential victim rather than the perpetrator.

  4. Pingback: Reddit discusses rape, and the importance of ‘yes means yes’ | Cis white female

  5. This might be of interest to you and the other people reading this:

    http://cooley.libarts.wsu.edu/garina/soc361/Documents%20Spring%202011/Convicted_Rapists_Vocabulary_of_Motive.pdf

    In terms of the self-denial thing that these men have going on…probably has a lot to do with what we visualize when we think of a “rapist”. I think the typical idea people have is some knife-wielding bandit hiding behind bushes, waiting for someone in a skirt to walk by. The sad truth is that most victims are raped by the people they know, including friends, family, and significant others. Until people come to grips with that, the sleazy, coercive frat boy in the back of the party is never going to think of himself as a rapist.

    • Yeah, that’s exactly the problem with the sort of “rape prevention” that feminists like me tend to rail against. Not only are most rapists not like that, and not only does it put the responsibility for prevention onto the would-be victims, but it also fails to reach out to, you know, actual rapists. Thanks for the comment and the link; I’ll make sure to check it out.

  6. Pingback: The Wednesday Weigh-In: Reddit rape thread edition

  7. Here’s my “trigger” quote: “Not defending his actions, but nearly every 19 year old college kid with a dick and a heartbeat is trying to get laid, and EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM has some sort of game plan they employ to coerce women into advantageous situations that their female counterpart might not want to be in, or otherwise find themselves in. Whether its through physical force or mental manipulation, some game plans fail miserably and some work every time.”

    You see, in 1993, I was 19 and turned 20. I was heartbroken over a failed relationship with my high school sweetheart (a fucked up story in itself), and the last thing I was looking for was sex. I had no game plans, and I was not coercing women into advantageous situations. I was pacing the town at night and wondering where everything went wrong. I was young and had been in love. I was away from home and on my own for the first time (I had gone to college previously with a bright future, but my ex had dumped me at the beginning of Thanksgiving break in my first semester, and I failed out shortly thereafter). I even remember one night when I stood on the side of a bridge looking over the edge, wondering how it would feel if I jumped and floated down.

    So in December of that year, I was at a party and I was drunk. A person in my community had noted my vulnerability, and she saw something she wanted. I noted none of this at the time. All I remembered for so long was that it was the second time I’d had sex. After a traumatic event a few years ago, I noted patterns in something that happened to someone very close, and I noted things she said. Upon lots of analyzation of that situation, aspects of what I now call rape started to become clearer. My rapist got into my head when I was vulnerable. She convinced me that I was losing my mind and that I was having a mental breakdown. I went to her house and I was there for three days. After the first night (when we ended up having sex – something that I was *not* seeking at all), I was all sorts of messed up. I called into my job and told them that I was having a mental breakdown. I lost that job. I really don’t know what else happened during those three days, but when I left, I was telling everyone that I was having a mental breakdown. I told friends and I told my parents. I was a robotic zombie telling everyone that I was having a mental breakdown. No one tried to get me help. My parents didn’t want me to tell anyone else in the family when I came home for Christmas.

    I got through those times, and I survived. I’m a survivor. But it was only a few years ago, when I saw someone in my community take advantage of someone very close to me when she was in an incredibly vulnerable place, that I saw what truly had happened to me.

    I guess the point I really wanted to make here is this: despite statistics that put the crime usually at the hands of a male, females rape too. I just wanted to make that perfectly clear. Thank you for sharing this. Confronting my much older past has helped me deal with my more recent past.

    • One other thing: I also remember having a short conversation with another male friend around that time, and he had said something similar had happened with him with that same woman. Makes me sad really. I’m not plagued by what happened to me half a lifetime ago. But I *am* incredibly bothered by predatory behavior and people (male or female or even corporate) taking advantage of others that are vulnerable.

  8. Pingback: Asking for it | Kyriolexy

  9. Why include r/Atheism in a list of bad stuff? Why not a neutral example? Is that group particularly known for its misoginy?
    I ask this as 1) a woman who’s not a redditor and who’s spent the last two days reading that awful thread, and 2) an Atheist who isn’t crazy about Atheism-bashing, especially when it isn’t even relevant to the subject matter.

    Other than that, interesting article. Not much more to say…

    • Hey there. Apologies if you thought I was atheist-bashing; I’m one myself and fairly involved in atheist circles online. I was referring to a number of crappy things that have happened on r/atheism, such as this. (Note that despite the title of this blog post, this is an atheist blog.) And here an awesome female atheist blogger discusses some of the crap she’s gotten on r/atheism for her appearance.

      So yes, among atheist feminists who also frequent Reddit, r/atheism is absolutely known for its misogyny, and my listing it in this post was not in order to bash atheism. Which I myself subscribe to.

      • Thanks for explaining! Sucks that Reddit as a whole seems to be so misogynistic. Anyway, thanks for the quick reply. I’ll come back! :)

  10. Excellent piece. I just came across it, and your blog, today. You’re now one of the few blogs that I have bookmarked. Keep up the good work, and happy new year.

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