Disturbing Reddit Rape Thread Raises Serious Ethical Questions

"I am a post-college age male who raped several girls through use of coercion, alcohol, and other tactics over a course of 3 years." So begins one jaw-dropping comment on Reddit, in a growing thread on sexual assault.

The thread was started from one Redditor's question ("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?"), and as of yesterday, there were 14798 comments from victims and confessed rapists alike.

It's one of the most difficult and searingly honest conversations I've seen online, and it certainly begs the question of whether or not an anonymous outlet for talking about rape is a good thing ... or not.


Here are a few of the comments from the thread -- and I'll warn you, if frank talk about sexual assault is going to upset you, you may not want to read these:

I remember exactly what I was thinking at the time. This girl gave me "the look" earlier, she invited me into her bed. What teenage girl would pass up the oppertunity to be with a 22 year old guy? She MUST want it. I tried again, and slid my hands over her body. It was then I looked at her face. She was petrified. I at that point pulled myself together, rolled off her and apologized. My hormones were RAGING. I asked her why she didn't want to. I told her what I thought above. She started to cry.

I got up, apologized again and went to the couch and spent the night staring at the ceiling thinking I was going to go to jail.

We went into her room and began to undress with what started as consensual, as we did she seemed preoccupied. We jumped into bed. Little of this, little of that. Slowly as things progressed I can't recall what happened. I honestly can't, it's not that i'm scared or afraid, I really don't remember. All I do remember is she was crying. She was having a flash back from her father raping her. I remember pulling off her and she kept crying. I then do remember doing something i'm probably most ashamed of is asking her to finish me off, more begging for it. My hormones were going insane, I didn't have any empathy in my heart at that moment just my own concerns. She wasn't a person anymore just a path, a tool, a means to an end. Then once again, I can't remember. I don't remember what happened, I never asked her. I almost don't want to know. But I know I got off. I hate to say it but after it was done I went to bed, she stayed up crying.

...on to why I reckon I did all these things: The classic explanation for rapists is that it's not about sex, it's about power. I reckon that's pretty true in my case. But I don't think most rapists are just psychopaths for whom power is the most fundamental need being addressed. Instead, the need for power is rooted in a deeper need for love. In my experience the most powerless feeling there is (and I recognize fully how this sounds on a thread about rape, I'm just talking about my own experience)is the feeling of not being loved by someone you want to love you. Whether it's a friend or your girlfriend or your mother, it's just the most powerless feeling when you once had someone's love and you feel there's nothing you can do to get it back. You try to reason with them and then you shout at them and when none of that has the power to change their minds the last possible recourse you have that you hope can have any influence or power over them whatsoever is violence. So I have often felt like I wanted to beat up a friend or girlfriend when we were fighting (I should note that aside from the one time with my mom I've never hit anyone woman or man against their will), but that's not because I don't love them, it's because I do, and I don't know how else to try and influence them. I'm trying my fucking hardest not to grow up into a wife abuser.

Tough stuff, right? The Reddit conversation has grown into a sprawling thread with plenty of posts and followup comments, and I'm honestly not sure how I feel about the whole thing. On the one hand, it's interesting and perhaps useful to read accounts of all the different ways sexual abuse can occur, and I can see the potential benefit for young women to be exposed to this kind of information.

Attorney Gloria Allred even suggests that the posts may help the rapists themselves:

The conversation should be with anyone and everyone who has a perspective on it. If we can understand those who have committed sexual assault, then perhaps we can help to engage them, the victimizers, in a conversation about the harm that it does to the victims and why they should never engage in another sexual assault again.

On the other hand, it's undeniably creepy and perhaps even dangerous. As a psychiatrist posted in a followup thread,

...when Reddit invites rapists to retell their stories, they offer an audience of thousands. The possibility that individuals reading these stories will be horrified afresh is very appealing to some rapists. It’s neurobiologically very much like anticipating drug use. (...) Thus, the Reddit rape forum is very possibly triggering rape cravings in rapists. It is also teaching rapists how to rape better via shared stories, the same way we teach new participants to improve in any field, by sharing our experiences.

There's also the murky question of whether or not someone could be held legally responsible for any assault confession they made on Reddit, on the chance someone was able to track their IP address.

At any rate, it's certainly an unexpected use of Reddit, and a potentially unpleasant example of how anonymity can encourage online discourse.

What do you think of this Reddit thread? Do you think there can be any sort of positive outcome from people confessing their rape crimes?

Image via Reddit

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