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Causes of rape

Page history last edited by PBworks 14 years, 10 months ago

Causes of rape



According to rape researchers, the prevention of rape is likely to be successful to the extent that the causes are known.


However a number of correlations have been found between rape and other contributing factors that, while not in and of themselves direct causes of rape, might point to possible causes. According to the CDC there are certain vulnerability factors seen in high risk-victim groups. Rape victim vulnerabilities include prior sexual abuse as a minor, being female, being under the age of 18, being Native American and alcohol or drug use. Being the victim of child sexual abuse doubles the likelihood of adult sexual victimization (Parillo et. al., 2003), (Sarkar, N.; Sarkar, R. 2005). There are also certain characteristics common to high-risk (male) perpetrators of child sex abuse such as themselves being victims of child sexual abuse, the repeated violation of their interpersonal boundaries as children, and unresolved crises in adulthood (Pryor, 1996). One study of (male) serial rapists found that over 60 percent of them had themselves been sexually abused by adult females before the age of 10-12(?) (Lamb 1999 (pull in researcher)). These correlations, by themselves, mean nothing, but could provide possible paths for further rape research to those researchers searching for universal explanations for the causes of rape.


Three theories of rape causes


Researcher Lee Ellis listed three theories about why males rape females and analysed their associated hypotheses against the evidence. In his Theories of Rape, he named the then (1989) known theories for the causes of male-female rape as:


  • The Feminist theory which can be succinctly stated by Susan Brownmiller's famous statement: "rape is nothing more or less than a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear (emphasis in original)". The feminist theory of rape asserts that what feminists see as male domination of female socio-political and economic domains is the ultimate cause of (male-female) rape. Feminist theory considers (male-female) rape a crime of power that has little or nothing to do with sex itself.
  • The Social Learning theory is so similar to the feminist theory that they have "at times been virtually equated" according to Ellis. However, unlike feminist theory which focuses on female socio-political exploitation as the core cause of (male-female) rape, the Social Learning theory sees cultural traditions such as imitation (or modeling), sex-violence linkages, rape myths (eg. "Women secretly desire to be raped"), and desensitization effects (caused, for example, by repeated exposure to mass media rape scenes) as the core causes of rape. Ellis states that "Overall, the social learning theory may be best considered a rather complex blend of Bandura's influental theory of instrumental aggression and the feminist theory of rape".
  • The Evolutionary theory sees (male) propensity to rape (females) as being based on natural selection as an evolved reponse to better transmit the male (rapists') genes to future generations. For example, Ellis states that the "world record for the number of offspring fathered by a human male is 888, whereas 69 offspring is the most ever borne by a one human female." These sex disparities mean that those males who can inseminate the largest number of females by "whatever methods necessary (including force)" might win in the contest to pass down their genes. However, once again this theory fails to explain male-male, female-male and female-female rape. In fact, the occurrence of male-male and female-female rape, where genes cannot be passed down at all, would seem to contradict the evolutionary theory of rape. It also implies that our culture is founded on rape as a factor in making the race stronger by natural selection.


Each of the above theories presumes there is just one reason for rape, or at most a few. Those who profile rapists say there are many types of rapists and many motivations.


The "power-assertive" rapist rapes because he is prone to physical aggression and wants to be able to dominate his partner during sex like an alpha-male. The "power-reassurance" rapist rapes because he is socially-deficient and unable to develop romantic or even interpersonal relationships with females. This "gentleman rapist" often attempts to treat his victim like a partner in a relationship. The "anger-retaliatory" rapist rapes because he hates women, has a problem with impulse control and a problem with anger management. His judgment is often clouded by substance abuse.


Some rapists rape because they have an emotional need to feel and act powerful during sex. Some rapists rape because they crave sadistic sex. Some rapists rape because they are pedophiles, and can't legally have relations with those they physically desire. Some rapists rape because they are flooded with hormones, and are overwhelmed with sexual desire. These rapists are typically teenagers who engage in acquaintance rape or date rape. Some rapists rape because they have few morals and little respect for the law, and they find a "crime of opportunity," meaning a victim in a situation where chances of getting caught are slim, and/or the consequences slight. Some rapists rape because they feel angry toward all women for the way one woman treated them. Some rapists rape because they themselves were raped. Some rapists rape because they feel sexually inadequate.


The desire for a certain kind of sex can in some individuals can rise to the level of a compulsion. Just like some people can't stop washing their hands, some people can't stop themselves from some type of sexual activity, even if that activity is illegal, hurts others, and is self-destructive. For example, society recognizes that some pedophiles are incapable of stopping themselves. This is society's rationale for keeping them confined even after they serve their time in prison.


This mathematical equation sounds like tautology: "degree of craving" + "degree of physical aggressiveness" divided by ( "respect for the law" + "moral character" + "impulse control" + "risk of capture" + "severity of punishment" ) = "propensity to rape." This states if someone has a strong craving for rape, is physically aggressive, has little respect for the law, has low moral character, low impulse control, and if the risk of getting capture slight, and the punishment for rape light, this person will likely have a greater propensity to rape. On the other hand if someone has weak desire for sex, they are not physically aggressive, they have considerable respect for the law, have high moral character, have high impulse control, and risk of getting caught are great and the punishment is severe, this person will most likely have a low propensity for rape.


In 2005, a mixed-sex group of Canadian research psychologists published The Causes of Rape, a wide ranging scientific study of male-female rape causality along with research on forced copulation in animals. They did no research on the causes of male-male, female-male, and female-female rape. However, they did note that "Few topics have generated more heated debate in the social science literature." than investigating the propensity of males to rape females. They note that "Not all men are inclined to rape" and ask "What is it about the characteristics of some men, and the interaction of these characterisitics with certain contexts, that increases the likelihood of rape?". They go on to pose three possible groups of (male-female) rape causes with a fourth possible grouping of less common causes as follows:


*The Young Male Syndrome posits that rape is the result of the exposure to intense competition among adolescent males and young men. Rape is sometimes a result of this 'adolescent-limited' antisociality as young men engage in risky activities, antisocial behavior, and high mating effort. They state that "the rape behavior of 'adolescent-limited rapists is expected to be impulsive, instrumental, and exploitive", and one that abates with age. Association with anti-social peers and especially with anti-social peers who are hostile to women is one of the best predictors of (young male) rape (of females) since "competition with peers is the driving force behind young male syndrome.

*Competitive Disadvantage is the idea that rape is a conditioned response to competitive disadvantages such as learning disabilities, low IQ, brain damage, abuse, neglect, or extreme neighborhood conditions. The knowledge of these competitive disadvantages can cause such men to choose "shorter term, more anti-social tactics throughout (a probably short) life. Here, rape is considered a conditioned "consequence" of the awareness (usually early in life) that one will otherwise be unable to have sex with a woman.

*Psychopathy: A small group of men (perhaps much less than 5% of the male population) seem to choose pyschopathology as a 'morph'. Men from this group are the most dangerous of all rapists with lifetime patterns of aggression, dishonesty, extreme selfishness, high mating effort, callousness and interpersonal exploitation. However, they exhibit no brain defects and have histories that are "all consistent with a reproductively viable life strategy."

*Others (such as the competively over-advantaged, the non-antisocial spouse, etc) Some men who might be considered competitively overadvantaged such as world leaders, sports stars and business tycoons also rape women. Otherwise pro-social men also rape their own wives. The authors speculate that some men might switch to "high mating effort" and "short-term mating strategies" when the "perceived costs are low" or when the "reproductive interests of women are devalued".


rape culture




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