Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Why Men Rape

Women and men who have been raped are usually (not always) talking about a male perpetrator. It might help to take a look at some of the reasons men rape. Knowing the "whys" may help victims reduce self blame. It may not, unfortunately.

The following is extracted from a paper I wrote and presented at the Council for Social Work Education in February, 2006. It will be republished in another journal.

But briefly, and I'm sorry, a bit scholarly, here's a summary:

Feminist writers trace the history of perpetrator motivation to a patriarchal society that assigns females a status as property without rights. As property, they had no right to object to their treatment.

Sociologists have discussed women as objects, commodities to be bought or stolen—the pornographication of women, a process by which men relate to women as pornea, a Greek word for whores.
This perception of a woman’s body as property or a commodity is grounded not just historically, but in contemporary metaphors, language, and common slang for sex. Like:

Sex is a hunt, a conquest: I’m going to go out and get a piece of ass.

Sex is instruction: I know how to show a woman a good time.

A review of the literature into the etiology of rape indicates that overall, men who rape have rape supportive attitudes, misinterpret social clues, and blame the victim.

Younger offenders learn from their families, peers, or the media that their role in a relationship is to take the initiative in sexual relationships. This is called the dominance theory.

Studies find significant associations between beliefs in rape myths and acquaintance rape, i.e:

Men think women want sex but are not comfortable asking, which justifies their force

Nice girls don't dress provocatively or use alcohol. Bad girls, girls who want sex, do and deserve to be raped.

Cross-sectional studies of male college students find significant correlations between having committed acquaintance rape and having hostile attitudes towards women.

In one study students who raped acquaintances also reported accepting domestic violence, an attitude uncharacteristic of students who did not rape.

Stranger rapes, conversely, have been found to be characteristic of serious psychopathology—extreme anger, a need for power and control, and sadism.
They have feelings emptiness, worthlessness, insecurity, loneliness, depression, suicidal and homicidal ideation, and desperation.

And no empathy, obviously. They have few friends, and most came from disengaged families.

I'll let you know when the rest is published and where to look.

Copyright 2006, Therapy Doc


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post. I will tell you what happened to me. I was attending an all-women's college (Mills) and was assigned to a group of women (three of us) to discuss rape, etc. Two of the women, a few years older than me, one a lesbian and one a black woman, said that any woman could fight off her attacker if she tried. They had the attitude that rape didn't happen unless the woman somehow participated. I was stunned. I shared with them about my rape experience. I was raped in Kansas City in a park and the man, about twice my size, only had to hit me once upside the head to keep me from crying out, although there were others in the park within earshot. He held a knife to my throat. Should I have chosen to fight him to my death? If I had fought, maybe I wouldn't have been raped, but I'm at least alive to think about it.

Anyway,I shared this with the women and they both apologized. I could not believe that these women, who were not exactly housewives with no world experience, could hold the attitude they did. Maybe what we need to do is to start enlightening women about who is responsible in rape because given our culture, which denigrades women as either whores or madonnas, we won't see rape go away. If other women don't understand, we are truly lost.

cordeliadarwin said...

I was reading your latest posts and made my way toward the post about the now former Governor of my state and this one caught my eye -- and attention.

I am not a new reader and so surprised that I had not noticed this post before.

Before I was brave enough and honest enough with myself to recognize that my rape was something from which I had to work at healing, I intellectuaized it as much as I could, going so far as to read and try to embrace Randy Thornhill's Natural History of Rape -- an evolutionary psychology study. If you have not read it or read about it, Thorhnill's (and he had a co-author) hypothesis is that rape is a mating strategy -- that all other considerations notwithstanding, rape enhances reproductive advantage.

Even then I understood that rape of pre-adolescent girls, post-menopausal women and the rape of men and boys pointedly refute the theory. But still, there is no satisfying explanation.

The 'why' of it would be perplexing and interesting to me even if I had not been a child victim of a stranger abduction and rape.

It is curious to me too that the feelings you acknowledge stranger rapists hold...

They have feelings emptiness, worthlessness, insecurity, loneliness, depression, suicidal and homicidal ideation, and desperation.

...include many of those I find myself working so hard to liberate from my own being.

It is as if they were poured into me and lodged in places that I cannot reach.

Amazing how that works.

Thanks for the post.

Ella said...

Angry at me for "making" him feel attracted to me, when it was wrong - he was married, a father.
Angry that this 17 yr old virgin didn't want to have sex with him.
Anger and contempt.
"look what you made me do"

therapydoc said...

Sorry, Ella. You have a right to be angry.

Anonymous said...

very clear and very helpful (both this and your latest post that links to this one). Thank you. I first found your site doing a search on "why men rape" and I was originally led to this post. I hope you do work in rape trauma. I suspect you do very well at it. It is a field that needs more people who understand, not just the victim/survivor, but also the "logic" and personality behind the perpetrators.
no need to publish this - I just wanted to let you know that I have found some peace and understanding in your writing on this topic.
Thank you.

Anonymous said...

PS something I forgot: ultimately there is no answer to the "why". Not if we desire to heal and overcome. Getting stuck in the "why" doesn't let us get through it.

Anonymous said...

Really it is not until we stop theorising about why and 'do' instead and take action that rape will not be tolerated in society.
I was raped as a child by my father and he trained the entire family to blame me and these are people that do well in business and life and are not entirely sheltered. Had he known that society would not allow it he may of thought twice or at least gone to jail when I was a child because my family could of felt supportive instead of ashamed and too caring about themselves.

SeaSpray said...

I am so disturbed and cried over reading that 200 women and four baby boys were repeatedly gang raped in Africa recently by soldiers.

The baby boys were 1 month,6 mos, 1 yr and 18 mos.

the women were raped in front of their families and some dragged to the woods.

The number of women raped may be higher ..but afraid to come forward.

I really wish I did not read about it. I cried.

Anonymous said...

Just to comment on what Seaspray said, giving the benefit of the doubt that words were not mis-intended. However they were carelessly written, saying you wished you had not read it and that you cried is very upsetting, I am sure the children and women that were raped wished they were not born at some point after what they endured. I was raped as a child and it is an un-endurable suffering to the soul. Only God can help and even he struggles I am sure because he can not and does not imagine such an evil to exist. It would be best not to post careless comments in future, although they might of been well intended, but crying is little in comparison to the suffering of those you read about, you will easily forget what they endured and go back to a soft life of comfort and little woe :)- which is they way it should be but I hope you get my point. Be careful of what you write please.

Anonymous said...

I can assure you that some rapists are sociopathic and have no empathetic feeling for a woman they are raping, probably because they don't consider it rape. They put no more thought forward.

therapydoc said...

I wouldn't argue with that.

Better Things-- Seeing Ghosts