Saturday, January 28, 2012

Explanations of rape

Here's new research from Evolution and Human Behavior:
We use data from the National Incident-Based Reporting System to examine the effects of offender and victim age on whether male offenders commit sexual assault while robbing women. Restricting analyses to robberies reveals the offenders' age preferences since it allows one to control for the effects of opportunity. We find that robbers of all ages are most likely to sexually assault women at ages 15–29 years, ages when their reproductive potential is highest. However, in contrast to the idea that rape is a direct adaptation, victims are no more likely to be raped than sexually assaulted at these ages. The age of the offender is also a strong predictor of sexual assault. The likelihood that a robber commits a sexual assault increases from age 12 years until he reaches his early thirties when it begins to decline. This age pattern corresponds, to some extent, to age differences in the male sex drive.

The findings contradict the feminist theory of rape. Given a robbery, criminals are more likely to use the opportunity to sexually assault a female victim if she is young. According to feminists, rape is a way to put a woman in her place. If this were the motivation, I would expect men to target powerful women. A criminal would get a much bigger power rush from raping Hillary Clinton than a little 15 year old nobody. I imagine the feminist would respond that Hillary is a high-risk target--perps target weak victims because they are more likely to get away with it. I would agree with the view that rapists are opportunists, but that just supports a rational choice theory of rape.


Anonymous said...

Rape as an expression of power doesn't seem so crazy to me. I am sure that the most attractive male prisoners are more susceptible to prison rape, but that doesn't mean that prison rape isn't also about power as well.

Rape as a form of punishment in wartime is also common. I am sure that younger women are targeted preferentially in wartime as well.

Here is a link on the context of the sex is about power quote:

There was a real rape spike in the 1960s-1970s. This was accompanied by weirdly pro-rape media representations.

DR said...

This seems to indicate that most criminal demand for rape is fairly elastic to borrow a term from economics.

This would suggest that the death penalty would be a strong deterrent. Probably even more so than murder, since murder is probably more inelastic.

Jim Bowery said...

TFA says: "However, in contrast to the idea that rape is a direct adaptation, victims are no more likely to be raped than sexually assaulted at these ages."

So the fact that there is little distinction between "rape" and "sexual assault" in the statistics is evidence against a "direct adaptation"?

I can see it as being evidence against an "optimal adaptation" but the word "direct" is nowhere formally defined as a qualifier for "adaptation" in ethology. All adaptations are "indirect" in that they are all influencing an entire chain of causality for successful generation to generation propagation.

Anonymous said...

I think the primary reason for rape can differ between populations.

Men with high impulse control may mostly only rape as a form of punishment and power.

Men with low impulse control may simply rape as a form of primitive reproduction.

It's pretty r/K when you think about it.


Wartime is unusual in that i think fear can be an overwhelmingly strong aphrodisiac - "i nearly died so i need to make babies" - so i think that needs to be taken into account at least in cases where it happens just after some potentially lethal violence - or in fact any life-threatening event.

It probably happened on the Titanic.

Anonymous said...

off topic:
Is there any evidence that human freemartins are less fertile or developmentally different from identical twin sisters? In cattle, a freemartin is the sterile female of a male and female set of twins. Male hormones cross the placenta and affect the development of the female.

Anonymous said...

I was wondering about this re: rape drugs. Would a rapist feel more powerful raping someone who is passed out or someone who is fully awake and fighting it?