Is every man a potential rapist? Trigger Warning : This article discusses rape issues. If you feel uncomfortable reading about this…please do not go further.

Dr. Nicholas Jenner is a Counseling psychologist in private practice working with individuals, couples, groups and companies. Apart from seeing clients face-to-face, Dr Jenner also runs a thriving online therapy business bringing help to those who are housebound or located in rural locations where therapy is difficult to find. Online Therapy details : Here

Just recently, I have been disturbed by the number of cases of rape that have been reported in the media. Young, sometimes very young, women being kidnapped, raped and murdered. This is, of course, not a recent problem and we have to take into account that the press periodically become obsessed with one type of story or another. That said, rape is a serious global problem and many theories exist about what turns someone into a rapist. 

There is a school of thought which believes that every man is a potential rapist.  First off, I want to clarify that the statement “every man is a potential rapist” or “all men are potential rapists” is not the same thing as “every man is a rapist.” It doesn’t mean that every man would rape if given the chance nor that every man wants to rape. What the phrase means is that since rapists do not wear easy to identify signs to show they are rapists, it is in a woman’s best interest to be cautious. It means that even those people a woman has accepted into her circle of trust can be the very person who rapes her. That is the tragedy here. Let us not accuse every man of being anti social and immoral ( let us also not forget that many men are raped too) But the fact is that rapists roam around in every size, age, shape and color. He may be sitting in the same row in the class room or the movie theater and may be scheming to violate someone later in the evening. He may be in the queue waiting patiently to be attended. Or he maybe the guy who asks the time at the bus stop.

Rape has a very long-lasting psychological impact on a woman of any age . When some men rape, and when 80% of those who are raped know the man who attacked them, it becomes virtually impossible to distinguish men who are safe from men who are dangerous, men who can be trusted from men who can’t, men who will rape from men who won’t. The result is a society with its guard up, where relationships with men are approached with fear and mistrust, where intimacy is limited by the constant threat of violence, and where all men are labeled “potential rapists.” The good news is that men, by and large, have a rape switch meaning basically that although men are capable of rape,  most men are enculturated in a way that reduces rape, and in some societies it is probably true that most violent rape is carried out by individuals who are reasonably labeled as pathological but this is not always the case. There are psychological boundaries that many men never cross but take those boundaries away and it changes everything. A good example of this is what happens in theatres of war where rape has become a weapon. Rape is easier to justify in the minds of rapists in this situation as boundaries generally are lower. Soldiers are trained to kill the enemy. Put in context, rape seems to be the “lighter” crime. Could this same concept apply to a man who sees the opportunity to overpower a woman and rape her? Rape is a choice men make to use sex as a weapon for power and control. For rape to stop, men who are violent, must be empowered to make different choices. All men can play a vital role in this process by challenging rape supporting attitudes and behaviors and raising awareness about the damaging impact of sexual violence. Every time a man’s voice joins those of women in speaking out against rape, the world becomes safer.

Why Men Rape

A study by Cohen and Seghorn on 800 male sex offenders in the US found the ‘relative absence of even the most basic social values and/or social skills in them.’ The researchers suggested four classifications of rapists, a classification which has been supported by earlier as well later research. The classifications are:

  1. Displaced aggression: Here the rape almost always follows some unpleasant event involving a wife, girl-friend or mother and the rapist uses rape as an outlet for his anger. In these cases the rape is used to physically harm the victim, who is usually a stranger.
  2. Impulse: Here the act of rape is based on impulse and is not motivated by sexual hunger or feelings. For example it can be carried out during a robbery.
  3. Sex aggression diffusion: Here the aggressive and sexual components coexist and the rapist is aroused by aggressive thoughts. He sees the victim’s struggle as seductive and even believes that women like to be raped.
  4. Compensation: Sex is the key component and if the victim struggles or tries to escape, the would-be offender flees. The recurrent fantasy of these rapists is that the victim will yield. These offenders are passive. These rapes are mostly pre-planned.

Another classification (by Kopp) after a study of 100 rapists revealed a high incidence of anti-social or psychopathic personalities amongst rapists. A rapist is often a cold, seemingly unfeeling man who has always taken what he wanted from others without concern for their feelings. This type constitutes the largest percentage of all rapists. Whether spoilt brat or a person living on the edge, the personality type is similar. They want something and they don’t care whom they hurt to get it.

Attitudes towards Rape

More than half of Britons believe some rape victims should take responsibility for being attacked, research has suggested . In a new poll, 56 per cent of those questioned felt that there were certain circumstances where the victim should be held partly accountable. Of those, 28 per cent thought people who wore revealing clothes should take some of the blame if they were sexually assaulted. Among women, 23 per cent said if someone danced provocatively at a nightclub they should be held partly responsible, and 15 per cent said the same if they had accepted a drink from their attacker. The research, called Wake Up To Rape, was carried out to mark the 10th anniversary of the Havens, which runs sexual assault referral centres in London. Dr Jan Welch, clinical director at the Haven in Camberwell, south-east London, said: “Unfortunately, women have bought into the idea that sometimes the rape victim is to blame. Under no circumstances is a woman at fault for being raped. “Coping with the emotional trauma of rape or sexual assault is made even harder when the victim is made to feel responsible for what’s happened.”

  16 comments for “Is every man a potential rapist? Trigger Warning : This article discusses rape issues. If you feel uncomfortable reading about this…please do not go further.

  1. October 24, 2012 at 6:45 pm

    I almost didn’t read this. I am glad I did. Especially the last paragraph. Complicated emotional issues involved.

    Like

    • October 24, 2012 at 6:52 pm

      It is a subject that many people are reluctant to discuss. However, there are caveman attitudes that exist about rape victims that result in women not coming forward to report being attacked. This is the true tragedy here.

      Like

      • October 24, 2012 at 7:05 pm

        I believe even without those attitudes it would be hard to come forward. Feelings that you brought it on yourself, and in some cases feelings that in the end you didn’t try hard enough to stop something, leading to feelings that the idea that we ended up raping ourselves. Anyway, good article.

        Like

      • October 24, 2012 at 7:07 pm

        One thing that many people forget….victims are never to blame under any circumstances. Thanks for commenting.

        Like

  2. October 25, 2012 at 1:27 am

    Hi Nicholas,
    Thanks for writing about this subject. As a child rape victim of both a policeman and a priest, I was later subjected to a number of physical assaults, some leading to rape that I was unable to fend off, due to the strength of the man. For them it probably seemed like they had just convinced me to give in. I never felt like it was my fault or that I ‘deserved it’ but, during my late teens, it was almost like walking around with a sign on my forehead that said: “Rape me if you can!” I could never have pressed charges against any of them, because of the attitudes you mentioned in the last paragraph, and that somehow I would have been seen as the provocateur. I’ve forgiven myself for all that and see it as part of life’s many experiences. 🙂

    Like

    • October 25, 2012 at 7:11 am

      Hi Gloria…thanks for sharing your experience on the post. It is just a pity that you feel that you had to forgive yourself for what was in effect nothing to do with you.

      Like

      • October 25, 2012 at 6:51 pm

        That’s true, and I know I wasn’t to blame, but it helped me considerably as a way of removing the associated negative emotions that continued to surface. Thank you! 🙂

        Like

  3. sweata joshi
    December 25, 2012 at 7:15 am

    the stigma which exists in the society relating to rape victims is extremely terrible… it is just like blaming a victim of murder for getting murdered without any fault of their own…we claim to be living in the world of technology but such attitudes will merely take us back to the stone age….

    Like

  4. jenn gibbins
    February 8, 2013 at 7:54 pm

    Ok i am not sure how to grasp that all men would do this because my brother was raped beat and treated very badly and now he is 33 and the most fearful guy i know and he has never harmed anyone at all and he still gets badly treated by most people he tries to talk to and i have never seen him say anything bad he has acute adult adhd and even after a long time of being single after his girlfriend cheated on him more than once he is very nice still

    Like

    • February 9, 2013 at 3:05 am

      Sorry to hear about your brother and what he has had to go through. The article discussed a controversial theory that all men have a rape switch that they manage to keep controlled. However, for various reasons, this sometimes doesn’t work. One could say that your brother was unfortunate enough to meet one of these people. Your brother also shows us that despite his problems, he still cares about others.

      Like

  5. Claire
    April 20, 2013 at 11:58 am

    Hi, thanks for writing this. You approach the topic with a lot of delicacy, which is appreciated since it is an upsetting topic.

    Like

    • April 20, 2013 at 12:14 pm

      Hi Claire….thank you….indeed an upsetting topic but an important one. Thanks for dropping by.

      Like

  6. April 20, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    Reblogged this on kenkennardblog and commented:
    A scary subject – but one that Dr Jenner addresses full on and which shows forensic research. I can’t help thinking that if there were more “open” debates about this dreadful form of assault, it’s causes, and the situations in which it occurs, would be better understood by both men and women. I would earnestly hope that this, in turn, would lead to a reduction in the number of incidents.

    Like

    • April 20, 2013 at 12:53 pm

      Hi Ken….thanks for the reblog

      Like

      • July 26, 2013 at 12:57 pm

        Kyle..thanks for the comment and I can appreciate your point. However,the post is a reflection of research that suggests that men have a so-called ‘rape switch’ that is not functional in some men. It does not really suggest that all men are rapists just the situations that might cause the switch to fail.

        Like

  7. Kyle
    July 26, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    I hate this phrase because even though potential and action are different, the average person reads both of those statements very similarly. I would be just as justified saying that every woman is a potential alimony abuser who will marry and divorce you for your money, or every woman is a potential psychopath who will beat you daily and falsely testify that she was abused by you. I would also be just as right saying that all black people are potential thieves or all Mexicans are potential illegal immigrants. I will not though, because I find all of those phrases insulting and demeaning.

    Like

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