Five years ago, I wrote a post entitled ” Are All Men Potential Rapists?” looking at the subject and attitudes towards sexual assault on women. There can be no excuse for this and a true victim should never be placed in a position of responsibility. In light of the sexual assault scandals happening in Hollywood and Westminster, where true victims are coming forward to accuse men of inappropriate behavior, mixed with some who appear to be confused about the true meaning of sexual assault I feel a strong need to revisit this post and look at various studies defining why men, especially rape and sexually assault women.
ARE ALL MEN POTENTIAL RAPISTS?
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 conditioned 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:
- 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.
- 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 or when the opportunity suddenly appears.
- 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.
- 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, perhaps unsurprisingly. 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. Many male rapists have identified in the same study, that a dysfunctional relationship existed with their mothers, leading them to see women as controlling, yet vulnerable beings who need to be punished. Many rapists also identified problems with sexual performance in relation to partners and girlfriends. Maybe even, the need for deviant sexual practices was rejected by their partner but forced on the victim.
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.” Of course, these attitudes are extremely played out in cultures and countries where women’s basic rights compared to men are not respected. A large portion of the male population of certain cultures have a medieval view of women and their role in society. This is a different issue on a much larger scale.