I would like to go into a little more detail about the rape switch which is being discussed here as well as the statistical trend in rape rates in the US being discussed here
.
It has been shown again and again that large numbers of males will carry out what by anyone’s definition is rape, under certain circumstances. Yet at the same time, it seems that in most societies it is impossible to imagine that such a large percentage of men would carry out this heinous act.

It is difficult to have much faith in the data for rape frequency, for two reasons. One is definitional and the other is reporting bias. This is a situation where a certain amount of interpretation and, frankly, hard work is needed in order to get a handle on this. You can’t just look it up in a table. The information that is out there is often embedded in politically biased frames. However, there do seem to be two categories of discussant in this area: Those who want the rape numbers to be low, and those that prefer higher numbers. There are cultural, gender, and other features that go along with each of these groups, and that itself is a potential study.

I’m in the second group. I don’t ‘want’ the numbers to be high. I ‘want’ the numbers to become zero. But the numbers are the numbers, and my thinking is that there is a tendency to err in a certain direction such that while we might have inflated rhetoric in certain sociocultural contexts we more often have deflated numbers. So, when we have estimates of there being a minimum of 200% or 300% increase in incidents under certain circumstances, I’m not going to split the difference between zero and 200%. I’m going to figure it’s at least 300%.

As I have stated before, I have never been comfortable with the rape switch idea for a number of reasons that I will not repeat here, but I cannot get away from thinking that it is not an entirely invalid model. One of the reasons I think this is that here is evidence, and off hand I can’t give you citations but this has been discussed endlessly at conferences I’ve attended, for a kind of homicide switch. I really do not think homicide and rape are even remotely the same thing. I do not believe that rape is simply an extension of violence. Yes, it is violent, and yes, understanding either in the context of the other is useful, and yes, they can have similar social meanings (but often they do not). But conflating rape as a form of violence that just happens to involve the sexual act is a very very big mistake. Having said that both are behaviors that I assume are socially controlled and psychologically potentiated. Both are behaviors that are liable to switch-like behavior.

And that is why I think there could be a “rape switch” of sorts. It is fairly easy to discover in a group of subjects or discussants homicidal possibilities … the homicidal fantasy, or the justification of circumstantially defined homicide (anyone will agree that “someone should have killed Hitler”). But it is hard to find evidence of a rapist possibility, a rapist fantasy, or a justification, these days, in Western society. In the past it was easier to find, and it is probably not entirely gone today. The assertion that rape is an appropriate response to a particular woman’s reticence or some other affect is out there. But you will generally have more luck fishing for proto-homicidal thinking than proto-rape thinking.

But, when certain circumstances arise, rape happens far more often than this would predict. This is a switch-like pattern.

Regarding the rape statistics Stephanie Zvan has presented, I just left a comment over there but I’ll give you the gist of it. I think the drop we see is in part a cultural shift that has occurred in relation to the feminist movement. Good for the feminist movement. But I want to present another, testable, hypothesis. What we are seeing is the latter half of a wartime bulge associated with the Vietnam war, which is dissipating through the late 1970s and through the 1980s.

Comments

  1. #1 Mystyk
    June 4, 2009

    …or the justification of circumstantially defined homicide (anyone will agree that “someone should have killed Hitler”).

    I would prefer if someone had just bought his paintings when we had the chance…although once he started invading other countries, it was a bit late for that.

  2. #2 will shetterly
    June 4, 2009

    I would tentatively accept the proposition that rape and violence are both part of a “dominance switch” that can be activated in times when people desperately need to feel they have power over their lives, and the way to get or show power is to make someone else submit.

    I’m curious about the implication of your last sentence. Are you suggesting most rapes are committed by former soldiers, or that ending that war has affected this society’s attitude toward rape?

  3. #3 Greg Laden
    June 4, 2009

    This hypothesis does not specify the nature of the link between a war going on and rape happening in greater frequency.

    Regarding the link between power and rape, I’ve said before that i don’t think it is that strong or simple (though it is not irrelevant). Thornhill and Palmer in their bok “A natural history of Rape” make a pretty good argument that rape is at least to some extent about sex, or is at least involved in overlapping or similar mecanisms. This does not remove power form the picture, the whole “it’s all about power and nothing else” bit does not ring fully true to me.

  4. #4 Jason Thibeault
    June 4, 2009

    One would think this hypothesis of yours is relatively easily testable if you can first prove there’s a quantifiable bump from about the time vets started returning home, and if over their life cycles the amount that it tapers off an equivalent amount as they start to die off / mellow out. I can’t find any statistics any earlier than the graph Stephanie provided though. (Or what I did find earlier, is from way earlier.)

  5. #5 D. C. Sessions
    June 4, 2009

    I would tentatively accept the proposition that rape and violence are both part of a “dominance switch” that can be activated in times when people desperately need to feel they have power over their lives, and the way to get or show power is to make someone else submit.

    I don’t see why it would be necessary to invoke that high a level of cognition. In high environmental stress situations (famine, migration, etc.) the optimal survival strategy changes. Investments in social structures etc. become very bad bets, but “get mine and get it now” (including “reproduce at any opportunity”) still has all the usual benefits and loses a lot of the usual risks.

    I don’t see our distant ancestors responding all that differently, without any need for more than nearly hard-wired behavioral invocations.

    On Greg’s “testable hypothesis” basis, I would expect that either your “feeling in control” or my “environmental stress” hypotheses would predict a serious uptick in both rape and homicide under the current economic conditions. However, I think yours would predict a greater proportional uptick in higher socioeconomic groups than mine. Offhand I don’t know of a good way to compare them, though.

  6. #6 catgirl
    June 4, 2009

    In high environmental stress situations (famine, migration, etc.) the optimal survival strategy changes.

    I think this is a really good point. Clearly, functioning in a society has been tremendously successful for the human species. But if society is no longer working out for you because there’s just not enough food to go around, etc. it’s reasonable that people might have a decrease in their “functioning within a society” mindset. It’s probably not a conscious choice or even as simple as “get mine while I can”, but more like a change in attitude about cooperating with a society.

    Anyway, I’d be interested to see what affect the current war is having on rape rates.

  7. #7 will shetterly
    June 4, 2009

    Greg, agreed that “it’s all about power and nothing else” is simplistic, but I’d always want to include dominance issues when talking about why people do what they do. I should go hunting statistics on rape in egalitarian and hierarchical societies.

    D.C., my problem with the theory that men rape in wartime to increase the population are, I think, these:

    1. It’s not just men, as Lynndie England illustrates.

    2. The nature of rape in wartime is often so brutal that raped women of reproductive age cannot possibly bear children, and the raped include girls, boys, and men who couldn’t reproduce. Something is going on that’s not about continuing the species.

  8. #8 D. C. Sessions
    June 4, 2009

    Will:

    D.C., my problem with the theory that men rape in wartime to increase the population are, I think, these:

    That wasn’t my point. I was more along the observation that when society collapses, people go feral — in lots of ways, rape being just one.

    Compare to the Thirty Years War.

  9. #9 Ana Arguelles
    June 4, 2009

    I was drugged and raped by a coworker who carefully planned the whole thing; as it turned out, he and others had done and will undoubtedly continue to do the same thing to other women. There was no attempt at concensual sex. You can say that he is a true rapist rather than like most men a switch rapists. I think what’s common to men in war and all rapists is the lack of consequences and it is a power trip. “I can do this to you and there is nothing you can do about it.” Perhaps it is a way of asserting some control when a man feels powerless either swept up in the large uncontrolable events of war or in a modern society where women have obtained some degree of autonomy.

  10. #10 Rystefn
    June 4, 2009

    I disagree. I’m more inclined to think the mentality of a rapist is more similar to the mentality of a mugger: “his is what I want, and I’m just going to take it,” without a thought for the victim. Sure, there’s often going to be an element of feeling powerful about it in both cases, but I think it’s likely a strong secondary motivator to repeat the action rather than a primary cause.

  11. #11 catgirl
    June 4, 2009

    Rystefn, I respectfully disagree with you. While sexual desire plays a part in rape, it’s only a small part. There are plenty of rapists who are young, attractive, charming, and could certainly get plenty of consensual sex. There are also plenty of rich rapists who could afford to hire prostitutes if they really just wanted sex. As Ana pointed out, many rapists don’t even bother to try to have consensual sex. Then of course there’s the fact that sex is usually more enjoyable for the man if the woman is into it. While it’s possible that some rapes are primarily due to a sexual desire and lack of regard for the victim’s feelings, it’s common for rapists to actually enjoy the fact the victim is suffering. Of course, this isn’t an either/or problem and there is surely more than one factor involved. But I think that power, revenge, and punishment are primary motivators of rape.

  12. #12 DuWayne
    June 4, 2009

    Heh, the comment I dropped on the last “rape switch” thread is valid here too. But I will truncate it here…

    The reason I think that this idea is not valid, is because while I believe that all men are capable of rape – or all humans are capable of atrocities, for men to decide to rape, a certain set of variables must be met. The problem is that those variables are not the same for every man. If they were, then all men who go to war, for example, would rape, if the opportunity presented itself. And while large numbers might, it is clear that all men do not in fact rape under those variables.

    This means that not all men become a rapist if those conditions are met, whether they rape or not. This means that the men who do not rape, require a different set of variables to rape and thus become a rapist.

  13. #13 the real meme
    June 4, 2009

    Not to mention that the rape switch hypothesis would be seriously challenged by the gay gene hypothesis…

  14. #14 will shetterly
    June 4, 2009

    D.C., apologies if I’m being thick here, but if wartime rape isn’t “optimal survival strategy” for the species, then how is it “going feral” but not related to dominance? I know I should read more about this, but my understanding is that when other mammals rape in situations that aren’t likely to result in young–homosexual rape being the easiest example to identify, I suppose–the point seems to be dominance.

    Ana, I’m with you until your final clause. As women gain more autonomy, do they rape more? Lynndie England is the dark side of putting women into traditional power roles–she’s another example of “power corrupts.” When we talk of a “rape switch,” should we be talking of one for men and women equally? (I did a little googling of female sex offenders, and the first results were too mixed to be useful now.)

  15. #15 seks
    June 4, 2009

    I know it’s crazy! God likes science and doesn’t like to do anything that someone else can do SO he took Mary from the past and put her in the future where he gave a sample of his DNA to Dr. Nefertiel (he is a half breed human/orfald.. the orfalds where humans that left New Earth a couple hundred thousand years prior and ended up becoming a new species (divergent evolution or some balogna) ANYWAYS! they came back oen day and made some sterile babies that were almost always way smarter than everybody else OMG!) so… they got Gods DNA and made a super God babie (Jesus) and then God put them back in time to Old Earth… it’s all so funny and proven with proof and evidentally there is a lot of evidence to back it up… It’s more than just a theory, you know?

  16. #16 sevişme
    June 4, 2009

    Establishment Clause, especially where public authority undertakes or is reasonably perceived to have undertaken to give one religious belief official approval or approval over other and this tension is particularly vexing in a public school where attendance is compulsory and moral and social values are being developed along with basic learning skills. In seeking to address that tension, elementary school administrators and teachers should be given latitude within a range of reasonableness related to preserving the school’s educational goals. In this case, the school’s actions were not unreasonable

  17. #17 Rystefn
    June 4, 2009

    catgirl@11: I must disagree with your disagreement. My understanding is that most acts are rape are not of the premeditated grab-someone-in-the-dark variety, nor of the premeditated drug-someone-for-the-purpose-of-fucking-the-unconscious-body variety. Mostly, they’re of the we-were-making-out-and-didn’t-want-to-stop variety.

    To me, at least, that speaks far more of a mentality of “I will have what I want when I want it” and possibly “who do you think you are, trying to back out now?” than of “I want to go exert dominance over someone.”

    Your rich, attractive, and charming rapists back up my hypothesis just as much as yours, since most of those types of people have an inflated sense of entitlement, and for them, the rape is basically the equivalent of a child throwing a tantrum until mommy buys the toy he wants.

    As far as men liking sex more if the other person is into it, I’ll give you that as a general rule, but have you ever wondered why that is? Sure, there’s the whole empathy thing, and I won’t deny how strong a motivator that can be, but there’s also the simple physical reasons: she’s moving and making noises. I’ve no direct experience, but my gut tells me that applies for the rapist as well.

  18. #18 Greg Laden
    June 4, 2009

    DuWayne, maybe, but your assumption of relatively simple causal relationships maybe …. oversimplified.

  19. #19 DuWayne
    June 4, 2009

    How so?

  20. #20 DuWayne
    June 4, 2009

    Or more to the point, how is it more simplistic than the idea that because a given set a variables will cause a lot of men to rape, all men who fit those variables is a rapist?

  21. #21 D. C. Sessions
    June 4, 2009

    D.C., apologies if I’m being thick here, but if wartime rape isn’t “optimal survival strategy” for the species, then how is it “going feral” but not related to dominance?

    If you’ll pardon me, “fuck the species!” It’s the selfish replicator at work here, and don’t expect finely-reasoned plans at that level. In a situation where tomorrow is in serious doubt, any prospect of replication (or the illusion, or just going through the motions) is better than none. Add to that the fact that these are extremely basic responses, suitable for execution by freakin’ birds and reptiles; sexual reproduction functionality isn’t exactly a new feature in our species. Rude, crude, and lacking subtlety isn’t half of it.

    I know I should read more about this, but my understanding is that when other mammals rape in situations that aren’t likely to result in young–homosexual rape being the easiest example to identify, I suppose–the point seems to be dominance.

    And I’m not arguing that dominance is out of the picture. “Feral” survival strategies certainly favor being the big dog of the pack. Assertion of dominance by any means possible is pro-survival in conditions like that, and you can certainly get lots of nasty variants. All that gray matter certainly lends itself to creative variations on basic response patterns. For instance, the top dog can reinforce his status in the peckering order by reserving all of the bottom-rung victims and then “giving” them to those in the middle. Species with fewer communication resources might have a harder time with that stunt.

    What I’m suggesting is that there’s no need to postulate a specific “rape switch.” Rather, a “feral response set” encompassing rape and other short-term asocial strategies, often of a brute non-thinking nature, seems to account for a lot.

  22. #22 Greg Laden
    June 4, 2009

    DuWayne. No, the switch idea is totally simple, probably overly simple. But how bad that idea is has nothing to do with how good or bad another idea is!

    What I mean simply is that the causality can be interfered with, or mimiced (by analogy) in either direction. But what we see as causal elements are not really the causal elements.

    For instance, war is not a causal element. It is just a word for a set of overarching conditions that sometimes lead to the causal conditions (sometimes/often).

    In fact, the post-war rape societies are rape societies (maybe) because the conditions that can make rape common in war are still prevalent in those societies. (Actually, they are probably not really “post” war in many ways.)

  23. #23 catgirl
    June 4, 2009

    Mostly, they’re of the we-were-making-out-and-didn’t-want-to-stop variety.

    Well, I know a victim of this sort of rape (I also know the rapist too), and she didn’t even want to make out with him in the first place. So she protested and he kept going. After a certain point, it wasn’t about him wanting sex, it was about him winning. He wanted revenge on her for daring to refuse him, but even more than that he just wanted to get something that he couldn’t have. It’s a lot like when a toddler throws a tantrum to get a cookie after their parents say no. The toddler doesn’t care about the cookie anymore, but just wants to prove his or her independence. I think rape situations change from “wanting sex” to “wanting to win” pretty fast. I really don’t think our theories are mutually exclusive, but there’s a lot more to rape than just wanting sex and not having any self-control or empathy.

  24. #24 Greg Laden
    June 4, 2009

    There is evidence that mass rape and wartime rape is reproductively oriented behavior, which is summarized by Thornhill and Palmer. There is also evidence that this kind of rape is totally ineffective as such. This does not surprise me. If there are evolved mechanisms here (at all, even vaguely related) why should they operate in a way that makes sense in the utterly unnatural setting of state sponsored genocidal warfare?

  25. #25 Rystefn
    June 4, 2009

    Catgirl, I never said it was THE reason. I just said I think it’s the PRIMARY reason. I am of the opinion that people who say “it’s not about sex, it’s about power” are wrong, and I think many of the people who think it’s about both tend to overweight the power aspect and ignore the sex aspect more than they should.

    Also, if any struggle goes on for a certain amount of time, it become about winning. That’s just part of the nature of conflict and the human mindstate.

  26. #26 DuWayne
    June 4, 2009

    I don’t see it Greg. I mean I see the simplistic causality, but my assertion is exactly the objection you are making – or very close to it. We are using “war” and in my other analogy “infidelity” to represent an implied larger set of variables. It is impossible to express all the actual variables involved in the actualization of any individual’s potential to rape in a blog comment, or even a larger post – arguably an entire book wouldn’t provide enough space.

    But there are overarching variables that lead directly to many other variables coming into play that will often lead individuals to rape. Your assertion was, that when those variables come into play, everyone experiencing them is now a rapist, whether they rape or not. My counter to that is that the only people who become rapists under those variables, are the individuals who actually rape. That for everyone who doesn’t rape under those generalized variables, a different set of variables is required. That unless the variables which will cause an individual to rape come into play, that individual is incapable of rape and cannot be considered a rapist.

    This is true of literally any human behavior. Unless specific variables are met, humans will not do anything. If I have to pee while watching a movie at home, I will go to the bathroom. But if I happen to be taking a test when I need to go pee, I will wait until the test is over to go. A different set of variables – even though one is the same, lead to a different result.

  27. #27 Greg Laden
    June 4, 2009

    Your assertion was, that when those variables come into play, everyone experiencing them is now a rapist, whether they rape or not.

    I pretty much backed down from that because it became a semantic argument and is off the point.

    All I need for a switch is numbers. If you take 10,000 17 years old boys and watch them grow up in the suburbs of Hartford Connecticut and count how many commit forced rape, you get one number. Take the same exact kids down to the recruiting station and send them to the jungles of South Viet Nam in 1967 in combat rolls for 18 months, most of them will eventually engage in at least one rape or facilitate others doing it, and many will do it again and again and again.

    That’s a switch turning on that otherwise would not have turned on.

    You can probably get the same kids do do the same thing in some other context where the proximate variables are the same.

  28. #28 DuWayne
    June 4, 2009

    And my point is that the numbers are irrelevant. The fact is that for some of those kids, the variables that will make them rape haven’t been met under those circumstances and until the variables are met that will cause them to rape, they are not capable of raping. How then has that switch been turned on for them. Only the variables that will actually cause an individual to rape are the “switch” for that individual.

    I don’t care if the number is 99.999% will rape in those circumstances – that still wouldn’t make the fraction that didn’t rapists or mean that their switches are now on.

  29. #29 Stephanie Z
    June 4, 2009

    The numbers may be irrelevant to you, DuWayne. They very much are not to me.

  30. #30 DuWayne
    June 4, 2009

    Stephanie -

    I am the last person to suggest that women or anyone else, should assume that any other person is a safe person to be around for whatever reason. That is completely different than saying they are something they are not.

  31. #31 Greg Laden
    June 4, 2009

    I don’t care if the number is 99.999% will rape in those circumstances – that still wouldn’t make the fraction that didn’t rapists or mean that their switches are now on.

    I agree.

  32. #32 Rohkna
    June 4, 2009

    DuWayne, perhaps it would help to think of the word ‘rapist’ as used by Greg like the word aroused. For example, you are not aroused, you see a beautiful woman/man, as the case may be, you become aroused. Greg wasn’t intending to accuse anyone of, following the arousal analogy, ‘copulation’, rather he was observing that war tends ‘arouse’ soldiers.

  33. #33 Greg Laden
    June 4, 2009

    Rohkna seems to be channeling me better than I can.

  34. #34 DuWayne
    June 4, 2009

    It doesn’t make it any less fucking bullshit.

    Look at it this way. I am walking down the street at night and there is no one else on the street besides a women who doesn’t know me. Does the fact that this is a situation that makes it more likely for a women to be attacked, make me a rapist now? I would certainly expect and hope that she is going to assume that I am a potential attacker and act accordingly, but that doesn’t make me an attacker.

    The fact that a given set of circumstances causes most people to rape, doesn’t mean that everyone is capable of raping in those circumstances. And I am using capable for a very good reason. The problem with this assertion is that it assumes that everyone who goes to war is capable of committing atrocities in war. That is absolutely untrue. There are soldiers who not only can’t rape, even in war, they can’t not intervene if they witness it. Can you honestly say they’re a fucking rapist?

  35. #35 Jason Thibeault
    June 4, 2009

    I’m cross-posting this. Yell at me if you want.

    Everyone who’s arguing against Greg’s use of the term “rapist” in context of anyone with that “capable of rape” switch turned on, seems to be coming at it from the angle that the word itself already has a defined meaning – being, someone who has, or has attempted to rape. I’m still trying to fight off a linguistic prescriptivist image (how’s that coming along so far?), but it seems to me that words mean what they mean because we all agree that’s what they mean.

    Everyone arguing against it is pretty much saying they don’t agree that’s what “rapist” means. So, I’d have to say the best courses of action to mediate this (totally pointless) side-dispute are either to pick another word that means “potential rapist”, or use the phrase “potential rapist”, or coin a new word. Coining a new word comes with the disadvantage that it does not have all the stigma that the old word does, which is why horrible evil companies try to rename themselves to rebrand and build up their images. Also, abandoning the meme of “someone who has the rape switch turned on is de facto a rapist” has the disadvantage of hobbling Greg’s argument, while he does have a point — that there is some switch that is being turned on that factors heavily in whether or not a person is capable of rape. So, I’d personally love it if we could either just suggest a new word and move on with the real argument, or everyone just accepts that we’re not going to get anywhere with the semantic sidetrack. At this point it seems rather futile to keep going like we are.

  36. #36 Rohkna
    June 4, 2009

    No. There are also soldiers who rape who wouldn’t have had they not become soldiers. Thus the reason for the original post.

  37. #37 DuWayne
    June 4, 2009

    Let me explain this from another perspective. This notion that everyone in war is a rapist, from the perspective of, they are “turned on” or however you want to put it, shows a naive grasp of how the human mind works. Different people have different reactions to the same stimuli and this is no different. The fact that the vast majority may react a certain way, doesn’t mean that given that stimuli, everyone is prepared to react that way.

    The human mind is more complicated than that and those kind of generalizations are a logical fallacy. It’s no different than saying all men will react to a certain type of pornography a certain way. Sure, the vast majority of men might get an erection from it – that doesn’t mean the one’s who didn’t are turned on.

    Given the premise of this generalization, all men are rapists. Even if most of us don’t happen to commit rape under a given set of circumstances, some men do. So in those circumstances all men are rapists – given that rape happens in contexts that none of us can avoid, we’re all rapists who are capable of raping under those circumstances – some of us just don’t happen to do it. It is a completely useless generalization.

  38. #38 DuWayne
    June 4, 2009

    No. There are also soldiers who rape who wouldn’t have had they not become soldiers.

    Then why not say that in the first place, instead of arguing that by virtue of going to war, everyone is suddenly capable of rape?

  39. #39 becca
    June 4, 2009

    Greg- I’ll grant you rape has a lot in common with sex, and not all rape has a lot in common with murder. I don’t think that necessarily invalidates the ‘rape is about power’ model- there’s a lot of sex that is about power (in all manner of complicated ways…)

    “Then why not say that in the first place, instead of arguing that by virtue of going to war, everyone is suddenly capable of rape?” Because everyone wants to believe they are the ones without the switch. That may be detrimental toward thinking of what motivates these rapists and how we can change that.

  40. #40 Stephanie Z
    June 4, 2009

    Bless you, Becca.

  41. #41 Donna B.
    June 4, 2009

    http://www.allacademic.com//meta/p_mla_apa_research_citation/2/0/8/7/6/pages208767/p208767-1.php

    That may be a really crappy paper, I’m not qualified to judge. The abstract is interesting in light of the reasons rape is more likely to occur during wars, especially “modern” civil wars.

    “Explaining Sexual Violence During Civil War: Evidence from the Sierra Leone War (1991-2002) Dara Kay Cohen Department of Political Science Stanford University August 16, 2007 Prepared for the 2007 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association Chicago, Illinois DRAFT: PLEASE DO NOT CITE WITHOUT AUTHOR’S PERMISSION Why, even within the context of the same civil war, do some combatant groups commit widespread rape, while others never turn to sexual violence? Why do some civil wars experience mass rape while others do not? Using Sierra Leone as a case study, I argue that rape during that conflict served two essential functions: (1) as a weapon, strategically employed in key locations and times to terrorize the population and (2) as an important part of the socialization process for members in some types of combatant groups. Drawing on dozens of original interviews of both non-combatants and ex-combatants collected during five months of fieldwork in Sierra Leone, as well as a newly available household survey of wartime human rights violations, I find that rape was only partly a military strategy. In addition to its value in terrorizing a population, rape was also an unusually successful tool used to facilitate bonding between members of combatant groups. I develop a theory of rape as a socialization tool and perform initial tests of the theory both on microlevel data within Sierra Leone and in a cross-national sample of recent civil wars.”

    Someone somewhere on one of the “rape switch” threads commented that the North Vietnamese Army rarely raped. I suspect (with absolutely no evidence to back me up!) that the NVA felt a social kinship with the south that was not felt by the U.S. soldiers to either group.

    Another civil war involving U.S. troops where rape was a different sort of problem is the U.S. civil war. While before the war, black women were at great risk of being raped, during the war the risk of rape increased for all women — though not by much.

    For one thing, terrorizing civilians was never a tactic in use by either side. The social kinship factor, if valid, must have played a role there.

    However, the part about rape as a male-bonding thing… now THAT’S scary. I can see how it might apply in some situations and war isn’t necessarily one of them — the drunken frat-party and some gangs.

    For what it’s worth, as a young woman in the late 60s and early 70s, the only time I felt rape was a possibility was in my brief foray into protesting the war while in college. These groups were generally organized and ran by males and females were “used” for whatever “talent” they might have. After that experience, I dated quite a few vets and was never treated with anything less than respect. I told several “no”.

    Perhaps I was just lucky.

  42. #42 DuWayne
    June 4, 2009

    Because everyone wants to believe they are the ones without the switch. That may be detrimental toward thinking of what motivates these rapists and how we can change that.

    But telling them that all of them have it, is likely to convince most of them that they can safely ignore everything you have to say, except to argue that you’re wrong.

    Look at the reaction that Rystefn, a vet has had to this concept. Do you honestly believe that there are many soldiers out there, who are likely to react any differently than he has?

    And beyond that, I have a visceral reaction to dishonesty and I am not alone in that. Too, I have a really visceral reaction to logical fallacies – that being more a result of having fallen prey to them far too many times to be comfortable with not arguing voraciously against them.

  43. #43 Rystefn
    June 4, 2009

    To make this clear: I am quite aware that, given a certain set of conditions, I could very much commit acts I currently consider unthinkable. People in extreme situations do extreme things. People who lack this awareness are more likely to become slaves to circumstance, as they’re living in denial about who an what they are.

    I’m not arguing that the circumstances of war don’t bring out the capacity to rape in some people. Even many people. I’m saying the people who retain and exercise the self-control to not do so, and those for whom these circumstances to not constitute their particular trigger should not be referred to as rapists.

    Partly (and not a small part) this is personal offense at being called a rapist when I am not one. It is also partly because there are people out there who may well think to themselves “If I’m already being labeled a rapist…” If that line of thought pushes even one person over the line from potential rapist to actual rapist, then anyone who argued for it will have committed a great evil.

  44. #44 Greg Laden
    June 4, 2009

    Rystefn,

    Then we are definitely not agreeing on this. I think you are missing the interesting (and scary) part.

  45. #45 Rystefn
    June 4, 2009

    No, I’m reading the interesting and scary part. I just happen to think that applying inaccurate labels can’t help, and can cause harm. In fact, I’d argue that it already has. I’d like to take this opportunity to refer you to Wil Wheaton’s Rule Number One: Don’t be a Dick.

    If you can make your point without calling people who’ve never raped anyone rapists, you probably shouldn’t. If you’ve already done so, you should probably just apologize and move on rather than trying to pretend it’s not important. It’s pretty clearly important to me, and it may well be important to other, less vocal people.

  46. #46 erin
    June 5, 2009

    “What I’m suggesting is that there’s no need to postulate a specific “rape switch.” Rather, a “feral response set” encompassing rape and other short-term asocial strategies, often of a brute non-thinking nature, seems to account for a lot.

    Posted by: D. C. Sessions | June 4, 2009 5:22 PM”

    I think he’s on to something here.

    The idea still accepts the idea of a “rape switch,” but as a reflexive and natural response to a set of specific conditions. It also allows for other types of violence, and other actions related to other primal urges.

    I really wish I could explain this better, but in my mind it comes together well. For some people the switch might lead them to act out in other ways, depending on the circumstance. It also makes it easier to explain to people the idea that this “switch” or potential is present in every person, but depends entirely on the individual. Personal creed and morality, biological make-up, mental health, life experiences, and many more factors contribute to whether person A will do X in situation B, and whether persons B-Z will react the same way or differently.

  47. #47 Greg Laden
    June 5, 2009

    There is a fundamental difference between generalized mechanisms such as DC is suggesting and the rape switch sort of idea, which is a specific mechanism. This difference is central to the “darwinian” vs “Evol psych” debate. I tend towards the former. I have been brought to the rape switch hypothesis kicking and screaming, and I am still not there.

    However, having a reasonable sounding alternative does not make the altnerative more likely. What distinguishes between the two and what hypotheses can be tested to help decide? So far only those I’ve provided (eveyone else is arm waiving, I’m afraid) and these arguments seem to keep suggesting the rape switch.

    I’ll have something more later this weekend that clears up some of the sensless confusion that has developed. Meanwhile, my remarks at Almost Diamonds stand as my most current thinking on this topic, until I’ve caught at least one large mouth bass…

    http://almostdiamonds.blogspot.com/2009/06/when-is-rapist.html

  48. #48 DuWayne
    June 5, 2009

    Holy shit, I totally missed that comment by DC Sessions…This is what happens when I am trying to deal with a discussion that’s happening on a few blogs and through several posts…

    DC -

    You’re actually coming close to where I am, with:

    What I’m suggesting is that there’s no need to postulate a specific “rape switch.” Rather, a “feral response set” encompassing rape and other short-term asocial strategies, often of a brute non-thinking nature, seems to account for a lot.

    I think that as long as you aren’t claiming some absolute set of variables would cause this response in enough individuals that it becomes a generalized “rule” I completely agree. I am not sure that I don’t agree even if you are specifying a rule like generalization, because it is clear that people raised in a certain social and cultural context are extremely prone to rape in war – enough that it can be generalized. I think that it may be reasonable to postulate that there is a particular response that variables usually created by war will produce, the expression of which is dependent on social and cultural conditioning.

    I am going to ponder this while I am removing some caulk and will probably be quoting you and using it in my next post on this – which will be responding more clearly to Greg’s exhaustive comment on my blog, than I did in comments.

  49. #49 the real me
    June 5, 2009

    The really preposterous thing is that saying there is a rape switch in war is like saying there is a prostitution switch any and every time there is a wallet or some financial or emotional security around, or that their is a fuck-any-and-all-comers-for-food security mechanism in *all women*. You just can’t generalize.

  50. #50 the real me
    June 5, 2009

    or worse, it’s like saying that men are something like wardogs, and in which case, the opposite ‘truths’ about women would be true “women have a lick childrens asses mechanism–as soon as they are around children, they can’t help themselves, except to sniff at and lick childrens butts. Women must have a lick childrens asses and genitals switch.”

  51. #51 Jason Thibeault
    June 5, 2009

    The really preposterous thing is that saying there is a rape switch in war is like saying there is a prostitution switch any and every time there is a wallet or some financial or emotional security around, or that their is a fuck-any-and-all-comers-for-food security mechanism in *all women*. You just can’t generalize.

    But suggesting that every male rapist, or even a preponderance of male rapists, is the result of a woman touching him or licking his ass and genitals when he was a boy, is acceptable?

  52. #52 the real me
    June 5, 2009

    That’s the point, Jason. And I didn’t stop there, if you notice, I left room for the fact that every woman has a child molestation switch. It is as likely as a rape switch in men, based on the evidence, and the biological impulses, or instinctual ‘switches’ of mammals.

    Aceptable? Who am I to attempt to lay down rules? Although the rules are clear: always frame discussions in terms of males as rapists, wait for the sparks to fly, watch the blog hit-counter, and rake in the pennies–but just don’t mention the other side of the coin, which is women as likely pedophiles.

    No, I really don’t think either is acceptable, but in the rhetoric, it is as likely.

  53. #53 Jason Thibeault
    June 5, 2009

    I don’t think you’re just using that example to illustrate a point though. You used it elsewhere to suggest that the populace of Liberia might have these predilections toward child molestation. And you often rant about how a matriarchal conspiracy is behind all of society’s ills, so it wouldn’t surprise me that you really do believe this. You also falsely claim that discussions about rape are always framed (around here) as being males raping females. The soldiers in this warzone example are predominantly male, the victims are predominantly female (but I’m assuming not always). The example of Lynndie England was brought up (and duly ignored). Likewise, I am (usually) careful to frame my arguments in gender-neutral terms because I am as aware as you are that rapists are not constrained to one gender. Except that now you ARE arguing that rapists are constrained to a gender, males, after females molested them as children. So you’re arguing that all child molesters are females, that child molestation leads to becoming a rapist, and that all rapists are males, all at a shot.

  54. #54 Ana Arguelles
    June 6, 2009

    I don’t think there is a reduction in rape. I think the way rape is committed has changed. It has become easier to get away with it. There is the use of drugs to commit rape which means women usually don’t even report because there are no signs of physical force and unable to provide testimony of what happened because there is no memory. Many rape drugs are out of the system or not tested for and give the appearance of drunkeness.
    Rape is not a sucessful reproductive strategy. In humans to merely impregnate does not offer a very good chance of assuring one’s DNA lives on. A pregnant woman is very vulnerable in our “wild” evolutionary environment of the past and shunning or stoning to death of an unwed mother or a rape victim is pretty common even today thus making the baby’s and her survival even less likely. There is also rape of babies, children, grandmothers and men. Wife and child beaters are also in the same category as rapists even if there is no sexual component to their aggression. It stems for them from a feeling of inadequacy and powerlessness in the wider world.
    Rape as weapon of war allows individuals who would have never engaged in such behavior to be in an environment where such actions are allowed and even rewarded. It is not meant as a reproductive strategy but to demoralize and destroy the enemy. Perhaps the reproductive strategy lies in keeping other’s DNA from surviving and competing for resources with the rapist’s.
    What about outside of war? We live in increasingly anonymous societies which allow individuals to hide unacceptable activities and/or to feel supported and enabled by participating in a community of like-minded individuals scattered throughout the world through the use of the internet. The demeaning of women, “it’s all about me” attitude, the institutional apathy, rejection and attack of rape victims, the inaction when a rapists is identified takes any fear of consequences as a deterrent. Simple costs and benefits analysis. Who is the defective individual from nature’s point of view the rapist or the victim? Individuals who believe in the rule of law and in the innate goodness of the majority of individuals are the ones who are mistaken and need to restructure their beliefs grounded in reality in order to survive effectively. The victim is upholding their end of the societal contract and the rapist is not and society is not. Seeing society as a contract for survival and the individual participates and contributes in expectation of certain guarantees. Therein the victim becomes the defective one in nature as she/he is relying on someone other than themselves to safeward their physical and psychological integrity. It was me that was the equivalent of a dinosaur destined for extinction. It was not a matter of reasonable doubt for a rapist. The expectation for help, goodwill or justice is wrong and once that is understood then one stops being the victim not just of the rape but of society at large.

  55. #55 the real meme
    June 8, 2009

    Jason: “You used it elsewhere to suggest that the populace of Liberia might have these predilections toward child molestation.”

    Your language is western language, and very judgemental–biased, as you have been trained to accept such terminology at the expense of objectivity.

    I have consistently–and you can hunt me down elsewhere on the internet for that fact–consistently asked for data, suggested a need for alternative hypothesis, and been routinely dismissed in my quest.

    A “conspiracy” as you suggest, is not my own suggestion, but rather a collusion of biased reporters, and biased ppl who know better, but more often than not refuse to divulge data.

    Most importantly, my hypothesis is not laden with judgmental or necessarily ‘blaming’ terminology. The thesis is simple: I suggest over and over and over that perhaps maternal socio-genital practices contribute to later violence in males,for which males alone are blamed, and also, I sugest, that this contributes to a culture of violence, and also the lack of males reporting their own rapes, or other violations against them.

    Is that so hard to “get”? I would imagine that yourself, a self-reported survivor of FALSE RAPE ALLEGATIONS MIGHT FIND THAT INTERESTING IN THE VERY LEAST, and much in the interest of your potential male progeny to know. False allegations, my friend, are womens violence *in lieu of physical size* with which they can otherwise violate males; that violence manifesting itself in the pardigms of power that uphold false rape allegations at your, and other mens expense.

    That same physical size–and I also suggest psychological control over males–is present in childhood, and weilded quite effectively by women who create rapists, and soldiers who rape.

  56. #56 Lexi
    August 11, 2009

    You say people fantasize about homocidal acts but not about rape?
    Have you EVER looked at porn?
    Men jack off by the trillions to women who are held down and fucked and it’s sold as ‘consensual sex’ Male dominated porn is the norm. Male dominated sex in movies, films and tv shows is the norm. Rape scenes in movies are over sexualized- so to create “sexy rape scenes” Rape is considered a turn on to men in over 99 percent of pornography. Not to say all men are turned on by male dominance, but they’re taught they should through the porn industry and through movie after movie. 1/3 of all films released in the past ten years contain a rape scene. why has no one noticed this is a problem?