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.