Rape

June is almost over, and with nary a comment from this blog on rape. But June is the month we normally discuss this important problem. So to comply with that idea, I’m going to point you to a couple of posts from last year. If you’ve not read them, please have a look. Especially read the comments. Things got ugly, but they also got interesting.

A rape in progress

“I am a scientist observing the culture of the Namoyoma people. I am sitting in a shady spot just outside the village, writing up some notes, and I observe a disturbing event. Four men are trying to drag a young woman from the road into the nearby forest, and from what I hear them saying, they intend to rape her….”

A rape in progress, Part II

“Imagine a society in which one woman in every three is raped, usually by a man she knows, consider the consequences of living in a society where one third of all women are beaten during pregnancy and 35 percent of women using emergency medical facilities are battered.”

Is there a rape switch?

“The switch” is a term I first heard from a student, who wrote a term paper for me on this in 1993. The basic idea of a switch would be supported if more or less randomly (though age biased, likely) selected men, put into a certain situation, tended to commit rape on a much larger scale … or more exactly, a much larger percentage of the men rape under those circumstances …

Comments

  1. #1 sailor
    June 30, 2010

    The rape “switch” idea seems ridiculous to me. What does it mean? Do this and a man is bound to rape? That is as insulting as the Muslim idea that a woman has to be clothed head to toe to avoid men’s uncontrollable urges. “It was her fault judge, she flipped my switch”
    Clearly some men rape, The incidence of rape is likely to increase dramatically in situations where it get encouraged by society. But even in the most “rape favorable” situations, there are sure to be some men who would not rape.
    One thing is for sure, we manage to coexist peacefully because of society. It does not take much to lift the lid off our apparent decency, look at the recent torture issue. A lot of people ended up torturing when the societal conditions and the president of the united states condoned it. What’s the difference? Or is there a torture switch too?

  2. #2 Pinky
    July 1, 2010

    Greg, when I first read your words: “Men, by and large, have a rape switch”, my mind immediately remembered a university(s?) where women’s groups posted a sign titled (to the effect of):”These Men Are Rapists.” Written below that title were the names of every man on campus. The groups logic was that all men are rapists; now or in the future.

    I think we all agree rape is a terrible wrong and we all should be working to reduce it to as near zero as possible all around the world, in both peace or war.

    I understand rape is not about sex, its’ about dominance or power by violence or implied threat. Men and women are both capable of committing rape.

    The reason the male gender is responsible for rapes during a war is that the vast majority of warriors have been men during human history.

    Now the US military is slowly starting to include more women. With an increased amount of women being indoctrinated to see the enemy as sub human, (its’ difficult to get American youth to abandon their inhibitions against killing unless some serious deprogramming happens), we will see an increased amount of rapes and other war crimes done by women.

    I know thats a bold prediction, but hear me out. Remember Abu Ghraib? One of the soldiers, Lynndie England, was a young woman who joined in the worst of the atrocities, the nature of some I define as rape. England’s guilt is heightened in my eyes because she did not even have to be near the prison cells. She worked in administration in another part of the compound.

    What I am trying to say is that 99.99% of the people reading this post and commenting agree that rape is an evil that should be aggressively eradicated from society. Clinging to a statement like “All men have a rape switch”, even if its’ a metaphor, is counter productive if a sizable segment of society see it as an insult. Is that specific concept necessary to effect a cure or can it be dropped so all can stand shoulder to shoulder in the fight?

    I read the three seminal posts. The same arguments thread through all three. Everyone understands their position, fine, now start discussing how we will fix the problem.

  3. #3 Greg Laden
    July 1, 2010

    Sailor, I would say of the rape switch that 1) If there is such a thing it certainly is not inevitable or even universal and 2) anyone who thinks they can be sure of who does/does not have one (or if it would go on or not under certain circumstances) may be overestimating their own abilities to know these things.

    Also, suspect a lot of people who think it is a bad idea think so mainly because it feels bad. It may actually be a “good” idea in that it could be true. The evidence for it is not especially weak.

    Pinky: “I understand rape is not about sex, its’ about dominance or power by violence or implied threat. ” That is often stated and it does seem to fit the pattern, but there are also suggestions that rape can be about reproduction as well.

    (If we are going to devalue the “rape switch” idea, which many people want to do, then by default the reproductive strategy theory gains in its place to some extent.)

    Now the US military is slowly starting to include more women. With an increased amount of women being indoctrinated to see the enemy as sub human, (its’ difficult to get American youth to abandon their inhibitions against killing unless some serious deprogramming happens), we will see an increased amount of rapes and other war crimes done by women.

    Yes, it is a bold prediction as you say, but it is a prediction and one that is testable. One of the problems with rape and wartime rape in particular is that we really know too little, and have poorly formulated and badly tested theories, yet many people have very strongly held beliefs and they get really mad if you challenge them. Yes, your prediction may not be a happy one but it is worth keeping on the table.

    “Clinging to a statement like “All men have a rape switch”, even if its’ a metaphor, is counter productive if a sizable segment of society see it as an insult.”

    Nobody is clinging. The statement is not a metaphor. It is a specific hypothesis that has been proposed, and for which there is supporting evidence. Yes, rape is pretty insulting, but if something roughly like a rape switch is real, it does not matter much how insulting it may seem.

    “,,,now start discussing how we will fix the problem.”

    Well, yes, that is what we need to do. (But not by pretending.)

  4. #4 Pinky
    July 1, 2010

    Greg, thanks for replying.

    I recently read “Sex Crimes”, by Alice Vachss, a former “prosecutor in the Queens district attorney’s office–who specialized in cases of rape, incest, and child sexual abuse…”

    Vachss worked hard to improve sex crimes prosecution in New York. She describes an uphill battle against the very people who should have been on her side in reforming how sex crimes were handled in Queens. She fought with capricious judges; chief prosecutors (who were often corrupt and always politically appointed hacks); lazy prosecutors; attorneys who got their guilty clients off through shenanigans and stupid, bigoted jurors.

    Of the problems she wrote about, two stand out as the major problems:

    1) Victims were treated horribly. They were ignored and not informed when their case changed status. They would appear in court over and over to hear the judge postpone the case – delay is to the defense’s advantage – witnesses become unavailable, key players might die, etc. The biggest misuse of court delays is to cause the victim to become emotionally exhausted and decline to participate further.

    When the victim does have her day in court; she experiences the emotional strain of having her attacker sit and stare at her as she testifies. Although current law forbids using a victims background, the attacker’s attorney often finds a way to slip it in. If the attorney finds out the attacker and the victim had any contact prior to the crime (even if she only served him coffee once in a cafe), he/she will try to convince a jury they knew each other well and say the rape accusation was post coital regrets.

    Not much is done to protect or help the victim before, during or after the trial. Pre-trial discovery gives the victim’s full name, address, etc. to the attacker.

    If the rapist is acquitted, the victim is seen as a liar or worse and no physical protection or psychological assistance is available. If the rapist is convicted, there is typically little or no resources to help. The money available is spent to reform (ha!) and provide for the needs of the imprisoned rapist.

    Restitution is rarely forthcoming to cover a victim’s expenses for the, often sever, physical and psychological damage caused by the rapist. Prosecutors are often reluctant to put forth the effort to secure and enforce restitution once a trial is over. This problem may be alleviated by shining the light of publicity on it.

    2) The breathtaking idiocy and bigotry of some of the people in the court process raises a roadblock to justice. Vachss experienced judges, attorneys and jurors who worked from purulent cultural absurdities; such as:rape is preventable, she must of wanted it; if she didn’t want sex, why did she (invite him in, go to a bar, smile at him, take a walk at night, etc.) or it couldn’t be rape, she is too beautiful. I’m still trying to figure the last one out.

    I think the first action in the war on rapists is to protect the victims. Provide physical, financial and psychological support. Give victims a safe, supportive atmosphere to recount their extremely stressful experiences. Make sure the victim’s support group, families & friends, are equipped to assist her to heal without endangering the legalities of her case the prosecutor is developing.

    Streamline the court process. Ensure the rights of the accused, however stop the ‘gaming’ of the court system so justice is speedy and fair.

    Stop the heavy reliance on plea bargaining. Sure, it looks good on the prosecutor and defense attorney’s records and might save the taxpayers court costs in the short term, but it causes additional damage and suffering by allowing rapists to escalate until they reach torture and murder before they are seriously incarcerated.

    For the dangerous clichés that “blame the victim”, a valuable tool, used years ago by feminists, is: consciousness raising.

    I remember lots of grumbling and griping from people who hated any type of change, but they learned. Among many other things, men learned a woman’s marital status was none of their business through the enforced use of “Ms.” Good old boys learned “n____r” was not a term to use in public, although the treatment of minorities could use more work.

    A concerted campaign to raise the publics’ consciousness about the true nature of rape and its’ fallout should be mounted.

    Thank you for your time.

  5. #5 sailor
    July 1, 2010

    Greg, I have no problem with the idea that all humans, and especially males are capable of doing horrible things in certain circumstances, and his includes rape.

    What I don’t understand is the “switch” hypothesis. What exactly is this switch supposed to be and how does it operate. What specific prediction does the “switch idea” make compared with the fact we know people can do bad things when encouraged to.

    If we say there is a “rape switch” do we also say there is a “torture switch” a “stealing switch” and “cruelty to animals switch”. It is the terminology I don’t understand. Strangely the only thing I can think of where the idea of a switch might be appropriate is addiction, where some people seem to have the switch which is quite easily flipped on; others don’t.

  6. #6 Greg Laden
    July 1, 2010

    Sailor: “What I don’t understand is the “switch” hypothesis. What exactly is this switch supposed to be and how does it operate. What specific prediction does the “switch idea” make compared with the fact we know people can do bad things when encouraged to.”

    The difference may be that one is the other one using different words, but the rape switch makes more clear the idea that men are not walking around being potential rapists that merely need encouragement all the time, becasue the rape switch is usually off.

  7. #7 Sam N
    July 1, 2010

    Sailor, thinking about a potential rape switch in terms of addiction seems to be an excellent idea. Talk to an addict and they will justify why they make the decision to use for a variety of reasons. The simple truth of the matter is that they are addicted; their justifications are relatively meaningless. Take away the given reasons, and they will still strongly desire the drug.

    I haven’t read anything outside this blog about a rape switch, but it seems entirely plausible. People don’t make decisions for the reasons they think they do…

  8. #8 sailor
    July 1, 2010

    By the way thinking of “switching” antisocial behavior (which I guess does not only have to be rape)Did anyone see the BBC program where Darren Brown programmed three of four people to attempt a faked armed robbery?
    I doubt those guys would ever be persuaded to rob again.
    I think there is a lesson here if we want to stop rape and other such things. As an educational tool we could point out the mechanisms that make people do these things. By doing so we have a chance that if put in the situation later in life the student will remember the lesson, pull back and have been “innoculated”

  9. #9 Paul Murray
    July 1, 2010

    One of the soldiers, Lynndie England, was a young woman who joined in the worst of the atrocities, the nature of some I define as rape.

    I rather like this move to stop using the word “rape” and start using “sexual battery”. At least in law.

    Victims were treated horribly. They were ignored and not informed when their case changed status. They would appear in court over and over to hear the judge postpone the case – delay is to the defense’s advantage

    Yes, this is very standard. The way that justice gets done in our system, where you have a “day in court” to argue things before a judge, and on that day all of your ducks have to be absolutely in a row, is utterly broken. The people are often good, the sytem itself is very, very awful.

    When the victim does have her day in court; she experiences the emotional strain of having her attacker sit and stare at her as she testifies.

    Well, yes. Everyone gets put through the wringer in a criminal case. The only people that perhaps dont are hardened criminals and the court itself, for whom this is just another day in court.

    If the attorney finds out the attacker and the victim had any contact prior to the crime (even if she only served him coffee once in a cafe), he/she will try to convince a jury they knew each other well and say the rape accusation was post coital regrets.

    Well, yeah. Defense lawyers attempt to defend their clients. Their clients, after all, have been accused of a serious crime – what on earth would you expect? I’m surprised to find that this sort of information is not supposed to be brought up. False accuastions of rape happen all the time. I am rather getting the impression that this poster would only be satisfied with a system whereby a woman and point the finger, yell “rapist” and the man goes straight to gaol forever.

    Not much is done to protect or help the victim before, during or after the trial.

    No shit. The courts and the “justice” system see it as their main job to keep the perp from doing it again to someone else. They are not a counseling or psychiatric service.

    If the rapist is acquitted, the victim is seen as a liar or worse

    Again … what else would you expect? People do indeed tend to assume that a person acquitted of a crime is innocent. It’s kind of what the word means.

    I think the first action in the war on rapists is to protect the victims. Provide physical, financial and psychological support. Give victims a safe, supportive atmosphere to recount their extremely stressful experiences.

    God, again with the warz. aren’t there enough wars on abstract concepts and reifications concepts going around?

    And you are aware that recounting experiences tends to make things worse, not better?

    Streamline the court process. Ensure the rights of the accused, however stop the ‘gaming’ of the court system so justice is speedy and fair.
    Stop the heavy reliance on plea bargaining.

    Absolutely. The system works badly – everyone knows it, and there’s just about nothing that can be done about it. Because they are disposing peoples freedom, the people in the system have to be meticulous. Altering the way things get done is trickier than heart surgery, because in heart surgery you basically put things back more-or-less the way you found them.

    As for consciousness-raising: yes, absolutely. Whether making a blanket accusation of rape against every man on campus is a good way of doig this or not, I am not sure. Its worthwhile remembering that feminist groups, like every group, have as their main goal self-perpetuation.

  10. #10 Pinky
    July 2, 2010

    @ Paul Murray

    I have a tendency, when I write a comment to be somewhat long winded. What you see is a product I have gone over, deleting parts & rewriting parts to make it shorter and easier to read. When I comment I always keep in mind that a few will misunderstand, read words that are not there and assume, because I didn’t add it to the comment, I didn’t think of it.

    My comments are long enough without having to inoculate against every readers reactions.


    And you are aware that recounting experiences tends to make things worse, not better?

    When I wrote about testifying in court being a tough time for the victim, I guess I should have left in the paragraph about recounting (reliving) the rape in a public place, maybe in front of a smirking attacker, but I talked about recounting the rape details in a supportive atmosphere later in the comment. I left out a sentence pointing out that recounting a rape experience would be trail prep. I figured most people would deduce that thought without me taking up more space.


    As for consciousness-raising: yes, absolutely. Whether making a blanket accusation of rape against every man on campus is a good way of doig this or not, I am not sure. Its worthwhile remembering that feminist groups, like every group, have as their main goal self-perpetuation.

    I started to think intoxicants when I saw this quote. You took an anecdote I wrote in a separate post, an example of what I thought was wrong, and juxtaposed it with an unrelated thought in a different comment.


    God, again with the warz. aren’t there enough wars on abstract concepts and reifications concepts going around?

    I used the word ‘war’ maybe twice in that comment. If it is that unacceptable to you, please suggest an alternate word. By the way, rape is not an abstract concept.


    Absolutely. The system works badly – everyone knows it, and there’s just about nothing that can be done about it. Because they are disposing peoples freedom, the people in the system have to be meticulous.

    I guess I am not ready to give up on tough problems.

    I will let your other misconceptions pass. The readers can decide whose logic is better.

  11. #11 i cant tell you my real one
    July 5, 2010

    Rape is horrible. im 16 and it happened to me when i was 7 almost 8. i was molested for awhile but to affraid to tell. at first i didnt think anything was wrong i thought ohh he is upose to do that. i new what rape was i new what molesting was too, i just didnt want to believe someone was doing it to me. people sometimes say ohh its jsut sex well when your 6-8 its not just sex, no matter how old you are its not jsut sex. its abuse its someone forcing them into you, hitting you, cover your mouth when you screma help, getting pleasure off of you crying and struggling. I usually deal with it ok but likr i am right now. sometimes i can feel the touching. the person who did this to me got away wiht it, infact i have seen him around a few times, usually i just walk away but sometimes i will be near him for alittle bit. it kills me i feel everywhere he touched me, i feel the tears running down my face, i feel my throat hurting from screaming and yelling so loud. So if anyone wants to say rape isnt that bad obviously you havent been through it. it never goes away it does get better but at times it seems like it will never be the same or never be ok. I will never be the same i will always be scarred of heart break, dating, having sex for the first time. i will alway feel where he used to touch me sometimes but i will never be touched again, i will never let myslef down again, i will never let it get the best of me again

  12. #12 i cant tell you my real one
    July 6, 2010

    anyways im trying to say its evil anyone can do it and it can happen to anyone we need to try to reduce it from happenening and stop focusing on gender even no i am female and a male did it to me it could have easily been a female we just need to try to get over what happened and prevent it from happening to anyone else

  13. #13 Greg Laden
    July 6, 2010

    I can’t tell you:

    Your story is very sad, and I’m sorry this has happened to you. You can get help to get father past this than you are now. You should do that.

  14. #14 Pinky
    August 11, 2010

    @ i cant tell you my real one

    Thank you for posting. You have provided me with insight that I know cost you emotionally.

    Something happened to me once which caused PTSD. I know it may never be cured, but I have gotten assistance to learn to live with it better. Yes, it still causes me problems.

    [I can't tell...], have you ever gritted your teeth at one of the most insensitive, stupid phrases a person can say to someone like you: “Do you have closure yet?” I think it is one of the most ignorant things a well meaning person can say. What does the phrase even mean?

    _____
    I returned to this posting to see if the thread had picked up. Rape sours our society and we should be discussing and trying to eliminate (or at least reduce) it. One problem is people like Paul Murray (comment above). He is an example of the apathetic shoulder shruggers common in our society who see trying to correct a wrong as too much effort.

    Another problem are Teabaggers (I use the word, not as members of a political party, but for anyone who proposes meanness or greed as a political answer).

    They are trying to take us backwards in our thought about rape. Suggesting those raped pay for their own rape kits for forensic purposes. Are the families of murdered people forced to pay for blood spatter analysis?

  15. #15 tecavüz izle
    January 29, 2011

    ooo no.. ireally sorry for this.. your story very bad..Your story is very sad, and I’m sorry this has happened to you. You can get help to get father past this than you are now. You should do that.

  16. #16 Lyn Venables
    April 4, 2011

    The rape switch sounds to me like a buzz word…catchy, like “yeah man, it nearly tripped my rape switch”. It’s just crap really. It’s another way of saying that we all have human instinct and emotional response..triggers if you will. “I was so angry I felt murderous!” The question is what makes someone tip over the edge in anger and actually murder..or in this case, rape?

    For me, a long term sufferer from the effects of rape, and an equally long studier of rape in an attempt to understand it, and try to find some answers to it, I’ve come to some quite dooming conclusions. Actually they are not new..I keep hearing echos of feminist writers, although that was not the way I explored this issue.

    For me rape goes beyond the “he/she”. WE are all subject to forces outside ourselves. Sometimes we don’t even notice those forces, like we have tax taken out of our pay and we don’t even question whether it is right for our labour to be taxed. We hear something on TV about how people on the planet are struggling to survive without water, but then we leave our tap running without a second thought. Why would we do that? There are influences all around us..we form habits that become ingrained.

    Some of these influences have been bombarding us for decades longer than our lifetimes. Some of them are a powerful influence for rape and attitudes towards rape.

    If you are business person you don’t go into business to make NO money. If you are politician you don’t go into politics so that you don’t get noticed and have no influence. These are big players. Large corporations and politics.

    If you are going to work to make money, or to make your mark in the political world, you don’t always think about the wider influences on ordinary people, or the long term implications of those influences on the world. After all, grown ups only asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up. The primary concern was with how we were going to survive and support ourselves.

    Some would argue that the women’s movement have come a long way since women first got the vote and in some ways we have, but rape hangs around to remind us that actually we have a hell of a long way to go before we can solve this one. Forgive me whilst I focus on the predominantly men rape women thing. Of course I realise that men get raped too, and that women can in a way rape men, and that not all men rape.

    Predominantly men rape. Predominantly it is a male issue to be addressed. We can help as many victims as we want, but it does not deal with men and the influences upon them.

    We know loads about the influences on women: If you’re slim, dress this way, use this beauty product, and walk like this, then you are real acceptable woman, blah blah bleughh! (that last one was bulemia).

    We know these things because they come at us as women in adverts, in films, and magazines, and shops (you have to be the right size to fit). Industries take no account of anyone else but their marketting target. Big business has some immeasurable part to play in the influences upon us. The Advertising, Film and TV, and magazine Industries are amongst the biggest. So huge and so apparently normal that be barely notice it as we buy our next round of lipstick.

    It is just as huge on men. How is it that many men haven’t noticed the way they are influenced, and protest about it? How come when many men hear about women being trafficked or raped, that they arn’t so outraged that they come together to take decisive action against these other men that give them such bad press? Men can have a very positive influence on stopping rape, but many just don’t want to. There is immeasurable influence on men, to be ‘real acceptable men’. I’m ashamed to say that even amongst my closest male friends, some believe it’s not they’re problem, and some think that actually rape isn’t so bad compared to what men go through in life. But they are the first to complain that women tar all men with the same brush. Men actually tar men with the same brush.

    The media industry is a system that works when it comes to maintaining the status quo. It’s big bucks. Politicians can feel proud of such big industries that feed the economy, and that they can rely on. Politicians are not about to threaten such industries buy puting human atrocities in their own country at the top of the agenda, especially when it predominantly affects women.

    I am heartened that men all over the world are at last beginning to stand up and form groups that speak out against violence towards women…or more PC, Gender Based Violence. England is a stiff ol’ bird and is slow to catch up.

    I could have said all this in two words..patriarchal systems..but it’s feminist language, and I would rather present my opinions in my own words.

    Anyway, my point is that the powerful influences that surround us must not be under estimated when it comes to tackling rape. It’s not all just part of some personality. Even if societal influence is only part of the problem, it is also part of the solution.

  17. #17 Greg Laden
    April 4, 2011

    The woman who initially proposed the rape switch did so to help account for the difference between how anger forms and escalates in a man (or for that matter a woman) and how the sort of (inappropriate) arousal occurs in a man who rapes. They follow different patterns. She would say that your first mistake is in conflating rape and violence… though one can think socially or even legally of rape as a form of violence, they are not all the same, not all rape comes with any behavior one would think of as violent if you saw it on its own, and violence often in unassociated with rape on a regular basis with many men.

    There are no switches in the human brain. “Switch” is a bit of a metaphor. This may not conflict with your idea of “forces outside oruselves” …. though I’d suggest different terminology because that could lead so easily to abrogation of responsibility.

    We hear something on TV about how people on the planet are struggling to survive without water, but then we leave our tap running without a second thought. Why would we do that? … well, they can’t have that water anyway … may be it does not matter what you do with your tap, but rather, what companies your retirement is invested in and what they are doing to the water in the country to cause workers or peasants to struggle for access to water … There are influences all around us..we form habits that become ingrained. … Peircian! I like that.

    Some of these influences have been bombarding us for decades longer than our lifetimes. Some of them are a powerful influence for rape and attitudes towards rape.

    Absolutely. This whole series of posts on rape happened initially because of the Rape Awareness project addressing “cultures of rape” in war torn countries.

    After all, grown ups only asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up. The primary concern was with how we were going to survive and support ourselves.

    Good point! We should be asking children “what are you going to do to save the world when you grow up”

    Anyway, yes, you’re talking about culture and I think you are essentially correct. You should start a blog.