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Rape – All about power and control Or an evolutionary option?

  1. Jul 7, 2004 #1
    First ---- Rape is a crime and one that commits such an act against another person should be punished – no doubt. This is not a thread about whether rape is wrong – it is. And the harm goes much deeper than physical injury. So - this thread is in no way saying that rape occurs naturally and so it's OK. It's wrong in the same way that our natural emotion called "aggression" leads, sometimes, to murder -

    OK – with that said, I wonder if ya’ll want to talk some about the idea floating out there that rape is about "control and power" and has nothing or little to do with sex / procreation. I think it does.

    Women and men have vastly different interests when it comes to sex. A man’s interest is to impregnate as many women as he can before the last taking of toast and tea. A woman’s interest is to ensure that the man will help with the child both before and after birth. Rape occurs when a man is inclined, the community has broken down during events like war (social chastisement will not occur/family is not available to take retribution), he has little or no chance of convincing the woman by other methods (wine doesn’t work) -----

    Rape can result in conception and that will pass the genes of the rapist. In fact, if rape were about control and/or power it would appear than women who were raped would be spread fairly evenly by age. This isn’t the case however. Rape victims are overwhelmingly women who are in their peak reproductive years.

    Ok – I hope that's enough to start the debate -
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 7, 2004 #2
    I thought they cared more about the sex act itself than conception. It ain’t no thinkin’ thang; Mother Nature may want pregnancy, but men want the sex act (don't worry, you won't get pregnant). :wink:

    Too narrow; men rape for other reasons too (opportunity, predator, etc.).

    I might expect more rapists to kidnap women and have continued relations with them until such time as they become pregnant, but I don't know the figures. Why do some men murder the women following, or even before, the rape? (not much chance for childbirth going on there).

    Of course; would you be more interested in grandma or her attractive grand daughter? :smile:
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  4. Jul 7, 2004 #3


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    It might be worth clarifying whether we are discussing acquaintance rape or stranger rape. In the case of acquaintance rape, while it may have something to do with power/aggression, it's more likely misinterpretation of what has been communicated about denial of consent, or judgement clouded by substance use (i.e., alcohol, drugs) and the man's inability to control their sexual desires. A lot of young women are raped in this way, often because young people in general too often wind up in situations they aren't prepared to handle due to inexperience.

    In the case of stranger rape, I think the victim demographics would be different than those of acquaintance rape. This is more a crime of opportunity...a woman is out alone, isolated, unaware of the danger...the rapist sees a target and goes for her. In the case of stranger rape, it is not about sexual attraction or reproduction, although the rapist may derive some sort of sexual pleasure from the act, at least sufficiently to commit the act, the basic motivation is about the power, dominance, aggression.
  5. Jul 8, 2004 #4
    Some short responses that may address the above -- and indicating a biological rather than social source for rape.

    Rape is one of the 'universals' - found in all human cultures no matter the time, place, or contacts with other cultures.

    Rape is found in many of our closest relatives in the animal kingdom. (organgutans, chimps, and gorillas). Rape is also found in many other species besides.

    Rape victims are murdered at a rate of 1 in 500 rapes. (A rate that certainly does not preclude rape as a means of passing genes.) Non-mental "serious injury" occcurs in 4% of rape victims.

    The above is from Thornhill and Palmer's book A Natural History of Rape --

    Sorry for the short / incomplete post. I'm going to be short on time today and so -- will have to wait until tonight or tomorrow before checking in with the board and posting. Happy trails :)
  6. Jul 8, 2004 #5
    Has anyone asked the rapists whether or not impregnation was the goal?
  7. Jul 8, 2004 #6
    Thornhill and Palmer respond to criticisms

    FYI, Thornhill and Palmer respond here to criticisms of their book:

    • Palmer, Craig T. Thornhill, Randy

      The Journal of Sex Research

      August 01, 2003

      In this paper we respond to two frequent criticisms of our book, A
      Natural History of Rape (Thornhill & Palmer: 2000). The first
      criticism portrays the book as little more than a "just-so"
      story that human rape is an adaptation, We demonstrate that this
      portrayal is not accurate. The second criticism reflects a common
      response to the book's challenge of the popular assertion that
      rapists are not motivated by sexual desire but instead commit these
      crimes motivated by the urge to power; domination, and violence, and the
      urge to degrade and humiliate women. We demonstrate that such criticisms
      of our book are inherently contradictory and illogical. We believe it is
      important for sex researchers to understand that these sorts of
      criticisms are seriously flawed so that future research efforts toward
      understanding the causes of sexual coercion are not stalled.
  8. Jul 8, 2004 #7


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    How do you define rape in non-human primates? Unless the female is ovulating, it's not adaptive to mate, if anything, it's maladaptive to waste the energy and sperm on an infertile female. If the female is ovulating, then she will be in estrus and receptive to the males, not rejecting them, so it's not rape. Humans are a little different from our primate relatives in that women aren't restricted to sexual receptivity only close to the time of ovulation.

    I also think it would be maladaptive to resort to rape as a means of impregnating a woman for two reasons. First, a rapist would not know the cycle status of the woman, so it would be wasteful of energy if she is not fertile. Second, from an evolutionary standpoint (obviously modern society has compensated for this to a considerable extent), given the long time it takes for a human child to reach reproductive maturity, two parents are an advantage to survival of the offspring. In addition, if the female did not choose her mate, she is also less likely to ensure the survival of that offspring, so there's nothing to ensure that baby, once born, would be cared for at all (and in modern society, it's even more likely any resulting pregnancy would be aborted).

    With regard to whether sexual desire is part of the motivation for rape, I haven't really delved into that literature, what there may be of it, but my guess is that there is probably a short-circuit somewhere that blurs that line for the rapist, either in impulse control, processing rejection, or in crossed signals where dominance and agression become sexually arousing (perhaps an even greater extreme than exists among the population who find S&M sexually arousing). As with other criminal behaviors, I would suspect there is a good deal of variation among individuals as to the root causes of their actions, no one size fits all explanation.
  9. Jul 10, 2004 #8
    First, the energy expended by a male during copulation can be recovered by eating a grape. OK - 10 grapes. Of course, this different for a human female who carries and nourishes a baby for nine months, places her life at risk during childbirth, and then must care for the baby/child all through the human extended childhood. That energy might be recovered by eating 50 million grapes give or take a few hundred thousand. Hence – the male is a non-discriminating copulating machine while it is in the female’s interest to pick a male who shows signs of 'love' (e.g. he’ll hang around) and signs of being a good provider for her and the baby (e.g. rich) - Both 'qualities' help ensure additional life expectancy in the competitive world where warmth and food are scarce and preditors and enemies are plentiful-

    In regards to the existance of rape (in its various forms) in other primates - here's some observations from Jane Goodall --


    No doubt it’s maladaptive for the female because of the personal risks already described. BUT why is it maladaptive for the raping male? Again, there is nothing to risk for him but the wrath of the female’s relatives and/or society. If those aren’t factors than most of the risk disappears. If the male can’t win the woman’s consent by other methods than rape might be an evolutionary alternative that would allow his genes to pass.
  10. Jul 26, 2004 #9
    And where can we fit in child rapists here?
    Reproducing can't be the reason they rape.
    And i can't imagine the feeling of power beeing the reason.
    I mean, children aren't much of a "force" to have power over.

    Or does this fall in a totally different klass of thinking/motivation?
  11. Jul 26, 2004 #10
    Clearly the sex drive exists to promote reproduction. Rape must at least be partially, if not primarily, a product of the sex drive. A male seeking sex, no matter in what way, is actually seeking reproduction whether consciously or not.

    The rapist and the victim have many genes in common. And being raped is not good for a womens well being, harming her reproductive potential. Nor is it good for the community as a whole and hence the collective gene pool. From that stand point raping a women can be harmfull to the rapists shared genes. Rape also puts the rapists life in danger, which of course would be gambling the ability to reproduce entirely.
  12. Jul 27, 2004 #11
    In, I guess, indirect response to those posts above --- please make what you will of this.

    Here is a link and quote from an artcle from Scientic American, provided at a University of Chicago site - which discusses rape in primates and evidence of an evolved - alternate strategy for passing genes when you happen not to be the local alpha male ---

    NOW -- Add this concept / study to that information provided in the post directly above.

    Below is a cite to the results of a major study of monozygotic twins reared apart. This long term study indicates personality seems to be strongly heritable for most traits. So, while this might have been turned into a political issue in the community that is discussing this issue (see Internet) – the evidence is strong that more than our physical appearance is substantially affected by our genetic makeup. There are numerious studies out there that support the conclusion that we are affected by our genes both in and out. Considering this and the evidence already presented in this thread – it doesn't take much of an imagination to suspect that rape behavior might very well be, at least in some aspect, a product of evolution – rather than as some advocate – all socialized into the individual.


    Bolding mine -
  13. Jul 28, 2004 #12
    And I'll add this in response -

    Here are some stats in addition to those already provided in the original post in this thread --


    Note the victim age in the quote above. The age of rape victims are NOT randomly distributed as one might think they should be if rape were only motivated by the desire for control / power as some suggest. Rape victims tend to be those females who are in the child bearing age range. Why?
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