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What is rape?

  1. May 29, 2007 #1
    How should we define rape?

    Should the definition be restricted to the physical act of forcing sexual intercourse on another person?

    Should the definition be expanded to include inappropriate acts which violate another person's privacy or property? For instance, is spying on a person while he or she is nude a form of rape? When I lived in the dorms as an undergraduate, a male in my building was caught stealing the dirty underwear of female students for the purpose of his own sexual gratification. Should this be considered a form of rape?

    Suppose in the future computers interface directly with the human brain. Suppose that criminals are able to exploit this technology to hack into a victim's thoughts and cause that person to experience virtual torture of a sexually deviant nature. Would this be considered a form of rape?
  2. jcsd
  3. May 29, 2007 #2
    I wouldn't focus on one word to define a gradual concept. It is wrong to cause harm to someone else. The more harm you cause the more wrong you are. If you take the legal term out of it then it becomes simple.
  4. May 29, 2007 #3
    I never said causing harm to others is not wrong. Please do not try to make that implication.

    Please do not trivialize categorization. Without clear definition, we have no law. Without law, we have no civilization.
  5. May 29, 2007 #4


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    Well, I understand the reason for wanting clear definitions, but all of these different things can be distinguished, and I'm not sure exactly why it matters what you call them. Do you mean to associate some kind of punishment with rape? I just don't see what you're getting at. Are you asking if they are all equally wrong?
  6. May 29, 2007 #5
    As a scientist, I seek to define and categorize properties of nature in my professional life. Science is a subset of natural philosophy. So, I assume that part of ethical philosophy is to define clear and concise definitions of matters related to morality and immorality.

    Perhaps, you people are judging me for wanting to apply the principle of reductionism to ethical matters.
  7. May 29, 2007 #6
    Surrealist, don't be too sensitive on a discussion board like this one. I did not imply that you thought causing harm was not wrong, it never even crossed my mind. I did not try to trivialize your post, just to give my point of view. And I (among people) am not judging you in any way. I simply post my personal reaction to your ideas without ulterior motive. Use it or ignore it as you wish.
  8. May 29, 2007 #7


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    Sure, but what does a definition imply about how we should behave?

    Are you looking for a common link, or the defining qualities, to acts that we call rape? I think it might be invading someone's personal sexual space. I suppose that might extend to an invasion of sexual privacy too, but I'm not sure exactly how. Is that a decent start?

    Or, as I was wondering before, are you looking to equate all of these behaviors or suggest that all forms of rape should be treated in a certain way?

    Oh, I wasn't judging you either. I'm trying to understand what you're asking.
  9. May 29, 2007 #8
    I was just trying to understand what is fundmentally objectionable about this moral injustice.

    From a evolutionary point of view, a woman should have the choice of whom she mates with for the purpose of bearing children with traits she finds desirable. Futhermore, anyone should be able to make the decision of whether or not he or she wants to do something which presents a risk of contracting disease or physical harm. Therefore, it is highly instinctive in all normal humans that the act of rape is so disgusting and appalling.

    From a purely mechanical point of view, the body is not the person, but from a practical point of view, there is psychological trauma associated with such an event. Where does this psychological trauma come from? Is it the physical act of asserting unwarranted control over another person's body, or the resulting psychological trauma that we wish to prevent?

    If it is the psychological aspect which is most damaging, then perhaps rape is not something purely physical. Perhaps there are other violations which are fundamentally a different facet of the same crime.

    You might be wondering why I am thinking such horrible thoughts.... Well, I was just thinking about the possibility of a mind-computer-internet interface, and then it occured to me that if such a technology ever exists, then mind-hacking WILL be a problem. There are many sick people out there who hack into the computers of others for the rush they feel when they think they have achieved some level of control over others. Given the opportunity this part of society would try to "rape" the minds of others. For this reason, I think it is relevant to form a definition of the underlying crime against humanity.
  10. May 30, 2007 #9
    Rape is extremely violent physical crime. After the body heals, many rape victims suffer from a type of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Many rape victims also fear they will be killed.
    A point must be made that rape has a social nature. The victim must deal not only with the rape and the impact on her, but also with reactions of others to it. How did the family and friends react? The hospital? How was she treated by law enforcement? Did they find the man, and will she half to spend days in to court room? Or is he still out there?
    Disorders coming from being raped, vary a great deal from person to person. I would think first thing to consider is the violence.
    Being hacked, is much like being robbed, it gives you a very uneasy feeling that someone has access to your personal property. I wouldn't put it anywhere near the physical trauma of rape.
    I would guess we'll half to wait untill mind-hacking becomes a reality to understand its complacations.
  11. May 30, 2007 #10
    Sure, I have thought about these issues in great detail. My sister was raped her first semester in college... that was about eight years ago. It destroyed her life. She dropped out of school, and ended up getting involved with one abusive man after another. She started abusing substances and was raped again--at least twice that I know of--since the initial incident.

    The incident caused me great distress, although nowhere near the amount of distress it must have caused her. There was a time when I couldn't even say the word "rape". Thankfully, my sister has recently begun to recover. She spent some time in a half-way house, and now has a part-time job and attends her support groups regularly. It is good that time seems to be healing her wounds. Over time, I think I became emotionally "numb" to the subject of rape.

    Anyway, the genre of cyber-punk has brought us stories and movies like "the Matrix" which have sparked amateur discussion on philosophical ideas dating back to Descartes... e.g. "what is real?", "what is it that I experience?", and "do I even exist?" Nevertheless, from a Shelley-Vonnegut point-of-view, I would go so far as to say that every new technology is accompanied by a new form of evil.
    Last edited: May 30, 2007
  12. May 30, 2007 #11


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    I'm sorry to hear about that.

    It has to be one of the most terrible things which can happen to a human being.

    Well, it's good to hear she's getting better. I'm holding my thumbs for a better future for her.
  13. May 30, 2007 #12
    Rape is lurid sexual acts preformed on a non-willing participant (non-consensual). If there is some confusion between both parties I am guessing it isn't rape, probably too much to drink.. But there is a possible discussion/argument about the age of your sexual partner/s and statutory rape.
  14. Jun 1, 2007 #13
    By definition, all acts of rape require some form of sexual intercourse without consent. By law, statutory rape is such an act with a person below the age of consent. All the other acts mentioned in the OP have their own warm fuzzy name--none are acts of "rape".
  15. Jun 1, 2007 #14
    I don't think rape has to include intercourse. To me rape is when a person in any way forces another person to perform a sexual act they are not willing to (and I don't mean hesitant, or a guy convincing his girlfriend to do something "different;" I mean something they are completely unwilling to do, and that afterwards they feel cheap/degraded/hurt).

    It also doesn't have to be physical, I think there is something to peer pressure rape. Girls (and guys) can end up feeling forced to act a certain way, and it makes me sick; they slowly lose all their dignity.

    I think there's a grey area with statutory rape... I know this is a typical male way of thinking, but when I was 13, I would have been MORE THAN GLAD if my french teacher had given me some "after school lessons". It sounds wrong, but it's true, even if by law that would have been considered statutory rape, I would have been far from unwilling.
  16. Jun 2, 2007 #15
    I once read that a rapist rapes not soley for sexual gratification but for the feeling of controlling another person. If this is true then would it be ineffective to castrate convicted rapists? Perhaps they would find another way of hurting others once released from prison.

    Should we castrate convicted rapists?

    Should we partially lobotomize convicted rapists?
  17. Jun 2, 2007 #16


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    There is a halfway-house-type place two houses down from me. A man there stared at me in the creepiest way one day as I was passing by on my way home and watched me go inside. I know that there was a convicted rapist there at one point, so I did some reading just in case. I don't know about female rapists, but if you're talking about male rapists, the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rapist#Male_rapist_profiles" was what I came across most often. It seems that people rape for different reasons.

    (I've talked to him since. He turned out to not be a rapist and seems rather nice.)
    This suggestion makes me hope that the medical profession's ethical standards actually have some teeth to them.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 22, 2017
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