Over the years there have been many theories of why rape occurs. Although rape can happen to a woman or a man statistics show that rape of a woman by a man is the most common form and this essay will focus on female rape.
Rape is a brutal and ugly expression of male violence it is usually directed at women. Although rape is sometimes directed against children and men, this essay will focus on the rape of women by men. The following paragraphs will critically consider the contributions different theorists have made on the subject of Rape. Firstly it will look at how violence is defined and how rape is defined. Sociologists, criminologists and psychologists have different opinions as to why violent crimes such as rape occur. This essay will consider social learning theory explanations, radical feminist explanations, psychological explanations and biological explanations of why some men rape women. Matza, Left Realism, James Short and Taylor, Walton and Young will be some of the theorists used.
Firstly rape is defined as having sexual intercourse with a person without their consent. Sex without consent could be because the individual is incapable of consenting due to the fact that they are mentally incapable, are incapable of consenting due to drink or drugs or that they have been forced or coerced into sex because of violence or the threat of violence. Violence does not have to be a physical act or result in physical violence; it can be words, mannerisms and attitudes or even a display of aggression, which leads an individual feeling, threatened and vulnerable. Radical feminist theories would even define coerced sex as rape, this is were they argue that women agree to sex because they feel that there will be negative responses from the other individual if they refuse. Explanations of rape are mainly sociocultural and social interactionist, arguing that
‘Rape reflects more general attitudes by men towards women in any particular society and that a substantial proportion of rape arises from misinterpreted ( to male advantage unless convicted) and unreciprocated seductions’ (Sanday, 1981; Sorenson and White, 1992; Scully 1990, cited in Maguire et al Levi M ch24 1997: 866).
White and Sorensen 1992 and Felson 1993 point out that whilst the majority of rapists prefer ‘non-coercive strategies to obtain sex, ‘subjectively defined sexual deprivation is their primary motivation’ (Cited in Maguire et al 1997 levi m ch 24:866). They further point out that the majority of men who rape women have very full sex lives, and they regard other individuals as merely being there for their sexual gratification. These explanations are social psychological explanations. However individual psychopathology is important in rape cases were the victim and the rapist has had no previous interaction with each other before the rape, (West 1987, cited in macguire et al jefferson ch16;548). In some cultures and societies a women is raped because she displays too much independence (Sanday, 1981) this would back up the functionalist explanation that rape is a way of keeping women subjugated. (See Brownmiller 1975).
Bandura (1973, 1978) is credited with developing social learni.ng theory Social learning theory believes predominantly that aggressive behaviour of towards women is a learned response. They further point out that if an individual is exposed repeatedly to any stimulus they will begin to see this behaviour as positive and the norm. It points out that if an individual has been subjected to seeing sex and violence together that this is the stimulus that makes then associate violence and sex together as normal. This stimulus can be given through incidents that have occurred in their own personal lives or via the media. Further more the opinions of the social learning theorist are that men absorb the myths that surround rape thus justifying their actions to themselves. Myths such as
* Rape is about sex.
* Only certain types of women can get raped.
* A Woman who is healthy could defend herself from the rapist, if she really wanted to.
* The majority of women who are raped ask for it, they are promiscuous and have bad reputations.
* Many women cry rape just to get back at the man they are accusing. Other aspects of social learning theory and their explanations of why men rape women is that men get desensitised to pain and humiliation by looking at pornographic material, such as magazines and videos. Social learning theory believes that rape is strongly linked to cultural traditions. Rape is seen by the social learning theorist as being the extreme end of a culture and tradition were the man is seen as being aggressive and the woman as seen as being passive. Further more that the man is seemed to take the sexual initiative whilst the woman sets the limit.
The radical feminist would disagree with the social learning theories opinion that rape was partly motivated by sexual desire, pointing out that rape was all about violence and control. However it could be said that a certain amount of desire on the rapists part is needed to achieve the rape. Also that defining it only as an act of violence and control confused the motivation (the sex) and the tactics (the violent coercion). The explanations of the social learning theorist could also be criticised by pointing out that rape is not about sex as sex is supposed to involve tenderness.
However prostitution is about sex and that does not involve tenderness. Social learning theorists could be criticised in their opinion that rape is partly about sex, by pointing out that the majority of rapists are in stable sexual relationships. However it does not mean that their partner is fulfilling their sexual desire. Finally it could be said that the physical harm incurred by victims of rape shows that it is purely a violent act and no one of sexual desire. However statistics show that in 80% of rapes, only the rapist uses the minimum force necessary. However just because the woman is not physically hurt does not make this a non-violent act. Further more rapes of women who are leaving a relationship tend to be particularly violent. Surely this shows that rape is about power.
Although there is a slight overlap of similar thinking between the social learning theorist and the radical feminist theorist, in their believe that rape is a learned behaviour this is about as much as they agree on.
Early feminist theories of sexual violence concentrated on the ‘definition, nature, causes, functions and the consequences of rape’ (Ward C.A, 1995: 22). Theoretical perspectives of rape however came from a broader feminist theory which pointed to the gender differences in power between men and women as a direct cause of sexual violence. As a result of this feminists have always maintained that violence against women (including sexual violence) plays a major part in patriarchal society. Further more that rape is ‘ social tradition of male domination and female exploitation’ (Brownmiller S, 1975:267). Feminist theories are in line with sociological theories of conflict. It is argued that rape is caused because women are socially, politically and economically powerless compared to men. They further argue that not only does the differences in power between men and women cause rape but that sexual violence and rape serves to maintain the status quo.
Thus keeping women subordinate and in there place. ‘Feminist theories of rape have incorporated theories of psychology as well as politics, sociology and some social learning theory into their explanations of rape. However they have always emphasised their believe that patriarchy, male power over women is the major factor in rape and that rape is a crime of violence power and hostility not sex. Rose 1977, Russell 1975 point out that rape is a result of ‘social stratification and differential gender roles and socialisation’ (cited in Ward C.A 1995:23). Millet 1969 pointed out that women are seen as the property of men and those men should be able to use women to seek sexual gratification when they feel the need. This is particularly true in marriage as in Britain until October 1991 there was no law on rape within marriage, except to say it was not possible. This can be traced back to Mathew Hale who was the Chief Justice in England in the 18th century. In 1736 his statement was published in History of the pleas of the crown, it read
‘That a husband cannot be guilty of rape committed by himself upon his lawful wife, for by their mutual consent and contract the wife hath given up herself in this kind unto the husband which she cannot retract’ (Toner B 1977: 85)
Radical feminists believe that even consenting sex under patriarchy can be defined as a form of rape. Dworkin points out that women are defined by their sexuality a definition which is ‘socially real. Socially absolute and intrinsically coercive’ Cowling M 2002: 4). Mackinnon 1988 pointed out that women have grave problems in proving rape in court because many women are often coerced into sex if not forced. (Cited in Kelly & Radford date: 20). This is particularly true in cases of date rape and marital rape. Thus radical feminists believe that rape is a major part of patriarchy. Research undertaken in the past couple of decades has shown that sexual violence plays a major part in male power and male control of women.
The radical feminist theories argue that rape is about male dominance over women ‘patriarchy pointing out that the’.
‘Centrality of rape and fear/threat of rape to the social control of women; sexual violence is theorised as the violence underpinning and maintaining male dominance and female subordination, the gender power relations of patriarchy’ (Radford J 2002, cited in Women crime and law 2002) Possibly intranet notes Check this quote and re- reference.
Brown miller 1976 Cited in Macguire et al : 541 jefferson ch 16 point out that ‘rape was actually the foundation of patriarchy, she further added that rape was a consciuos procces by which all men keep all women in a state of fear’ (cited in Mcguire et al 1997 jefferson ch 16; 541).
Although as previously mentioned feminist theories of patriarchy overlaps with social learning theory in the believe that rape is an aggressive act the radical feminist sees this aggression as more about power than sex. They further argue that patriarchy plays a major part in sexual violence. Pointing out that rape is much higher in countries was patriarchy is more prevalent. Countries such as Alfghanistan may not appear to have a high rate of female rape cases. However this could be because some societies such as alfghanistan embrace a configuration that includes interpersonal violence. Domination by males and seperation of the sexes. In countries such as Alfganistan a women is classed as second class citizens the property me. For instance once married a woman may not define her experience as rape feeling that she must obey her husband when he wishes to have sex. The term sexual violence recognises that
‘Violence is a gendered phenomenon within the context of patriarchal relations (Hester, Radford & Kelly 2002, cited in Cowling M 2002, rape and sexual assault notes, theories of rape; 4) Check this.
Dworkin (1974) argued that
‘Looking for a man not caught up in male power was like looking for a needle in a haystack (Cowling M: 5, rape and d sexual assault notes).
Criticisms of feminist theories are that they ignore the fact that most women are heterosexual and enjoy consenting heterosexual sex. The theories of the radical feminist make out as though the majority of sex between a man and a woman is coercive and therefore should be defined as rape.
Biological theories of rape are split into two parts socio-biological and hormonal. The basics of the socio-biological explanation of why men rape women is evolutionary, the males need to procriate. However some rapists use condoms whilst raping the woman so as there is no evidence so this is not about procriation. The Hormonal explanation is based on men’s testosterone levels pointing out that males are naturally more aggressive than females. However if this is the case then why do they take their aggression out on women in the form of rape and not other males Further more why don’t all men rape?
Box (1983) points out that a man will use different resources to gain his masculinity depending on his position within ‘class, race and gender relations’ (Box S 1983: 152). He further points out that were the individual feels their position is will determine the salience of the crime committed. The crime committed will be used as a way to accomplish more masculinity. The further down the racial and class hierarchy you are the more salient the crime will be.
Brown miller (1975) although a feminist argues that rape is about ‘biological drive’ as opposed to learned masculinity.
Another psychological theory of rape is the disease model the believe that men who rape are suffering from an identifiable mental illness which makes them impulsive they argue that this means they should not be held responsible for their crime. Another suggestion is that men who rape suffer with an uncontrollable sexual urge. It is further pointed out by that
See Jefferson and Gresswell and Hollin (1994) for psychological stuff.
Rape in Britain has been illegal since 1275 Check this, Rape within marriage has only been illegal since 1991. Whilst the legal definition of rape might appear to be quite clear cut it is fraught with difficulties of interpretation. For instance if the victim and the offender know each other for instance are aquantances, are dating or are married there is difficulties around the issue of consent. What constitutes consent? Even stranger is difficult as we have a society and a legal system that often holds the perpetraitor and the victim equally responsible. The myths that surround rape such as
* All women want to be raped
* No woman can be raped against her will
* She was asking for it
* If you are going to be raped you might as well enjoy it,
distort and govern female sexuality (Brownmiller S, 1975: 246).
Further more these myths ‘disadvantage and oppress women, but they also subtly encourage sexual violence without awareness of moral wrongdoing’ ( Brown miller S 1975: 247).
Finally we mostly here about via the media who portray rapists as sex crazed monsters who attack women because they are psychologically disturbed however this is a myth and there are many others
Rapists are mentally disturbed ——— Most rapists show no signs of
Rape is committed by strangers ———Most rapes occur indoors &
most victims know their rapists
Rape is the result of a sudden ——— Most rapes are planned and have
sexual urge have nothing to do with
Some women ask for it for ———- Rape can happen to any woman
Instance, the clothes they wear/ in any situation
being to provocative.
The above myths all contribute to the continuation of men thinking that women are their for their sexual gratification. These myths that exist within society not only give men the right to think that rape is not a crime or that at the very lest it is not a serious crime can effect a woman’s ability to define her experience as rape. Did she encourage him? Did she not put up enough of a fight? Women in Britain have fought for many years to gain equality in a man’s world and in some aspects women have achieved this until it seems it comes to sex. It appears that men have maintained there right to own women and use them to have sex with when they want in order to keep them in their place. Rape exists within society because society allows it to.
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