Thursday, March 31, 2011

Magical Thinking

In the Grauniad, Hadley Freeman writes about rape- in relation to the Night Stalker case- and what causes it:
It seems extraordinary in a week when another woman, Eman al-Obeidi, told journalists in Libya that she had been raped and beaten by members of Gaddafi's militia that one needs to say that sexual attacks have nothing to do with desire, but are about the abuse of power, sadism and mental illness. They have nothing to do with the looks of the victim, contrary to what Hollywood movies suggest, in which rape victims are always attractive and usually blond
This is of course unthinking dogma. If rape were purely about power & sadism then the profile of Delroy Grant's victims would not be unusual when clearly it is. The absurdity of the belief that rape isn't about sexual desire can be shown by simply considering two almost indisputable facts, as laid out by Steven Pinker in The Blank Slate:
Think about it. First obvious fact: Men often want to have sex with women who don’t want to have sex with them. They use every tactic that one human being uses to affect the behavior of another: wooing, seducing, flattering, deceiving, sulking, and paying. Second obvious fact: Some men use violence to get what they want, indifferent to the suffering they cause. Men have been known to kidnap children for ransom (sometimes sending their parents an ear or finger to show they mean business), blind the victim of a mugging so the victim can’t identify them in court, shoot out the kneecaps of an associate as punishment for ratting to the police or invading their territory, and kill a stranger for his brand-name athletic footwear. It would be an extraordinary fact, contradicting everything else we know about people, if some men didn’t use violence to get sex.
This seems inarguable. No doubt things like "power" have an effect in so far as presumably a rapist will be more likely to strike in situations where they know that the victim cannot retaliate (for example in war zones) but it is plainly not true that rape is nothing to do with sex.

Ignoring reality to promote dogma is potentially dangerous as refusing to see what motivates a criminal can only put potential victims at more risk


James Higham said...

They have nothing to do with the looks of the victim

Who would put his thing anywhere near a mini-skirted gorgon, just to make a political point?

TDK said...

The usual example given to defend this thinking is that of prison rapes. Normally heterosexual men supposedly bugger other men to establish the power relationship.


Ross said...

TDK- Isn't that still about sexual desire though, in a single sex environment other men start to look surprisingly sexy.


Or so I've heard.

Peter Risdon said...

It varies, I think, but certainly can be about looks. I remember reading an interview with a woman who was raped and set alight but survived. She'd asked her attacker why he'd done it and he'd replied that he wouldn't get to screw a woman like her in any other way.

Matthew said...

I don't think your Pinker quote works. The men in the first paragraph are trying to have sex with a woman who does want to have sex with them, the things listed are to achieve that. It doesn't tell us anything about their desire to have sex with a woman who doesn't want to have sex with them.

Perry de Havilland said...

This rape-is-not-sex notion is the sort of thing that inevitably springs from world views that have very little relationship to objective reality.

This is one of those many things in life very amiable to Occam's Razor... chances are the reason some men use violence to have sex with people who is unwilling... is they want to have sex and are the sort of person who uses violence to get what they want. Duh.

You'd think Guardian readers of all people should understand the idea of using force to make people do things they don't want to do as that is central to their world view... it is just sex this time rather than economics or the regulation of other behaviour :-)

Ross said...

"This rape-is-not-sex notion is the sort of thing that inevitably springs from world views that have very little relationship to objective reality."

What surprises me is how many otherwise sane people keep quiet when faced with the claim though.

Laban said...

I don't get Matthew's point.