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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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46 Responses

  1. Simplejewel
    Simplejewel March 25, 2010 at 3:36 pm |

    This is SO. GOOD.

    Thank you, Thomas.

    As the co-founder of a student coalition to get a Sexual Assault Centre on the campus of Carleton University, I live and breathe this every day. I was particularly struck by the recommendation that we need to make it socially permissible to discuss sexual assault and we NEED TO STOP FUCKING SHAMING WOMYN.

    When we do this and we start to believe people’s stories, then we will have shifted our idea of a ‘rapist’ and THEN we’ll be getting somewhere. Until then, college/university athletes, professors, politicians, and the best-damn-lefty-activist-you-ever-did-see will keep sexually assaulting the people I know and love, and get away with.

  2. Hot Tramp
    Hot Tramp March 25, 2010 at 4:51 pm |

    Thank you for summarizing your many awesome posts on this.

    I really, really hope that we keep seeing research on this, and that we see new research on rape that doesn’t fit this model — same-gender rape, female-on-male rape, and so on.

  3. Thomas
    Thomas March 25, 2010 at 5:08 pm |

    Hot Tramp, exactly. I want to see what this looks like outside the narrow confines.

  4. Shelby
    Shelby March 25, 2010 at 6:36 pm |

    Wow, thanks so much for breaking this all down! It’s really great to have all this info laid out like this.
    And I’ll go ahead and cosign everyone else who wants to see broader studies done. Personally, I’d REALLY like to see research on the rape of pre-teen/adolescent men of color. I am continually stunned by the number of male acquaintances I’ve talked to whose first sexual experience was at the age of 12/13 with a woman in her twenties. And I haven’t once heard one of these stories told with any kind of exaggerated bravado– it’s very clear that these were negative experiences that have caused them to carry around a lot of shame and anger. Basically I’d really really like to see the “every kid wants to bang an older woman” myth crash and burn and die in hell.

  5. . . .
    . . . March 25, 2010 at 8:31 pm |

    Thanks for this excellent summary. I appreciate the studies and your disseminating them. I think your recommendations are good given the very limited nature of the data.

    I echo Hot Tramp’s and Shelby’s comments re: the need for more and broader studies. In addition to the groups they and Cara list, I’d add child rape (for girls as well as boys and for Anglos as well as PoC); rapists and victims who are younger and older than most of those in the studies; lack of consent due to disability (including mental illness), blackmail/shame or other power differential as well as alcohol or drugs; and situations that are more common to other groups of victims and perps. The areas that are most important to me are child victims and child rapists as well as the disabled (all kinds of disabilities).

  6. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig March 25, 2010 at 8:37 pm |

    I think a very big addition to the studies would be to examine how much time the predators spend socializing with males, vs. how much time they socialize with females (in a non-rape, public context.) It’d be interesting to see how that breaks down.

  7. William
    William March 25, 2010 at 9:18 pm |

    Excellent summary, Thomas.

    I know it would likely be prohibitively expensive, but I’d like to see a replication of Lisak’s study that had more in-depth psychometric follow-ups (MMPI-II, MCMI-III, Rorschach) with confessed rapists.

  8. Dr. Confused
    Dr. Confused March 26, 2010 at 4:53 am |

    I’ve been reading the Yes Means Yes blog so I’ve been following quite a bit of this but what I hadn’t pulled out before now were the absolute numbers. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 10% of men are rapists. That is seriously scary. When I am in front of my class of students there are probably about 3 rapists in the room. It is not insignificantly likely that one of those 3 rapists has raped a woman also in the room. When I am in a faculty meeting, there are probably about 4 rapists in the room. Wow. Just, wow. I am not going to be able to stop thinking about this as I go about my daily life.

    One of my ex-friends (well, more than one, but I one I want to discuss in particular) is a rapist. Up until just now I would have said “has serious issues with women” or something similar but no, I’m going to come right out and say that he deliberately seeks out intoxicated women or gets women intoxicated and uses social force to get them alone, or even assault them in public. He’s done it to me and I’ve seen him do it to many women. For the last little while we were still “friends” my now-husband and I appointed ourselves protectors of his victims: following him home and extracting extremely drunk women from his clutches, physically pulling him off a woman and asking the woman if she is having a good time, inserting ourselves between him and women, etc. I feel guilty that we didn’t do more. I feel guilty that we cut all ties with him after he repeatedly broke promises to stop this behaviour and get therapy, rather than pursuing this. I feel so powerless in the face of the system that simply will never stop him from continuing to rape women.

  9. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable March 26, 2010 at 6:51 am |

    Dr. Confused, I only wish that you had talked to his victims about pressing charges so that he could face some real penalty.

    Incidentally, don’t think cutting off ties with him wasn’t a significant move: one of the issues with the guy who sexually assaulted me – who was friends with my roommates at the time – was their tacit approval of what he did just by going out to bars with him or hanging out with him at his place. They weren’t stupid enough to bring him to the house, but it was heart-wrenching to know that my pain just wasn’t enough for them to rethink their friendship.

  10. Dr. Confused
    Dr. Confused March 26, 2010 at 9:03 am |

    Honestly PrettyAmiable, I don’t regret either 1) not pressing charges myself or 2) not convincing others to press charges. The system is not set up to prosecute people like him. Any prosecution would have failed and the victims would have been put through hell.
    I can only surmise what went on behind closed doors on the times he got drunk women home except with me, and with me it was very much one of those “well, maybe I consented, but everything’s a little fuzzy from that night” incidents that is simply not treated, legally or socially, as rape.

  11. Sailorman
    Sailorman March 26, 2010 at 2:32 pm |

    Dr. Confused 3.26.2010 at 4:53 am
    I’ve been following quite a bit of this but what I hadn’t pulled out before now were the absolute numbers. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 10% of men are rapists.

    Not precisely, but close.

    First (and less important,) some unknown percentage of people qualified on the basis of Question 1 only. They presumably have attempted rape but not completed it. Of course, in order to care about this you would need to distinguish between someone who tried to rape and failed, and someone who tried to rape and did so. It’s not much “better” even if you take the most flexible viewpoint; you wouldn’t want either of them around.

    More to the point, it’s worse (and the numbers may be too low) because insofar as these studies may have been performed on relatively young people*, it is quite possible that some subset of those who have not currently answered “yes” to any of those questions will nonetheless rape someone later. Although my understanding of the studies is that most rapists commit their first offense when they are relatively young, that’s not an absolute bar by any means. And of course, for the repeat offenders it is quite likely that they will commit more offenses as they have more time to do so. For a random sampling of 100 people, the percentage of people who are rapists is probably higher at age 40 than at age 30, etc.

    At some point it probably stops increasing. And
    *This is certain for the military one, and possible for the college one. Yes, I know that they sampled from age 18 to age 71 in the college one. I don’t know about the distribution, though, and it was on a college campus. It’s quite possible it was loaded with 18-22 year olds.

  12. William
    William March 26, 2010 at 3:23 pm |

    First (and less important,) some unknown percentage of people qualified on the basis of Question 1 only.

    The difference between intent to rape and actually committing rape is important only for the intended victim, when it comes to guilt and mindset it is irrelevant.

    And of course, for the repeat offenders it is quite likely that they will commit more offenses as they have more time to do so. For a random sampling of 100 people, the percentage of people who are rapists is probably higher at age 40 than at age 30, etc.

    I’d wonder about that. What these studies show pretty compellingly is that the stereotype stranger-in-a-dark-alley rape is rare while acquaintance rape with alcohol as a weapon is very common. As a population ages, lifestyle changes. While I’m certain that rapists will continue to rape as they become older I would suspect that they are presented with fewer opportunities as they get older and the context of social relations changes, if most rapists are opportunistic then the number of rapes they commit as a population will decline as their opportunities decline.

    I don’t know about the distribution, though, and it was on a college campus. It’s quite possible it was loaded with 18-22 year olds.

    Not with a median age of 26.5. That figure means that half of the respondents were younger and half were older, so you have a pretty good distribution which leans young but not 18-22 young.

  13. Faith
    Faith March 26, 2010 at 3:57 pm |

    “Not precisely, but close.”

    The problem with speculating on the percentage of men who are rapists is that even with studies like this, there is really no way at this stage to make any real determination. I’d strongly suspect that many men would lie about whether or not they had forced themselves on a woman even if the questions were completely anonymous.

    “The difference between intent to rape and actually committing rape is important only for the intended victim, when it comes to guilt and mindset it is irrelevant.”

    As someone who has been the victim of attempted rape and rape, I’d also like to add that just because someone doesn’t complete the act of rape, it doesn’t mean that the victim isn’t traumatized. I had to deal with much of the same trauma from the attempted rape as I did the completed one. As a matter of fact, the attempted rape was worse than one of the instances of actual rape that I experienced in some regards. The rape was over
    -really- quickly. The attempted rape involved me being held to a bed for over 45 minutes kicking, screaming, and crying. So, yea, I really don’t like any insinuation that men who only attempt rape are somehow less guilty than men who manage to complete the act of rape.

  14. Sailorman
    Sailorman March 26, 2010 at 4:46 pm |

    I am absolutely not in any way whatsoever attempting to minimize the effects of being assaulted, irrespective of whether the assault ended in rape. From an individual “is this guy a horrible person?” or “has this person been victimized?” there’s absolutely no distinction between a rapist and someone who has attempted rape.

    But I understood the post to be discussing policy and statistics, and from policy/statistics perspectives there is a difference, sometimes a substantial one. Like if you’re asking, say, “why don’t all of these men get convicted for rape?” Or if you’re trying to somehow work the numbers into other types of solutions or assistance, or in any other number of policy areas.

    So from a policy perspective, sometimes things need to get treated differently. Each individual occurrence is horrible–but some may be easier to prevent, and some may be easier to prosecute, and some may be easier to get convictions for, and so on. It is possible that the ways to stop attempted rapists are different from the ways to stop serial rapists, for example.

    Look, I have many female loved ones and family members and quite a few have been raped; one died, basically from the rape. I have a wife and two daughters who haven’t–yet–been raped, and I hope they never will be.

    It’s not as if I think this is a minor issue. In fact, I think about it all the time. It’s just that I think that nobody has solved it yet and that the solution is going to involve hard, specific, data, and I don’t see how anyone can have a productive discussion about solutions if we can’t distinguish between “rape” and “attempted rape,” or if we can’t make equivalent distinctions.

    That’s all I was trying to say.

  15. William
    William March 26, 2010 at 5:22 pm |

    the solution is going to involve hard, specific, data, and I don’t see how anyone can have a productive discussion about solutions if we can’t distinguish between “rape” and “attempted rape,” or if we can’t make equivalent distinctions.

    Sure, but the distinction you’re making is largely irrelevant. If I pick up a gun, point it at someone, pull the trigger, and the primer fails then I have still attempted to commit murder. If someone slaps the gun at the last second and the shot goes wide, I’ve still committed murder. If I’m too drunk to aim properly and I miss my target, I’ve still attempted to commit murder. I think here that you might be missing what it means to attempt rape.

    The way the questions are written we aren’t talking about men who went down that road and then, at the last second, realized what they were doing what wrong. What we’re talking about are guys who couldn’t maintain an erection, were interrupted, fought off, somehow intervened against, we’re talking about men who admit to attempting to rape but were somehow foiled. The fact that they failed to complete a rape is perhaps a blessing (of sorts) for their victims, but from a policy perspective I fail to see why a lack of completion should matter. From a pragmatic perspective there might be problems prosecuting these kinds of cases (though I’d argue that the solution is not to make a distinction but to change the way we think about and prosecute rape), but if we’re talking about how to use these numbers to influence policy then I really don’t see much of a reason to treat rapists differently because of chance.

  16. Faith
    Faith March 26, 2010 at 5:23 pm |

    “It is possible that the ways to stop attempted rapists are different from the ways to stop serial rapists, for example.”

    And all I’m trying to say is that the only real difference between an attempted rapist and one who actually has raped is that very fact. Yes, there are different psychologies when it comes to rapists. Not all rapists are alike. But, as far as I’m concerned, a man who attempts rape is just as guilty as one who actually does rape.

    In short: A man who attempts rape is just as much a rapist as one who actually does manage to complete the act of rape and society should treat him accordingly. The man who attempted to rape me was far dangerous, believe it or not, than the one who actually did. The one who attempted to rape me had sexually assaulted many other women. I have no doubt that he’s still out there doing exactly that. On the other hand, the man who actually raped me does not have a history of sexual violence and I have no doubt that he does not pose an overwhelming threat to women.

    I don’t know if you see what I’m trying to get at or not here, but I really don’t think it is at all helpful to try to separate attempted rapists from actual rapists.

  17. jemand
    jemand March 27, 2010 at 3:44 pm |

    I’m wondering about if this data has changed at all over the past century. The fact that there was exactly *zero* self-reported incidents of the most common rape narrative means to me, that, having that as a “rape narrative” might have reduced the incidence of such rapes to zero, while they may *not* in fact, be anywhere near zero in a culture where such rapes *aren’t* considered serious and criminal. Is there any cross-cultural studies trying to tease out the cultural attitudes of what constitutes rape and the correlation between the types of rape that occur?

    And secondly… maybe men just would not *admit* to the kind of rape that is most likely to be identified and get them in trouble. This *is* based off of self reported studies, so, rates of false reporting might differ across the type of rape the question is asking about. Is there any way to investigate this?

  18. William
    William March 27, 2010 at 4:11 pm |

    And secondly… maybe men just would not *admit* to the kind of rape that is most likely to be identified and get them in trouble. This *is* based off of self reported studies, so, rates of false reporting might differ across the type of rape the question is asking about. Is there any way to investigate this?

    Read the studies more carefully. There were quite a few men who reported using violence or the threat of violence in order to commit rape in both studies. The Navy study found that men who used violence exclusively targeted victims who they knew. Such a finding would tend to support the underlying theory that rapists are opportunistic predators. If you want to target a stranger, you know very little about them and their capacities so you find a way to minimize danger to yourself (get them drunk and wait until they pass out, slip something in a drink, etc.). Using force would leave more evidence and undermine your assumed defense (the sex was consensual). A rapist who targets people they know would be able to employ more means of coercion because they would be better able to gauge the potential reactions of their victims.

    What this data says to me isn’t that somehow the narrative has reduced a certain kind of rape but that the narrative was developed in order to undermine the reports of victims and create the illusion of safety. Let me repeat that, the dominant cultural narrative regarding rape was developed in order to silence victims and protect their powerful victimizers. If society defines rape as “a violent assault by a stranger” it allows rapists to say “I didn’t rape her it was just a misunderstanding.” The dominant narrative exists as a tool of maintaining the rape culture in the same way as slut shaming does. It provides one more level of defense for rapists and does so by specifically marshaling cultural values in order to devalue the reports and experiences of victims. “She was a slut, so it wasn’t rape;” “she didn’t fight back hard enough, she must have wanted it;” “she just regretted it in the morning;” “she was drunk, it was a misunderstanding” each of these kinds of statements are part of the narrative, they are excuses that society uses to negate the experience of victims. They can only be maintained by creating a myth about what rape looks like.

  19. William
    William March 27, 2010 at 4:17 pm |

    Just to clarify, I’m in no way saying that violent stranger rapes don’t happen. Rather, I’m arguing that those kinds of rapes have been focused on in the discourse in order to enforce a certain system of power by producing a specific image of what is considered rape, to the exclusion of other experiences.

  20. jemand
    jemand March 27, 2010 at 6:56 pm |

    but see, william, that is my question. I have the sneaking suspicion that in cultures where there isn’t at least the dominant cultural narrative that violent stranger rapes, at least, aren’t the woman’s fault, that they exist and occur in numbers more similar to other types of rapes.

    I am not convinced yet that the narrative was *formed* in order to silence victims, or if a widespread social agreement from almost everybody that *this* kind of rape is unacceptable leads to there being none of that kind of rape. If that is the case, than I am very optimistic that we can reduce all the other kinds by changing social attitudes as well. At *this* point, since that kind of rape is very rare, I believe that focusing only on that particular narrative, violent stranger rape, does have the affect of silencing victims.

    You can’t say for sure the effect of this narrative unless you compare it to somewhere which doesn’t have it.

  21. William
    William March 27, 2010 at 7:22 pm |

    I have the sneaking suspicion that in cultures where there isn’t at least the dominant cultural narrative that violent stranger rapes, at least, aren’t the woman’s fault, that they exist and occur in numbers more similar to other types of rapes.

    While that might be possible, I’m not sure what the utility of such an observation might be. If rape isn’t about sex but about power then what you have in the different presentations of rape are different means of powerful persons exercising their power over powerless people. Observing that a difference in the presentation of a phenomenon such as rape exists in societies with different discourses around rape seems to miss the point, to me at least.

    I am not convinced yet that the narrative was *formed* in order to silence victims,

    Power creates knowledge which serves to replicate itself. Just as history is written by the winners, a discourse forms to serve the group with the power to enforce it. Does that mean that there was a smoke-filled room somewhere in Alabama where a bunch of old white guys decided how to define rape in order to hurt women? No. Does that mean that the discourse around rape has been heavily influenced by powerful people who wanted to keep their friends and sons out of prison? Yes. Silencing victims is necessary to maintain the power of their victimizers. Its hardly accidental that the definition of rape excludes the kinds of rapes that are most likely to be committed by people of relatively more social power and influence.

    or if a widespread social agreement from almost everybody that *this* kind of rape is unacceptable leads to there being none of that kind of rape.

    We don’t even really have that. We question the experience of rape victims who suffered even the violent stranger rape. Just look at the discourse which surrounds rape in prison.

    If that is the case, than I am very optimistic that we can reduce all the other kinds by changing social attitudes as well.

    The problem with that line of thinking is that it assumes those with power actually want to stop rape. If you look at the way, say, your average university handles a rape allegation what you see is a move to protect the school from liability and preserve it’s reputation. Look at the way the US military has handled the problem of rape in their own ranks. Look at the way the problem of rape in Blackwater has been managed. Look at the phenomenon of “gonzo porn.” I am somewhat less optimistic.

    You can’t say for sure the effect of this narrative unless you compare it to somewhere which doesn’t have it.

    Except you’re comparing apples and oranges. What similar culture can you imagine in which violent stranger rape isn’t (ostensibly) prohibited?

  22. blue milk
    blue milk March 28, 2010 at 7:40 am |

    Brilliant post!

  23. james
    james March 28, 2010 at 10:38 am |

    You have to be aware that, in context, this research is a direct attack on the last 50 years of feminist theory.

    The debate isn’t between ‘stranger rape’ and Lisak’s coming to the rescue with ‘predator theory’. Feminists put in place a framework for thinking about ‘acquaintance rape’ in the 1970/80s, and regarded it being perpatrated by ‘normal’ men as a conseqence and extension of the ‘normal’ sytems of gender relations. Lisak’s research is an attack on this, which instead claims that rape perpetrated by a smallish group of deviant sociopaths. It’s in direct opposition to all the 1960s Brownmiller/Dworkin/MacKinnon ideas about a continuum between rape and consensual sex. The debate is between the feminist social theory way of thinking about crime vs. old school offender-types criminology.

    I’m not qualified to judge who’s right. But this stuff has consequences:

    “Rather than focusing prevention efforts on the rapists, it would seem far more effective to focus those efforts on the far more numerous bystanders”

    The subtext here (which Thomas doesn’t flag for you BTW) is about things like Student Conduct Codes and mandatory sexual-assault education lessons. Feminist theory says are a good thing and has been promoting them, because rape if caused by a malfunctioning systems of gender relations you should be able to educate people out of it. Lisak’s attacking them as predator theory says they’re useless, as you can’t talk hardened offenders out of crime.

  24. Jean/Jeanne
    Jean/Jeanne March 28, 2010 at 10:46 am |

    What’s the geography here? North America? Continential US?

    I’d like to see more discussion of the culturally different definitions of sexual assault. And more commentary on sexual assault of adult men — if we don’t include them in the discussion, then it becomes too easy to vilify all men as potential preditors.)

  25. jemand
    jemand March 28, 2010 at 11:53 am |

    “Its hardly accidental that the definition of rape excludes the kinds of rapes that are most likely to be committed by people of relatively more social power and influence.”

    My point is I see a chicken and egg problem with this. Do people of relatively more social power take advantage of the common rape narrative in determining their individual course of action, or was this social narrative created specifically to hide what powerful people were *already* primarily doing?

    And I do see your point about prison rape, but I would argue that actually prison rape actually does *not* fit the archetypal social concept of “rape,” and that this archetypal form basically never happens in the US. But I really want to know what came first– that this kind of rape never happened anyway, or the social construct changed the ways rape was expressed away from the archetypal form from occurring.

    As for different cultures, well, there really aren’t many studies are there? But this story: http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Jeddah,-gang-raped-woman-sentenced-to-prison,-one-hundred-lashes-14486.html indicates to me that there are countries in which violent man on woman stranger rape is considered her fault and he doesn’t face much social opprobrium or even much trouble to find him, so… my guess is violent stranger rape occurs quite often there. Even with “powerful people” as perpetrators, as contrasted with here, were “powerful people” organize their behavior *around* social opprobrium.

    At this point I would go back to my point that prison rape isn’t considered part of the social archetype of rape in this country, and neither is acquaintance or alcohol related rape, *but,* that it seems possible we as a society have driven into nonexistence one type of rape by a widespread social concept, so it is possible we can do so with other types as well.

  26. Cos
    Cos March 28, 2010 at 12:55 pm |

    Lisak & Miller’s team did interviews with some of the self-reported rapists to confirm the self-reports, which would tend to reveal an undercount in the self-reports, and found that the responses were consistent.

    Why would interviewing only the self-reported rapists, reveal an undercount in self-reports? Doesn’t an under-count mean that some respondents who did rape, did not report it on the survey? How would interviewing those who *did* report it, reveal whether any others should’ve but didn’t report?

  27. barbarian
    barbarian March 28, 2010 at 1:06 pm |

    I don’t know people who were raped, but I do have lots of friends who do this — find the drunkest, youngest, most vulnerable girl at a party and prey on her. Then they brag about it. It’s quite real because they tell me they do it.

  28. jemand
    jemand March 28, 2010 at 3:10 pm |

    @barbarian, well, DUH you don’t know that people who are your friends are raped, do you think they would trust someone who hangs out with multiple rapists by telling them their personal story, when the culture generally just shames and blames rape victims? You probably know SEVERAL people in your friend circle who have been raped, but you just don’t know because they don’t feel comfortable around you.

    My apologies if I am misreading your comment and misunderstanding the social interaction you are describing, but that’s sure what it looks like is happening here to me.

  29. Angela Vistry
    Angela Vistry March 28, 2010 at 3:37 pm |

    @james #23,

    No, actually, I think this confirms much of feminist theory about rape. The culture of rape is what makes it possible for bystanders to think these men’s attitudes toward women are normal, and thus to remain friends with predators and to blame their victims.

  30. William
    William March 28, 2010 at 3:56 pm |

    My point is I see a chicken and egg problem with this. Do people of relatively more social power take advantage of the common rape narrative in determining their individual course of action, or was this social narrative created specifically to hide what powerful people were *already* primarily doing?

    It is a cocreated situation. Discourse feeds behavior and behavior defines discourse. Both evolve in response to changing situations, but trying to figure out which “started” the process misses the point. What we’re looking at is a system of power that is dominated by those who have power. Any potential change in the discourse you would want to introduce has to be understood in the context of this system.

    It wasn’t too long ago that rape was seen as a property crime in the west, a crime committed by one man against the property of another. This contributed to a narrative of rape as an aggressive act between men, placing the women who were victimized as mere objects of aggression. We could look at the way in which this situation developed, but somehow that seems less important than the observation that such a narrative served to both keep women dependent upon the men who wielded power over them and to perpetuate the dominant systems of power of the time. The discourse and the powerful people who dominate it serve to support and perpetuate one another, one cannot exist without the other.

    And I do see your point about prison rape, but I would argue that actually prison rape actually does *not* fit the archetypal social concept of “rape,” and that this archetypal form basically never happens in the US.

    Two observations. First, I would wonder why prison rape doesn’t fit the social concept of rape? Does it have to do with the perception of the victim’s guilt? Does it have to do with a male victim being so alien a concept that the idea is simply rejected? Again we see different kinds of power being enacted by the way in which we talk and think about rape.

    Second, no one here is saying that violent stranger rape doesn’t happen in the US. It certainly does happen. What is being said is that that specific kind of rape is very rare in comparison to other kinds of rape. If these studies tell us anything it is that rape is far more common than any of us would like to believe. It might also be worth noting that that particular example of rape is more likely to be committed by people of less social power who are less able to manipulate victims into dangerous situations.

    ut I really want to know what came first– that this kind of rape never happened anyway, or the social construct changed the ways rape was expressed away from the archetypal form from occurring.

    What I’m saying is that you’re essentially looking for a fictional line. Social discourse is evolutionary in nature. Just as species changes don’t generally happen in one generation with a clear line separating the parent species from the new one, discourse change slowly over time.

    As for different cultures, well, there really aren’t many studies are there? But this story: http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Jeddah,-gang-raped-woman-sentenced-to-prison,-one-hundred-lashes-14486.html indicates to me that there are countries in which violent man on woman stranger rape is considered her fault and he doesn’t face much social opprobrium or even much trouble to find him, so… my guess is violent stranger rape occurs quite often there

    You’re talking about comparing two radically different cultures with radically different social systems, values, and histories. A comparison of the US to Saudi Arabia is going to be problematic, to say the least, because there are a great many contaminating variables. The only difference between the two is not simply how rape is viewed. The dominant culture of the US doesn’t have the same history of monarchy, of colonialism, of religion, or of environmental effects upon social systems. The west doesn’t have the legacy of Islam and Saudi Arabia doesn’t have the legacy of the enlightenment. You’re comparing apples to oranges.

    At this point I would go back to my point that prison rape isn’t considered part of the social archetype of rape in this country, and neither is acquaintance or alcohol related rape, *but,* that it seems possible we as a society have driven into nonexistence one type of rape by a widespread social concept, so it is possible we can do so with other types as well.

    But. We. Haven’t. Gotten. Rid. Of. Violent. Stranger. Rape.

    We haven’t. It didn’t show up in two self-report studies of relatively privileged populations. One doesn’t have to go much further than watching the 10 O’Clock news in any major metropolitan area to see that violent stranger rapes do occur. You’re working from a demonstrably false assumption.

  31. barbarian
    barbarian March 28, 2010 at 4:13 pm |

    @jemand, good point, actually. I probably should say “that was rape” when somebody tells me he’s done something that sounds like rape.

    It always seemed presumptuous, because generally I wasn’t there at the party and didn’t know the details, so I’ve never been the one to speak up. I mean, you don’t actually know what happens in the bedroom; maybe the girl was conscious and said yes.

    I don’t like the general attitude of trying to find girls whose defenses are down, though, because it is a little predatory. If not rape, it is at least malicious.

  32. james
    james March 28, 2010 at 4:15 pm |

    @Angela Vistry #29,

    “No, actually, I think this confirms much of feminist theory about rape.”

    ?!? Think of it like a Venn Diagram. Feminist theory is A & B, and predator theory is B & C. There is some overlap (I’m not saying that Lisak is claiming absolutely everything feminists have ever said about rape is completely wrong, that’s a ridiculous thing to imply). But even through there isn’t complete disagreement on everything, predator theory is still a direct attack on feminist theory.

  33. jemand
    jemand March 28, 2010 at 4:20 pm |

    Yes, it is on the 10 o’clock news, because for the very rare case of such rapes to be widely spread on the 10 o’clock news is *part* of societies insistence that *this* kind of rape is the kind we all need to worry about! You can’t separate the fact that these stories are *used* to prop up a disproportionate fear in the entire population, by pointing to such exaggerated reports in saying it’s not gone. Sure it’s not *absolutely* gone, but it sure happens pretty rarely.

    I really agree with you, but I also would like to see more research being done on these subjects. I’m sure there are more nuanced differences between cultures which have colonial and christian and monarchical backgrounds, and variation in other cultures which share an Islamic background. I am thinking it would not be *impossible* to look at several different lines, several different nuanced societal attitudes and how they play out in how they shape expressions of violence including rape. Basically, I am saying that this type of research seems to be in its infancy and I think we will find things we never expected as more research is done.

    Just because species differentiate slowly from each other in paleontology and evolutionary biology, doesn’t mean research can be done linking certain body shapes to certain environmental triggers and pressures. I really would like to see that sort of thing in studies of anthropology and sociology as well, I think it would be helpful to our understanding of what is going on, and how to improve things.

  34. Angela Vistry
    Angela Vistry March 28, 2010 at 9:18 pm |

    @james,
    Right, I take your point that Lisak is highlighting a certain kind of person (the predator) rather emphasizing the continuity between rapists & ordinary guys (a continuity or continuum early 2nd wave feminist theory often stressed). But then you suggest Lisak’s argument is attacking
    things like Student Conduct Codes and mandatory sexual assault education lessons. Feminist theory says are a good thing and has been promoting them, because rape if caused by a malfunctioning systems of gender relations you should be able to educate people out of it. Lisak’s attacking them as predator theory says they’re useless, as you can’t talk hardened offenders out of crime.
    Lisak is presumably arguing for a change in the particulars of the education programs, but he’s still arguing for education in the interests of prevention.

  35. Lauren
    Lauren March 28, 2010 at 9:26 pm | *

    @james, Are you suggesting that feminist theory is unchanging and immovable, or that feminists at large are unchanging and immovable, or that feminism at large is unable to accept new concepts? Because the concern trolling is annoying.

    Quit beating around the bush and say whatever it is you’re trying to say.

  36. Thomas
    Thomas March 29, 2010 at 2:00 pm |

    James, I think you’re building a strawfeminist. If you have a piece of literature in mind saying that rape culture means most cis het men commit rape (as opposed to rape culture means that ordinary social relations create an environment in which rapists can operate), then cite it and folks can respond. You’re making an empirical claim about feminist theory that I don’t think you can back up.

    And I’m not talking about fiction. Everyone knows Marilyn French’s quote; it was a statement by a fictional character. I mean feminist theory.

  37. RD
    RD March 29, 2010 at 2:46 pm |

    Does it have to do with a male victim being so alien a concept that the idea is simply rejected?

    Prison rape includes cis women raped by COs and trans women raped by male inmates and/or COs.

  38. Alex
    Alex March 29, 2010 at 3:50 pm |

    Actually “Repeat rape and multiple offending among undetected rapists” seems to be available here: http://www.publicintegrity.org/investigations/campus_assault/assets/pdf/Document5_Lisak_study.pdf
    According to google scholar, anyway. I haven’t clicked on it yet, this netbook grinds to a halt if I look at a pdf. Google Scholar displays a link on the right hand side if it can find a free version of a paper.

  39. William
    William March 29, 2010 at 4:33 pm |

    Prison rape includes cis women raped by COs and trans women raped by male inmates and/or COs.

    Right you are. Thanks for the check, even if I’m a bit embarrassed that it was necessary. I suppose that just goes to show the power a dominant narrative has to frame a discourse and dictate the kinds of experience included and excluded. I’ll be more careful in the future.

  40. RD
    RD March 29, 2010 at 9:57 pm |

    William – no problem. What a great way to take a call-out. :)

  41. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. March 30, 2010 at 3:20 pm |

    @William

    She was a slut, so it wasn’t rape;” “she didn’t fight back hard enough, she must have wanted it;” “she just regretted it in the morning;” “she was drunk, it was a misunderstanding” each of these kinds of statements are part of the narrative, they are excuses that society uses to negate the experience of victims.

    In this context, I think it’s important to note that its also a way in which victims negate their own experience…or to put it another way…a way to deny that they have been raped.

    The OP talked about changing the discourse…IMO the most important step in that change is convincing victims that being raped isn’t shameful. I can’t tell you how many DV victims I’ve worked with that admit to being punched, kicked, dragged, but were too ashamed to tell the judge they’d been raped.

    I think it’s this shame that keeps the rape myths alive.

  42. jemand
    jemand March 30, 2010 at 3:55 pm |

    Kristen J,

    There have also been instances where a woman I know (online) would say she doesn’t feel comfortable comparing what happened to her to more violent rapes, so she doesn’t feel comfortable labeling it as rape even though she was incapacitated by alcohol. She is not shamed into silence– but even then, doesn’t feel comfortable calling it *actual rape.*

    Probably because it was her ex who has custody of her kid…

  43. William
    William March 30, 2010 at 5:16 pm |

    In this context, I think it’s important to note that its also a way in which victims negate their own experience…or to put it another way…a way to deny that they have been raped.

    Absolutely. Thats what makes the narrative so insidious. It doesn’t just work it’s power on a victim but in them as well. The narrative isn’t just part of the judge, the cop, the rapist, etc but part of the victim. A victim who is too ashamed to even report has obviated the need for society to silence them. Power is a hierarchical thing and it’s very nature, in relation to knowledge, is to begin it’s influence at the earliest of levels.

  44. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. March 30, 2010 at 7:53 pm |

    @William,

    I agree completely. And that shame often leads victims to defensively project their feelings of shame onto other victims. (I’m thinking even more of male children I’ve worked with who were the victims of childhood sexual abuse.) Helping victims accept that there is no shame (and while we’re at it no control) not only helps them psychologically, but also helps to end part of the social construct.

  45. Mahri Irvine
    Mahri Irvine April 2, 2010 at 9:17 am |

    OMG! Thank you so much–this is the type of info I’ve been looking for, as certain nameless jerkoff newspaper “editors” at American U have decided to unleash a victim-blaming article upon the campus community… thus leading to national news coverage of the journalist spewing rape myths.
    Thanks for the article references! I really appreciate it!

  46. Mirror
    Mirror April 20, 2010 at 10:04 am |

    @26, that was a question I had too–the undercount is in the men who report that they have not raped/attempted to rape who then are not further interviewed.

    @42, the edges are so gray that sometimes they really hamper argument (not saying we shouldn’t keep talking and talking about it until it’s figured out, of course, just that it can be difficult). For instance, I would say emphatically that I have not been raped even though there was one time when a partner basically forced himself on me…why? I think because he thought I was playing. If I had opened my mouth and said “stop” I have zero question that he would have stopped, and I just didn’t for the same reason I didn’t want sex right then–I was just too damn tired. But this was someone I chose in general to have sex with both before and after this, so it seemed like not a big deal. But at the same time, it was definitely rape by the definition of unwanted sexual contact. So it’s clearly at the transparent edges of gray, and that makes me unsettled about the whole thing. Um, I guess I have no real point here, sorry about that.

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