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Rape and Human "Nature"
June 28, 2011 6:15 AM   Subscribe

As de Waal says, couldn't the full range of human nature encompass both those who want to rape and those who are powerfully averse to it? Put another way, just because some men commit rape doesn't mean all other men are only restrained from it by the artificial strictures of society. In fact, the fantasy of a hyper-willing female partner, one who is both exceedingly desirous of sex and exceedingly satisfied by a man's skills, is common in both porn and pop culture. A few current videos on XTube, for instance, include Climax2000, Cuming [sic] For You, Debbs Dark Desires, and Wanting Some Big Dick, all of which appear to depict women in various states of hunger-for-your-cock. Of course, Debbs Dark Desires may depict more what dudes want Debb to want than what she actually craves, but the point is that even quite male-centric depictions of female sexuality often include not just consent but enthusiastic desire and orgasm. The idea that men's natural instincts are rape-centric isn't supported even by media that serve their most private predilections.
posted by outlandishmarxist (63 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Scott Adams is a brilliant genius who is richer than you, so I know exactly who to trust on this.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:28 AM on June 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


"...even quite male-centric depictions of female sexuality often include not just consent but enthusiastic desire and orgasm."

To the extent that when confronted with a woman who does not consent, and who is not desirous of them, some manage to rationalize that the woman "really wanted it anyway" and were "asking for it" and thus it is okay to dismiss her comfort and desire in actuality.

I'm not sure I see why "porn depicts an unnatural depiction of female sexuality" is any measure of proof of either the pathology or the rationality of the urge to rape.

(Also, rape is not about sex but about power, etc., I'll let you read the literature on that yourself...)
posted by Phire at 6:32 AM on June 28, 2011 [8 favorites]


needs more straw man porn...
posted by ennui.bz at 6:33 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think a lot of people would already agree with this; the disconnect occurs when one has trouble discerning which women truly are asking for it.
posted by ShutterBun at 6:34 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


But regardless of where sex crimes "start," it's important to remember that unbridled male sexuality might not look like All Rape, All the Time.

I really loved Game of Thrones and I'm now reading the novel for the first time, but I tell you I sure do get tired of all the raping. It's as though Martin can't come up with a back story for his characters that doesn't include a rape at some point. Yeah I get that he wanted to make the Medieval Princess Fantasy Story more realistic, more brutal, but jesus-- there are more rapes in the novel than in the TV series and I thought that was already over the top.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:39 AM on June 28, 2011


This is Jezebel article quoting Scott Adams. Your inadvertent attempt at humor is working.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:40 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Haven't we been here before?
posted by londonmark at 6:45 AM on June 28, 2011


certainly have seen Scott here before... over and over and... I think the fellow just really really wants to be a pundit. Get him a TV show so we can figure out where to put him already.
posted by edgeways at 6:50 AM on June 28, 2011


rape is not about sex but about power, etc

But power is about sex, so rape really is about sex.
posted by DU at 6:50 AM on June 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


The idea that men's natural instincts are rape-centric

Who is arguing this? Anywhere? Anybody?
posted by jokeefe at 6:55 AM on June 28, 2011 [8 favorites]


To the extent that when confronted with a woman who does not consent, and who is desirous of them, some manage to rationalize that the woman "really wanted it anyway" and were "asking for it" and thus it is okay to dismiss her comfort and desire in actuality.

Right, but it seems to me that the point of the article is that the existence of men is not constantly undergirded by some innate desire to rape, that many men are repulsed by it. And while ambiguity (in the man's eyes), and not the desire to rape, is often a precursor to rape, that doesn't mean that every man has had nonconsensual sex.

I also contest your idea that rape is (always) about power, not sex. It seems that rape can occur in many different ways and be about many different things, including but not limited to power. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the "literature" about rape being only about power tends not to have a very strong evidence basis.
posted by outlandishmarxist at 6:56 AM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh wait. Scott Adams is. Gotcha. [/slinks off to RTFA]
posted by jokeefe at 6:56 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


(Also, rape is not about sex but about power, etc., I'll let you read the literature on that yourself...)

Actually, that's not true. Brownmiller is often cited as the source for that but she was neither a sex researcher, nor cited in context. If it were all about power, the violator would not be sexually aroused. Rape is still about sex, essentially.

Men who rape (I don't know anything about women who rape, so that's all I can speak to) typically have had consenting sex, typically have had girlfriends, and typically like consenting sex... they are just not as aversive to non-consenting sex as men who don't rape. There are a whole constellation of factors involved, including characteristics about the rapist, the victim, and the situation (most rape is opportunistic). My partner is a sex researcher who studies the role of non-consent in male sexual arousal, so while I know the basics I can't follow up with citations. She can, though, if anyone is interested further.
posted by arcticwoman at 7:10 AM on June 28, 2011 [21 favorites]


outlandishmarxist: "that doesn't mean that every man has had nonconsensual sex. "

I fully agree with that. I was more irked by the use of the way women are portrayed in porn as a defense (or rather, an example, I suppose) of a healthy sexual attitude towards women. I personally don't believe at all that all men have some innate desire to rape; even in Adams' specific example who has a high libido and a natural inclination towards violence, it's possible to satisfy those urges without needing to violate someone else's consent. That particular portion of his argument I see mostly as him being willfully obtuse in order to incite a reaction.

I think rape is about power insofar as rape necessarily requires a dismissal of someone else's desires - or rather, the belief, conscious or not, that your own desire supersedes theirs, and that you are entitled to something. A big issue that gets raised a lot in discussions of rape culture is the concept of a sense of entitlement that women perceive as being directed towards their own sexualities/bodies, and that necessarily places them in a secondary class. I don't buy that all rape is a display of power, but I think an inherent power dynamic is necessary for rape to take place, and the reason that rape of men (at the hands of women and men) is often dismissed is because the idea that sexual dominance over men is such a foreign concept.

arcticwoman, I would love to see more research about it. My position is informed less by academic research and more by my own impressions and blog posts that I've read, which I accept isn't the most accurate source on which to base an opinion.
posted by Phire at 7:16 AM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


the existence of men is not constantly undergirded by some innate desire to rape, that many men are repulsed by it.

Exactly. Far and away, most men's arousal decreases as soon as consent is withdrawn (arousal measured through penile plethysmography, consent as indicated in an audio pornographic story). Even in stories where there is violence or physical restraint, most men will exhibit sexual arousal while consent is evident. As soon as consent is withdrawn, most men's arousal decreases markedly. Some men just aren't as aversive to non-consent. This DOES NOT mean that non-aversive men are or will be rapists - they still have consciences and know right from wrong, (they are also aroused by consenting sex, usually preferring it) but it does mean that not all men get off on non-consent.
posted by arcticwoman at 7:16 AM on June 28, 2011 [14 favorites]


Metafilter: ...needs more straw man porn.
posted by Hugh Routley at 7:22 AM on June 28, 2011


To the extent that when confronted with a woman who does not consent, and who is desirous of them, some manage to rationalize that the woman "really wanted it anyway" and were "asking for it" and thus it is okay to dismiss her comfort and desire in actuality.

Who?
posted by wrok at 7:27 AM on June 28, 2011


the disconnect occurs when one has trouble discerning which women truly are asking for it.

I usually just ask them directly. I used to occasionally use what a thought were clever metaphors, but then I asked a woman if she wanted to "pet my python" and we ended up spending all day at the Zoo.
posted by Panjandrum at 7:27 AM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Whoa, Jezebel quoting Scott Adams on rape — this is a perfect storm of troll
posted by Tom-B at 7:34 AM on June 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


I think rape is about power insofar as rape necessarily requires a dismissal of someone else's desires - or rather, the belief, conscious or not, that your own desire supersedes theirs, and that you are entitled to something. A big issue that gets raised a lot in discussions of rape culture is the concept of a sense of entitlement that women perceive as being directed towards their own sexualities/bodies, and that necessarily places them in a secondary class.

I think I would have disagreed with you until recently, when I began spending - for reasons of necessity - a lot of time around men who really do regard women as theirs for the taking. I had forgotten that they existed and almost believed they were pure projection (i.e., I thought, "Men may seem that way, but they aren't really that way"). It's hard to see that when one doesn't have the direct experience; as a cis man, I've only had one sexual partner who I would say objectified me (this, again, may be different for other men).
posted by outlandishmarxist at 7:35 AM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


So ... basically the whole article is Jezebel quoting Adams going after a strawman, the claim that all men (apparently) are rapists. Or something. To be honest I'm not sure what he's arguing against, except that there doesn't seem to be anyone making the argument that he's attacking.

Does anyone really doubt that "not all men are rapists"? I've spent some time arguing with some pretty hardcore political feminists, and I've never really heard anyone claim that, at least not in a serious, non-rhetorical way.

Except that Adams makes a lot of appeals to authority ("science is on my side," "Darwin", etc.) that he doesn't really support, there doesn't seem to be anything particularly outlandish about the point he's making. Most men are not rapists. While I'm open to the idea that for any particular person, there is a certain set of circumstances that could cause them to do something abhorrent (in the same way that I believe that there are a set of circumstances in which anyone, no matter how nonviolent they may claim to be, would kill), most men simply won't even encounter the circumstances that would cause them to commit rape.

I don't think you really even need to go through Adams' whole argument to discount the possibility that all men secretly want to rape but are held back by social strictures. All you need to do is consider that, in very large part, most of the social strictures (legal sanctions, social rules, etc.) were created by, and are for the advantage of, men. If most men wanted to rape, then it's a bit odd that it's traditionally punishable by death. If it's really something that everyone wants to do, why put it on the short list along with murder and treason? Doesn't make a lot of sense.

But if you accept the pretty reasonable premise that rape is abhorrent to most men, most of the time, in the same way that murder is, then it doesn't seem so strange. Appeals to evolutionary biology and Darwinism seem unnecessary.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:37 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sweet Jesus, can we please have a moratorium on all things tainted by Scott Adams? The guy is a full-on certified social retard. We need not promote him here.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:51 AM on June 28, 2011 [9 favorites]


To the extent that when confronted with a woman who does not consent, and who is desirous of them, some manage to rationalize that the woman "really wanted it anyway" and were "asking for it" and thus it is okay to dismiss her comfort and desire in actuality.

....

I fully agree with that. I was more irked by the use of the way women are portrayed in porn as a defense (or rather, an example, I suppose) of a healthy sexual attitude towards women.


Yeah, I'm with this line of responses.

Now, it seems to me that there is an argument to be made based on all the "yes yes yes oh please" in mainstream porn. But that argument is not "Some guys are natural models of respect and enthusiastic consent (and, oh shit, looks like other guys are just naturally and hopelessly rapey)." Rather, it should be something like "People have a very strong natural urge to feel wanted (and it's up to them what they do with that urge)."

Sometimes people channel the urge to feel wanted into nice happy reciprocal social behavior, and nice happy mutually consensual sex. Sometimes they channel it into innocent fantasy ("I know that actress is just pretending to be turned on, but it's harmless fun if I imagine it's real") and sometimes into outright malignant self-delusion ("My girlfriend says she isn't in the mood, but I know what she's really thinking...."). But it seems plausible to me that it's the same morally neutral urge operating in all three cases, and that the only difference between rapists and non-rapists is that they've cultivated — or been taught — different ways of responding to the urge.

On that note, I'm sorta puzzled that the people who try to make ethical arguments based on ev. psych. don't seem very interested in the idea that you can cultivate virtue. It strikes me as the natural place to go with all this — if some urges really are innate and universal, but they elicit different behavioral responses in different people, then shouldn't we be putting more moral emphasis on those different patterns of response, and on the ways that people learn them? But I guess it's more appealing to fall back on the old NATURAL IS GOOD canard. (Or maybe there are some evolutionary virtue ethicists hiding under a rock somewhere, and they're just not as soundbite-worthy as the Nature Red In Tooth And Claw assholes? I'd believe that too.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:55 AM on June 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


(Also, yeah, Scott Adams is a dipshit. But the Jezebel article — while I think it's wrong — is at least interestingly wrong rather than full on batshit crazy.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:56 AM on June 28, 2011


How about another question "Is murder natural?"

The problem lies in the word "natural", it's too vague for useful debate and too loaded for even starting one.
posted by storybored at 7:58 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


How about we ignore Adams and attend to arcticwoman's excellent summation of her partner's research? It's just as contrarian, but significantly more interesting because it contains dispositive evidence.
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:20 AM on June 28, 2011 [7 favorites]


If most men wanted to rape, then it's a bit odd that it's traditionally punishable by death.

Arguably, this is more closely linked to strictures on theft.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:22 AM on June 28, 2011


Arguably, this is more closely linked to strictures on theft.

Mm, and the aversion to expending precious resources on raising a child which might not be yours.
posted by likeso at 8:29 AM on June 28, 2011


Something both the Jezebel article and many comments here fail to acknowledge is the pervasive rape myth that It's Not Rape If You Enjoyed It. To paraphrase TVTropes, it's a rape fantasy displayed when a rapist denies that his/her actions can be classified as rape because the victim climaxed; when a rape is occurring, and the victim first protests and then starts having fun; and when a victim is raped until they like it and can't get enough of it. The nasty slur "she was asking for it!" (when it's a female victim) is not just "she deserved to be raped," it's also "she secretly craved surprise sex but needed to be convinced."

So by that (insane troll) logic, rape fantasy and the hyper-willing female partner fantasy are not mutually exclusive: a lot of porn scenarios start with women in sexual situations that aren't consensual, but these unwilling women are turned by the awesome phallus power into "women in various states of hunger-for-your-cock."

This has some historical legal basis, unfortunately. Prior to roughly the 17th century, Western thinkers believed that the female orgasm was required for procreative sex. Yay for more orgasms, right? But if a woman were raped and got pregnant from it, then clearly procreative sex = she orgasmed = it wasn't rape.
posted by nicebookrack at 8:46 AM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


That's interesting, nicebookrack. I was under the impression that the existence of the female orgasm was kind of ignored for most of Western history.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:49 AM on June 28, 2011


Who knew that Adams was a Dworkinite?
posted by bonehead at 8:50 AM on June 28, 2011


Who knew that Adams was a Dworkinite?

Someone who hasn't read Dworkin?
posted by stet at 8:57 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


shakespeherian: "That's interesting, nicebookrack. I was under the impression that the existence of the female orgasm was kind of ignored for most of Western history."

That happened after Science helpfully discovered that the female orgasm wasn't inherently required for making babeez, so it could be safely ignored forever (by male scientists). Via hasty Googling, a rough scientific timeline.
posted by nicebookrack at 9:01 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sorry, that was a bit dickish, but I get tired of Dworkin being reduced to some sort of frothing strawman by the likes of, well, Scott Adams.
posted by stet at 9:01 AM on June 28, 2011


I think it's more likely that female sexual arousal in females and ability to orgasm actually developed as a mechanism by which males could force women into a state of submission or immobility through forcing arousal which combined with fear can cause a tonic immobility state in victims of sexual abuse.

When I was a teen my partner felt that if he could force orgasms to happen anything else he did was ok even if I was trying to get away or curl up in a ball, or crying, or saying I couldn't bear it. Because if you force arousal to happen than you're in the clear for anything you want to do. If you can force the victim to feel arousal, they'll probably feel like they deserved it too.

In fact I spent most of that relationship apologizing to him for causing the badness. And dissociating from reality. I wound up in a mental hospital shortly after getting out of that.
posted by xarnop at 9:18 AM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


The idea that men's natural instincts are rape-centric

Who is arguing this? Anywhere? Anybody?


Most conservatives. Scott Adams.

And every single person who believes that what a victim wears/does somehow causes the assault, because all men, when provoked enough, will rape.

You might start with this review of...wait for it... A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion. A whole book about how rape is natural. That came out in 2009.
posted by emjaybee at 9:21 AM on June 28, 2011


I meant to make it more clear that my thinking that is why female orgasm developed is obviously influenced by a whole lot of miserable sexual experiences and might have nothing to do with it. But I do think "arousal" as per depicted by porn is not necessarily outside the realm of persuan and force to feel such arousal.
posted by xarnop at 9:22 AM on June 28, 2011


So, in an attempt to understand arousal in the context of unwanted sex, Chivers, like a handful of other sexologists, has arrived at an evolutionary hypothesis that stresses the difference between reflexive sexual readiness and desire. Genital lubrication, she writes in her upcoming paper in Archives of Sexual Behavior, is necessary “to reduce discomfort, and the possibility of injury, during vaginal penetration. . . . Ancestral women who did not show an automatic vaginal response to sexual cues may have been more likely to experience injuries during unwanted vaginal penetration that resulted in illness, infertility or even death, and thus would be less likely to have passed on this trait to their offspring. (NYT article)
posted by milk white peacock at 9:35 AM on June 28, 2011


while I know the basics I can't follow up with citations. She can, though, if anyone is interested further.

arcticwoman, I for one would love to see her citations and maybe an in-depth account of her research, if she is willing to take the time to share it with us!
posted by anotherpanacea at 9:35 AM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


I emailed her and asked her to jump in, but she is a better person than I and doesn't check personal email while at work, so she might step in later in the day.
posted by arcticwoman at 9:44 AM on June 28, 2011


Is Rape Natural?

Repeat after me: There is no such thing as "natural." It is a made-up construct. There is no such thing as "artificial." It is a made up construct. There is no reason why we have to have this ridiculous distinction between the two which constantly allows some idiot to say that one thing is good and one thing is bad based on this distinction.

Rape is something I do not want to happen to the people I care about. By setting up a system of human rights, I get to have a system that can work to stop such things. I don't care if it is "natural" or if it was previously adaptive.

It does not matter to me if some women have rape fantasies. It does not matter to me if some men have rape fantasies. I just want to have it be a crime so that women I care about do not suffer from it. There should be two components to this (1) a system whereby men and women feel a societal duty to report rape; and (2) heavy punishments for rapists.

I don't think I'm asking for too much. This stupid mish-mash about whether or not it is "natural" or not is just ontological bullshit that goes on in our minds. We cannot even know if it was adaptive in the past or not without a fucking time machine anyway.

This reminds me of a conversation about vegetarianism I had the other day. A friend insisted being an omnivore was "in our genes" and went on and on about hunter-gathering as if he was there while cro-magnon man made his first kill. I simply responded that it might be best if we don't confuse the dietary customs of the known 1950s with those of the unknown 10,000 b.c. (I also pointed out that our teeth and digestive systems resemble those of fruit-eaters). All those people who tell you that we were "hunter gatherers" or that the women gathered and the men hunted or that men ruled the earth and women served are all full of shit. Some people studying that stuff have made some guesses, most of them on scant evidence. So to say that it was "natural" or adaptive or anything else for people to rape people is useless and fact-fucking free.

What matters is our opinions and our laws and rights now. And my votes for rape staying fucking illegal and being prosecuted to the greatest extent of the law, period.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:49 AM on June 28, 2011 [8 favorites]


Most men are not rapists. While I'm open to the idea that for any particular person, there is a certain set of circumstances that could cause them to do something abhorrent (in the same way that I believe that there are a set of circumstances in which anyone, no matter how nonviolent they may claim to be, would kill), most men simply won't even encounter the circumstances that would cause them to commit rape.

Part of my discomfort with this statement is the ambiguity around the word 'rape'. If we're talking about stranger rape with a weapon, or forced sex on a prepubescent child, then yes, I think what you say is true.

But there are lots of other forms of coerced or forced sex that I think many men wouldn't think of as rape, but would nonetheless leave their 'partner' feeling raped. I guess that many date rapists and men who override/ignore their girlfriends/wives' lack of consent would not think of themselves as rapists and would, without any sentiment of being hypocritical, condemn stranger rape. Or men in marriages before there was even a concept of marital rape, where the idea was that consent to marriage equals consent to sex. They wouldn't see it as something inherently abhorrent if there was no one around them ever suggesting there was anything wrong with it (which was often exactly the case).
posted by Salamandrous at 10:07 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


If most men wanted to rape, then it's a bit odd that it's traditionally punishable by death. If it's really something that everyone wants to do, why put it on the short list along with murder and treason? Doesn't make a lot of sense.

I don't think that rape was traditionally punishable death. In the Bible it's not, unless the rape is of another man's wife, and then the only difference between rape and consensual sex is whether the woman is on the hook for punishment as well.

Also I think many anthropologists would argue that adultery/multiple sex partners *is* something that everyone 'naturally' wants - and that *has* been punishable by death for at least as long as murder and treason have been.
posted by Salamandrous at 10:10 AM on June 28, 2011


If most men wanted to rape, then it's a bit odd that it's traditionally punishable by death. If it's really something that everyone wants to do, why put it on the short list along with murder and treason? Doesn't make a lot of sense.

It makes sense if you understand that rape was traditionally not a crime against the victim, but against the victim's owner. You paid your restitution to the father or husband, not to the woman, because she was property that you had damaged. Not a person that you had hurt. Not a person at all, in the legal sense.
posted by emjaybee at 10:51 AM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Why do people keep talking to Scott Adams?
posted by bongo_x at 10:53 AM on June 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


What a bizarre statement to begin with I mean, you start with a premise that's totally off the wall and then refute it with even more craziness.

This is the kind of crap that turns people off "academic thinking" or whatever the hell you call it. Where people layer on cumbersome nonsense on top of a framework that makes no sense at all.

Also where does this "rape is about power, not sex" thing come from, what gives people the confidence to state it like it was some kind of empirically tested theorem.
posted by delmoi at 11:18 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just another voice hoping arcticwoman's partner shows up to drop knowledge—her research sounds fascinating and awesome. (Please convey to her one internet high five from me!)
posted by bewilderbeast at 11:27 AM on June 28, 2011


Like many others, I seem more put off by Scott Adams than by rape.

Also:

Metafilter: Being willfully obtuse in order to incite a reaction.
posted by klangklangston at 11:58 AM on June 28, 2011


So, in an attempt to understand arousal in the context of unwanted sex, Chivers, like a handful of other sexologists, has arrived at an evolutionary hypothesis that stresses the difference between reflexive sexual readiness and desire. Genital lubrication, she writes in her upcoming paper in Archives of Sexual Behavior, is necessary “to reduce discomfort, and the possibility of injury, during vaginal penetration. . . . Ancestral women who did not show an automatic vaginal response to sexual cues may have been more likely to experience injuries during unwanted vaginal penetration that resulted in illness, infertility or even death, and thus would be less likely to have passed on this trait to their offspring. (NYT article)
posted by milk white peacock


I think this has been clear for a long time. It occurred to me around, I don't know, twenty years ago?

Please pardon me for this, but as I said more than two years ago here:

Women lubricate at all these things as a precaution against the possibility they may soon be having sex whether or not they want to.

If a woman is penetrated without being lubricated, her genitals may well be injured-- and that could severely compromise her fertility.

That constitutes an immensely powerful selective force, and that force has resulted in women getting lubricated in all kinds of circumstances their unconscious mind tells their body could be associated with sex.

This is what's so sad to me about the 'betrayal by the body' stuff that comes up in so many discussions about rape. Far from being betrayed by their bodies, their bodies are calvary riding to the rescue.

Maybe once all this becomes a little more established, another set of victims will be able to stop blaming themselves a little more easily.


Chivers' new paper may be an indication that the hopes of my last sentence are being realized. I went on to say:

Chivers is measuring blood flow to the vagina, and that means more than simple lubrication.

It means engorgement too, and engorgement is the key to a strategy among human females to choose the father of your children even when you can't choose not to have sex with individuals you don't want to have sex with in the first place.

That's because engorgement affects the cervix as well as the walls of the vagina, and in the cervix engorgement tends to pinch the opening shut, which impedes fertilization.

Engorgement can last for quite a while, often hours, as I recall, allowing more than enough time for an unwanted partner's semen to leak away.

So arousal not only helps avoid being injured by rape, it helps to forestall the possibility a woman will be made pregnant by a rapist.

Female orgasm tends to resolve engorgement rapidly, and I think it's therefore reasonable to interpret it as saying 'I choose you' in some circumstances.

posted by jamjam at 12:01 PM on June 28, 2011


Female orgasm tends to resolve engorgement rapidly, and I think it's therefore reasonable to interpret it as saying 'I choose you' in some circumstances.


I think choice means rational choice here. Your body doing X, Y or Z is not you making a choice.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:21 PM on June 28, 2011


But reading your earlier comment fully, not just your quoted part shows that you are saying about the same thing I am.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:22 PM on June 28, 2011


Adams: christ, what an asshole.

The guy is a dangerous combination of slightly better informed than some, but unable to truly think critically. His entire world-view stems from overly credulous notions biased by an ingrained middle-class American context he isn't even aware of.

Case in point: expressions of human sexuality, even extreme expressions like rape, cannot be reduced to absurdity using simple evolutionary models. Humanity doesn't work like this, and hasn't for millennia.

Drawing a line from some imaginary evolutionary "reason" for rape to systematic violence committed as an act of war in the modern era is, simply put, absurd. It is a just-so story told by people to make themselves sound smart.

Which, really, is my main beef with Adams (even though I know this article is not primarily about Adams). He chooses contentious positions on contentious issues and constructs ridiculous frameworks on which to hang his "everyone has an opinion, so therefore everyone is right, especially if they appear to be in the minority" notions.

It's anti-intellectualism wrapped up in politics, pretending to be interested in understanding a complex world.

Because all these guys have to do is include an anthropologist or two in their discussions to explain /why/ there are such complicated and hard-to-grok theories about humanity. Common sense and simple reductive arguments just don't hold up to wider scrutiny for a reason.
posted by clvrmnky at 12:35 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


If, as I reasserted above, arousal on the part of a victim of rape helps prevent being made pregnant by that rape, that raises the possibility of a counterstrategy by rapists: preventing the victim from becoming aroused.

I've wondered whether this could be where the idea that rape is a crime of violence rather than passion comes in. Rape doesn't look at all passionate because the rapist is trying (not necessarily consciously, and almost certainly not with the idea of increasing the chances of paternity in mind) to keep the victim from becoming aroused.
posted by jamjam at 12:49 PM on June 28, 2011


Like many others, I seem more put off by Scott Adams than by rape.

To read about, definitely. He sounds like an aggrandizing, attention-seeking dimwit, and I wish we would stop giving him all of this attention.
posted by Forktine at 6:08 PM on June 28, 2011


nicebookrack: Via hasty Googling, a rough scientific timeline.

Fantastic, thank you!
posted by Chuckles at 8:31 PM on June 28, 2011


All right, you asked for it:

Hello everyone. This is mrs. arcticwoman here to follow up on what arcticwoman has already contributed to the discussion. She did a pretty good job summarizing my research and I'm not entirely sure what else to contribute. It is true that there are fairly consistent patterns of men's sexual arousal when it comes to depictions of consensual sex in the laboratory and that is that the average, sexually nonaggressive man exhibits a significant increase in sexual arousal in response to depictions of consensual sex and a marked decrease in arousal to depictions of nonconsensual sex. Sexually aggressive men, on the other hand, show a significant increase in sexual arousal in response to depictions of both consensual and nonconsensual sex.

When I say "sexual arousal" I am talking about the increase in genital blood flow to the penis as measured using penile plethysmography. The device that is commonly used in the labs that I have worked in is a penile strain gauge, which measures circumferential changes in the penis during various stages of erection (the biggest limitation to this device is that during an erection the penis gets longer before it gets thicker so the strain gauge only records changes in the penis once a significant amount of blood has already entered the penis). Furthermore, the depictions of sex that I prefer using are aural narratives. I prefer aural narratives to, say, audio-visual movies or still images because I have more control over the details in the story to which the participants attend. I want them to hear the female in the story say "No" and with visual stimuli, participants may only pay attention to the genitals or the sex acts or the secondary sexual characteristics, etc.

When I talk about "sexually aggressive men" versus "sexually nonaggressive men", I want to clarify that the vast majority of the literature has focused on incarcerated rapists and compared their arousal patterns to a non-incarcerated population and there are pros and cons to this research that I won't go in to at this time. There is research, however, that has used non-criminal university student populations and found a full spectrum of sexually aggressive and nonaggressive behaviours and personality characteristics among participants and then measured their sexual arousal patterns. The pattern of arousal that I described earlier is consistent with what we know about convicted rapists and sexually nonaggressive men. For further reading, Neil M. Malamuth has done some excellent foundational research in this area, albeit many decades ago.

Martin L. Lalumière is another researcher (and more current) in the field of sexual aggression. One thing he and his colleagues did, which was brilliant, is that he asked the question "Are men who sexually aggress against women fundamentally different from men who have physically (but not sexually) aggressed against women?" (Lalumière, Quinsey, Harris, Rice, & Trautrimas, 2003). So he studied an incarcerated sample including men who had raped women, and men who were nonsexually violent against women and indeed, the pattern of arousal indicated that men who rape women are aroused to depictions of rape and men who beat up women are not aroused by cues of rape. The distinction between sexually aggressive men and sexually nonaggressive men seems to be a real phenomenon. I want to reiterate what many of you have already said and that is that most men do not rape. Most men prefer consensual sex with partners. You might be able to say that most men who have committed rape are sexually aggressive, but you could not say that most sexually aggressive men have committed rape.

So I guess the biggest argument that I want to make is that if there were a default behaviour for most men, it is not to rape. Most men are put in situations very frequently in which they could rape and yet it would never cross their minds. A man and a woman can exist in a secluded space together with no one else around and more often than not, that man will not rape that woman. Going back to the article, and as many of you have pointed out, there's no sense in talking "natural" and "unnatural" when it comes to human behaviour. The fact that sexual aggression against women has persisted throughout our ancestral history and it is prevalent among our primate relatives and other non-primate species (including insects, birds, mammals, etc. ad nauseum) indicates that it is a behaviour that will likely continue to persist at the population level. This doesn't mean that we have to accept it as some part of manliness that we must live with or turn a blind eye to. While it might be true that some men are aroused by nonconsent and others are not, we all have agency when it comes to our behaviour, sexual or otherwise.

Interesting discussion. Thanks for including me. Let me know if there are specific questions/areas I can provide more comment or context on. This is mrs.arcticwoman signing out now.
posted by arcticwoman at 9:43 PM on June 28, 2011 [12 favorites]


indeed, the pattern of arousal indicated that men who rape women are aroused to depictions of rape and men who beat up women are not aroused by cues of rape. The distinction between sexually aggressive men and sexually nonaggressive men seems to be a real phenomenon.

That is fascinating; I would have guessed that the two were much closer linked, perhaps existing on a spectrum of violence, rather than as two separate manifestations of it.

I do have a question, though. Has the same arousal research been done on the kinds of consent/rape situations that are less clear-cut? Meaning the kinds of date-rape, acquaintance-rape, marital-rape, etc, situations where (anecdotally at least) many men don't seem to consider "real" rape because there is no overt violence. I do wonder if some of the same guys who get turned off by a depiction of a classic rape might have a different reaction to a depiction of a more (to them) ambiguous situation where they have a way to imagine consent.

Thanks for taking the time to contribute to this discussion.
posted by Forktine at 5:45 AM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is regular arcticwoman back. My partner had to run to work, but I can tell you what she told me.

Most of the research of this sort is actually done on what is called acquaintance rape (which encompasses date rape), because that is far and away the most typical. My partner's work was specifically on the role of sexual arousal in date rape situations. The pornographic stories she used as stimuli all followed a formula: two minutes long, narrated in an affectless voice, each story began with two people who knew each other in some way but were not close friends, they interacted in some sexual way. For the consenting stories, sex took place. For the non-consenting stories, consent was at some point unambiguously withdrawn. The important part to make it analagous to a date-rape scenario was that 1) the characters knew each other and 2) prior to non-consent there was some consenting sexual activity.

This is clearly an artificial lab situation, and real life tends to be more ambiguous. Those are limitations of this study, but also of pretty much any behavioural study conducted in a lab. This research found what was described above: there was a pretty clear line between sexually aggressive and sexually non-aggressive men in how they responded to the withdrawal of consent.

There was a really neat study done by someone else, where they had participants listen to longer stories where the story slowly changed from complete consent to some cues of non-consent, to stronger cues of non-consent to complete non-consent. Participants were told to hit a button when they believed the man should stop his actions (although they could listen to the whole story through, preventing them from waiting longer because they wanted to know where it was going). Sexually aggressive men waited much longer to hit the button than sexually non-aggressive men, suggesting that they either didn't hear/attend to the non-consent (too busy paying attention to other cues) or it didn't bother them/they didn't believe the man had to stop at mild cues. This shows a real difference between the way sexually aggressive and non-aggressive perceive non-consent, and the effect it has on their arousal and behaviour. I like forktine's phrasing: maybe sexually aggressive men are able to imagine consent though graduations of non-consent more easily than can non-aggressive men. At some point, everyone realizes there's a problem, but sexually aggressive men don't clue in until later. So, even in cases of ambiguous non-consent, sexually non-aggressive men are quicker to understand and act appropriately.

Of course, there are loads more factors. When alcohol is introduced (EITHER in the case of giving the participants a drink, or writing into the story that the characters are drinking) everyone waits longer to stop the story. Alcohol has strange effects on perceptions of non-consent, and not all of them are purely physiological. In a different study, participants who were told they were given alcohol (but were given a strongly flavoured non-alcoholic drink) are place more blame on the victim in rape scenarios than participants who were correctly told they were given a non-alcoholic drink. This applies to male and female participants. My partner used the phrase "alcohol expectancies," to describe how people can act and believe based on how they expect alcohol to affect them, regardless of the physiological effects.

See honey, I listen! :)
posted by arcticwoman at 7:15 AM on June 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


Sexually aggressive men waited much longer to hit the button than sexually non-aggressive men

And the definition of "sexually aggressive men" is apparently this:

When I talk about "sexually aggressive men" versus "sexually nonaggressive men", I want to clarify that the vast majority of the literature has focused on incarcerated rapists and compared their arousal patterns to a non-incarcerated population

So that's actually surprisingly encouraging. You (or you two, as the case may be), are saying that the right people are in jail, and they get sent to jail quickly enough to filter them out of the general population somewhat effectively.

Personally, I wouldn't have thought this to be the case. Maybe there is a tighter (but still not circular, which is what I initially assumed) definition of "sexually aggressive men"?
posted by Chuckles at 9:20 AM on June 29, 2011


Maybe there is a tighter (but still not circular, which is what I initially assumed) definition of "sexually aggressive men"?

Yeah, I get that it sounds circular. If "sexually aggressive" has been defined in terms of men incarcerated from having committed rape, then the definition is going to be very similar to the definition of "convicted rapist." I believe that willingness to use coercion, acceptance of rape myths, and other attitudes/behaviours are included in the definition though. Determining how sexually aggressive someone is has turned out to be a very effective predictor of recidivism (repeat offending), although I don't think it predicts first offending.

saying that the right people are in jail

I hadn't thought about this - it's an interesting point. I know that among incarcerated men it's fairly easy to find a sample of sexually aggressive men (although it's also easy to find a sample of non-sexually but physically aggressive men) but among the non-incarcerated population (samples are usually college-age men, partly for convenience but also because that's the relevant demographic) it's much more difficult to find a sample of sexually aggressive men. Maybe college students are better at lying about their levels of aggression? Maybe being in jail makes you more aggressive? Or maybe the most sexually aggressive men commit crimes and get busted. Dunno.
posted by arcticwoman at 11:45 AM on June 29, 2011


I know that among incarcerated men it's fairly easy to find a sample of sexually aggressive men (although it's also easy to find a sample of non-sexually but physically aggressive men) but among the non-incarcerated population (samples are usually college-age men, partly for convenience but also because that's the relevant demographic) it's much more difficult to find a sample of sexually aggressive men. Maybe college students are better at lying about their levels of aggression?

I remember reading here on MeFi, maybe in the last year or so, a report of a study that claimed the vast majority of sexual assaults on a campus were being perpetrated by a small minority of men. As in, most men committed zero assualts/rapes, but a few men were repeatedly assaulting/raping. If that were to be true, that would easily explain why it is so hard to find a sufficient population of sexually aggressive men.
posted by Forktine at 12:08 PM on June 29, 2011


And the definition of "sexually aggressive men" is apparently this

That doesn't actually tell me what the definition of "sexually aggressive men" is, except possibly "men who rape". Which seems tautological.
posted by Justinian at 12:49 PM on June 29, 2011


I think it's based on self-reported attitudes. Otherwise, it would be impossible to find non-criminal college students who fit the bill:

There is research, however, that has used non-criminal university student populations and found a full spectrum of sexually aggressive and nonaggressive behaviours

Thanks arcticwoman and Mrs. arcticwoman!
posted by anotherpanacea at 2:56 PM on June 29, 2011


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