10 December 2009

Rape and Evolution VI: Clothing and the chance of rape

Dear Colleagues:

The issue arises as to whether attire affects the frequency of rape. I take no position on the issue. I am not aware of any data that directly addresses this issue.

If there is evidence for the propositions (1) and (2), then this might be thought relevant to whether at the margin clothing might have an effect on rape, although it is probably not strong enough to justify any belief on the topic.

Here are the two propositions.
(1) Many rapists are motivated in part by sex.
(2) In some cases, being scantily clad increases sexual motivation in men.

There is some support for proposition (1) (Many rapists are motivated in part by sex).

a. Most rapists do not have a preference for rape over consensual sex. See Freund et al., “Heterosocial competence of rapists and child molesters: a meta-analysis,” The Journal of Sex Research 40 (2003): 170-178; Baxter et al., “Sexual responses to consenting and forced sex in a large sample of rapists and non-rapists,” Behavior Research and Therapy 24 (1986): 513-520.

b. There are no significant differences between the arousal patterns for male rapists and other males. W. L. Marshall and A. Eccles, “Issues in clinical practice with sex offenders,” Journal of Interpersonal Violence 6 (1991).

c. Male rapists responded more strongly to consensual sex scenarios than to forced sex scenarios. Baxter, “Sexual responses to consenting and forced sex in a large sample of rapists and non-rapists,” 513-520.

d. Young sexually attractive females are raped more often than older, less sexually attractive females. See data on more frequent targeting of fertile-age women.

I don’t have any empirical support for proposition (2) other than anecdotes. The plural of anecdote is not data (sadly, not my line). However, this strikes me as extremely plausible. This is in part an explanation why attractive single women choose to dress in form-fitting or revealing outfits.

If there is such an effect, and this hasn’t been shown, then my guess is that it is small. One study indicated that most rapists did not remember what their victim was wearing.

Note that (1) entails that the feminist thesis (rape is about hatred or control of women and not about sex) is false. It is an interesting question whether there is any recent data that supports the feminist position.

I am not saying that being scantily clad in any way justifies or excuses rape or that in every case, or even most cases, being so dressed will affect a person’s chance to be raped. I also take no position on whether women are required or permitted to dress in any way.

I don’t see this debate about language. Rather, it is about rape. Specifically, what relation it has to evolution and sexual motives.

Thank you for your thoughtful notes,
Steve K

1 comment:

The Objectivist said...

Note: in response to my writing on rape the feminists are still waging a campaign to have me kicked out of my union position, have written a nasty letter to the paper, and several to proftalk (a faculty-staff discussion website).

That said, they have yet to present a single plausible argument for the feminist claim that rape-is-not-about-sex.

Their argument that rape is not an evolutionary adaptation or a byproduct of it has been weak but at least they have an argument for it. Because this thesis is likely trivially true in some sense (see byproduct condition) it might be judged to be uncontroversial. If so, however, then it stands, however unexciting.