Tag Archives: Rape

Major child abuser rolls back in town, open for business.

You may have heard of the “Children’s Theater Company” in Minneapolis, known for about five years in the 1960s as “The Moppet Players.” It has long been a big deal, nationally known, and award winning. It has put on multi-generational plays friendly to children of various ages, but also, has long run a school for kids to learn to act. I have relatives who have done that program, and in fact, I think we are going to a performance of something sometime next month where a young grade-school age cousin will be in his second or third play (he usually does Shakespeare). Continue reading Major child abuser rolls back in town, open for business.

What do we need men for? Including Donald Trump?

My FBFF E. Jean Carroll has a new book coming out, What Do We Need Men For? A Modest Proposal. You’ve heard about her, and the book, and related matters because Donald Trump’s apparent first degree rape of Ms. Carroll, several years ago, is in the news today, and for a story about Trump to vie for bigness among all the other stories, let alone being noticed at all, it must be amazing. Continue reading What do we need men for? Including Donald Trump?

Rates of sexual assaults among college students, by gender orientation

This is just over a year old but just came across my desk. The study is: Sexual Assault Victimization Among Straight, Gay/Lesbian, and Bisexual College Students by Jessie Ford and Jose Soto-Marquez, Violence and Gender, June 2016.

From the abstract: Continue reading Rates of sexual assaults among college students, by gender orientation

Guys crossing the street, rabid dogs, and elevators

I feel it is time for a repost of an essay I wrote about five years ago during an earlier period of turmoil on the internet caused by women and men acknowledging that women are generally under constant sexual harassment and under constant threat of sexual assault.

There may be a few broken links here that I’ll just deaden, but otherwise, I’m not changing the essay at this time.


I want to mention three separate instances of men acting inappropriately towards a woman that occurred to people I know over the last couple of months.

[Trigger warning: Sexual harassment and rape]

In once case, a man drove up to a woman who was just getting out of her car, in a relatively secluded parking lot, to ask her what kind of mileage she got on that model and make. There was nothing exceptional about the car that would cause special interest in this issue. In the second instance, a man skated (on in-line skates) up next to a woman who was skating on a long trail a mile or two into the woods where no one was around, and insisted on “teaching her” how to “draft” which involved him skating to a few inches behind her and holding his hand on the small of her back while he explained how great that felt. In the third instance, a stranger cornered a women in an enclosed space, tried to rape her, and in so doing hit her several times in the head while pulling off her clothing.

Continue reading Guys crossing the street, rabid dogs, and elevators

What is "Rape Culture"?

When I first encountered the term “rape culture” I was put off by it. I’ve lived in and directly studied, and indirectly studied through the literature, a wide range of cultures around the world, and there is a great range of variation in prevalence of and attitudes about rape. Now and then there emerge circumstances in which rape becomes extremely common. It has been said that for a period of time during the Second Congo War rape accounted for nearly 100% of the intercourse, babies, and of course, violent deaths of women, in certain regions. I was concerned that the term “rape culture” applied in the US watered down consideration of the more severe end of this distribution.

It did not take long, however, for me to realize this was a rather bone-headed way of looking at it. For one thing, the actual definitions of rape culture in use do not in any way limit its application to those extreme and horrific cases. Also, culture is complex. We tend to collect data, make generalizations, and see solutions at societal levels such as entire nations or even continents, not at the level of “cultures” which are, in any event, edge-less complex interconnected entities despite the common use of the shorthand term (“culture”). The elements of rape culture can be in place in a country or region where rape is more rare, or more common.

An excellent definition of rape culture is provided by Marshall University’s Women’s Center:

Rape Culture is an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture. Rape culture is perpetuated through the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of women’s bodies, and the glamorization of sexual violence, thereby creating a society that disregards women’s rights and safety.

Rape Culture affects every woman. The rape of one woman is a degradation, terror, and limitation to all women. Most women and girls limit their behavior because of the existence of rape. Most women and girls live in fear of rape. Men, in general, do not. That’s how rape functions as a powerful means by which the whole female population is held in a subordinate position to the whole male population, even though many men don’t rape, and many women are never victims of rape. This cycle of fear is the legacy of Rape Culture.

The same web page goes on to provide examples (i.e., blaming the victim, tolerating sexual harassment, inflating false rape report statistics, and so on) and also provides a few tips to combat it (changes in language, social engagement, critical thinking, respect, etc.).

Rape culture is a thing, and it applies in the US. The fact that it probably actually applies everywhere (Do you know of any exceptions? If so please elaborate in the comments below!) does not actually water down the definition but rather, exposes the underpinnings of rape culture as a human-wide problem. This indicates it either stems from the basic evolutionary biology of humans or ubiquitous common cultural features of human societies (such as a self perpetuating patriarchy) or, more likely, a causal structure that exists independently of our post hoc notions of nature and nurture.

Politically, rape culture has another meaning; it is a touchstone to the inimical false debate between so-called “Mens Rights Advocates” and basic humanistic, including feminist, values. To get a feel for this check out the definition of “Rape Culture” in Wikipedia, and scroll down to the “Criticisms” section.

The Criticisms section sites Caroline Kitchen’s ironically titled opinion piece “Its Time to End ‘Rape Culture’ Hysteria.” Kitchensi is a researcher at the American Enterprise Institute, a right wing “think” tank which is exactly where I would look to find a female willing to fill stinky shoes of a Men’s Rights Advocate for the purpose of toning down public discourse on rape. The section also brings in the critique by Christina Sommers, libertarian anti-feminist. And so on. I’m not claiming here that these criticisms are invalid or should not be heard (though I quickly add that I disagree with them). I’m just pointing out that the use of “rape culture” invokes the MRA counter-argument (to almost everything) as its main counter-point. This is what we see in many other areas of public discourse as well. If the main critique of a new study on anthropogenic global warming comes from other climate scientists that’s one thing. If the main critique comes from the usual cadre of science denialists many in the employee directly or indirectly of the petroleum and coal industries, that’s another thing. The litany of critiques of the “rape culture” idea in the seemingly well updated entry in Wikipedia comes from the usual suspects, not from within the sociological or anthropological, or even criminological, communities where spirited debate about almost everything is the norm. This does not prove anything but it is a clue.

One could argue that “rape culture” has become a dog whistle for feminism, or even a particular brand of feminism. That might actually be true. But any concept that tries to link cultural context to appropriately scrutinized individual behaviors is going to get dog whistled by the opposition.

Which is worse, rape threats or lightening up about rape threats?

Warning, rapey themes and strong language, go away if you can’t handle that.

Which is worse, rape threats or lightening up about rape threats? Since I hardly ever get rape threats and the ones I get are absurd, it is not really for me to say. The question here, is what does a woman who is active on line and gets numerous and scary rape (and other) threats feel about those threats vs. advice from allies(ish) who say “don’t worry about it, just leave that behind.”

This is tricky stuff, because the overt strategy one takes can vary depending on circumstances and there are a lot of valid strategies one can choose, but few strategies one can foist on others.

A person who is outspoken about a particular issue and receives threats over that issue could take those threats very seriously, calling in authorities, hardening defenses, counter-agitating or counter-activating, and so on, while publicly not talking about the threats at all, or perhaps very publicly brushing them off.

Or, the recipient of the threats could do something very different, bringing the details out in the open, making clear to her audience what is happening and why it is wrong, and making the whole thing very public, in order that people know. And maybe that people change. Or, at lest, that social expectations change ands some people shut up.

These two strategies differ in a number of ways. The former strategy may effectively neutralize some of the threats, those from attention seekers who are themselves paying attention, perhaps, but it will do little to stop or slow down threats from your basic miscreant. The latter strategy is likely to generate more threats because, simply, more jerks become aware of a particular target, but the public strategy serves a larger, very important purpose of educating people to the fact that these things happen, and not only that, but they happen commonly and are rather severe to say the least.

It is really up to the person who is at the receiving end of this horrible stuff to make that decision. One thing can be said, though: because of the dynamics of interaction on the internet, the woman who calls out the harassers in order to move us all forward, in the general direction of civilization (which is slowly being reinvented on the Internet) and widespread social justice, is ultimately hurting herself for the benefit of others. When a man does that sort of thing, Internet society calls him a hero. When a woman does that sort of thing, Internet society at best questions her motives, but commonly does worse. She is labeled as a cunt.

Here is my friend and colleague Rebecca Watson laying out her position on this issue in her most recent YouTube vlog, “Dear Guy Who Wants Me to Stop Talking About Feminism“. She addresses the question that is the title of this post.

I’m not embedding Rebecca’s video here because I want you to GO TO HER YOUTUBE CHANNEL and watch the video there. That way, if you feel like leaving a comment, you’ll be there. I assume most, perhaps all, readers of my blog will be supportive and thoughtful. Otherwise go fuck yourself, OK?

Thank you very much that is all.

Kickstarter’s Guide to Reddit Style Rape.

Humanity truly sucks and I can prove it. One word: Reddit.


OK, you may want some background.

A Reddit Regular, perhaps a Reddit celeb (or at least he is now) wants to write a book on how guys seduce women, and he’s asking for money on Kickstarter. One of his tips is this: You move in close, pull out your penis, take the woman’s hand and …. whatever.

I find it interesting that many commenters are referring to that as inappropriate, or sexual assault, by way of objecting to it. I’m pretty sure, though, that it is rape. Probably depends on the state. In any event, now that I’ve revealed one of Ken Hoinsky’s helpful tips for how to get women to like you, I’ll quickly add just in case you didn’t know: Guys, don’t do that. Just. Don’t. Do. That. Don’t.

The book rape-apologist and redditor Ken Hoinsky intends to “write” is mostly going to consist of previously written garbage he’ll steal from the Reddit “Seduction” community. Clearly, Hoinsky is a loser of the lowest level if that’s all he’s go. Ctrl-c, Ctrl-v, give me money.

Here’s a question that is being asked: Why does Kickstarter allow projects that are basically rape handbooks? And why should anybody ever even visit the Kickstarter site, or give any money to any project of any kind, or take any of your projects to Kickstarter, as long as they Kickstarter is run by boneheaded idiots who think this monstrous project is OK?

Here’s a petition you can sign to tell the Kickstarter CEO to do the right thing.

Here’s the story in more detail.

The Rape Switch, Again

The idea of a “rape switch” came from the work of a student of mine at Harvard, who’s name I would normally provide because this was a research project and one cites one’s sources. However, given the lengths to which sick puppies like The Justicar and others will go to harass people forever if they say things not agreeable to them, I’ll not mention the name.

I only watched a small part of a video made by The Justicar who had apparently discovered the Boston Massacre and could not stop himself from commenting on it, just enough to be certain that he is willfully misrepresenting the idea. I am not sure why he has this fascination with the idea and spends so much energy on this. It looks to me like a strong case of denial of one or more of his own inner switches.

The idea has always been discussed as a model, or as a hypothesis. There is not a hypothesis that men who at home and in non-war time situations do not rape do so in war time situations. This is established fact, not in dispute, and not hypothesis. The rape switch is one version of an approach to explaining this, and it remains a reasonable idea, if somewhat oversimplified.

An aside to address a question Stephanie brought up in her post: As I recall, the idea of writing about war time rape at that time was presented by Sheril Kirshenbaum to a couple of her fellow bloggers then at Scienceblogs.com, including me and Dr. Isis, and I mentioned it to Stephanie.

This post has some 20 or so references that address much of the discussion in the comment section of Stephanie’s post.

The “rape switch” is not a trigger, and it is not “conditioning.” The concept of a “trigger” is already there and in use and was not cooped by the original research. The “rape switch” is different.

One of the points of confusion caused by my initial wording in my post, and also clarified by me then (but that clarification was duly ignored of course) is this: That in the context in which the theoretical “rape switch” is turned on the men for which it is turned on (not “all men” as is often misstated) are rapists. This was meant to indicate that given certain circumstances (and here you can have your triggers if you want) this man would now have the possibility of rape on his list of actual possible behaviors to carry out, as opposed to when the switch is turned off. This is a unique and nuanced use of the word “rapist” which is usually used to refer to someone who has actually raped. The two concepts are clearly different, and as mentioned I did clarify that at the time, but that clarification was willfully ignored by many, as it is being ignored today. The problem is that the word “potential rapist” does not work either because at some level all men and maybe even all women are “potential” anythings. I chose the term “rapist” to indicate men with the “rape switch” turned on (hypothetically) quite intentionally. I was correct in using the word. But I was wrong to assume that nuance would be understood and appreciated.

I will put that another way to be clearer, because the fog of ignorance is thick. The following is a metaphor that will be especially useful for people who regularly smoke or have regularly smoked.

If you smoke tobacco for several years, you are a smoker. One could say that you are a smoker because you smoke. Then, say you quit. One could say you are no longer a smoker. But, smoking is still very much something on the list of things you could do in a very different way than smoking is considered by a non-smoker who has never smoked. A smoker who has quit, for quite some time, is still quite capable of smoking but does not do so because of willpower and other reasons (supportive friends and family, anti smoking rules or agreements in the workplace or at home, etc.) After a person becomes addicted to smoking the “smoking switch” is on, even if the person does not smoke (because they quit).

This is not to say that the “rape switch” has anything to do with addiction (there are those individuals who will willfully take the above paragraph out of context and abuse what I’ve said to suggest I meant that). The point is that a person who is capable of smoking and wants to smoke and could smoke but does not smoke is by one definition of “smoker” not a smoker, and by another definition of “smoker” is.

Let me give you another example. Because I know this is hard for some of you. A person might learn a second language. But then, they never speak it, or hardly ever. For example, I am proficient in KiNguana, a Central and East African language. But I never really use it these days. I am, however, still a KiNguana speaker. In theory, one could even learn a language with intense private study and never utter a word in that language to another human being. Such a person is still a speaker of said language. The rape switch hypothesis says that in certain social settings most men walk around not having rape on their list of things to do. It is unthinkable to them, they are not motivated to consider it at all on a day to day basis, but then, under other social circumstances, the idea of actually carrying out rape is within the range of possibility for them. Wartime would be one of those social setting. Many men in a wartime setting would have the “rape switch” on with simply means that raping someone is a possibility for them. They may also have reasons to not light up, not speak the Esperanto they quietly learned on their own without telling anyone, or to not rape. What they do is not necessarily what they are psychologically capable of doing, in an immediate and easily retrievable way.

The reason that a “rape switch” is an interesting idea is that a wide range and a large number of men in the context of war (but not all war-time situations) become individuals who are quite capable of rape. A very small proportion of women who work for Neiman Marcus or any other corporate entity in New York City or some other place not in a state of war might possibly be raped by their bosses. A much larger proportion of women who work for the military and are deployed in war zones are. A very small number of men walking around on the streets of Saint Paul, Minnesota rape the women they encounter now and then. A very large number of soldiers on patrol in the country side in Viet Nam and World War II and other wars did. These men are all different, from different backgrounds, with differing moral and ethical codes, ideas, and experiences, but a lot of them end up raping women anyway. A switch is an interesting hypothesis exactly because it is a direct connection between simply being a man and being in a war time situation, without going through all the other conditional variables. The rape switch is not a trigger and it is not conditioning. The rape switch hypothesis is interesting, and it may be incorrect.

This is all interesting and worth discussing, but there is a more immediate question that comes to mind. Why do people like The Justicar do what they do? What is wrong with them?

Your chance of getting pregnant if raped…

… goes down, compared to other forms of insemination, because “the female body has ways to shut that down.” That’s according to Missouri Congressman Todd Akin. But this only works, according to him, if the rape is “legitimate.” From this we can easily develop a sort of Witch Hunt method to determine if a woman accusing a man of rape was actually, “legitimately” raped or if she’s faking it. If she becomes pregnant from the rape, the rape did not happen.

Is this clear?

OK, now that we have that straight, allow me to bring out this one piece of data I thought I’d never have use of. It is a very limited piece of data, not very useful for a large number of reasons. The question at hand can be divided into two parts: 1) What is the chance of a given intromissive internally insemnating sexual event leading to a pregnancy in a woman not on birth control of average fecundity? Then, 2) Does this probability go down, as the good Congresman claims, or does it stay the same.

The answer to the first question is that it is not terribly high. We are not a one-copulation=one baby species. It takes a bunch of tangos to turn out a tyke, on average (but statistics is NOT a birth control method!). As to the second question, it turns out that according to certain data it actually goes up. It is reasonable to suggest that the chance of a single copulation leading to pregnancy if that copulation is rape is about double the overall average. Maybe.

This has been discussed by Thornhill and Palmer, authors of the controversial book “A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion” and subsequent to the storm of debate that arose from that it has been looked at more carefully and a little bit verified (see this).

I can very easily suggest explanations for this and I can also cast more doubt on the studies. First, the doubt. We have no idea what the actual relationship between having sex and having babies is. One would think we would know, but we don’t. Sure, sex leads to babies and all that, but how many sperm, or how many ejaculations, or whatever, does it take before a single sperm is allowed access to the ovum leading to a pregnancy? Scientifically speaking the research needed to answer this question has not been done. There are no controlled studies in which a sufficient sample of subjects across a range of fertilities (and varying in other appropriate factors) repeatedly have sex with everything carefully measured and controlled. Not one study has done this. I don’t expect there to be one any time soon. Our estimates of fecundity are based on reported data, vague estimates, and a lot of thumb sucking. So, when we have a couple of rape-related studies that show a higher pregnancy rate than background, unless it was a lot higher, we would need to take that with a grain of salt.

But if there really is a higher chance of pregnancy resulting from rape, this still may not mean much. There are a number of reasons this could happen, some of which are discussed in the above mentioned book. One very distinct possibility is that rapists are selecting victims somehow, perhaps with their Darwinian wiles, as it were, or perhaps for purely random reasons, who are slightly more fecund than the larger sample from which the baseline statistic is calculated. In any case, the difference is not large.

But, there it is also not lower. The chance of pregnancy from what the Good Congressman calls “legitimate rape” … a term that will surely live in infamy … is not lower. It might be higher. But it is not lower. The man is an ignorant fool. He is wrong.

Here he is being wrong:

Hattip Kent Jones.

Added: Here’s an idea, ask that this dude be relieved of his duties on the House Science and Technology Committee. Which, amazingly, he is on.

The Baseline: How much sexual assault is there?

Expanding on our earlier discussion

In the paper Anthropology’s “Fierce” Yanomami: Narratives of Sexual Politics in the Amazon, Sharon Tiffany and Kathleen Adams provide the following opening passage:

Imagine a society in which one woman in every three is raped, usually by a man she knows, consider the consequences of living in a society where one third of all women are beaten during pregnancy and 35 percent of women using emergency medical facilities are battered . Since we are anthropologists, readers may mistakenly think that these appalling data were collected in an exotic society, an distant world where it is presumed that unpredictable and threatening behavior is commonplaces. Indeed, our friends and colleagues inevitably ask if it is safe for us to travel alone to remote and problematic places which presumably do not enjoy the law and order of civilization.

ResearchBlogging.orgThe statistics above come, of course, from American medical data.

The reason I bring this up at all, and leave you somewhat hanging (you should read the entire article) is because I am concerned that any discussion of rape, which focuses on Congo and Liberia and other exotic locations, will be to sit from a position of cultural and economic privilege and fail to see that this is a human problem, not a third world “Bungabungaland” problem. Startling revelations about the behavior of american soldiers in Viet Nam as described in Brownmiller’s Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape raised hackles, and even since her controversial book other information has come to light. It is simply true … men of all cultures and ethnicities, even the men you know well and like and are good buddies with, even your father, brothers, and sons, when in a state of war are more than a little likely to do all sorts of things that one just does not do otherwise, including killing, including pillaging, including rape. The quirky thing is that we Westerners live in a culture in which we believe that this is not true. But it is true, despite our beliefs. It is true enough at home (judging by the above passage) that we cannot expect much different in the battlefields, the occupied villages, and the lonely wilderness of Hobbesian warre. In other words, the baseline level of sexual violence carried out by Western men is nothing close to zero. A statistics like “60%” committing a certain act does not require an order of magnitude of change. Perhaps just a doubling or trippling, depending on that the statistic is for.

I quickly note that this need not be the case. One can kill and pillage and not rape, as has been documented for certain armies in the past. I would not assume that the pattern seen in the jungles of Vietnam, the trenches of France in WW I, at Anzio or in Iraq are at all the same, and there is probably as much variation among western armies and occupation forces as there is among African, Asian or any other region, and there is certainly a great deal of variation across historical time as well.

We could train our armies to rape less. Or, we could be really smart and seek non military solutions to our problems and avoid the whole issue to begin with. But we (Westerners) can’t do that alone. We need to change the way most of the world words economically, socially, and politically. And that requires first acknowledging the baseline is not one of innocence.

Tiffany, Sharon W., & Adams, Kathleen J. (1994). Anthropology’s ‘Fierce’ Yanomami: Narratives of Sexual Politics in the Amazon NWSA Journal, 6 (2)

A Rape in Progress

Early in 2009, my friend and colleague Sheril Kirshenbaum asked several bloggers to consider writing about rape during the month of June, as a coordinated effort to increase awareness and understanding of rape generally, and depending on the blogger, specific aspects of sexual assault and violence. (Sheril’s initial post back in 2009 is here) I welcomed that opportunity and took the approach of discussing two things I actually know something about: Rape in war torn Congo, where I worked for several years (prior to the war) and the behavioral biology of male violence and rape, which is a rather touchy SFAQL subject. There are other aspects of this issue that interest me as well, including the role of anthropological relativism. The definition of rape and how definitional arguments are exploited is also of interest to me. Another topic of interest that I had not thought about much before bloging about rape is the abuse and rape of men by women (or men, for that matter). It turns out it occurs much more often than many people assume. However, since men are by and large big babies who cry a lot when wounded only slightly, the fact that some men are abused combined with the fact that nobody seems to care enough has resulted in the rise of a Mens Rights Activism movement which is a great example of the Large Lobster Effect but in a bad way.

I want to revive and revise that discussion of rape that started over two years ago, and pursuant to that I’m re-posting (and rewriting) my posts from June 2009. And we’ll start by revisiting this simple question: What would you do if you were the person writing the following passage.
Continue reading A Rape in Progress

Driving The Patriarchy: Demonic Males, Feminism, and Genetic Determinism

Behaviors are not caused by genes. There is not a gene that causes you to be good, or to be bad, or to be smart, or good at accounting, or to like bananas. There are, however, drives. “Drives” is a nicely vague term that we can all understand the meaning of. Thirst and hunger are drives we can all relate to. In fact, these drives are so basic, consistent and powerful that almost everyone has them, we share almost exact experiences in relation to them, and they can drive (as drives are wont to do) us to do extreme things when they are not met for long periods of time. While eating disorders are common enough and these affect a hunger drive, it is very rare to find a person thirst themselves to death.
Continue reading Driving The Patriarchy: Demonic Males, Feminism, and Genetic Determinism

Falsehoods: Human Universals

There are human universals. There, I said it. Now give me about a half hour to explain why this is both correct and a Falsehood. But first, some background and definition.
Continue reading Falsehoods: Human Universals