Tag Archives: rape switch

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?