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You shouldn't abstain from rape just 'cause you think that I want you to;
You shouldn't rape 'cause rape is a fucked-up thing to do.
Bo Burnham,Wikipedia From God's Perspective[1]

Rape is the most extreme form of sexual assault, broadly defined as any sex act in which at least one participant has not given informed consent.[note 1] Laws and attitudes regarding rape vary widely from culture to culture; in most societies, rape is a heinous criminal offense second only to murder, while in others, it is considered an offense only insofar as the rapist has violated another man's property.

A 2011 study by the Center for Disease Control estimated that 18% of women in the United States have experienced some form of rape in their lifetime, with 12% forcibly raped, 5% experiencing an unsuccessful attempt at forcible rape, and 8% at some point having sex while intoxicated, this being defined as "rape" for the purposes of the study. By comparison, the study estimated that 1.4% of men were raped, and 4.8% of them were forced to penetrate someone (which was not considered to be rape in the CDC study). Moreover, half of the rapes reported in the study were committed by current or former intimate partners.[2] The Bureau Of Justice statistics indicate that in 1.3 per 1000 Americans aged 12 and up are raped per year (however, it is estimated that 60% of rapes go unreported).[3]

Legal classifications of rape[edit]

11. Don't be an asshole. (Click to enlarge)

Most western countries have several legal classifications of rape, each of which may have different legal outcomes.

Violent or forced rape[edit]

Violent or forced rapes are those which generally result in some injury, and which happen under acts of violence or physical control. Several states in the US, a handful of Western countries, and most Middle Eastern, African, and Asian countries make legal distinctions between rapes that happen when force or violence is involved, and other types of rape, including ones where the threats are psychological or emotional.

Non-violent rape[edit]

This is a description to include "all sex that is not physically violent, but still coerced". Methods of coercion can include threats of future harm, threats to children or loved ones, or threats to stop financial support (as one might see in a marriage), or threats to withdraw emotional support (a kind of addictive control found in abusive relationships). Spousal rape usually falls into this category. In most Western countries, these two types of rape are legally identical, but many if not most of the rest of the world's laws still allow for rape within a marriage.[4][5]

What may start as consensual sex can also become rape if one of the sexual partners feels uncomfortable or intimidated during foreplay or sex and changes their mind and they communicate this, but their partner refuses to stop. This could happen because of violence, an unwanted sexual position, humiliating language or behavior, refusal to use a contraceptive when the other party insists on it, or simply not wanting to anymore. Sexual consent is not given unconditionally, and can be revoked. However, if cases like this are brought to court, they tend to be much more ambiguous than straightforward rape cases in which no consent was given, and hence it is more difficult to determine a definitive verdict and secure a conviction.

A number of U.S. states have laws requiring that non-consensual sexual penetration be accomplished forcibly, or that the victim made resistance that was overcome, in order to count as rape. Otherwise, it might be considered a lesser offense such as sexual battery.[6] A shining beacon to the world indeed.

Impaired consent[edit]

Impaired consent laws make it illegal for anyone who is intoxicated to legally give consent to sex. This is one of the trickiest laws to litigate, particularly if the drug of choice is alcohol or pot, because they are such normal methods of "getting to know you" and "having a good time" that the legal line between "fun" and "rape" is nearly impossible to draw. How impaired is "too impaired to consent" is always going to be a matter of interpretation; if we were to treat sex as similar to operating heavy machinery, we could view even one drink as potentially too many, but this would make everyone except Mormons rapists and/or victims at some point in their life. However, if the victim was quite literally passed out when the sex act took place, had been involuntarily intoxicated, or had been plied with "date-rape drugs" such as GHB, it is fairly easy to see how they were unable to give their informed consent to the sexual act.

Statutory rape[edit]

Statutory rape is defined by statute/law, typically in reference to minors under the legally applicable age of consent or in other cases where there's a presumed inability to freely consent. For 13% of girls and 5% of boys, their first sexual intercourse is with a statutory rapist, which they defined as sex with a person under the age of sixteen with at least 3 years' age difference.[7] If this happened to you, you are far from alone. In these cases, it is not a question of whether or not the victim has willingly agreed to sex; it's considered rape regardless of consent otherwise having been obtained. Most jurisdictions don't use the term "statutory rape". The obvious danger to this type of law is that there are cases where two kids who are legally able to have sex one day could violate the law the birthday one of them reaches the legal age, or when two minors violate the law despite being close in age and maturity; virtually every location has some form of "Romeo Law" which allows teens within a particular age range to be exempted from the statute (note that the name of the law means it's assumed that the male is the older one). Other countries may or may not have similar provisions.

Other statutory classes include those who are mentally disabled, and some cases of people with mental illness. By federal law, any sexual contact between a guard and inmate in federal prison is sexual abuse and thus a form of statutory rape,[8] but as mentioned in the relevant section, obviously that doesn't prevent it from happening. The rape of children under 14 (or marriageable age or age of majority, depending on jurisdiction) is generally handled differently from the rape of adult victims; the rapist charged under various statutes of child molestation. While a charge of rape will generally be included, the molestation charge alone generally carries a harsher punishment than the charge of rape.

Historically, the question of whether a child as young as 10 consented to sex was one for a jury to decide; for instance, in the 1894 case of Pounds v. State, a conviction of a man who had sex with a 10-year-old girl was overturned by the Georgia Supreme Court because the jury was not instructed that it could acquit if it found the girl was capable of consent and in fact did consent.[9] (Georgia raised the age of consent to 14 in 1918.)[10]

Originally, the laws were created to prevent men from taking advantage of naive teenage girls and leaving them as teenage mothers, a serious concern in the days before contraceptives or safe abortions, rather than to protect young people from predators specifically. Society's attitudes towards sex have changed since then. For example, audiences in the 70's were supposed to view Jack Nicholson's character in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest with a bit of sympathy for "only" having committed statutory rape, but modern audiences would demand the movie end with Nicholson being kicked in the crotch to death by an angry Liam Neeson.

Rape by deception[edit]

Rape by deception, or rape by fraud, refers to instances in which the victim's consent is obtained illegitimately through deceit, in such a way that their capacity to make an informed decision is undermined. A classic subtype of this is the "bed trick", which may involve joining the victim in a darkened bedroom and pretending to be someone else (such as the victim's significant other); the upshot of this is that person the victim has consented to have sex with is not the person they are actually having sex with. Similarly to cases of impaired consent described above, this is generally difficult to legislate against except in the most egregious instances. Some jurisdictions do have criminal codes that include it, such as that in California, which explicitly extends the definition of rape to cases in which "...a person submits under the belief that the person committing the act is someone known to the victim other than the accused, and this belief is induced by any artifice, pretense, or concealment practiced by the accused, with intent to induce the belief."[11]

Stealthing, or convincing the other partner that you are using protection when not, has often fallen under the jurisdiction of rape by deception. However, some states are making the rules regarding this practice more explicit, and outright codifying it into law... at least for civil purposes.[12]

Ways to classify rape[edit]

Beyond the legal definitions, society tends to classify rape by the situation in which it occurred.

Acquaintance rape/date rape[edit]

This refers to rape committed by someone known to the victim. It is often difficult to convict anyone of this sort of rape, as in such a situation, it is much harder to prove that any sex was non-consensual. There is also the additional problem that many people tend to blame the victim for such rapes, making it more difficult for the victim to press charges. However, despite any difficulty with evidence, the law makes no distinction even if the party intended to go all the way, said they would go all the way, then said "no" at the last moment. If it becomes nonconsensual at any point and the other partner insists on completing the act, it becomes rape.

Corrective rape[edit]

"Corrective rape" is the phenomenon in which an individual rapes someone who is, or is suspected to be, homosexual, bisexual, or otherwise posses a gender identity or sexuality the rapists considers to be 'wrong' (such as asexuals or transgender people) in order to "cure" them of their homosexuality, asexuality, or gender identity. As we all know, being horribly traumatized guarantees you'll want to do something again.[citation NOT needed] Ironically, or perhaps not ironically at all, heterosexual sexual abuse may increase the expression of homosexuality in women.[13]

It is reported to be an increasing problem in South Africa and other African nations.[14] It is also noted in heavily African-influenced cultures; Jamaican dancehall artist Vybz Kartel recorded a song on the theme entitled "Faggot Correction."

The actual goal of a corrective rape is not necessarily for the victim per se. It is a hate crime, and as with all hate crimes, a rather clear message is being sent to everyone; you will conform to a societal standard of behavior, attire, sexuality, sexual proclivities, and/or gender, or else.

Domestic rape[edit]

Marital or domestic rapes are those that happen within established partnerships. They often do not involve physical violence, but instead threats of violence, as well as emotional threats, threats to withdraw financial support, and even threats to children (especially step-children). Statistics from the United Kingdom suggest that marital rape is the most common type of rape.[15]

Domestic rape is the most commonly experienced rape in the male gay community.[16][17] Unfortunately, this is often overlooked or downplayed in Western society, as rape is usually seen as a crime solely against women.

Historically, rape within marriage was not considered criminal in all 50 states and the District of Columbia until 2003. Even then, all but 17 states still had some elements of the marital rape exemption on their books, such as laws allowing for mental health treatment instead of incarceration of marital rapists.[18] Wingnuts like Phyllis Schlafly or Vox Day overlook marital rape, brushing it off as the result of a dereliction of "duty" on the wife's part.

That isn't to say that marital rape is now completely illegal. In some states, the age of marriage is much lower than the age of consent; a 12 year old in Massachusetts can marry with her (it's always her) parents' permission.

Gang rape[edit]

"Gang rape" is a general term for a rape in which many people assault one victim. Recent surveys show that such rapes are becoming more frequent on American university campuses,[19][20] especially in situations where there is excessive drinking by the perpetrators and victim, though whether this is because of increased incidents, the increasing share of women on campus, or better reporting is still unknown.

Gang rape is also associated with real gangs; some gang initiation rituals involve a gang-bang, which is quite often carried out non-consensually, and gang rape can also be used as a form of humiliation and punishment.

Military rape[edit]

In military contexts, the need to keep units operational at all costs can cause conflicts with the goal of bringing rapists in the ranks to justice. The strict military chain of command can also be an issue, if, for example, a commanding officer rapes a subordinate, or abuses their authority to cover up rape committed by a subordinate so as not to compromise a mission, or just to "save face".

Recently, the U.S. military has been forced to acknowledge that it has a significant problem with rape,[21][22] and is attempting to introduce counter-measures and change its culture by way of preventative action. There is also a problem with rape in the British military.[23]

Prison rape[edit]

Prison rape, although mostly committed by men against men, does not usually imply that the perpetrators are gay; it is not generally done for erotic purposes, but instead to punish, terrorize, or humiliate the victim. In US prisons, it has reached epidemic levels.[24] Inmates are frequently unrepresented in surveys of rape victims.[25]

Prison rape is also carried out by prison guards. This kind of prison rape is also already at epidemic levels in the U.S. In fact, in a 2013 study by the Department of Justice, 8% of inmates at juvenile prisons around the country report sexual abuse at the hands of prison guards. Nine out of ten of the victims were males raped by female guards.[26]

It's unfortunately often considered socially acceptable to joke about prisoners getting raped or even express a wish that they get raped, as long as the prisoner is male. This is especially true if the prisoner is a sex offender, where some see it an appropriate revenge. However, the prisoners who get subjected to rape tend to be young, small, physically weak, white, gay, first offender, possessing "feminine" characteristics such as long hair or a high voice; being passive, shy, intellectual, not street-smart, or "passive"[27] — not exactly the kinds of characteristics it would be good public policy to punish with rape, if it even is in the first place. Additionally, keep in mind that most of the people in prison are there for non-violent drug-related offenses.

Reproductive coercion, stealthing, and rape[edit]

Reproductive coercion, the act of controlling and/or attempting to control a partner's reproductive choices, is more broadly classified as a form of coercion or sexual assault. Reproductive rape is a form of reproductive coercion and rape when both parties consent to having non-reproductive sex, but one partner sabotages the contraceptive means the other partner uses in order to induce a pregnancy. This includes condom-poking, condom removal (which is called "stealthing"),[28] birth control pill sabotage, and other gestures akin to giving date-rape drugs.

Reproductive coercion and reproductive rape often occurs within the context of domestic violence, often with the purpose of forcing the victim (oftentimes the woman) to stay with the abuser.

Legally speaking, this is often a very grey area as to whether this amounts to, as legal scholar Whoopi Goldberg would call it, "rape rape".[note 2] Currently, only Australia specifically bans stealthing, and a handful of other countries on rare occasion get a conviction with current law.[29] However, the case may be overturned on appeal, as it's often not a violation of current law if read strictly. California made news for making stealthing illegal, but that's not technically the case. Stealthing in California was made into a civil issue, which means that those cases are effectively torts and would never lead to prison time nor the sex offender registry, as well as clog up the already over-burdened legal system, but the burden of proof is merely "preponderance of the evidence" rather than "beyond a reasonable doubt", which does make it easier.

Also legally speaking, semen can be considered a "gift" as far as the law is concerned. There exists at least one case of a woman using semen obtained from oral sex to impregnate herself and win child support.[30] However, these are unusual cases. Whether or not this should be considered legally a form of rape is still not settled, especially if allowing anyone to get out of child support payments by claiming rape would lead to a large increase in false claims.

War rape[edit]

Historically, rape was just accepted as what armies do, as the battlefield often has limited discipline and opportunistic men can take advantage. One of the effects of reducing your own soldiers' empathy for the enemy is that your soldiers have less empathy for the enemy. Combine that with the high stress environment, often limited discipline, and the difficulty or cost of gathering evidence, and you have a disaster. Sometimes this rape is even encouraged. The act of raping victims in a war is often an act of attempted humiliation for the entire captured society, and can intimidate others who may wish to challenge you. War rape has been outlawed as a war crime internationally by the Geneva Conventions since 1949.[31][32]

During the Liberation of France, about 4500 women were raped by Allied soldiers.[33] If you wonder why the French don't celebrate D-Day the way Britain and the US does, this is why. This was small potatoes compared to the Red Army's atrocities, with millions raped, but their actions do not absolve the other Allied forces' own misdeeds. Even if you don't care what your soldiers do to some filthy foreigner in some faraway land, many of the rapists will return home at some point; a number of generals did realize this point, but we will award you no points for correctly guessing just whom was more likely to be disciplined or executed for these rapes.[34]

The Rape of Nanjing by the Japanese Militarists shortly before WWII carried shades of genocide, and was just a small part of the Japanese atrocities. The "comfort women" were kidnapped from across the territories that Japan had seized, and were kept as sex slaves until the war ended. As a result of the mass rape, the Japanese are absolutely despised by just about every one of its neighbors, in spite of modern geo-politics creating common enemies in China and/or North Korea.

Despite that, war rape has been recorded in a number of wars over the last 50 years. This includes the Afghanistan War,[35] the Libyan Revolution,[36] Colombia, Bosnian War, the Gulf War, the Sudanese Civil War, the Syrian Civil War, the Chechen Wars, Nepal, and others.[37]

Effects on victims[edit]

Physical health[edit]

The physical damage varies based on how the rape occurred. Generally speaking, rapists tend to not be too concerned with their victims' comfort,[citation NOT needed] so the genitals may be injured. Diseases are actually more likely to spread from rape than from consensual sex for this reason.[38]

Mental health[edit]

In spite of having been a part of society since forever, the long-term effects of rape really aren't very well documented. What is known is that nearly half of rape victims will experience PTSD.[39] No two people will experience PTSD in the same way, but their experiences can be similar.

This PTSD can result in a variety of otherwise dormant personality disorders manifesting themselves; if the therapist is not well-informed of the source of the trauma, a misdiagnosis may be possible.[40]

One of the effects that can manifest is promiscuity; this is not "daddy issues", this is trauma.[41] Victims may try to "reclaim" control over their own self or may have trouble truly bonding with another person.


United States[edit]


According to the CDC, in a single year, 1.715 million men were "made to penetrate" and 219 thousand men were penetrated, while 1.473 million women were penetrated.[42]

For men who were "made to penetrate", 78.5% reported female perpetrators and for men who were penetrated, 9.5% reported the same. For women who were penetrated, 97.3% reported male perpetrators.

It was only in 2010 that men who were "made to penetrate" began to be studied by researchers at the CDC (or researchers in general).

According to a United States Department of Justice report published in 1997:

  • 73.5% of all rapes involved only a single offender, who was already known to the victim.
  • 91% of rape victims are female. For these victims, 99% of rapists were male. (Note: Outdated, see above)
  • 80% of rape victims are less than 30 years old.
  • 33% of rapes happen during daytime (6am to 6pm).
  • 91.1% of rapes are single-person rapes, only 8.9% of rapes involve multiple offenders.
  • For multiple offender rapes, 76% involve strangers. For single-offender rapes, only 19% involve strangers.
  • 84% of victims reported that no weapon was used by the rapist.
  • About 6 in 10 rapists reported having ever been married. However, about a third of those who reported that they had ever married indicated that they were married at the time of their imprisonment.[43]

South Africa[edit]

South Africa has one of the highest rates of rape in the world.[44] Precisely, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, South Africa ranked first for rapes per capita in the period 2000-2010.[45] About 65,000 rapes and other sexual assaults were reported for the year ending in March 2012.[46] GlobalPost's South Africa correspondent Erin Conway-Smith wrote: "In South Africa, rape is so common it barely makes the news. The rapes of elderly women and babies are outlined in four-line stories on the inside pages of local newspapers, but most sexual assaults get no public attention."[46]

A 2009 study issued by the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) showed that among a sample of 1,738 anonymously questioned South African men from the provinces of KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape, more than 25% of them admitted to raping someone; of those, nearly half said they had raped more than one person.[47][48][49] Another 2010 study by SAMRC questioned 487 men, 90% black and 10% white, from the province of Gauteng, the country's wealthiest province, and found that 37.4% of them admitted to having raped a woman, while about 7% said they had participated in a gang rape.[50][51]

The country has also one of the highest rates of child and baby rape in the world. More than 67,000 cases of child rape were reported in 2000, but welfare groups believe that unreported cases could be up to 10 times higher.[52] Indeed, IRIN, a humanitarian news organization, estimates that 500,000 child rapes per year are perpetrated in South Africa.[53] Edith Kriel, a social worker helping child victims in Eastern Cape, said: "Child abusers are often relatives of their victims — even their fathers and providers."[54] Many children are brutalized so often that they are desensitized to the abuse being a crime. A 2002 survey by the Community of Information, Empowerment and Transparency, an international group of epidemiologists and social scientists, found that 60% of both boys and girls thought that raping someone they knew is not violence.[52] Anthropologist Suzanne Leclerc-Madlala suggested that the belief in the virgin cleansing myth is a possible factor in rapes of babies and children.[55]

Pitcairn Islands[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Pitcairn Islands

This tiny British territory had perhaps the most extreme problem with rape in the entire world; girls were repeatedly raped as soon as they turned ten,[56] while over half of the male population has been charged with sex crimes.[57]

Rape and contemporary US politics[edit]

An old law in Kansas, still on the books, uses statutory rape to punish gay youth by setting the age of consent differently for homosexual and heterosexual sex: 18 and 14 respectively. The law was upheld even after Lawrence v. Texas said it was unconstitutional to ban homosexual sex, since it was still a state's right to set the age of consent. It would appear that according to the Kansas legislators, gay youth between the ages of 14 and 18 have some sort of mental defect not shared by their straight peers.[58][note 3]

Rape and the Republican Party[edit]

Todd Akin, poster boy for Tea Party rape apologia.
See the main articles on this topic: Republican Party and Tea Party

With the election of Tea Party candidates to local, state, and federal government posts in 2009 and 2010, the U.S. right wing not only redoubled their efforts to do an end-run around Roe v. Wade with more stringent anti-abortion legislation, but have also brought rape laws into their sights.

In 2010, when attempting to counter President Obama's health care plan, the Republican-controlled Congress attempted to adjust the criteria under which the federal government will pay for an abortion. The Hyde Amendment originally banned all federal funding except in the cases of rape, incest, or to save the mother's life; the new language would have narrowed the exception to women impregnated by "forcible rape." Hence, anyone who did not resist their rapist during the act — e.g., women who had been drugged, girls who had been molested by their relatives, underage girls who said "yes" even though they were not able to give legal consent — could not have had an abortion paid for through Medicaid. The Republicans backed down on this after much controversy was raised about it.[59]

As perhaps the sickest example of right-wingers' attitudes toward rape, starting in 2010, various anti-abortion groups collaborated on a "Conceived in Rape" propaganda campaign. This involves highlighting people — men, women, and the ubiquitous cute little children — who are alive "thanks to" rape; the purpose of the campaigns being to guilt-trip pregnant rape victims into carrying their children to term.[60] Of course, this campaign conveniently ignores that there is also a very long list of people who are now dead "thanks to" rape — killed during or as a result of the act itself, or who killed themselves out of shame, fear, clinical depression, or, don't you know, lack of access to an abortion.

Missouri Congressman Todd Akin stated days before a major election in 2012 with reference to pregnancies resulting from rape:

It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that's really rare. If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let's assume that maybe that didn't work or something: I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child.[61][62]

Several days later, CNN and Reuters reported that draft language of the 2012 Republican Platform included calls for a "human life amendment" to the US Constitution, federally banning all abortions, with no exception for rape or incest.[63]

If that were not bad enough, in 2022 Republican candidate for the Michigan House of Representatives Robert Regan said:[64]

Having three daughters, I tell my daughters, "Well, if rape is inevitable, you should just lie back and enjoy it."

One of Regan's daughters had previously Tweeted:[64]

If you’re in michigan and 18+ pls for the love of god do not vote for my dad for state rep. tell everyone

Historical view of "rape" within various religions[edit]

Torah/the Christian "Old Testament"[edit]

According to Torah and oral tradition from ancient Israel, a woman was the property of her father, then her husband. Her husband had the specific added right to the use of her body. There is nothing in the Torah that would prohibit a man from having sex with her whenever he wished. The Jewish commentary does address the fact that a woman has a right to leave a husband who is beating her, and the husband has an obligation to help his woman enjoy sex, but those are not truly prohibitions against rape.

Deuteronomy 22:22-29 specifically addresses "stranger rape". For a woman to be considered raped within hearing distance, she must call out and others must have heard her. If she is too frightened to make a noise, or the rapist prevented her, well, too bad. A woman who has been raped may be put to death (alongside her rapist) if she is married and must marry her rapist if she is not. If the woman is raped in a place where no one would be around to hear her, like in the countryside, then only the rapist gets put to death, which is a bit better, but it really just highlights the law's underlying victim blaming mentality.[65][66] The rapist has to pay her father some money, but understand, no crime has been committed against the woman. Women are considered chattel, and rape is seen as damage to the father's (or husband's) property, so this payment is really given as "compensation".

War rape is repeatedly condoned in the Old Testament, with the Israelites often being told to "take as wives" the women of those they conquer: in Numbers 31:15-18, after the Israelites have slaughtered the Midianite men, Moses specifically commands that all the adult women and boys be slaughtered and the "women children" be kept by his men. This is repeated in Judges 21:7-11, and Deuteronomy 20:10-14, which makes it clear that taking women and children as spoils of war was God's approved way of doing things. In Judges 21, the Israelites have just finished up killing all the Benjamite women and children and need wives for the 600 men they haven't killed (roll with it), so they massacre the people of Jabeshgilead and take their 400 virgin daughters, then abduct 200 "daughters of Shiloh" to make up the numbers. God does not smite anyone for this.

Judaism and the Talmud[edit]

According to the Talmud: "A man is forbidden to compel his wife to the [marital] obligation... Also without consent the soul is not good".[67] This opinion goes on to be accepted by several rabbis, and the issue of the woman's consent is even used to reconcile two otherwise contradictory passages.

However, according to the Mishneh Tirah of Maimonides: "A man's wife is permitted to him. Therefore a man may do whatever he desires with his wife. He may engage in relations whenever he desires, kiss any organ he desires, engage in vaginal or anal intercourse or engage in physical intimacy without relations, provided he does not release seed in vain."[68] This may be read, however, to merely be permitting any sexual act between a man and his wife at any time (assuming her consent) while not overruling the above Talmudic prohibition on forced intercourse.

Historical vs. modern views of rape[edit]

The historical view of rape in the West was one of a sharp contrast between the somewhat anti-sex views taken by the Christian church — the primary determinant of official policy on the question — and more informal, private cultural attitudes. These, taken together, lead many people, specifically men, to believe that they have license to perform acts of rape. Some of these attitudes are:

  • The long-standing literary trope that women need to be swept off their feet and physically compelled to like a man. From the mythic tale of the Rape of the Sabine Women right down to the silly equation between "No! Don't! Stop!" and "No, don't stop!", men in Western society have been taught that they must really put the pressure on a woman in order to get her to say "yes" to sex. A few of our beloved fairy tales even suggest that the man raped the woman to wake her, or bring her into his control.
  • The somewhat related idea that "no means yes". Girls have been stereotyped as coy, leading men to believe that when they say "no", they are actually saying "yes", but are either playing games or are just too shy to say so.
  • The old religious and/or medical myth that it is abnormal for women to enjoy sex, with those that do like it being labeled as sluts. This makes men believe that they might have to force sex on the women who do not enjoy it, and in the case of the "sluts" who do enjoy it, obviously "no means yes."

All of these positions have made the communication between potential sexual partners a highly ambiguous matter, very much subject to interpretation, and if the potential partners interpret interactions differently, it may lead to a "he said, she said" situation, one claiming it was rape, the other that it was not.

Some other lingering attitudes about women and rape that still contribute to the problem today are:

  • Plain old-fashioned male chauvinism. Men used to own women as property according to the law (especially in marriage), leading to the idea that men are superior to women and that their needs matter more.
  • A somewhat lackadaisical treatment of rape by the legal system in comparison to some other crimes; for example, in Colorado, a first-time conviction for possession of a Schedule I drug will get the convict 4-12 years' imprisonment, while a conviction for rape carries only 3-6 years. This does not exactly make it look as though the massive suffering experienced by rape victims is taken seriously by the law.
  • Police officers are frequently charged with not caring about rape victims, treating them as second class, or blaming them for the rape. While this is changing in most places, including the development of special units throughout Europe and North America, there are still lingering attitudes that cause many rape victims not to report the crime.

The American Psychiatric Association has repeatedly rejected proposals to include "coercive paraphilia" as a mental disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. One of the concerns raised was that inclusion of this disorder would make it easier for rapists to be routinely subject to involuntary psychiatric commitment once their prison sentence had been completed.[69] Hebephilia's inclusion was likewise rejected; its inclusion could have justified compulsory commitment of statutory rapists.[citation needed]

In recent years, many anti-rape and pro-consent programmes have been founded, especially within universities in North America, raising awareness of the importance of sexual consent. Many of these emphasise that consent must be clear and enthusiastic before sex takes place, since reluctant acquiescence could be considered evidence that some sort of pressure to have sex was applied.[70]

Evolutionary just-so stories[edit]

Counter to the traditional sociologist model of rape being predominately driven by power and dominance needs, some evolutionary scientists have pointed out that rape involves a sexual act and as such could have been under selective pressure in our evolutionary past. The primary architects of this view are Randy Thornhill and Craig Palmer.[71]

Thornhill and Palmer argue that rape is a secondary mating strategy used by low-status males. The observations that perpetrators allegedly focus in on certain traits and cues related to childbearing is presented as evidence that the psychology of committing rape was under evolutionary pressure (although this doesn't make any sense, since these are pressures that apply to sex in general, and are not selection pressures specific to rape). In addition, Thornhill and Palmer propose that the degree of "distress measures" in victims correlates with the largest risks associated with rape during evolutionary periods, such as risk of pregnancy, and the risk of losing social support. This is where the signs of violence come into play in their theory. They argue that a woman who shows no signs of having suffered violence is more likely to suffer social consequences from the rape as people are more likely to question whether it was rape.

While Thornhill and Palmer have published their hypothesis and experimental data in multiple journal articles, the most notorious work was the book they published: A Natural History of Rape. The book and the research has been criticized as having poor data analysis and shoddy methodology. A Natural History of Rape was critically panned in scientific and legal journals as well as by some scientists writing in the mainstream media.[72][73][74][75][76][77] An entire book, Evolution, Gender, and Rape, was published in response, debunking Thornhill and Palmer's thesis.[78]

Thornhill and Palmer have responded to their critics several times, calling their arguments straw men.[79] However, they did quite a bit of straw manning of their own, having quote mined Susan Brownmiller's work.[80] This led to a radio debate between Thornhill and Palmer against Brownmiller and Jerry Coyne.[81] Thornhill and Palmer also failed to respond to a number of charges that some research they relied on was incredibly empirically flimsy and offered dubious interpretations of sexual selection.[82]

Nevertheless, "rape is an adaptation!" has become part of the pop evolutionary psychology canon and a talking point frequently invoked by misogynists, thus earning it a spot on the evo psych bingo card.[83] Thornhill and Palmer themselves warned against drawing any inference that rape is acceptable merely if it is an adaptation. They pointed out that this is a naturalistic fallacy.[84] It's important to remember that, while evolution may give an explanation to certain behaviors, it's never a justification for them.


See the main article on this topic: Rape apology

Not to be confused with actually apologizing for rape, rape apology is any attempt to argue that rape is infrequent, misreported, over-reported, or that the victim deserved it in some way and no fault can be given to the rapist.

External links[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. Most western countries do not legally distinguish between intercourse and other sexual acts in their rape laws, though a few US States do make such distinctions.
  2. Goldberg once notoriously claimed that a man drugging a 13 year old girl until she was unable to resist somehow wasn't a form of rape.
  3. They'd probably say that gay people have a mental defect, period if they could get away with it.[citation NOT needed]


  1. From God's Perspective. Bo Burnham, YouTube.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey
  3. Criminal Victimization, 2012. US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, October 2013.
  4. Amnesty International address on the status of women
  5. Christine Chinkin, Rape and Sexual Abuse of Women in International Law.
  6. Decker, John F. and Baroni, Peter G.. ""No" Still Means "Yes": The Failure of the "Non-Consent" Reform Movement in American Rape and Sexual Assault Law". The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology (Northwestern University) 101 (Fall 2011): 1081-1169. 
  7. A Demographic Portrait of Statutory Rape, Researchgate
  8. Deterring Staff Sexual Abuse of Federal Inmates
  9. Pounds v. State, 20 S.E. 247 (Georgia 1894).
  10. Freedman, Estelle B. Redefining Rape.
  11. Bill Text - AB-65 Crimes: sex crimes. California Legislative Information.
  12. California is the 1st state to ban 'stealthing,' nonconsensual condom removal, NPR Oct 2021
  13. The Impact of Prior Heterosexual Experiences on Homosexuality in Women
  14. Crisis in South Africa: The shocking practice of 'corrective rape' - aimed at 'curing' lesbians
  15. Rape and sexual assault of women: findings from the British Crime Survey. Archived from, 4 May 2006.
  16. Domestic Violence in Gay and Lesbian Relationships. Archived from
  17. Ratner, P. A., Johnson, J. L., Shoveller, J. A., Chan, K., Martindale, S. L., Schilder, A. J., Botnick, M. R., and Hogg, R. S. (2003). Non-Consensual Sex Experienced by Men who Have Sex with Men: Prevalence and Association with Mental Health. Patient Education and Counseling, 49, 67-74.
  18. Smith, Merril D. Encyclopedia of Rape.
  19. College Campuses and Rape. Archived from
  20. Joseph Shapiro, Campus Rape Victims: A Struggle For Justice. NPR, 24 February 2010.
  21. Why Combatting Rape In The Military Is A Duty Like Any Other
  22. Why #passMJIA? 50 Facts About Sexual Assault in the US Military
  23. Rape in the military: exposing the shocking truth
  24. No Escape: Male Rape in US Prisons.
  25. The Sexual Victimization of Men in America: New Data Challenge Old Assumptions, Lara Stemple, JD and Ilan H. Meyer, PhD, American Journal of Public Health June 2014
  26. Sexual Victimization in Juvenile Facilities Report by Youth, 2012. U.S. Department of Justice.
  27. Predators and Victims; No Escape: Male Rape in US Prisons.
  28. Stealthing: What You Need to Know by Laurie Watson (September 21, 2018) Psychology Today
  29. Canadian man convicted for stealthing, CBC
  30. Sperm: The 'gift' that keeps on giving. Associated Press via NBC, 24 February 2005.
  31. Article 27 of Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. Geneva, 12 August 1949. - Treatment I. General observations
  32. Leslie Alan Horvitz, Christopher Catherwood (2009). Encyclopedia of War Crimes and Genocide. Infobase Publishing. p. 361. 
  33. The Dark Side of Liberation. The New York Times, 21 May 2013.
  34. Revisionists challenge D-Day story, BBC, 6/5/2009
  35. Asfour, Hasibah. "Concepts of Social Justice and Islamic Perspective." American Journal of Law and Public Policy 3.1 (2013): 29-34.
  36. British pro-Palestinian activists raped in Libya: Deputy PM. Express Tribune, 29 March 2013.
  37. Laura Smith-Spark, How did rape become a weapon of war? BBC.
  38. Post-exposure prophylaxis for HIV infection after sexual assault: When is it indicated?
  39. Understanding PTSD After Sexual Assault, Matthew Tull PhD, Feb 2022
  40. Are sexual abuse victims being diagnosed with a mental disorder they don't have? The Guardian
  41. Why Can Childhood Sexual Abuse Lead to Promiscuity?
  42. The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey 2010-2012., 2012.
  43. An Analysis of Data on Rape and Sexual Assault. US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, January 1997.
  44. "Travel.State.Gov: South Africa". U.S. Department of State: The Bureau of Consular Affairs. 
  45. "NationMaster: Crime Statistics > Rapes (per million people) by country". 
  46. 46.0 46.1 Conway-Smith, Erin (11 Feb 2013). "South Africa gang rape a symbol of nation's problem". GlobalPost (Toronto Star Newspapers Ltd). Retrieved 12 Mar 2013. 
  47. Jewkes, Rachel; Yandisa Sikweyiya1; Robert Morrell; Kristin Dunkle (2009). Understanding Men's Health and Use of Violence: Interface of Rape and HIV in South Africa (Report). South African Medical Research Council. 
  48. "South African rape survey shock." BBC News. June 18, 2009.
  49. Quarter of men in South Africa admit rape, survey finds. The Guardian, 17 June 2009.
  50. One in three SA men admit to rape, survey finds. Mail and Guardian, 26 November 2010.
  51. Extent of GBV.
  52. 52.0 52.1 Alex Perry (2007-11-05). "Oprah scandal rocks South Africa". Retrieved 11 December 2011. 
  53. "SOUTH AFRICA: One in four men rape". IRIN Africa. 18 June 2009. Retrieved 11 December 2011. 
  54. Flanagan, Jane (11 November 2001). "South African men rape babies as 'cure' for Aids". The Daily Telegraph (UK). Retrieved 15 May 2011. 
  55. Leclerc-Madlala, Suzanne (2002). "On The Virgin Cleansing Myth: Gendered Bodies, AIDS and Ethnomedicine". African Journal of AIDS Research 1 (2): 87–95. 
  56. Island chief raped me when I was 11, Pitcairn trial told, Kathy Marks, Independent 30 September 2004
  57. More than half the men on a tiny Pacific island have been convicted of sex crimes, Business Insider 8 March 2016
  58. Susan Ryan-Vollmar, Supreme Court Decision: The Sodomy Stories. Archived from The Boston Phoenix, 7 July 2013.
  59. Nick Baumann, The House GOP’s Plan to Redefine Rape. Mother Jones, 28 January 2011.
  60. Robin Marty, What Can You Say About a “Conceived In Rape” Tour? Rewire News Group, 2 June 2011.
  61. Rep. Akin says he 'misspoke' about rape in interview. Archived from USA Today, 20 August 2012.
  62. I Misspoke—What I Meant To Say Is 'I Am Dumb As Dog Shit And I Am A Terrible Human Being'. The Onion, 20 August 2012.
  63. Deborah Charles, Republicans again back strict anti-abortion platform. Archived from Reuters, 21 August 2012.
  64. 64.0 64.1 Michigan GOP Candidate Tells Daughters 'If Rape Is Inevitable, Lie Back And Enjoy It' by Sebastian Murdock (Mar. 8, 2022, 02:07 PM EST) Huffington Post.
  65. The Old Testament and Rape, this author is attempting to make the argument that Deuteronomy is actually simply about having sex with an unmarried woman. If that is the case, then rape is not even discussed by the Old Testament, which would not be totally out of bounds, since women's rights were very limited in the ancient near east.
  66. One father forced his 14 year old daughter to marry her rapist and she lived with her rapist for several months. In the father's defence, it was said he may have been religiously motivated. See Christian Dad Took His 14-Year-Old To Her Rapist and Made Them Get Married.
  67. English Babylonian Talmud, Eruvin 100b
  68. Online Mishneh Torah, Chapter Twenty One, Halacha 9.
  69. DSM 5 Rejects Coercive Paraphilia, Allen J. Frances, 26 May 2011, Psychology Today.
  70. See, for example, More than Yes
  71. Thornhill, Palmer. 2000. Why men rape. Sciences.
  72. Jerry Coyne and Andrew A. Berry. Rape As An Adaptation. Nature, Vol. 404, on March 9, 2000. See also further commentary from Coyne on Why Evolution Is True.
  73. Elisabeth A. Lloyd. Science Gone Astray: Evolution and Rape. Michigan Law Review, vol. 99, no. 6, 2001, pp. 1536-1559
  74. Craig Stanford. Darwinians Look at Rape, Sex, and War. American Scientist, vol. 88, no. 4, Jul-Aug 2000
  75. Stefan Helmreich and Heather Paxson. Sex on the Brain: A Natural History of Rape and the Dubious Doctrines of Evolutionary Psychology. In Readings for a History of Anthropological Theory, eds. Paul A. Erickson and Liam Donat Murphy.
  76. Sharon Araji. Review Essay—A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion. Alaska Justice Forum, vol. 17, no. 2, 2000.
  77. Frans de Waal. Survival of the Rapists. New York Times, Apr. 2000. See also de Waal 2002.
  78. Evolution, Gender, and Rape, ed. Cheryl Brown Travis
  79. Straw men and fairy tales: Evaluating reactions to A Natural History of Rape. Journal of Sex Research, Vol 40, 2003.
  80. Rape on the Brain, Susan Brownmiller
  81. Theories of Rape, NPR
  82. Specifically, much of their thesis relies on "sexual strategies theory" (SST) put forward by David M. Buss. See Buss 1989 and Buss and Schmitt 1993. SST has been heavily criticized. For critiques, see, e.g., Eagly and Wood 1999 and 2002, Marlowe 2004, Buller 2005, and Schultz 2010.
  83. Evo Psych Bingo Card, Boingboing
  84. "Why Have Social Scientists Failed to Darwinize?". A Natural History of Rape. pp. 108.