Sociobiological Theories of Rape

Discussion in 'Ethics, Morality, & Justice' started by Trooper, Nov 3, 2014.

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  1. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member


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    Thank you; I would note that this is what happens when we decide to take a break from our ego fight.

    More to the subject, I would point out that what we're dealing with is one of six untested hypotheses listed in a 1994 paper.

    Furthermore, you've just put more effort into comprehending this particular hypothesis than our neighbor who presented the paper to us has demonstrated. In terms of this community's discourse, that actually seems significant.

    But I would suggest that one of the challenges facing sociobiological explanations or justifications—the difference often being how one receives, translates, and further communicates the information—is that we tend to focus too much on the specific issue instead of a more general classification.

    Much like the mythical "gay gene", we're not going to find a "rape gene", for instance. But as with biological factors increasing outcomes represented by homosexuality, any fundamental, inherent biological contribution to the rape phenomenon will include rape among diverse results, as opposed to generating a specific rape outcome.

    The idea of a genetic predisposition toward homosexuality can make an effective analog here. While there is no gay gene, genetics are a factor in such outcomes. Think of what has to happen, say, in comparison to the outcomes that you experience—unless, of course, you're a closet case—for a man to feel comfortable being gay, and that does not yet include social conditioning. Maybe if someone digitally penetrates you it doesn't hurt per se, but my general understanding at this point is that it would make you uncomfortable to have a couple fingers sliding in and out of your ass. If we start with the basic signal that transmits up to the brain, yes, genes will have some effect on generation, transmission, reception, and translation of the signal itself. Furthermore, genes play a role in brain structure, even down to the arrangement and specific attributes of individual cells. That is to say, even without social conditioning, you, as a heterosexual, will experience a different set of impulses than I would. Even between two gay men, those impulses are different insofar as it is not entirely a matter of conditioning whether one likes a long slowburn, a rabbit-quickie, or simply having the largest phallus possible pound one's ass insensate.

    Rape is a social definition. If you ever want a good belly-chuckle at the expense of anthropologists—and, hey, who doesn't enjoy that from time to time?—try reading through the literature that tries to describe rape among ducks or fruit flies. It is not without merit, but there is only so much credibility we can give to describing brain activity in Drosphila as generating a "rape" phenomenon.

    And if humans were still primitive hunter-gatherers wandering the savanna in small groups, the idea of "rape" would still be inchoate. To wit, Stephanie Coontz, in her examination of marriage through history, came to reject the idea of possessing women. This is not for a lack of data supporting such attitudes; they appear in various forms rather quite consistently throughout history. But even more consistent than that is the proposition that marriage is a form of networking; its purpose by this outlook would be to acquire in-laws. The long history of treating women as commodities to be traded and possessed would be symptomatic of the networking function. Observed in the networking framework, this objectification of women can be asserted to serve a function, regardless of how crudely fashioned or otherwise repugnant we might find that function in the twenty-first century.

    Where the politics of such functional objectification get hung up is in presuming that either the behavior itself or our ability to observe and comprehend it are static. Nothing about evolution reasonably suggests such stasis. And, generally speaking, when it comes down to whether or not a discussion of such potentials is offensive or not abides by the long-recognized axiom that it's all in how you say it.

    We might consider an excerpt of our neighbors:

    Kittamaru: So... if the big stink is over men wanting power over women... and using rape as a method to get it...

    What about men raping other men? Or women raping men? Or men/women raping animals? Or children?

    Trooper: Every time you eat, is it to stay alive, or because it taste good? Every time you have sex, is it to reproduce, or because it feels good?

    Male bonding isn't just a way to get together in order to oppress females. Men create hierarchies and rankings among themselves. Sex, power, and control feel good.​

    Think about the implications of the latter's response. Evolutionary feelgood. Arguments like that remind me of the infamous "grenade" bit, and the response is similar: Aren't we elevating the argument from 'seek help' to 'Men should be locked up'? That is to say, if one's urges are stronger than they are capable of controlling, and would result in harm to others if acted upon, one needs to seek help. But if one's uncontrollable urges to harm others are so inherent to the XY outcome, men need to be locked up for the good of society. This is why explanations of the rape phenomenon that tread into biological determinism are so problematic. We can erase the problem while doing nothing about the harmful behavior simply by calling off civilization.

    Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. In myth, Thelemites were apparently incapable of comprehending the idea of practical boundaries; it is impossible to do what one will if one is dead. You know, maybe someone wants to have sex with that person over there, but that will be the end of doing what he will if either the object of desire or the competition beats him to death in response. And, in the societal context, it is rather quite hard to do what one will if doing what one will lands one in a prison cell. It's kind of the joke about the Rede—"An thou harm none, do what thou will"—insofar as apparently, yes, one must necessarily state the obvious.

    As Hawthorne noted in his famous novel, the graveyard and the jail are two prerequisites of any civilized society. Without an assertion of society, there is no rape. We're just ducks or fruit flies or whatever else following our instinctive drive to deposit seed.

    The idea of a Thelemic explanation for rape would seem to face observable and obvious practical challenges. Not only does the response noted above appear non sequitur to begin with, it also runs squarely up against the curse of Thelema. And it could be that such arguments are simply the result of overly sharp focus on the rape phenomenon to begin with, which is why I find greater functional value in outlooks that view such behavior as symptomatic of a larger framework.

    A practical analogy: Humans have evolved in a way that not only allows but also encourages technological development. To that end, consider our computer data networks. Most of the best networking technology has survived marketplace implementation in the porn and spam industries. And while we might argue over the psychosocial aspects of pornography, or the marketplace value of spam, what such massive internet traffic provides, in a coldly objective view intended to consider the efficacy of network tools, is one of the best field tests anyone could ask for. One might suggest that the internet is an evolutionary outcome according to our inclination toward tool use, and online pornography is symptomatic of that larger framework. It is a much harder argument to suggest that our inclination toward tool use is a specific adaptation to create and distribute pornography. Certes, we did not crawl out of the oceans specifically to become spammers.

    Two points about Aldous Huxley's Brave New World worth considering in this context:

    • If human reproduction ever becomes so industrialized as we see in speculative fiction, what effect will that have on how people perceive the utility of sexual congress?

    • If we somehow practically eliminate fears of unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease, how would that reduce the intimacy of the offense of rape?​

    The question of whether or not you enjoy sticking your penis into anyone's rectum can remain an abstraction; it seems unlikely that if we suddenly had a "Bokanovsky process" or a "wombsys" (pictured above), you would automatically change your feelings about whether you want anyone else's penis, fingers, fist, &c. inserted into your own. How many generations might we speculate would be required before rape really does become just another assault in the minds of the victims? That is, even if women generally become so "pneumatic" as we hear Lenina Crowne is supposed to be, does that mean she will be okay with some random guy deciding to force her? That is, it's one thing to enjoy fucking, quite another to abandon the concept of selection criteria entirely; she may be pneumatic, but there is no guarantee she wants to fuck you.

    As long as civilized society exists among sexually-reproducing organisms, there will be a rape phenomenon. And even in a Brave New World, there will still be a difference between being a bad lay and going out of one's way to provide bad service.
    GeoffP likes this.
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  3. Kittamaru Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Adieu, Sciforums. Valued Senior Member

    In other words, more guys need to find a hobby... one that doesn't involve violating other people.

    So if guys stopped being such dicks to women... women wouldn't turn around and inflict that pain on others. Again, seems to fall to the guy to be a good person instead of a dick (something I'm all for, mind you - I think men need to be a bit more... gentlemanly?)

    I would also argue that the opposite could be true - because they are free to express any kind of anger or share any sort of imaginative scenario openly, they have no reason to do it illicitly and inflict that upon another person.

    Indeed... but there are many cases of serial rape, why a man just goes and rapes, well, seemingly anyone he can get his hands on and overpower.
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  5. Trooper Secular Sanity Valued Senior Member

    Like Geoff said before, ask an adult if you don’t understand.

    I'd appreciate it, if you'd please try to confine your declarations of love to the art section.

    Thank you.
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  7. Trooper Secular Sanity Valued Senior Member

    It doesn't tread into biological determinism.

    “Fear of the naturalistic fallacy therefore does not justify a refusal to examine potential evolutionary influences on human behavior.”—Melissa Melissa Emery Thompson

    SEXUAL COERCION IN PRIMATES AND HUMANS: An Evolutionary Perspective on Male Aggression against Females. Edited by Martin N. Muller and Richard W. Wrangham. Harvard University Press, 2009.

    Last edited: Nov 5, 2014
  8. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    You should try a little more rational argument, lest your "secular sanity" be defined by your devotion to argumentative fallacy.

    But thank you for rejecting the "biological" part of "sociobiological".

    The removal of biology from evolution, however, is just silly. You cannot undertake an "evolutionary approach to understanding" anything about living systems without the biology.

    Perhaps if you spent less effort on fallacious appeals to authority and more on comprehending the work you're presenting, you wouldn't demean yourself so much with fallacious behavior.
  9. Liebling Doesn't Need to be Spoonfed. Valued Senior Member

    I think it might be interesting to inject a little Mill here and talk about the harm principle (particularly the second maxim of Mills harm principle dealing with societal ideology) he introduced and Feinberg honed down. Rape falls into the harm category socially because of the socio/sexual stigmas we have developed over the years dating back centuries. Before that, it's quite possible that people didn't see sex as harm and more of a development phase that all humans go through. Biologically males start to get erections and will try to satisfy the discomfort that it causes by rubbing up against something even at fairly early ages. We teach them that the correct place to put that is in another female matching genitalia to produce offspring but the biology of the erection isn't exclusive to one mate because hormonally, men aren't wired that way just like females aren't wired to produce the kind of hormones that produce euphoric feelings after orgasm before or after the years that they are menstruating. That's not to say that females won't self-stimulate but that the releases aren't as gratifying and don't produce the exact same chemical cocktail that intimate sexual encounters do during their prime age for breeding.

    We have written evidence of males in Sparta engaging in aggressive sexual acts with young men and boys as sort of a release before battle to clear their head. It's long known that male sexual release brings about hormones that make you not only feel good but release tension. To feel grounded and clear headed.

    On the other side of the coin though, you have to wonder why it is that most men get an even stronger hormonal reaction when their sexual conquest fights back or is the mate of another.
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2014
  10. Trooper Secular Sanity Valued Senior Member

    “Evolutionary explanations are often misinterpreted as ascribing biological influence on a behavior to genetically determined inevitability, or even as an excuse for that behavior. The nature/nuture dichotomy is no longer tenable at this stage of our understanding of genetics. Nonetheless, theorists on both sides of the debate often slip into arguments that dichotomize the influence of biology versus culture on our behavior. Evolutionarily derived traits are inherently shaped by the environment of the organism, and from the very anatomy of the organism to its behavior, the environment is critical in shaping each trait during an individual’s life.”

    Buy the book.
  11. Kittamaru Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Adieu, Sciforums. Valued Senior Member

    So you, the OP, are unwilling to answer to now both a moderator AND an administrators request for the purpose of this thread...

    Yeah... sorry, this site isn't meant for soap boxing, nor is it a dog and pony show...
  12. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member


    I'm not clear on whether the authors of the section you quoted are saying their arguments apply equally to human beings and other primates, or not. Perhaps you can clarify.

    Say what?

    Sexual selection is where a trait becomes dominant because it is attractive to the other sex of the species, and therefore leads to greater reproductive success.

    Are you claiming that woman really like being raped, so evolution favours having more male rapists? Is that what the argument is?

    So rape of an acquaintance is normal behaviour and not pathological? I'd like to see the justification for that.

    Why does Barbara Smuts ignore the issue of consent? Is it that she is talking primarily about non-human primates?

    It doesn't seem very profound to say that a male that rapes a female has more chance of getting her to mate with him. That's what rape is: forcible mating, without consent.

    What exactly is this "relationship coercion hypothesis"? It looks like we're jumping into the middle of an explanation with this extract, not starting from the beginning. And what did Thornhill say? And why should we care what either of them said? As it stands, this is an argument floating in space, unconnected to anything else.

    Is the weakness referred to here physical or mental?
    It again stands to reason that if you're being raped then you've lost control of your sexuality (temporarily). You're being forced against your will. Sure, that's disturbing, but it's what rape is.
    As far as I am aware, women do not have a tendency to "acquiesce" to rape. Some resist physically. All resist mentally. By definition, consent is absent, so I'm not sure how this could possibly be read as a "tendency to acquiesce".

    Again, nothing particularly surprising there. Men do tend to be physically stronger than women, on average, so they are more likely to be able to forcibly rape them.

    I'm not clear on what your point is with this, Trooper.
  13. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    I can't see anything particularly controversial in that.

    Who do you think is arguing against such a view here, Trooper?
  14. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    Sorry. I didn't realise the thread had been closed. Let's give it one more chance.

    Trooper, do you plan to go anywhere with this stuff, or are you just posting extracts from a book for no particular reason?

    If you have an argument, please make it.
  15. Trooper Secular Sanity Valued Senior Member

    “Male sexual coercion appears to have influenced myriad aspects of female behavior and life histories, including female choice of social partners and, in some cases, the form of the social system itself.

    These results suggest that sexual coercion is an important male reproductive strategy that can impose strong selection pressures on both sexes. Yet the significance of sexual coercion has not been widely recognized.

    We suggest that this lack of recognition results from the failure to acknowledge sexual coercion (usually male coercion of females) formally as a third form of sexual selection comparable to the two forms that have been recognized ever since Darwin: intrasexual competition for mates (usually between males) and intrasexual mate choice (usually by females). Like these other forms of sexual selection, sexual coercion involves behaviors that influence mate selection and retention through interactions with conspecifics. Similarly, successful coercion of females can increase male mating success at the expense of other males, just as do successful fighting or successful mate attraction.

    The outcome of male-male competition, in and of itself, constrains female choice only when dominant males succeed in keeping other males away from females, so that female options are limited to mating with the winners of male-male competition, or not mating at all.” Materials_Week 5/Male Agression and Sexual Coercion_Smuts_compressed.pdf
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2014
  16. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    Ah, yes, rape as a reproductive strategy among macaques and birds. You know how that works with chimpanzees? Males will compete for the alpha female's attention by trying to "mate" with a reproductively-nonviable juvenile female offspring.

    How does that translate to humanity?

    You're going to have to do better than spamming your own thread with excerpts out of context.

    That is, it is left to you to establish the relationship between Smuts and Smuts, "Male Aggression and Sexual Coercion of Females in Nonhuman Primates and Other Mammals: Evidence and Theoretical Implications", and human society. One might point to that town in Utah where the elders were having the younger male competition arrested so they could have better access to younger, including juvenile, females.

    Or we might also look to the opening of the paper, quoting Trivers: "The single most important difference between the sexes is the difference intheir investment in offspring. The general rule is this: females do all of the investing; males do none of it."

    Furthermore, how do you count as a reproductive strategy the murder of the offspring? That one is to you to explain:


    Although infanticide, physical aggression, and other modes of sexual coercion of females have sometimes been viewed as important phenomena, they have not been recognized as manifestations of a single selective force comparable in evolutionary significance to competition between males and mate choice by females. We predict that the approach advocated here, by integrating a broad range of phenomena into a single theoretical framework, will generate a new hypothesis to explain puzzling behavior and identify important problems that have previously gone unrecognized.


    Male aggression against females is a prominent feature of many primate societeies. Data on the frequency and context of male aggression against females in primates suggest that males will often use force, or the threat of force, to increase the chances that females will mate with them, and/or to decrease the chance that they will mate with other males. Such aggression is labeled sexual coercion. Infanticide is considered a form of sexual coercion, bceause it involves the use of force and often functions to increase male sexual opportunities. Male aggression against females and sexual coercion, including infanticide, also occur in many other mammals. Intriguing similarities to and differences from primates offer important opportunities for comparative studies. Females resist male aggression through a variety of counterstrategies, including alliances with other females and with male protectors, and modification of the timing of reproduction. Male aggression against females and sexual coercion impose substantial costs on females and provide important benefits to males and therefore represent a significant selection pressure influencing life histories and behaviors in both sexes. Variables hypothesized to account for interspecific differences in male aggression against females inculde sexual dimorphism in body size and weaponry, dispersal patterns, and differences in female-female, female-male, and male-male relationships. Recognition of intersexual coercion as a third form of sexual selection, along with intrasexual competition and intersexual mate choice, is critical to improving our understanding of reproductive strategies and social systems in primates and other animals.


    The conclusion is a lot less certain than you are, Trooper.

    So, start doing some actual thinking and writing for your own part, and stop spamming your own damn thread with deliberately misrepresented excerpts.

    Where are those new hypotheses, what do they propose, and how are they tested? After all, the gist of the conclusion is, "We see this, suggest this, and will be validated by future hypotheses yet unknown."

    And how would infanticide reflect a reproductive strategy in humans?

    In the question of intimate violence between married human partners, who are already pledged to their mate selection, how is forced oral or anal sex a reproductive strategy?

    Do you think this theoretical framework, applied to humans, can be translated in toto?


    Smuts, Barbara and Robert Smuts. (1993). Male aggression and sexual coercion of females in nonhuman primates and other mammals: evidence and theoretical implications. Advances in the Study of Behavior, 22, 1-63.
  17. Trooper Secular Sanity Valued Senior Member

    Comparative biology helps us discover similarities and differences in the solutions that other species have evolved for fundamental biological problems. Sociobiology tries to apply this to behavioral traits, as well.

    “Critics from these fields frequently argue that examinations of rape cannot be informed by studies of other species from which humans diverge in so many aspects of their behavior. In fact, human sexual behavior does differ in significant ways from that of our closest relatives. However, the most parsimonious perspective is to assume that our sexual strategies have been influenced in comparable ways by the forces of natural and sexual selection. Sexual conflicts of interest and the use of aggression toward reproductive ends are pervasive among animal species, and there is little reason to believe our ancestors would have been immune from these pressures.”

    You can say that sociobiological theories remain controversial, but even with all your artsy fartsy adjectives, you cannot say that sociobiological theories are a form of misogyny.

    And like I said earlier, the sexual dimension of rape is painfully obvious. Risk-reduction messages are still important and it is irresponsible to not provide tips on personal safety.

    I’m afraid that your know-it-all and overly defensive stance will prevent me from sharing my personal thoughts on the issue.

    Let me know when you’re ready to have a genuine discussion.
  18. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    So you're not up to the task. That's hardly a surprise.
  19. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    Mod Hat — Closure

    You have been asked before at what point prevention tips become a quality of life issue, a human rights question. You have chosen to not answer that question.

    Furthermore, it is incumbent upon you to make the argument showing how your sources are applicable to the subject at hand. You have chosen to ignore that mundane obligation.

    Is this all about your ego, Trooper? Or do you have something of use to offer humanity through such discussions? That is to say, if you really think you have something useful to offer, you ought to try making the case.
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