A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion

A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual CoercionFrequently a catchall term for critiquing feminist writing as too emotional or vehement to absorb, strident is an accurate description of Palmer and Thornhill s argument that rape is a product of reproductive adaptations, not the violent result of a misogynist culture as suggested in feminist thought Their rhetoric is quite overwhelming, so much so that I almost bought their pre emptive defence of a lack of data showing the reproductive success of rape as a ridiculous expectation, even as a little part of my brain niggled that such data seemed central to their thesis But regardless of how dumbfounded they are by this criticism, the obvious difficulty, if not impossibility, of getting such data doesn t negate the problem that evolutionary psychology often veers into the land of just so stories where plausible theories of human behaviour are accepted because it seems to make sense and cannot really be disproved While it indeed seems reasonable that rape would be a reproductive strategy of individuals unable to ensure the survival of their gene pool the traditional consensual route, the fact that rapists are not only men who are unattractive to women but not infrequently men who women do find attractive suggests that while there may be a biological component there is also a cultural component that is not operating on a one dimensional goal of reproduction Further, the fact that while most rape victims are often fertile, numerous unfertile females both pre and post menopausal at least 30% of reported rapes by Palmer and Thornhill s own dataset a dataset that it should be pointed out is both old even at the time this book was published , America centric, and seemingly slight in instances of rape where the assailant was well known to the victim also raped raises questions about the sufficiency of their theory that rape is almost always an adaptive reproductive strategy Palmer and Thornhill find evolutionary adaptations as the ultimate causes of every aspect of rape Rape is the result of an adaptive reproductive strategy for less fit males Women s psychological pain from rape is the result of their reproductive strategies having been circumvented Patriarchal laws surrounding the prosecution of rape are the result of men trying to safeguard their own reproductive success both that of their partners and daughters statutory rape Their opening chapters define everything as biological, thereby entirely negating the influence of culture Even crosscultural studies on how boys and girls are socialized aren t evidence of the influence of culture on rape apparently they are evidence of how different developmental cues are being activated by surrounding If this sounds like a semantic game, it s not the only one in the book The authors frequently parse social scientists discussions of rape in peculiar ways Hence, the suggestion that rape cannot be rooted out from patriarchy without ending patriarchy itself is interpreted as suggesting that boys would be better off without a paternal presence This is a fairly fundamental misunderstanding of patriarchy Similarly, postmodernism is defined as being founded on a liberal ideology that propose no censorship or even no critical evalution of ideas and as considering scientific findings to have no validity that theology or literature This is a very distorted and extremist representation of postmodernism Another glaring misunderstanding is their idea that women s psychological pain only stems from the circumvention of their reproductive strategy When Thornhill and Palmer speculate on ways to eliminate rape from the human population by selecting against or for traits, they suggest selecting for indiscriminate mating by females so that rape wouldn t matter to them While they are not seriously suggesting this as an option, indiscriminate is a revealing adjective choice Women who made no discrimination between their partners could still be raped and still suffer pain from this rape since, like men, would still want control of when they have sex, that is, control over their own bodies This misconception gets at the heart of the flaws in this book.While the fact that evolution occurs on a timescale almost inconceivable to the human mind, so that modern human history represents merely a blink, may seem to suggest we should look to our distant biological past for answers, the world we live in is not purely biological Evolutionary adaptations millions of years in the making influence human behaviour that is also responding to a a complex social environment While Palmer and Thornhill dismiss Cartesian rationality I think, therefore I am as a long discarded theory, modern humans have a sense of self that impinges on the occurrence and experience of rape While there may be some truth in their theory of rape as an evolutionary adaptation, the ability of evolutionary theory to help decrease the occurrence of rape seems certain to be limited by the difference between the world they originated in and the world we live in now.In any case, for all their hammering of the usefulness of their point of view, the solutions Palmer and Thornhill present are vague and ill formed In the end, it seems their main point is that rape is about sex not violence, so anti rape measures need to focus on teaching men to recognise rape cues and suppress them and teaching women to consciously work on not exuding such cues Leaving aside the na ve optimism with which the authors envision young men could be taught to recognise rape cues and seemingly fail to see the quite understandable outrage that many men would feel at being spoken to in such a manner, given that most men do not rape , their suggestions for teaching women involve those tired old ideas that women dress less provocatively and avoid dangerous areas , those mainly being in public They acknowledge the drawback of social barriers being losses in personal freedom but clearly fail to appreciate the injustice of women s daily life being constricted in response to the actions of a small proportion of the population just like they fail to appreciate that rape is not just an act of reproductive violence but an act that many women find a violation of their sense of self I haven t given this book a rating not because it s so crap it deserves nothing but because it doesn t seem like the kind of book you rate based on how much you liked it. This book is difficult to read, both in style and content However, I m finding it impossible to discount data driven conclusions the authors present I read several of the reviews that concluded this books was misogynistic and dangerous I m a feminist and I don t agree I do think it challenges long and closely held beliefs around why men rape, but it doesn t attempt to justify rape or suggest that society should tolerate or excuse it They pretty clearly laid out the scientific evidence and I respect that Thank you to the authors, I bet they get a lot of hate mail. The ability of ideology to blind people to the utter implausibility of their positions is perhaps the greatest threat to accumulating the knowledge necessary to solve social problems p 152 This book uses a ton of data research in evolutionary psychology biology to explain why rape exists in all human societies.It has been panned by a lot of people as somehow justifying or rationalizing rape, which is not the case at all Those who hate this book and the research behind it fall victim to the naturalistic fallacy the misconception that what is natural is good It is natural for lions to rip apart and eat zebras, it is natural for a virus to attack your body, and it is natural for volcanoes to erupt and kill thousands of people but we generally don t say that these things are good because they are natural With the evolution of our species, the naturalistic fallacy is especially prominent because we like to think that we are highly evolved, and that our ability to post on Facebook somehow elevates us above other animals in terms of behavior.If you are mentally capable of not succumbing to the naturalistic fallacy, and want some insight into human nature which is backed up by actual science, then this book might be for you.As a feminist who would like to see rape rates go down, I wish people would stop attacking this research, and at least attempt to understand it. This is the most outrageously offensive and wildly unfounded book I have ever read on any subject but particularly on rape, as it is essentially trying to provide a scientific basis for popular rape myths I am a rape theorist myself, and have read the countless legitimate studies in anthropology, sociology etc that conclusively refute the myths Thornhill takes for granted, such as that women provoke rape by wearing revealing clothing etc although statistically, unattractive, modestly dressed women are no less likely tobe victimised , it is natural for men to rape women although many societies exist in which rape is virtually unheard of , etc etc It amazes me that Thornhill expresses puzzlement that universities worldwide have rejected and denounced his work so emphatically IT IS A COMPLETE FABRICATION WAKE UP If I could give this book negative stars, I would. Solid, careful overview of evolutionary science as it relates to rape, and how understanding behavioral drivers and triggers could be used to craft better as in effectively reducing harm policies None of which excuses rape, blames the victims, perpetuates misogynistic violence of patriarchy, and the rest of that tired moralistic hyperventilating JFC. In their repeated attempt to rationalize and justify rape, Thornhill and Palmer spend the whole book trying to tell you that they are not trying to rationalize or justify rape I read this and shook my head in anger the whole time I thought maybe I would get some insight into one of the most terrifying experiences anyone can have I thought perhaps I d hear another side of the story, one that we don t hear very often I was disappointed. Randy Thornhill and Craig Palmer s Natural History of Rape argues that rape is continuous with but nonetheless an extreme form of male sexual behavior in human beings You could think of male sexuality in humans as a dial that could either be 0, asexual, or 10, rapacious, and perhaps normal male sexuality falls somewhere in between, at a 4 or a 5 Something like this claim looks to be true, and it would look as though from our point of view as human beings, most animal behavior, were humans to engage in it, would be quite rapacious In the Animal Kingdom, there are all kinds of examples of forced sex dogs and ducks, for example, don t get consent or mutually engage in sex, but rather the sex is forced.The reason I didn t like the book is the appeal to evolutionary explanations read to me to be little than common sense To take an example, nobody need appeal to natural selection and the necessity of genes to replicate to understand that men would often, on average, like to engage in sex, and it is up to the women to choose if they would like to engage in sex with a particular partner Also, I think it should be widely understood that men often misinterpret women s behavior or speech as indications of courtship or that it is largely up to a woman to interpret ambiguous behavior from men as a display of courtship or not, and an appropriate display or not Again, the appeal to biological bases and evolutionary psychology is what could be gathered through folk wisdom.What do you think ADDITIONAL NOTE I ve read some reviews here that argue that this book is a justification for bad behavior for men or a justification for rape That claim is absurd I can t analyze their souls, but they read like well meaning scientists who just, unfortunately, thought their Science Hat would provide explanation than their Folk Psychology Hat or Ethical Hat. Not particularly well written Logical holes and gaps that you could drive a truck through Way too defensive about feminists and social scientists Not nearly enough data Not a chart or graph in the whole book But probably correct in most of the conclusions Feminists have said so many goofy things in the last fifty years that refuting them is a lot like taking on a baby in a cage fight The audience is going to hate you, just because you look so mean The thing that really grates in this book is Thornhill s generalizations about social scientists His natural science chauvinism is not pretty In fact, there are a lot of hard headed social scientists who are a lot skeptical than Thornhill realizes Statistically, psychologists are less likely to believe in supernatural claims than any other profession, for example And, to the extent that social learning theories are a kind of mysticism, a surprising number of psychologists dismiss them. A Biologist And An Anthropologist Use Evolutionary Biology To Explain The Causes And Inform The Prevention Of RapeIn This Controversial Book, Randy Thornhill And Craig Palmer Use Evolutionary Biology To Explain The Causes Of Rape And To Recommend New Approaches To Its Prevention According To Thornhill And Palmer, Evolved Adaptation Of Some Sort Gives Rise To Rape The Main Evolutionary Question Is Whether Rape Is An Adaptation Itself Or A By Product Of Other Adaptations Regardless Of The Answer, Thornhill And Palmer Note, Rape Circumvents A Central Feature Of Women S Reproductive Strategy Mate Choice This Is A Primary Reason Why Rape Is Devastating To Its Victims, Especially Young Women Thornhill And Palmer Address, And Claim To Demolish Scientifically, Many Myths About Rape Bred By Social Science Theory Over The Past Twenty Five Years The Popular Contention That Rapists Are Not Motivated By Sexual Desire Is, They Argue, Scientifically InaccurateAlthough They Argue That Rape Is Biological, Thornhill And Palmer Do Not View It As Inevitable Their Recommendations For Rape Prevention Include Teaching Young Males Not To Rape, Punishing Rape Severely, And Studying The Effectiveness Of Chemical Castration They Also Recommend That Young Women Consider The Biological Causes Of Rape When Making Decisions About Dress, Appearance, And Social Activities Rape Could Cease To Exist, They Argue, Only In A Society Knowledgeable About Its Evolutionary CausesThe Book Includes A Useful Summary Of Evolutionary Theory And A Comparison Of Evolutionary Biology S And Social Science S Explanations Of Human Behavior The Authors Argue For The Greater Explanatory Power And Practical Usefulness Of Evolutionary Biology The Book Is Sure To Stir Up Discussion Both On The Specific Topic Of Rape And On The Larger Issues Of How We Understand And Influence Human Behavior This is a very insightful book about the evolutionary history of human sexuality, specifically in regards to sexual conflicts of interest, namely rape Considering the inflammatory nature of this subject matter, the authors make a great effort to clearly define and explain the evolutionary theory and interaction of biology and environment that results in modern human sexuality The precision and intricacy of their analysis is necessary to avoid any oversimplifications or misunderstandings that commonly muddle the public s understanding of this behavior, yet the complexity of their language can be difficult for laypersons to understand I ve read multiple books on human evolution so the general concepts were known to me, but I still had difficulty in unpacking the dense, intricate reasoning developed by the authors That isn t to say the effort was not worth it The authors explore this matter to its deepest roots and as a by product, they answered questions I ve had about human sexuality for decades, questions that have been ignored or considered taboo by many This book is not only of interest to people personally concerned with rape, it is illuminating and educational for ANY adult.

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  • Paperback
  • 272 pages
  • A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion
  • Randy Thornhill
  • English
  • 22 August 2017
  • 9780262700832

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