IMPORTANT:This page has used Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia in either a refactored, modified, abridged, expanded, built on or 'straight from' text content! (view authors)

There is no single theory that conclusively explains the motivation for rape; the motives of rapists can be multi-factorial and are the subject of debate. Researchers have attempted to explain the motivation of a rapist in terms of socioeconomics, anger, power, sadism, sexual pleasure, psychopathy, ethical standards, attitudes toward women and evolutionary pressures.

Research on convicted rapists

The research on convicted rapists has found several important motivational factors in the sexual aggression of males. Those motivational factors repeatedly implicated are having anger at women and having the need to control or dominate them.[1]

Factors increasing men's risk of committing rape include alcohol and drug consumption, being more likely to consider victims responsible for their rape, being less knowledgeable about the impact of rape on victims, being impulsive and having antisocial tendencies, having an exaggerated sense of masculinity, having a low opinion on women, being a member of a criminal gang, having sexually aggressive friends, having been abused as a child and having been raised in a strongly patriarchal family.

A study by Marshall et al. (2001) found that male rapists had less empathy toward women who had been sexually assaulted by an unknown assailant and more hostility toward women than nonsex offenders and nonoffender males/females.[2]

Freund et al. (1983) stated that most rapists do not have a preference for rape over consensual sex,[3] and Marshall et al. (1991) stated that there are no significant differences between the arousal patterns of male rapists and other males.[4]

Some[who?] argue that the capacity or propensity to rape is adaptive in the sense that biologically, men with genes which increase their propensity to rape may have had more children, furthering the spread of those genes.

Factors increasing men's risk of committing rape
Individual factors Relationship factors Community factors Societal factors
Alcohol and drug use Associate with sexually aggressive and delinquent peers Poverty, mediated through forms of crisis of male identity Societal norms supportive of sexual violence
Coercive sexual fantasies and other attitudes and beliefs supportive of sexual violence Family environment characterized by physical violence and few resources Lack of employment opportunities Societal norms supportive of male superiority and sexual entitlement
Impulsive and antisocial tendencies Strongly patriarchal relationship or family environment Lack of institutional support from police and judicial system Weak laws and policies related to sexual violence
Preference for impersonal sex Emotionally unsupportive family environment General tolerance of sexual assault within the community Weak laws and policies related to gender equality
Hostility towards women Family honour considered more important than the health and safety of the victim Weak community sanctions against perpetrators of sexual violence High levels of crime and other forms of violence
History of sexual abuse as a child
Witnessed family violence as a child

Anger rape

The aim of this rapist is to humiliate, debase and hurt their victim; they express their contempt for their victim through physical violence and profane language. For these rapists, sex is a weapon to defile and degrade the victim, rape constitutes the ultimate expression of their anger. This rapist considers rape the ultimate offense they can commit against the victim.

Anger rape is characterized by physical brutality, much more physical force is used during the assault than would be necessary if the intent were simply to overpower the victim and achieve penetration. This type of offender attacks their victim by grabbing, striking and knocking the victim to the ground, beating them, tearing their clothes, and raping them.

The experience for the offender is one that is of conscious anger and rage.[5]

Power rape

For these rapists, sexuality becomes a way to compensate for their underlying feelings of inadequacy and feeds their issues of mastery, control, strength, authority and capability. The intent of the power rapist is to assert his competency and validate his masculinity. The power rapist relies upon verbal threats, intimidation with a weapon, and only uses the amount of force necessary to subdue his victim.

The power rapists tends to have fantasies about sexual conquests and rape. They may even believe that even though the victim initially resists them, that once they overpower their victim, the victim will eventually enjoy the rape. The rapist needs to believe that the victim enjoyed "it", and they may even ask the victim for a date later.

Because this is only a fantasy, the rapist does not feel reassured by either their own performance or the victim's response. The rapist feels that they must find another victim, convinced that this victim will be "the right one".

Hence, their offenses may become repetitive and compulsive. They may commit a series of rapes over a short period of time.[6]

Sadistic rape

For these rapists, there is a sexual transformation of anger and power so that aggression itself is eroticized. For this rapist, excitement is associated with the inflicting of pain upon his victim. The offender finds the intentional maltreatment of his victim intensely gratifying and takes pleasure in the victim's torment, anguish, distress, helplessness, and suffering; he finds the victim's struggling with him an erotic experience.

Sadistic rape usually involves torture and restraint. Sometimes it can take on ritualistic or other bizarre qualities.The rapist may use some type of instrument or foreign object to penetrate his victim. Sexual areas of the victim's body become a specific focus of injury or abuse.

The sadistic rapist's assaults are deliberate, calculated and preplanned. They will often wear a disguise or will blindfold their victims. Prostitutes or other people whom they perceive to be "promiscuous" are often the sadistic rapist's targets. The victims of a sadistic rapist may not survive the attack. For some offenders, the ultimate satisfaction is gained from murdering the victim.[5]

Sexual gratification

Richard Felson coauthored the controversial book "Aggression and Coercive Actions: A Social-Interactionist Perspective" with James Tedeschi, a book which argues that sexual fulfillment is the motive of rapists, rather than the aggressive desire to dominate the victim.[7] Felson believes that rape is an aggressive form of sexual coercion and the goal of rape is sexual satisfaction rather than power. Most rapists do not have a preference for rape over consensual sex.[8][9][10][11][12][13] In one study, male rapists evaluated with penile plethysmography demonstrated more arousal to forced sex and less discrimination between forced and consensual sex than non-rapist control subjects, though both groups responded more strongly to consensual sex scenarios.[14]

Evolutionary theory

The disparity between men and women in terms of the number of offspring means that males who can inseminate a large number of females through force have greater reproductive success than males who do not employ force.[15]

Feminist theories of rape

The feminist theory of rape is summarized by Susan Brownmiller's statement: "rape is nothing more or less than a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear".[16] It asserts that some feminists see the male domination of female in socio-political and economic domains as the ultimate cause of most rapes, and considers male-female rape to be a crime of power that has little or nothing to do with sex itself.[15] Social learning theory of rape is similar to the feminist theory and links cultural traditions such as imitation, sex-violence linkages, rape myths (e.g. "women secretly desire to be raped"), and desensitization to the core causes of rape. The focus is on male-female rape with no explanations offered for male-male or female-perpetrated forms of rape.[15]

Rape culture

Rape culture is a term used within women's studies and feminism, describing a culture in which rape and other sexual violence (usually against women) are common and in which prevalent attitudes, norms, practices, and media condone, normalize, excuse, or encourage sexualized violence.

Within the paradigm, acts of sexism are commonly employed to validate and rationalize normative misogynistic practices; for instance, sexist jokes may be told to foster disrespect for women and an accompanying disregard for their well-being, which ultimately make their rape and abuse seem "acceptable". Examples of behaviors said to typify rape culture include victim blaming, trivializing prison rape, and sexual objectification.

The way males are socialized and sexual scripts

It has been argued that rape may be caused by the way males are socialized in regard to sexuality.[17][18] Boys are brought up to be sexually aggressive, dominant and conquering, as a way of affirming their masculinity. Catharine MacKinnon argues that men rape "for reasons that they share in common even with those who don’t, namely masculinity and their identification with masculine norms and in particular being the people who initiate sex and being the people who socially experience themselves as being affirmed by aggressive initiation of sexual interaction".[19] According to Check and Malamuth (1983), men are taught to take the initiative and persist in sexual encounters, while women are supposed to set the limits.[20] This classical sexual script is often popularized through television shows, popular films and pornography, which depict the man making a sexual advance and the woman initially resisting, but then finally positively responding by falling in love with him or experiencing orgasm (Cowen, Lee, Levy, and Snyder, 1988; Malamuth and Check, 1981; Smith, 1976; Waggett, 1989). The implied message is that men should persist beyond a woman's protest and women should say "no" even if they desire sex (Muehlenhard and McCoy, 1991). The more traditional the society, the closer the adherence to this sexual script.[20] For this reason, many men do not believe that a woman means "no" when she says "no", and they feel entitled to continue to pressure the woman, and ultimately coerce or force her into sex; consent often becomes confused with submission.[21] In many societies, men who do not act in this traditional masculine way are ostracized by their peers and considered effeminate. In studies, young males from Cambodia, Mexico, Peru and South Africa, reported that they have participated in incidents where girls were coerced into sex (such as gang rapes) and that they did so as a way to prove their masculinity to their friends, or under peer pressure and fear that they would be rejected if they didn't participate in the assault.[22] In many cultures, such as Asia or Latin America, it is believed—by both men and women—that men have uncontrollable sexual urges and instincts, which cannot be managed in any way, and that once they are sexually aroused they should be provided with sex as a right. On the other hand young girls are expected to uphold the honor of their family by maintaining their "reputation" and preserving their virginity. As a result, assaults on women, especially those perceived as "easy" and "known" to have had sex with many partners, are rarely judged, and are justified by the myths that men simply cannot control their sexual needs, and that "good" girls do not get raped, but only those who act irresponsibly and entice men.

The sex industry and rape

The relation between the sex industry (pornography, striptease, live sex shows, prostitution, etc) and rape has also been discussed. Radical feminists charge that the acceptance of these sexual practices increases sexual violence against women, by reinforcing stereotypical views about women, who are seen as sex objects which can be used and abused by men, and by desensitizing men; this being one of the reasons why radical feminists oppose the sex industry. They argue that pornography eroticizes the domination, humiliation, and coercion of women, and reinforces sexual and cultural attitudes that are complicit in rape and sexual harassment.

Religious views

Religious groups, such as the Catholic Church, consider that lust (a sin in Christianity) may motivate some rapes.[23]

See also


  1. Lisak, D.; Roth, S. (1988). "Motivational factors in nonincarcerated sexually aggressive men.". J Pers Soc Psychol 55 (5): 795–802. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.55.5.795. PMID 3210146.
  2. Marshall WL, Moulden H (October 2001). "Hostility toward women and victim empathy in rapists" (pdf). Sex Abuse 13 (4): 249–55. doi:10.1177/107906320101300403. PMID 11677926.
  3. Freund, K., Scher, H., & Hucker, S. J. (1983). "The courtship disorders," Archives of Sexual Behavior, 12:769‑779. Cited in "Heterosocial competence of rapists and child molesters: a meta-analysis," in The Journal of Sex Research: "... the minority of rapists who have an erotic preference for rape over consensual intercourse (Freund, Scher, & Hucker, 1983)."
  4. Marshall, W. L.; Eccles, A. (1991). "Issues in clinical practice with sex offenders". Journal of Interpersonal Violence 6: 79–79.
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Center for Sex Offender Management Lecture Content & Teaching Notes Supervision of Sex Offenders in the Community: An Overview". Center for Sex Offender Management. Retrieved 2008-05-26.
  6. Types of Rapists from
  7. BNET Article
  8. Dreznick MT (May 2003). "Heterosocial competence of rapists and child molesters: a meta-analysis". J Sex Res 40 (2): 170–8. doi:10.1080/00224490309552178. PMID 12908124.
  9. Barbaree, H.E.; Marshall, W.L.; Lanthier, R.D. (1979). "Deviant sexual arousal in rapists". Behaviour Research and Therapy 8: 229–239.
  10. Baxter, D.J.; Barbaree, H.E.; Marshall, W.L. (1986). "Sexual responses to consenting and forced sex in a large sample of rapists and nonrapists". Behaviour Research and Therapy 24 (5): 513–520. doi:10.1016/0005-7967(86)90031-8. PMID 3753378.
  11. Hall, G.C.N.; Proctor, W.C.; Nelson, G.M. (1988). "Validity of physiological measures of pedophilic sexual arousal in a sexual offender population". Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 56 (1): 118–122. doi:10.1037/0022-006X.56.1.118. PMID 3346436.
  12. Langevin, R., Bain, J., Ben-Aron, M.H., Coulthard, R., Day, D., Handy, L., Heasman, G., Hucker, S.J., Purins, J.E., Roper, V., Russon, A.E., Webster, C.D. and Wortzman, G. (1985). "Sexual aggression: constructing a predictive equation: a controlled pilot study," In: Langevin, R. (ed.), Erotic preference, gender identity, and aggression in men: new research studies, pp. 39–76.
  13. Wormith, J.S.; Bradford, J.M.W.; Pawlak, A.; Borzecki, M.; Zohar, A. (1988). "The assessment of deviant sexual arousal as a function of intelligence, instructional set and alcohol ingestion". Canadian Journal of Psychiatry 33: 800–808.
  14. Baxter DJ, Barbaree HE, Marshall WL (1986). "Sexual responses to consenting and forced sex in a large sample of rapists and nonrapists". Behav Res Ther 24 (5): 513–20. doi:10.1016/0005-7967(86)90031-8. PMID 3753378. Retrieved 2008-05-26.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 Ellis, Lee (1989). Theories of rape: inquiries into the causes of sexual aggression. Washington, D.C: Hemisphere Pub. Corp. ISBN 0-89116-172-4.
  16. Brownmiller, Susan (1993). Against our will: men, women, and rape. New York: Fawcett Columbine. p. (page number needed). ISBN 0-449-90820-8.
  17. [1]
  18. [2]
  19. [3]
  20. 20.0 20.1 [4]
  21. [5]
  22. [6]
  23. [7]

Further reading

  • Marnie E., PHD. Rice; Lalumiere, Martin L.; Vernon L., PHD. Quinsey (2005). The Causes Of Rape: Understanding Individual Differences In Male Propensity For Sexual Aggression (The Law and Public Policy.). American Psychological Association. ISBN 1-59147-186-9.

External links

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.