Monday, June 6, 2011

Why Less Rape?

Via erosblog: According to Mark Kleiman (and the Department of Justice), forcible rape has gone WAY down in the United States over the past few decades. It peaked in 1979 at 2.8 per 1000 population 12 and over, and in 2009 the rate was .5.

Like homicide, the rate has really tanked since the 1990s, but the downward trend for rape has been more secular and more dramatic than that for homicide.

As Kleiman notes, it does seem like pretty damning evidence for the theory that pornography promotes rape, as a practical matter. And there's some evidence that access to porn prevents rape.

Culture is not my favorite explanation for human behavior, but I think there might be something to it here. Rape used to be accepted as a natural consequence of sluttiness (even the species of sluttiness where you merely let yourself be alone with a guy in a room); see, e.g., that gem of criminology writing from 1967, "Victim-Precipitated Forcible Rape" by Menachim Amir. Pornography was forbidden for the same reason: to repress sexuality.

It's now extremely clear that sexually permissive societies are better for women. Only the very religious and your dad believe otherwise.

Also: here's a 2008 paper with up-to-date information on what we know about the evolutionary biology of rape, which I found while doing my sacred duty to humanity.

7 comments:

  1. I used to think there might turn out to be something to the porn/rape connection, but every pillar of evidence seems to have collapsed. Although, I do still wonder whether the shift between public and private points of access could be in play. Before the late 70s or early 80s seeking and consuming porn often meant a trip to a low rent theater somewhere in town, which seems very different from the private spectacle indulged -- significantly, to completion -- in the secluded comfort of one's lair, courtesy of laser discs then VCRs then home PCs. Maybe the connection, once upon a time, was manifest in the pent-up walk to and from the marquee. In minds that wander and obsess rather than deplete and sleep. Then maybe we gradually absorbed the shock and lost interest. A saturation effect.

    Something else I would like to know: Do people fuck less or more overall, now as opposed to at peak rape times? I know it's gauche to entertain the notion that rape can be located in a spectrum of libidinal appetites, but it would be interesting to know if sex/rape trendlines converge or diverge in any way. Have you data?

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  2. What I'm hot for is not a pure porn-->less rape causality, but a permissive sexual culture --> more porn and less rape.

    I'm very curious as to the sex question. I don't think it's gauche at all - what's really gauche is the "rape is about power not sex" bullshit. Of COURSE rape is about sex. But it would be fascinating to see a Freakonomics-style analysis of some reliable correlates of sex (can we do better than self-report? Maybe condom purchases?) and incidence of rape.

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  3. I really like that I can stumble out the door to get coffee without wearing a bra and the worst thing likely to happen to me is some dude hits on me.

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  4. "rape is about power not sex" bullshit

    Are you saying that power plays no role in rape or that it's inaccurate to assert that sex plays no role in rape? If the former, WTF? If the latter, what about Brandon Teena? Sex probably had as much to do with his rape as limb mobility has to do with beating someone up.

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  5. I mean that the vast majority of rape,throughout the animal kingdom down to insects, is primarily a reproductive strategy, not a psychological oddity.

    I go into more detail here.

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  6. "It's now extremely clear that sexually permissive societies are better for women. Only the very religious and your dad believe otherwise."

    I'm neither opiate-user nor a father, but how then do you explain the results of this study?

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