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There are many misconceptions regarding rape, many of them pertaining to a sexist mentality. Although there are some women who have adopted a faulty perception of rape, a misleading image of it has been reinforced mainly by men along the years. Some of the claims people have made include that rape occurs because women invite it – for example, through the clothes they wear, that women end up enjoying it, and that they are able to stop if they do not like it, so the fact that they couldn’t stop the man means that they want it to happen. The sense of power and male dominance is strong and it is perpetrated by society. Rape is a by-product of misogynistic perspectives taken to extremes.

Rape is considered a sexual offence which is followed by legal consequences if the rapist is caught. However, rape is NOT just about sex. It is about the sexist nature of it as the majority of documented cases reveal male dominance. It is about the powerlessness and dehumanization of the victims treated as a means for pleasure, where usually the victim and the rapist are strangers. It is about learned helplessness and trauma. This is not to mention physical consequences like STIs and pregnancies. It is about the dilemma the women experience – they do not want to abort but right now, abortion is an attractive option – and about the children born who will never know their father but will forever remind their mother of him.

A common myth is that if two people have had sex some time before, having unwanted sex again is justified. It is important to keep in mind that rape does not just take place between two strangers but in any circumstance where one person is being forced to have sex, irrespective of their sexual history. In fact, rape is motivated by mutiple reasons other than sex.

  • Evolutionary perspective: Rape can be considered an enhancer of natural selection that favours reproductive success in men. This suggests that men might have developed a psychological adaptation which favours rape.  
  • Cultural perspective: Youths are constantly exposed to sexualised images, particularly of women, and this leads men to feel a sense of entitlement to sex.
  • Social perspective: Men are socialised in a way which favours short-term relationships, and where themes like lack of emotional expression, manipulation and violence are implied and even enforced. Moreover, alcohol plays a part; men and women are driven by self-fulfilling prophecies which arise when they drink alcohol on a date. This is because the effect of alcohol enforces inappropriate behaviour which is excused by bringing gender stereotypes to the fore, where men tend to become more dominant and women act in a more submissive manner.

What can we do?

It is important that:

  • We inform ourselves
  • We raise awareness and educate those less informed
  • We provide support to victims
  • We provide help to rapists – this last point is particularly controversial because many people tend to look at the offender as simply wrong and do not consider certain factors in that person’s life which shape them to behave in a certain way, albeit wrong. Although their behaviour is not justified, straight-out condemning them has not proved to be effective but attempting to understand the person’s condition might help them rid themselves of this unjust behaviour.

References

Myths about rape. Retrieved 20 August 2019, from https://rapecrisis.org.uk/get-informed/about-sexual-violence/myths-vs-realities/

Theories of Rape. Retrieved 20 August 2019, from https://cyber.harvard.edu/vaw00/theories_of_rape.html

Luanne Grima is a psychology student who works as a childminder with Willingness. She also forms part of Betapsi.