Sociobiology explains human behaviour from an evolutionary perspective. Two present-day sociobiologists make some controversial claims in a new book of theirs.
They state that unsuccessful men use rape to gain sexual access to desirable mates. By making women pregnant, rapists pass their genes on to the next generation.
There are many inadequacies in this argument. For instance, if passing on their genes is the aim of rape, why do rapists attack the elderly, menopausal women and children? Why do men get raped? What of those women killed by rapists – they will never give birth.
The researchers are incredibly ignorant about what happens during a rape. Some men do not ejaculate during rape and so do not deposit their semen inside the woman. This suggests that whatever is driving him to rape is not sexual arousal. Others ejaculate outside the woman.
The claim that rapists are predominantly poor young men is also open to question. Certainly many young men convicted of rape are poor. Their convictions are more the result of their being unable to afford expensive lawyers who specialise in defending those accused of rape, than their greater propensity for rape.
The best challenge to these arguments comes from rapists themselves. Consider this explanation provided by man who was formerly active in a Self Defence Unit:
“I was a comrade before. Then we were no longer given political tasks. Most of the tasks were given to senior people. I felt that we have been used by these senior comrades because I do not understand why they dumped us like this. Myself and six other guys decided to form our own organisation that will keep these senior comrades busy all the time. We formed the South African Rapist Association (Sara). We rape women who need to be disciplined. They do not want to talk to most people. They think they know better than most of us and when we struggle, they do not want to join us”
Nowhere does this man state that he and his friends are raping women because they wish to pass their genes on to the next generation. This man and his friends are using rape to punish women who do not behave in ways members of Sara consider acceptable in women. Sara members also rape to express their anger and frustration at the current government for having ‘dumped’ them.
The researchers claim that men who kill their victims do so either by accident or are psychotic….
Again it is worth considering what a man who raped and murdered women had to say about his actions. During July 1994 to November 1995, Moses Sithole murdered 38 women in and around the East Rand, Pretoria and Johannesburg. Considered fit to stand trial, it was also found that he killed his female victims deliberately. His statements in court suggest a man who hated women and wanted to punish them. He felt that his activities were ‘a good lesson for ladies around this country…’ (Sunday Times, 8 December 1996).
Why men rape……..
Men rape because they believe they have the right to control and to punish women who do not obey their rules of behaviour. Rape is an expression of unequal power relations between men and women. Such unequal power relations are not the result of nature or evolution but societies which, through legislation and social custom, have made women second-class citizens.
Because sociobiological thinking is incapable of addressing how societies and their structures create and uphold inequality, their best solution to prevent rape is the lame suggestion that women not dress attractively – an approach representing yet another attempt to control women’s behaviour.
An understanding of rape which considers society would, however, emphasise the urgent need to change relationships between men and women and to ensure greater equality between the two. Such an understanding would also acknowledge the importance of changing relationships between men.
Ultimately sociobiological explanations of rape are nothing more than a science in the service of oppression.