Sexual Factors That May Affect Human Behavior Rape Research Paper

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Sexual Factors That May Affect Human Behavior: Rape

The argument has been made, with the support of a growing body of scientific evidence, that modern humans continue to exhibit many of the traits that were developed as important survival mechanisms during the Stone Age where for humans, the survival of the fittest depended on reproductive success. Although the sexually violent act of rape has historically been regarded as criminal based on manmade laws, many cultures have subscribed to religions that make the victim of rape the woman in some Moslem countries, for example, while other countries in the West view rape as generally unlawful, but provide exceptions for marital rights according to the jurisdiction. In this environment, identifying sexual factors that can affect human behaviors such as rape represents a timely and valuable enterprise. To this end, this paper provides a review of the relevant literature concerning gender-based violence in general and rape in particular, and how human behavioralists view these issues. An examination of cultural factors that affect the perception and impact of rape is followed by a summary of the research and important findings in the conclusion.

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Although precise numbers of difficult to come by, most authorities agree that gender-based violence represents a global public health threat. Moreover, in spite of its estimated prevalence in a number of countries throughout the world, there remains a paucity of reliable information in general and especially for developing countries (Philpart, Goshu & Miruts, 2009). In fact, it has only been in recent years that some developing nations have started collecting relevant data and investigating the prevalence and risk factors related to gender-based violence (Philpart et al., 2009). Although estimates vary, there is also a consensus that developing countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, continue to experience inordinately high rates of gender-based violence, including rape. According to Philpart and his associates (2009), "Gender-based violence, because of its high prevalence, limited access to legal services, insensitivity of law enforcement, and limited constitutional efforts to address gender inequality [is especially pronounced]" (2009, p. 123).

Moreover, in too many cases, there has been a fundamental lack of interest on the part of governments that can influence the incidence as well as the perception of rape in different societies, especially in developing countries where human rights obligations may be ignored and therefore not completely realized (Stacy, 2009). According to Stacy (2009), "These are the everyday human rights problems that lack the shock value of wartime atrocities. In Jordan signed the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in the early 1990s but has not managed to pass national legislation to prevent hundreds, possibly thousands, of 'honor killings'" (p. 7). These so-called "honor killings" place the blame for rape on women rather than the other way around and typically are regarded as a socially acceptable resolution to a difficult problem. In other words, from the perspective of some Moslem societies, it is women's fault if they get raped because they have placed themselves in this position and had they followed the rules and been accompanied by a male member of their family armed to the teeth with knives and guns, the rape would never have happened in the first place. In this regard, Stacy emphasizes that, 'Even women who are the victims of rape are considered to have compromised their families' honor; fathers, brothers, and sons then see it as their duty to avenge their honor, not by pursuing the perpetrators but by murdering their daughters, sisters, and mothers" (2009, p. 7).

From a Western perspective, these practices may appear bizarre and even barbaric, but this is the harsh reality facing rape victims in many countries where a lack of enforcement, religious practices and varying views on the criminality of rape remain the rule rather than the exception. Nevertheless, and irrespective of which culture a rape victim may be from, the outcome can have lifelong implications, that is if they are not stoned to death in a Moslem country first. The incidence of rape remains a matter of conjecture rather than certainty in any event because of the shame and secrecy that are associated with the crime. According to Schewe and O'Donohue (2009), "There is an increasing body of evidence attesting to the significant incidence and debilitating effects of sexual victimization. Although estimates vary depending on a number of methodological factors, some studies suggest that even before the age of 18 nearly half of all women will become victims of some form of sexual abuse" (p. 339). Although researchers continue to investigate the effects of resilience on rape victims and their subsequent recoveries, the research to date confirms the devastating effects these events can have on women from any country. In this regard, Schewe and O'Donoghue (2009) point out that, "Sexual victimization takes various forms, such as rape, sexual harassment, and child sexual abuse. The effects of sexual victimization on a person's life can range from mild to life-shattering" (p. 340).

Although every situation is unique with respect to the impact, there is also a growing body of evidence concerning the debilitating effects that rape can have on its victims. As Schewe and O'Donoghue conclude, "Victims commonly experience shock, humiliation, anxiety, guilt, a loss of self-esteem, isolation, anger, distrust, pain, depression, substance abuse, suicidal ideation, and sexual dysfunction" (2009, p. 341). The incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder among rape victims is well documented, and rape victims can experience both short as well as long-term effects from the experience. For instance, according to Min, Lee and Kim (2011), "Sexual violence not only harms its victims' immediate physical and mental health but may also cause long-term psychiatric sequelae for the rest of their lives" (p. 161).

Despite these adverse outcomes and the criminal nature of the act of rape, some scientists and sociologists maintain that even today, the human male is hard-wired to rape based on its proven contribution to reproductive success. In fact, Begley argues that, "Rape is an adaptation, a trait encoded by genes that confers an advantage on anyone who possesses them" (2009, p. 52). This Darwinian view suggests that all modern men are predisposed to rape, even if not all of them do so. Like Darwin's finches, ancient men who raped were simply acting as all alpha males do in order to increase their likelihood of reproducing. In this regard, Begley reports that:

Back in the late Pleistocene epoch 100,000 years ago, men who carried rape genes had a reproductive and evolutionary edge over men who did not: they sired children not only with willing mates, but also with unwilling ones, allowing them to leave more offspring (also carrying rape genes) who were similarly more likely to survive and reproduce, unto the nth generation. That would be us. And that is why we carry rape genes today. The family trees of prehistoric men lacking rape genes petered out. (2009, p. 52)

Although there remains a great deal of controversy concerning the existence of this so-called "rape gene," Begley (2009) argues that this explanation has a great deal of support in the relevant scholarly literature. Even if they are not readily identifiable as the "rape gene," it is reasonable to suggest that the proclivity to rape was historically associated with increased success at reproduction, irrespective of its contemporary moral and legal implications otherwise. In this regard, Begley notes that, "The argument was well within the bounds of evolutionary psychology. Founded in the late 1980s in the ashes of sociobiology, this field asserts that behaviors that conferred a fitness advantage during the era when modern humans were evolving are the result of hundreds of genetically-based cognitive 'modules' preprogrammed in the brain" 2009, p. 52).

Because these traits were genetically based, they were also able to be encoded in the human genome to the extent that they were communicated from one generation to the next unto the present day. According to Begley, "Since they are genetic, these modules and the behaviors they encode are heritable -- passed down to future generations -- and, together, constitute a universal human nature that describes how people think, feel and act, from the nightclubs of Manhattan to the farms of the Amish, from the huts of New Guinea aborigines to the madrassas of Karachi" (2009, p. 52). Moreover, because these traits are virtually universal within the human family, extrapolating a "rape gene" from the historical record also makes good sense. In this regard, Begley (2009) adds that despite the lack of firm evidence, the preponderance suggests the existence of a rape gene. For instance, Begley notes that, "Evolutionary psychologists do not have a time machine, of course. So to figure out which traits were adaptive during the Stone Age, and therefore bequeathed to us like a questionable family heirloom, they make logical guesses" (p. 52).

These logical guesses include how women have viewed potential mates in the past as well as today, but in any event, these modern perspectives are based on traits that have been… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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