Rapists are Nearly Always Predators

I've had two blog posts by Thomas over at Yes Means Yes up in my Firefox browser for a while, meaning to write about them here. They are both fairly lengthy but very, very worth reading.

In the first, he talks about who the people are who rape repeatedly without getting caught. He discusses a couple of surveys where researchers managed to identify and question un-incarcerated rapists. A few key points from the post:
Of the 865 total attempted or completed rapes these men admitted to, a staggering 95% were committed by 96 men, or just 8.4% of the sample...Just 4% of the men surveyed committed over 400 attempted or completed rapes...

The sometimes-floated notion that acquaintance rape is simply a mistake about consent, is wrong. The vast majority of the offenses are being committed by a relatively small group of men, somewhere between 4% and 8% of the population, who do it again … and again … and again...

We need to spot the rapists, and we need to shut down the social structures that give them a license to operate. They are in the population, among us. They have an average of six victims, women that they know, and therefore likely some women you know. They use force sometimes, but mostly they use intoxicants. They don’t accidentally end up in a room with a woman too drunk or high to consent or resist; they plan on getting there and that’s where they end up.
The second post is sort of an expansion on the first. In it, Thomas explains how it is that serial rapists manage to commit their crimes without detection. Namely, by raping people they know and by using intoxicants much more than force to make the rape possible.
In the course of 20 years of interviewing these undetected rapists, in both research and forensic settings, it has been possible for [the researcher] to distill some of the common characteristics of the modus operandi of these sex offenders. These undetected rapists:
• are extremely adept at identifying “likely” victims, and testing prospective victims’ boundaries;
• plan and premeditate their attacks, using sophisticated strategies to groom their victims for attack, and to isolate them physically;
• use “instrumental” not gratuitous violence; they exhibit strong impulse
control and use only as much violence as is needed to terrify and coerce their victims into submission;
• use psychological weapons – power, control, manipulation, and threats – backed up by physical force, and almost never resort to weapons such as knives or guns;
• use alcohol deliberately to render victims more vulnerable to attack, or completely unconscious.
Now, I am not able to do these posts justice with brief blockquotes. I really do suggest that everyone go and read the full posts, as long as they are. They're both very informative and I finished reading them with the sense that, yes, dear God, rape is awful and these are horrible men, but also with the sense that maybe there's something we can actually do about it that would work.

That's what blew my mind. I've heard the rhetoric about acquaintance rape, that it's committed by guys who did it by accident, who were just confused and fucked up about consent because of our weird sexual culture. I bought into that.

The studies in these posts explain that this is clearly not true, that rapes are committed by predators, plain and simple. This actually made me feel better. Yes, I still will never know upon meeting a man whether or not he's a rapist, but at least the ones that are rapists aren't accident-prone nice guys who I should feel bad for. I need no conflict in my feelings. They're evil. And we can identify them, if we watch for the signs he points out.

That's pretty damn cool.


ignorantarmies said...

I'm sad to point out that your happy conclusions do not follow. That most rapes are committed by a small group of men does not imply that most rapist are these kinds of predators. In fact if 8.4% of all rapists commit 95% of all rapes, that means that 91.6% of all rapists are not predators. On the other hand, preventing 95% of all rapes is already a very promising outlook.
But it remains that cases such as you described (nice guy mistakes no for yes because culture treats sex badly) might exist and might account for as many 9 out 10 rapists.

Paradox said...

It might be true, ignorantaemies, that my conclusions aren't supported by the very brief quotes I pulled from Roche's posts, but they are in fact the main messages of both the full posts and the research studies upon which they're based. I will suggest again to read the full posts, as they're very informative an will clear up the issue you mentioned.

Britni TheVadgeWig said...

I don't know if you've read my blog recently, but I'm starting a "rape culture" series, because so many people (especially hetero men, I hate to generalize) don't get it.

Thank you for writing about this.

ignorantarmies said...

Thomas' post does not really clear up the issue I mentioned. And I don't think it could, because the issue is a simple mathematical point. To take another example: It just follows from 10% of the population owning 80% of the capital, that the other 90% of the population own relatively little. Chances are, if you meet someone, they will not be relatively rich, but relatively poor.
But on the other hand, if you pick a random share in a random company, chances are that it belongs to one of the rich 10%.
The same applies here. If you meet a male rapist (as in someone who has attempted or completed rape), chances are that is not a predator.
But if you pick a random rape, chances are that the its perpetrator is a predator.

And this of course ties in neatly with the rape culture topic, which includes all rapists, most of which are rapists conditional on being part of a social sphere in which rape culture, that is the normalization of rape, is prevalent. For most rapists, rape probably is like drugs, something you might try because it's "out there" and people are making in-jokes about it and suggesting in many other ways, without outright saying so, that it's kind of nice. And when they do it, chances are that the will not do it again or at least not expend great effort to facilitate another rape. But there is a small minority for which rape (and violence in general, the most basic expression of power over someone) is the thing. Those are the predators, the dedicated rapists. And what is rape culture to them? It is what glorifies them much like drug culture glorifies the Hunter S. Thompson type.
So while I fully share Thomas' conclusions, I just think that simple predator - prey logics do not do the complex field of rape justice. The dynamics are much more complicated than just that, even if that is a large part of them. And the numbers make clear, that most of the victimizers are not predators, but something else. What they are, I cannot say with any certainty. But I would hazard a guess that terms like angry, desperate, curious, wishing to prove their manhood, confused, drugged, self-deceptive, rationalizing and horny might play a part.

Paradox said...

Britni - I do, of course, still read your blog although I've been a bit lax in my commenting. I'm happy to hear that you're so happy with Profligacy and I agree that talking about rape culture is so, so important.

ignorantarmies - You're totally right about rapist populations. I suppose I mis-titled my post as I really meant "Your Rapist was Nearly Always a Predator." I tend to think about rape from the perspective of victims rather than rapists. So if most rapes are committed by these predators, then most rape victims were raped by one of them. And putting them in jail would in fact cut down hugely on rape.

I give you that a majority of rapists are the rationalizing or culture-driven ones. I agree that dialogues about consent and changing the culture are still SO important. Even if we do assume that putting these insidious rapists who have the M.O. Thomas describes into jail would drastically cut down rape, we'd have to change the culture to get them there. Just look at rape trials. It's disgusting.

Thanks for commenting in such depth. It thrills my small-blogger heart.

Thomas MacAulay Millar said...

Ignorantarmies, if you reread the posts, the vast majority of the male populations studied in the two different surveys said that they had _not_ committed conduct which amounted to rape or attempted rape. There was a portion of the population who self-identified as having committed conduct that amounted to rape or attempted rape, and a smaller portion of rapists who admitted to multiple offenses. So we have a population of self-described non-offenders, self-described single offenders, and self-described multiple offenders. The multiple offenders -- in both surveys, from different populations, years apart -- averaged about six victims each.

Paradox has it right that one of the major takeaways is that, for any given rape, there is an overwhelming likelihood that the rapist was a serial offender. That has important implications for how we deal with rapists -- the social narrative of the accidental rape or miscommunication is not borne out empirically because it's bullshit.

But I also agree with Paradox's other point, that there's a population of het dudes out there with whom it's possible to work.

Paradox, I'm glad you like my stuff. I'm a bit embarrassed to admit I just found your blog. Very good work; I'll be back.

On living, loving, learning, and fucking with the materials I've got at hand.

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