Rape – Why do men sexually assault women?

This  The actions behind the Dutch backpacker’s brave escape are sadly familiar  is an unfortunate article for at least two reasons: firstly that the reality of rape and attempted rape gave cause for it to be written at all, and secondly because its extensive generalisation tends to reinforce the notion of females as victims and males as grossly deviant and prone to sexual assault of women, often accompanied by aggression and harm.

I am not female so cannot hope to feel as girls and women do about the sad and sorry situation that is sexual violence and whose victims are by far and large, predominantly women. At the same time, (and it may be because I am male, but I think not), I would suggest that the vast majority of males do not act as did the perpetrator of this assault and that, although perhaps in a different way, the majority of males are as dismayed, horrified, disgusted at such assaults and even ashamed that one of their kind has committed it.

If most females experience the perceptions and fears such as are described by Clementine, then our society is even more than the unequal, insensitive, rebarbative and soulless entelechy I’ve already recognised. So, this is not an issue about “males” or that males can resolve, though they most certainly have to contribute significantly to achieving positive change. Sexual assault and rape are largely the results of innate instincts and perspectives of both male and female and the influence of those instincts or gender characteristics on their perceptions of and behaviour towards one another. These instincts represent thousands, perhaps even hundreds of thousands, of years of human development, social grouping, manipulation, and socialisation. Indeed, even today, there are myriad societal constructs to which particular male and female groups will adhere but which will be partially or even completely abhorrent to other groups such that they defy understanding or rationality to those outsiders.

In our own society, we set the scene for reinforcement of what we mostly believe to be inappropriate attitudes and behaviours. There is little attempt to inculcate empathy for and understanding of the alternative, gender-based, views and perspectives (gender characteristics) of males and females, let alone the perspectives of those of the various sexualities experienced by the genders. Research has shown that the majority of men have little or no understanding of the female body and the respective parts and functions of the female reproductive system. When it is clear that males have little to no understanding of the shape, size, position or purpose of the *physical* components the female reproductive system, it seems hardly surprising that neither do they have empathy and understanding for the nature of the experience of being female and of female perspectives and perceptions of behaviour, particularly those associated with intimate and personal feelings or experience.

I don’t seek to “excuse” inappropriate male behaviour as I write this but, as someone ashamed of the behaviours of many of his gender, and as a male who has always been stimulated and intrigued by females and openly admits to having experienced inappropriate thoughts or imagined what, in actuality, would be degrading scenarios with females, what I do seek is to understand. I have never made even a suggestive sexual advance to any female, let alone forced myself on a girl or woman or knowingly been inconsiderate in intimacy, yet I have imagined such situations and that makes me uncomfortable. It also suggests to me that this is likely the case for most males at one time or another. I think (perhaps wrongly for I’m not qualified in study of the mind) that this need not be how it is but that to change this will require not just for men to be beaten over the head, but for society to reflect on the values it insinuates into the minds of its members and for societal change in schooling and socialisation to be brought about.

The reality is that discussion of nudity, sexuality and reproduction is replete with euphemisms. Nudity is accepted and even applauded in some art and theatre and yet legislated as “pornographic” in other arenas. A female in a body hugging dress is regarded as “suggestive” and yet the same women dressed only in briefs and halter top, participating in an athletic event is applauded for her athleticism. We have “men’s business” and “women’s business” and yet no “male/female business” – yet surely male/female business is exactly what we need to discuss and understand if we truly wish to arrive at equality for the genders, let alone the sexualities.

At 70, I look back over my life and my experience of and with girls and women, of my various “relationships” and my three marriages and I marvel that any of those relationships could have occurred, given my ignorance. I’m also saddened because so much could have been better for my partners and for myself had I understand more about, of, and from a female perspective. Perhaps I am singularly affected in my perspective but I doubt that I am actually other than a product of a society replete with euphemisms and hypocrisy and an unhealthy tendency to sweep the “distasteful” under the carpet, rather than take it to task and resolve to understand and correct it.

That is why Clementine’s article is necessary and why we need more though wider discussion that *seriously* examines the context, environment and factors, both large and small, which cause perpetrators to behave as they do. If we are serious about fixing this, we should be well beyond expressions of abhorrence, penalties, hyperbole or populist notions about this issue. Simply blaming “men” is neither enough nor appropriate. It *is* time for a thorough examination of the causes of sexual intimidation, harassment, assault, and exploitation of females and a concerted public effort to eradicate them.

 

 

 

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