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A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion (Englisch) Gebundene Ausgabe – 30. April 2000

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Evolutionary psychology often stomps where other branches of science fear to tread. Case in point: A Natural History of Rape. Randy Thornhill, a biologist, and Craig T. Palmer, an anthropologist, have attempted to apply evolutionary principles to one of the most disgusting of human behaviors, and the result is a guaranteed storm of media hype and debate. The book's central argument is that rape is a genetically developed strategy sustained over generations of human life because it is a kind of sexual selection--a successful reproductive strategy. This runs directly counter to the prevailing notion--that rape is predominantly about violent power, and only secondarily about sex.

The authors base their argument partly on statistics showing that in the United States, most rape victims are of childbearing age. But disturbingly large numbers of rapes of children, elderly women, and other men are never adequately explained. And the actual reproductive success of rape is not clear. Thornhill and Palmer's biological interpretation is just that--an interpretation, one that won't withstand tough scientific scrutiny. They further claim that the mental trauma of rape is greater for women of childbearing age (especially married women) than it is for elderly women or children. The data supporting these assertions come from a single psychological study, done by Thornhill in the 1970s, that mixes first-person interviews with caretaker's interpretations of children's reactions.

While Thornhill and Palmer claim that they are trying to look objectively at the root causes of rape, they focus almost entirely on data that support their thesis, forcing them to write an evolutionary "just-so" story. The central problem is evident in this quote, from the chapter "The Pain and Anguish of Rape":

We feel that the woman's perspective on rape can be best understood by considering the negative influences of rape on female reproductive success.... It is also highly possible that selection favored the outward manifestations of psychological pain because it communicated the female's strong negative attitude about the rapist to her husband and/or her relatives.

Women are disturbed by rape mostly because they are worried about what their husbands might think? In statements like this, the authors repeatedly discount the psychological aspects of rape, such as fear, humiliation, loss of autonomy, and powerlessness, and focus solely on personal shame.

A Natural History of Rape will no doubt have people talking about rape and its causes, and perhaps thinking about real ways of preventing it. In fact, the authors suggest that all young men be educated frankly about their (theoretical) genetic desire to rape. And it reopens the debate about the role of sex in rape. But without more and better data supporting their conclusions, Thornhill and Palmer are doing the very thing they criticize feminists and social scientists of doing: just talking. --Therese Littleton


"This is a courageous, intelligent, and eye-opening book with a noble goal--to understand and eliminate a loathsome crime. Armed with logic and copious data, Thornhill and Palmer will force many intellectuals to decide which they value more: established dogma and ideology, or the welfare of real women in the real world."--Steven Pinker, Professor of Psychology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and author of "How the Mind Works" and "Words and Rules"

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By one intuitive and relevant definition, rape is copulation resisted to the best of the victim's ability unless such resistance would probably result in death or serious injury to the victim or in death or injury to individuals the victim commonly protects. Lesen Sie die erste Seite
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5 von 5 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich Von Diane C. Boudreau am 13. März 2000
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
As a woman, a feminist, and a sociologist by training, I still find nothing offensive in this book. Thornhill and Palmer have tackled one of the most sensitive and inflammatory topics that exist and it is only natural that they will receive a lot of knee-jerk reactions to it. However, this book is well-written, well-researched and thought-provoking. Whether you ultimately believe their theory or not, T and P will make you seriously consider some of your assumptions about rape.
I'm not sure if some of the other reviewers have actually read this book, because nowhere in it do the authors assert that women are to blame for their rapes or that they provoke them through sexy clothing. They do suggest that sexy clothing might be one of many factors that lead men to rape and that women may CHOOSE to use this knowledge when deciding how to dress for certain situations. Why this particular issue is so offensive boggles me. I have had many people suggest that I take a women's self-defense class to help me avoid and/or survive an attack. But that suggestion in no way implies that if I *don't* take a self-defense class I am somehow responsible for causing my own rape. Similarly, women can arm themselves with the knowledge that how they dress may have an effect on how some men behave towards them, without being responsible for that behavior in any way.
I'd advise anyone interested in this topic to read the book carefully and thoroughly. Does the book prove that rape is an evolutionary adaptation? Of course not, but it certainly offers some compelling evidence and an interesting alternative to current theories on rape.
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3 von 3 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich Von Ein Kunde am 5. Februar 2000
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
A HISTORY OF RAPE by Randy Thornhill and Craig T. Palmer This book is probably a real breakthrough in the way rape is regarded by society. It is couched in very scientific terms in regard to the research which was cited, and the style of the writing. The final summery on pages 198-199 is the most important aspect to consider in that it deals with the fact that in order to learn how to prevent rape, we must consider the biological aspect, and not just regard all rapes as crimes of violence. I found the research incomplete, because it does not deal with the biological aspect of woman's estrus cycle, and the need for men to be aware that this is the main reason why women are sometimes unresponsive to the male's advances, and not because they are having sex with another man. Also, the authors do not deal with the idea that perhaps if rape is due to sexual desire what effect the practice of masturbation may have on relieving that build up of tension. D.N.
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1 von 1 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich Von TMac Tom am 1. April 2000
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
The main strength of this book is its very publication, I think. I suppose to get a more vigorous debate going on about all the causes of rape, someone had to write this book. Thornhill and Palmer did it, and hopefully it will spawn more research, either in support or in opposition. This book is written for a general audience but its main targets are within academia, namely the social sciences. I think T&P wrote it to a mass audience as a way of circumventing what they saw were roadblocks within the academic community to a serious discussion of these concepts. If so, then that's great.
T&P also do well in pointing out some of the (mostly) logical flaws of the current social theory behind rape. The main one for me was that, while social theory stresses that power, hate, and so forth motivate rape (which I'm sure they do), the social theory never really answers for me this question, "Why rape"? There are other ways that misogynist men could express themselves besides this one, which seems to be numero uno on the expression list, according to the prevailing theory. Sex has to be the underlying answer to this question. Men who rape are obviously sexually aroused, and the old mind/body duality a la Descartes doesn't cut it as an answer for this. There's room for both social and biological causes here, and both should be explored more fully.
That brings me to the book's main weakness. "A natural history" this isn't. T&P offer the basic theoretical idea behind rape being a specific adaptation of evolution. But its obvious that the research isn't there (yet) to support it.
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1 von 1 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich Von Paul J. Watson am 18. März 2000
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
This is the first book on rape to present an objective Darwinian view of a human behavior that is universally and rightly condemned as criminal. That rape is a violent, sexual, reproductive act reflects the all too human evolved capacity to contingently express tremendously selfish and loathsome as well as kind and caring behaviors. The observation that local cultural influences and personal developmental histories will influence the probability of an individual "choosing" any behavior (including callous criminal behaviors) in response to short and long term personal histories, evaluations of present circumstances, and expectations concerning how present behavior will impact their future prospects compared to alternative behaviors exhibited in the present, is central to modern evolutionary psychology. All behaviors are understood by biologists as necessarily being joint products of gene-environment interactions.
Understanding that rape is fundamentally "sexual" (that is, for a biologist, ultimately, albeit perhaps unconsciously, about gene propagation) helps to illuminate the circumstances under which virtually any man's probability of being sexually coercive increases. All creatures choose behaviors that, under current their social and environmental conditions, have expected fitness that exceed expected fitness costs as estimated from the perspective of the ancestral environment in which that animal's nervous system (i.e., it mind) evolved.
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