Saturday, September 13, 2014

Why Do Men Rape?


Men rape because they can.

What?  You were expecting some sort of complex psychological analysis maybe? Mother issues? Violence in the home? Sociopathy and its many permutations?

Nope, it's just easy to get away with, and lots of men get away with it every year.

According to the CDC, about 1.3 million rapes happen in the U.S. every year. The FBI estimate of 300,000 per year uses a much narrower definition of rape that excludes violent sexual acts that are not forced intercourse (use your imagination, I'm sure you'll figure it out).

Both numbers are bad, and both organizations recognize that over half of all rapes are never reported.

I got to thinking about this in the wake of all the hoopla about domestic violence and football, after the release of the endlessly replayed clip of football player Ray Rice punching his wife in the face and dragging her unconscious body off of an elevator.

The NFL doesn't really care about this. The NFL cares about getting embarrassed by it or losing money over it, sure, but violence against women? No, that's part of sports culture and everyone implicitly 'gets' that.

So it was weird to see the NFL on the defensive this week, crying crocodile tears over something they not only don't care about, they actively foster. It was almost as weird as seeing Jerry Sandusky cry crocodile tears about the love and concern he had for all the boys he'd been sexually violating for, what? A couple of decades? Gee whiz, it weren't like that, honest, he said. He loved those boys, he said.


I cry bullshit on all of this because you know what? Several studies have linked rape and domestic violence to macho subcultures which objectify women and see sex as a contact sport, a conquest, an entitlement that real men take when they need it, no apologies necessary. (See for instance, Lisak & Miler 2002; Foubert, Newberry, & Tatum 2007; and Loh, Gidycz, Lobo & Luthra 2005.)

But do you really need studies to confirm what we already know about sports culture?

Activist and survivor Theresa Flores founded her S.O.A.P. campaign as a way to reach out to the adolescent girls sold in motel rooms in cities hosting major sporting events. A bar of soap goes inside every room if the motel owner agrees. On the soap is a hotline number a girl can call to get help.

Flores survived such an adolescence, and this simple attempt to turn the situation around has put her in a certain amount of danger. But she keeps at it.

You might wonder, how is that underage girls can be trafficked around sporting events and this woman from Detroit knows about it but the police don't?

That's a good question, and it's not unlike the question of how the NFL didn't know that Ray Rice was in the habit of punching his wife in the face.

We all turn a blind eye to atrocity. To a certain degree, we have to just to get through each day. But our women and girls are too valuable, too important to be wasted and disrespected in the name of a game that props up men with weak sexual identities.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoy sports. I watch football.

I just believe it is possible to play and watch sports without hurting women. In fact, in grade school and high school sports are promoted as a way to 'build character' in boys and young men. We should hold our young, and older men to a much higher standard.

Will the NFL (and the rest of the U.S.) clean it up?

I don't think so. Not willingly.

But I can hope for a day when Mrs. Rice knows that a kiss is a kiss and a punch in the face is a punch in the face, and so do the rest of us.