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Causes Of Rape

Different rapists commit rape for different reasons, and any one rapist may rape for different reasons at different times (Muehlenhard, Danoff-Burg, and Powch 1996). Thus, no one theory can explain all rapes. However, many cultural factors seem to contribute to rape.

Commonly held myths such as these contribute to date and marital rape:

  • A man must have sex to prove his masculinity;
  • When women say no to sex, they really mean yes, so men should ignore women's refusals;
  • If a woman engages in kissing or petting, she is obligated to engage in sexual intercourse;
  • What goes on between a husband and a wife is no one else's business; and
  • The man should be head of the household.

These are dangerous myths that can lead to rape (Burt 1991).

Traditional gender roles prescribing female submission and male dominance are linked to rape. In Australia, Germany, and Japan, rates of violent sexual offenses were related to national levels of dominant masculinity (Neapolitan 1997). Studies in several countries have suggested that rigid gender roles and promotion of an ideology of male toughness are related to violence against women (Heise et al. 1994; Sanday 1981).

Characteristics of the culture and gender role socialization, however, do not explain why most men do not rape, why some women rape men, or why rape occurs in gay and lesbian relationships in which both people have experienced similar gender role socialization. Individual differences are also important.

Some people hold beliefs justifying rape more strongly than others. Men who rape tend to believe more strongly in myths about rape, and they are more likely to engage in fantasies about coercive sex (Drieschner and Lange 1999). Compared with other men, rapists drink more heavily, begin having sexual experiences earlier, and are more likely to have been physically or sexually abused as children (Berkowitz 1992; Ullman; Karabatsos; and Koss 1990).

Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaFamily Social IssuesRape - Incidence And Prevalence, Characteristics Of Rape Victims And Rapists, Causes Of Rape, Consequences Of Rape