Rape is an experience which shakes the foundations of the lives of the victims. For many its effect is long term, impairing their capacity for personal relationships, altering their behaviour and values and generating fear, Temkin (1986:17).
Rape is an extremely controversial issue and this notion is supported based on the fact that basic definitions and explanations of rape usually directly correlate with a state's lawful definition of rape. This proves problematic as many people's explanations and definitions of rape are quite different to that of the law. Social science theorists argue that rape is a learned action with which society plays a crucial role, Ellis (1989). Based on this theory it seems only logical to propose that there should be differing definitions and explanations of rape from generation to generation. A good example to consider is that of older generations who are less likely to use marital rape as a definition of rape. In this essay I aim to outline three main psychological explanations for the causes of rape, which are: the evolutionary approach, the feminist approach and the social learning approach.
Earlier explanations of rape by Dizinno and Thornhill (1986) have explained it as an evolved, facultative behaviour that is condition- dependent. In this view, rape may be engaged in by men who are relatively unsuccessful in competition for the resources and status necessary to attract and reproduce successfully with desirable mates. Thornhill and Palmer (2000), have grounded their evolutionary explanation of rape in the Darwinian theory. They have argued that rape is a sexually motivated behaviour, not an act of power and control, which is in complete contrast to the feminist approach to rape. Rape is viewed in this theory as adaptation to historical environmental changes, they are not in agreement in terms of rape being an adaptation designed to increase males' reproductive success or whether it is an adaptational by-product that facilitates males' access to consenting females. They do agree, however that rape adaptation in human males is psychological.
In order to support their theory they use the sexual behaviour of scorpion flies Thornhill and Thornhill (1987), in which the male may gain sex from the female either by presenting a gift of food through a notal organ) during courtship or without a nuptial offering, in which case force is necessary to restrain her. Human males do not have a similar rape organ, but Palmer et al (2000) argue that the rape adaptation is found in the male psyche, however it is not only the male psyche that leads to rape. As Darwinists, Thornhill and Palmer see themselves as having the only valid explanation of rape, they dismiss social science and feminist theories.
Feminist analysis has argued that the patriarchal system of gender inequalities which empowers men and oppresses women underpins sexual violence and that stratification and social control are fundamental elements in...