A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercionby Randy Thornhill, Craig T. Palmer
Pub. Date: 05/01/2001
Publisher: MIT Press
In this controversial book, Randy Thornhill and Craig Palmer use evolutionary biology to explain the causes of rape and to recommend new approaches to its prevention. According to Thornhill and Palmer, evolved adaptation of some sort gives rise to rape; the main evolutionary question is whether rape is an adaptation itself or a by-product of other adaptations.
In this controversial book, Randy Thornhill and Craig Palmer use evolutionary biology to explain the causes of rape and to recommend new approaches to its prevention. According to Thornhill and Palmer, evolved adaptation of some sort gives rise to rape; the main evolutionary question is whether rape is an adaptation itself or a by-product of other adaptations. Thornhill and Palmer address, and claim to demolish scientifically, many myths about rape bred by social science theory over the past 25 years. The popular contention that rapists are not motivated by sexual desire is, they argue, scientifically inaccurate. The book also includes a useful summary of evolutionary theory and a comparison of evolutionary biology's and social science's explanations of human behavior.
Table of Contents
|1||Rape and Evolutionary Theory||1|
|2||The Evolution of Sex Differences||31|
|3||Why Do Men Rape?||53|
|4||The Pain and Anguish of Rape||85|
|5||Why Have Social Scientists Failed to Darwinize?||105|
|6||The Social Science Explanation of Rape||123|
|7||Law and Punishment||153|
|8||Social Influences on Male Sexuality||169|
|11||Treatment and Recovery||187|
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My professors absolutely hate this book, which is perhaps part of the reason I like it. As a feminist who's also interested in evolution, I have no choice but to take this book seriously. As a woman, I must say that I recommended it to a friend who's been raped, and she told me that this book helped her a lot more than any of the counseling she's went to. Perhaps that's the only recommendation needed.
¿The ultimate causes of human rape are clearly to be found in the distinctive evolution of male and female sexuality. The evidence demonstrates that rape has evolved as a response to the evolved psychological mechanisms regulating female sexuality, which enabled women to discriminate among potential sex partners. If human females had been selected to be willing to mate with any male under any circumstances, rape would not occur.¿ 'pg. 84' These few sentences accurately describe what the authors take 200 pages trying to argue and prove. Could they not just have easily stated that if human males had been selected to not need to reproduce with as many partners as possible and be able to control themselves that rape would not occur? In short, they argue that men want to reproduce as much as possible and women want an investment. They could make this argument persuasive had they given more credible evidence than basing it on their studies of other animals that rape. Their solutions are fairly simple and quite sexist: create ¿programs educating women on attractiveness, how to dress, and put on makeup to decrease their likelihood of being the victim of rape¿ and ¿be made aware of the costs associated with attractiveness.¿ I do not care if a girl/woman is walking around practically naked, that does not give anyone the right to rape her nor should it be her fault. This book is very well written and clearly presents ¿evidence¿ to support their theory on the causes of rape. However, it is very obvious that they only chose evidence that supported their theory and failed to address ¿evidence¿ of the contrary. While humans are technically animals, it is not accurate to use animals to explain our current behavior. Humans have something all other animals do not: a complex brain. The authors also fail to address the many instances of rape that do not align with their theory. They do not explain men raping men. If men really evolved to reproduce as much as possible, why do many rapists use condoms? They also do not explain why some men rape woman too old to have kids, nor do they explain pedophilia which clearly is not going to produce offspring. Randy Thornhill and Craig T. Palmer blatantly show that they are sexist and bigoted. Throughout this book, they distinctly put all of the blame on women. Why should women have to make themselves less attractive just because men can¿t control themselves? Why is the way that women evolved the cause of rape, when it could just as easily be the way men evolved? They even claim that ¿women tell more lies, false stories and gossip, calling the credibility of their allegations into question.¿ So not only are women the one¿s to blame for rape occurring in the first place, but they are also chronic liars and story tellers. The worst part of this book is that it ultimately supports and perpetuates an ongoing problem in the United States concerning rape cases. Study any criminal justice or law material and you will find what most of us know through common sense: all too often in rape cases the women are on trial for whether or not they are lying, rather than the man being on trial for whether or not he is guilty. Essentially, the victim is on trial and not the defendant. If you are sexist and chauvinistic, then you will love this book. If you want to read some absolutely unbelievable material, then I recommend this book just for the shock value. Otherwise, don¿t bother.
The title of my review should be the battle-cry for the majority of the critics of this book. I'm an undergraduate who has read this book and taken the accompanying course taught by one of the authors. I signed up for it with a skeptical attitude and went in to it doubting everything that was presented and expecting an explanation. The course followed the text very closely and I got the explanation that I had wanted. I realize that this is a sensitive topic for many people and that most who criticize the book strongly have probably either never read it or have preexisting biases due to some life experience and thus read it with a closed mind. That is unfortunate and sets back the entire field of science. To call this a 'sales pitch for evolutionary biology' is a severely misguided attack. Those who would put forth such a view might as well join the hardline religious camp that spouts that the earth is only 4,000 years old and evolution is a myth proposed by satan. All new ideas must spurn discussion and debate to be successful, even if they are not well liked. By the many vehement reviews and public discussion this book has caused I believe it has been a smashing success. I will not say that it is a flawless work, nor that all the ideas put forth in it must be 100% correct. It is, however, a different perspective on rape and one that will hopefully make people consider the topic in depth. How to prevent rape is a difficult question but at least the authors are promoting some ideas and applying scientific reasoning where others have failed.