Yesterday I had a bit of a dispute with a couple of non-Christian friends. They didn’t believe me when I told them I’d read somewhere that one in four men admit they’d rape a woman if they could be assured of getting away with it. One of my friends, in fact, went so far as to express his disgust at my credulity, accusing me of being the kind of person who “just wants to believe” ridiculous figures like this. He thinks the fact that I believe man to be inherently evil is cynical, and a good example of why Christianity is not to be taken seriously.
Anyway, I did some digging online today, and discovered I was wrong about how many men would commit rape if there were no consequences.
It’s not one in four men. It’s one in two. Here’s what I found:
In a study at UCLA, an account of rape was read to male subjects (without the word “rape” included). 53% said there was some likelihood that they would behave in the same fashion as the man described in the story—if they could be sure of getting away with it. (Without this assurance, only 17% said they might emulate the rapist’s behavior.)
In another study, 356 men were asked: “If you could be assured that no one would know and that you could in no way be punished for engaging in the following acts, how likely, if at all, would you be to commit such acts?” Among the sexual acts listed were “forcing a female to do something she really didn’t want to do” and “rape”. 60% of the sample indicated that under the right circumstances, there was some likelihood that they would rape, use force, or do both.
Other interesting facts:
- In a study of high school males, 50% of those interviewed believed it acceptable “for a guy to hold a girl down and force her to have sexual intercourse in instances such as when ‘she gets him sexually excited’ or ‘she says she’s going to have sex with him and then changes her mind'”.
- The self-reported likelihood of raping is correlated with physiological sexual arousal by rape depictions. So it’s not just that these subjects think it’s okay or they’re saying they’d do it; they actually are physiologically wired for it. Male students who say they might rape a woman if they could get away with it are significantly more likely than other male students to be sexually aroused by portrayals of rape. In fact, they were more sexually aroused by depictions of rape than by depictions of mutually consenting sex.
- About 10% of men surveyed were sexually aroused by”very extreme violence” with “a great deal of blood and gore” that “has very little of the sexual element”.
- About 20% to 30% showed substantial sexual arousal by depictions of rape in which the woman never shows signs of arousal, only abhorrence.
- About 50% to 60% showed some degree of sexual arousal by a rape depiction in which the victim is portrayed as becoming sexually aroused at the end.
These figures are comparable to another finding that 44% of a sample of 930 adult women reported having been the victim of one or more rapes or attempted rapes over the course of their lives. This is all from a book published in the eighties called Pornography as a Cause of Rape, by Diana Russell, PhD. It draws on several prior studies in the US and Canada. You can read the whole thing online in a format that will make your eyes bleed. But there are more recent statistics from One in Four USA:
- One in four American college women report being the victims of rape or attempted rape since their fourteenth birthdays.
- One in five, according to another survey across 100 colleges, has actually been raped at some point in her life.
- Another study indicates that one in five female high school students has also been raped.
- More than one in five men report “becoming so sexually aroused that they could not stop themselves from having sex, even though the woman did not consent.”
- Of those rapes reported to the police (which is between one third and one sixth of the total number), only 16% result in prison sentences. Therefore, approximately 2.5–5% of the time, a man who rapes ends up in prison; 95–97.5% of the time he does not.
- These statistics seem to be relatively similar worldwide, though there are discrepancies (for example, in South Africa one in four men admit to rape, presumably because of beliefs about AIDS).
In summary, I realize that this is hardly a robust defense of the doctrine of total depravity. However, it lends a great deal of credence—in a straightforwardly shocking way—to the Christian claim that men are sinners by nature; that the desires of their hearts are inclined toward evil continually, and that only the grace of God restrains them from gross wickedness (in this life). I’ll get around to proving the same about women some other time.