The Virus Called Rape: 5 Things You Need To Know
Few weeks ago, I had a terrible experience. Over thirty years of my existence, I had never had that bizarre experience. No words good enough to capture that strange phenomenon. On that day, it all started with a feeling of discomfort that snowballed into a devastating rage. I was completely engulfed. Every fiber in me was angry at everything and with everything. Why? I can’t situate it in a context. This anger moved me to turn on the TV. Thinking there would be a glimpse of hope so that it would calm me down but it turned into a happy sad day for me. Something actually made me laugh eventually but it was short lived. As I was changing the channels randomly, consumed with rage, the remote control was begging for mercy because of the way I manhandled it. At last, something caught my attention at a popular TV channel. The senators were at plenary. At first, I was intrigued by different proceedings they had. But when it came to this particular issue, I laughed hard when some of our senators debating on the floor of the house said that ‘women should dress modestly because men are not woods’. On the floor of the house? What is the connection between rape and indecent dress? Should women dress modestly, would the spate of rape in our society go into extinction? To my way of thinking, this is taking the case of rape on the face value. Imagine a scenario in which all of us are stark naked, would the narrative remain the same? If rapists will still rape, with or without immodest dress, it then follows that, the issue of rape transcends the confines of indecent dress. However, if sexually inviting dress can motivate those who have the high risk of sexual aggression to rape, then, explaining it away limits the prospect of achieving an all-embracing study of rape. Let us take a brief excursion into the kingdom of rape so as to whet our epistemological appetite and be fed in the palace of exploration.
Before the senators had that session, when it was still making the news that a girl of 4 was raped by a man of 27 in Ado Ekiti, upon hearing this, I called my friend to share the news with him as though it was a good news. On phone, we argued for an hour using different examples, analogies, allegories and logical inferences to prove our points. It was as if we were arguing to win a trophy.
At the heart of our argument is the fundamental question of what naturally motivates rapists to rape. What are the factors that precondition rapists to rape? Why would rapists have sex coercively? Are all rapists mentally deranged that their consciousness is stuck in the dungeon of amnesia? Are they always under hypnosis of untamed passion to attack their targeted victims? Does it have anything to do with the way they have been raised? Does it have existential factors? Is there anything patriarchy about rape? What does violent behavioural pattern have to do with the possibility of rapists to rape? I can go on and on. I think we are always quick to condemn the rapists without critically digging deep into the motivations and rationales behind why some people rape? Don’t get it twisted. We need to abhor rape. It is a terrible thing. It leaves the victims shattered, disoriented and dejected.
And consequently, they experience anxiety disorders, depression, somatic disorders, sexual dysfunction, an obsessive-compulsive disorder, addictions, loss of self-esteem, among other things. Without a rehabilitation, a victim may suffer for a life time.
In the meantime, it is a good thing to denounce it publicly. It is a good thing to criminalize it with heavy penalties. It is a good thing to protect our women against sexual predators. But, it is not about carrying placards to protest because we detest it. It is not about resorting to blame game that patriarchal society fosters rape? It is not about blaming the victims as to why they are found in the compromising situation of being raped? Obviously, there are complex dynamics of rape, and to narrow it down to a molecular variable would blur our perception of the reality of rape. Before now, the narrative has been the public denunciation of ‘stop raping our women’. For me, this assertion is replete with some innuendos. How? Reading between the lines, it is a suggestive subtle message to all men. It is a powerful statement! Am I reading too much into the statement? The answer my friend is blowing in the wind! But, I think, our new song should be ‘why do rapists rape?’ If we really want to make a head way, we need to carefully examine the causes of rape as it is gradually becoming a household name.
Still on misconceptions some of us have built around rape, it is intriguing to note that the feminists believe the root of rape is patriarchy and that is why it may continue in perpetuity if patriarchy is not demolished. On the contrary, without equivocation, rape is not patriarchal. If I may ask, if rape is patriarchy, are men raised in patriarchal society to rape? If power, ego and the chauvinistic tendency of men to control, subjugate and dominate are the reasons men rape women, why is it that only some men rape?
Of course, we may not be able to completely explain it away that some men may rape because of ego, power and desire to dominate, but if I may ask, what power and control does a man of 27 want to exert on a girl of 4? To intimidate or what? Can we spot already the potential pitfalls in using a singular variable to diagnose the root cause of rape? The argument I had with my friend spurred me to go into research so as to find the ‘whys’ of rape. According to my findings, the scientists, in their attempt to understand rape, discovered that some animals like birds, insects, fish and much more, mate forcefully or coercively. Then, subjecting some men to the same tests especially those who had never raped but may have the tendency to coercively have sex, it is revealed that some of them have the propensity to copulate coercively. Caution! This is not a test to show sexual drive in men only. It is specially conducted to explore the motivations to rape.
Added to that, research also reveals that poor parenting, single parenthood, poverty, chaotic neighbours, inconsistent discipline, large number of siblings, societal influence, peer pressure and other issues may be contributive factors for rape. And that, to understand individual differences underpinning rape, with some confirmed empirical frequencies, rapists are said to have underlining antisocial behaviours like robbery, homicide, assault, history of sexual abuse, victimization of women, sexual and physical abuse. In all of this, there is no justification for rape.
From the foregoing, controversies abound depending on the factors that make rapists to rape. In phallometrically assessing rape, considering the arguments for and against, the following have been proven to be true with a reasonable consistent frequency.
- Antisociality: It has been observed that rapists have underlining delinquent behavioural pattern and also violent; they are capable of committing other crimes and they copulate forcefully. This does not say everything about rape but it is a factor.
- Mating effort: Just like some animals mate by force, some men do the same. Scorpion flies, for instance, mate coercively.
- Atypical and paraphilia: This is an abnormal sexual order. This is different from sexual orientation like homosexuality. This is sexual machoism and fetishism. It is a sexual disorder.
- Psychopathology: This is a psychosis or neurosis. Of course, not all rapists are deranged.
- Contextual factors: In this context, no issue must be treated in isolation! Factors like violent pornographic movies, alcohol, marijuana, poverty, poor parenting, inconsistent discipline, neurodevelopmental issues, family, genes, single parenthood, large number of siblings, peer pressure, male fraternities, chaotic neighbours and much more.
In sum, with the factors highlighted above, there is a temptation to conceive them as sex studies show other than a thorough research on the issue of rape. Like I said, controversies abound as to why some men rape, but to undermine those points aforementioned would make us to settle in with biases. We do not have a general theory of rape and the best preventive and remediation interventions are yet to be discovered. If we want to rid our society of rape, we need to be ruthless about it. It is not enough to criminalize it. And it should not be celebrated either. However, to reduce the scourge of rape, I think the best approach is to put aside biases and get down to business by digging dip into the causes of rape in Nigeria, as a society, in order to reduce it significantly. If the statistics of rape we have recorded in Nigeria show a prevailing behavioural pattern, then, it is a pointer for us on how to approach it. Even if we kill all the rapists today, it may not totally eradicate it. The issues of parenting, sex education, broken families, economy and other related issues must be taken into consideration in our concerted effort in fighting the virus of rape in our country. So, all hands must be on deck. But, if we think men rape only in order to keep women under control, then the battle is lost.
Michael Oyeniyi Ojo, is a graduate student of philosophy at the University of Ibadan.