Monday, May 30, 2005

Sexist Rape Laws

Via the Green Party:
At the second reading of the Crimes Amendment Bill (No 2), Ms Bradford proposed changes to the way rape was defined, to include rapes by men on men, women on women, women on men, the use of objects, and anal and oral rape.

The Bill says only women can be raped. Men are not considered to be victims of rape, no matter how brutal the attack - and women cannot rape.

The amendment was rejected. I find this simply incomprehensible. What possible reason could there be for retaining such an outdated and sexist definition of 'rape' in our laws?


  1. women ir violate men will still recieve the same sentence, it is something like 'unlawful sexual connection'. This catagory also includes things such as non-consentual oralsex.
    Rape is being kept as a seperate catagory in the law as it has a certain meaning in language.

  2. The old "separate but equal" defence, eh?

    I don't know what language our MPs speak, but I certainly don't understand the concept of rape as requiring that the victim be female.

    Rape has strongly negative connotations. By restricting it to male offenders and female victims, you reinforce the dominant anti-male sexual stereotypes. Moreover, you trivialize the harm done to male victims. The law effectively says, "You're not a real rape victim. You merely suffered an 'unlawful sexual connection'. Get over it."

    I find that despicable.

  3. I actually think that male rape of a woman is more trumatic than the other permutaions. So should be treated somewhat differently.

  4. Sock Thief,
    I disagree with your claim however even if it were true surely that is a matter for a case by case basis and not the codification of the law itself.

  5. Sock Thief, what is the basis for your claim?

  6. *possibly* due to male rape of woman or girl causes: -
    1. Negative social stigma to the woman, affecting her current and future consentual relationships with men. A women who has been raped is considered a no-go area "damaged goods" etc.
    2. Possible damage to her ability to future reproduce and have offspring.
    3. Possible unwanted pregnancy as a result of the violation, leading to abortion or unwanted child.

    These may be the reasons why they are defining "rape" as a distinct term specific to this case. It could simply be a legal reason rather than a "male bashing" reason. The penalties for raping a women (as defined here) may in fact be considerably worse given the possibly consequences are not just "stigma" related.

  7. mavxp outlines why I think as I do. Basically it’s an evolutionary thing. Men wish to have sex with as many women as possible since sperm production is practically unlimited and parental investment can be zero. For women, egg supply is limited and parental investment often huge. Women will therefore be more selective about partners and hence will be more traumatized by rape.

    That is not an argument for being lenient on other forms of sexual violation but an argument for recognising that the emotional violence that a women will suffer will be of a unique kind.

  8. Bollocks. One could just as easily make up a "just so" story about how heterosexual relations are the accepted norm, and deep-rooted homophobia will mean that male victims of male rapists will suffer "emotional violence... of a unique kind."

    Besides, even for male victims of hetero-rape, it simply isn't true that all men "wish to have sex with as many women as possible". If the guy consented then it wouldn't be rape (or 'unlawful sexual connection'), after all. True, this particular combination is probably rarer. But when it happens, you cannot just dismiss it on the grounds that "a real man would have wanted it anyway" (which you seem to be hinting at).

    These gross generalizations demonstrate precisely the sort of demeaning and trivializing attitudes that I was complaining about before. The law ought not to be codifying such pernicious sexism.

  9. I'm not dismissing other forms of sexual violation at all and have explicitly stated "That is not an argument for being lenient on other forms of sexual violation".

    To dismmis argemnets based on evolution as "just-so" stories requires a bit more than just the allegation. That women would have a different psychological reaction to rape than men because of our evolutionary history is a reasonable hypothesis. And I am not arguing that all men want to have sex with as many women as possible. Like with all arguments based on evolution, it is statistical. On average men have been and still are more promiscuous than women. And that is a result of sex selection.

    The idea that the law should in some instances treat men and women differently is not pernicious. If women and men differ in how they react to sexual violation then the law should reflect this.

  10. Yes, I granted that men are statistically less likely to suffer rape. But that says nothing about the nature of the harm suffered on those rare exceptions. You have not provided any reason to think that, for a specific male individual who does not wish to have sex but is forced to against his will, his suffering will be any less significant than would a woman's in the same situation.

    Again, the hypothesis that men are more disposed to promiscuity at most suggests that they are less likely to find themselves being raped (i.e. forced to have sex against their will). It says nothing about the (perhaps statistically rare) exceptions. You've presented no empirical evidence to suggest that "women and men differ in how they react to sexual violation".

    Further, even if some weak statistical correlation was found to exist, this does not necessarily justify different legal treatment. See my post on "The Ethics of Generalization".

    The point is that any particular (perhaps statistically unusual) male might suffer every bit as much from rape as a female would. It is unjust to treat such an individual differently - less seriously - merely because he is male. A statistical difference between groups is not a real difference in the person.

    Again, the present law is sending the message that male victims are less important than female victims. Even if this is backed some statistical differences between the two groups (and this is far from certain), it would still be wrong for the law to send such a message at the individual level.

  11. I didn't mean to imply any argument based on the likelyhood of men being raped, I suppose that's an issue related to why men rape at all. And the promiscuity argument is about why women would have a different psychological reaction to rape to men.

    But maybe I started off slightly at a tangent. Men can be raped and any form sexual violation should considered serious and as you say there is no reason to suppose that any particular guy would not feel the same about rape as any woman.

    However, I do think that there is a very good argument, based on evolution, to the effect that women will in general experience the effects of rape differentlyand more severely. Maybe this should not be reflected in the law as men not be considered as rape victims but it might make sense to reflect this difference in other ways.

  12. sock thief, accepting for the moment the conclusions about human behaviour that you draw from evolutionary theory, why should that have any impact on the suffering experienced by the victim? One might just as well argue that having been impregnated, the lucky recipient should cut her losses and celebrate at the impending opportunity to reproduce - a laughable and repugnant conclusion, but equally based in the calculus of reproduction. After all, a overly traumatised pregnant female is reducing her own chances of reproductive success.

    But who knows? Where is the research that confirms such predictions?

    We are not our genes. I am quite prepared to accept that there might be sex-based differences in the experience of sexual violation, but I am highly skeptical that these are a) reliable enough to base policy on or b) the product of genetic programming rather than cultural mores.

    I also am perturbed by any argument from evolution in public policy. We don't know nearly enough about this. If rape's such a good strategy, why isn't there more of it? Could I my innocence on the grounds it is my genetic destiny to rape? At any rate, there is no consensus about the extent or nature of evolutionary forces in human behaviour. I think this is why Richard is characterising your conclusion as a "just-so" story.

    I don't think your argument is very good - it's very weak.

    This may be apropos, btw:

  13. I agree with illusive mind in general women and men are different (and on average probably do experience rape differently) but in general we should not codify such things in law because the difference between groups is generally less than the difference within groups. the judge should be able to assertain from all the available information how t odeal with the situation.

    HOWEVER there is an exception if you can demonstrate that men and women have very different deterants (now we are ignoring any effect on the victim) in which case there could be a strong argument for treating them differently BUT people should be very careful and hte argument needs to be pretty strong since the seperate laws for various groups of people is a bad thing in itself.

  14. I truly agree with Richard because we have to count out that when men are raped, they also suffer emotional trauma and brutal beatings...I'd have to say that since women are already implicated into the law, why not make a law for men who are raped also, right??
    And why not make make the law serious...
    What if the man who was raped is blind?? That actually has to be inclusive of the law, wouldn't it??


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