Across this nation and across this world, a crime is being committed against a fellow member of yours and my human race. This crime is violent, it is a violation of every human's rights, it is a horrible act, and not one member of the human race is exempt from its threats. This heinous crime is rape, and it's serious. It's a serious crime that is a serious problem, and it threatens every person because everyone knows and is related to a potential victim, women (however, it must also be noted that men, as well, are potential victims). Every human has either a mother, a grandmother, an aunt, a cousin, a sister, or a girl-friend, and every one of them is at risk. Every fourth person in the United States is a potential rape victim (Hughes & Sandler 1). This statistic should disturb and frighten everyone. Something must be done about this serious problem.
Rape is typically categorized into four types: date rape, acquaintance rape, marital rape, and stranger rape. Of the four, date rape and acquaintance rape are usually considered the same thing. Only very specific definitions can render a tangible difference. Therefore, for the purpose of this paper, date rape and acquaintance rape will be used as interchangeable terms.
Rape is a crime; it is violence against women. Rape crisis counselors and researchers alike generally agree on a simple definition of rape - an act of violence in which sex is used as a weapon (Benedict 14). Although this definition is not one that would hold up in a court of law; it is a basis from which judgments may be rendered on a topic not precisely definable. As a young teenage victim once told Helen Benedict in an interview, "Rape is to sex like a punch in the mouth is to a kiss" (qtd. in Benedict 14). Date rape is the most common of the four types of rape with over 60% of reported rape cases being date rape (Hughes & Sandler 1).
Date rape and acquaintance rape do not just affect older teen and adults. According to a recent study, 1 in 3 females is sexually abused before 18, and 1 in 4 by age 14 (jimhopper.com)
Date rape, specifically, is an issue that directly stems from the way men and women share personal relationships, the way they treat each other, ultimately, how they respect each other's wishes. The way we are taught to treat each other is something that is taught at a young age and teaching respect for one another is essential to reduce this problem. People who respect each other do not coerce or force others into doing things that they do not want to do (Hughes & Sandler 3).
Rape challenges everyone; not a single human can or has lived on this earth without needing or relying on someone else. Not one person would exist without a mother. Therefore every human is bound to its own existence; it is responsible for its actions and resolving its conflicts. This notion challenges everyone on this earth to end this horrific crime, a crime which has obvious influences and solutions.
There are numerous factors that account for the existence of date rape. However, it must be understood that the existence of date rape, and its spread into future generations is directly related to the ideals in society. All of the following causes of date rape are problems that currently exist within society today, and they will continue to exist unless their messages and teachings are changed.
Date rapes that occur presently are highest among young adults between the ages of 15 and 25 (Hughes & Sandler 1). Current estimates conclude that anywhere between 25% and 1 in 3 of rape victims are under the age of 18-of those under 18, 90% knew their assailant (Kilbourne). By this we can conclude that these habits and traits have already been acquired, and therefore exist and are still being learned by younger adolescents. Experts link a number of current problems and practices to rape. Among the field of researchers, Jean Hughes and Bernice Sandler-research associate and director, respectively, for Project on the Status and Education of Women, Association of American Colleges-cite communication between men and women as a factor of rape. They note that communication is problematic, especially in the realm of sex. Some women may say "no" when they mean "maybe" or even "yes," and men have been taught to try to turn that "no/maybe" into a "yes." Therefore, it is naturally difficult for men to know when a woman says "no," that she really does mean "no" (Hughes & Sandler 3). This may be especially problematic when the man may have been in similar situations where a "no" was in fact easily reversed into a "yes." Men who have been in such situations and who have effectively turned a woman's original denial into that of an invitation are certainly more inclined to make use of such a technique (cajoling) in order to accomplish their ultimate goal: to have sex with the woman. It must be understood that many men don't consider a particular sexual act rape, when it actually may have truly been so. "It is sex that the male premeditated, not rape... the fact that it is against the woman's will and without her consent makes it rape - whether he uses physical force or not..." (Andrea Parrot qtd. in March 1). This also results in the male not fully understanding what he has really done. You see, "if the woman protests only mildly, the man may think he is merely "persuading" her, not forcing her to have sex. He may interpret her non-verbal messages, like her enjoyment of kissing and caressing, as meaning that she wants to have sex with him (Hughes & Sandler 2). If the event results in a sexual act, the woman may end up feeling that she was wheedled into the act and never really agreed to have sex with the male. Thus the woman would conclude she had been raped.
Another major factor in the number of current rapes is the teachings of our society. We, by the examples of our society, are often taught or encouraged to settle our conflicts in violent, sexual ways (Delin 163). Revenge and the notion that women are meant to be domineered by men are two motives for rape in society. Movies, books, advertising and television put a premium on this such behavior. This in turn suggests that a "real man" is a man who has obvious control-physically, mentally, and/or emotionally-over his female companion or his wife, whichever it may be (Delin 163). But many, including myself, would argue and challenge such images and notions.
Date rape is also a result of another societal problem: the lack of consideration for women's rights and wishes. Traditionally, males are taught at an early age to be aggressors; they participate in aggressive sports, are encouraged to be competitive, not to give up, to keep trying. They are encouraged to have strong sexual feelings and to experiment with them as a part of their masculinity (Hughes & Sandler 2). However, this same society then relays a paradoxical image to women. They are socialized to be more passive, dependent, to be peacemakers, to be "lady-like;" they are discouraged from experimenting with their sexuality (Hughes & Sandler 2). These contrasting roles then only foster an environment in which friction will occur. The male, believing in "his right to have sex," would therefore be acting against his female companion's instilled belief that "good girls don't fool around" (Hughes & Sandler 2). The idea that aggression and violence prove virility and masculinity, while girls should play "hard-to-get," only perpetuates a "rape society," says the founder of the Center for Rape Concern in Philadelphia (Delin 94). However, it must be taught that sexual intimacy is something that is earned, something a relationship is blessed with.
The media has a double whammy against them; not only do they portray these destructive actions against women, they fail to report them as a serious problem. Perhaps this is to cover their own back-sides. Helen Benedict lashes out against the media's suggestions of the severity of these crimes, or the lack thereof: "The idea that rape is a sexual rather than aggressive act encourages people not to take it seriously as a crime - an attitude frequently revealed in comments by defense attorneys and newspaper columnists" (Benedict 14). It is through the lack of communicating the severity of these occurrences that fosters the idea that rape is not such a horrible crime, when in fact it is.
Continually, people link the occurrences of rape to society's influence on its young. Susan Brownmiller, a pioneer and expert in research on rape, notes that date rape also contains elements of coercive authority that militates against decisive resistance. Here the "authority" takes the form of expected behavior. In a dating situation, a male may press his desire for sex beyond what the woman may have bargained for, yet social propriety and the structures of conventional female behavior suggest that politeness and femininity demand that the female gracefully endure, lest she can somehow escape. However, the idea that a woman directly confront and defend herself falls outside the behavioral norms. These are the many such cases in which police say, "she changed her mind afterward," with no recognition that it was only afterward that she dared pull herself together and face the fact that she had in deed been raped (Brownmiller 257). This idea again falls under the beliefs instituted by the media and the public; that women are to be proper and feminine, and to oblige to the males wants and requests. This is a direct violation of every woman's rights, and it is being taught by our society; including those women which choose to not determine their own fate and allow men to control their wants, desires, and actions.
Acquaintance rape cannot be considered solely a "personal" issue which involves one man and one woman. It is a problem that concerns all men and women because it deals with the basic issue of how men and women relate to one another (Hughes & Sandler 12). Because rape is a public issue, not a private one, we must all make a stand against this crime. We, as a society, must work towards teaching our children respect for themselves and all those around them; that it is not right for a young man to use any means of force in order to have sex with a woman. Men must be taught responsibility for their women counterparts, especially as individual people. Young men must be taught that women are not just sexual objects. In order to achieve these results, we must teach our young men that a "real man" accepts the responsibility to not harm another person; that:
-It is never OK to force yourself on a woman.
-If you are getting a double message from a woman, speak up and clarify what you want.
-Do not assume you know what your partner wants.
-Be sensitive to women who are unsure about having sex, don't put pressure on them or force them.
-Communicate your sexual desires honestly and clearly.
-If you have doubts about what your partner wants, STOP. ASK. CLARIFY!
-Do not assume her desire for affection is the same as a desire for intercourse.
-Your desires may be beyond your control, but your actions are not. (Hughes & Sandler 7-8)
Maureen Saylor, a therapist supervisor at the Western State Hospital Treatment Program, says, "The greater their belief in male supremacy, the more likely they are to be offenders (qtd in Delin 93)." It is this attitude we must stop teaching our children. The idea of respect and responsibility must be taught to our children, both male and female.
Man's discovery that his genitalia could serve as a weapon to generate fear must rank as one of the most important discoveries of prehistoric times. From prehistoric times to the present, I believe, rape has played a critical function. It is nothing more or less than a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear (Brownmiller 14).
I know, that as a man, I would not want every woman to think of me in this way, and I suspect other males feel that way too (or at least should), and certainly, every woman is tired of living with this constant fear. I challenge each one of you to start changing your own thoughts and actions. Then challenge your societies; teach your children respect for one another; teach young girls that they have the right to not do anything they don't want to; teach young men that sex is an intimate act and that no woman was placed on this earth to fulfill his sexual desires. It all comes back to respect. Respect is something that is taught at the most basic level, and children must learn-from their parents-what it means to respect other people. Without respect this horrible crime, rape, will continue and it will eat at the backbone of our society.
Benedict, Helen. Virgin or Vamp. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1992.
Brownmiller, Susan. Against our will: Men, Women and Rape. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 1975.
Delin, Bart. The Sex Offender. USA: Beacon Press, 1978.
Hughes, Jean, and Bernice Sandler. "'Friends' Raping Friends-Could it Happen to You?" http://www.cs.utk.edu/~bartley/acquaint/acquaintRape.html (April 1987).
"Still Killing Us Softly." Jean Kilbourne. 1987.
March, Jennifer. "Defining
Date Rape." Golden Gater.
(16 Feb. 1995).
This paper was prepared in 1997 for a colloquium facilitated by Stephen Wright, instructor for the Advocates for Children program, part of the College Park Scholars community at the University of Maryland, College Park.