rape, fitness, and symbolism

Mike Lieber (U28550@UICVM.BITNET)
Sun, 15 Jan 1995 19:42:22 CST

I noted with some amusement the inclusion of Symond's ideas about rape being
a desparate attempt to raise an individual's reproductive chances. This may
be the case for animals like Canadian geese, whose males occasionally gang
rape a female already bonded with some other male. At least, in the absence
of other data to the contrary that conclusion would be plausible in such cases.
Applying that hypothesis to human stranger rape is another story, however. The
reasoning seems to be as follows--sexual intercourse leads to pregnancy->
reproductive success. Rape involves sexual intercourse. Therefore rape is
about reproductive success for people who can't achieve it otherwise. But the
data collected from both victims and rapists seems to show overwhelmingly that
the rapist is concerned with dominating his victim. It's about power. If
these data are reliable, then it follows that sexual intercourse under these
conditions, for the rapist, symbolizes power or domination over others. The
data pattern so consistently in this direction that I am truely amazed that
anyone finds it hard to believe that rape could be an act loaded with symbolism
(a "symbolic act")--but then again, as Pinsker pointed out, there is no human
act that is not symbolic.

One can dispute the consistency of the patterning in rape data collected in the
U. S. and elsewhere by taking the Marvin Harris strategy--what the hell do the
natives know about what they're doing? Thus, one can discount all the data
about what people say and do and how they say it and do it. If you do that,
then you can take any old correlation that you find and turn that into a
causal hypothesis, kinda like race-causes-intelligence, and it sounds
plausible. Discount all the sociological and cultural data and an argument
about rape as a desparate fitness strategy is quite plausible. Would anyone
call this an advance in our knowledge of human behavior? Gimme a break.

Mike Lieber