Re: rape and dominance

Ian Mast (imast@SUN.CIS.SMU.EDU)
Wed, 18 Jan 1995 23:24:24 -0600

On Wed, 18 Jan 1995, Rob Quinlan wrote:

> This will be my last posting on this subject. Again, what do we
> suppose dominance is about? Why does it exist? To me it indicates
> that there are conflicts of interest (between two or more people) and
> that some people have the power pursue their self-interest at the
> expense of others.
> Rob Quinlan

I would agree that dominance is the exercise of power over another
to further one's own self-interest. Thus my question would not concern
the definition of dominance but the definition of self-interest.

I have done a bit of thinking of late regarding the motivations
behind my own actions, and it would seem to me that in one way or another,
all of my actions are a product of my own self-interest.

I wonder if definitions of self-interest and altruism are merely
constructed upon time-scales rather than upon differing motivations. More
specifically, those actions which seem to have immediate reward for the
individual seem to fit in the camp of self-interest, while those actions
which seem to have little immediate reward for the individual are
generally considered altruistic. However, are "selfless" acts really
devoid of self-interest.

As an individual, I am concerned with the development and
well-being of my wife, my friends, my community, and I suppose the general
populace, (excluding various relatives and jerks who cut me off in
traffic; hey, who's perfect?) Thus, the motivation for selfless acts of
"sacrifice" or altruism serve well my own general outlook on life. While
giving time to my wife may have immediate disavantages in regard to my
professional life, I recognize that doing so may have certain positive
long-term results. While the value and the outcome of the behavior may be
disputed, the motivation is most certainly, in this case, laced with
tinges of self-interest. In this regard, I find it hard to single out any
single action of my own that does not serve my own interest, or in the
very least, serve to reaffirm my own value system; which in and of itself
can be comforting to the self.

Maybe I'm just a jerk who's missing the point, but I'm not so sure.

How does this relate to rape and dominance? Maybe the question of
dominance should not center around power and self-interest, but around the
issue of self-interest.

I believe rape is an abominable abuse of human relations, but I do not
refrain from its practice because of some inherent altruistic goodness
within my character. Rather, I have been sociallized through cultural
means to believe that it is "bad" for me to hurt others. In keeping with
my own culturally defined self-interest I choose not to hurt others. In
this way, I avoid feeling "bad".

For me the truly enlightening thought within this jumble of speculation is
the role of belief sytems and cultural knowledge in defining my own
character. It would seem that culture could be a powerful tool in
overcoming negative actions such as rape. I have strong aversions to
proselytyzing, but it would seem that until individuals are "converted" to
a cultural frame of reference in which rape is harmful to one's
self-interest, rape will continue to be an efficient way for some
individuals to wield destructive power over others.

Confusingly yours,
Ian Mast