1 in 3 College Men Admit They Would Rape, If We Don't Call It 'Rape'


A small survey of college men points at something equal parts interesting and disturbing: one in three of them say they would be willing to “use force to obtain intercourse” as long as nobody would find out and there would be no consequences. But very few were willing to say they would commit rape, suggesting that they don’t quite see that forced sex and rape are the same thing.

The study, published in the journal Violence and Gender and first reported by Newsweek was exceedingly small: just 86 men were surveyed, and only 72 of those surveys were usable. Of that number, nearly 32 percent said they would use force to obtain sex, provided there would be no consequences. But only 13.6 were willing to endorse the statement that they would they would rape a woman under the same circumstances.

The researchers found that there was a pretty significant difference in attitudes towards sex between the people willing to admit they would “rape” and those who weren’t. Men who called it “rape” and were still willing to do it displayed hostility to women, meaning, the researchers say, “resentment, bitterness, rejection sensitivity, and paranoia about women’s motives.”

The men who didn’t have a problem with forced sex displayed “callous sexual attitudes” but no “hostility towards women,” while the people who said they’d be fine with committing rape indicated both. In other words, then, men who are cool with “forced sex,” the researchers theorize, might have personality traits that lend themselves “to allowing men to not perceive his actions as rape.” They add:

The primary motivation in this case could be sexual gratification, accomplishment, and/or perceived compliance with stereotypical masculine gender norms. The use of force in these cases might be seen as an acceptable mean to reach one’s goal, or the woman’s “no” is perceived as a token resistance consistent with stereotypical gender norms. While the ultimate outcome of either act constitutes rape, this pattern of results suggests that there might be different types of offenders with potential differences in underlying motivation, cognition, and/or personality traits.

Though there would obviously need to be a much, much larger study to see if these attitudes hold true in a bigger sample size, what they indicate, the researchers say, is that there’s “no one-size-fits-all” approach to reducing sexual violence or changing attitudes. The men who didn’t want to outright endorse “rape,” they say, might need some kind of program or class that included “a strong educational component focused on clarifying different behaviors that all constitute sexual assault, but do not follow the stereotypically imagined scenarios related to rape.” A university looking to root out sexual violence among these men would, they say, also “have to prompt men to be engaged and open to thinking about their own behaviors to avoid having participants internally distance themselves (i.e., exhibiting an “I am not that kind of guy who rapes women, this programming is not for me” attitude) that would preclude men from fully participating and benefitting from the program.”

As for men who are willing to admit they would rape someone, and name it that way, the researchers say, they “would likely not benefit from rape awareness and prevention programming that focuses on norms and definitions of consent.” Instead, they might need to process their anger and hostility towards women in a more individual setting. You think?

Image via Shutterstock

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