Does Rape Have an Evolutionary Basis?

Topics: Evolutionary psychology, Evolution, Rape Pages: 9 (2886 words) Published: October 23, 2005
Abstract
Within the last thirty years, feminist theories investigaing the determinants of human behaviour have been challenged by the controversial development of evolutionary biology. Evolutionary biologists have proposed that human rape evolved as either an adaptive trait or a by-product of natural selection whereas feminist theories view rape as an symptom of societies' patriarchal heritage. This essay provides a comparison of evolutionary and feminist perspectives on rape and critiques Thornhill and Palmers thesis by discussing their flawed methodologies, non-representative sample populations and lack of supportive evidence to defend their theory. A biosocial theory of rape which considers the implications of male sex hormones on behaviour whilst retaining certain elements from other rape theories, is proposed as a superior alternative to evolutionary biology explanations of rape.

Does rape have an evolutionary basis?
Within the last thirty years, a notable schism has developed between feminist and evolutionary theories pertaining to the determinants of human behaviour (Archer & Vaughan, 2001; Brown, 2000; Ellis, 1991; Palmer, 1991; Shields & Shields, 1983; Thornhill & Palmer, 2000; Vega, 2001). The disparity has become acute with the burgeoning evolutionary explanations of the basis of human rape (Archer & Vaughan, 2001; Palmer, 1991, 1992; Vega, 2001). Evolutionary theories propose that males have an innate reproductive tendency to breed with many females and in certain circumstances; rape may serve as a copulatory mechanism (Archer & Vaughan, 2001; Ellis, 1991; Thornhill & Palmer, 2000). Evolutionary theories such as those summarised by Thornhill and Palmers (2000), propose that rape is either an adaptive trait or a by-product of natural selection whereas feminist theories view rape as an symptom of societies' patriarchal heritage illustrated as an act of dominance and control (Ellis, 1991; Shields & Shields, 1983). This essay will initially outline Thornhill and Palmer's controversial thesis on rape and contrast this view with feminist perspectives (Araji, 2000; Archer & Vaughan, 2001; Burr, 2000; Palmer, 1991, 1992; Thornhill & Palmer, 2000; Vega, 2001). A review of Thornhill & Palmers (2000) thesis will follow focusing on their critically flawed methodologies, non-representative sample populations and their general lack of support data to defend their controversial findings (Araji, 2000; Archer & Vaughan, 2001; Barbara & Franke, 2002; Brown, 2000; Thornhill & Thornhill, 1990; Vega, 2001). This essay will argue that the current literature pertaining to an evolutionary perspective on rape is methodically flawed and thus findings should be treated cautiously and interpreted tenuously at best. A biosocial theory of rape, proposed by Ellis (1991) which considers the implications of male sex hormones on behaviour whilst retaining certain elements from other rape theories, will be proposed as a superior alternative to evolutionary biology explanations of rape.

Traditionally, social learning and feminist perspectives have dominated literature pertaining to the topic of human rape (Vega, 2001; Thornhill & Palmer, 2000). The increasing interest of evolutionary biologists in this sensitive field of research has challenged social science and feminist explanations of human behaviour (Archer & Vaughan, 2001; Thornhill & Thornhill, 1990; Vega, 2001). The premise of an evolutionary approach to rape is that even though it may be viewed as a horrendous and antisocial act, it is evolutionary adaptive, innate and sexually motivated (Archer & Vaughan, 2001; Shields & Shields, 1983; Thornhill & Thornhill, 1990; Vega, 2001). The evolution of a male rape is thought to of occurred in response to the evolution of sex differences between males and females e.g., females having a larger investment in offspring than males, which led to females being in control of when sex would take place (Araji, 2000). This shift of...

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