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Profile of a College Rapist

By Matthew Yglesias  

"Profile of a College Rapist"

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(cc photo by brosner)

(cc photo by brosner)

Very interesting NPR piece on David Lisak‘s research on rape on college campuses:

[Lisak] found them by, over a 20-year period, asking some 2,000 men in college questions like this: “Have you ever had sexual intercourse with someone, even though they did not want to, because they were too intoxicated [on alcohol or drugs] to resist your sexual advances?”

Or: “Have you ever had sexual intercourse with an adult when they didn’t want to because you used physical force [twisting their arm, holding them down, etc.] if they didn’t cooperate?”

About 1 in 16 men answered “yes” to these or similar questions.

The interesting finding here is that “these men don’t think of themselves as rapists” but in fact are typically repeat offenders. Later, the article quotes a somewhat contrary voice who wants to complicate the situation:

It’s very common for them to go out Wednesday through Saturday at a minimum, drink fairly heavily and hook up sexually with people that they may not know particularly well, may have met for the first time that night, or had been introduced through friends, or MySpace or Facebook,” [Peter Lake] says. “So you have a lot of sexual activity, you have alcohol, you have a population that’s sort of an at-risk age, and it’s in some ways, it’s a perfect storm for sex assault issues.”

It’s seems incredibly pernicious to me to be running these things together. Lisak’s question specifically posits that the victim “did not want to” have sex, but was “too intoxicated … to resist.” What Lake is talking about conjured up an imagine of a young woman with impaired judgment doing something while drunk that she later regrets. Obviously, that does happen. But it’s quite a different situation from an encounter where even the perpetrator acknowledges that the victim was unwilling.

Update

Let me clarify this, as I don’t think I made my point very clearly. What I’m trying to here is that insofar as we’re talking about rapists who are clearly aware that their victims are unwilling, the effort by Lake to paint this as a situation where “drink[ing] fairly heavily” is the key variable is hugely problematic. A person who’s going to rape women he knows perfectly well don’t want to have sex is engaged in pathological violent behavior and would be a menace even if all alcohol were extirpated from the planet. The booze is incidental.

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