Attitudes Towards Rape

Sexual aggression or rape in general and date rape in particular, is an important social issue, but before delving into the matter it seems to appropriate to first examine what is culture and society and how they are influenced by the effects of change.
Society and Culture:
Society is a large population, usually enduring at least several generations and sharing a territory and a way of life. Every Society has its own specific culture. Culture may be defined as behavior peculiar to human beings, together with material objects used. Culture consists of language, ideas, beliefs, customs, codes, institutions, tools, techniques, of arts, rituals, ceremonies and so on. The existence and use of culture depends upon ability possessed by men alone. This ability has been called variously the capacity for rational or abstract thought.
Culture is so much a part of being human that the species would not survive without it. Culture is composed of both concrete, physical items (material culture) and abstraction such as beliefs and customs (nonmaterial culture).
Social structure represents the motorways of our social world: the stable, predictable, patterned relationships among people. This structure organizes our social life and channels our behaviors as the roadways channel the flow of traffic. While it limits our choices and confines our behavior to certain socially approved alternatives, it also confers on our social life order, routine, and coherence. Daydreams aside, a complex culture such as United States culture, obviously requires such structures to coordinate all its parts so that the system can function. Although many social scientists define culture with different point of views, the Psychologists define culture as developing system of individuals, relationships, material and social contexts, and institutions.
Marx argued that class divisions even permeated people’s beliefs and worldviews. Because of what he called “class consciousness”, people see the world from the standpoint of their own economic positions. The feudal lords of the Middle ages, for example, claimed that their station in life, and that of the serfs, was ordained by God. In the present time, Marx argued, the ruling class uses its superior intellectual resources and control of government agencies, mass media, schools and churches to control the flow of information and convince the oppressed classes that their interests coincide with those of their oppressors. In other words, the subordinate class develop a “false consciousness” that leaves them more easily controlled and exploited. At the root this system of exploitation and oppression lies class, the essential tool of analysis according to Marx.
Cultural relativism does influence the people. Mannheim said, “Thought is directed in accordance with what a particular social group expects. Thus, out of the possible data of experience, every concept combines within itself only that which, in the light of the investigators' interests, it is essential to grasp and to incorporate” so “people in different social positions [and cultural settings] think differently” (Mannheim, 1936; p. 273).
                From the perspective of cultural relativism, change is not desirable everywhere. Each option must be evaluated in terms of how it affects a particular culture. What works in a developed country may not work in, for example, Bangladesh or Iraq. Immediately after Persian Gulf War in 1991, some analysts viewed a democratically elected government as a dangerously unstable alternative to dictator Saddam Hussein. Even such a seemingly attractive option as democracy may benefit one society but not another.
                It is difficult to simply list which changes are beneficial for countries. First, different countries have different priorities regarding natural resources, government reform, economic change, and so on. Ethiopia needs political reform more than anything else, while India must face its greatest challenge; population control. Nations also have different levels of needs: some are well on the road to development while others have not even begun. Saudi Arabia, for example, has only required time to effectively utilize its wealth, while Uganda is still mired in political and economic confusion. Second, change has several different faces. Depending on the perspective from which it is viewed, the same change in the same society can lead to greater complexity, inevitable death, possible chaos, or perhaps justice.
                From the evolutionary perspective, social change generally moves from simple to complex, from traditional to modern. This view is one of sociology’s oldest. The nineteenth century theorists assumed that all cultures eventually evolve along the same path blazed by “advanced” western nations. This Uni-linear evolutionary perspective supported ethnocentric beliefs among Westerners and justified exploitation of nations deemed to need the guiding hand –and control- of superior peoples. Few, however, actually studied other societies, relying instead on the accounts of tourists and travelers. This view fell from fashion in the early twentieth century as new anthropological knowledge on quickly disappearing primitive cultures throughout the world exposed flaws in the old evolutionary theories. By the middle of the 1920s, they no longer served as useful sociological tools- or so it seemed.
                Over the last several decades, evolutionary theory has been received in a modified form. It has always been obvious that some sequence of social development exists, that some changes occur in an orderly way. A political empire, for example, cannot be built until people learn how to produce a surplus of wealth. Algebra cannot develop before the concept of zero is invented. New evolutionary theories have returned to the entirely plausible notion that social change occurs sequentially, in a definite direction. They employ a multi-linear evolutionary perspective that recognizes more than one course of social change. Cultures move along different paths as they evolve, however, they generally do so in a parallel direction.
                From the cyclical perspective, social change appears as inevitable repetition of the same few phases of a cycle, and so is predictable but not necessarily beneficial. One type of cycle is that of a pendulum swings- for example, from political liberalism to conservatism, or from parenting permissiveness to restrictiveness. We can thus imagine a developing nation changing from an anti-western, isolationist state to a pro-modern, open door state- and perhaps back again. It is difficult to predict whether the change is beneficial, only that is likely to occur again.
                Another type of cycle is that of rising and falling waves, which Oswald Spengler saw in the birth, growth, maturity, decay and death of a culture (Spengler, 1926). This view presents a pessimistic outlook for an American Society that seems to be, according to some historians, past its peak or even in decline. In contrast, a developing nation like South Korea would be situated near the beginning of such a cycle, with the long period of growth and maturation ahead of it. Social change, then, can easily be seen as desirable for an undeveloped nation, but perhaps the beginning of the end for a developed one.
                Whether a nation is rich or poor, its eventual decay is not unavoidable or uncontrollable. Toynbee believed that cultural decline could be avoided, though not without a struggle. This struggle is based on challenge from the globe environment, to which the culture responds.
                The functionalist theory of change focuses on potential disruptions, rather than benefits, of social systems. From this perspective, society is a system of interrelated parts, each one contributing to the healthy functioning of the overall system. Change inherently threatens the system’s stability.
                Talcott Parson’s equilibrium theory, a version of this functionalist perspective holds that a change in one part of a social system requires contemporary adjustments elsewhere (Parson, 1964). As long as society maintains what Parson called a moving equilibrium that ensures the continued performance of vital social functions, it will not be harmed by change.
                Conflict theorists claim to sweep aside the functionalist explanation to reveal that society is less than a smoothly functioning system. Instead of a healthy equilibrium, the conflict theory of change depicts constant tension in an unjust society that cries out for change.
Intimate Relationships:    
Although there are many significant relationships in people’s lives, social psychology has concentrated on adult relationships between friends, dating partners, lovers and spouses. These intimate relationships often involve three basic components:
  • Emotional attachment, feelings of affection and love
  • Fulfillment of psychological needs, such as sharing feelings and gaining reassurance (Weiss, 1969)
  • Interdependence between the individuals, each of whom has a meaningful and enduring influence on the other
But not all intimate relationships include all three of these components. A summer’s romance, for example, is emotionally intense, but in the fall people resume their independent lives. An empty shell marriage revolves around the spouses coordinated daily activities, but emotional attachment is weak and psychological need go unmet. Whatever the combination of love, need fulfillment, and interdependence, intimate relationships also vary in other characteristics. Some are sexual; some are not. Sexual orientation differs: heterosexual or homosexual. Some partners make a strong commitment to a long-lasting relationship; others merely drop by for a brief stay. Feelings about the relationship run the gamut from joyful to painful, from loving to hateful- with emotional intensity ranging all the way from mild to megawatt.
Never before in human history have sexual choices been as difficult and complex as in the present era. On the one hand, we live in the sex-saturated culture. Each year, on TV alone, Unite States teenagers see nearly 14,000 sexual encounters (Cole et al., 1993). And rates of sexual activity among these teens are high, with the vast majority having sexual intercourse before the age of nineteen. On the other hand, the potential negative consequences of sex are unmistakable: unwanted pregnancy, various nonfatal sexually transmitted diseases, AIDS, and Sexual aggression.
It does appear that dating relationships with sex continue longer than those without. In one study, college students who were having sex with their dating partner were more likely three months later to still be dating the same person than were those who were not having sex at the time they were first contacted  (Simpson, 1987). This is a correlation, which does not specify cause and effect. Perhaps having a close relationship to start with increased the likelihood of having sex and of enduring longer. As it turns out, even when satisfaction with the relationship was taken into account, sexually active relationships endured longer.
What do men and women want? When downtown pedestrians and college students were asked to select ten private wishes from a list of forty, much of what they wanted was much the same (Ehrlichman and Eichenstein, 1992). But there was one striking difference. Men strongly favored the wish “to have sex with anyone I choose”. A comprehensive review of twenty-one measures of sexual attitude and behavior obtained a similar gender difference: men were more likely than women to have appositive attitude toward casual sex (Oliver and Hyde, 1993). Men also reported having more numerous sexual partners, a finding that has appeared in surveys in Great Britain, France and Finland as well as the United States. One widely used measure of actual and potential engagement in uncommitted sex.
Men’s wider-ranging sexual interest is the product of evolutionary pressures to ensure reproductive success. But note, there is considerable variability within the sexes.
In heterosexual interactions, men and women differ in the sexual roles they play. College students gave men a more proactive on first date’s perspective (pick up date, make out, kiss goodnight) and women a more reactive one (wait for date, accept / reject date’s moves). This division of sexual labor has been summarized in the phrase “men as go-getters and women as gate-keepers” (Zillmann and Weaver, 1989, p.95). Although the gate-keepers role appears relatively passive, it is actually quite influential: on any joint activity, the more restrictive partner will call the shots.
Perhaps because of the roles they play, men and women tend to have different perceptions of other’s sexual inclinations. Men seem to live in a more sexualized world, perceiving more interest in sexual activities than do women. This worldview is often a general one: men see greater sexual intent in other men as well as in women. Gender differences in sexual perceptions are influenced by the perceiver’s characteristics, being especially likely among those high in sexual anxiety, and those who held more conservative, traditional attitudes towards women. The behavior of the other person also affects sexual perceptions. Compared with women, men perceive a women as having a greater desire for sex when her behavior is less explicitly sexual (Kowalski, 1992).
Given these differences in sexual attitudes, roles and perceptions, its not surprising that heterosexual men and women encounter difficulties in communicating about sex with each other. Miscommunication between the sexes about sex can damage a relationship; it can also contribute to the potential for sexual coercion and assault.  
Sexual aggression among College Students:
Acquaintance rape (often called “date rape”) is a serious problem among college students. In the United Sates, over 25 percent of 3,185 female students surveyed at 32 college campuses reported having experienced either an attempted or completed rape since age 14; over 50 percent of these assaults occurred during a date (Warshaw, 1988). When all types of unwanted sexual interactions are included, a majority of college women and about a third of college men say they have experienced coercive sexual contacts (Cate and Lloyd, 1992). Rates of sexual coercion among Canadian college students appear to be similar.
Although a number of factors are associated with sexual aggression among college students, four seem particularly important. First there is gender. Both men and women report that men are more likely to engage in coercive behavior psychological as well as physical- in order to obtain sex. 
Another significant influence, alcohol consumption, is involved in a majority of sexually aggressive incidents between college students. Not only does actual consumption increase aggressive behavior, but the mere belief that one has consumed alcohol (even if one have not) heightens sexual arousal and sexual interest (Baron and Richardson, 1994). Furthermore, the cognitive effects of intoxication, in which salient cues are noticed but subtle ones are missed, may disrupt interpersonal communication. Gender differences in sexual attitudes, roles, and perceptions can create serious communication problems in heterosexual relationships. Indeed, sexually aggressive men are particularly likely to misperceive women’s sexually relevant communications. Adding alcohol to the mismatch could produce an explosive situation.
Prior sexual experience is also associated with coercive sexual behavior. In research conducted by F. Scott Christopher and his colleagues on almost a thousand college students, both men and women who reported a greater number of previous sexual partners were more likely to indicate that they had used coercive and aggressive tactics in sexual interactions. Although the exact meaning of this correlation is unclear, it may reflect the consequences of person’s view of sexual relationships. In one study, for example, college men who described themselves as taking a manipulative, game playing, uncommitted approach to relationships reported more sexually aggressive intentions (Sarwer et al., 1993).
                Attitudes toward rape and toward women constitute the fourth major factor associated with coercive sexual behavior. Both men and women who express a greater acceptance of rape myths report greater use of coercive and aggressive tactics of sexual influence. In a more detailed examination of the responses of male subjects, Christopher and his colleagues found that attitudes like rape myth acceptance are also associated with hostility toward women, which has an indirect effect (through anger and negative relationship experiences) on these tactics. In light of these findings, it is encouraging that rape awareness workshops appear to reduce acceptance of rape myths and increase sympathy for a female rape victim. Again, education has a crucial role to play in reducing sexual aggression. 
Does Media Pornography is the root cause of Sexual violence?
                Adding violence to pornography greatly increases the possibility of harmful effects. Violent pornography is a triple threat: it brings together high arousal; negative emotional reactions such as shock, alarm and disgust and aggressive thoughts. In a meta-analysis of 217 studies on the relationship between TV violence and aggression, violent pornography had a stronger effect than any other type of program  (Paik and Comstock, 1994). And there is substantial evidence that this effect is gender-specific. Male-to-male aggression is no greater after exposure to violent pornography than after exposure to highly arousing but non-violent pornography. Male-to-female aggression, however, is markedly increased.
Like most experiences that intensify arousal (such as physical exercise), nonviolent pornography increases aggression only among subjects who have been provoked. But, like guns and alcohol, some violent pornography can increase aggression even in the absence of provocation. The prime ingredient in such materials is the portrayal of women as willing participant who “enjoy” their own victimization. In one study, violent pornography that emphasized victim’s suffering increased aggression only among men who had been provoked (Donnerstein and Berkowitz, 1981). But films that depicted female external response to acts of sexual violence increased aggression among both provoked and unprovoked male subjects.
We might like to believe that violent pornographic images are rare, found only in the most extreme varieties of hard-core porn. Not true. In one survey of male college students, 36 percent reported having viewed materials during the past year that featured forced sexual acts against women; 25 percent said they had looked at material depicting rape (Demare et al., 1993). An examination of video pornography revealed that soft-core “adult” films available over the counter contained more sexually violent material than did hard-core films sold under the counter (Palys, 1986).  
The impact of such adult R-rated, sexually violent material on sexually related attitudes and beliefs was investigated in a field study that arranged for 115 college students to attend movies at campus theatres (Malamuth and Check, 1981). Half of these students, saw the commercially successful movies Swept away and The Gateway, both of which depict women who become sexually aroused by a sexual assault and romantically attracted to their assailant. The other half watched feature-length movies without sexually aggressive content. Several days later, all subject filled out a questionnaire in class along with the rest of their classmates. This questionnaire measured attitudes towards violence directed at women and beliefs about rape.
Compared with those who had not seen the movies depicting sexual assault, male subjects who had viewed these films reported greater acceptance of interpersonal violence against women and somewhat greater acceptance of rape myths. In contrast, women’s acceptance of interpersonal violence against women and rape myths tended to decline after viewing depiction of male-to-female sexual aggression.
Some researchers examine the effects of combining violent pornography with negative attitudes towards women. For example, Neil Malamuth has developed what he calls the “rapist’s profile”. Men fit the profile if they have relatively high levels of sexual arousal in response to violent pornography and also express attitudes and opinions indicating acceptance of violence toward women. These individuals report more sexually coercive behavior in the past and more sexually aggressive intentions for the future. Among male college students given an opportunity to retaliate against a female confederate who had angered them, those who fit the rapist’s profile were more aggressive.
In a variation on Malamuth’s model, Dano Demare and his colleagues examined the correlates of self-reported use of violent pornography and of negative attitudes towards women. Male college students who expressed more anti-women attitudes said that, assuming they would not get caught, they would be more likely to force sex with a woman and to rape her. Those who reported more frequent use of sexually violent pornography also expressed more sexually aggressive intentions and, in addition, more often said they had actually used coercion and force during sex. Comparisons of the predictive power of using violent pornography versus having negative attitudes toward women found that pornography had a stronger effect on overall sexual aggression, but that the best prediction was obtained when both pornography and attitudes were included in the equation. 
Does the availability of pornography, then, increase the possibility of sexual assault? The correlation evidence bearing on the relationship between pornography and sex crimes is difficult to interpret. Studies of retrospective reports by rapists about their experiences with pornography have yielded conflicting results. Nor do cross-cultural comparisons point to any clear relationship. Extremely violent pornography is widely available in Japan, but the incidents of rape is very low, India, in contrast, bans explicit sex (and even kissing) from commercial films but has a high incidence of rape.
In the laboratory, the developing chain of evidence has a number of missing links. Because of ethical constraints, only relatively low levels of nonsexual actual aggression have been studied. Although, pornography especially violent pornography, does increase nonsexual aggression in the laboratory, it is not certain that these feelings generalized to actual behavior (Freedman, 1988). Studies of sexual aggression measure attitudes and self-reports, which can reflect or influence actual behavior but are not identical to it. Despite these limitations, however, existing research does indicate the clear possibility that pornography could contribute to sexual aggression against women.
The question of what to do about the potentially harmful effects of pornography leads to the same options described for depiction of nonsexual violence. Should pornography be banned? Should consumers be educated? Banning pornography raises all of the political, practical and psychological difficulties. In addition, banning explicit sexual materials would not prevent dehumanizing portrayals of women as sex objects or titillating but fully clothed scenes of rape and sexual assault.
According to Deniel Linz and his Colleagues, the real villains are violence, sexual or not, and the demeaning and degrading messages about women contained in pornographic depiction, violent or not. Although these investigators think it would be possible to develop an informative rating system labeling both violence and sex in mass media materials, they are not optimistic about the media’s willingness to do so. More promising, they say, are educational efforts to increase viewers critical skills in evaluating media depiction of violence and sex.
A model for such efforts can be found in the debriefing provided to research subjects exposed to violent pornography. This debriefing emphasized that rape myths are inaccurate and that violent pornography is unrealistic. Among individuals presented with this information, there are long-term reduction in acceptance of rape myths. Sex-education programs that emphasize the desirability of being respectful and considerate towards one’s sexual partner may also be beneficial. In one study, a sex-education program conducted before subjects were exposed to pornography reduced acceptance of rape myths and increased sympathy for rape victims. Education and the public commitment required to implement it, are important means of defense against sexual violence.
There are two reasons for that for high date rape rate in United States. First United States lacks the shared traditions of those societies that encourage citizens to continuously scrutinize and informally impose sanctions on one another. Second, because of United States tremendous cultural diversity, its socialization process cannot impose the same value system on everyone. So short of trying to entirely reshape American culture, one can only hope to discover formal, external controls that might help to deal more effectively with crime.
Early researchers found that certainty, not severity, of threatened punishment serves to deter. Later researcher described that interaction of formal and informal sanctions are the key to the puzzle.  In other words, legal punishment like arrest and jail are most effective when they set off more intimidating informal costs: stigma (embarrassment); attachment costs (loss of relationship); and commitment costs like loss of educational, occupational, and marital opportunities (William and Hawkins, 1986). Thus such factors as employment and marital status can help determine whether formal sanction will deter crime (Berk et al., 1992). Deterrence, only works with people who have something to lose in the reverberation of informal sanctions (Toby, 1957).
All violence is shocking, but aggression between intimates is especially disturbing. We want to feel safe with those we know and love, and yet far too often that sense of security is destroyed by violence. Among the homicides committed in 1992, at least 47 percent of the victims knew their murderers. According to a three-year national survey, at least 75 percent of rapes are committed by a person the victim knows (Kilpatrick, et al., 1992). The victims of intimate violence are children as well as adults, and the assault that takes place is often sexual as well as physical.
Thus in conclusion it can be said that, date rape is common in the society of United States. Men are more likely to engage in sexually coercive behavior and attitudes toward rape and toward women are associated with coercive sexual behavior.
Baron, R. A. and Richardson, D. R. Human Aggression, New York: Plenum, 1994

Berk, Richard A., Alec Cambell, Ruth Klap, and Bruce Western, The deterrent effect of arrest in incidents of domestic violence: A Bayesian analysis of four field experiments, American Sociological Review, 57, October 1992

Cate, R.M. and Lloyd, S.A. Courtship, Newbury Park, CA: Sage, 1992.
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