Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Are men turned on by rape?

Dear Edahn,

There seems to be a new surge of sexism in today's popular TV, with shows like Game of Thrones and Mad Men depicting women being raped, sexually harassed, and objectified. In these shows, women just take it; they don't fight back. As a woman, and as a survivor of three periods of sexual abuse by men, I find these shows incredibly difficult to watch. My female friends often feel the same way, although they haven't been abused.

My male friends, on the other hand, barely seem to notice the sexism, let alone be bothered by it. And these are men that are supposedly understanding of the women's plight. They'll skip ahead the rape scenes, but only because they see that I start shaking with fear from them. As a man, what do you feel when you see women on TV being the target of sexism or gender violence? What do men think of sexism against women? 

THINK BACK TO FREUD for a second. I think most men, at some level, fantasize about dominating women, sexually or otherwise. It's part of our id and part of our genetic heritage (but by no means a justification, obviously). But our superego, i.e., our conscience, says "uh uh uh! you can't do that because people are getting hurt and that's not nice."

There are certain situations in which the superego gets hidden and the id comes out to play. One awful place is in crowds, where people experience anonymity. People commit awful crimes in crowds that they would never commit alone like rape, theft, and murder. The anonymity makes people think they're not responsible for their actions, so the superego fades away, making room for the id to run amok.

Another situation is in the cinema. While watching television, we know people aren't really getting hurt, so our superego isn't as offended. Without that voice telling us "uh uh uh!" we can indulge in our dark fantasies. We can watch women get dominated, we can watch people get hacked up, we can explore all our private paraphilias (fetishes). And that's exactly what we see in modern cinema with shows like Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones, and movies like Saw and Secretary. Women usually don't have urges to dominate other women (at least, not sexually), so they're less aroused and more bothered.

In sum, people have competing thoughts and urges--to help, to pity, to conquer, and to hurt. What comes out depends on the interplay between the person and their environment which are constantly in flux. Great question! Please "like" if you can, thanks.


Anonymous said...

Interesting question, and interesting answer. But I'm confused...are you suggesting that most men secretly want to sexually assault a women?

Also, any idea why there's an increase of sexism in the media lately? Take Game of Thrones. I asked a friend why they have to show so much rape, and he said "well, it's medieval right? That happened." I replied "No. It's fantasy. Not based on truth at all..."

Will B. said...

I'm a man, I don't like seeing rape or people being hacked up. I definitely do not have a "dark fantasy" to see this happen to people (even actors). I don't like seeing it at all, especially rape, because it is so disturbing. There is no need (social or biological) to dominate a woman against her will. It sounds like you're suggesting that all men want to rape women, but we don't because we're afraid of getting caught.Maybe this is the case for you, but I don't see the logic in this argument.

Do you have any evidence for that men genetically want to dominate women? It's been done throughout history because men were able to and it was more convenient, but not necessarily out of biology.

I've really enjoyed reading your blogs thus far, but this one kind of ruins it for me. Perhaps you should not let women (and men) think that all men want to rape women if they can get away with it in a crowd. You'll never see another girl at a party again, mate.

edahn said...

To the first poster:

I wouldn't go so far as to say all men secretly want to rape women. I would, however, say that men are biologically driven to dominate. Some males--alpha males--have this urge very persistently. Other males have it less so, but it's still usually there in some degree.

The desire to dominate is non-specific, meaning, when you have the urge, it doesn't matter what it is but you'll want to dominate it. Could be anything: politics, people, land, business, men, women, or a task. This is why politicians are always caught up in some kind of sex scandal; their desire to dominate pushes them to seek political power and power over women. You see it all the time.

This doesn't translate to "every man wants to rape," but it means that there are certain urges that men have, in different degrees, that come out in certain situation. Dominate doesn't always translate to rape, but in extreme form, the two are connected.

As far as Game of Thrones, I think many shows and movies have been glorifying domination for years. There are lots of shows that center around alpha males that have been around for a long time. We're just seeing them mature and push more boundaries. It's a natural step for media to do this.

Will B., I'm sorry you found my post disagreeable, but maybe that's a good thing, since it means you're reading critically and examining what I say for yourself. I appreciate those kinds of readers and hope you keep reading. As far as evidence goes, this blog isn't an academic journal and I don't present it as one. There are a lot of reasons for that: time is a big one. A second is that a lot of my ideas are original which may not have been investigated by researchers yet. A third is that science can't explore some areas that this blog comments upon, like cognition, emotional experience, and other things that are generally beyond the realm of scientific observation. So while I appreciate your need for evidence, I can't supply it. I prefer to use common sense and experience as a metric of validity. To me, what I wrote agrees with my experience, and hopefully my explanation clarifies it a bit. If it doesn't agree with yours, we can talk and figure it out. Thanks for writing in.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting. Being a male, I can see the point which to a large extent, seems valid - to me atleast. Although every male may not fantasize about rape, a large number do. If you ask me, its domination that turns me on. Let there be no doubts, rape is an abominable act which requires the harshest of punishments. But when it comes to fantasizing, it's more about taking pleasure from being the man in-charge and the other person being at man's mercy - again its the element of power. It is this feeling that turns many of men on. Again, not all men think this way. A large population of men do not fantasize about this stuff. For instance, a man who has daughters is most likely to be horrified with these fantasies. What if something like this happens to his daughter ? How can he think of something as horrific as rape, and enjoy it, while knowing his own daughters could be a victim to that ?

So in a nutshell, generalization should better be avoided. Many men fantasize about it, many men feel its horrible to even think about it 2) Among those who fantasize, many of them don't make the effort to even curb their thoughts when it comes to rape because they think it's their personal imaginary world and they have all the right to think whatever they want. They are the rebellious males who seek refuge in their fantasy worlds to satisfy their urges.

If this post hurts anyone, I'm terribly terribly sorry. It was not meant to be like that. The purpose was to give a candid insight into male thinking, and people are free to agree or disagree.

IGW Review said...

I must be one odd female because for as long as I can remember the fantasy of rape really turns me on. I'd even go as far as to say that I have felt coerced or dominated into sexual situations/acts and though to an outsider it would have seemed like rape- to me it was exhilarating... of course I may just be an odd exception.

Anonymous said...

A very well explained article. I have been having this reason as to why men get get aroused while watching rape on TV/movie but never able to express it in words. You did a fantastic job.
And yes, personally i abhor rapes and domination of women in real time but won't mind playing a "domination game" with my partner if she is comfortable with it.

Anonymous said...

Fantasy is one thing, but equating fantasy to an unproven and unscientific "biological urge" is pure rape apologism. Disgusting.