Lecture 3. Explaining Sexual Violence
Overview • Not all feminists agree on causes. • Different explanations according to context. • Explanations appropriate to West may not work in non-western countries and vice versa. • There may be economic, ideological, political, psychosocial and socio-cultural reasons for these atrocities. • Horrific levels of sexual violence in some countries where there is armed conflict. • Different explanation for abuse of women, men and children. • No universalisable explanations but maybe some commonalities. • Explaining sexual violence a major focus of feminist work in 70s and early 80s. • Brownmiller (1976) Griffin (1979) Russell (1980, 1984, 1986), but has received less attention more recently.
Diana Russell. A Four factor Model. • Diana Russell activist and authority on Sexual Violence on sexual violence. • A four factor model of causation. • Identifies four preconditions to rape or other forms of sexual violence.
Preconditions • Various factors produce a predisposition or desire to rape- biological, psychological or sociological. • Factors reduce internal inhibitions against acting out this desire cultural myths, beliefs or attitudes eg women enjoy rape; misogyny, depersonalising, inferiorising; dehumanising, objectifying the victim; • Factors reduce social inhibitions against acting out this desire • Fear of incarceration or punishment; fear of social sanctions; fear of the impact on family and friends think. • Factors relating to the victim’s ability to protect themselves or to avoid or resist sexual violence- includes perceptions that ‘anything goes within marriage’; that the victim is somehow responsible for their own rape; that submission is ‘best’ for the victim. There may be overlap between these factors. Models are ‘ideal types’ in reality there is much blurring between causes. Also difficult to separate out structure and action. No mono-causal explanation.
Finkelhor (1984) Four Factor model of Child sexual Abuse. Finkelhor- a number of risk factors which may increase the likelihood of sexual offending. • Overcoming internal inhibitions or external impediments to offending. Including: maternal illness or absence (providing greater opportunity for father-daughter incest); Overcrowding and lack of privacy which may lead to less inhibitions. • Unemployment and family stress; or emotional deprivation in the child who may then be more open to accepting inappropriate 'affection' from an adult. • Adults suffering from sexual role confusion, sexual frustration, and/or the need to dominate a child as a means of self-assurance/power. • Use of alcohol or drugs in order to overcome inhibitions towards sexual offending.
Finkelhor (1984) • Paucity of hard evidence to support Finkelhor's model (Oates 1990). • Oates believes that this can be used as an indication that child sexual abuse is a complicated phenomenon, with no simple solutions. • Goddard and Carew (1993) ‘Finkelhor's model indicated more about how sexual abuse occurs rather than why it occurs’. • Need to categorise and separate the various types of sexually abusive behaviour. • Different causal factors may operate for each 'type' of abuse.
Biological Explanations for sexual violence. • Biological predisposition (Russell 1984)- problem if we accept this notion as it raises questions about moral agency. • Brownmiller (1975), genital differences make male of women rape possible. • Russell – rape also linked to men’s greater physical strength.
Problems with biological models • Biological determinism- ignores issue of the way that rape is socially construced. • Raises question of what we count as rape. • If we accept this model do we assume all men are potential rapists. • Sue Lees (1997) notes that notions that men are naturally aggressive with uncontrollable sexual urges alows men to get ‘off the hook’ in court. • Men seen as being unable to control his animal sexuality once aroused. Responsibility falls to the woman to prevent her own rape. • Women should avoid arousing men if they do not intend to have sex with them. • Problematic in case of wife rape- women seen as denying men their marital rights, rape results because man has urges that need satisifying.
Psychological and psychosocial explanations: • Psychosocial explanations stress that aggression and violence are learned behaviours in response to frustration, to achieve goals, and by observation of violent behaviour (Boyd, 1988; Reiss and Roth 1993). • They point to personality factors, psychopathology, cognitive learning skills, socialization, early child development, and to broader social and cultural factors such as poverty, and the role of predisposing factors, situational factors and activating factors.
Cycle of abuse model. • Those who have experienced abuse will be more likely to become abusers. • Problems with this model • Victim becomes victimised. • Poor research skews findings • Underreporting of some kinds of attacks. Difficult to generalise from reported attacks. • Many women suffer abuse but they do not become abusers • Many who are abused contribute to victim support, sexual violence research.
Lisak and Roth 1990 • Lisak and Roth 1990 suggest that an absent or aggressive mother or father can link to male offending • this model ignores other variables.
Psychopathology. • Some psychologists sugest some men have irresistible drives or impulses to rape. • This is problematic as many rapes appear to be premeditated. • Increasing recognition of the need to consider situational and environmental factors and their interaction with personal factors, rather than just personality characteristics or demographic factors (Goldstein & Keller 1983 & Reiss & Roth 1993) • Felson & Tedeschi (1993)- social-interactionist approaches to aggression and violence emphasise the interaction between situation and interpersonal characteristics, and the meaning of the events for those involved. • Question of how this fits patterns of women's violence. • Thomas (1993) women use anger rather than violence. • Need for integrative theories which recognise the importance of cognitive processes and the personal meanings attached to events.
Alcohol, drugs and sexual violence. • Recent documentary ‘spiked’ highlights this is a growing problem. • Not just issue of drugs or alcohol removing the perpetrators inhibitions. • Research on male and female rape shows serious violence is likely to be inflicted if attacker cannot sustain an erection. • Drug rape a growing concern. • Year-long investigation in the UK and America - Rohypnol, implicated in so-called ‘date rape’ attacks.
Sociological explanations. Men, women and Power. • We began to explore last week how society might sow the seeds of legitimation of sexual violence. • Objectifying represenations of women, myths about womens sexuality, certain kinds of represenation, particularly pornography.ranges from discussions of pornography. • Social construction of women- Notions of ‘good girls’ and ‘bad’ girls. • Representation, objectification and sexual violence often about power. • Kelly and Radford (1998) links between gender and power:
Men, women and Power. • Sexual violence linked to women's inferior status • Sexuality used to create and maintain male dominance (MacKinnon, 1989). Womens sexuality policed in subtle ways. • Hegemonic heterosexuality in case of male rape also. • Particular constructions of masculinity produce and maintain aggressive masculinity Cynthia Enloe, 1994, 1998 links militaritism with aggressive masculinity. • Russell (1974) notes a similar link with aggression, power, strength and toughness. • Rape inextricably linked to male power. • Brownmiller- rape is perpetuated to keep women in a state of fear.
Pornography and rape • Will look at this in more detail in week 5. • Link between pornography and violence hiotly contested. • Itzin, MacKinnon and Dworkin key feminist commenators in anti-pornography debate. • Suggestion that pornography leads to copycat violence. • distinction between erotica and pornography. • Pornography ‘Material that explicitly represents or describes degrading or abusive sexual behaviour so as to endorse and/or recommend the behaviour as described (Longino in Russell, 1990).
Pornography and Erotica • Erotica contains images that are neither sexist or abusive but are sexually exciting (Russell, 1990). • Problematic, sometimes arbitrary, distinction often involves value judgements about high and low culture. • Raises issues about choice and the policing of sexuality more generally. • Gay and lesbian porn and porn for woman subject to the same set of distinctions as pornography designed for men. I • Idea that pornography causes rape problematic for the women who enjoy pornography. • Other feminists disagree with Dworkin et al. In Bad Girls & Dirty Pictures, Alison Assiter and Carol Avedon present an antidote to anti-pornography feminism • Feminists Against Censorship fight both censorship and the impression that feminists generally agree that pornography should be restricted
Sex Roles and sexual violence.See ‘Sex Roles’, A Journal of Research(June, 2002) Murnen, Wright & Kalzuny • Complex social forces contribue to and maintain the existence of sexual violence against women. • Traditional gender roles encourage men to be violent and women to be passive. • These roles are reinforced through language (Dale Spender) and representation. • Control is a key dynamic in sexual aggression. • Byers (1996) notes a relationship between a traditional sexual script (TSS) and sexual violence. • Some common themes of male sexuality are achievement, control and power, and aggression and violence. These themes promote maladaptive sexual behavior (Gross, 1978).
Sex Roles and Socialisation June, 2002) Murnen, Wright & • Sexual violence learned and maintained through widespread socialization. • Warshaw and Parrot (1991) girls and boys learn paticular gender roles that perpetuate male domination over women. • Mahoney, Shively, and Traw (1986) argued that adherence to the traditional masculine gender role makes sexual assault possible along with lack of social conscience, irresponsibility, and situational characteristics like heavy alcohol consumption and peer pressure. • The appropriate sexual role for men in the TSS is one of power. With respect to the male role in sexuality.
Men, Violence and Power • Griffin (1979) male eroticism is wedded to power. • Heterosexual love finds an erotic expression through mate dominance and female submission. • Gross (1978) -sex is perceived as more important for men and men isolate sex from other aspects of social life. Some common themes of male sexuality are achievement, control and power, and aggression and violence. These themes promote maladaptive sexual behavior (Gross, 1978)
Conclusion. • A complex issue, no mono-causal explanation. • Sexual violence a personal and a political issue. • Complex relationship between biological, psychological and sociological factors. • Interpretations of sexual violence must take into account socio historical and political context. • Sexual violence linked to issues of power. • Power has a particular history and material affects. • Sexual violence is one of these material affects.