Randy Thornhill, Craig T. Palmer - A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion

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(Benjamin Lupton) #1

Discussion thread for Randy Thornhill’s and Craig T. Palmer’s book A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion.

David J. Buller - Adapting Minds: Evolutionary Psychology and the Persistent Quest for Human Nature
2019-04-06: A Natural History of Rape
2019-04: Rape
(Benjamin Lupton) #2

Found this critical review, which cited several counter pieces:

(Benjamin Lupton) #3

The book keeps stating things like this:

Human rape victims rarely show much sexual arousal and almost never achieve orgasm. It is conceivable that some aspects of women’s capacity for orgasm evolved in the context of reducing the fertilizing capacity of rapists’ ejaculates. That is, the absence of orgasm during rape may be an evolved response to rape.

Thornhill, Randy; Palmer, Craig T… A Natural History of Rape (A Bradford Book) (Page 99). The MIT Press. Kindle Edition.

However considering the book’s early publication (2000), since things like 50 shades of gray, it seems women are more open to talking privately and confidentially what they experience:

However, the research that cites the above, including the above, all seem to live in a world where Thornhill’s and Palmer’s work does not exist; there is no discussion as to why such under-reporting, or such arousal, is to be expected. Just attempts to dismiss such findings.

Turns out in August 2013, Randy and Palmer posted this paper to discuss arguments against their book.

(Benjamin Lupton) #4

I’ve sent the following direct message to Randy’s Research Gate profile.

Hi Randy,

I run a weekly philosophy study group, and we will be discussing your book A Natural History of Rape this weekend. I know it is extremely short notice, but perhaps you may be interested in popping by. Please extend this invitation to your co-author Palmer, I could only find your details. The discussion will be live-streamed to YouTube and made available afterwards.

The meeting time can be found at:
https://meet.bevry.me

Details about our meetings can be found at:
https://bevry.me/meetings

Our forum thread for your book is here:
https://discuss.bevry.me/t/randy-thornhill-craig-t-palmer-a-natural-history-of-rape-biological-bases-of-sexual-coercion/665

Our forum thread for the meeting that will discuss your book is here:
https://discuss.bevry.me/t/2019-04-06-a-natural-history-of-rape/699

Thank you for your work. Sincerely,
Benjamin

(Benjamin Lupton) #5

Sections to facilitate discussion.


Women not taking hormonal contraceptives engage in rape preventative behaviours; this effect is not seen in females taking hormonal contraceptives, increasing their exposure to potential rape

We predict that young women, especially those in the follicular (fertile) aspect of the menstrual cycle, would be most astute at evaluating the dangers of various environments. These individuals should be especially good at distinguishing differences related to the probability of rape, such as how socially isolated they are and whether young or socially disenfranchised men are present. Chavanne and Gallup (1998) found that young women exhibited a considerable decrease in behaviors associated with risk of rape (e.g., walking in a dimly lit area) when they were not “on the pill” (and thus had ovulatory cycles) and when they were in the fertile phase of the menstrual cycle rather than in the infertile phases.

Thornhill, Randy; Palmer, Craig T… A Natural History of Rape (A Bradford Book) (Page 101). The MIT Press. Kindle Edition.


Evolutionary explanation of bias as a side-effect

Another reason why many social scientists cannot seem to understand that there are ultimate causes to human behavior may stem from evolved human psychological intuitions (Pinker 1997). Because of past natural selection for ability to predict what other people will do, humans are expert at inferring certain proximate motivations and emotional responses from facial expressions and body movements (Humphrey 1980; Pinker 1997). The fact that humans are good at these tasks may explain why some individuals genuinely feel that they have valid opinions about all explanations of human behaviors and psychological states.

Thornhill, Randy; Palmer, Craig T… A Natural History of Rape (A Bradford Book) (Page 114). The MIT Press. Kindle Edition.


Evolutionary dismissal of axiomatic disrupters

Because the evolutionary approach threatens the theories and approaches that have traditionally been used to study human behavior, it poses a serious threat to the status of those who have achieved success in their fields using non-evolutionary approaches.

Thornhill, Randy; Palmer, Craig T… A Natural History of Rape (A Bradford Book) (Page 115). The MIT Press. Kindle Edition.


Evolutionary basis for Virtual Signalling

Yet another reason for resistance to evolutionary theory appears to be that humans have evolved to present themselves as altruists (Alexander 1987; Nowak and Sigmund 1998). This presentation involves what Alexander (1987) calls “indirect reciprocity,” in which the displayer obtains a reputation or a social image as a potential cooperator.

Thornhill, Randy; Palmer, Craig T… A Natural History of Rape (A Bradford Book) (Page 116). The MIT Press. Kindle Edition.


Social science ideals are vulnerable to cheaters of those ideals, hence their desire for autocracy as the protection against such exploitation

Individuals may form alliances and cooperate, but only when such cooperation is a successful tactic in their competition. Once the basic premise that human psychology and culture are products of selection at the individual level is understood, the implausibility of the social science view of human nature is revealed simply by asking these questions: What would have been the evolutionary fate of individuals in ancestral populations who possessed the nature implied by the social science explanation? How would they have fared in reproductive competition with individuals who had a more specialized set of psychological adaptations? In particular, what would be the evolutionary fate of individuals who engaged in the high-cost behavior of violence only when they were told to do so by others (including individuals who were their reproductive competitors)? Because violent behavior has very high costs, this would have given a tremendous advantage to the competitors, who could simply instruct susceptible rivals to engage in violence when the potential bene- fits of such competition were low and to forgo violence when the potential benefits were high. Males who engaged in violence with no benefits simply because they were taught to do so must be no one’s evolutionary ancestors, because they soon would have been outreproduced by males with specialized psychological mechanisms predisposing them to engage in aggression only when the benefits outweighed the costs. Indeed, there is much evidence of the finely tuned design of violent behavior in terms of the costs and benefits of aggression as a solution to very specific problems for the aggressor. Evolutionary biologists have studied aggression intensively across a wide variety of animal species, especially in the last 25 years. A rich empirical base supports the evolutionary view that aggression has evolved as a result of selection, and that therefore aggression is conditionally patterned in relation to predictable ecological factors that affect its benefits and its costs. (See, e.g., Elwood et al. 1998. 7 )

Thornhill, Randy; Palmer, Craig T… A Natural History of Rape (A Bradford Book) (Page 129). The MIT Press. Kindle Edition.


How does this apply to step-parents? Also, most men report that they would commit to a marriage even if they were not attracted to the person.

Reproductive failure also would befall an individual who could be instructed to form cooperative relationships with others who intended to exploit his trust and love. Altruism and cooperation can increase reproductive success only when they are directed toward genetic relatives or toward reliable reciprocators (Trivers 1971). The individual whose psychological systems predisposed him or her to exhibit helpfulness in arbitrary ways, as directed by his “culture,” would have been most unlikely to outreproduce competitors. Hence, the individual proposed by social science theory to have such flexible emotions would have become no one’s ancestor. An equally unsuccessful fate would await individuals who were sexually aroused only by individuals they were instructed to desire. Sexual attraction and arousal have many non-arbitrary features, including species, sex, age, and health. (See chapter 2 above.) Males or females in human evolutionary history who mated randomly with regard to any of these characteristics of potential mates are also no one’s evolutionary ancestors.

Thornhill, Randy; Palmer, Craig T… A Natural History of Rape (A Bradford Book) (Page 130). The MIT Press. Kindle Edition.

Two days after a devastating breakup, I had lunch with the biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, the person who probably knows more about the science of romance and long-term love than anyone else on the planet. Our meeting wasn’t a ploy for tips on how to win him back— though, did you know that sex kicks the attachment hormone into overdrive? —but to discuss her latest study.

This man was in his 40s, but lest we write off these statistics as a symptom of the old (read: divorcees, or dudes with decreased sex drive), the percentage of men saying “yes” to imperfect committment was actually highest among men in their 20s, almost 40 percent of whom said they’d commit without love (compared with 22 percent of women). The gap narrowed as men and women entered their 30s, and widened again past 40. Yet regardless of age, men’s willingness to answer in the affirmative to both questions was significantly higher across the board.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/why-men-are-settling-for-mrs-good-enough


The full extent of the role of ideology in determining the acceptance of the social science theory of rape can be seen by considering reactions to a hypothetical explanation based on the very same assumptions about human nature that form the social science theory, but with very different ideological connotations. The implausibility of an infinitely flexible human nature becomes obvious when explanations contrary to one’s ideology are proposed. The social science explanation of rape clearly implies that women find rape a negative experience only when they are influenced by their culture to feel this way. If this were true, then stopping rape would not be necessary in order to solve rape as a social problem. Instead, according to the assumptions of the social science explanation of rape, the problem of rape could be solved simply by teaching women that rape is a wonderful experience. If this course of action sounds absurd (and it sounds very absurd to us—see chapter 4), it is because the assumption on which it is based is so implausible. Human females obviously do not have a nature so flexible that they could come to desire the experience of being raped simply by being educated to do so. Yet this is exactly the flexible human nature implied by the social science theory of rape. The ability of ideology to blind people to the utter implausibility of their positions is perhaps the greatest threat to accumulating the knowledge necessary to solve social problems.

Thornhill, Randy; Palmer, Craig T… A Natural History of Rape (A Bradford Book) (Page 152). The MIT Press. Kindle Edition.

#6

Here are my notes for the first four chapters.

1 Like
#7

General thoughts

The book manages to explain well why rape is such a traumatising event. However, it would be interesting to discuss different kinds of rape. I don’t know if the feelings I have are shared by other people, but I would expect that if I was raped by a less attractive man, that would be more traumatising than if it was a good-looking man. On p. 90 or 91 in the book, they say that rape by a stranger is more traumatising than rape by someone familiar, which is what I would have expected. Also, rape that could result in pregnancy (penile-vaginal rape) leads to more distress than other forms of rape.

Is this reflected in the legal system? I think that people often just think “rape is rape” and then assume that all rape is just as bad. However, it clearly leads to different amounts of distress, so it seems reasonable to me that it should lead to different punishment.

I actually think that the term “rape” should be reserved for sexual assault that could lead to pregnancy (if the people involved are/were fertile). When people say that girls are raped online (when the perpetrator convinces them to do sexual things to themselves), it seems like the term is devalued.

I think the reason for the confusion is that people are unaware of the evolutionary origin of psychological distress in response to rape. If people think that it’s just about power and has nothing to do with sex, lust and circumvention of female mate choice, then they will fail to see why penile-vaginal rape would be worse.


What can we learn from the research and theories presented in the book?

  1. There are good reasons for women’s psychological distress after being raped. Reassurance from her partner that he will not leave her will likely reduce a victim’s distress. Effective strategies for treating a rape victim might include making sure she isn’t pregnant, letting her see her partner (if he is supportive) and helping her analyse her role in the event (what she can do in the future to avoid it happening again).

  2. Men rape in certain situations. We could limit these situations by making sure the cost of rape is higher than the benefits of it.
    • Social stigma
    • Legal punishment
    • Access to willing females (if possible), e.g. by facilitating the ability of men to make themselves attractive to women
    • War? Holding people legally responsible for rapes during war, if possible

  3. Women can learn to behave in ways which would reduce their risk of being raped, e.g. by not seeming vulnerable and avoiding situations where they lack protection.

  4. Women can make sure they fight back when they get raped, since it will reduce their distress afterwards.


I wrote it in my comments to the book (p. 67 and 83), but I think that some of the information in this book could be discussed in relation to female rape fantasies. It’s a pretty weird fact that many women think that rape is arousing when it is fantasy, but horrible if it were real. Why are they aroused by rape fantasies?

On p. 67, they write that women could try to dupe men into believing that they are resisting sex, in order to get them to believe they aren’t competing with other men’s sperm. Could that produce rape fantasies in women? Do men think that resisting women are more attractive, since it signals choosiness? Could it be studied? Perhaps by letting couples (or perhaps strangers would be better, but difficult to get participants for) engage in rape-play or some consensual roleplay and then compare the men’s ratings on the fidelity of their partners.