How not to raise a rapist

Someone recently asked me in an accusatory/chiding tone why we didn’t have an article explaining to parents how to raise their boys with love and respect for women so they wouldn’t be rapists. I pointed her to this article on the “consent conversation” – which, she claimed, still put the burden on the girls (huh? It’s all about teaching boys to make extra freakin’ sure they have consent rather than pressing ahead in the face of “I didn’t hear no!”). At this point I gave up on that particular conversation. But later I realized we really don’t have a post explicitly telling parents the magic secret of how not to raise rapists (of either gender). Are you ready? This is it:

Don’t abuse your kids.

Um, yep, that’s it. See, like love and respect, rape is a learned behavior. People don’t become rapists because someone failed to teach them something; they become rapists because they’ve been taught abuse. [ETA: somehow a lot of commenters extrapolated from this statement that I’m suggesting all abused kids become rapists. That is absurd. The best stats we have, which aren’t great but do ring true to my personal experience, suggest about 1 in 8 abused kids becomes abusive, but each abuser typically has more than a few victims, which is why abusers keep replenishing themselves despite how hard it actually is to make a human being into an abuser.]

As it’s impossible to collate data on what motivates people to rape, and you can’t trust what rapists tell you, here’s the best possible evidence available. A number of qualified sources believe most rapists have survived abuse (PDF link – relevant quote: “As with most sexual abusers, most rapists were also sexually abused as children.”) in their early years.* Former FBI profiler Roy Hazelwood says this in Dark Dreams: A Legendary FBI Profiler Examines Homicide and the Criminal Mind:

My research on serial rape supports the view that a large number of sexual criminals have been childhood victims of physical, sexual or psychological abuse.

Keep in mind that “psychological abuse” entails neglect and headgames, a type of abuse that many people still aren’t schooled in recognizing. So when I say “don’t abuse your kids” I’m also saying “don’t strategically withhold affection to make your child unnaturally dependent on your approval, which you dangle like a carrot, so that he or she gets the idea all people of your gender are evil and should be punished.” [ETA: This is not a reference to mothers specifically, as some commenters assumed. See here.]

Of course he’s talking about the sort of rapists (often rapist-murderers) the FBI chases. Date rapists, for example, are probably very under-reported. Can we assume these rapists think the same way as the Ted Bundy type? I believe so, and here’s why. I’ve asked the following series of questions of a number of people over the years:

  • Have you ever experienced the urge to hit someone? Most people answer yes. It’s a natural animal urge.
  • Have you ever experienced the urge to kill someone? Most people answer yes. Again, that’s our animal nature.
  • Have you ever experienced the urge to have sex with someone who doesn’t want to have sex with you as they protest and try to get away from you and come to loathe you for what you’re doing to them? No one’s ever answered this one yes. In fact, their faces typically wrinkle as they try to imagine wanting to do such a thing. Wanting to have sex with someone who doesn’t want you back – that’s familiar to most of us. But the idea of having sex with them anyway, over their protests, making them hate you and killing any hope of reciprocal feelings – that wouldn’t be satisfying. It just doesn’t track. In fact, it would be icky and weird, and then you’d be scared of the consequences afterward, right? (This has nothing to do with rape fantasies, which can sound all sorts of sick and still not indicate psychological problems.)

The reason why I describe rape so much more fully than I describe murder is: a human being can, in a passion, pick up a blunt object and murder someone in mere seconds, before he has time to return to his senses and think about what he’s doing. Hence, the concept of premeditated and unpremeditated murder. But while rape may begin with an unpremeditated impulse, it takes thinking to figure out how you’re going to subdue someone long enough to complete the act. It takes time to establish and maintain control. Overwhelming impulses don’t allow for that sort of cogitation, begin to fade within seconds, and involve face-to-face interaction with the victim in a way murder need not.

Again, rape is a learned behavior. It’s about enjoying or being profoundly indifferent to someone else’s suffering. It’s about remarkable levels of entitlement and the failure to recognize another human being as another human being. It’s about a gaping hole inside the rapist that nothing will ever fill. It’s way beyond a lack of love and respect. It’s beyond ignorance.

That’s why I wrote the above-linked article on consent. Because the only “rapists” who can be stopped by being taught something are inexperienced young boys are getting conflicting messages about, say, whether it’s rape or not if everybody’s equally intoxicated. There is such a thing as genuine confusion about consent, and nice people are subject to it, too. The rapist personality goes looking for “confusing situations” and finds them over and over again and conveniently never learns a non-predatory response to them.

By all means, teach your kids to love and respect others – particularly their social “inferiors.” But if you think this information will help the parents of future rapists to correct their parenting mistakes, you’ve got another think coming. The sort of people who raise rapists are not listening and can’t be told.

*Update, June 13, 2010: in the interests of brevity, I left some points out of this article originally which apparently weren’t as obvious as I thought. First, while most abusers have themselves been abused in some form, it does not follow that most abused kids will become abusive, and at no point did I say or imply this. In fact, the opposite is true. There are few good stats available, largely because so much abuse goes unreported (and non-physical abuse isn’t even legally actionable) but one study found that only 1 in 8 sexually abused boys go on to abuse children themselves. Extrapolating from this, I suspect the majority of abused children do not become abusers.

Second, just because an abuser has most likely been a victim does not mean you must feel sorry for them, or forgive them, or in any way think they are not a monster. Rapists make choices like everyone else. If they can choose who they will strike, when and there to do it without getting caught, etc., then they can choose to get help, or turn themselves in, or commit suicide. The fact they chose instead to make a career of rape is entirely their responsibility, no matter what was done to them. They should be scorned and shunned from society – who knows,  it might even give them an incentive to start seeking help.

Third, abuse can be extremely subtle, so never assume you know for sure someone was not abused. Logically, you can’t prove a negative. Practically, headgames and emotional neglect are rarely apparent to outsiders. This might seem to provide specious support for Hazelwood’s conclusion that most sex offenders have been abused in some way, but consider that Hazelwood and his colleagues are more alert to the signs of abuse than most law enforcement personnel, most feminists, most people, other than those in the psychology field.

Fourth, teaching your son that he’s your Golden Boy and can do no wrong and anyone who says otherwise is just a nasty pile of envy to the extent that he does not develop empathy or conscience is a form of abuse. It produces adults with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, the disorder Hazelwood believes the vast majority of sex offenders have. These people often function very well in society, succeeding in business or government or the arts, sometimes possessing what seems to be a perfect family but is actually more like a set of hostages manipulated through terrorism and threats into supporting the NPDs image of himself as Mr. Nice Guy. But they are severely damaged people.

Comments

  1. says

    I’m not sure they’re intended to be, but I don’t think your questions are fair analogues. Because even as I might answer yes to the first two – and really, I’d have to think about the killing part –, I would not answer yes if the question was as detailed as the third one.

    e.g.: “Have you ever felt the urge to kill someone who is trying to escape from you with all their might, screaming their head off and bleeding profusely?” Or something to that effect. I’m not a (nonconsensually) violent guy, but I guess there would be people who’d have had detailed fantasies about beating someone up, at least.

    Other than that, though, I concur wholeheartedly. It’d be my dream for everybody to grow up cherishing the Declaration of Human Rights, humanist ideals, and so on, but sadly, that is a utopian idea that will never be true. As you said, the sort of people who raise rapists can’t be told.

  2. says

    Patrick, I get your point. Constructing those questions is tricky because we’re all so familiar with hitting and killing that we don’t need description there. But when you ask young men if they’ve ever wanted to rape anybody, they’ll often say “yes” and describe a situation where they wanted someone so badly they felt they were going insane, because they think that’s what rape is – lust driving you to this desperate act. But as soon as I sketch the victim’s horror, revulsion, loathing and misery, they’re turned off. No, they wouldn’t force sex if it meant all that happening. Because even if they don’t really care about her as a human, they don’t want to be that monster.

  3. Pamela says

    There’s so much advice out there for parents of girls… much of it unhelpful. It’s good to see this common sense advice for all parents.

    I recently heard an NPR interview with a researcher who interviewed date rapists. Contrasted with our picture of date rapists as normal dudebros who just had a few too many and aren’t to blame… most of them sounded exactly like stranger rapists: completely cognizant of their crime and even proud. This fits in perfectly with what you’re saying, Jennifer.

  4. says

    The point about date-rape being tied to entitlement really strikes me, because from what I’ve seen, plenty of guys (and girls) think of getting their “mark” drunk or otherwise inebriated is an effective and more-or-less ethical way of “loosening up” said person’s willingness to consent. From that perspective, I don’t think that rapist would be considering the rape’s consequences, or even specifically power over that person so much as power over women/men in general and, naturally, the victim’s fault.

    The problem lies in the fact that there are a lot of freakin’ people who feel super-entitled and privileged to be able to “get lucky” whenever they influence that to be so, and I’m not so sure that’s tied into previous abuse. For sure, parents, or somebody, is passing along a warped sense of entitlement or superiority to these rapists and would-be rapists, as well as a distinct lack of empathy and consideration for one’s fellow man/woman, but technically that’s not so much psychological abuse as a grand psychological gesture of disservice to humanity in general. Not to mention irresponsible parenting/mentoring/what have you.

  5. says

    Pamela, thanks for passing that info along. It does tie in.

    Nijireiki, psychiatry defines raising a kid with *that* warped a sense of entitlement AS a form of psychological/emotional abuse – it’s actually not as easy to do as one might think, nor is it done accidentally. The APA defines personality disorders as “an enduring pattern of inner experience and behavior that deviates markedly from the expectations of the culture of the individual who exhibits it”. Personality disorders (the height of neurosis, and incurable) are believed to be the result of abuse. If you’ve managed to raise a child whose sense of entitlement enables him to commit what he knows is a crime (regardless of the culture’s wink-nudge messages), then you’ve raised a child who has a personality disorder. Hazelwood believes most sexual criminals have narcissistic personality disorder, to be specific, and this:

    warped sense of entitlement or superiority to these rapists and would-be rapists, as well as a distinct lack of empathy and consideration for one’s fellow man/woman

    Is a summary definition of that condition. And the type of abuse it typically comes from is the strategically withheld affection headgame I mentioned.

  6. says

    Jennifer, thanks for clarifying. I just wasn’t sure if that kind of psychosis was actually labeled as such, and training people into it was actually considered abuse, and I didn’t want to make assumptions that that was the case.

  7. Anemone says

    Jennifer, I was worried about what you were going to say until you said “Don’t abuse your kids.” Whew! And so straightforward, too.

    It’s not just abuse (and neglect) as defined by law. It’s also just touching your kids without permission, and not giving them the right to say no. If they feel powerless and humiliated, they may well make up their minds to be the one doing the touching down the road. Alice Miller talks about that in her books.

    Richard Rhodes describes Lonnie Athens’ research on dangerous violent criminals in his book “Why They Kill”. Serious trigger warning on the interviews Athens did with the criminals. Abuse and frightened powerlessness when young was part of the findings there, too.

    And attachment may also come into it. Empathy normally appears by the second birthday, but in some people it just doesn’t seem to happen. And they don’t all become criminals.

    Isn’t it amazing how all these experts seem to converge? I love it.

  8. Dom Camus says

    Implicitly in your section on child raising, the audience is female. However, if learned behaviour is a key component (and I think you’re right that it is), maybe male parental behaviour is just as important?

  9. says

    Jennifer: I don’t want to harp on the questions, especially since I don’t think it’s that important, but an example came to my mind and so I’ll share it :)

    I’ve done my share of role-playing games, and I distinctly remember a campaign of ours where we wanted to be “bad guys”. Now, rpgs always contain a good number of violence and killing, but this time, the GM decided to do it justice and describe it in at least somewhat realistic term: people begging us not to hurt them anymore, and so on. After two sessions, we were so creeped out we had to play something else.

    So perhaps all the violence and killing that we consider in our heads is kind of cartoony and bereft of consequences, too. That’s why ads like this one below (warning, very graphic) are still effective:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q0ukd7xTQ9g

  10. says

    nijireiki, you actually touch on a point which has bothered me for years: narcissistic behavior is idealized and admired in the US – at least the version of it where the person will trample anyone to get a little more status, wealth, etc. It’s getting increasingly difficult to see a parent who raises kids to be narcissistic as entirely irresponsible, because that IS how one gets ahead in American life, and parents are supposed to raise their kids to succeed. We need to correct this on a widespread cultural level before we become a fully narcissistic culture.

    Implicitly in your section on child raising, the audience is female.

    I’m mystified by your response. How does the advice “don’t abuse kids” NOT refer to everyone who is a parent?

    However, if learned behaviour is a key component (and I think you’re right that it is), maybe male parental behaviour is just as important?

    Of course. Fathers abuse children daily. How could their parental behavior be any less important than women’s?

    Anemone, I agree the law falls way short of defining all forms of abuse. And abusive personalities can often read the law and figure out what they can most likely get away with.

    TheOtherPatrick, let me put it this way, because you’re talking about roleplaying (lots of people enjoy roleplay rape with consensual partners), and I’m talking about reality urges, not fantasies.

    The distinction the questions make is that rape is never a “crime of passion.” Murder (and hitting) can be over in a second and performed from a distance, which is why a person with conscience and empathy can still find herself shooting someone in a heated moment, then thinking, “OMG, what have I done?” Rape, however, takes time. Subduing and controlling the victim takes effort. You always have time to reflect, “OMG, what am I doing?” while you’re still doing it.

    So I think it actually IS an appropriate comparison to leave the murder question short, but include more detail on the rape one. Because the whole point is that rape is a very intimate crime for the assailant. The type of mind that can derive pleasure from such intimate torture is a whole different psychology than the mind that’s can only comfortably fathom hurting someone in a way that’s quick and clean.

    Which is why I say: either you’re capable of rape or you’re not. Most of us would find it totally sickening. That’s why scorned men tend to get revenge on women who reject them by dating their friends, spreading embarrassing lies about them, etc., rather than by raping them. The man who rapes a woman because she wouldn’t have sex with him is coming from a VERY different place.

    Re: the ad you linked. I may have to blog on that. I like the idea behind it, but am displeased that it’s not one but four blond teenage girls (triple code for stupid bitchez) doing the texting and Mr. Honky that shows up and takes charge of the situation. I see middle-aged men texting or dialing or something that’s driving-contraindicated as often as I see any other demographic doing it. Just last year or so, a middle-aged male Amtrak driver was too busy texting a couple of teenage boys to notice something, and a huge train wreck ensued.

  11. Charles RB says

    “am displeased that it’s not one but four blond teenage girls (triple code for stupid bitchez) doing the texting”

    I see your point on the blond thing, but the reason it’s teenage girls is because the ad was made for schools. (The full version is 30 minutes)

  12. says

    Yes, but here’s how this would play in an American school.

    Girls watch it and get the message: texting and driving is a bad mix.

    Boys watch it, snicker “Dumb bitch” and think briefly about how girls are too fucking stupid to text and drive. BUT NOT BOYS, NO SIR, and off they go, texting while they drive.

    Maybe it’s different in Britain, but American boys are carefully trained from birth to think if they see a girl/woman on film living her life, it doesn’t pertain to boys/men. That’s why the film industry won’t make movies where women do or speak of anything NOT directly pertaining to a man or men.

  13. Charles RB says

    That’s certainly not how it seems to have played in Welsh schools. It’s also become a hit with American web browsers (and other countries) and there’s talk of bringing it to American schools, and I doubt that’s all from women browsing.

    It’s a pretty brutal video – the only way to get worse is if they filmed an actual car crash – I don’t see many people snickering, unless they’ve been forewarned and are going in intending to snicker: the natural reaction to seeing severe brutality is to wince and the video deliberately doesn’t give the audience a breather.

  14. says

    I’ve heard the obsession with macho-ness is considerably more predominant in American culture than in European and British. I obviously know more about American culture than any other, but I do watch a fair amount of British TV and I’m frequently surprised at the humanness of important and respected male characters. We don’t get much of that on this side of the big drink. ;)

  15. Charles RB says

    America does seem to be more pro-macho than Britain, but I’d be genuinely surprised if it’s to the extent that teenage boys are going to privately* snicker at and shrug off seeing a gory car crash and injured people screaming.

    * “Privately” because when they’re with their mates, both in Wales and in the US, there’d be a good chance they’ll downplay how much it bothered them.

  16. says

    That’s right, and I was referring to their public reaction with the snickering. BUT I’m referring to their private reaction when I say I suspect they’d file this under “that’s dumb blondes for you” and not comprehend that it could happen to them, too.

    In any case, by not even including a dark-haired girl, the spot potentially reinforces the “dumb blonde” stereotype. And plays into the Blonds and Blood issue we talked about last week. But, as is always the case when I critique media here, I’m not saying the spot is evil or these things ruin it. It definitely has impact as is.

  17. amymccabe says

    …from what I’ve seen, plenty of guys (and girls) think of getting their “mark” drunk or otherwise inebriated is an effective and more-or-less ethical way of “loosening up” said person’s willingness to consent.

    From what I’ve seen, this is considered a cultural norm. Hell it seems almost standard for first dates or the first date in which you hope will end in sex. And most people don’t think of it in terms of “loosening up” consent so much as relaxing enough to make things less awkward. But…there are huge issues obviously here. Like, okay maybe after one glass of wine, the person is still in control of their own ability to consent knowingly, but when does that control go? I don’t mean to reinforce the so called “gray rape” here (which I hate hate hate) so much as state how much this is a cultural norm, probably because we, as a culture, are still so weirded out by sex that we feel like “loosening up” is needed prior to the act.

  18. says

    Implicitly in your section on child raising, the audience is female.

    I’m mystified by your response. How does the advice “don’t abuse kids” NOT refer to everyone who is a parent?

    However, if learned behaviour is a key component (and I think you’re right that it is), maybe male parental behaviour is just as important?

    Of course. Fathers abuse children daily. How could their parental behavior be any less important than women’s?

    I had problems with this, too, because your actual wording was ““don’t strategically withhold affection to make your child unnaturally dependent on your approval, which you dangle like a carrot, so that he or she gets the idea all people of your gender are evil and should be punished.” (My italics). Yes, male on male rape does exist, but this is specifically singling out women as being responsible “not to raise rapists”. I don’t buy that.
    I haven’t read the linked page yet, I plan to because I’m very interested as a feminist parent to do anything and everything I can to counter the rape culture (which I think is as much to blame as parents – and much recent research, I believe, says that a teenage kid’s peers are very, very important in their development, as well as the surrounding culture.)

  19. says

    male on male rape does exist, but this is specifically singling out women as being responsible “not to raise rapists”.

    No, it’s not, unless one infers a context limited solely to rapes committed by adult men against adult women. I ended the first paragraph of the article with specifically with:

    how not to raise rapists (of either gender)

    Then in the paragraph you’re talking about, I said:

    so that he or she gets the idea all people of your gender are evil

    This is not to be reduced to the mother’s gender. I said rapists of either gender because children are raped at least as often as adult women. They are raped by adults of both genders.

    A lot of serial rapists and child molesters seem to target a particular gender because they were abused by their parent or caregiver of that gender. So a father emotionally abusing a daughter could produce a female rapist of little boys just like a mother emotionally abusing a son could produce a male rapist of women and/or girls. Interestingly, a father emotionally abusing a son could produce a rapist of boys OR adult women, because this society encourages men to take out their self-loathing on women. A daughter emotionally abused by her mother could also end up a rapist of girls.

    As for rape culture and peers: I don’t think culture or peers can make a person into a rapist if the person is coming from supportive parents who have modeled compassion and empathy for him or her. I do agree they contribute substantially to misogyny, but the vast majority of even hard-core misogynists are not rapists. In a way, what I’m saying in this post is good news for parents – if parents are making any effort to raise a child to have compassion and empathy, I’d say there’s almost zero chance of the child becoming an abuser of any sort (the “almost” leaves room for the possibility someone can have physiological brain issues that cause empathy and conscience not to develop despite good nurturing). There are all sorts of other things a well-raised child might do wrong, even horribly wrong, but it takes a specially twisted personality to engage in rape. Except in issues of confused consent and ignorance in date rape, which is what the linked post addresses.

  20. Titanis says

    “Have you ever experienced the urge to have sex with someone who doesnâ��t want to have sex with you as they protest and try to get away from you and come to loathe you what youâ��re doing to them? No oneâ��s ever answered this one yes.”
    Have you ever tried replacing the last part with “eventually start enjoying it”? I’m curious if that would change the answers, given that trope’s ubiquity…

  21. says

    Titanis, no I’ve never taken it in a direction like that, since my goal was to give them an idea what rape is really like for the person committing it (which is: not cool at all, unless you get off on power and victims’ suffering). I’m thinking your version would get a different answer for two reasons: lots of decent people have harmless rape fantasies in which everyone ends up enjoying the encounter, and actual rapists often convince themselves their victims enjoyed the encounter. The trick would be distinguishing between the two personalities among those who answer “yes.”

  22. meme says

    This analogy is so fucking skewed.
    Do you know how many rapists were raised perfectly fine without abuse or anger and still turned out to be rapists???? Do you know how many people who WERE abused as a child, who turned out to be decent human beings?
    Being a rapists is a mental disorder, it has nothing to do with the way you’re raised. It’s like people with schizophrenia didn’t learn it, their brain’s chemical balance was all fucked up. This is some bullshit.
    Rape is learned.. what the fuck? You done ate the good pills lady.

  23. says

    I approved the above comment as an example of the sort of ignorance with which we’re dealing. Meme’s comment starkly contradicts the facts (several of which I cited and linked), and yet meme is convinced meme knows the truth.

    It is true that something like 7/8 abused kids don’t grow up to be abusers, according to estimates. But that’s neither here nor there, and we’ve discussed it before around here anyway.

    The rest of meme’s point is dead wrong. There are brain issues which can predispose people to violence, but even sociopaths – born or raised – are not forced to be rapists by their nature – they make choices about when, where and in what manner they will harm people. There are brain injuries a person can sustain that will make them behave oddly, but they’ve never been associated with rape, per se.

    There is no chemical imbalance that makes you a rapist – delusions can make you violent, but that violence does not take the form of rape unless you make that choice. There is no biochemical mental disorder that will make someone a rapist (and if there was, it would have to be far more common in men than women, and wouldn’t that be something scientists would be studying?). There may be some rape apologist blog saying what meme’s repeating, but anyone who’s read any serious factual literature on the topic of rape would know this is all absurd.

  24. snobographer says

    I’m not sure I agree that childhood abuse and neglect is the main thing that creates rapists. Abuse can seriously mess with a person’s sense of personal boundaries and self esteem but, from what I’ve gathered, the result of that seems more often to be adult victims who are more likely to be victimized further. If there are studies on it, I’d be very interested to see them.
    My guess though is that rape is a product of plain old-fashioned sexism. Enculturated male supremacy and marginalization of girls. Boys are taught from the start that they’re the real important people and girls and all things girlie are embarrassing and less-than (see “runs like a girl,” “cry like a girl,” etc.). And then when boys reach their teenage years it suddenly becomes mandatory for them to “get” a girlfriend, where a girlfriend is an object that must be acquired as physical evidence that one’s not gay, which is to be like a girl, which is a shameful, terrible thing.
    The way boys are typically raised, along with plenty of influences outside the home, prevents boys from empathizing with girls or seeing them as fully human like themselves. It sets girls up as objects that boys have to conquer and acquire to prove their “manliness” (which is like the greatest most important thing EVAR!).
    So I can see, or have seen, boys who are raised by attentive and loving (to their sons; maybe not so much their daughters) parents growing up to be men who’ve internalized the idea that female people aren’t really people and that female bodies are objects of conquest.

    That brain chemistry argument is total BS though.

  25. snobographer says

    Speaking of sociopathy, I’ve read that sociopathy is usually a product of childhood neglect. It’s not a chemical imbalance but a learned personality disorder. One sociopath I had the misfortune of knowing had a formative experience as a small child where he packed up some food and camped out in the woods near his house for several days. When he returned, it was apparent that neither of his parents had any idea he’d been gone. Otherwise, though, on the surface, his parents were Ozzy and Harriet.
    I think a situation like that would lead a kid to believe on some level that what other people don’t notice doesn’t really happen, which is like the MO of the sociopath: my reality is the only reality and as long as I don’t get caught, and everything looks right on the surface, my actions have no consequences.
    Not to get OT, but American Psycho is a really good profile of sociopathy – also, the role of societal privilege in fomenting sociopathy.

    I don’t think all – or even most – rapists are sociopaths though. Dudebros who rape are usually capable of empathizing with other dudes. True sociopaths can’t even do that.

  26. says

    Response to your first comment:

    I provided sources for my argument. There aren’t really enough studies on what causes rape; most focus on the motivation for rape (what the rapist is feeling) rather than on what makes a person a rapist to begin with. The few studies on cause find that most incarcerated rapists claim to have been abused, but why believe an incarcerated rapist about anything?

    That’s why I went with the conclusions of an FBI profiler: Hazelwood is recognized as an expert on sexual criminals, and his discipline required him to construct profiles that accurately described the perpetrator well enough for authorities to recognize him when they found him. His success rate gives his conclusions substantial weight. Additionally, profiling has a few things in common with forensic psychology, which is a far better way to determine if a rapist who claims to have been abused (or not) really was (or really wasn’t). Abuse leaves “tells” which a trained psychoanalyst knows how to recognize.

    Hazelwood mentions elsewhere in the above-linked book that people always put forth the theory that rape is lust-driven when he lectures. His response is: the oldest rape victim he’s seen was 92, and the youngest was 2 hours old. Does that sound like objects of lust?

    I think it also applies to your theory. Do people objectify babies and think they’re unimportant? Lord, no: people who couldn’t give a shit if you raped 1000 women will hang you themselves if they learn you hurt a child. No, what rapists are seeing in babies is helplessness rather than objectification. Also, elderly women are frequent targets of younger rapists – again, not because they see them as objects of conquest, but because they see them as easy targets.

    So I can see, or have seen, boys who are raised by attentive and loving (to their sons; maybe not so much their daughters) parents growing up to be men who’ve internalized the idea that female people aren’t really people and that female bodies are objects of conquest.

    And if a family treats daughters differently than sons, that IS emotional abuse that sets boys up to become rapists or violent toward women. Also, being “attentive” and “loving” is how molesters typically treat the child they’re raping.

    You believe you have seen well-parented men turn out to be rapists, but emotional abuse is frequently very well-hidden, even from extended family. Neglect is even harder to detect. Also, while they may not have been harmed by family, they might have been abused by someone else – teacher, coach, friend of the family, local priest, etc.

    Additionally, your theory focuses strictly on men raping women. You don’t account for, say, women raping children. It happens more than you might think.

    Now. Everything you describe contributes to a rape culture in which rapists feel society has tacitly given them permission to hurt certain people. But does this atmosphere alone make anyone rape anyone else? If so, any of us could become rapists at any minute. Thankfully, there’s another component that plays into it, and that component is the learning of abuse.

    ETA: “from what I’ve gathered, the result of that seems more often to be adult victims who are more likely to be victimized further.”

    7 out of 8 abused kids do not grow up to be abusers. Unfortunately, one abuser typically hurts more than one person – sometimes dozens. The fact that most abused kids don’t grow up to hurt anyone does not prove that abuse is not the cause of further abuse. That’s the wrong framework for the question.

  27. says

    To your second comment:

    Sociopathy is *defined* as a learned personality disorder. One of two, actually: narcissistic personality disorder or anti-social personality disorder. Hazelwood believes most sexual criminals are narcissistic personality disorders, which means most are sociopaths*. It makes sense: one of the hallmark traits of a sociopath is the ability to mimic empathy well enough to fool anyone who’s not trained either by study or by, say, growing up with a sociopath. How do you know your dudebro rapist is really empathizing with his pals?

    *There’s no question most of the ones Hazelwood dealt with are NPDs. He’s guesstimating when it comes to the sort of “ordinary” rapists the FBI wouldn’t deal with, but his logic is sound. It takes a very specific psychology to be comfortable with being a monster.

    One more point on your earlier comment: I know a lot of people who think of homeless folks as objects to be despised, but I don’t think any of them would actually hurt a homeless person. There’s a big gap between thinking someone is worthless, and thinking, “Hurting them is something I want to do.”

  28. snobographer says

    I haven’t read Hazelwood’s book, but from the Amazon reviews, I get the impression it’s more about Ted Bundy/Jeffrey Dahmer head-in-the-freezer types than it is about your typical date-rapist or frat party gang-rapist. Do you think the guy in Hazelwood’s book who mutilated that convenience store worker shares a similar mentality with, say, the 2007 DeAnza College baseball team? Personally, I’m not sure, but there’s probably some interesting parallels. Which makes the general public’s defense of the DeAnza players all the more disturbing (as if it wasn’t bad enough already).
    Just to clarify, by “loving and attentive” parents, I mean valuing what their sons say and do, spending time with them, treating them like whole people – and at the same time maybe tossing in the occasional joke about dumb blonds or women drivers or sissy boys and not showing the same level of interest in their daughters’ concerns or activities (if they have daughters). It’s dysfunctional, but I don’t know that I’d characterize that as abuse. Not to the golden boy anyway.
    Also, as a victim of childhood abuse, I tend to get a bit defensive about the meme that victims grow up to be abusers, so that might be getting in the way of my understanding. I’ll admit though that I do have issues with people and relationships as a result of my abuse, which are too elaborate to get into.

  29. says

    Do you think the guy in Hazelwood’s book who mutilated that convenience store worker shares a similar mentality with, say, the 2007 DeAnza College baseball team?

    As I said in the article, Ted Bundy and your typical date rapist do share the same mentality. Group sexual assault taps into mob psychology, which is a whole other huge topic.

    I don’t know that I’d characterize that as abuse. Not to the golden boy anyway.

    You need to read up on Narcissistic Personality Disorder. “Golden boy” is a textbook term for the attitude involved in the often very subtle abuse that creates male NPDs.

    Also, as a victim of childhood abuse, I tend to get a bit defensive about the meme that victims grow up to be abusers, so that might be getting in the way of my understanding.

    It’s a horseshit meme left over from bad 80s research spread by a lazy media. I too am a survivor of childhood abuse (by an NPD, by the way), and it made me an activist rather than an abuser.

  30. snobographer says

    I will read up more on NPD. I think both my parents had it and it simultaneously fascinates and infuriates me. Any reading recommendations would be appreciated, but I can google.

  31. says

    My first sources were the DSM and a used psychology textbook. I haven’t read any other books I would recommend, but this book has been recommended to me:

    http://www.amazon.com/Children-Self-Absorbed-Grown-ups-Getting-Narcissistic/dp/1572245611/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1271651670&sr=8-6

    Then there are some online sources:

    http://www.halcyon.com/jmashmun/npd/

    She has some great insights. Be aware of Sam Vaknin, who will come up if you Google:

    http://samvak.tripod.com/npdglance.html

    This author claims to be both a psychiatrist and an NPD who’s been treated as much as you can treat NPD. Oh, and he’s been in prison, he says. Since NPDs are liars, it’s hard to credit his claims about who he is, but I have to admit, everything he says about the disorder rings absolutely true to my experience with diagnosed NPDs and is, IMO, worth reading.

  32. Genevieve says

    Also, as a victim of childhood abuse, I tend to get a bit defensive about the meme that victims grow up to be abusers, so that might be getting in the way of my understanding.

    It’s a horseshit meme left over from bad 80s research spread by a lazy media. I too am a survivor of childhood abuse (by an NPD, by the way), and it made me an activist rather than an abuser.

    I think it can really go either way–I was raped when I was seventeen (which might be too old to fit into your theory), and there’s no way I’d ever do that to another person, the very thought sickens me.
    However, the dude who raped me had been physically abused by his stepdad when he was very young, and had seen the stepdad abuse his brother and mother as well. And while he said that he hated his stepdad and was so glad that his mom eventually left, the fact that he raped me says that the abuse was internalized, emulated, et cetera.

    So I do think that there’s a pattern there, that it does get carried down, but…obviously, only in some people.

  33. says

    Genevieve, I believe support is probably the determining factor in whether an abused person will abuse others. Stats tell us that boys are more likely to become abusers while girls are more likely not to, and I would say girls are more likely to get support than boys because therapy and emotional work is “girly” in this society. Women seek counseling more often than men. Women admit their feelings more than men. Men are socialized to Just Be A Man, and if someone had told me that when I was suffering, not only would I have internalized the abuse, but also a lot of rage and frustration because their advice isn’t working. If I’m not allowed to go inside myself in a girly fashion and fix it, what am I going to do? Take out that rage on a handy victim.

    And we all know which people society doesn’t really mind you raping all that much.

    Just to be clear, the article was not intended to suggest that abusing someone guarantees he will become a rapist. Like I said in another comment, only 1 in 8 abused kids become abusers.

  34. Charles RB says

    Arguably, the _really_ brave action that would show you were “manning up” would be to admit you need a helping hand and getting it, whether or not people thought you were a sissy.

  35. says

    Snobographer, you’re welcome.

    Raeka, YES – great article! I’m frustrated by hearing how there’s nothing we can do about bullying, and this article counters that argument nicely. Now we just need another one to explain to people that empathy doesn’t mean weakness.

    CharlesRB, I very much agree. And why the hell shouldn’t men simply want to be happy, and feel entitled to do whatever it takes to get them there? Happy people don’t go around deliberately harming others.

  36. A6M4 says

    I am so excited that you said “another think coming.” I have literally never read that in use before. It is so nice to finally see that in print.

  37. says

    LOL, A6M4, another benefit of watching British TV. Americans say “another thing coming” and I never could make sense of the expression until I heard it said correctly on British TV. :D

  38. Pearl says

    I dunno… I’ve experienced pretty serious neglect and some parental abuse, and I have never had any desire whatsoever to rape anyone. The thought hasn’t occured to me, but reading the post on repulsion of the idea, yeah, that fits. I know other people who have been abused by parents, and are empathetic and responsible.

    On the other hand, my first “boyfriend” raped me when I was 18. I had gotten to know his family a little bit. He was not particularly abused, but his father was profoundly sexist, though not violent, and believed deeply in the subordination of women. His mother went along with it, and was an anorexic, and very disrespectful to her only daughter. This man grew up with a sense of male entitlement and superiority, which he actively defended. Also, I can see in retrospect he was in the closet gay. This didn’t make him more misogynyist or violent toward women, but I think it did make him think he had something to prove, while at the same time he was not attuned and had no interest in attuning to a partner’s female sexuality.

    So that’s my experience with one rapist. I’m sure there are a lot of factors in why men grow up to rape. I think it comes down to male supremacist values, and low self-esteem, a rejection of the self, largely because one accepts male supremacist values. For instance, he rejected his own gayness the way male supremacy rejects gayness, because that value system wants men to be men (the dominant, respected, not sexually violated people) and women to be women (the subordinated, disrespected, sexually violated people). He wanted to be a man, not a woman, and he wanted to treat another person, on the pretense of being her “boyfriend,” as someone who was less worthy of human status than him. Like what he saw growing up and all around him.

  39. says

    He was not particularly abused, but his father was profoundly sexist, though not violent, and believed deeply in the subordination of women. His mother went along with it, and was an anorexic, and very disrespectful to her only daughter.

    Since I wrote this, there’s been more confusion than I was expecting regarding what abuse is. For example, this paragraph describes a textbook emotional abuse cycle from hell but calls it “not particularly abused.” He certainly was abused, based on your description.

    The “favored” children in an abusive home are still being abused, still being programmed with beliefs about themselves and their place in the world that may prevent them developing empathy and compassion (without which I would argue one doesn’t experience full humanity, because one can’t connect with others) and put them at risk for becoming criminals – both of which seem to have been the case with this person you’re describing.

    A child need not be *targeted* for obvious abuse to suffer abuse all the same. Your boyfriend probably would reject the notion he was abused, and so might the whole family. But Mom’s got anorexia and is verbally/emotionally abusing the daughter, Dad’s almost certainly psychologically abusing Mom (the fact that she may have come to him pre-abused and ready to submit doesn’t change that fact), and the son is (a) being taught sufficient misogyny to make him think he’s entitled to rape women even though that’s a crime and (b) being indirectly taught to loathe himself for being gay and therefore not a Real Man. There’s a lot of abuse there.

    Additionally, let me be clear: absolutely no physical or verbal abuse is required to cause the damage I’m talking about. Emotional abuse is not always obvious: for example, when people try to recount what an emotionally abusive parent said that was abusive, it frequently doesn’t sound bad at all. They’re at a loss to explain how they know the ill intent behind the harmless-sounding words, how they’ve picked up a pattern over the years. They get written off as spoiled liars when in fact they’re suffering similarly to what victims of physical forms of abuse suffer.

    Additionally, people typically envy kids who are being taught to be narcissists. Even if those people don’t develop into full-on sociopaths (the worst form of narcissism), they won’t have any survival skills. They’ll walk out into the world and expect someone to hand them an allowance, and once the doting parent can’t or won’t provide for them, they’re in deep trouble. That’s not enviable, but that’s how screwed up our society is.

    There are close cultural links between Narcissistic Personality Disorder – the psychiatric problem that classifies most sex offenders and almost definitely your boyfriend – and they lead to a lot of this confusion. It’s… really a big topic, but that’s the oversimplified version.

  40. scarlett says

    I agree with Jen. My ex-fiancee used to come up with such gems as ‘journos (the field I wanted to go into) are all crooks, and you can do so much better than that’ – simultaneously putting me down (I wanted to go into a crooked industry) and elevating me (I was better than that). Whenever I tried to explain it to someone, it sounded like I was complaining that he wanted better for me. There were *dozens* of examples like that – the dyed red hair I preferred was skanky, and I was so much classier than that – which are the MO of emotional abusers. They know how to deliver an insult that comes across as a compliment, or at least makes it difficult to complain that they’re putting you down.

  41. Pearl says

    I still disagree with your basic premise of cause and effect, Jennifer. By your description of abuse, almost every child has been abused. Yet very few women want to rape, and most men don’t rape. I think there is a strategy to that latter fact. Most men don’t rape, which makes rape systematic and kept under the wire. There is a system to it, a politics to it. Families are shaped within this system, and abuse is reflected there. But I don’t think the problem begins with mom and dad. The question should be, “How to end a rape culture.” Families would be one of the many aspects of society that would change in reaching that goal.

  42. says

    Originally Posted By Pearl
    By your description of abuse, almost every child has been abused.

    Uh, no, and how did you get to that conclusion?

    Yet very few women want to rape, and most men don’t rape.

    How does my saying “abuse is what makes someone a rapist” equate to saying “all abused people end up rapists?” As we discussed up thread a bit, it’s believed that about 1 in 8 abused children become abusers.

    But I don’t think the problem begins with mom and dad. The question should be, “How to end a rape culture.” Families would be one of the many aspects of society that would change in reaching that goal.

    Well, it’s not just “[my] basic premise” as you referred to it. I provided a source in the article, and argued up thread why I consider it the best available source, but there are plenty of others that support this premise. I’m aware of nothing in psychiatric literature to support the idea that culture could impact a child’s development more than the people he depends on for food and shelter (who, of course, impart aspects of culture and are affected by culture, so yes, it’s important to change the rape culture, but an egalitarian society will still produce rapists as long as sadistic, compassionless personalities exist). But if you’ve read something I haven’t, I’d love to see it. And if you haven’t, but simply choose to believe a particular theory, that’s your prerogative.

  43. Patrick McGraw says

    The “favored” children in an abusive home are still being abused, still being programmed with beliefs about themselves and their place in the world that may prevent them developing empathy and compassion (without which I would argue one doesn’t experience full humanity, because one can’t connect with others) and put them at risk for becoming criminals – both of which seem to have been the case with this person you’re describing.

    I think the Harry Potter books offer a good example of this. Harry’s adoptive family, the Dursleys, are quite abusive to him but fawn upon their own son Dudley, who becomes quite the spoiled bully. When they finally meet Harry’s teacher Dumbledore, he calls them on both abuses:

    “You have never treated Harry as a son. He has known nothing but neglect and often cruelty at your hands. The best that can be said is that he has at least escaped the appalling damage you have inflicted on the unfortunate boy sitting between you.”

  44. says

    That’s very cool, Patrick. Enough so to make me wonder if I should read those after all.

    BTW, I’ve updated this article with a few edits and a rather large addition at the end. There were points I left out originally for brevity, that in hindsight really needed to be included.

  45. scarlett says

    @ Patrick, that was one of my favorite bits of the series, where Dumbledore calls them on being shit parents whose coddling has been counter-productive.

    @ Jenn JK Rowling is a damn talented writer – the detail to which she’s established the HP universe is incredible – though it’s still problematic. Like, Harry is basically flawless, the tragic hero beset by all these bad guys who want him dead, and a bunch of people who resent his specialness ‘cos they aren’t as special. And of course he kicks all their asses and wins the day each time :p

  46. Patrick McGraw says

    Scarlett: Not to derail the thread, but Harry certainly has his flaws – and much of the plot of book 5 is based on the villain exploiting them.

  47. scarlett says

    That explains a lot. I read the whole thing through several years ago but only got up to book 4 reading it again :p

  48. DragonLord says

    How about the questions –

    Would you have sex with someone who you had just been petting and snuggling with after an enjoyable night, and is now silent and unresponsive beneath you?

    Or how about

    Would you have sex with someone who you had just been petting and snuggling and was showing obvious signs of arousal even though they hadn’t said they were willing to have sex (and may actually be saying no, no, no)?

    IMO another part of teaching people how to not be rapists is to teach them that our bodies come with a set of pre-programmed responses to various stimuli, but those responses are there to make things easier for the body, not for the mind. And just because the body is saying yes doesn’t mean the person your with actually wants sex. (this applies to both sexes, it’s just that the male sex tends to be more able to physically say no, or get out of the situation).

    If you look at survivors support forums/groups this sort of story is fairly common. And it’s this type of rape (that was referred to as grey rape above) that needs the education, as even if it wouldn’t get through a court of law, the impact on the victim is still huge, and on top of that a lot of people will assume that the victim is lying.

    • says

      Actually, Mr. Confused is very often Mr. Entitled in disguise. It’s an apologist myth that consent is so confusing that most boys can hardly be expected to figure out whether they have it. I mean, yes, confusion exists, hence my link to the consent article. But the rapist who simply feels entitled to assume consent whenever he likes is far more common, and often actually makes up for a lot of these so-called “gray rapes.” Many of them commit a number of these “Oh, I’m sorry, I misunderstood” rapes – it’s their MO to get society to think they didn’t really mean any harm. It only becomes apparent when they get caught for one rape and that leads police to five more. All of which he was so gosh-darned confused about.

      So I placed the emphasis exactly where it belonged, because I have actually spent a lot of time reading on this topic and studying it rather than just looking at the world and assuming I know what I’m on about.

      • DragonLord says

        That makes 2 of us, probably for different reasons though, and I haven’t looked at the psychology behind rapists. Which would explain the slightly different takes on the same thing.

        Personally I don’t think that most men are likely to be that confused when in full control of their faculties, and (as you’ve mentioned in another one of your blogs) suggesting that they are is just perpetuating a cycle, however after they have become a little inebriated…

        On the other hand teaching our children that if they are inebriated and there is any doubt what so ever they should stop rather than go ahead would prevent most of the true confusion situations (which is where your article on consent comes in)

        • says

          I’m not convinced alcohol creates legitimate confusion about consent – again, it’s just an excuse. Like driving – people claim they can’t tell when they’re too drunk to drive, but that’s such apologist horseshit. We hold people accountable for figuring out how to avoid drinking and driving. Why not drinking and raping? Because we’re looking for excuses for rape, as a society.

          Basically, I only buy into the notion of confused consent for boys and very young men – say, under 21. And I’m skeptical about it then.

          • DragonLord says

            I’ll go with something like that.

            The only thing that I’d say about alcohol is that it is well documented that it seriously affects judgement, observational ability, dexterity, pain sensitivity, short term memory, and mens ability to have sex. As such I think that people should adopt the BDSM rules for mixing it and play. DON’T, especially in a new relationship situation (anything less than 2 years old I consider a new relationship) where you’re still learning about each other and how you respond, any triggers or buttons you both have, etc.

            On top of that I personally am an equal opportunities kind of guy, if we hold everyone to the same standards of awareness without lowering our standards for anyone (men, women, young or old) then it’s fair on everyone.

  49. says

    To everyone:

    Using an example from DragonLord’s above comment (well, one of the many):

    I haven’t looked at the psychology behind rapists.

    This isn’t an impressive preamble to rebutting a researched article with citations on the topic of the psychology behind rape. I’m mentioning this because I’ve seen a lot of similar remarks around the net since I posted this article and deleted a few from this thread. See, this isn’t an opinion piece where I issue my own semi-founded thoughts, and you rebut with yours. It’s not my opinion at all: it is a conclusion based on and supported by many sources I’ve researched over many years, several of which are cited right there in the article so you can check them yourselves. C’mon, even US public high schools still teach about writing papers based on research, don’t they?

    To rebut a research article’s points without introducing contradictory research or even apparently realizing that perhaps you ought to look into the topic before assuming your opinion counts for something is simply ignorant. It’s like saying, “I haven’t looked into the biology behind seizures, but I think people have seizures because they have demons in them. Little green ones, with horns, wearing blue t-shirts. Your totally imaginary idea that it’s biology and neurochemicals and stuff is just stupid.”

    • ValeriusNaso says

      C’mon, even US public high schools still teach about writing papers based on research, don’t they?

      The concept of finding pertinent sources and citing them? Sure. Why it’s important/has meaning? Not so much. It could be better in other schools though; if i recall correctly, the year I graduated from HS, my school district had the distinction of being the only one in the state to be in both fiscal and academic emergency.

      Though if basic knowledge of the scientific method were more common, this wouldn’t have been such a problem here. A big point of confusion (not just here, but regarding scientific research and non-scientists in general) seems to be a lack of understanding that anecdotal evidence isn’t evidence in scientific research.

      • says

        It’s actually incredibly startling to me how many people (based upon interactions both online and IRL) have a fundamental lack of understanding of science at it’s very basics. Most of the people I have experience with are either highschool or college grads or working through a degree (growing up in a very well-off part of suburban CO and now living in a college town will do that), and yet most except the few friends I have that graduated from a science field really do not understand what “science” is. To the point where they couldn’t tell me what the scientific method is, why science is not comparable to faith, what the difference between a scientific theory and a normal theory are…it makes for those lovely, irritating conversations in which they compare my “faith in science and things like evolution” to their belief in a divine being no one has ever interacted with or proven with falsifiable evidence and testing. Because evolution is a theory, and they have a theory that God exists. (This has nothing to do with either of us being right; just that argument in and of itself drives me up the wall!)

  50. Allie says

    The Other Anne:
    It’s actually incredibly startling to me how many people (based upon interactions both online and IRL) have a fundamental lack of understanding of science at it’s very basics. Most of the people I have experience with are either highschool or college grads or working through a degree (growing up in a very well-off part of suburban CO and now living in a college town will do that), and yet most except the few friends I have that graduated from a science field really do not understand what “science” is. To the point where they couldn’t tell me what the scientific method is, why science is not comparable to faith, what the difference between a scientific theory and a normal theory are…it makes for those lovely, irritating conversations in which they compare my “faith in science and things like evolution” to their belief in a divine being no one has ever interacted with or proven with falsifiable evidence and testing. Because evolution is a theory, and they have a theory that God exists. (This has nothing to do with either of us being right; just that argument in and of itself drives me up the wall!)

    It’s not just a problem of understanding the value of the scientific method. As a biologist I am well versed in its methods, and I wholeheartedly believe in the primacy of unbiased observation over opinion! So I will accept arguments that are based on research, for example, Jennifer Kesler’s writings on this site. But I don’t know how to differentiate GOOD psychology research from unsubstantiated or biased work. In fields other than biology and chemistry, I have very little ability to identify flaws in research. For example, I have to take the word of a physicist that their methods are sound, because I have NO clue what they are talking about most of the time. Any thoughts?

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