The misogyny prevalent amongst a lot of Muslim males is something that is cause for worry. When I was a Muslim I use to harbor such views myself. The degrading belief that hijab protects a women from sexual assault. That girls who were not dressed properly were ‘asking’ for it. In reality it was simply my ignorance on the matter since I had not once picked up a scientific journal on the mindset on rapists nor had I read any peer reviewed journals or picked up books about sexual assault, its nature and the survivors.
It wasn’t until I released myself from the chains that constrained me to Sunnism that I took a deep interest in women’s rights and it wasn’t until I started studying psychology and a bit of law that I got a first taste of how wrong I had been. All in all I felt I had abominated my own sex and I still cringe at some of the defenses I used for wearing the hijab. I thought it necessary to go through these things because I continuously receive a lot of comments from Muslim men who keep insisting that women are raped a lot in the West due to the way they dress. I write this more importantly because I am a victim of sexual assault myself and I use to wear the hijab along with an abayar. That was how ardently I was covered before the assault happened.
But this is not an attack on Islam and Muslims. This blog (and future blogs) is to basically explain the whole concept of sexual assault in general mainly from an evolutionary perspective. Because quite frankly sexual assault is not about what you wear, how you act or what you do. You just happen to be the particular choice for the rapist, covered or not.
Rape is not found in our species alone. Various studies on insects and animals have found that the males that fail to be able to find themselves willing females to copulate with, resort to rape in order to pass on their genes. Such studies have been conducted on insects like the Scorpianflies who are unable to attract females. They possess a special mechanism that allows them to rape called the notal organ.
Similarly Orangutan males will rape their female counter parts should they fail to find a willing mate. Since Orangutans unlike other monkeys do not tend to live in groups, females aren’t as ‘safe’ from assaults. Such animalistic sexual assaults are found to be quite common amongst the populations. While humans bring about other reasons for sexual assault such as social upbringing, drugs, alcohol, insanity, personality etc. it may be that sexual assault has an evolutionary basis. For lack of a better word-rape is the product of a specific psychosomatic adaptation.
How then does this apply to humans? To sum it up, it is a subconscious need to spread genes. Hence studies have found that men tend to rape young women who are exceptionally fertile. Particularly women in their twenties. While women of all classes, ages, looks, religions etc. are raped, a lot of women in terms of attractiveness (covered or not) and youth are the more likely to be victims (Note: Attractiveness here does not mean women who are beautiful, but instead possess certain physical and social qualities as well as social circumstances).
Interestingly these studies also found that males from low economic statuses tended to be more likely to rape as well as males that lacked attractive face and body proportions. However unlike the Scorpionfly with its notal organ, rape adapting males may possess a psychological instrument in their cognizance that is their weapon and excuse for sexual assault. Nonetheless psychologists have split rapists up into different groups based on psychological mindsets.
Destitute men who resort to sexual assault because they can’t find willing ‘mates,’ specialized rapists who are aroused by sexual viciousness, opportunist rapists, controlling and psychopathic men and spouse rapists driven by the peril of sperm competition. What is interesting about the opportunist rapist is that they will resort to rape when ramifications from society, victim, victim’s family and law are quite low hence there is a lot of sexual assaults during war or in places that are war torn, lack proper law enforcement or are in anarchy.
While this is primarily based on evolutionary psychology, we can still look at things from a social and physical context how humans unlike animals do not have an excuse to rape despite evolutionary subconscious cognitive functions.
Is rape really caused by an overwhelming uncontrollable need for sexual fulfillment? No. Not at all. Sexual assault is an act of reprehensible physical violence and clearly is not motivated by the need for sex even by evolutionary standards as outlined above. What about a man’s lust? Men do not need to physically have sex after such arousal and are quite competently able to exercise control. If not, then women in relationships would be themselves having a lot of problems.
But does that mean men select their victims by their physical appearance? The truth is rapists select their victims by how susceptible and accessible they are. Attractiveness (in terms of looks in this context) isn’t much of an issue accept that by evolutionary perspectives, choices may usually be young based on fertility. Although plenty of children and elderly women are raped.
However this all brings me back to the main concern at hand. The fact that hijab has been used as the perfect social tool to scare women into submission using the fear of rape. Lack of clothing has also become a social tool for men to class women into groups of ‘good’ and ‘bad.’ Clothing doesn’t prevent sexual assault once a rapist sets his sights upon you. As stated earlier, the victim’s vulnerability is the key target. In future blogs I will cover the different types of rapists and eventually society’s inclination to support rape myths.
Main peer reviewed journals:
William F. McKibbin, Todd K. Shackelford, Aaron T. Goetz, and Valerie G. Starratt (2008) Why do men rape? An Evolutionary Perspective, Review of General Psychology 12, 86-97
Additional reviewed journals:
Bergen, R. K., & Bukovec, P. (2006). Men and intimate partner rape: Characteristics of men whosexually abuse their partner. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 21, 1375–1384.
Buss, D. M. (1994). The strategies of human mating. American Scientist, 82, 238–249.
Christopher, F. S., Owens, L. A., & Stecker, H. L. (1993). Exploring the dark side of courtship: A test of a model of male premarital sexual aggressiveness. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 55, 469–479.
Dean, K. E., & Malamuth, N. M. (1997). Characteristics of men who aggress sexually and men who imagine aggressing: Risk and moderating variables. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 72, 449–455.
Kalichman, S. C., Williams, E. A., Cherry, C., Belcher, L., & Nachimson, D. (1998). Sexual coercion, domestic violence, and negotiating condom
use among low-income African American women. Journal of Women’s Health, 7, 371–378.
Kanin, E.J. (1957). Male aggression in dating-courtship relations. American Journal of Sociology, 63, 197-204.
Hall, G. C. N., Shondrick, D. D., & Hirschman, R. (1993). The role of sexual arousal in sexually aggressive behavior: A meta-analysis. Journal of
Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 61, 1091–1095.