public discussion of rape based on ignorance, bigotry & superstition

flat earth diagram of medieval understanding

High-quality, nationally representative survey data indicate that rape of men is about as prevalent as rape of women. Moreover, under current understandings of rape, women rape men about as often as men rape women. At the same time, criminal justice systems are highly biased toward punishing men. That produces a stark gender inequality. On any give day around the world, about fifteen times more men than women are sitting behind bars as prisoners of authoritative criminal justice systems. When is the last time you heard any public concern about that life-destroying gender inequality?

While important, largely untold facts about rape aren’t difficult to learn, contemporary public discussion of rape is mainly based on ignorance, bigotry, and superstition. A recent scholarly study declared:

Contemporary understandings of sexual victimization have been informed by the reality that men’s sexual violence toward women was ignored for centuries and remains dangerously well tolerated in many regions of the world. [1]

In reality, claims that a man committed sexual violence upon a women have been taken with deadly seriousness throughout history. Roman men, and subsequent historians, accepted Lucretia’s claim of rape without questioning. Lucretia’s claim of rape reportedly generated a bloody war and led to the founding of the Roman Republic. The ancient lives of saints Eugenia and Marina show that accusations that a man raped a woman were extremely damaging for the accused. Around the world and throughout history (except for recent decades), false accusations of rape have been a matter of intense concern. If men’s sexual violence toward women was historically ignored, historical concern about false accusations of men’s sexual violence toward women makes no sense. Belief that “men’s sexual violence toward women was ignored for centuries” reflects ignorance, bigotry, and superstition among scholars studying sexual violence today.

Pressure to honor orthodox dogma produces astonishing intellectual contortions in studying rape and sexual violence. A study of female perpetration of sexual violence declared:

While in no way seeking to minimize the very real phenomenon of male perpetration, we examine female perpetration so as to explore the gender dynamics at play and to understand sexual victimization more fully. In so doing, we argue that new attention to female sexual perpetration serves important feminist goals. [2]

In order to be well-regarded, scholarly work today must strive to serve feminist goals. In fact, the very real phenomenon of female perpetration has been much more commonly minimized than that of male perpetration. This study itself referred to “professionals & a culture of denial”:

Perhaps even more troubling than misperceptions concerning female perpetration among the general population are misperceptions held by professionals responsible for addressing the problem. Female perpetration is downplayed by those in fields such as mental health, social work, public health, and law [3]

One means of downplaying female perpetration is playing up female excuses. This study advocated research that “attends to women’s past victimization issues” and urged “taking into account the troubled background many such women possess.”[4] In studying men perpetrators of sexual violence, no equal concern is shown for those men’s past victimization issues and the troubled background of those men. Not surprisingly, the study called for “feminist approaches” to studying female perpetration.[5]

Scholarly ignorance, bigotry, and superstition constrains understanding of sexual violence. Within the mass of thoroughly anti-men gender-bigoted scholarship relating to criminal justice, one can find a rare nugget of good reason:

We conclude by recommending that public health and policy responses embrace a new, gender inclusive response to sexual victimization. This ought to entail, among other things, the attention of healthcare and criminal justice professionals to the reality of female perpetration, the inclusion of inmates in our national conversation about sexual victimization, and an expanded research agenda to study sexual victimization more comprehensively. [6]

Providing more funding for established scholars to pursue “an expanded research agenda to study sexual victimization more comprehensively” isn’t necessary. The public response to sexual victimization should reject gender bigotry, recognize the reality of female perpetrators, and include inmates, who are vastly disproportionately men. Rejecting ignorance, bigotry, and superstition isn’t a matter of doing more research under current scholarly incentives. Embracing truth and good reason requires a new commitment to enlightenment.[7]

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Read more:


[1] Stemple, Flores & Meyer (2017) p. 303. A nearly identical claim occurs in Stemple & Meyer (2014) p. e19. For discussion of the latter, see my post on rape of men.

Although about four times more men die from violence than do women, the international elite has prioritized violence against women:

For the last few decades, the prevailing approach to sexual violence in international human rights instruments has focused virtually exclusively on the abuse of women and girls. … There are well over one hundred uses of the term “violence against women” — defined to include sexual violence — in U.N. resolutions, treaties, general comments, and consensus documents. No human rights instruments explicitly address violence against men. … another term employed in human rights instruments dozens of times, “gender-based violence,” might reasonably be thought to include both males and females. … {however, } “gender-based violence” is used only to describe female victimization, thereby leaving no room for much-needed gender analysis of male rape.

Stemple (2009) pp. 605, 619. For related analysis, Stemple (2011).

[2] Stemple, Flores & Meyer (2017) p. 303. Stemple elsewhere explains that “neglecting male rape is bad for women and girls.” Stemple (2009) p. 606. Stemple, Flores & Meyer (2017) shows further concern to be consistent with the dominant ideology:

A focus on female perpetration might be skeptically viewed as an attempt to upend a women’s rights agenda focused on male-perpetrated sexual victimization. But attention to female perpetration need not negate concern about other forms of abuse. Moreover, a close look a sexual victimization perpetrated by women is consistent with feminist imperatives to undertake intersectional analyses, to take into account power relations, and to question gender-based stereotypes, as we explain.

Id. See also id. p. 309. This article doesn’t consider that it might be skeptically viewed as attempting to forestall thorough, deconstructive critique of the dominant ideology’s anti-men gender bigotry.

[3] Stemple, Flores & Meyer (2017) p. 309. A section heading in the article is “6. Professionals & a culture of denial.”

[4] Stemple, Flores & Meyer (2017) p. 309. The study declared, “female perpetration is frequently intertwined with women’s past experience of their own victimization.” Id. p. 304. It also urged “taking account of issues specific to lesbian and bisexual women,” thus excluding gay and bisexual men. Id. p. 309.

[5] Stemple, Flores & Meyer (2017) p. 309.

[6] Id. p. 303. The actual conclusion inserts excuses for female perpetration. See id. p. 309 and discussion above. Popular media has treated as stunningly revelatory Stemple’s reporting that women and men commit sexual violence in roughly equal proportions. What’s actually extraordinary is that a legal scholar has acknowledged that truth, even while striving to avoid undermining the dominant ideology.

[7] Lack of commitment to truth and good reason makes much scholarly literature on rape and sexual violence an ugly spectacle. Scholars have almost always lacked the courage to describe honestly the problem. Consider:

In 1975, Susan Brownmiller famously described rape as “nothing more or less than a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear.” With the might and imprecision of a sledgehammer, Brownmiller’s words forced sex and gender to the center of the rape discussion. This perspective, usefully provocative in its era, reads today as an unreasonable generalization, particularly the author’s accusation that all men consciously use rape to intimidate. By creating a perpetrator class of men, Brownmiller dangerously sets up men as implausible victims.

Stemple (2009) p. 634 (internal footnotes omitted), citing Brownmiller (1975) p. 15. Underscoring her equivocal appreciation for Brownmiller’s work, Stemple credits Brownmiller with concern for male prisoner rape, but comments, “her claims strike me as dated {sic} and unreasonable.” Id. p. 634, notes 240, 241. Brownmiller’s claims are more honestly described as false, sexist, and hateful toward men. Nonetheless, Brownmiller’s claims became famous and enormously influential. They have contributed to expanding the criminalization of men seeking women’s love.

[image] Depiction (Flammarion engraving) imagining medieval view of a flat earth. From Flammarion (1888) p. 163. Image thanks to Wikimedia Commons. Here’s a colored version.

The caption under the engraving states in English translation: “A missionary of the Middle Ages tells that he had found the point where the sky and the Earth touch.” The engraving itself dates to no earlier than the late eighteenth century. Since the 5th century BGC, learned persons, including those in medieval Europe, have recognized that the earth is spherical. See note [7] and associated text in my post “earth’s a square, heaven a circle.”


Brownmiller, Susan. 1975. Against our will: Men, women and rape. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.

Flammarion, Camille. 1888. L’atmosphère: météorologie populaire {The Atmosphere: Popular Meteorology}. Paris: Librairie Hachette.

Stemple, Lara. 2009. “Male Rape and Human Rights.” Hastings Law Journal. 60 (3): 605-646.

Stemple, Lara. 2011. “Human Rights, Sex, and Gender: Limits in Theory and Practice.” Pace Law Review. 31 (3): 824-836.

Stemple, Lara, and Ilan H. Meyer. 2014. “The Sexual Victimization of Men in America: New Data Challenge Old Assumptions.” American Journal of Public Health. 104 (6): e19-e26.

Stemple, Lara, Andrew Flores, and Ilan H Meyer. 2017. “Sexual victimization perpetrated by women: Federal data reveal surprising prevalence.” Aggression and Violent Behavior. 34: 302-311.

36 thoughts on “public discussion of rape based on ignorance, bigotry & superstition”

  1. It is a little known fact that after the fall of the Salarian Gate in 410 AD and the subsequent breakdown of civilization in Europe and the descent into the Dark Ages; the concept of a “criminal code” was not terribly pervasive in many locales on the Continent.
    However, after Britain began to re-civilize this part of the world subsequent to the Norman Conquest, a so-called English Common Law began to evolve. The crime of rape was never originally deemed as a crime of violence or assault; but rather a THEFT…of exactly what you would think it would be…a theft of a woman’s virginity.
    In My view this was an absurd interpretation of what is clearly a physical assault; but things were obviously a little different back then.

  2. Knowledge is basically confined to experience. The Laws of Nature are really nothing more than the laws of our mind.

    Opinions have even less grounding in reality and Truth than the Laws of Nature. Since all opinions are subjective and all subjectivity has its roots in “it all depends on whose ox is gored” or “how does this benefit me”; absolutely nothing can lay claim to being the “correct, right way” to approach a problem.

    I will give Susan Brownmiller credit: She had an opinion; and now practically all of the Western world marches in lock step to the theories and edicts she promulgated in her 1975 book. That is pretty much unprecedented in recent history…the last person to exert so much influence on law and culture was probably Cicero in Ancient Rome…I think he had a bit more impressive pedigree than Miss Brownmiller.

  3. The Daughter of the Living Goddess and the Princess of the Universe wrote:

    …the last person to exert so much influence on law and culture was probably Cicero in Ancient Rome

    Well, I guess you could throw Christ in…but He wasn’t really a “person”.

  4. If you think I engage in hyperbole, Mohammed and Luther may have founded religions; but Brownmiller revolutionized the relationship between men and women; not just impacting the mere criminal code; but causing the marriage rate to plummet to all time lows due to the unbridgeable schism between the sexes that she fomented. Countless marriages never took place and even more children were never born due to her charming commentary; a book whose impact probably far exceeded any expectations she might have held for it at the time of publication.

  5. There was an elderly weather man in NYC back in the 1970’s by the name of Tex Antoine who, after a news broadcast about a sexual assault, made a rather clumsy remark about “laying back and enjoying it”. Unquestionably a stupid and insensitive remark; and I believe he was justifiably relieved of his meteorological position immediately thereafter.
    However, IIRC, this one little incident marked the BEGINNING of a culture that, 40 or so years later, has devolved into an Orwellian nightmare as far as constraints on freedom of speech with regards to ANYTHING even remotely “sexist” or “racist”.

  6. Always remember that being a “racist” or a “sexist” is The New Heresy; the Great Sin…equivalent to being a non-believer or witch during the Age of the Inquisition; only the penalties are usually financial (destruction of your career) rather than physical torture or confinement.

  7. Of course one can never be racist towards whites; or sexist towards men; so white men definitely get the Double Whammy!

  8. Truth be told, white men once *did* have considerable privilege in this society; and they guarded it with the care that a drunk guards his wallet.
    I cannot think of another demographic in history that even comes close to so brilliantly sowing the seeds of their own destruction.

  9. There is a lesson here; compassion *is* the vice of kings; as is conciliation.
    When you have your foot on a snake; you crush it.
    Bautista let Castro out of jail; shortly thereafter Castro forced Bautista out of Cuba.

  10. John Milton (the Al Pacino version) was right!

    “These people, it’s no mystery where they come from. You sharpen the human appetite to the point where it can split atoms with its desire, you build egos the size of cathedrals, fiber-optically connect the world to every eager impulse, grease even the dullest dreams with these dollar-green, gold plated fantasies until every human becomes an aspiring emperor, becomes his own god, and where can you go from there? And as we’re scrambling from one deal to the next, who’s got his eye on the planet? As the air thickens, the water sours, and even the bees honey takes on the metallic taste of radioactivity. And it just keeps coming, faster and faster. There’s no chance to think, to prepare. It’s buy futures, sell futures, when there is no future! We got a runaway train…”

  11. I just was going through My evening reading of the news, and noted that some college football player in the Memphis, TN area was just charged with rape.

    He is a black male…and he has been remanded to the county jail; I assume awaiting arraignment and potentially for the judge to set bail.

    Some may think I am a little “soft on crime” by reading My comments; but that is not really the case.

    I have never said that there are not plenty of truly monstrous people out there who prey on the innocent and deserve a lengthy incarceration; both as retribution and to protect society.

    But I concurrently believe that the Bill of Rights must be enforced and we cannot just rid ourselves of our majestic constitutional guarantees when they suit us. The enforcement and intention of justice requires a balancing act…between upholding the rights of the accused while still making sure that the laws of the State are enforced and victims are protected from the wicked. It is not now nor has it ever been an easy task.

    One side note; I noticed that a whopping 87 people were booked into the Tennessee jail just today alone! Almost all were black; and it seemed from the list that there were more black females booked than white males!

    Though males may well be 2nd class citizens to females nowadays; the culture very much still treats blacks as 2nd class citizens to whites.

    Am I saying that everyone booked today was innocent? Of course not. But when the black male to white female ratio in American prisons is 60:1; you know there has to be *some* incongruity there…

  12. “While important, largely untold facts about rape aren’t difficult to learn, contemporary public discussion of rape is mainly based on ignorance, bigotry, and superstition. A recent scholarly study declared:”
    I suppose there are enumerable perspectives one could discuss or occupy regarding rape, but “ignorance, bigotry, and superstition” seem to imply a certain developmental innocence or even unintended naiveté.

    Occupying an equidistance from polarized bias seems to be a scholarly method of expressing political intent; particularly if you err consistently on the side of malice. Intent removes the implication of innocence and naiveté along with any implication of being scholarly. (just sayin)

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