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October 09, 2003


Easterblog takes on the Kobe case and notes that "No" doesn't always mean "No"(?). Rape is a bizarre confluence of law, society & biology. When Randy Thornhill & Craig Palmer wrote A Natural History of Rape the reaction was not proportional to the strength or weakness of their thesis, rather, the issue because intertwined in is vs. ought issues (as I like to say, there ain't any "versus," the two can be pried apart if you have a little will and let your emotions calm down)[1]. To step into cultural issues, I had a close friend who was trying to learn Spanish and so was proactive in making the acquaintance of local men of Latin American origins (she was planning on going to Cuba, which she later did). One problem she noted was that it was difficult for them to understand that when she said sbe wasn't interested, it actually meant she wasn't interested. One of the men, a friend, explained that in Mexico "good girls" automatically say "No" to any advance and that a man must be presistent to show that he is sincere and serious about her. So my friend's first or second protestations were just ignored by him, and so by the third advance, while she was getting irritated, he was assuming that the courtship was just proceeding along its normal trajectory. Taking the case even further, I once took a class in college (to satisfy the "Multiculturalism" requirement) that discussed the differences between the newly arrived Turks and Germans in their attitudes toward sexual relations and consent. No surprisingly the Turkish men committed many rapes because of total ignorance of local mores.

Back to the United States, I suggest Dahlia Lithwicks piece in Slate, Rape Nuts, to show the schizophrenia of our laws. I point to the above dissents in biology and sociology from the conventional paradigm of free will, equality before the law, and gender equity to suggest that our history shapes our perception and reaction to rape, and that our legal framework, informed by abstractions, is a mess because of the unrealities that it assumes as the norm.

fn1. The fact that small orangutan males rape females is generally shocking to most Americans when it is noted on nature shows-I suspect far more shocking than when a predator consumes a prey animal.

Posted by razib at 11:53 AM


Also, I suspect you meant 'far more shocking' rather than 'far less shocking' in your footnote, but can't be sure.

Posted by: bbartlog at October 9, 2003 01:52 PM

Why does anyone think that Kobe Bryant did it? I mean, if I go to Microsoft headquarters, and say Bill Gates mugged me, would you believe it? I was there, he was there. But, what Gates has all that money? he wouldn't care about the $20 in my wallet?(I'm exagerating, I don't have 20 bucks) My guess is that its the same for Kobe Bryant and sex, he doesn't need to steal it, he gets plenty. The whole world is probably Bryant's sex-ATM.
I think that so many people despised the Natural History of Rape because Thornhill and Palmer argued that a rapists desire is for sex, not for power, as feminists assert. I'm sure women don't think rape is sex, on the idea that sex is fun, but being raped is horrible. So rape doesn't feel like sex.
But that meme could be very bad. I think they brought it up in the book, but if they didn't: I'm fooling around with a girl, I want to have sex she doesn't. I say to myself "I'm not raping her, because rape is about power, but I don't want to hurt her, or dominate her, or express my patriarchal desire for power, all I want is sex. So it is not rape."
Thornhill and Palmer made the distinction between goal(sex) and strategy(how to get goal) lots of people won't appreciate that.
One thing that T&P didn't mention, but that bears mentioning on using a biological understanding of behavior, since rapist don't, from an evolutionary perspective "want" to kill the victim, a death penalty for rape would not result in rape victims being murdered.

Posted by: rob at October 9, 2003 01:52 PM

Regarding "no" meaning "no"--an elementary exercise in any acting class is saying "yes" to mean "no" and "no" to mean "yes"--and then vice versa. It amazes me that so many actresses nowadays are VM-type feminists who deny that a word can indeed mean its opposite.

Hey Yehudit, are you reading this?

Posted by: Diana at October 9, 2003 01:57 PM

The 'it's like Bill Gates trying to mug me' analogy is a bad one - people don't have a built-in desire for money as they do for sex. Kobe could certainly have wanted sex with that particular woman, right then, irrespective of how many other sex partners might have been available to him later.
I would guess that the evidence against Kobe is unlikely to put his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, so I expect him to walk.

Posted by: bbartlog at October 9, 2003 02:02 PM

thanks bbart.

Posted by: razib at October 9, 2003 02:25 PM

Speaking of Dahlia Lithwick, she unfavorably responded to Easterbrook a few days ago at Slate. This whole debate about what the women ought to say to stop the sex seems to miss what, to me, is the much greater problem: How does anyone prove what was said, anyhow??

I mean whatever the legal 'codeword' is, both parties have the ability to lie about it being said or not.

One time an ex-roommate of mine forged my name on a stolen check for a rather large amount of money. It was then, dealing with the local police and detectives, that I realized how ridiculously imprecise the law was. After months of dealing with moronic authorities, my ex-roommate finally caved and gave me the money back, begging me not to press charges. Frankly, if I were him, it almost would have made sense not to worry at all.

Yesterday, my new roommate came back from her new boyfriend's house with bruises and bite-marks all over (visible) body, and a big smile on her face.

Experiences like the above make me cynical. How are we supposed to know real rape? Psychiatric evaluations? Is there an actual science to our laws, or are people suffering huge consequences over what amounts to some kind of game of hunches, and whether social attitudes happen to deam it more fashionable to take more stock in the word of men or take more stock in the word of women?

Posted by: Jason M. at October 12, 2003 10:45 PM

A women's point of view: men like Kobe who can have most women they go after tend to become angry and more determined when you say no.

Posted by: sniffin' sue at October 13, 2003 10:28 AM