My Son, The Rapist

Some evolutionary psychologists, perhaps inspired by the Serbian rape camps, have treated rape as a rational reproductive strategy. One line of feminist counter-attack is to point out that when rapists murder their victim, as they so often do, there is no evolutionary payoff at all. This is perfectly true, but fails to ask whether the victim is being murdered for the perpetrator’s satisfaction or solely to prevent her testifying to a law enforcement agency – something that on the evolutionary time-scale is a very recent innovation, and something that the Serbs were not expecting to face. It also assumes that there is only one kind of rape and therefore only one kind of motivation.

If the reproductive-strategy theory of non-homicidal rape, as in the Serbian camps, is valid, then we should expect the mothers and sisters of the rapists to have cheered them on; because then the genes they share with their sons and brothers would be maximally disseminated. I have no idea whether the mothers and sisters did so, nor whether anyone has tried to find out. I expect that no one has dared.

We do, however, have an earlier datapoint. According to Anthony Beevor’s The Downfall about the fall of Berlin in 1945, the many female soldiers serving in the Red Army generally approved of their male comrades’ raping the German women. Given that one in every three residents of European Russia died at the hands of the Germans, and in the occupied areas one in every two, the women of the Red Army may have felt that the oppression of women by men generally was not in fact the only thing happening in the universe, or even the most important. Or perhaps they were exemplifying the socio-biological explanation, I do not see how we can tell at this distance.

Posted on September 13, 2011 at 10:27 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: ON PC; OR "WHAT WOULD MS. GRUNDY SAY?", All Men Are Rapists?

4 Responses

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  1. Written by urban
    on September 13, 2011 at 16:55
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    “Some evolutionary psychologists, perhaps inspired by the Serbian rape camps, have treated rape as a rational reproductive strategy.”

    That rape often triggers ovulation out-of-cycle is powerful, if complex, support for that approach. Funny how the dogmatic male-haters never want to talk biology.

    The fact remains that war and the mass rape that ensues is the great diversifier of gene pools. Alexander the Great maintained discipline among his troops and suppressed rape. He took a more ‘rational’ approach to gene-pool diversification, marrying his officers to Persian noblewomen and so on.

    Alexander’s blood line ended in the next generation. Genghis Khan has many millions of descendants all over the world. Which one was pursuing the rational reproductive strategy?

  2. Written by Grinebiter
    on September 13, 2011 at 19:54
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    I think you’re overdoing it with this comparison. For one thing, Alexander’s suppression of rape on the part of his troops had nothing to do with whether his own bloodline continued. That might have been something to do with the facts that he was (a) a drunk and (b) just wasn’t that into women. And of course things like sperm quality after that.

    Moreover, I don’t know that Temüjin did any raping personally. He took lots of subordinate wives, as all big men did in those parts. If these were from the conquered nations, then he was an integrationist of the same kind as your Alexander. So I don’t see how your contrast works.

    Yet again, I’m not sure that this integration is much to do with an intention to diversify the gene pool. The immediate purpose of making marriage alliances with factions of the conquered is to keep your throat uncut.

    There’s no doubt that if you want to have millions of descendants, it helps to be both a virile heterosexual and a world-conqueror. If the latter condition is fulfilled as well as the first, they’ll come to you — because it works both ways, the women will want to get into your gene-pool. My son, the conqueror’s heir apparent! Harem politics, nasty stuff.

    The emperor of China had to do his principal wife for one week, then the four subordinate wives the next week, and his couple of dozen concubines the third week, until the poor guy was squeezed dry. Why? All the wives’ and concubines’ families wanted his get, and he had no say in the matter.

  3. Written by dwasifar
    on September 14, 2011 at 08:01
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    I think that once you have rationally decided to kill your victim to ensure her silence, you can no longer call what you have done a “rational” reproductive strategy.

  4. Written by Hugo Grinebiter
    on September 14, 2011 at 09:39
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    When we talk about rational reproductive strategies, we mean strategies that work and are so rational from the PoV of an observer. The exercise of reason by the subject doesn’t come into it. Of course rape-and-murder does not work as a reproductive strategy; it is the same sort of conflict of motivations that tripped up HAL (who was a pretty rational chap). But this argument doesn’t show that rape-as-strategy never worked in our past.

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