Monday, December 8, 2008

Male Dominance Causes Rape

"Rape is not a natural act for men. A study by anthropologist Peggy Reeves Sanday found that in cultures with a high incidence of rapes, the economic, religious, and political structures are controlled by men. In Sanday's study of 44 societies that were not patriarchal, there was virtually no rape" (

The evidence shows that male dominance causes rape. Men dominate women in our society politically, economically and socially, thus we suffer rape. I read one of Sanday's books about a gender equal society: the Minangkabau. The book called Women at the Center describes the Minangkabau society where women have as much power as men ( Sanday lived with the Minangkabau for many years all summer each year and though she did a thorough investigation she found no rape and no domestic violence. There is division of labor so that women dominate some power centers and men dominate other power centers. For example, Minangkabau women inherit all property and have more economic power than men. But overall there is roughly equal gender power. Sanday said the people are very nice and the men are nurturing like women. Sanday wrote two books about rape so she's an expert (Fraternity Gang Rape: Sex, Brotherhood, and Privilege on Campus, A Woman Scorned: Acquaintance Rape on Trial). She says what motivated her to write about rape was the amazing difference she saw in the way women were treated in the gender equal societies versus the way women were treated in the United States. Her studies document that rape is a problem when men dominate women in society. Thus, to end rape it is necessary to end male domination. The Minangkabau people view rape as the ultimate evil and have structured their society in a way to prevent it. We must restructure our society to put women at top levels of leadership in order for us to have gender equality to end rape.

It is important to note that in order to eliminate rape it is not necessary to achieve gender equality in all spheres of life, but it's necessary that women have equal power as men overall. The key word: overall. For example women can dominate a powerful sphere and men can dominate another equally powerful sphere so that overall women and men have equal power. Currently, men dominate all three major spheres: 1) political, 2) economic and 3) social (religion, arts, media, etc.) Because of that women must strive for 50% equality in all three spheres. The result of the striving is we will eventually have 50% of the power in one sphere. At that point women may dominate that sphere and continue to make gains until the point where the sectors that men dominate will equal in power to the sectors that women dominate. Or, we have the option of 50% power across the board in all spheres.

Researchers all over the world documented that male dominance encourages men to rape. Bernard Lefkowitz in his book about the rape of a handicapped girl in the affluent suburb of Glen Ridge documented the community's male dominance and said the rape and the community's general decision to support the rapists instead of the victim "reflected the values embedded in the larger culture." Those values are that men should dominate women. Anneka Van Woudenberg, senior Congo researcher at Human Rights Watch who has documented the recent increase of military rape in the Congo where in some villages as many as 90% of women have been raped, explains that the rapes are about power: "This is not rape because soldiers have got bored and have nothing to do. It is a way to ensure that communities accept the power and authority of that particular armed group. This is about showing terror." Dr. Denis Mukwege, the director of Panzi Hospital in Eastern Congo, says of the rapes: "Sex is being used to commit evil" (CBS, War Against Women, Jan. 13, 2008,