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Rape is not a new phenomenon. The act of forcing someone to engage in sex against his or her will dates back many years. However, the motivation behind it has remained a controversy. Though it seems that rapists are after sex, the argument that violence is predominantly behind rape has, in recent times, become a widely held view.

It is estimated that 371 out of 100,000 women will become the victims of rape each year. Incidences can reach as high as one-in-four when attempted rape and coercion are also considered. This number does not take into account rapes that go unreported. The underreporting of this crime is a result of a number of reasons that are related to the ways in which rape is perceived and defined. The definition of rape is very important when asking “Is rape motivated by sex”. If it is defined as one person forcing another into unwanted sexual intercourse with him or her, the idea that sex is the motive, is valid. On the other hand, if it is defined as simply a sexual violation of a person, other behaviors, such as rape with objects, can be taken into account and provide validity to the argument that rape is a crime of violence.

Statement of the Question

“Is Rape Motivated by Sex?”

“Yes” Answers

The need for sex has long been considered a natural human necessity. Human beings have an innate drive to reproduce. Rape has evolved over millennia of human history, along with courtship, sexual attraction and other behaviors related to the production of offspring. In seventeenth – century Holland, women even married their rapists, who sometimes raped the objects of their affection.

Men are more likely to act on these feelings, which is why men rapists outnumber women rapists. Sex is a stronger urge in men. Men typically won’t pass up a chance for sex. It is an urge that is primal. There are occurrences of rape by male animals that include insects, birds, fishes, etc… This is evidence of the biological factor in the need for sex and consequently, rape.

The most common type of rape is acquaintance rape. Acquaintance rape that involves some degree of relationship accounts for between 80% and 90% of all rapes. Rapists whose motives lie in sex, will almost always turn to someone they know rather than rape a stranger. Also, in the rapist’s mind, the rape might be considered a seduction. This suggests that these sexual situations are the result of misunderstandings, rather than a man’s intentional desire to hurt a woman. Here, the issue of gender-roles becomes relevant. For men to fulfill the role expected of them by society, they must be dominant, powerful, sexually aggressive, and able to gain sexual access to reluctant women. According to this theory, rape is seen as an extreme extension of traditional gender roles and male – female sexual interaction, not as deviant or pathological behavior. So, rape is also an extension of the social expectations behind sex.

Rapes appear to have an additional dimension, namely that of feeling entitled to instant gratification and release of sexual energies. Sex is like a luxury because it feels good. It is accessible to people of all socio-economic statuses, ages, and races, and thus the occurrence of rape is frequent. It appears that children and adolescents who have no adult supervision after school, no sporting activities, clubs or political movements, to keep themselves occupied, turn to sex as a stimulant. Adolescent boys flippantly explain why they raped their sisters, cousins or brothers as simply because they wanted to see what sex was like. So, yes, rape is motivated by sex.

“No” Answers

Rape is a crime of violence with some use of genitalia, but the violence is the greater part of it. It is a crime that stigmatizes the victim. Half the victims of rape never fully recover and suffer lifelong chronic depression. This can be likened to the feelings of victims who experienced other violent crimes such as beatings and attempted murder. The perpetrators of these crimes act out of hostility not out of sexual desire. For example, on March 1, 1989, a retarded seventeen- year old girl was gang raped by a group of popular student athletes. Four boys rammed a broomstick, baseball bat, and another stick into into the girl’s vagina, while nine others pulled up folding chairs to witness the action as if they were watching a movie. The motive in this case, as in so many other rape cases was not sex, but violence.

In male prisons, where the majority of men are heterosexual, the occurrence of rape has become widespread and uncontrollable. Imprisoned men can get raped thousands of times. The rapists are usually the men convicted of violent crimes. They rape weaker inmates who become labeled “punks” or sex-slaves. In this way, the bigger inmates receive a status as a tough person. These rapes are violent, frequent, and performed by those with a history of violence. In the cases of inmates murdering other inmates, the victims are raped first. Rape where the status is a theme also, often occurs on college campuses. Since there is very little supervision and plenty of available intoxicating substances, crime of rape is easy to commit and prevalent. A common fraternity initiation requirement is to have sex with a girl at school. This sometimes leads to rape. More importantly, however, sometimes the initiation requirement is not to have sex with a girl at school but to specifically rape a girl at school.

For centuries, rape was seen as a natural byproduct of armed conflict. During wars, rape is an extremely efficient tool. When the women of a community re destroyed, that community is destroyed. Under the 1949 Geneva Conventions, rape is defined as a war crime. This further illustrates the violent nature behind it. When a person says “no” to sex, and the person continues to rape the victim, it becomes an act of deviance and there is opposition and hostility in it. No, rape is not motivated by sex.

Discussion and Conclusion

This paper focused on whether or not rape is motivated by sex. There are arguments that support both sides. The positive answers focused on the idea that because rape is a crime involving sex, sex is the motive. It implies that the desire for sex is rooted in biological, social, and physical causes and because of this; people who cannot gain access to sex through consent must resort to rape. The negative answers focused on the idea that rape is essentially violent because it involves force and the taking of sex from someone who does not want to give it. This can be compared to other crimes, like a mugging. While I can see the logic in the arguments that rape is motivated by sex, I think that it is never motivated by only sex. Furthermore, many times it has nothing to do with sex in general. Rape is a crime and a tool, as shown in some of the examples in the “no” answers.

I can understand the explanation that sex is a natural human need. I do not accept it as an excuse, however. Sexual release can be achieved through other methods, like masturbation. The beauty of two people together sexually comes from their consent and desires to be with each other. I cannot imagine sex being enjoyable with an unwilling partner. This is especially true when force has to be used, as is true in most rape cases.

The argument that rape is an extension of traditional gender roles seems like and exaggeration to justify rape. If all men are under this pressure, why do some men rape while others do not? There is more social pressure to not commit crimes. Also, any roles that men are expected play involving sex are meant for consensual sex. However, I can see where in certain instances an angry person might choose to rape someone, if the desire for sex and anger are coupled.

Children who rape probably act a bit out of mischief and hostility. While children do experiment sexually, happy, well – adjusted children would most likely not want to hurt another child. I would suggest that these children see a therapist to deal with their frustration

Rape scenarios, like the one with the retarded girl, are blatantly not about sex. None of the boys received sexual pleasure from their crime. Instead, they received pleasure from acting out in violence, and degrading and hurting their victim. A good argument is that rape is often used during war to cause disruption in a society. In this way, it is a tool. Here, the penis becomes a weapon, much like a knife. However, instead of only destroying the body, it destroys the mind as well. This use of rape is not motivated by sex.

In conclusion, after reviewing the evidence brought forth by both sides, I believe that while sex might be a co – motivator in some rapes, it is never the sole motivator. The act of rape always has an underlying cause that lies in anger, hostility and violence. No, rape is not motivated by sex.


1. Chng, Chwee Lye. “An assessment of college students’ attitudes and empathy toward rape”. College Student Journal. (December 1999): 10

2. Cowan,Gloria. “Beliefs About the Causes of Four Types of Rape”. Sex Roles: A Journal of Research. (May, 2000): 12

3. Erilich, Lawrence B. “After Silence: Rape and My Journey Back.” JAMA (November 1998):1716

4. Johnson, Rita. “Which Urge is Stronger – Sex or Love?”. Jet. (April 2000): 2

5. Huber, Gill. Donaldson, Marilyn. Robertson, Mary. Hlongweni, Mercy. “Demand for instant gratification an important factor in many rape cases”. Center For the Study of Violence and Reconciliation Commission. Available at http://www.wits.ac.za/wits/csvr/artrape2.htm

6. Larimer, Mary E. “Male and Female Recipients of Unwanted Sexual Contact in a College Student Sample: Prevalence rates, alcohol use, and depression symptoms”. Sex Roles: A Journal of Research (February 1999):10

7. Lehrer, Eli. “Hell Behind Bars: The crime that dare not speak it’s name.” National Review. (February 2001) 3.

8. Pino, Nathan W. “Gender Differences in Rape Reporting”. Sex Roles: A Journal of Research. (June 1999): 10

9. Salaam, Kiini Ibura. “Navigationg to No!”. Essence. (April 2000): 5

10. Sevicik, Kim. “These Women Were All Raped”. Marie Claire. (March 2001):128.

11. Simonson, Kelly. “Rape perception as a function of gender – role traditionality and victim – perpetrator association”. Sex Roles: A Journal of Research. (April 1999):12

12. Tanenbaum, Leora. “Boys Will Be Boys”. Women’s Review of Books. (October 1997):

13. Thornhill, Randy. “Why Men Rape”. Sciences. (January 2000): 9

14. Von Der Heijden, Manon. “Women as victims of sexual and domestic violence in seventeenth – century Holland: criminal cases of rape, incest, and maltreatment in Rotterdam and Delft”. Journal of Social History. (Spring 2000) 21

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