Cognition & Reality

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Alchohol And Unwanted Sexual Advances

Filed under: Date Rape,Propaganda — drtone @ 11:52 am

Forgive me, dear readers, but I seem to be stuck on the subject of  date rape.


The article at the above link purports to present an account of the inhibitory effects of alcohol on the ability of young women to resist a series of sexual advances culminating in a “rape threat.” I have read literally thousands of psychology articles and I have to say that this is among the worst I have ever seen in a refereed journal. Rather than being a serious effort at social science, it is a piece of propaganda freighted with a mass of hidden assumptions, many of which are false.

To investigate the effect of alcohol on the ability of young women to resist a man’s sexual advances, the investigators used a vignette  (a story) describing, in the second person, an escalating series of sexual advances, culminating in a “rape threat.” The first thing that is wrong with the article is that it never specifies the form of this “threat.” It’s pretty obvious that most young women, drunk or sober, confronted with a story in which they themselves are described as being explicitly threatened with rape, would state that they would resist such a threat. For that reason alone, it was important for the authors to provide the text of the vignette. They did not do so, but that is not the worst thing about the article.

The worst thing is that the use of the vignette licenses both the authors and the subjects to pretend that the events described in the vignette would not, in real life, be an interaction involving two people. In the story, the man kisses the young woman (referred to as “you…”) and fondles her breasts, then he fondles her genitals and asks for sex, and then he issues the “rape threat.” As far as we can tell from the description of the vignette, it presupposes that man is becoming sexually excited, but doesn’t suppose the same thing about the woman. Let me just say that I’ve been fondling females for going on 50 years and (stipulating that female body parts are nice to touch) the main thing that makes that fondling of sufficient interest to continue  is the positive sexual response of the woman.

Although I’m sure that there are many men who indiscriminately grope women, in the “dating situation” described, it is absurd to ignore the high likelihood that the young woman would be responding sexually, at least partly explaining her continuing implicit or explicit consent to the young man’s advances. To put it another way, a guy who would continue to engage in genital fondling that was not arousing his partner is a guy who is going to have a hard time getting laid. Ever. If that were what was going on in the real life situation the vignette supposedly represents, it would be no surprise that the young woman tries to shut the poor schmuck down, rape threat or no.

For all their talk of subjects’ “high level of conflict” and “low level of conflict,” the authors leave out the principal source of conflict for a young woman who has a man’s hand between her legs. In what must be a high proportion of such encounters, she’s liking it that his hand is there and her level of sexual excitement is commensurate with her letting him continue the highly intimate act of fondling her vagina. He can feel her excitement, both implicitly and explicitly, and keeps on doing what he’s doing until someone wants to change position. In real life, she might have her hand on his ass or his crotch. For a variety of reasons, probably including the investigators’ concern for the feminine delicacy of their subjects, as well as their lack of concern for anything resembling verisimilitude, those elements do not seem to have made it into the vignette.

Therefore, when the investigators cite the effect of alcohol in explaining subjects’ description of a “passive” response to a man’s aggressive advances, they are in the world of make-believe. News flash: Sex is not all about a man satisfying his gross desires on a passive female, which would be rape. I’m going to go out on a limb to say that most sexual encounters begin just as the vignette suggests, except that they are events in which both partners participate. I’m going out on another limb to say that, in many sexual encounters that end in fucking, at least one of the partners had no initial intention of having intercourse. That’s what it means when we say, “One thing led to another…”


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