Why some men become rapists

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

While I was growing up, more than one person that I loved was raped. I myself suffered several incidents of attempted sexual harassment and assault though luckily I got away each time. Since there was no sexual abuse in my parents home and also because I myself was never raped, I was able to remain in total denial about the fact that I was traumatized from growing up in a place where extreme sexual repression made it very dangerous to be female.

Reading, writing, therapy and supportive friendships have all been instrumental to my healing process.

Despite my own sadness and loss, I do not agree with the public shaming of rapists such as what happened with the Stanford rapist though I can certainly understand the frustration with the sentencing. I believe shaming only makes things worse. This doesn’t mean I don’t believe in holding rapists accountable, I believe very strongly that perpetrators should be held accountable for their actions.

The best analysis on sexual deviance and compulsion as well as the best definition of healthy sexuality that I have come across is in Patrick Carne’s book on sex addiction titled “Don’t call it love”. He explains shame is at the root of all deviant sexual behavior.

Unpleasant early sexual experiences and internalized shame about them is what lurks behind serial cheating, porn addiction, compulsive masturbation etc and is also complicit in more serious sexual offender behavior. These behaviors are not unusual, sex addiction is the number one addiction for men. I have known men in therapy who have overcome these issues, those who are motivated to change and who receive the right type of help do change and end up living healthy fulfilling lives.

In my opinion, between men and women it is men who are holding on to the lions share of shame about their sexuality and about who they are.

Boys are shamed for being boys and for their tears, their fears, for not being strong or tall enough, for not being sporty, for needing support and care and for being gay. In school they are shamed for not sitting still and for not being as mature as girls. If their fathers are emotionally or otherwise unavailable then boys often become surrogate spouses for their mothers. Many boys shoulder too much responsibility before they are developmentally ready for it and sometimes they are cheated out of their childhood.

Since boys are denied their feelings they can grow up using sex to manage their emotions. Men who are so dependent on sex to feel okay about themselves and their relationship will often end up tolerating unfulfilling relationships and abusive partners. Often they stay in relationships because they can’t be alone. Healthy love and sexuality can only happen between two people who can manage their emotions from within and who do not depend on external validation for self esteem. It was a surprise to me that many couples who I met in therapy were unable to be sexually intimate with each other without drinking or drugging. I have witnessed deep positive changes in both men and women who have learned to give up such external dependencies, manage their emotions in healthier ways and replace shame with self love.

In comparison to women, its much harder for men to admit to having been abused. I have known men who were molested by their mothers, aunts, neighbors,cousins and authority figures. There are a lot of men who have valid reasons to be angry but often they refuse to feel their feelings, deny what happened to them and act out their anger instead.

If an older man comes on to a young girl then he is seen as a predator but if an older woman propositions a young boy, we make jokes about this, we abandon boys by assuming that they can’t be damaged by sexual predators. I’ve heard insensitive comments and jokes claiming that ‘men can’t be raped’ despite the fact that so many men are in terrible pain from having been sexually exploited.

I have learned from therapy that sexual abuse doesn’t have to be physical. A father who makes comments about his daughter’s breasts or watches porn around her or a mother who ridicules her husband for his sexual requests in presence of her son cause as much damage to their children as those who indulge in more physical forms of sexual abuse.

If women are being raped then men are raping but rapists are not happy. They are angry and full of shame. These men don’t have any self awareness, they have no idea how to process their feelings. Their anger came from somewhere, all emotions are legitimate but they are in denial about their truth and they are hurting others indiscriminately.

Women are more likely to seek help and support for their problems. Men are more likely to isolate, drink too much, become violent and die at a younger age.

If we simply want revenge then shaming rapists is enough but if we want to reduce rape and sexual abuse and have healthier sexual relationships then we will have to address the deep seated cultural issues that breed shame based sexual deviance.

All of this is heartbreaking. Women do not deserve to be at the end of undeserved rage and men deserve to learn to understand themselves and to process their feelings and to be their authentic selves. All of us deserve to love and to be loved.

  • * ChaosIntended Anna Now Jewels Lorna Hartman Molly S Hill I will not reply individually to people but I do want to say to those who are assuming that I am giving rapists a free pass. No, no, no! I do believe in accountability and I wrote that explicity in the article. You can have empathy and hold people accountable at the same time. These things are not mutually exclusive. I am just saying that jailing while necessary is not the only thing we need to do if we want to have less of such incidents but rather, fixing the culture is and that perpetrators are often victims too

My full response to the angry comments I got to this story is here