One in three male college students admit would they commit rape if the word “rape” was never used and if their actions had no consequences, a new study has revealed.
Social scientists at the University of North Dakota recently surveyed a group of male students about their attitudes towards sexual violence. Alarmingly, 32% of the men surveyed said that they would force sex on a woman without her consent if given the opportunity to do so knowing that they would not be punished for it.
This 32% said they would be comfortable acting on “intentions to force a woman to sexual intercourse” as long as ‘‘nobody would ever know and there wouldn’t be any consequences.”
13% of men even said they would act on “intentions to rape a woman”. It is disturbing that any percentage of men would admit to being comfortable committing rape in explicit terms but particularly educated, college students.
It is also worrying that in between the 32% who admitted to the first proposition and the 13% who admitted to the second, 9% of respondents who have already implicitly admitted to being comfortable committing rape by answering the first question positively, then deny this when the word rape is introduced.
The widely accepted definition of rape is “intercourse by use of force or threat of force against a victim’s wishes.” When we consider this, we see there is actually no difference at all between these two propositions – except for the use of the world rape itself.
This means either that there is still a cohort of men who do not understand the meaning of rape, or that there is a cohort of men who understand that rape has a bad reputation but do not understand how dangerous and damaging it actually is.
Perhaps even more worryingly, the researchers found that the group of men who said they would commit rape – and named it as such – also showed high levels of hostility towards women. The study showed they largely felt a considerable amount of “angry and unfriendly” attitudes towards women.
“Hostility toward women reflects a disposition in which men view women’s motives as manipulative or deceitful. By extension, hostility toward women can feature an unwillingness to trust women, as well as a tendency to blame women for one’s problems,” the study explains.
This shows a correlation between these all-too-common attitudes of resentment towards women and the actual desire and willingness to commit sexual violence. On the other hand, men who would only commit rape if they didn’t have to use the word rape were not as likely to admit to outright hostility, but did exhibit patterns of “callous sexual attitudes”.
“Callous sexual attitudes are commonly defined as attitudes that objectify women and expect men to exhibit sexual dominance,” the authors said.
We might not have needed proof that misogynistic attitudes are directly related to gendered violence but the correlation between these attitudes and behaviours in the study is alarming nonetheless.
It is important to note that this was a very small study from a single university, and is not necessarily representative of college men broadly. But the fact that even one respondent admitted to being comfortable committing rape demonstrates the true severity of the problem, and how much more work needs to be done to combat it.