Rape in popular folklore


Jane Ritchie and James Ritchie once wrote (in 1993) that “Of all the violent crimes, rape has generated the most myths in popular folklore ([Burt, MR (1980), 224]). Contrary to public belief, most rapes are not committed on the streets at night by a stranger but at the home of either the victim or the rapist by someone who is very often known to the victim ([Coddington, C and Marrieskind, L (1982)]). Women do not get raped because they flaunt their sexuality: victims can be any female – from little girls to very old women. Rapists are not always either young men in the full flush of sexual desire or ‘dirty old men’. They too cover the whole age range.

While less recent literature ([Albin, RS (1977)]) suggests that anger and hostility towards the woman victim, rather than sexual lust, is an important motivation, modern perspectives regard rape as an act of power, of domination ([Shapcott, D (1988)]). Most rapists are not sexually deprived but are either in regular sexual relationships or have licit sex available to them if they seek it. The purchase of sex on the streets is available to all men. But that is not what the rapist is after. There is also the myth that rapists are sexually inadequate but this, too, is not the case. The sexually inadequate peep or flash or seek out children ([Barber, D (1990)]).” (p.51)

“These myths,” the authors continue, “are carried in the collective consciousness of our society. They are perpetrated through literature, movies, and videos. [-p.52] Especially pernicious is the scenario where the woman resists sexual advances, is raped, and enjoys the sexual encounter ([Donnerstein, E and Berkowitz, U (1981), Ritchie, Jane (1986)]). This is a frequent theme in pornographic videos but in milder form it pervades the popular media. Even when the censor cuts a scene, it just leaves a gap where the rape ought to be. …Implicit rape scenes give vulnerable men as much (or more) permission as overt depiction. The message that women wish to be violated to fulfil their sexual desires must be banished for ever from popular culture.” (51-52)

Ref: Jane Ritchie and James Ritchie (1993) Violence in New Zealand. Huia Publishers and Daphne Brasell Associates: Wellington    NOTE: reference is made to: Albin, RS (1977) ‘Psychological studies of rape’ Signs, 3(2), pp423-435; Barber, D (1990) ‘An indecent Obsession’ Listener & TV Times pp26-27, March 5; Burt, MR (1980) ‘cultural myths and support for rape’ Journal of Personality and social psychology 38, pp217-230; Coddington, C and Marrieskind, L (1982) ‘Rape: an analysis of calls to the Hamilton Rape Crisis Centre’ in Jane Ritchie (ed.) Psychology of Women, Research Record IV Hamilton: University of Waikato; Ritchie, Jane (1986) ‘Pornography and sexual violence against women’ in D Braun and J Koirala (eds) Entertainment Violence and a Peaceful World, Auckland: Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand; Donnerstein, E and Berkowitz, U (1981) ‘Victim reactions in aggressive erotic films as a factor in violence against women’ Journal of Personality and social psychology 41(4), pp710-724; Shapcott, D (1988) The Face of the Rapist Auckland: Penguin.


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