The authors base their argument partly on statistics showing that in the United States, most rape victims are of childbearing age. But disturbingly large numbers of rapes of children, elderly women, and other men are never adequately explained. And the actual reproductive success of rape is not clear. Thornhill and Palmer's biological interpretation is just that--an interpretation, one that won't withstand tough scientific scrutiny. They further claim that the mental trauma of rape is greater for women of childbearing age (especially married women) than it is for elderly women or children. The data supporting these assertions come from a single psychological study, done by Thornhill in the 1970s, that mixes first-person interviews with caretaker's interpretations of children's reactions.
While Thornhill and Palmer claim that they are trying to look objectively at the root causes of rape, they focus almost entirely on data that support their thesis, forcing them to write an evolutionary "just-so" story. The central problem is evident in this quote, from the chapter "The Pain and Anguish of Rape":
We feel that the woman's perspective on rape can be best understood by considering the negative influences of rape on female reproductive success.... It is also highly possible that selection favored the outward manifestations of psychological pain because it communicated the female's strong negative attitude about the rapist to her husband and/or her relatives.
Women are disturbed by rape mostly because they are worried about what their husbands might think? In statements like this, the authors repeatedly discount the psychological aspects of rape, such as fear, humiliation, loss of autonomy, and powerlessness, and focus solely on personal shame.
A Natural History of Rape will no doubt have people talking about rape and its causes, and perhaps thinking about real ways of preventing it. In fact, the authors suggest that all young men be educated frankly about their (theoretical) genetic desire to rape. And it reopens the debate about the role of sex in rape. But without more and better data supporting their conclusions, Thornhill and Palmer are doing the very thing they criticize feminists and social scientists of doing: just talking. --Therese Littleton
I would give this zero stars if I could. This book is ideology dressed up as science.
Recommend "Rape: Sex, Violence, History by Joanna Bourke
Rape: Sex, Violence,... Read more
Take a good look at the title "A NATURAL History of Rape"; just ask is Rape natural behavior for man or human? Do you need scientific statistics historically (? Read morePublished on Dec 11 2002 by Isis07
A technical book intended for those conversant with modern ideas in biology (sexual selection, evoltionarily stable strategies, genetic linkage, etc). Read morePublished on Nov. 18 2002 by Ken Braithwaite
According to the authors, rape is a tactic that men use to short-circuit women's ability to choose their mates. Read morePublished on July 29 2002
My criticism of this is not that it tries to find a biological basis for distressing behaviour -- my criticism is that it is simply bad science, packaged to sell. Read morePublished on Oct. 26 2001 by LBatik
I am an upstanding man who goes to church, has a good job, and loves his family. I was accused of raping a girl while in my twenties and recently was trying to figure out what it... Read morePublished on July 8 2001
It is so sad thousands of academics are employed to postulate the theory that rape is a power thing when the most important aspect it is mostly a sexual thing by generally... Read morePublished on June 25 2001 by n.wilson
There is little to be said about this book that isn't said inthe basic Amazon review. As a professional anthropologist(Ph.D. Read morePublished on March 3 2001
a rational approach to an important topic. Not perfect
but with good intentions.