Has evolutionary history led us to today’s rapes?

20 January 2013 by Danny Haelewaters, posted in Evolution

My mother always said that the world has come to its end. In a way, she was right. Not literally, of course. The earth will not stop turning around the sun. I’m talking about our species here. We think we are good in what we do, and, again, in a way, that is true. In only a few thousand years we have developed the skills to look through microscopes and see microscopic cells floating around in media we made ourselves, to manipulate genetic content in order to obtain the ideal crop, and to have a man walking on the moon. These unique and extraordinary skills, however, do not mean that we are no longer part of nature, although we often want to believe that.

We do not understand ourselves yet

Isn’t it true that we have evolved too swiftly over the past few hundreds of years? It is true, but again, in a particular way. We live in an artificial habitat that we have constructed ourselves. Shelter and protection are no longer brought by natural caves or thorn branches, as in the old days of early hominids. We live in concrete, glass and metal constructed houses, apartments and skyscrapers, far away from the forests we grew up in -- figuratively, that is. The wild environment in which we belong according to our genetic makeup is gone. Both our environment and culture have altered in such a substantial way that our behavior is no longer appropriate. Perhaps even worse: we do not know why we are behaving in particular ways, as Dr. Edward O. Wilson, professor emeritus at Harvard University, remarked in his famous The Diversity of Life (1992): “We do not understand ourselves yet and descend farther from heaven’s air if we forget how much the natural world means to us.” Saying that, Wilson was referring to what we often call the sixth extinction crisis, although we can also use this quote in a behavioral point of view. Let me give you an example of how our naturally selected behavior has extremely gone awry.

Burundian women fleeing civil war in their own country face widespread rape and violent abuse in refugee camps in western Tanzania, Human Rights Watch said in a report [...].

When Burundi women fled the internal conflict there, they expected to find safety and protection in the refugee camps, the report's author Chirumbidzo Mabuwa said.

Instead they simply escaped one type of violence in Burundi to face other forms of abuse in the refugee camps in Tanzania. [...]

Refugee women are particularly vulnerable to rape, sexual assault and other forms of sexual violence, the report said, often when performing routine tasks like gathering firewood, collecting vegetables or looking for work in Tanzanian villages.

This is just a story I picked from the Internet (CNN, Sep 25 2000). Many other examples from all over the world can fill up hundreds, even thousands of blogs like this one. Now, do we have an explanation for this behavior? We do, in fact, and I can simply repeat that both our environment and culture have altered in such a substantial way that our behavior is no longer appropriate. What has gone wrong? To answer this question, we need to dig up some evolutionary history of our very own species. Let’s go back in time.

From hunter-gatherers to early sedentary economy

Chimpanzees and bonobos are our closest living relatives. There are no arguments available to say that Homo has had other sexual behaviors than theirs. So if male philopatry is the rule for a small set of primate species, including chimpanzees and bonobos, among others (spider monkeys, muriquis, and wooly spider monkeys), it will also have been the rule for the earliest nomadic human representatives. In a male philopatric system the males remain in their natal group and form close ties, whereas the females transferring from their natal group at sexual maturity. The latter phenomenon is called female exogamy.

What was a man to do to have sex in prehistoric times? He needed to show off his good characteristics. The ladies at that time liked a strong, healthy man who was preferentially highly trustworthy as well as altruistic. He had to protect his kids – his genes, his evolutionary success – every way he could, if needed by throwing his own life into battle. If women could see what efforts he would make to protect them, their kids, and even others in the community, they would all fall for him. Selection would choose and favor unselfish and protective men.

Living together with all these other familiar men – father, brothers, nephews, uncles, and so on – he did not have to protect his clan on his own. So that is what they did: fighting together, protecting their community together, and even strengthening their bonds-of-childhood.

I don't know whether or not it was a happy time but at least men were social beings, taking care of everybody in a selfless way. In the male philopatric system, all men were relatives; they shared genes. If a member of the clan was not a relative, then it was a woman, and what would a healthy man want to do with an unrelated woman in order to boost his fitness? Precisely, he would try to impress her, show off, and convince her of his protective skills and reliability. Only then, he would have the chance to get to know her more closely.

The rapid and large-scale domestication of animals (livestock), but especially of plants (agriculture), as early as 10,000 to 7,000 years ago, both triggered by climate amelioration in the early Holocene, has had far-reaching consequences upon human existence: we started a sedentary lifestyle. For the first time in our history we were exposed to possession, craftsmen, power, excess of food, money, and – as you could have guessed – the opposite as well: poverty and scarcities. Unlike during our nomadic existence before, where the number of births and deaths remained in almost perfect balance, the population density rose and rose.

In today’s society – I’d better not refer to up-to-date, exploding, population densities – successful men will gain high status, power, and ... women, if desired even multiple women. Their reproductive success is indisputable. On the other side are the unemployed and unmarried men, often-young males facing complete reproductive failure. Their fitness is nil, and they are not exactly keen on changing that, on the contrary: it’s been proven that particularly young men will encounter many more accidents and fatalities in motor vehicles than women do. They seem to be especially good at this in the company of other young men (social facilitation).

I hear you, what has all this to do with our early sedentary humans? Well, this is where our story takes a turn and will eventually lead to the gang rape and murder of the 23-year-old woman in New Delhi, India a few weeks ago.

Young men in a settlement with food shortages would feel the pressure upon their shoulders. Feeling useless and marginalized, some like-minded guys got together, formed a gang and started looting others’ possessions, not in the same settlement, of course. As they were outside of the social controlled society they had always known, they were given new opportunities: it would no longer be of any importance whether they did something good or bad. Who would even care? They were free now and all that mattered was their reproductive success. So why not rape women from other, neighboring or even further, settlements? The set rules of the sexual game – be protective, be trustworthy, don’t be aggressive, don’t be jealous – would forever change.

From that moment on, men showed aggressive behavior, which seemed to result in greater reproductive success than a social, altruistic behavior. Woman of a foreign settlement had become bait. A rape would result in a child, carrying the father’s genes. Mission accomplished, without having lost any energy in showing off and being protective. Selection will favor male aggression from now on. This is how evolution by natural selection works (from E.O. Wilson's The Diversity of Life):

New phenotypes, or the altered traits in anatomy, physiology, or behavior, usually have some effect on survival and reproduction. If the effect is favorable, if they confer higher rates of survival and reproduction, the mutant genes prescribing them proceed to spread through the population. If the effect is unfavorable, the prescribing genes decline and may disappear altogether.

Based upon this very condensed version of our natural history, I would like to draw your attention to these following conclusions. First, the Agrarian (Neolithic) Revolution has caused male aggression (to become a widespread characteristic); hence this feature is not inherent to Homo sapiens. Second, whenever social control mechanisms fail we – even if we are rational and intelligent – discriminate, rape, torture, or loot.

Epilogue

The gang rape of last year’s December 16 shocked the world. Many of us were plunged into thought wondering how this world had gotten this far, as my mother did once, a long time ago now.

Great waves of solidarity, admonishing all forms of sexual violence, were initiated all over the globe. Yet, we all belong to that same species, which in absence of social control violates the law with crimes of all sort.

--

Just this week Time World published the following poem of Indian Anubha Sharma:

Let there be no mothers

Let there be no wives

Let there be no daughters

And there will be no crimes

Maybe this is true. This, however, is not our world. And how would we even be able to fulfill our most existent task, that is to gain reproductive success, if we locked up all women?

Author's comment: I'm trying to understand how human's behavior can be traced back to evolutionary history. Only by attempting to understand humans in their wild environment, one can evaluate how our current behavior differs from our original nature, as I stressed above by citing E.O. Wilson. This post is based on previous academic coursework and scientific papers. It is not my intention to condone rape cases or, even worse, imply rape is a "normal" action because of our evolution. God no.   

References and further reading

Bhowmick N 2013. The Real Shame: India’s Patriarchy Roars Back After Delhi Gang Rape. Time World, January 18.

Gupta AK 2004. Origin of agriculture and domestication of plants and animals linked to early Holocene climate amelioration. Current Science 87 (1): 54-59.

Haak W, Forster P, Bramanti B, Matsumura S, Brandt G, Tänzer M, Villems R, Renfrew C, Gronenborn D, Alt KW & J Burger 2005. Ancient DNA from the first European farmers in 7500-year-old Neolithic sites. Science 310 (5750): 1016-1018.

Kappeler PM, Silk JB, Burkart JM & van Schaik CP 2010. Primate behavior and human universals: exploring the gap. In: Kappeler PM & JB Silk (eds) Mind the Gap. Tracing the Origins of Human Universals. Springer, Heidelberg, Germany: 3-15.

Lovejoy CO 2009. Reexamining Human Origins in Light of Ardipithecus ramidus. Science 326: 74.

Silk JB & Boyd R 2010. From grooming to giving blood: the origins of human altruism. In: Kappeler PM & JB Silk (eds) Mind the gap. Tracing the origins of human universals. Springer, Heidelberg, Germany: 223-244.

Thornhille R & CT Palmer 2000. The natural history of rape: biological bases of sexual coercion. MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Wilson M & M Daly 1985. Competitiveness, risk-taking and violence: the young male syndrome. Ethology and Sociobiology 6: 59-73.

I have to thank Dr. Johan Mertens (and especially his book Van zaadcel tot liefde) for inspiration, and Derek Hennen, Tine Eeckelaert and Donald H. Pfister for suggestions.


16 Responses to “Has evolutionary history led us to today’s rapes?”

  1. Kausik Datta Reply | Permalink

    I condemn this essay, well-written as it is, in the strongest possible terms. Putting an evolutionary slant to this heinous crime and talking in terms of sexual activities completely misses the point that rape has nothing to do with sex. Rape is not a sexual phenomenon; rape is an ultimate act of subjugation, an act of display of power and ultimate control, and a act of the ultimate perversion in which a pleasurable act is forcibly converted to one of violence and abuse.

    Biological evolution has done nothing to bring humanity to this sorry state of affairs, and to say so is to distract from the real culprit, a vile culture of misogyny and patriarchy, often sanctioned, aided and abetted actively by various religions and religious traditions - a culture that teaches young males that women are not equal human beings endowed with equal human rights, that women are playthings, that women are chattel or property to be used, abused, bought, sold or given away as and when desired by the males. THIS, and only this, is the reason behind the terrible and horrific tragedy of those Burundi women, and the women in India that this essay mentions.

    I understand that this essay seeks to find some answers to the seemingly unrelenting spate of rapes and violent sexual abuse against women erupting all over the world, but burdening evolution with the responsibility is not that answer.

    • Danny Haelewaters Reply | Permalink

      This is certainly true, I admit that, but this will at the most only partly explain the number of worldwide rapes. There are many movements throughout the world against violent sexual abuse against women, but still - next to Burundi and India, and these are just two examples I picked - in the UK alone there were 85,000 rape cases in one year, that is 230 women per day (news report presented Nov 12, 2007).

      There are also large numbers of rapes in countries like the United States, Belgium, Iceland, Sweden, countries that call themselves "civilized" - as opposed to the "developing" (?) countries referred to in this post.

      • Kausik Datta Reply | Permalink

        The societal conditions, customs and religious traditions, that I mentioned - that I hold responsible for the rape epidemic - are not necessarily restricted to "developing countries" as opposed to "developed" nations. Indeed, if you compare the societies in all these places, see what you come up with as commonalities. You may find it quite illuminating.

  2. David Marjanović Reply | Permalink

    Welp, I don't know rape firsthand, and I can often maintain an uncanny emotional distance from topics that should be disturbing. Apparently, you're in the same situation, so I'll try to talk to you this way. Other people may need trigger warnings about what follows.

    Young men in a settlement with food shortages would feel the pressure upon their shoulders. Feeling useless and marginalized, some like-minded guys got together, formed a gang and started looting others’ possessions, not in the same settlement, of course.

    "Possessions" including women in a sufficiently patriarchal society.

    ...which is why a conservative attitude to "family values" is such a scarily good predictor of child abuse.

    As they were outside of the social controlled society they had always known, they were given new opportunities: it would no longer be of any importance whether they did something good or bad. Who would even care? They were free now and all that mattered was their reproductive success. So why not rape women from other, neighboring or even further, settlements?

    Why, then, is acquaintance rape much more common than stranger rape? And is there any evidence that rapists have, or have ever had, above-average repoductive success?

    Oh, and, why does the concept of rape as punishment have so much tradition? Graffiti in Pompei threaten people who crap on the lawn with rape, Lawrence of Arabia was raped by Ottoman policemen, and everyone who makes enough enemies on the Internet sooner or later gets rape threats along with death threats and other threats of violence.

    The set rules of the sexual game – be protective, be trustworthy, don’t be aggressive, don’t be jealous – would forever change.

    So, are you proposing that rape only occurs in agricultural/sedentary societies that live in larger gatherings than clans? If so, why is it so common among the Yanomamö?

    And aren't you also predicting differences in rape frequency between the different kinship systems? It may well be that patrilinearity (children belong to the father's clan) and patrilocality (the bride goes to live with the groom's clan) are ancestral, and it may well be that they're the most common arrangements (I don't know), but they're by no means the only ones; name it, and it exists.

    First, the Agrarian (Neolithic) Revolution has caused human aggression

    Alas, that's demonstrably untrue. Chimpanzees wage wars just like humans – never mind the fact that war is by no means unknown among human hunter-gatherers.

    Based upon this very condensed version of our natural history, I would like to draw your attention to these following conclusions.

    I don't think these are at all your conclusions. I think they're your premises.

  3. Dhorvath Reply | Permalink

    And who is most likely to rape? A gang of strange youths? No, it's people with an inside angle on their victims. Your argument is undermined by the distribution of relationships between rapists and those who they rape. When it is casually accepted that rape occurs between people who know one another it is easily extended to hostility among those who do not, but it's not the rule. Men rape women because they can, because they are raised to think they deserve sex, and because they are raised to see women, family, friend, or stranger, as a means to that end.

  4. David Marjanović Reply | Permalink

    No, it's people with an inside angle on their victims.

    People the victim trusts, in other words.

    Which is also why, in the accounts I've read, the biggest part of the trauma is the loss of trust. Western women these days no longer buy into crap like "you're damaged goods now, no man will ever want you, you'll die alone, poor and sad" or "you've somehow brought shame over your clan"; and yet, rape is still traumatic – even without the victim-blaming that often still occurs, like "you shouldn't have worn anything less than a spacesuit", "you shouldn't have been within 100 miles of that place" or "you're lying, you weren't raped, you just decided you don't like that guy that much after all – shame on you for besmirching his good name". *barf*

    Men rape women because they can, because they are raised to think they deserve sex, and because they are raised to see women, family, friend, or stranger, as a means to that end.

    This "means to an end" view scarily often includes the idea that women either "always want it", so if they decline they must be lying, or "never want it", so consent isn't possible anyway and all sex is rape anyway, so rape is more like jaywalking.

    *barf*

    Sorry. I'll clean the floor. *fetches mop*

  5. Danny Haelewaters Reply | Permalink

    I think the difference between few of the comments above and my post itself is that I'm trying to search for an evolutionary perspective: how has our behavior evolved? I'm not giving an answer on the question why rapes happen today, this is another issue. I'm suggestion a possible reason for how male aggression, and, along with this, rapes against women, may have evolved.

    So, are you proposing that rape only occurs in agricultural/sedentary societies that live in larger gatherings than clans?

    No. I'm not suggesting that the life of our nomadic ancestors was a happy one, with only love and caring for each other. What I'm saying is that selection only actively favored male aggressive behavior from the moment we started living in settlements, because of the reasons discussed in my post.

    Why, then, is acquaintance rape much more common than stranger rape? And is there any evidence that rapists have, or have ever had, above-average repoductive success?

    I think this is another issue. You're talking about rapes today, I'm talking about our evolutionary history. As the paragraphs above in this comment, I think these are two different cases to be discussed.

    Alas, that's demonstrably untrue. Chimpanzees wage wars just like humans – never mind the fact that war is by no means unknown among human hunter-gatherers.

    All true, but, again, I'm not saying that Chimpanzees or our nomadic ancestors didn't fight wars. As far as I can see, however, there was at that time no selection for male aggression.

    The point I want to make with this post is this one, and I think all can agree with that:

    The wild environment in which we belong according to our genetic makeup is gone. Both our environment and culture have altered in such a substantial way that our behavior is no longer appropriate.

  6. David Reply | Permalink

    Very interesting piece, David Marjanović also made some good points.

    Oh, and, why does the concept of rape as punishment have so much tradition?

    Think Kausik Datta gave a reason I agree with:

    [...] rape is an ultimate act of subjugation, an act of display of power and ultimate control.

    Therefore, as dominance (at the very least in other species) helps decides who reproduces the most (or a group - in some species - , which member of a group has the right to mate). It is not surprising then, that rape can/has/is used to suppress the confidence of fellow competitors and as a result lower the chance of them challenging their authority/reproducing.

    Second, whenever social control mechanisms fail we – even if we are rational and intelligent – discriminate, rape, torture, or loot.

    This makes me think, that evolution in modern day humans is more complex issue than any other species, due to cultural and social "rules" that are passed on, so to speak.

    Ending on a bad note (sorry), but I'm very disappointed to see this on a website to discuss the sciences:

    THIS, and only this, is the reason [...]

    • Kausik Datta Reply | Permalink

      Perhaps if you could illuminate me as to the exact reason of your grave disappointment with a part of my comment, I could offer some explanations.

      • David Reply | Permalink

        Whilst everyone is entitled to their views and to be emotional about aspects of life, I personally feel, we (as a species) should try and leave emotion out of discussion, especially on very sensitive topics.

        My primarily disappointment is simply the usage of

        THIS, and only this, is the reason

        in a discussion about science.
        In the context you used, can we say with 100% certainty that the reason given is exactly what the rapists were thinking on any level? Whilst it is widely accepted (for very probably for a good reason), does current/past research make it immune from results from future research/theories?

        I understand that this essay seeks to find some answers to the seemingly unrelenting spate of rapes and violent sexual abuse against women erupting all over the world, but burdening evolution with the responsibility is not that answer.

        Why is it not the answer? Both men AND women rape, it also isn't something that has only happened in the past hundred years or at the advent of religion. I'm not trying to suggest evolution is the reason but rather a possible reason that should be fully explored - if it hasn't already.

        Could so-called "Junk" DNA be a cause/contributory factor? I've yet to read anything solid on its purpose/function.

        Biological evolution has done nothing to bring humanity to this sorry state of affairs [...]

        Or is it because biological evolution has actually done nothing to prevent the present state of affairs? I'm personally not aware of any evidence proving or disproving either.

        I'm truly sorry, for any misinterpretations and inaccuracies/mistakes, but my qualifications are microscopic in comparison to both yours and others on here.
        The issue at hand is of interest to me due to past experiences, which may have clouded my judgement.

  7. Vincent Lynch Reply | Permalink

    You're making a critical adaptationist flaw: There is no reason to believe that there is an evolutionary explanation for any human behavior, let alone rape. For example, an opposable thumb is a useful tool for hitting the space bar while I type this response but it did not evolve for that reason. Similarly I can run 10mi or so pretty regularly and that is good for my health, but that trait did not evolve to counterbalance my otherwise sedentary life-style as a bench scientist.

    • Danny Haelewaters Reply | Permalink

      Say I have made this flaw, then the selection for male aggression still stands, given the arguments discussed in my essay, correct?

      Then why isn't it possible to explain rapes of women throughout our history (known for ages) because of this? And what with children's abuse? It's (always) men that commit these crimes. All school-shootings are gender-specific, i.e. perpetrated by young males. I now instantly recall the young male syndrome that I discussed:

      In today’s society – I’d better not refer to up-to-date, exploding, population densities – successful men will gain high status, power, and … women, if desired even multiple women. Their reproductive success is indisputable. On the other side are the unemployed and unmarried men, often-young males facing complete reproductive failure. Their fitness is nil, and they are not exactly keen on changing that, on the contrary: it’s been proven that particularly young men will encounter many more accidents and fatalities in motor vehicles than women do. They seem to be especially good at this in the company of other young men (social facilitation).

      Back in time: young males form gangs, run outside their settlements, have no longer the social control from their closed clan, and act extremely awry, thereby increasing their fitness, though. Because of this, the new characteristic leading to the increased reproductive success, "aggression" or whatever you want to call it, gets entangled in succeeding generations of men. Explanation: "derailed polygamy, escaped from sexual selection and social control", as my professor wrote.

      • Vincent Lynch Reply | Permalink

        Actually no. My point was that it is possible to explain any trait with any story, but adaptive stories are not evolutionary explanations because 1) one cannot use the existence of a trait (or in this case of behavior) to explain the origin of the trait and 2) there are an infinite number of casually equivalent stories. For example it is just as likely that aliens seeded a chemical into our atmosphere to make us more benign and their eventual takeover of the planet easier – but that chemical make 0.001% of the population violent. Actually this is not a bad explanation of human behavior because it would also explain the origin of pair-bonding and the emergence of cooperative social groups. But where is the evidence?

        This "derailed polygamy, escaped from sexual selection and social control" is just adaptive story telling that lacks any evidence. Just because you observe some trait does not mean there is an evolutionary explanation for it.

  8. David Marjanović Reply | Permalink

    I think the difference between few of the comments above and my post itself is that I'm trying to search for an evolutionary perspective: how has our behavior evolved?

    Yes, it's been clear that you're asking this question – but what you haven't done is provide evidence that being a rapist is heritable, or that any part thereof (aggression, the ability not to be turned off by the lack of a willing partner, or whatever) is heritable. Traits that aren't in some way heritable can't evolve. Your argumentation silently assumes that it's heritable.

    I'm not giving an answer on the question why rapes happen today, this is another issue. I'm suggestion a possible reason for how male aggression, and, along with this, rapes against women, may have evolved.

    Yes: how male agression as it is today, and, along with this, rape as it is today, may have evolved. You are, as far as I can see, trying to explain the present by the past. Have I misunderstood you?

    Why, then, is acquaintance rape much more common than stranger rape? And is there any evidence that rapists have, or have ever had, above-average repoductive success?

    I think this is another issue. You're talking about rapes today, I'm talking about our evolutionary history.

    That's exactly why I included the "or have ever had" part.

    So, is there any evidence that rapists have ever had above-average reproductive success? Perhaps children conceived in rape were more often killed, abandoned, neglected, or simply suffered from not having as many parents around, which may give rapists fewer grandchildren?

    If there's no such evidence, your argument just floats in the air, unfalsifiable, untestable.

    again, I'm not saying that Chimpanzees or our nomadic ancestors didn't fight wars.

    You did: you wrote "the Agrarian (Neolithic) Revolution has caused human aggression".

    (I'm not saying you're lying or anything. I understand how it's possible to get carried away by, say, poetic exaggeration. I'm just explaining how I reached my interpretation of what you wrote.)

    As far as I can see, however, there was at that time no selection for male aggression.

    This needs to be tested, as needs the corollary that there was such selection later.

    The point I want to make with this post is this one, and I think all can agree with that:

    Um, yes, but rape may not be an example of this.

    The example that immediately comes to my mind is our overactive pattern/agency detection. Well, those who didn't see a leopard in the nearest bush when there actually was one have died out, while those who saw one when there wasn't there just got a little scared and are still among us; now we see conspiracies, ghosts, witches and gods everywhere and have real trouble recognizing random when we stare at it. (Ask people to distribute themselves randomly in a room, and they'll most likely put themselves into a regular pattern with equal distances between them!) Even Einstein, who discovered firsthand how counterintuitive reality can be, insisted that "God doesn't play dice".

    It is not surprising then, that rape can/has/is used to suppress the confidence of fellow competitors and as a result lower the chance of them challenging their authority/reproducing.

    That makes sense. I hope it's testable with available data.

    Say I have made this flaw, then the selection for male aggression still stands, given the arguments discussed in my essay, correct?

    If those arguments are all correct, then yes. I just think there's at best no evidence for them.

    It's (always) men that commit these crimes.

    Female rapists of adult victims are rare, but there are documented cases; the reporting rate is most likely even lower than for male rapists, because the patriarchy instills heaps of shame as well as attitudes like this and this in the victims.

    Child abuse (sexual and otherwise) by women, or by couples, is scarily common.

    Explanation: "derailed polygamy, escaped from sexual selection and social control", as my professor wrote.

    Again: is any of the contributing factors heritable?

    • David Reply | Permalink

      That makes sense. I hope it's testable with available data.

      Most likely, I may look into finding said data.
      My main source for it (whilst wholly unscientific) are idioms like "Who dares, wins", "You don't know until you've tried" and "The worst she/he can say is no". Also, personal observation from of both myself and seems to indicate that self-esteem and how it is project helps deicide the level of attraction of a potential mate. Using the above assumption and then factoring that a victim of sexual assault may go on to develop mental disorders such as social phobia, depression or PTSD (to which avoidance of a place/event/object my be a symptom - http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/index.shtml). So if a place is avoided, then it is possible that his/her reproductive success is hindered as the expose of potential mate's is reduced. (Sorry for lack of evidence, however I believe it is theoretically plausible.)

      Furthermore, as a sexual assault may trigger mental disorders such PTSD and depression, as a result there is a risk a person may successfully commit suicide - http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/ss6010a1.htm?s_cid=ss6010a1_e#Tab7
      Seeing as dead people cannot compete for sexual partners nor can they challenge the authority of another person, the dominant person (in theory) has an increased chance of successful procreation and of maintaining his social rank/status.

      Further reading: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19723788?dopt=Abstract and http://www.johnbriere.com/Suicide%20B%26R.pdf

  9. Niels Desmet Reply | Permalink

    I think there is always an evolutionary basis for human behavior. The difficulty with human behavior is that it's very much influenced by social, cultural and religious factors. This means that the evolutionary path may be obscured or even altered, but at the core, we can never deny our evolutionary history.

    As you are trying to comprehend human nature, the least we can say is that you sparked an interesting discussion. Choosing rape as a case study is a bold move, but sometimes just this generates the best debates, in spite of, or perhaps because of the emotional load of the topic.

    I want to encourage you to keep writing pieces like this. You are bound to step on some toes or make some flawed premises along the way, but at the very least, people will think about what you said.

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