Trigger warning for rape.
I’ll admit my bias up front: I think that sexual attraction and behavior are almost entirely not genetic. Even homosexuality is only explained 18-39% by genes (although of course that doesn’t rule out other biological factors such as environment in the womb); more complex behaviors like rape, I believe, are as much a result of your environment as your biology.
The biggest hole I see in evolutionary theories of rape is that they very rarely explain why women rape. It’s true that men raping women is the most common form of rape; however, male survivors and female rapists exist. If rape is caused by men’s determination to pass on their genes to an unwilling female, why do women rape? If rape is caused by cis women’s concealed ovulation, why are men raped, given that the vast majority of men do not ovulate? Evolutionary psychology just-so stories offer no answer.
It is possible, of course, that rape is adaptive for (some) men. However, I think that very careful study is required before we can say that for certain, and until then it is irresponsible to speculate. Human children require a lot of (usually parental) investment; were rapists’ children, raised by single mothers, more likely to die before raising children of their own? Human women often do not want to raise their rapists’ children; did they practice infanticide to such a degree that the adaptive value of rape is negligible? Human cultures usually punish rapists; does this punishment reduce one’s chance of reproducing to the degree that waiting for sex would be better? All of these are questions that have to be answered before we can say “rape is an adaptive behavior for men.”
And then there’s the concealed ovulation question. Concealed ovulation is the (biologically VERY weird) fact that people with uteruses don’t know when they ovulate and are interested in sex even when there is no chance of getting pregnant. (In fact, sometimes especially, as anyone cursed with the Period Hornies can attest.) Some people apparently argue that this puts women at higher risk of rape because men won’t know when they’re most biologically receptive.
…Christ, that argument has such a bad view of men. Men have lips and tongues and vocal cords, you know. They can ASK. “Hey, baby, do you want sex?” It is not hard. The people I have sex with do it all the time. Besides, even if you don’t ask, whether someone is enjoying sex is usually somewhat obvious. It also perpetrates the “innocent mistake” idea of rape. Most rapes aren’t innocent mistakes. Most rapists know that they are having sex with a nonconsenting person, they just don’t care. So basically this is an argument that could literally only make sense in a rape culture?
I also have to argue with a few of the evolutionary misconceptions Feminists for Choice made in their articles. For instance, something can evolve without being morally good. Humans have evolved to be violent, to have confirmation bias, and to get back problems due to our walking upright; none of these are good things. Saying that rape evolved doesn’t mean that rape’s a good thing, any more than saying that war evolved means that war’s a good thing. Second, things can evolve for purposes to which they are not put today. Sex evolved to make babies, yet humans regularly masturbate, give each other oral or anal sex, use birth control, etc. Similarly, rape could have evolved to make babies, yet rapists could still have sex with condoms.