Understanding The Need To Rape

In this post I’m going to explain the psychological mechanics that cause people to feel a desperate need to rape. The kind of rape I’m talking about here is a voluntary act–it’s not a case of the rapist being coerced by a third party.

Whether this is an issue you’re personally struggling with, or you’ve been a victim of this kind of assault, understanding psychological mechanics can be a helpful step in recovery. Humans do better when they can make logical sense out of something. As is the case with all trauma coping methods, rape is very logical.

A Subconscious In Crisis

It is the subconscious part of a man’s (or woman’s) mind that decides rape is a positive strategy for him. While rapists are commonly viewed as strong, dominant figures who are attacking from a position of great power and confidence, internally they actually feel very weak, vulnerable and afraid. Rape is very much a fear driven activity. It’s a way of trying to manage intense psychological distress.

Suppose you are working outside of your cabin in the woods when a huge bear charges onto the scene and mauls you badly. You survive, but you are now severely crippled in ways that make it impossible for you to flee or have any chance at winning a physical fight. These limitations greatly increase your vulnerability in the world. If you can’t run away from an enemy, and you can’t physically defend yourself, what are your options? You decide that it is now critical to never let any potential threat get too close to you. You arm yourself with a gun and go through your days constantly on edge, just waiting for another bear attack. The instant you see what might be a bear, you panic and start firing excessively in that general area. Most of the time, you are wrong, and you end up firing at nothing. You waste a lot of bullets, but you don’t care. You figure that your only chance of survival is to make sure that no bear is allowed to get close to you again.

In real life, rapists feel that they have been through experiences which have left them severely crippled in psychological ways. Sometimes these traumatic experiences involved the rapist getting physically attacked, but not always. There are many ways to trounce on someone. You can beat them into the ground, you can use words to emotionally knife them, or you can socially humiliate them. Often the traumatic experiences that turn a man into a rapist happened to him before puberty. When puberty comes and the sex drive is fully turned on, the man finds himself terrified of the idea of healthy sexual interactions where two partners are being very vulnerable with each other. Rapists cannot afford to put themselves in vulnerable positions, just as you couldn’t afford to let your guard down in the woods.

Now in the woods metaphor, there are many creatures living in the woods, but it is a bear that attacked you, so it is bears that you are afraid of. There are two basic ways that you can deal with your bear problem. You can wait for bears to come to you and then blast them to kingdom come, or you can go to the bears. The goal of both strategies is to try to lower your own internal terror level by proving to yourself that you can protect yourself against bears. Because that first bear so thoroughly trounced you, he left you feeling utterly incapable of defending yourself from harm. Because you live in woods that are filled with bears, you can’t find any mental peace until you can disprove the belief that you are powerless. You must gather evidence that you are stronger and more capable than you currently feel.

Just as you were fixated on a specific type of animal as the greatest threat to your safety, rapists are usually fixated on a specific type of human. What kinds of targets a rapist goes after and what style of rape he uses is directly linked to the humans who originally caused him to feel internally shattered and stripped of all power.

To rapists, their victims are symbolic of their original attackers. The longer a rapist goes without getting effective help for his internal distress, the more likely it is that his fears will generalize. When you start off scared of goldfish, and then graduate to being scared of all fish, that’s a case of your fear generalizing. Fears left untreated tend to grow bigger and vaguer, causing you to view the world as increasingly dark and dangerous. In the same way, a rapist who was originally terrorized by his mother might target females who have certain traits or mannerisms that remind him of his mother. But over time, his fear can generalize until he feels immensely threatened by all females, not just ones that remind him of mom. As the fear broadens, so will the rapist’s range of ideal targets.

In the woods, you had two basic defense strategies: wait for the bears to come to you or hunt them down yourself. Rapists feel like they have the same two options. Some rapists aggressively seek out new targets that they can attack. Ideal targets will have certain traits in common with the rapist’s original enemy. But desperate rapists can’t afford to be too choosy, so they will often settle for a less ideal target that is readily available rather than wait for one that really fits their wish list. To the rapist, every act of rape is like getting a fresh injection of a calming drug. But as is the case with addictive drugs, the positive effects wear off very quickly and leave the rapist feeling even worse and more desperate than he did before.

Raping ideal targets feels very calming because, in the moment, the rapist can often imagine that he is metaphorically conquering his original enemy. The original enemy is often someone who the rapist feels incapable of defeating directly, so he’s having to settle for defeating symbolic stand-ins.

When you angrily scribble out a face in a photograph, you are trying to make yourself feel better by attacking a symbol of someone who you feel you can’t attack directly. Perhaps it’s your boss or an ex-lover or a bully who made your life hell. Rapists are using this same kind of logic, only instead of using symbolic objects, they go after symbolic people.

It can’t be stressed enough that rapists are in intense psychological distress. These are people who are desperately trying to get some relief from overwhelming terror. Rapists can appear to be quite normal and functional on the outside, but once they feel threatened, their moods can change dramatically.

Because the purpose of rape is to restore an internal sense of power, it is essential for the rapist to walk away from the encounter feeling like the obvious victor. If instead his victim turns the tables on him, the rapist’s psychological crisis will greatly intensify. To protect themselves from the possibility of failure, rapists try to select targets who appear easy to conquer. Many rapists also bring weapons for back up. A rapist who brings a gun with him is making it clear how much he fears his target. Rapists are already feeling plagued by a sense of powerlessness, so it’s very nerve wracking for them to intentionally set themselves up for a fight. And yet the rapist feels so desperate to gain evidence of his own strength that he must make himself attack someone so that he can see himself win.

The primary purpose of rape is not to experience sexual climax, it’s to gather evidence of power. There are many ways to rape someone. In cases where male rapists want to use a standard penetration method, they must first be able to become erect before they can have any hope of pulling off a form of sexual intercourse. The fact that rapists are able to do this demonstrates another key psychological factor: their minds have linked sexual arousal with the concepts of violence, fear, and domination.

While your body physically responds to sexual arousal, your subconscious controls what kinds of targets turn you on. Certain kinds of trauma cause the subconscious to reprogram the sex drive in dramatic ways. In psychologically healthy individuals, themes like violence, fear and domination will feel repulsive and cause an inability to become sexually aroused. But once the subconscious forms strong links between negative themes and sex, an opposite pattern occurs. Rapists often feel terrified of the things that healthy minds find sexually stimulating: partners giving them affectionate caresses, partners slipping hands under their clothes, and expressing to a partner when something feels good.

You might enjoy a nice shoulder massage under normal conditions. But if you badly sprain your shoulder, suddenly the sight of someone reaching out to give you a relaxing rubdown triggers panic and a fear of pain. This is how rapists feel in situations where someone is trying to handle their bodies in positive yet intimate ways. They feel intensely threatened. The sense of vulnerability in such moments causes rapists to panic and attack whoever is interacting with them.

Because of the way their minds are viewing sex, rapists can find it impossible to get sexually aroused in positive situations, while they can feel strongly aroused by themes of violence, power, and assault. Victims who visibly cower and express pain are particularly helpful for rapists because this kind of feedback amplifies their sense of domination.

An Ineffective Solution

As is the case with all trauma coping methods, raping doesn’t accomplish what a rapist needs it to. Instead, it only makes his internal crisis worse. Despite their confident and often haughty acts, rapists are intensely disturbed by what they are doing to other people. Just as a starving man feels disturbed by the fact that he keeps stealing food, yet also feels that he has no choice because his need is so great, rapists feel like they are being forced to behave in ways that are despicable to them. This pitches them into a soul crisis (remember that it is only your soul that cares about morality, yet it is very important for your soul to feel like it can respect you as a morally good person). Rapists then end up having to spend enormous internal resources trying to tune out how upset they are on subconscious and soul levels.

Raping a stranger comes with a very high risk of being caught, and many rapists end up in prisons where they find themselves unable to escape confrontations with aggressive alphas. Unresolved psychological trauma abounds in prison communities, which is why there is so much posturing, bullying, and violence among inmates. For a rapist who already feels dangerously short on power, the prison environment is extremely frightening and stressful.

Better Methods

To get freed up from the fear that they are powerless to defend themselves in a terrifying world, rapists do need to collect evidence that they can effectively protect themselves from harm, however there are much better ways to do this than to go around assaulting others.

In every human relationship, there is an element of power. Learning how to balance that power well results in a sense of safety and control over your own well-being. There are many ways to do this without resorting to physical violence. Since blog posts don’t allow enough room to explain these methods well, I finally wrote a book on the subject for those who want to stop feeling so vulnerable and distressed in their relationships with other people.

Learning to balance power in ways that don’t pitch your soul into a moral crisis is an important step in recovering from any kind of power crisis. Equally important is for you to learn to see yourself through the eyes of compassion. All humans have the same core needs, and much of what they do in life is about trying to get those needs met. While rapists are often viewed as despicable monsters due to the coping methods that their minds automatically fixate on, rapists are humans who are grappling with fears and beliefs that any human would find unbearable to live with. All humans deserve compassion, regardless of how negatively they are behaving. Giving someone compassion doesn’t mean approving of what they are doing or pretending like the damage they are causing doesn’t matter. Compassion is about acknowledging how miserable it is for any human to be in pain, regardless of how he got there. Compassion protects victims of assault from getting permanently stalled in hateful attitudes that will only slow down their own recovery process. Compassion also helps abusers to find the hope they need to pursue effective solutions.

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