Rape has primarily been classed as a sexual offence. Feminist theorists believe this mythology was developed by a patriarchal society of leading men who justified their actions by blaming the victims. The most common rape myths circulating society entail blaming female victims, women enjoy it, women say no but mean yes, and women provoke rape by dressing or behaving provocatively and women are liars. Koss in 1994 argued that rape myths can be categorised under three main themes, these being, "victim masochism, victim precipitation and victim fabrication.
" Feminists have argued that the frequency of these myths in society, including in police forces, courts and the media, this could be the main reason as to why women are not reporting rapes and sexual assaults. Rape is rarely committed for sexual purposes. Rape is about power and domination. A rape myth as described by Burt in 1980, who also developed the rape myth acceptance scale (RMA), is that myths are, "prejudicial, stereotyped or false beliefs about rape, rape victims and rapists".
(Burt, 1980) Lonsway and Fitzgerald defined rape myths as, "attitudes and beliefs that are generally false but are widely and persistently held, and that serve to deny and justify male sexual aggression against women. " (1994). this latter description amplifies what feminists have argued. The first myth that will be analysed is victim masochism, which is the belief that the victim either enjoyed or wanted to be attacked. "Rape is a humiliating and often violent experience for women. It is a terrifying demonstration of the lack of control we have over our bodies and our lives. Rape has nothing to do with women's sexual pleasure" (www. brissc. com. au).
Rape has devastating effects on victims that can last their entire life. Mental, emotional and sometimes physical damage scars the victim for a long time. As 4 out of 5 rapes is committed by someone known to the victim, this also can have lasting effects, that may be felt by more then just the victim. This can go on to have effects onto both the victims family and friends and the offenders loved ones also. This myth cane also impact on the victim's confidence in reporting the attack. Many times victims will blame themselves, "I went really numb after [my rape] and just blamed myself for what happened," admits J.
"I thought it was my entire fault because I'd gone for the ride voluntarily and that was it. If the attack had been by a stranger on the street, I doubt I'd have felt so responsible. " (Corduff. 1999). this statement by a rape victim, shows the damage this particular myth is creating. Susan Brownmiller noted that there is a male rational behind rape myths, she stated, "Because rape is an act that men do in the name of masculinity, it is in their interest to believe that women also want rape done, in the name of femininity. In the dichotomy that they have established, one does and one is "done to".
This belief is more than an arrogant insensitivity; it is a belief in the supreme rightness of male power. " (Brownmiller. 1976) The next myth is victim precipitation, which is the myth that the victim asked for it or deserved it. This is once again a statement that is barely believable. Whilst there is a selection of women who may enjoy rougher then usual sex, or role playing various situations in their sexual fantasies, real rape is something no women wants to experience. Rape is a fear that women are given from an early age, and carry throughout their life.
Women must always be aware of their situations and environments, with the fear of rape hanging over them. A male would not think twice about walking alone at night, the thought of rape would not even enter his thoughts, however for a woman; this thought would more then likely be at the forefront of her mind. Hickman and Muelenhard conclude, "Most women live their lives in fear of becoming a victim of rape… women restrict their behaviours in numerous ways. " (1997) the lasting effects of rape are devastating that no woman would want to experience.
Gordon and Riger claim that rape is intertwined with death, "for many women to be raped is to die. Some women have killed themselves after surviving rape, and many other victims consider it. " (1989) The third major myth is that of victim fabrication. This is the myth in which the victim is accused of lying. Whilst this myth can be damaging to victims, and has had effects in the way in which rapes are reported. A high percentage of rapes go unreported due to victims not being believed. Although statistics have shown that somewhere between 2 and 8% of rapes reported, the stories of victims have been fabricated.
"Empirical evidence does not support the widespread belief that women are extremely unlikely to make false accusations of male sexual misconduct. Rather the research on accusations of rape, sexual harassment, incest, and child sexual abuse indicates that false accusations have become a serious problem. The motivations involved in making a false report are widely varied and include confusion, outside influence from therapists and others, habitual lying, advantages in custody disputes, financial gain, and the political ideology of radical feminism. " (Zepezauer). The main critics of rape myths are the feminists.
"Feminists have envisioned rape as the result of a nexus of social power relations that systematically devalue one sex as they value they other sex. " (Boklaschuk 2000). Rape has been defined in many ways, but the main focus from feminist writers has been the focus that rape myths effectively degrade the victim, mainly women, and justify the offenders', the male, actions. As rape is mostly about power rather then about sexual aggression, it is seen as dominance over women, and disgregation of women. As it is also a crime of violence. Women are aware of rape, and being a victim of rape, and men are aware of the power of rape.