According to a new study of college students, men will admit to rape as long as you don't call it that — and the same few men are offending multiple times without getting caught.
1) Have you ever attempted unsuccessfully to have intercourse with an adult by force or threat of force?
2) Have you ever had sexual intercourse with someone who did not want you to because they were too intoxicated to resist?
3) Have you ever had intercourse with someone by force or threat of force?
4) Have you ever had oral intercourse with someone by force or threat of force?
As the Sexist's Amanda Hess points out, you'd think no guy would admit to any of these acts. But 120 respondents, or 6% of the sample (which, by the way, was ethnically diverse, and included older students, up to the age of 71), answered yes to at least one of the questions. 76 of those men had committed more than one rape or attempted rape — these recidivists averaged 5.8 offenses. That is, writes Millar, "just 4% of the men surveyed committed over 400 attempted or completed rapes."
The study had two important implications. One is that rapists aren't really all that secretive about their activities — as long as you don't come right out and call it "rape." The other is that one common assumption about date rape or "gray rape" — that it's usually the result of miscommunication and happens when good guys get the wrong idea — appears to be wrong. As Hess says, we hear a lot about "the acquaintance who 'misreads' the situation and 'goes too far'" and "the longtime friend who genuinely thought you had consented, and is shocked when you tell him that, no, it was rape." When we conceive of acquaintance-rapists this way, solutions tend to be woman-focused — women need to say 'no' louder, to avoid sending mixed signals, or, most upsettingly, to accept that the vagaries of sex are such that occasionally someone will just "accidentally" rape them. This thinking also trivializes date-rape and rape involving alcohol, leading to scenes like the one in Observe and Report (pictured above) in which sex with an unconscious woman is played for laughs. But Lisak and Miller's research shows that many acquaintance-rapists aren't just nice guys who screwed up once — they have a history of repeated assault. Rape isn't just an unfortunate feature of everyday male-female relations — it's a crime committed disproportionately by a few. And yet rather than being ostracized, these few are frequently protected by those who say, in Hess's words, "He's my friend, so he can't be a rapist." Hess continues, "We need to reverse that equation-'He's a rapist, so he can't be my friend.'"