I have a theory regarding the psychological ramifications of rape, particularly where it applies to heterosexual rape and women, and I’d like for the Doper collective to bring their considerable intellectual expertise to bear on it.
It is my experience that the majority of women in this world have been subjected to rape in one form or another. It is also my experience that the majority of those women that were subjected to rape suffer lasting (typically lifelong) emotional distress and even crippling internal torture as a result of the physical and psychological act that takes place during the course of the assault. There are those few women that simply cannot function as human beings for stretches of time afterward. They may have their good days mixed with nearly as many bad, where they close themselves down emotionally to the people in their lives.
Some of the ramifications of the incident have been well-documented and have become useful guides to look for when attempting to determine whether or not a person may have been raped. Some of these signs to look for include long showers immediately after the incident (as if to suggest cleaning the act and the rapist from their body), a person that is detached emotionally or simply hides themselves away from others, drastic clothing changes that hide her shape or skin in ways she never did before, or feelings of guilt or feelings that the incident was brought upon due to a perception of responsibility on the part of the victim (sharing the responsibility for the reason the incident occurred).
So how does a victim go about feeling dirty and responsible for their very own rape when they obviously struggled to fight the person off or were forced to go through with it under the fear of injury or death, or simply was clear in their mind at the moment before the incident that it was not a mutual interaction that was about to take place?
My theory is based upon the fact that all functions of sexual stimulation are a part of the dynamic interaction of the parasympathetic and sympathetic parts of your autonomic nervous system. in brief, certain components of your nervous system are triggered without your control and even beyond your will, if necessary for a particular event to take place. Say, an orgasm or even a slight feeling of being sexually stimulated, for instance. This is a part of our fundamental evolutionary survival.
Map this onto a specific situation such as rape, where one person is being forced into a submissive sexual situation by another. You would expect that the person being raped would demonstrate absolutely zero desire to participate in the incident, and you would be correct. Being male (and having never been raped) I can only imagine how invasive and terrifying rape can be.
But what if during the incident the woman happened to notice a very subtle feeling or change deep in her body that was interpreted as a kind of slight compliance? What if she ever-so-slightly shifted (albeit completely involuntary) her pelvis to allow for easier entry of her attacker and her conscious self picked up on it? What if she noticed that she was losing the will to continue to fight the attacker off? How would these things be interpreted by her?
Is it possible that she may think that her body was betraying her? Would she feel guilty because she developed thoughts in her head that since her body responded positively (in one or a number of ways) to the attack, that she somehow wanted it to happen? Perhaps she would begin to feel that maybe she must have wanted it to happen after a more careful consideration of the event after the fact. What if her attacker sensed her involuntary shifting of the pelvis himself and interpreted it as her assisting him? Aren’t rapist fond of saying things like “Yeah, you know you want it.” during the rape, perhaps in response to sensing such an occurrence? Wouldn’t the woman consider in her mind that she somehow must have wanted to be raped if even her attacker sensed her shifting to accommodate him?
*Why didn’t I fight him off harder or yell out when I could have?
Why didn’t I immediately tell my parents or the police?
And why was I wearing that low cut shirt anyway?*
It is my theory that the aftermath of the attack and the psychological effects of it are a result not merely of the rape itself, but also the woman’s sensing her body’s perceived compliance to the rape and what she feels that might say about her. If she feels her body somehow betrayed her during the incident, and since we don’t compartmentalize our bodies well enough from our minds to understand the dynamic of the sympathetic and parasympathetic components of our autonomic nervous system, wouldn’t the natural course of the events lead her to share responsibility for the rape, thereby making herself feel as ‘dirty’ as her attacker? Wouldn’t this prevent her from speaking out about the rape or reporting the crime? Wouldn’t this manifest guilt cause her to question her sexual integrity (whatever that means) to the point that it causes problems with sexual relationships in her future?
I hope I’ve made my points and questions clear, and thank you for taking the time to consider them.