* This research was supported by a grant (R01 MH33013) from the National Center for the Prevention and Control of Rape, National Institute of Mental Health. We are indebted to the Virginia Department of Corrections for their cooperation and assistance in this research. Correspondence to: Scully, Department of Sociology/Anthropology, Virginia Commonwealth University, 312 Shafer Street, Richmond, Virginia 23284.
In this paper we argue that the popular image of rape, a nonutilitarian act committed by a few “sick” men, is too limited a view of sexual violence because it excludes culture and social structure as pre-disposing factors. Our data come from interviews with 114 convicted, incarcerated rapists. Looking at rape from the perspective of rapists, we attempt to discover the function of sexual violence in their lives; what their behavior gained for them in a society seeming prone to rape. Our analysis reveals that a number of rapists used sexual violence as a method of revenge and/or punishment while others used it as a means of gaining access to unwilling or unavailable women. In some cases, rape was just a bonus added to burglary or robbery. Rape was also a recreational activity and described as an “adventure” and an “exciting” form of impersonal sex which gained the offender power over his victim(s).
Over the past several decades, rape has become a “medicalized” social problem. That is to say, the theories used to explain rape are predicated on psychopathological models. They have been generated from clinical experiences with small samples of rapists, often the therapists’ own clients. Although these psychiatric explanations are most appropriately applied to the atypical rapist, they have been generalized to all men who rape and have come to inform the public’s view on the topic.
Two assumptions are at the core of the psychopathological model; that rape is the result of idiosyncratic mental disease and that it often includes an uncontrollable sexual impulse (Scully and Marolla, 1985). For example, the presumption of psychopathology is evident in the often cited work of Nicholas Groth (1979). While Groth emphasizes the nonsexual nature of rape (power, anger, sadism), he also concludes, “Rape is always a symptom of some psychological dysfunction, either temporary and transient or chronic and repetitive” (Groth, 1979:5). Thus, in the psychopathological view, rapists lack the ability to control their behavior; they are “sick” individuals from the “lunatic fringe” of society.
In contradiction to this model, empirical research has repeatedly failed to find a consistent pattern of personality type or character disorder that reliably discriminates rapists from other groups of men (Fisher and Rivlin, 1971; Hammer and Jacks, 1955; Rada, 1978). Indeed, other research has found that fewer than 5 percent of men were psychotic when they raped (Abel et al., 1980).
Evidence indicates that rape is not a behavior confined to a few “sick” men but many men have the attitudes and beliefs necessary to commit a sexually aggressive act. In research conducted at a midwestern university, Koss and her coworkers reported that 85 percent of men defined as highly sexually aggressive had victimized women with whom they were romantically involved (Koss and Leonard, 1984). A recent survey quoted in The Chronicle of Higher Education estimates that more than 20 percent of college women are the victims of rape and attempted rape (Meyer, 1984). These findings mirror research published several decades earlier which also concluded that sexual aggression was commonplace in dating relationships (Kanin, 1957, 1965, 1967, 1969; Kirkpatrick and Kanin, 1957).  In their study of 53 college males, Malamuth, Haber and Feshback (1980) found that 51 percent indicated a likelihood that they, themselves, would rape if assured of not being punished.
[1 Despite the fact that these data have been in circulation for some time, prevention strategies continue to reflect the “lunatic fringe” image of rape. For example, security on college campuses, such as bright lighting and escort service, is designed to protect women against stranger rape while little or no attention is paid to the more frequent crime-acquaintance or date rape.]
In addition, the frequency of rape in the United States makes it unlikely that responsibility rests solely with a small lunatic fringe of psychopathic men. Johnson (1980), calculating the lifetime risk of rape to girls and women aged twelve and over, makes a similar observation. Using Law Enforcement Assistance Association and Bureau of Census Crime Victimization Studies, he calculated that, excluding sexual abuse in marriage and assuming equal risk to all women, 20 to 30 percent of girls now 12 years old will suffer a violent sexual attack during the remainder of their lives. Interestingly, the lack of empirical support for the psychopathological model has not resulted in the de-medicalization of rape, nor does it appear to have diminished the belief that rapists are “sick” aberrations in their own culture. This is significant because of the implications and consequences of the model.
A central assumption in the psychopathological model is that male sexual aggression is unusual or strange. This assumption removes rape from the realm of the everyday or “normal” world and places it in the category of “special” or “sick” behavior. As a consequence, men who rape are cast in the role of outsider and a connection with normative male behavior is avoided. Since, in this view, the source of the behavior is thought to be within the psychology of the individual, attention is diverted away from culture or social structure as contributing factors. Thus, the psychopathological model ignores evidence which links sexual aggression to environmental variables and which suggests that rape, like all behavior, is learned.
CULTURAL FACTORS IN RAPE
Culture is a factor in rape, but the precise nature of the relationship between culture and sexual violence remains a topic of discussion. Ethnographic data from pre-industrial societies show the existence of rape-free cultures (Broude and Green, 1976; Sanday, 1979), though explanations for the phenomena differ.  Sanday (1979) relates sexual violence to contempt for female qualities and suggests that rape is part of a culture of violence and an expression of male dominance. In contrast, Blumberg (1979) argues than in pre-industrial societies women are more likely to lack important life options and to be physically and politically oppressed where they lack economic power relative to men. That is, in pre-industrial societies relative economic power enables women to win some immunity from men’s use of force against them.
[2 Broude and Green (1976) list a number of factors which limit the quantity and quality of cross-cultural data on rape. They point out that it was not customary in traditional ethnography to collect data on sexual attitudes and behavior. Further, where data do exist, they are often sketchy and vague. Despite this, the existence of rape-free societies has been established.]
Among modern societies, the frequency of rape varies dramatically, and the United States is among the most rape-prone of all. In 1980, for example, the rate of reported rape and attempted rape for the United States was eighteen times higher than the corresponding rate for England and Wales (West, 1983). Spurred by the Women’s Movement, feminists have generated an impressive body of theory regarding the cultural etiology of rape in the United States. Representative of the feminist view, Griffin (1971) called rape “The All American Crime.”
The feminist perspective views rape as an act of violence and social control which functions to “keep women in their place” (Brownmiller, 1975; Kasinsky, 1975; Russell, 1975). Feminists see rape as an extension of normative male behavior, the result of conformity or overconformity to the values and prerogatives which define the traditional male sex role. That is, traditional socialization encourages males to associate power, dominance, strength, virility and superiority with masculinity, and submissiveness, passivity, weakness, and inferiority with femininity. Furthermore, males are taught to have expectations about their level of sexual needs and expectations for corresponding female accessibility which function to justify forcing sexual access. The justification for forced sexual access is buttressed by legal, social, and religious definitions of women as male property and sex as an exchange of goods (Bart, 1979). Socialization prepares women to be “legitimate” victims and men to be potential offenders (Weis and Borges, 1973). Herman (1984) concludes that the United States is a rape culture because both genders are socialized to regard male aggression as a natural and normal part of sexual intercourse.
Feminists view pornography as an important element in a larger system of sexual violence; they see pornography as an expression of a rape-prone culture where women are seen as objects available for use by men (Morgan, 1980; Wheeler, 1985). Based on his content analysis of 428 “adults only” books, Smith (1976) makes a similar observation. He notes that, not only is rape presented as part of normal male/female sexual relations, but the woman, despite her terror, is always depicted as sexually aroused to the point of cooperation. In the end, she is ashamed but physically gratified. The message women desire and enjoy rape has more potential for damage than the image of the violence per se. 
[3 This factor distinguishes rape from other fictional depictions of violence. That is, in fictional murder, bombings, robberys, etc., victims are never portrayed as enjoying themselves. Such exhibits are reserved for pornographic displays of rape.]
The fusion of these themes sex as an impersonal act, the victim’s uncontrollable orgasm, and the violent infliction of pain is commonplace in the actual accounts of rapists. Scully and Marolla (1984) demonstrated that many convicted rapists denied their crime and attempted to justify their rapes by arguing that their victim had enjoyed herself despite the use of a weapon and the infliction of serious injuries, or even death. In fact, many argued, they had been instrumental in making her fantasy come true.
The images projected in pornography contribute to a vocabulary of motive which trivializes and neutralizes rape and which might lessen the internal controls that otherwise would prevent sexually aggressive behavior. Men who rape use this culturally acquired vocabulary to justify their sexual violence.
Another consequence of the application of psychopathology to rape is it leads one to view sexual violence as a special type of crime in which the motivations are subconscious and uncontrollable rather than overt and deliberate as with other criminal behavior. Black (1983) offers an approach to the analysis of criminal and/or violent behavior which, when applied to rape, avoids this bias.
Black (1983) suggests that it is theoretically useful to ignore that crime is criminal in order to discover what such behavior has in common with other kinds of conduct. From his perspective, much of the crime in modern societies, as in pre-industrial societies, can be interpreted as a form of “self-help” in which the actor is expressing a grievance through aggression and violence. From the actor’s perspective, the victim is deviant and his own behavior is a form of social control in which the objective may be conflict management, punishment, or revenge. For example, in societies where women are considered the property of men, rape is sometimes used as a means of avenging the victim’s husband or father (Black, 1983). In some cultures rape is used as a form of punishment. Such was the tradition among the puritanical, patriarchal Cheyenne where men were valued for their ability as warriors. It was Cheyenne custom that a wife suspected of being unfaithful could be “put on the prairie” by her husband. Military confreres then were invited to “feast” on the prairie (Hoebel, 1954; Llewellyn and Hoebel, 1941). The ensuing mass rape was a husband’s method of punishing his wife.
Black’s (1983) approach is helpful in understanding rape because it forces one to examine the goals that some men have learned to achieve through sexually violent means. Thus, one approach to understanding why some men rape is to shift attention from individual psychopathology to the important question of what rapists gain from sexual aggression and violence in a culture seemingly prone to rape.
In this paper, we address this question using data from interviews conducted with 114 convicted, incarcerated rapists. Elsewhere, we discussed the vocabulary of motive, consisting of excuses and justifications, that these convicted rapists used to explain themselves and their crime (Scully and Marolla, 1984).  The use of these culturally derived excuses and justifications allowed them to view their behavior as either idiosyncratic or situationally appropriate and thus it reduced their sense of moral responsibility for their actions. Having disavowed deviance, these men revealed how they had used rape to achieve a number of objectives. We find that some men used rape for revenge or punishment while, for others, it was an “added bonus” a last minute decision made while committing another crime. In still other cases, rape was used to gain sexual access to women who were unwilling or unavailable, and for some it was a source of power and sex without any personal feelings. Rape was also a form of recreation, a diversion or an adventure and, finally, it was something that made these men “feel good.”
[4 We also introduced a typology consisting of “admitters” (men who defined their behavior as rape) and “deniers” (men who admitted to sexual contact with the victim but did not define it as rape). In this paper we drop the distinction between admitters and deniers because it is not relevant to most of the discussion.]
[5 For a full discussion of the research methodology, sample, and validity, see Scully and Marolla (1984).]
During 1980 and 1981 we interviewed 114 convicted rapists. All of the men had been convicted of the rape or attempted rape (n=8) of an adult woman and subsequently incarcerated in a Virginia prison. Men convicted of other types of sexual offense were omitted from the sample.
In addition to their convictions for rape, 39 percent of the men also had convictions for burglary or robbery, 29 percent for abduction, 25 percent for sodomy, 11 percent for first or second degree murder and 12 percent had been convicted of more than one rape. The majority of the men had previous criminal histories but only 23 percent had a record of past sex offenses and only 26 percent had a history of emotional problems. Their sentences for rape and accompanying crimes ranged from ten years to seven life sentences plus 380 years for one man. Twenty-two percent of the rapists were serving at least one life sentence. Forty-six percent of the rapists were white, 54 percent black. In age, they ranged from 18 to 60 years but the majority were between 18 and 35 years. Based on a statistical profile of felons in all Virginia prisons prepared by the Virginia Department of Corrections, it appears that this sample of rapists was disproportionately white and, at the time of the research, somewhat better educated and younger than the average inmate.
All participants in this research were volunteers. In constructing the sample, age, education, race, severity of current offense and past criminal record were balanced within the limitations imposed by the characteristics of the volunteer pool. Obviously, the sample was not random and thus may not be typical of all rapists, imprisoned or otherwise.
All interviews were hand recorded using an 89-page instrument which included a general background, psychological, criminal, and sexual history, attitude scales and 30 pages of open-ended questions intended to explore rapists’ own perceptions of their crime and themselves. Each author interviewed half of the sample in sessions that ranged from three to seven hours depending on the desire or willingness of the participant to talk.
In all prison research, validity is a special methodological concern because of the reputation inmates have for “conning.” Although one goal of this research was to understand rape from the perspective of men who have raped, it was also necessary to establish the extent to which rapists’ perceptions deviated from other descriptions of their crime. The technique we used was the same others have used in prison research; comparing factual information obtained in the interviews, including details of the crime, with reports on file at the prison (Athens, 1977; Luckenbill, 1977; Queen’s Bench Foundation, 1976). In general, we found that rapists’ accounts of their crime had changed very little since their trials. However, there was a tendency to understate the amount of violence they had used and, especially among certain rapists, to place blame on their victims.
HOW OFFENDERS VIEW THE REWARDS OF RAPE
Revenge and Punishment
As noted earlier, Black’s (1983) perspective suggests that a rapist might see his act as a legitimized form of revenge or punishment. Additionally, he asserts that the idea of “collective liability” accounts for much seemingly random violence. “Collective liability” suggests that all people in a particular category are held accountable for the conduct of each of their counterparts. Thus, the victim of a violent act may merely represent the category of individual being punished.
These factors - revenge, punishment, and the collective liability of women - can be used to explain a number of rapes in our research. Several cases will illustrate the ways in which these factors combined in various types of rape. Revenge-rapes were among the most brutal and often included beatings, serious injuries and, even murder.
Typically, revenge-rapes included the element of collective liability. This is, from the rapist’s perspective, the victim was a substitute for the woman they wanted to avenge. As explained elsewhere, (Scully and Marolla, 1984), an upsetting event, involving a woman, preceded a significant number of rapes. When they raped, these men were angry because of a perceived indiscretion, typically related to a rigid, moralistic standard of sexual conduct, which they required from “their woman” but, in most cases, did not abide by themselves. Over and over these rapists talked about using rape “to get even” with their wives or other significant woman.  Typical is a young man who, prior to the rape, had a violent argument with his wife over what eventually proved to be her misdiagnosed case of venereal disease. She assumed the disease had been contracted through him, an accusation that infuriated him. After fighting with his wife, he explained that he drove around “thinking about hurting someone.” He encountered his victim, a stranger, on the road where her car had broken down. It appears she accepted his offered ride because her car was out of commission. When she realized that rape was pending, she called him “a son of a bitch,” and attempted to resist. He reported flying into a rage and beating her, and he confided,
I have never felt that much anger before. If she had resisted, I would have killed her ... The rape was for revenge. I didn’t have an orgasm. She was there to get my hostile feelings off on.
[6 It should be noted that significant women, like rape victims, were also sometimes the targets of abuse and violence and possibly rape as well, although spousal rape is not recognized in Virginia law. In fact, these men were abusers. Fifty-five percent of rapists ackowledged that they hit their significant woman “at least once,” and 20 percent admitted to inflicting physical injury. Given the tendency of these men to under-report the amount of violence in their crime, it is probably accurate to say, they under-reported their abuse of their significant women as well.]
Although not the most common form of revenge rape, sexual assault continues to be used in retaliation against the victim’s male partner. In one such case, the offender, angry because the victim’s husband owed him money, went to the victim’s home to collect. He confided, “I was going to get it one way or another.” Finding the victim alone, he explained, they started to argue about the money and,
I grabbed her and started beating the hell out of her. Then I committed the act,  I knew what I was doing. I was mad. I could have stopped but I didn’t. I did it to get even with her and her husband.
[7 This man, as well as a number of others, either would not or could not, bring himself to say the word “rape.” Similarly, we also attempted to avoid using the word, a technique which seemed to facilitate communication.]
Griffin (1971:33) points out that when women are viewed as commodities, “In raping another man’s woman, a man may aggrandize his own manhood and concurrently reduce that of another man.”
Revenge-rapes often contained an element of punishment. In some cases, while the victim was not the initial object of the revenge, the intent was to punish her because of something that transpired after the decision to rape had been made or during the course of the rape itself. This was the case with a young man whose wife had recently left him. Although they were in the process of reconciliation, he remained angry and upset over the separation. The night of the rape, he met the victim and her friend in a bar where he had gone to watch a fight on TV. The two women apparently accepted a ride from him but, after taking her friend home, he drove the victim to his apartment. At his apartment, he found a note from his wife indicating she had stopped by to watch the fight with him. This increased his anger because he preferred his wife’s company. Inside his apartment, the victim allegedly remarked that she was sexually interested in his dog, which he reported, put him in a rage. In the ensuing attack, he raped and pistol-whipped the victim. Then he forced a vacuum cleaner hose, switched on suction, into her vagina and bit her breast, severing the nipple. He stated:
I hated at the time, but I don’t know if it was her (the victim). (Who could it have been?) My wife? Even though we were getting back together, I still didn’t trust her.
During his interview, it became clear that this offender, like many of the men, believed men have the right to discipline and punish women. In fact, he argued that most of the men he knew would also have beaten the victim because “that kind of thing (referring to the dog) is not acceptable among my friends.”
Finally, in some rapes, both revenge and punishment were directed at victims because they represented women whom these offenders perceived as collectively responsible and liable for their problems. Rape was used “to put women in their place” and as a method of proving their “manhood” by displaying dominance over a female. For example, one multiple rapist believed his actions were related to the feeling that women thought they were better than he was.
Rape was a feeling of total dominance. Before the rapes, I would always get a feeling of power and anger. I would degrade women so I could feel there was a person of less worth than me.
Another, especially brutal, case involved a young man from an upper middle class background, who spilled out his story in a seven-hour interview conducted in his solitary confinement cell. He described himself as tremendously angry, at the time, with his girlfriend whom he believed was involved with him in a “storybook romance,” and from whom he expected complete fidelity. When she went away to college and became involved with another man, his revenge lasted eighteen months and involved the rape and murder of five women, all strangers who lived in his community. Explaining his rape-murders, he stated:
I wanted to take my anger and frustration out on a stranger, to be in control, to do what I wanted to do. I wanted to use and abuse someone as I felt used and abused. I was killing my girlfriend. During the rapes and murders, I would think about my girlfriend. I hated the victims because they probably messed men over. I hated women because they were deceitful and I was getting revenge for what happened to me.
An Added Bonus
Burglary and robbery commonly accompany rape. Among our sample, 39 percent of rapists had also been convicted of one or the other of these crimes committed in connection with rape. In some cases, the original intent was rape and robbery was an after-thought. However, a number of the men indicated that the reverse was true in their situation. That is, the decision to rape was made subsequent to their original intent which was burglary or robbery.
This was the case with a young offender who stated that he originally intended only to rob the store in which the victim happened to be working. He explained that when he found the victim alone,
I decided to rape her to prove I had guts. She was just there. It could have been anybody.
Similarly, another offender indicated that he initially broke into his victim’s home to burglarize it. When he discovered the victim asleep, he decided to seize the opportunity “to satisfy an urge to go to bed with a white woman, to see if it was different.” Indeed, a number of men indicated that the decision to rape had been made after they realized they were in control of the situation. This was also true of an unemployed offender who confided that his practice was to steal whenever he needed money. On the day of the rape, he drove to a local supermarket and paced the parking lot, “staking out the situation.” His pregnant victim was the first person to come along alone and “she was an easy target.” Threatening her with a knife, he reported the victim as saying she would do anything if he didn’t harm her. At that point, he decided to force her to drive to a deserted area where he raped her. He explained:
I wasn’t thinking about sex. But when she said she would do anything not to get hurt, probably because she was pregnant, I thought, ‘why not.’
The attitude of these men toward rape was similar to their attitude toward burglary and robbery. Quite simply, if the situation is right, “why not.” From the perspective of these rapists, rape was just another part of the crime-an added bonus.
In an effort to change public attitudes that are damaging to the victims of rape and to reform laws seemingly premised on the assumption that women both ask for and enjoy rape, many writers emphasize the violent and aggressive character of rape. Often such arguments appear to discount the part that sex plays in the crime. The data clearly indicate that from the rapists’ point of view rape is in part sexually motivated. Indeed, it is the sexual aspect of rape that distinguishes it from other forms of assault.
Groth (1979) emphasizes the psychodynamic function of sex in rape arguing that rapists’ aggressive needs are expressed through sexuality. In other words, rape is a means to an end. We argue, however, that rapists view the act as an end in itself and that sexual access most obviously demonstrates the link between sex and rape. Rape as a means of sexual access also shows the deliberate nature of this crime. When a woman is unwilling or seems unavailable for sex, the rapist can seize what isn’t volunteered. In discussing his decision to rape, one man made this clear.
All the guys wanted to fuck her ... a real fox, beautiful shape. She was a beautiful woman and I wanted to see what she had.
The attitude that sex is a male entitlement suggests that when a woman says “no,” rape is a suitable method of conquering the “offending” object. If, for example, a woman is picked up at a party or in a bar or while hitchhiking (behavior which a number of the rapists saw as a signal of sexual availability), and the woman later resists sexual advances, rape is presumed to be justified. The same justification operates in what is popularly called “date rape.” The belief that sex was their just compensation compelled a number of rapists to insist they had not raped. Such was the case of an offender who raped and seriously beat his victim when, on their second date, she refused his sexual advances.
I think I was really pissed off at her because it didn’t go as planned. I could have been with someone else. She led me on but wouldn’t deliver ... I have a male ego that must be fed.
The purpose of such rapes was conquest, to seize what was not offered.
Despite the cultural belief that young women are the most sexually desirable, several rapes involved the deliberate choice of a victim relatively older than the assailant.  Since the rapists were themselves rather young (26 to 30 years of age on the average), they were expressing a preference for sexually experienced, rather than elderly, women. Men who chose victims older than themselves often said they did so because they believed that sexually experienced women were more desirable partners. They raped because they also believed that these women would not be sexually attracted to them.
[8 When asked towards whom their sexual interests were primarily directed, 43 percent of rapists indicated a preference for women “significantly older than themselves.” When those who responded, “women of any age” are added, 65 percent of rapists expressed sexual interest in women older than themselves.]
Finally, sexual access emerged as a factor in the accounts of black men who consciously chose to rape white women.  The majority of rapes in the United States today are intra-racial. However, for the past 20 years, according to national data based on reported rapes as well as victimization studies, which include unreported rapes, the rate of black on white (B/W) rape has significantly exceeded the rate of white on black (W/B) rape (La Free, 1982).  Indeed, we may be experiencing a historical anomaly, since, as Brownmiller (1975) has documented, white men have freely raped women of color in the past. The current structure of interracial rape, however, reflects contemporary racism and race relations in several ways.
[9 Feminists as well as sociologists have tended to avoid the topic of interracial rape. Contributing to the avoidance is an awareness of historical and contemporary social injustice. For example, Davis (1981) points out that fictional rape of white women was used in the South as a post-slavery justification to lynch black men. And LaFree (1980) has demonstrated that black men who assault white women continue to receive more serious sanctions within the criminal justice system when compared to other racial combinations of victim and assailant. While the silence has been defensible in light of historical racism, continued avoidance of the topic discriminates against victims by eliminating the opportunity to investigate the impact of social factors on rape.]
[10 In our sample, 66 percent of black rapists reported their victim(s) were white, compared to two white rapists who reported raping black women. It is important to emphasize that because of the biases inherent in rape reporting and processing, and because of the limitations of our sample, these figures do not accurately reflect the actual racial composition of rapes committed in Virginia or elsewhere. Furthermore, since black men who assault white women receive more serious sanctions within the criminal justice system when compared to other racial combinations of victim and assailant (LaFree, 1980), B/W rapists will be overrepresented within prison populations as well as over-represented in any sample drawn from the population.]
First, the status of black women in the United States today is relatively lower than the status of white women. Further, prejudice, segregation and other factors continue to militate against interracial coupling. Thus, the desire for sexual access to higher status, unavailable women, an important function in B/W rape, does not motivate white men to rape black women. Equally important, demographic and geographic barriers interact to lower the incidence of W/B rape. Segregation as well as the poverty expected in black neighborhoods undoubtedly discourages many whites from choosing such areas as a target for house-breaking or robbery. Thus, the number of rapes that would occur in conjunction with these crimes is reduced.
Reflecting in part the standards of sexual desirability set by the dominant white society, a number of black rapists indicated they had been curious about white women. Blocked by racial barriers from legitimate sexual relations with white women, they raped to gain access to them. They described raping white women as “the ultimate experience” and “high status among my friends. It gave me a feeling of status, power, macho.” For another man, raping a white woman had a special appeal because it violated a “known taboo,” making it more dangerous and, thus more exciting, to him than raping a black woman.
Impersonal Sex and Power
The idea that rape is an impersonal rather than an intimate or mutual experience appealed to a number of rapists, some of whom suggested it was their preferred form of sex. The fact that rape allowed them to control rather than care encouraged some to act on this preference. For example, one man explained,
Rape gave me the power to do what I wanted to do without feeling I had to please a partner or respond to a partner. I felt in control, dominant. Rape was the ability to have sex without caring about the woman’s response. I was totally dominant.
Another rapist commented:
Seeing them laying there helpless gave me the confidence that I could do it ... With rape, I felt totally in charge. I’m bashful, timid. When a woman wanted to give in normal sex, I was intimidated. In the rapes, I was totally in command, she totally submissive.
During his interview, another rapist confided that he had been fantasizing about rape for several weeks before committing his offense. His belief was that it would be “an exciting experience a new high.” Most appealing to him was the idea that he could make his victim “do it all for him” and that he would be in control. He fantasized that she “would submit totally and that I could have anything I wanted.” Eventually, he decided to act because his older brother told him, “forced sex is great, I wouldn’t get caught and, besides, women love it.” Though now he admits to his crime, he continues to believe his victim “enjoyed it.” Perhaps we should note here that the appeal of impersonal sex is not limited to convicted rapists. The amount of male sexual activity that occurs in homosexual meeting places as well as the widespread use of prostitutes suggests that avoidance of intimacy appeals to a large segment of the male population. Through rape men can experience power and avoid the emotions related to intimacy and tenderness. Further, the popularity of violent pornography suggests that a wide variety of men in this culture have learned to be aroused by sex fused with violence (Smith, 1976). Consistent with this observation, recent experimental research conducted by Malamuth et al., (1980) demonstrates that men are aroused by images that depict women as orgasmic under conditions of violence and pain. They found that for female students, arousal was high when the victim experienced an orgasm and no pain, whereas male students were highly aroused when the victim experienced an orgasm and pain. On the basis of their results, Malamuth et al., (1980) suggest that forcing a woman to climax despite her pain and abhorrence of the assailant makes the rapist feel powerful, he has gained control over the only source of power historically associated with women, their bodies. In the final analysis, dominance was the objective of most rapists.
Recreation and Adventure
Among gang rapists, most of whom were in their late teens or early twenties when convicted, rape represented recreation and adventure, another form of delinquent activity. Part of rape’s appeal was the sense of male camaraderie engendered by participating collectively in a dangerous activity. To prove one’s self capable of “performing” under these circumstances was a substantial challenge and also a source of reward. One gang rapist articulated this feeling very clearly,
We felt powerful, we were in control. I wanted sex and there was peer pressure. She wasn’t like a person, no personality, just domination on my part. Just to show I could do it - you know, macho.
Our research revealed several forms of gang rape. A common pattern was hitchhike-abduction rape. In these cases, the gang, cruising an area, “looking for girls,” picked up a female hitchhiker for the purpose of having sex. Though the intent was rape, a number of men did not view it as such because they were convinced that women hitchhiked primarily to signal sexual availability and only secondarily as a form of transportation. In these cases, the unsuspecting victim was driven to a deserted area, raped, and in the majority of cases physically injured. Sometimes, the victim was not hitchhiking; she was abducted at knife or gun point from the street usually at night. Some of these men did not view this type of attack as rape either because they believed a woman walking alone at night to be a prostitute. In addition, they were often convinced “she enjoyed it.”
“Gang date” rape was another popular variation. In this pattern, one member of the gang would make a date with the victim. Then, without her knowledge or consent, she would be driven to a predetermined location and forcibly raped by each member of the group. One young man revealed this practice was so much a part of his group’s recreational routine, they had rented a house for the purpose. From his perspective, the rape was justified because “usually the girl had a bad reputation, or we knew it was what she liked.”
During his interview, another offender confessed to participating in twenty or thirty such “gang date” rapes because his driver’s license had been revoked making it difficult for him to “get girls.” Sixty percent of the time, he claimed, “they were girls known to do this kind of thing,” but “frequently, the girls didn’t want to have sex with all of us.” In such cases, he said, “It might start out as rape but, then, they (the women) would quiet down and none ever reported it to the police.” He was convicted for a gang rape, which he described as “the ultimate thing I ever did,” because unlike his other rapes, the victim, in this case, was a stranger whom the group abducted as she walked home from the library. He felt the group’s past experience with “gang date” rape had prepared them for this crime in which the victim was blindfolded and driven to the mountains where, though it was winter, she was forced to remove her clothing. Lying on the snow, she was raped by each of the four men several times before being abandoned near a farm house. This young man continued to believe that if he had spent the night with her, rather than abandoning her, she would not have reported to the police. 
[11 It is important to note that the gang rapes in this study were especially violent, resulting in physical injury, even death. One can only guess at the amount of hitchhike-abduction and “gang-date” rapes that are never reported or, if reported, are not processed because of the tendency to disbelieve the victims of such rapes unless extensive physical injury accompanies the crime.]
Solitary rapists also used terms like “exciting,” “a challenge,” “an adventure,” to describe their feelings about rape. Like the gang rapists, these men found the element of danger made rape all the more exciting. Typifying this attitude was one man who described his rape as intentional. He reported:
It was exciting to get away with it (rape), just being able to beat the system, not women. It was like doing something illegal and getting away with it.
Another rapist confided that for him “rape was just more exciting and compelling” than a normal sexual encounter because it involved forcing a stranger. A multiple rapist asserted, “it was the excitement and fear and the drama that made rape a big kick.”
At the time of their interviews, many of the rapists expressed regret for their crime and had empirically low self-esteem ratings. The experience of being convicted, sentenced, and incarcerated for rape undoubtedly produced many, if not most, of these feelings. What is clear is that, in contrast to the well-documented severity of the immediate impact, and in some cases, the long-term trauma experienced by the victims of sexual violence, the immediate emotional impact on the rapists is slight. When the men were asked to recall their feelings immediately following the rape, only eight percent indicated that guilt or feeling bad was part of their emotional response. The majority said they felt good, relieved or simply nothing at all. Some indicated they had been afraid of being caught or felt sorry for themselves. Only two men out of 114 expressed any concern or feeling for the victim. Feeling good or nothing at all about raping women is not an aberration limited to men in prison. Smithyman (1978), in his study of “undetected rapists” rapists outside of prison found that raping women had no impact on their lives nor did it have a negative effect on their self-image.
Significantly a number of men volunteered the information that raping had a positive impact on their feelings. For some the satisfaction was in revenge. For example, the man who had raped and murdered five women:
It seems like so much bitterness and tension had built up and this released it. I felt like I had just climbed a mountain and now I could look back.
Another offender characterized rape as habit forming: “Rape is like smoking. You can’t stop once you start.” Finally, one man expressed the sentiments of many rapists when he stated,
After rape, I always felt like I had just conquered something, like I had just ridden the bull at Gilley’s.
This paper has explored rape from the perspective of a group of convicted, incarcerated rapists. The purpose was to discover how these men viewed sexual violence and what they gained from their behavior.
We found that rape was frequently a means of revenge and punishment. Implicit in revenge-rapes was the notion that women were collectively liable for the rapists’ problems. In some cases, victims were substitutes for significant women on whom the men desired to take revenge. In other cases, victims were thought to represent all women, and rape was used to punish, humiliate, and “put them in their place.” In both cases women were seen as a class, a category, not as individuals. For some men, rape was almost an after-thought, a bonus added to burglary or robbery. Other men gained access to sexually unavailable or unwilling women through rape. For this group of men, rape was a fantasy come true, a particularly exciting form of impersonal sex which enabled them to dominate and control women, by exercising a singularly male form of power. These rapists talked of the pleasures of raping-how for them it was a challenge, an adventure, a dangerous and “ultimate” experience. Rape made them feel good and, in some cases, even elevated their self-image.
The pleasure these men derived from raping reveals the extreme to which they objectified women. Women were seen as sexual commodities to be used or conquered rather than as human beings with rights and feelings. One young man expressed the extreme of the contemptful view of women when he confided to the female researcher.
Rape is a man’s right. If a women doesn’t want to give it, the man should take it. Women have no right to say no. Women are made to have sex. It’s all they are good for. Some women would rather take a beating, but they always give in; it’s what they are for.
This man murdered his victim because she wouldn’t “give in.”
Undoubtedly, some rapes, like some of all crimes, are idiopathic. However, it is not necessary to resort to pathological motives to account for all rape or other acts of sexual violence. Indeed, we find that men who rape have something to teach us about the cultural roots of sexual aggression. They force us to acknowledge that rape is more than an idiosyncratic act committed by a few “sick” men. Rather, rape can be viewed as the end point in a continuum of sexually aggressive behaviors that reward men and victimize women.  In the way that the motives for committing any criminal act can be rationally determined, reasons for rape can also be determined. Our data demonstrate that some men rape because they have learned that in this culture sexual violence is rewarding. Significantly, the overwhelming majority of these rapists indicated they never thought they would go to prison for what they did. Some did not fear imprisonment because they did not define their behavior as rape. Others knew that women frequently do not report rape and of those cases that are reported, conviction rates are low, and therefore they felt secure. These men perceived rape as a rewarding, low risk act. Understanding that otherwise normal men can and do rape is critical to the development of strategies for prevention.
[12 It is interesting that men who verbally harass women on the street say they do so to alleviate boredom, to gain a sense of youthful camaraderie, and because it’s fun (Benard and Schlaffer, 1984) - the same reason men who rape give for their behavior.]
We are left with the fact that all men do not rape. In view of the apparent rewards and cultural supports for rape, it is important to ask why some men do not rape. Hirschi (1969) makes a similar observation about delinquency. He argues that the key question is not “Why do they do it?” but rather “Why don’t we do it?” (Hirschi, 1969:34). Likewise, we may be seeking an answer to the wrong question about sexual assault of women. Instead of asking men who rape “Why?”, perhaps we should be asking men who don’t “Why not?”
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