One Third of College Men Admit They Would Use Force to Have Sex, as Long as We Didn't Call it 'Rape'

In case I needed another reason to be grateful I’m no longer in college (which I really don’t, no homework and a disposable income, amirite?!) here’s another one: a small study published found that one in three college men would “use force to obtain intercourse” if they knew nobody would find out and they wouldn’t get in trouble for it. I’ll give you a moment of silence to mourn the loss of your faith in humanity.

The study, which was published in the journal Violence and Gender, surveyed 86 participants, of which only 72 had usable surveys. So before we go into the gruesome details it’s worth noting that this sample size is incredibly small and we (hopefully) might not be able to draw conclusions about the entire male population based on just the 72 men surveyed (shouts out to all you Psych majors).

Out of the men surveyed, 32 percent said they would be willing to obtain sex through force, if there would be no consequences for their actions. You’re probably thinking, “WTF, a third of the men outright admitted they would rape a woman if they knew they wouldn’t get caught, which is pretty likely considering only 3% of rapists will ever serve time?” No, no of course not, because only 13.6 percent of those men agreed they would rape a woman under the same circumstances, meaning that the rest of those gentlemen don’t consider forcible intercourse to be rape.

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Yeah, you read that right: men who coerced women into sex were less likely to call it rape. Oh yeah totally, using force to obtain sex is definitely not rape, my bad guys, I must be thinking of that other textbook definition of rape.

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Okay, what was the extent of this survey? Was it just a yes-or-no ‘Would you use force to have sex if you knew you weren’t going to get caught'? No it wasn't, so before any of you rape apologists say that a lot of us would do bad things if we knew we weren’t going to get caught, just stop it right there. The survey used what are called “behaviorally descriptive survey items” such as “Have you ever coerced somebody to intercourse by holding them down?” versus “Have you raped somebody?” and found that more men admitted to sexually coercive behaviors when labels were not used. Those darn pesky labels, amirite? Don't you just long for the good ol' days when you could force yourself onto another person without having to label it as rape? Quit trying to put rapists in a box!

Interestingly, the researchers found significant attitude differences between the men who admitted they would rape, versus the men who admitted they would rape without calling it rape. The former displayed hostility towards women, which the researchers categorized as “resentment, bitterness, rejection sensitivity, and paranoia about women’s motives" (weird, right?). While the latter displayed “callous sexual attitudes,” they did not display the same hostility towards women. The researchers posit that for these men, rape may not be all about power as you may have learned from SVU, and might be instead about sexual gratification. They explained:

The primary motivation in this case could be sexual gratification, accomplishment, and/or perceived compliance with stereotypical masculine gender norms. The use of force in these cases might be seen as an acceptable mean to reach one's goal, or the woman's "no" is perceived as a token resistance consistent with stereotypical gender norms. While the ultimate outcome of either act constitutes rape, this pattern of results suggests that there might be different types of offenders with potential differences in underlying motivation, cognition, and/or personality traits.

While more research needs to be done with a bigger sample size to see if these results hold true, the results are nonetheless important because they show that just as there is not one single type of rapist, we should have varied approaches to teaching about sexual assault. For instance, they said the rapists who didn’t want to call themselves rapists might benefit from education that clarifies “different behaviors that all constitute sexual assault, but do not follow the stereotypically imagined scenarios related to rape" (the ones who admitted to rape and labeled it as such wouldn't--go figure). Okay, I guess that's fair enough, but are there seriously people alive in 2015 who think rapes are only committed by strange men who grab women into dark alleyways at knife point? You know what, never mind, we all know the unfortunate but true answer to that question.

Why is it such a difficult concept to grasp that having sex with someone who does not agree to have sex with you = rape? I learned what rape was in like fifth grade when "What Would You Do" by City High came out, and I haven't had any trouble with the definition since. At the very least, you would think college-educated students would understand that forced sex is so obviously rape, but unfortunately the world doesn't work the way I want it to, which might explain why I'm not married to Idris Elba yet. Until that happens (people understanding what rape is, not me marrying Idris Elba, but okay maybe that too), here's a kitty on a pig pillow to ease your sorrows.

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Images: Getty; Giphy (3)