• Maheen Mansoor

The Psychology Of Rapists - Maheen Mansoor

According to Pakistan Penal Code, Rape is defined in section 375 as follows:

A man is said to commit “rape” who has sexual intercourse with a woman under circumstances falling under any of the five following descriptions:

(i) against her will,

(ii) without her consent,

(iii) with her consent, when her consent has been obtained by putting her in fear of death, or of hurt,

(iv) with her consent, when the man knows that he is not married to her and that her consent is given because she believes that the man is another person to whom she is or believes herself to be lawfully married; or

(v) with or without her consent when she is under sixteen (16) years of age.


A lot of investigation is done on rape cases and the punishments for rapists but very little on the mindset of a rapist. According to Sherry Hamby, editor of the journal Psychology of Violence says, “If you don’t really understand perpetrators, you’re never going to understand sexual violence.” Psychologists have classified rapists into six broad categories:


a. Opportunistic rapist: Offences are unplanned and impulsive and immediate sexual gratification is sought, with force used as necessary. Offences are driven largely by immediate antecedent events (situational factors) rather than personal psychopathology, for example, late night, lone isolated female, no witnesses around.

b. Anger rapist: His offence is driven by extreme gratuitous aggression, severe violence, and a history of previous antisocial offending, serious physical injury to the victim is caused.

c. Sexual rapist: He is driven by preoccupation with sexual fantasies and urges.

d. Sexually nonsadistic rapist: He is driven by sexual fantasies and urges too, but the sexual arousal is inappropriate in nature (e.g., fetish), there are offence supportive beliefs and feelings of inadequacy regarding masculinity and sex.

e. Sexually sadistic rapist: The motivation for this rapist is not sexual but fantasies of degradation and humiliation of and power and control over the victim.

f. Vindictive rapist: His drive is predominantly anger, but unlike the angry rapist, his anger and aggression are focused exclusively on women.


Some of the countries having the top 10 rates of rape cases include South Africa, Sweden, Lesotho and Costa-Rica, each one quite diverse from the other in all factors except this. So what are the common factors which drive men from each of these countries towards the heinous crime? According to my research, it seems to be based on three major reasons: objectification of women, environmental insecurities and toxic masculinity.

The cultural endorsement and marketing of sex as a commodified good lead to an increased desire for and entitlement to sex. Feminists frequently link rape culture to the widespread distribution of pornography, which is seen to sexually objectify women, reducing the female body to a commodity. Hyper sexualization or porn portraying aggressive behaviour towards women surfaces and reinforces misogynistic beliefs against women as well as encourage aggressive behaviour. This has been proven true by multiple researches by psychologists who link it to the fact that the hormone that controls both sexual activity and aggression is testosterone which is excessively elevated in those who commit sexual offences. However, Malamuth notes an exception that those men who are highly aroused by porn but score high on empathy are less likely to commit sexual assaults.


A believe in rape myths such as , ‘ no means yes’ or if someone says no to any sexual advances may be playing hard to get, is a result of a poor brought-up. According to Hamby, for men in such cultures, ‘part of their cultural training is to lose touch with their emotions.’ This was proven by Peterson’s study which showed that men who rape sometimes have anti-social tendencies, so they seem to care less about the repercussions.

They may be kids who experienced sexual or physical abuse or dysfunctional family relations in the past hence they develop problems establishing healthy adult relationships. Such people often go through cognitive distortions that allow the offender to rationalize and minimize his molestation. For example, a rapist may think along the following lines, “When she says she does not want to have sex with me while wearing a dress which shows her cleavage, she is trying to turn me on. So it is okay for me to have sex with her.” Or an offender may excuse themselves by convincing themselves that the male sex drive is uncontrollable hence they are entitled to do anything without consent. Moreover, such heinous crimes may be committed based on bitterness. The assaulter may feel justified harming another human just on the notion that they were hurt as well. This might explain why many of these molesters are also involved in other forms of crimes.


The link between narcissism and rape seems to be especially strong when repeat offenders are concerned. One of the key features shared by rapists and narcissists alike is to dehumanize the other and establish control. This may explain why men who may otherwise have everything: looks, popularity, wealth may still be committing rape. This is highly to do with the fact that it helps them establish their supremacy over women. That would explain why one in four men in South Africa have raped women. It is used as a warfare to establish their supremacy not only over the women but also over the husbands, fathers, or sons whose relatives these women are.


Moreover, a comradery in this regard supports such behaviour even further. According to Peterson this may be because sexually aggressive men seek out other sexually aggressive men to be a part of their peer group. This develops a sense of safety too which further encourages this mindset. Peterson’s study showed that those who thought could get away with rape without punishment were more likely to engage in coercive behaviour.

Younger men are more often shown to be offenders than older ones and most psychologists link it to the fact that having sexual experience increases their self-esteem amongst their peers. In such groups of boys, not being sexually active is often stigmatized. Dr Malamuth has observed that repeat offenders tell similar stories of rejection in high school and looking on as ‘jocks and the football players got all the attractive women.’ This may explain why there is a large majority of offenders are high-school or college-going students.


To conclude this article, I would also like to highlight that there is quite a weak connection between psychiatric disorders and rape. Only 9.3% of rape cases are attributed to alcohol abuse, 3.9% on drug abuse, 2.6% on personality disorders and 1.7% to psychosis hence it should be treated like any other crime and measures must be taken by the society to actively discourage this behaviour.

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