Coverage of the serial rapist targeting South Dallas has dominated local news for the past week. First came the revelation of the attacks, then questions about the speed of the police department's response, then the search for and capture of a suspect, Van Dralan Dixson.
All of the major local news outlets have been dogged in their pursuit of the story, but only CBS 11 was bold enough to tackle the bigger question: Why do human beings rape each other?
The answer is a nebulous muddle of biological, psychological and sociocultural factors, the nuances of which would be impossible to capture in a two-minute segment on the local news. So, reporter Robbie Owens turns instead to a Dallas psychologist/and expert-witness-for-hire named Bill Flynn.
"It's about sex," Flynn declares. "Rape is about getting sex ... When I have interviewed my guys" -- (Editor's note: Yes, he said "my guys.") -- "and I have asked them why they did it, they all said it was about sex. They didn't say anything about need to humiliate somebody."
The academic research on the topic is much less definitive. The prevailing view among feminists and some social scientists for the past four decades or so, popularized by Susan Brownmiller's 1975 book Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape, is that sexual assault is more about power than sex.
In the first chapter, Brownmiller writes:
[O]ne of the earliest forms of male bonding must have been the gang rape of one woman by a band of marauding men. This accomplished, rape became not only a male prerogative, but man's basic weapon of force against woman, the principal agent of his will and her fear. His forcible entry into her body, despite her physical protestations and struggle, became the vehicle of his victorious conquest over her being, the ultimate test of his superior strength, the triumph of his manhood.
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On the opposite end of the spectrum is the notion that evolution has hard-wired the urge to rape into human males, expressed most forcefully in the more academic book A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion. In it, biologist Randy Thornhill and anthropologist Craig Palmer write:
When one is considering any feature of living things, whether evolution applies is never a question. The only legitimate question is how to apply evolutionary principles. This is the case for all human behaviors -- even for such by-products as cosmetic surgery, the content of movies, legal systems, and fashion trends.
The crucial legitimate scientific debate about the evolutionary cause of human rape concerns whether rape is a result of rape-specific adaptation or a by-product of other adaptations.
It's safe to say the truth falls somewhere between those two extremes. Social scientists just haven't come to an agreement on where and probably never will, meaning the ideal approach toward rape prevention will forever be elusive. Luckily, CBS 11 knows who's best suited to identifying rapists.
"Kindergarten teachers," Flynn tells the station. "This behavior of not caring about what happens to others and being a bully comes out very early."