The Situationist

Posts Tagged ‘rape’

The Unconscious Situation of Date Rape

Posted by The Situationist Staff on May 5, 2011

We recently encountered an intriguing 2005 article by Andrew Taslitz, “Willfully Blinded: On Date Rape and Self-Deception” (28 Harvard Journal of Law & Gender  381-446) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract.

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This article takes seriously the proposition that many men are telling the truth when they say that they honestly believed that a woman in a date rape case had consented when she in fact did not do so. The article argues, however, that the men are generally truthful at a conscious level, while being aware unconsciously that the truth is otherwise. Furthermore, the absence of conscious awareness is the result of self-deception. Drawing on research in philosophy and cognitive psychology, this article defines the various forms of self-deception and explains how they work in date rape cases. Date rape liability often involves a negligence analysis: Should the man have known of the woman’s non-consent? Yet the penalties imposed for negligent date rape are often quite severe, more so than for most crimes of negligence. The article argues that self-deception is best understood as a form of negligent conduct but explains why it is morally far more reprehensible than other sorts of negligence. Next, the article responds to concerns about the morality of punishing men for unconscious thoughts and the problems posed for proving those thoughts and for free will. In particular, the article suggests a form of negligence liability in date rape cases that is meant to discourage male self-deception in sexual intercourse and that does not require proving what any individual male’s unconscious state was in a particular case. The article further responds to arguments about the wisdom of such an approach given that it will unquestionably catch some non-self-deceiving males. The law’s fear of imposing liability for unconscious desires is based upon a flawed conception of the nature of the conscious and unconscious minds that ignores the teachings of cognitive science. Those teachings establish that there are strategies for changing unconscious thoughts that motivate socially undesirable action even when we are not in the short run aware of the contents of our unconscious mind.

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You can download the article for free here.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Abstracts, Law, Morality, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

The Situation of Gang Rape

Posted by The Situationist Staff on November 2, 2009

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In the wake of the horrific story about a 15-year-old girl gang-raped in a schoolyard during a homecoming dance.  The girl was brutalized for more than two hours and, if that wasn’t disturbing enough, there are reports of as many as twenty people stood by and watched, without even calling authorities.  The story raises the question about how so many could do so little to help.  Were they all monsters or is there some other explanation?

On that topic, two Situationist Contributors have been interviewed to offer a situationist perspective.  We’ve excerpted parts of both interviews below.

From ABC News, here are excerpts from an article, titled “How Could People Watch Alleged Gang Rape ‘Like An Exhibit’?,” by Radha Chitale, interviewing Situationist Contributor John Darley.

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Psychology experts say the incident, if it occurred as described, may have been the result of escalating wildness facilitated by an isolated, heavily male environment.

“If one of the boys or men grabbed her and pulled her toward him … and somebody else did something else so it became more and more sexual in nature … we now have a [group of boys] who are pretty wild,” said John Darley, a professor of psychology and public affairs at Princeton University. “Each act licensed what had gone before, and it also made more likely what came next.”

Anyone who had reservations about the unfolding events “was surrounded by people who were apparently tolerating what was going on and maybe even encouraging it,” Darley said.

In fact, several of the onlookers cheered and made comments as the student was assaulted.

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Meg Bossong, coordinator of Community Education and Outreach at the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, said the case suggested elements of the bystander effect, in which people are less likely to respond to an emergency when there are others around.

“That idea [is] that the more people there are around, the fewer people will get involved because there’s a diffusion of responsibility,” she said. “Not stepping in sends the message that it’s not such a big deal. … This is something that we hear a lot about around crime and also around sexual assault.”

The element of sexual violence in the alleged attack at Richmond High School may have contributed to observers’ apparent inaction.

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But Darley said the apparent escalating brutality of the alleged attack may have had less to do with its sexual nature and more to do with the isolated location.

Marin Trujillo, a spokesperson for West Contra Costra Unified School District, said the attack occurred in a locked area not easily accessible from the enclosed gym where the homecoming dance was held and where security, which consisted of four police officers and numerous staff chaperones, were concentrated.

In fact, Darley said the seeds of behavior that could become unacceptable are evident when, for example, men catcall or whistle at people on the street, where social barriers prevent escalation. Military attacks on villages are another example where events can escalate beyond what is expected.

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You can read the entire article here.

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Situationist Contributor Mahzarin Banaji was interviewed by Neal Conan on NPR’s Talk of the Nation about the same story.  Here are some excerpts from that interview.

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CONAN: And when we hear about a case like this and we’re talking about the bystanders, those who watched and did nothing and walked away, those who stayed and, at least as far as we know from that report, jeered or cheered on what was going on, we think of those people and think they must be terrible people.

Prof. BANAJI: That’s right. That’s the first thought that comes to our mind. What else are we to think when we hear that a horrific event like this was simply allowed to continue to happen while people just stood there? So biologists and psychologists have studied for a long, long time the incredible capacity of human beings to help, to be altruistic. And therefore, these kinds of events pose a real dilemma. How do they happen and why do they happen, given that we know that we have a capacity to help?

Evolutionary psychologists might tell us that sometimes we’re unable to help when the group that we’re thinking about helping is far away because we didn’t evolve to think about helping people who lived many, many miles away. But again, the bystander problems shows us that this is happening in the here and now.

Sometimes it’s easy to think about helping an individual person, even though a group tragedy may not affect us. And again, the bystander problem poses a dilemma because this is about an individual human being and that person’s suffering. And so, of course, there are now, we know, many, many experiments done on something called the bystander non-intervention effect, and it was done in the late ’60s, following the murder of Kitty Genovese. And exactly as you say, Neal, the initial response from psychiatrists and psychologists was: Who were these horrible people who stood around watching the murder of this woman and didn’t call the police? And that led to a stunning set of experiments.

And the reason I say that the experiments here are so important is that because in any given case, we don’t know exactly what the pressures on the situation were, and we don’t know exactly what those folks experienced. And that’s why when we bring complex phenomena like this into the laboratory and we put them to the test there, we can say with far greater precision what it is that’s going on. And the results of two psychologists by the name of Latane and Darley stand out here because they reenacted certain situations in the laboratory, a person having a seizure, a bunch of smoke just flowing into a room, and all they varied was the number of people present.

And the data show over and over again that if there was one person in the room, the likelihood of helping is around 75 percent. But as the number goes to two and three and four and five and six, the number of people who jump up to help drops to 10 percent, right?

So there’s something about the size of the group that, although it should lead us to be more likely to help, actually produces the counterintuitive reverse effect.

CONAN: That’s fascinating. So, in effect, there’s something biological going on here.

Prof. BANAJI: Well, we can – you know, we would want to at least say that it is something cognitive going on because here’s what we think needs to happen in an emergency situation like this. First of all, you have to notice that there is an emergency.

CONAN: Sure.

Prof. BANAJI: And the remarkable result from these original studies is that if you are with other people sitting there, you are less likely to even notice the smoke. You are less likely to even recognize that the child’s cry for help is a real cry for help, and so on. So there’s something that changes in our minds to even identify what it is that’s going on. And, of course, once we identify what it is that’s going on, then we need to figure out some way to take action, and that’s where psychologists believe something called diffusion of responsibility occurs, that the number of people, as that – yes.

CONAN: It has to – if there’s a large number of people, it’s not an individual’s responsibility anymore. It’s, hey, if Charlie over there doesn’t do it, why should I do it?

Prof. BANAJI: That’s correct. Try dropping a penny in an elevator with one other person present versus six others present, and you’ll find the number of people helping to pick it up just drop precipitously.

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Prof. BANAJI: You know, I would say that from the perspective of the research, the type of crime proves to be less important. What is far more important is the setup of the situation, that is to say in this case, the sheer number of other people who were watching. And I just want to go back to the previous caller and something that Lieutenant Gagan said.

You know, he said these suspects are monsters. I don’t understand how this many people, capable of such atrocious behavior, could be in one place at one time. And I think the answer is actually embedded in his – in what he says, that is how could so many monsters gather in one place at one time? And the right answer from our perspective would be: These are not monsters. These are us. This is all of us. This has nothing to do with the fact that it happened in a particular city, although the size of the city does matter.

So smaller towns are more likely to be places where we will be helped, not because people in smaller towns are better people but because smaller towns have fewer people.

CONAN: Are smaller by definition, yeah.

Prof. BANAJI: Yeah. And that’s what I think is the most important point in the research, that this is not about a few monsters. This is about everybody. It says something very difficult to us. It says that perhaps had we had been standing there, we ourselves, if we were not better educated about this particular effect and what it does to us, we may fall prey to it ourselves.

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CONAN: . . . . Bullying, is that something that would fall into this category of bystanders?

Prof. BANAJI: Yes, absolutely I would say that it does. And that’s why even though we speak about it on radio and hear the media report it when it is an event of the kind in Richmond, California, I think that what your caller is bringing up tells us that these acts of intervention are acts that we are called upon every single day to make.

I have been thinking of this in the context of institutional corruption, and again, to me, the issue of why we don’t pick up the phone and report on something when we know that we’re going to be protected, when it’s not even throwing ourselves into the river to have to save somebody, why is it that we don’t? And I think understanding what’s at the heart of that inability, both at the level of the moral sort of pressure that we feel, but also much more at the level of the situations and the institutional mechanisms that surround us, that keep us from being able to do that.

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Prof. BANAJI: . . . .  I would say that if there’s anything for us to do here, it is to learn as individuals, to practice small acts of intervention, to just sort of begin to think about events around us as our responsibility. Those are the sorts of things that we hope that our educational systems will impart to people and that our society will sort of hold people, in some ways, responsible and for intervening and for not intervening. And it’s sort of – it’s really a disturbing – in some sense – to hear . . . that the law, in trying to improve the situation, may be setting it up in such a way that we are hurting act of intervention.

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You can read or listen to the entire interview here.  For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “Construing ‘Acquaintance Rape’,” The Situation of Blaming Rihanna,” “What Counts as Rape?,” “Unrecognized Injustice — The Situation of Rape,” The Situation of Helping,” “The Situational Effect of Groups,” ‘Us’ and ‘Them,’” “History of Groupthink,” “Some (Interior) Situational Sources War – Part I,” and “March Madness.”

Posted in Education, Law, Morality, Situationist Contributors, Social Psychology, Video | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Construing “Acquaintance Rape”

Posted by The Situationist Staff on August 26, 2009

date rape time coverSituationist Contributor Dan Kahan recently posted his fascinating paper, “Culture, Cognition, and Consent: Who Perceives What, and Why, in ‘Acquaintance Rape’ Cases.”  Here’s the abstract.

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This paper uses the theory of cultural cognition to examine the debate over rape-law reform. Cultural cognition refers to the tendency of individuals to conform their perceptions of legally consequential facts to their defining group commitments. Results of an original experimental study (N = 1,500) confirmed the impact of cultural cognition on perceptions of fact in a controversial acquaintance-rape case. The major finding was that a hierarchical worldview, as opposed to an egalitarian one, inclined individuals to perceive that the defendant reasonably understood the complainant as consenting to sex despite her repeated verbal objections. The effect of hierarchy in inclining subjects to favor acquittal was greatest among women; this finding was consistent with the hypothesis that hierarchical women have a distinctive interest in stigmatizing rape complainants whose behavior deviates from hierarchical gender norms. The study also found that cultural predispositions have a much larger impact on outcome judgments than do legal definitions, variations in which had either no or a small impact on the likelihood subjects would support or oppose conviction. The paper links date-rape reform to a class of controversies in law that reflect symbolic status competition between opposing cultural groups, and addresses the normative implications of this conclusion.

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You can download the paper for free here.  To read a sample of related Situationist post see “The Situation of Blaming Rihanna,” “What Counts as Rape?,” “Unrecognized Injustice — The Situation of Rape,” The Cultural Situation of the HPV Vaccine – Abstract,” “Law, Chicken Sexing, Torture Memo, and Situation Sense,” “Culture and Identity-Protective Cognition – Abstract,” “The Second National Risk and Culture Study – Abstract,” and “Whose Eyes are You Going to Believe?.”

Posted in Abstracts, Cultural Cognition, Ideology, Situationist Contributors | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

The Selective Morality of Video Games

Posted by The Situationist Staff on May 7, 2009

rapelawModern day video games regularly feature violence and murder, sometimes with graphic details, such as blood or dismemberment.  Gamers are often rewarded for the most number of kills.

While there has been some controversy about those games, talk of banning them has gone nowhere.  For the most part, in fact, people seem to be okay with them.

So if killing people in video games is socially-acceptable, why would raping someone not be okay?  This is a question asked by IGN in a piece we excerpt below.

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A month before Six Days in Fallujah, an obscure Japanese game briefly caught a gust of media controversy when Amazon refused to sell RapeLay. In contrast to Six Days in Fallujah, RapeLay is a hentai game that offers players a platform to literally molest and rape women in public places. The visuals are hand drawn anime and belie the crude fantasy at the heart of the game. You control a pair of disembodied hands with your mouse and choose which parts of a woman you should grope. After the train arrives, you stalk the woman into a park and rape her. There are three different women that must be raped, the last of which is a ten year-old girl.

The game sounds immediately more repulsive than Six Days in Fallujah, or most any other shooter you might imagine. Is killing dozens of anonymous combatants really any less offensive than the idea of rape? Killing and rape are both reprehensible acts in real life, but killing is so much more acceptable as a gameplay mechanic rather than a literal simulation. In Japan, rape games are not the execrable anomaly that they are in the west. They may not be popular or part of mainstream culture, but neither are they fodder for pot boiling controversy.A big part of this is the fear that many have about how audiences relate to videogames. Christine Quinn, New York City Council Speaker called for a total ban of RapeLay in America, labeling it a “rape simulator.” For many, videogames are nothing but simulators. They are literal replications, and, as such, should be cause for the same kind of alarm the real life equivalents would inspire.

It’s this same thinking that makes Six Days in Fallujah seem abhorrent to some. If games are simulators, then a game about the Iraq Occupation that takes so many liberties with truth is indeed a vulgarization. Likewise, if RapeLay is a simulator for rape, its focus on fetishistic detail, lack of consequence and absence of victim empathy are unforgivable omissions. If it was created to engender discomfort, to enter into all those lurking areas of apprehension and fear of what we might be capable of, it becomes something else entirely.

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For the rest of the piece, click here. For other Situationist posts on the subject of virtual worlds and situationism, see “Virtual Worlds, Learning, and Virtual Milgram,” Virtual Bias,” “Are Video Games Addictive?,” “Resident Evil 5 and Racism in Video Games,” Encourage Your Daughters To Play Violent Video Games?,” “The Situation of First-Person Shooters,” “Suing the Suer: Video Game Company Sues Jack Thompson,” andThe Intersection between Tort Law and Social Psychology in Video Games.”

Posted in Entertainment, Life | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

What Counts as Rape?

Posted by The Situationist Staff on May 9, 2008

Image by SleEEpinGBeaUty - FlickrFrom NPR’s Day to Day story, If Your Neighbor Poses as Your Husband, Is it Rape?:

Massachusetts is the latest state to consider putting a new crime on the books: rape by fraud. Currently, a sex act only qualifies as rape if physical force is used. We talk to a woman who was tricked into having sex with her boyfriend’s brother, who pretended to be her boyfriend — and unable to convict him of rape because of this limited definition.

Under the new law, such forms of deception would be a crime. Some say the law goes too far, however, and could criminalize lies like, “Really, I’m divorced!”

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To listen to the story, click here, and to read a brief Salon article on the topic, click here. For a related Situationist post, see “Unrecognized Injustice — The Situation of Rape.”

Posted in Choice Myth, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

 
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