Disclaimer: This article, verbiage used, and/or material it links to, contains information about sexual assault and/or violence which may be triggering to survivors.
Another Disclaimer: While I do fully believe everything below, I have not done any research on the correlation of topics, therefore they are just my theories.
Sexual assault is a pandemic in the United States. While every situation of rape is unique, the type of rapist stays the same. Understanding what it truly means to be a rapist goes back farther than a drunk college party, or a blurred line of consent (this is some pretty gruesome stuff). Rapists were born rapists, and it festers, breeds, and expands in their minds from the moment they are old enough to retain information. To understand this, you have to look at the different types of rape in our country, as well as the different types of rapists. We have to look at the types of rape that occur in our country. The six generalized types of rape in the United States are as follows1:
Diminished Capacity Rape: rape committed when the victim does not have physical or intellectual ability to consent.
Age-Related Rape: Often known as statutory rape, this rape is where at least one victim is under the age of consent, or below the minimum age to be considered legal.
Incest: rape between relatives
Partner Rape: Also known as marital rape, this rape involves a victim who is in a relationship or partnership with the rapist.
Acquaintance Rape: this type of rape happens when the parties involved know each other
Aggravated Rape: this type of rape is defined in the law, and normally involves forceful acts.
Other: It is important to remember that every account of rape is unique, and many victims may feel that they do not fall into one single category. This is normal, and this list does not mean to minimize the crime.
Equally important, it is crucial to understand the types of rapists that live among us. The six types of rapists are as follows2:
Power Assertive Rapist: Rapists who claim to have a weapon, or use other threats. An average of forty-four percent of all rapes fall in this category.
Anger Retaliation Rapist: Rapists who are out to punish the victim, which normally results in injury or death, and roughly thirty percent of rapes fall into this category.
Opportunity Rapist: Rapists who did not intend to rape, but take advantage of an opportunity when it arises. Examples may be a robbery or burglary, or even a college party.
Sadistic Rapist: The most dangerous type, this rapist wants to hurt their victim and cause suffering. Five percent of all rapes fall into this category, yet most all murder/rape scenarios fall into this category.
Juvenile Sex Offenders: Rapists that have problem with authority, and seek to take anger out on their victim, and these types of crimes seem to be on the rise.
Women Offenders: When the rapist is a woman who specifically lures victims into traps to be raped by others, or commits rape by abusing their gender to manipulate others.
So, we may ask ourselves, why do they do it? Well, it depends, but there is a lot that the brain can tell us. The parts of the brain that hold memory and dive into our subconscious thoughts. These may seem like unrelated topics, but they are.
One of the famous seven perspectives of psychology is known as the Psychodynamic Perspective.3 This perspective is led by Sigmund Freud, one of the founding fathers of psychology. The Psychodynamic Perspective is a method for treating mental illness, as well as a theory that explains human behavior. The main perspective was that our behavior is deeply influenced by unconscious thoughts, impulses, and desires. Freud believed that all unconscious drives stem from either sexual and/or destructive thoughts. Your dream about walking down the hallway? Sexually driven. When you notice someone in the grocery store? You are sexually drawn to them, and the same goes for destructive thoughts.
If you are unfamiliar with what your subconscious is or your unconscious thoughts, imagine them as the thoughts that never come to the surface. Think of it as your dreams, your “bad” thoughts that you never want anyone to hear, or the small slips in your everyday life.4
disclaimer: unconscious or intrusive thoughts are thoughts that we cannot control. If they become too powerful, seek help. That is the point of this.
The theory that I am trying to convey is this: rapists are not rapists for only the day that it happens. These thoughts of violence, aggression, or manipulation where bred inside their unconscious, just waiting to escape. When thoughts such as this fester without being treated, they risk being exposed. The majority of unconscious thoughts are harmless and should not be taken too critically, and I want to emphasize this. The food for thought is, what happens when unconscious thoughts begin to become conscious thoughts? At what point do unconscious thoughts of rape become fantasy? Freud would say it begins with the “unconscious slip”5. The slip is an act that allows your unconscious thoughts to slip through the cracks and be revealed. This, could be an act of rape.
The violent nature of rape can form in a person from a very young age. We must look at the part of our brain that store long-term memory, the hippocampus, discuss this.6 Imagine someone with Alzheimer’s may have exceptional long-term memory, because their hippocampus was not affected by the disease. Picture this: A husband is abusive towards his wife, and they have two children together. By the time the children are ages four and five, the wife files a restraining order and leaves the husband forever. Ten years later, both children begin to act violently in school, work, and/or in their individual relationships. Certain psychologists would say it is because the abuse is stored in your hippocampus, even if the two children have no recollection of their father, or the horrifying events that occurred in their early childhood. Violent tendencies do not go away within a child simply because they do not remember them, but instead they form untreated. We may ask ourselves, can this be related to rape? It depends. These abusive tendencies may fester in children from the experiences stored in their long-term memory, without them even acknowledging the events. Removing children from abusive households may erase the memory, but it does not erase the violence.
Now that we have dug up parts of the brain, we can examine the sociocultural factors that may inherently damage the minds of abusers. By age thirteen, up to twenty-five percent of all boys are already “sexting”.7 Sexual desires and a need to fill those desires starts young. very young. This may seem like a stretch, but it’s a latter. Ninety percentage of men age eighteen have been exposed to porn, and of this the average age being exposed was between eight-eleven years old.8 We are no longer discussing instilling unrealistic and unhealthy sexual desires and standards on men, but children. Since sex is a touchy subject for children and parents to discuss, children are left to explore on the internet. With thousands of porn links circulating across the web every second, it is easy for fantasies to become corrupted. Children’s brains are no where near fully developed at these ages. Open access to the internet, with no true moral compass. In 1989 the renowned rapist and serial killer, Ted Bundy, spoke about pornography in an interview before his execution. He ultimately admitted that at a very young age he watched violent porn where women were being tortured, which began his fantasies. He revealed that his addict to hard-core pornography fueled the terrible crimes that he committed.9 Violent sexual fantasies. From a young age.
note: it is important to understand that these topics can also be related to women, but the data is not as prominent or researched.
In the United States, around eighteen million men over the age of twenty suffer from Erectile Dysfunction (also abbreviated as E.D), and this can be directly related to watching porn at a younger age.10 Over stimulation is effecting young men as early as age twenty. Men are known to be more sexually bored than woman. They need something more.
Please do not consider these facts set in stone, but only research accumulated over time to result in hypothesis’.
Thank you for taking the time to dive into such a tricky and complex subject with me.
1. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, National Crime Victimization Survey, 2010-2016 (2017);
2. “Types of Rapists.” Types of Rapists, www.hopeforhealing.org/types.html.
3. McLeod, Saul. “Saul McLeod.” Simply Psychology, 1 Jan. 1970,
4. “Unconscious.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/unconscious.
5. Sigmund Freud, The Psychopathology of Everyday Life in Volume VI of The Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud p. 209-210
6. Yassa, Michael A. “Hippocampus.” Encyclopedia Britannica, Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 28 Nov. 2018, www.britannica.com/science/hippocampus#ref329786.
7. Gordon, Serena. “New Study Finds Some Boys Are Having Sex before Age 13.” CBS News, CBS Interactive, 8 Apr. 2019, www.cbsnews.com/news/new-sex-study-finds-small-percentage-boys-having-sex-before-age-13-jama-pediatrics/.
8. “PARENTS: Porn.” The Novus Project, thenovusproject.org/resource-hub/parents.
9. “Ted Bundy Tells How Pornography Is What Led to Him Becoming a Serial Killer.” The Monsters Among Us, 18 Feb. 2019, themonstersamongus.com/ted-bundy-tells-how-pornography-is-what-led-to-him-becoming-a-serial-killer/.
10. Parsons, Tim, and JH Bloomberg School of Public Health. “18 Million Men in the United States Affected by Erectile Dysfunction.” Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 7 Jan. 2013, www.jhsph.edu/news/news-releases/2007/selvin-erectile-dysfunction.html.