Rape, feminism says, is about violence and control, not sex. This now-popular definition of rape as assault was perhaps pushed to get stronger legal support and severe sentences in rape cases as well as to make men understand how traumatic rape can be for a woman even if there was no physical harm.
Whether a psychological trauma should be classified and judged as physical violence is a moot point. In fact, one can even argue that by classifying it as such, many traumas are being underrated. But most now agree that the causes and personality profiles of rape and rapists are numerous and varied, a good portion of them involving a neurotic need for power or control.
But this definition primarily grew out of the feminist war against the patriarchy which made rape into a gender crime against women instead of a violent act by a criminal. A 'rape culture' was created in which women as a gender were being raped (controlled) by all men, and rape was the filter through which any average man viewed a woman. This concept was pushed to further the revolutionary agenda, and rape statistics were even twisted and exaggerated. Susan Brownmiller wrote a classic book (Against Our Will) dealing exclusively with rape, explaining how men have always raped even in prehistoric times, describing rape in various historical contexts and extrapolating them to men as a gender, and she even argues that all men benefit from the fact that some men rape.
At the peak of Feminism in the 70s and 80s, feminists expanded the concept of rape to one of oppression and control, and some concluded that marriage is rape since it encourages traditional 'degrading' and inferior female roles, and because it places women in a position where men can use them as sex objects (the assumption being that most men are abusive and controlling). Women were encouraged to explore their sexuality as something physically pleasurable instead of attaching it to love which would quickly place them in a position of subjection to patriarchal control. In short, because marriage was seen as causing all women to be used and controlled by men, these feminists concluded that it was rape.
Note that, as I will show below, although this rape culture grew out of radical ideas, it has become popular and has now manifested in various ways even amongst average women.
Rape cases have increased since women started fighting for equality, and while the causes for this may be numerous (e.g. women are now being less cautious and more provocative), the primary cause, feminists argue, is that men are now trying to re-achieve and assert their lost dominance using the age-old weapon of rape.
So the assumption is that the man has power when it comes to sex. He has a penis, he has aggression and strength, he has a patriarchal society backing him whenever he uses women for his own pleasure, and when he abuses this power, he should be punished. After all, we believe in free will and he must learn to control this power or face the consequences.
But is a physical advantage the only power that can be abused? Are women so powerless that they have no control over men when it comes to getting sex and intimacy from unwilling men? Obviously not. Even these feminists expanded the repertoire of rapists and redefined rape to include social control and oppressive institutions. Once you expand the definition this way, why stop with marriage? Indeed, women like Lilia Melani and Linda Fodaski took this further and concluded that since courtship is always a struggle and a matter of aggression on the part of the male, then "it follows that the sex act itself is only a less emphatic expression of all those elements that make up criminal rape".
Consider the countless women who regret having sex with men who made them feel used so they accuse them of rape. After all, they only consented to rape because they assumed he wasn't lying to them. They were used for sex and controlled by manipulative lies, therefore, as far as they're concerned, they were raped.
When radical feminists claim that dating and heterosexual sex acts are a type of rape simply because of the factor of patriarchal control, they are allowing for this kind of definition as well because rape is no longer simply about violence or assault. It's about having power over an otherwise non-consenting sex partner.
This approach to rape as manipulation may be simply revenge or partly due to the aforementioned feminist agenda but, radical feminism aside, it nevertheless raises the question of whether physical force is a critical criterion for rape in the first place.
In 'Men Who Rape', Nicholas Groth delineates the distinction between rape and persuasion. But even he agrees that rape is about non-consent.
What if there was consent but the consent was forced? What if the consent was based on lies? Shouldn't we also differentiate between persuasion and manipulation? With the former, her obstacles to having sex were removed, but with the latter they were only hidden. I define consent as an absence (not ignorance) of obstacles.
Of course, even this idea can be taken to a ridiculous extreme and must be tempered by reason. Catherine MacKinnon fights pornography by claiming that even women who consented to act in a porn movie are damaged by the patriarchy and therefore could not have given true consent. Even if this were true, this is one step away from Christian zealots charging all persons who have pre-marital sex with rape for they know not what they do. The crucial difference is that both MacKinnon and these religious people are forcing ideologies on people who do not believe in them and therefore invalidating their consent based on a non-existing obstacle.
I previously discussed another popular definition of rape as a lack of proper understanding in your sex partner as to the meaning and consequences of sex regardless of consent and age. This concept of rape may be defined as power which takes advantage of a weakness in a sex partner, but the goal is usually sex or even love and intimacy, not power, and yet it is still defined as rape. This is not the same as MacKinnon's crusade however simply because it involves a basic and globally accepted human responsibility.
Which leads me to theorize that there is another widespread and neglected psychological motivation for rape: Desperation for love, intimacy or attention.
In its violent manifestation, this type of rape involves a rapist who frantically increases his aggression even though the victim is already broken. He may even break down during or after the act when he realizes his needs for intimacy weren't satisfied. When a man gains power over his broken victim and still adds to the abuse and aggression, this probably means that he is desperately searching for something else.
But who says this drive has to manifest violently? Case in point: When older women attach themselves to adolescents it's usually defined as a desperate, albeit misplaced need for love. Yet when these cases do reach the courts, they are classified as rape simply because they are technically non-consensual.
Let's summarize what we have so far: Rape as a means of control to gain sex, intimacy or love, rape due to power one gender wields over another, rape as taking advantage of a weakness in your sex partner, and rape as having 'consensual' sex on the basis of lies and manipulations.
What clearly follows from all this is that whenever men and women seduce their partners with lies or any overpowering advantage, this would be defined as rape or attempted rape. Note that these lies are not necessarily sleazy manipulative tricks but also include things like a woman putting up façades and desperately saying what's expected of her just so that he gets closer to her. Despite appearances, she is taking advantage of his weakness, she is controlling him, and she is using force to get intimacy. She is lying to get power over him in order get what she wants and make him believe he is consenting when he isn't. She is a rapist.
As an exercise, imagine what would happen if we took this desperate woman who uses tricks and lies to get her man even though he refuses to get closer to her, and we then gave her a penis, testosterone and a physical advantage. Is there any doubt in your mind that she wouldn't behave differently from a male rapist?
Some may argue that women are too gentle to do such a thing under such circumstances even given the means. But this is a fallacy and female violence is prevalent. Gentleness is not what's stopping women from raping men because women are not gentle. They merely have different behaviour patterns and less testosterone.
Perhaps one can argue that women would 'rape' differently given their core gender differences. Perhaps it would be more indirect. Perhaps it would be more passive. And perhaps this is all a silly academic question that could never be proven. Perhaps.
But I hold that if you dig down to the source of both behaviour patterns, they are one and the same. The outer manifestations of this same need are lies and manipulations in one person, and aggressive force in another.
Is it the act itself that defines it as rape, or the motivations and forceful nature of the act on a non-consensual partner? One can argue that it would be offensive to compare manipulative lies with violent rape and that I am using sophistry and over-stretching the concept of rape. But, as explained, in both cases the goals are similar and selfish, with both there is control, manipulation, and abuse of power over the sex partner, and the only difference between them is the success rate.
If consent is the key issue, then logically, the concept of a rapist must expand dramatically to include many factors. After all, we learned that rape is about control and power, and that physical force and damage are not criteria. Society and our legal systems agree with this definition and anything other than these conclusions would be inconsistent and discriminatory.
As shown, this definition of rape is supported by the legal system and is so popular that even dictionaries support it. All the dictionaries I've perused agree that consent is the key issue and not physical force, and Webster's even says that rape is 'by force or deception'!
Rape is not a male monopoly.