Western Undergraduate Psychology Journal

Article Title

An Explanation of Human Rape: An Integration of Sociobiology and Social Science


The study of human rape within a sociobiological framework has been a topic of public debate for decades, most notably after the release of biologist Edward O. Wilson’s book Sociobiology: The New Synthesis (1975). As sociobiology is based on the theory of evolution, Wilson’s book analyzed the social behaviour of animals, thus asserting that their social adaptations can be compared to the social behaviours of human-beings (Clark, 1991). Through this sociobiological framework various social behaviours of humans were addressed for further study, including the controversial subject of human rape (Clark, 1991). Among the supporters of this framework, none are as infamous as biologist Randy Thornhill and anthropologist Craig Palmer, who co-wrote A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion (2000). This notorious book outlines several possible human rape adaptations, virtually all of which concern reproductive strategies. The works of such authors have been criticized by the social sciences, including feminist academics like Susan Brownmiller, who claim that rape is not about sex, but power and domination (Thompson, 2009). Meanwhile, many sociobiology supporters, including Thornhill and Palmer (2000), maintain that rape is about sexual desire, and claim that the social sciences lack merit in their research on rape because their theories do not consider the evolutionary causes of human behaviour (p. xi). As this essay will demonstrate, both cultural and evolutionary forces have been shown to have considerable effects on the occurrence of rape. Therefore, I argue for an integration of both approaches in order to successfully understand and thus potentially prevent and eradicate rape.

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