Is coercive sex natural?

Short answer, yes!

Coercive sex (also called rape) is considered a first degree crime in most cultures and perpetrators face severe punishments, sometimes even a death sentence. While other crimes like premeditated murder, torture, child molestation etc. can be seen as exclusive to humans, coercive sex isn't.

Rape in animal kingdom:
Most of the animal kingdom exhibits courtship behavior where typically the male tries to get a female's attention either by demonstrating his strength, fighting off other males or sometimes even bribing her with food. This is pretty much how it works in humans where the male asks a woman on a date, presents what he has to offer (in a subtle way for the most part) in an attempt to impress her and mate with her. 

However, there is a darker side in the animal kingdom that doesn't exhibit any courtship. The males engage in copulation using coercive methods and to make things worse, sometimes a group of males 'corner' a female and engage in coercive sex. This behavior has been observed in several species like ducks, dolphins and even our close relatives, chimpanzees. 

Contrary to the romantic courtships, these species even have a sexual arms race going on between their males and females. Reproduction is an expensive process for females in any species and so the females in species that are subjected to rape have started evolving several mechanisms to prevent forced fertilization. For example, it has been observed that female ducks have false passages in their vagina and when being coerced by a male that they don't prefer to mate with, they can direct his penis into the false passage and thus avoid fertilization. Like wise, with a partner of their choice, they would route his penis to the fertile zones in the vagina. So, not exactly avoiding forced sex but avoiding unwanted fertilization. 

Should we give the sexual offenders a break?
This however doesn't mean that rape is just an extension of male sexual desire and is thus justified. Just because something happens in the nature doesn't make it right. Nature, driven by evolutionary selection is plagued with disease, murder, rape, suffering and inefficiency and thus Darwinian mechanisms should definitely not serve as the basis when writing our rule book. Thanks to the wonderful brain gifted to humans by evolution, we are now capable of looking beyond our evolutionary instincts and determine that consensual sex is in the best interest of our species.

It however raises a question about the severity of punishment. If there is a biological wiring that prods some men towards committing sexual assault, should it be punished by death? What do you think?

1 comment:

  1. Killing other humans should not be an option unless it is done in self defense.