The dominant social science explanation for rape and other sexual aggression is that they are social phenomena. Social feminist theories consider rape to be the result of traditions in which males dominate political and economic activities, and women tend to be treated in subservient and degrading ways (Brownmiller, 1975; Dworkin, 1981). Rape is seen as the use of sexuality to establish or maintain dominance and control of women, with some feminists seeing it as a pseudosexual act motivated out of desire for power and hatred for women rather than by sexual passion (Ellis, 1989). According to such theories, reducing rape requires political and economic equality for men and women. More pessimistic feminists believe that a reduction in disparities could trigger a backlash, as frustrated males use rape to reestablish their supremacy. Social stratification theories also see a connection between economic structures and the status of women. Engels theorized that the development of private property and men's desire to protect lines of inheritance resulted in the monogamous nuclear family and women's oppression and economic dependence on men. Anthropologists have faulted the latter view, arguing that it ignores precapitalist societies where property is owned and utilized by women, but where women do not oppress men, and that economic equality does not prevent political inequality. Working mothers burdened with childcare and double workdays have no time for politics, and women in tribal societies who provide most of the family subsistence are not thereby free of sexual aggression against them. The social learning theory of rape, in common with feminist theories, sees rape as aggression against women learned through mass media, rape myths, and violent pornography, and made less offensive by the desensitizing effects of frequent exposure to scenes of violence against women. Social learning theorists are less insistent than feminists that rape is a nonsexual act and more open to seeing both sociocultural traditions and individual experiences combining to propel males toward aggressive behavior toward women (Ellis, 1989, pp. 13-14).
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