Rape Epidemic in South Africa. Why?

More than one in three South African men admits committing rape, one in seven has joined a gang rape, and more than three quarters admit committing violence against women.

More than half of South African women have experienced violence at the hands of men, and one-quarter will be raped by age sixteen.

Why? Two thirds of rapists felt sexually entitled. Some wanted to punish women who had angered or rejected them. Others wanted to turn lesbians straight. And some were just bored.

These “reasons” may only get at surface issues. What else is going on?

Rachel Jewkes, a lead researcher on the study of violence in South Africa, feels that racism lies behind the abuse.

Rape holds a sexual component, but it is essentially about power. When a large population is oppressed, say through racism – even as manhood is defined as “dominant and powerful” – men may use rape as a weapon to gain a sense of personal empowerment. Rapists are often trying to bridge a gap between their impotent selves and the dominant men they seek to be. Imagine the control they feel when they restrain, take over, and invade another person’s body. Imagine how high and mighty they feel in creating humiliation.

Gay bashing is another weapon whereby some men try to create a sense of male superiority. If women act like men (sexually/stereotypically) how can men keep their sense of dominance? Hence, the need for “corrective rape” in South Africa that seeks to turn lesbians straight.

In one attack Millicent Gaika was beaten and raped for five hours as her assailant screamed, “I know you are a lesbian. You are not a man, you think you are, but I am going to show you, you are a woman. I am going to make you pregnant.” Since the women are often murdered “correction” sounds less likely than gay-bashing as motive.

Others were simply bored. So the eroticized violence of patriarchy comes in handy: Oh, let’s have some fun!

This is helped when women are seen as sex objects, and not people who have their own lives, goals, thoughts and emotions. When women become nothing but objects for sexual pleasure, it’s no wonder that one third of the rapists said they did not feel guilty.

So here we have powerless men beaten down by racism who are trying to feel powerful, who live in a world where violence against women is eroticized, and where women are seen as mere objects. A recipe for epidemic rape.

Originally posted on January 14, 2011 by

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on April 6, 2012, in feminism, gender, LGBTQ+, psychology, rape and sexual assault, sexism, violence against women, women and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Ummm, are you seriously suggesting that the rape epidemic in South Africa is the fault of white people? Is that what your reference to racism is supposed to imply? I’m seriously puzzled by this claim.

    The rape rate in South Africa in 2010 was 95 per 100,000. In neighbouring Botswana it was 91. In neighbouring Namibia it was 91.7. Are you going to blame white racism in these all black countries too?

    • Both racism and sexism are expressions of domination culture. And both racism and sexism are expressed when a person feels insecure. If the men who rape had more security they wouldn’t rape the women to feel dominant over women and people of color.

  2. It is understandable that men see women as sex objects because we have always been portrayed that way by society. Even though it is understandable, it doesn’t mean that it is acceptable and that men have the right to have control over us. I agree that the issue of racism might have a lot to do with these circumstances of high rape rate because men do want to feel powerful in a society where they are oppressed. Men have the right to feel empowered but raping is absolutely not the way to go. It is unbelievable that men do this as a way to have fun when they are bored. It is disgusting. Both men and women deserve to be equal and no one deserves to have control over the other one. But this wont easily change until our society stops portraying women as sex objects.

  3. Women are more likely to be a victim of rape by men, and it is not acceptable that men rape women to show their physical power and male superiority. All women and men should be equal no matter which society they belong to and it is morally wrong that men try to control and threaten women with violence. Rape can be the easiest way to show that men is stronger than women and how physically weak women are, but society should not allow men to attack and hurt women in this way. Also, even though men are socially expected to be tough and powerful, rape is not the right way to show their masculinity.

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