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Why Males Are More Likely To Perpetrate Sexual Assault

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According to Long and Butler (2018), sexual assault is any un-consensual sexual act, endeavour to perform an undesired sexual deed, unwanted sexual remarks and/or advances using intimidation. Sexual assault is a harm to society as it creates a sense of fear in individuals as this criminal act is unwanted by all and has a negative impact both mentally and physically on the victims. The NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research state that over the years 2009 and 2019, 638 offenders were convicted of sexual assault (Ringland, 2012). This number alone is enormous and yet numerous cases are left unreported due to fear, oblivion of being a victim and dissatisfaction with the police response. (Carbone-Lopez et al., 2015: 366-396) Although there are many factors that influence individuals to sexually assault another, masculine identity is a primary theory which can be used to explore why sexual assault occurs. This essay will also explore evolution and social disorganisation theories of crime and how they are placed as secondary theories to masculine identity.

Gender is the strongest and most consistent correlation of crime and delinquency (Bartusch and Matsueda, 1996: 145). The Australian Bureau of Statistics supports Bartusch and Matsueda’s claim and states that the majority of perpetrators of reported sexual assault cases are male (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2004). Nevertheless, female offending does appear, although the figures are comparatively a drastic amount smaller. Australian Bureau of Statistics’ statistic clearly illustrates how the masculinity theory is a primary theory when exploring why sexual assault occurs and why males are more likely to commit this crime compared to females. The masculinity theory for crime is used to explain why males tend to commit crimes and are more likely to be the perpetrator in criminal acts. The theory touches on common male traits of seeking dominance, power and masculinity. Men tend to act tough, competitive and in some cases aggressive which can all result in criminal acts taking place. Males seeking to show dominance and masculinity has a strong association to sexual assault. Bryden D and Madore E (2016) article highlights the male motivation to dominate and control women. Perpetrators of sexual assault get a sense of dominance and power from committing this particular crime as the actions they perform are unwanted and with no consent. Furthermore, solidifying why the masculine identity theory is a foremost concept used to examine why sexual assault occurs.

Sexual assault is a common term which is often loosely thrown around, which has resulted in a struggle when trying to define exactly what it is. The lack of education as to what sexual assault actually is and to know how and when you are involved or committing this crime is a limitation to the masculine identity theory. As sexual assault is more commonly known as rape, individuals can be unaware that certain actions like sexual comments or advancements is also considered as sexual assault. The masculinity theory only touches on aggressive, competitive traits in the male gender. Although comments and advancements are often made to seek dominance and power, it is not the only explanation. Cleere and Lynn’s (2013) research highlights that many victims do not acknowledge their unwanted sexual experiences as assaults and explain that often these situations are with prior romantic relationship partners where consent may have been given previously but not at the time of the incident. The NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (2009) backs Cleere and Lynn’s research and states that in 9 out of 10 cases of sexual assault reported to NSW police, the victim and offender already know each other and in many cases they are partners or former partners. The NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (2009) further explain how a decrease in reportings of sexual assault is directly linked to the fear victims feel when the offender is known to them. Victims that are still in contact or know of the offender can feel anxious, scared and afraid to report these incidents due to a fear of further assault or harmful backlash from the offender. Furthermore, highlighting that each case is unique and there is no one theory that can perfectly explain the causation of sexual assault.

The theory of evolution creates a foundation for certain male behaviours and attitudes and illustrates an idea as to why males act in particular sexual ways towards women. Studies have established that men and women have different mating approaches and desires and men spend more energy on mating efforts than women (Lalumière et al., 2005). Evolutionary biology is the theory which describes how beings change over time as a result of adaptations of heritable physical and/or behavioural traits. Organisms adapt these traits to fit the period and society of their surroundings, although these traits remain comparable throughout time. Such behavioural traits include aggression, strength, assertion and dominance. These competitive strains in males can influence their mating efforts. Ellis L and Hoskin A (2015) explores evolutionary biology and links this theory to why males are more likely to be the perpetrator. These traits link to the masculine identity theory which furthermore clarifies why masculinity is a key concept when exploring sexual assault causation. The theory of evolution is still considered as a secondary theory to masculinity as it only touches the concept of hereditary physical and/or behavioural traits. Whereas, masculinity explores the specific characteristics that led to sexual assault offences.

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Parental behaviours can affect the degree of expression of heritable traits and predispositions (Hayslett-Mccall and Bernard, 2002: 5-33). A limitation of the evolutionary biology theory is the disturbances of childhood attachment to primary caregivers. Hayslett-Mccall and Bernard’s (2002) articles reveals that studies have shown that these disruptions enable elements of the hereditary traits to be expressed in a more aggressive manner than those children who experienced little to no disruptions. The evolutionary biology theory only examines how these traits transfer, it does not explore why organisms express them in particular ways. Therefore, the evolutionary biology theory must remain as a minor theory which enhances the major theory of masculine identity. As evolutionary biology is concerned with the alteration of these heritable traits and tendencies, the theory fails to evaluate women offenders. Although the statistic is small, the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (1993) states that 90.2% of sexual assault victims in 1989-1991 were female, offenders of the female gene is definitely still occurring. This limitation adds to why the evolutionary biology theory is not the prime explanatory model.

Individuals who are victims of sexual assault or criminal acts may be more likely to engage in similar criminal acts due to the emotional and physical pain they received from being the victim. Melo S, Andresen M & Matias L (2017) explore the prevalence and background of crime in one of the world’s highest ranked for criminal offences, Brazil, and examines why this influences criminals to behave particular ways and commit crimes. The social disorganisation theory indicates that individuals living in neighbours of high criminal status become accustom and desensitised to these criminal acts as they either witness or are involved in these doings more frequently, justifying them as a means for survival. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (2004) created a table titled ‘SEXUAL ASSAULT IDENTIFIED AS A PROBLEM IN NEIGHBOURHOOD’ which illustrates the number, proportion and population of people in the states and territories of Australia in 2002. The Northern Territory had the highest proportion of sexual assault victims. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (2019) state that within 2016-2018 the number of offenders decreased in every state and territory in Australia, except for Northern Territory where there was an increase of 6%. These statistics highlight the impact of neighbourhood crime and convey how individuals are more likely to commit crimes when living in areas of high criminal status. Although it is evident that social disorganisation influences certain behaviours, sexual assault is still prevalent in areas with low criminal status which is why this is not the most appropriate theory when discussing sexual assault causation.

The social disorganisation model indicates the influence neighbourhoods have to the rate of crime. Whilst Jr and Grasmick (1993) findings largely back this direct correlation, they stress the necessity to deliberate the economic and political context of the community. Whilst the social disorganisation theory does state that neighbours in higher socioeconomic class experience higher social cohesion and exercise more social control (Steenbeek and Hipp, 2011: 833-871) disorder is considered a consequence rather than a cause. Individuals committing crimes due to social disorganisation is a consequence of where they live, whereas individuals who commit sexual assault due to their masculinity traits is a cause. The NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (2007) found that in 2 years, from 2004 to 2006, the number of offenders that were found guilty with at least one count of any sexual assault offence grew by 1.2%. This statistic highlights that sexual assault offences are not only a matter of social low socioeconomic areas, further adding to why the social disorganisation theory is not the optimal explanation model.

As it is evident that the masculine identity theory is the optimal explanatory model for sexual assault causation, a possible solution to reduce the prevalence of this crime is therapy and/or counselling. As these masculine genes are a part of human nature, there is no possible solution to completely diminish this crime as these genes will always be evident. Although through counselling and therapy, offenders may be able to work out exactly how these behaviours and traits affect their actions and how to release the aggression and power seeking in a more productive way. The introduction of compulsory specialised counselling and therapy for offenders will enable a safe environment for these individuals to seek assistance in order to avoid reoffending. Although these forms of services are usually used for patients with mental health issues, this form of deep and thorough communication will assist perpetrators to talk through emotions and behavioural traits and enable the service giver to suggest new modes for these male traits and tendencies to be released in a legal manner. Further education and clarification on sexual assault offending might also teach the perpetrators what is acceptable and what is not.

Overall, there are many different theories one can use to identify the causation of sexual assault. The best explanatory model is the masculine identity theory as it illustrates why males are more frequently the perpetrators and how their male traits cause them to behave sexually towards women. Evolutionary biology and social disorganisation both give a further analyse of possible causation theories but work more effectively as a secondary theory backing up the primary theory of gender. Although, criminologists and individuals should not solely rely on the masculinity theory to assess the causation of sexual assault. Further analyse of each specific case must be undertaken to deeply understanding exactly why and what caused the criminal act.

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