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A Natural History Of Rape: Biological Bases Of Sexual Coercion

3.46  ·  Rating Details  ·  101 Ratings  ·  15 Reviews
In this sure-to-be-controversial book, Randy Thornhill and Craig Palmer use evolutionary biology to explain the causes of rape and to recommend new approaches to its prevention. According to Thornhill and Palmer, evolved adaptation of some sort gives rise to rape; the main evolutionary question is whether rape is an adaptation itself or a by-product of other adaptations. R ...more
Published January 18th 2000 by MIT Press (MA)
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Randy Thornhill and Craig Palmer's A Natural History of Rape represents the worst excesses of evolutionary psychology. Contra the authors framing of the controversy, the book was critically panned in scientific journals and resulted in a book-length response edited by Cheryl Brown Travis, Evolution, Gender, and Rape. (Elisabeth Lloyd's excellent chapter is available online:

Thornhill and Palmer argue that rape is either an adaptive behavior or the by-prod
Jan 19, 2010 Fiona added it
Frequently a catchall term for critiquing feminist writing as 'too emotional' or vehement to absorb, strident is an accurate description of Palmer and Thornhill's argument that rape is a product of reproductive adaptations, not the violent result of a misogynist culture as suggested in feminist thought. Their rhetoric is quite overwhelming, so much so that I almost bought their pre-emptive defence of a lack of data showing the reproductive success of rape as a ridiculous expectation, even as a l ...more
Dec 05, 2012 Ianw19 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Natural History of Rape offers a well-reasoned and empirically supported* argument for why men's proneness to rape and women's aversion to rape ultimately derive from differences in males' and females' evolved sexualities. The evolutionary analysis of rape will likely be highly rewarding for those readers who are interested in learning how to understand human behavior in evolutionary terms; and the analysis also yields some useful guidance to those readers who want to know how rape can most ...more
Feb 09, 2008 Jane rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
In their repeated attempt to rationalize and justify rape, Thornhill and Palmer spend the whole book trying to tell you that they are not trying to rationalize or justify rape. I read this and shook my head in anger the whole time.

I thought maybe I would get some insight into one of the most terrifying experiences anyone can have. I thought perhaps I'd hear another side of the story, one that we don't hear very often. I was disappointed.

Ashley Zacharias
Not particularly well written. Logical holes and gaps that you could drive a truck through. Way too defensive about feminists and social scientists. Not nearly enough data. Not a chart or graph in the whole book. But probably correct in most of the conclusions.
Feminists have said so many goofy things in the last fifty years that refuting them is a lot like taking on a baby in a cage fight. The audience is going to hate you, just because you look so mean.
The thing that really grates in this boo
Deb Waterhouse-watson
This is the most outrageously offensive and wildly unfounded book I have ever read - on any subject - but particularly on rape, as it is essentially trying to provide a 'scientific' basis for popular rape myths. I am a rape theorist myself, and have read the countless legitimate studies - in anthropology, sociology etc - that conclusively refute the myths Thornhill takes for granted, such as that women provoke rape by wearing revealing clothing etc (although statistically, unattractive, modestly ...more
Alicia Fox
Nov 22, 2015 Alicia Fox rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
"The ability of ideology to blind people to the utter implausibility of their positions is perhaps the greatest threat to accumulating the knowledge necessary to solve social problems." (p. 152)

This book uses a ton of data/research in evolutionary psychology/biology to explain why rape exists in all human societies.

It has been panned by a lot of people as somehow justifying or rationalizing rape, which is not the case at all. Those who hate this book (and the research behind it) fall victim to t
Oct 08, 2014 Astillar rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
This is a very insightful book about the evolutionary history of human sexuality, specifically in regards to sexual conflicts of interest, namely rape. Considering the inflammatory nature of this subject matter, the authors make a great effort to clearly define and explain the evolutionary theory and interaction of biology and environment that results in modern human sexuality. The precision and intricacy of their analysis is necessary to avoid any oversimplifications or misunderstandings that c ...more
Mar 09, 2009 Naomi rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Abso-freaking-lutely no one
What a horrendous piece of victim blaming, pass the buck crap. Yet another patriarchal argument that men aren't responsible for their own actions and mewling about being slaves to their genetic destiny or whatever. For crying out loud, their so-called research isn't even based on primate behavior.
Billie Pritchett
Randy Thornhill and Craig Palmer's Natural History of Rape argues that rape is continuous with but nonetheless an extreme form of male sexual behavior in human beings. You could think of male sexuality in humans as a dial that could either be 0, asexual, or 10, rapacious, and perhaps normal male sexuality falls somewhere in between, at a 4 or a 5. Something like this claim looks to be true, and it would look as though from our point of view as human beings, most animal behavior, were humans to e ...more
Apr 24, 2015 Terence rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found the book very enlightening. Ultimately, the truth of the arguments put forward here must survive the test of science, not ideology or political correctness.
May 30, 2010 Susan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gives more questions than answers, but I found what is known to be really fascinating. They do a good job throughout of not being sexist, until the chapter on how to educate people not to rape. They say girls should be educated more about not being raped - fine - but spend more than twice as many pages on that than on telling boys not to rape. Besides that, awesome.
Hillary White
Mar 15, 2014 Hillary White rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I am not someone who will give up on a book easily, but this book is just so uninteresting, considering the lack of proof the majority of the time, that I decided to return it to the library soon. Maybe I will check it out again sometime but for now I'm beyond frustrated with it and ready to move on to something new.
I'd read this book when it first came out, but I'd be curious to read it again in the new edition (comments in response to criticism?) and after having just read Sex at Dawn, which maybe/maybe not covers similar territory with a different aim. It maybe be even shittier now than it was then! We'll see.
Feb 14, 2008 Jennifer rated it liked it
I briefly joined a book club @ UT. A few high-minded profs and their grad assistants were reading this. Heavy...kinda boring, but heavy.
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