Is Rape Culture Darwin’s Fault?

Via Brooks Hall
on Sep 26, 2011
get elephant's newsletter

Has the remnant that was inspired by Darwin‘s research on natural selection that has been popularized, “survival of the fittest” given us the permission to tear at each other at will? …like whenever the opportunity strikes or the weakness of another is seen?

I’ve found myself questioning the values of the culture I’m living in. It’s a culture that tends to look the other way when many people are raped. Why? Why is it that people out late at night, or intoxicated, in prison, dressed like “sluts”, gay, transsexual, lesbian are blamed for how they express themselves when they are victims of the crime of rape?

It is never the victim’s fault when it comes to a sexual assault. It is never okay to rape another person. This is what I think.

The subject is on my mind right now because I recently taught a yoga class that benefitted Rape Victim Advocates. And I realize that participating in this event has allowed me to use my voice to say what I think about this important issue.

I left the class feeling deeply satisfied. I spoke my truth with words, service, time and money. My small contribution felt so good.

If we misinterpret what Charles Darwin was saying we might think or believe “only the strong survive.” And in this case we might feel like we have to dominate one another as much as possible just to get by.

The “blue balls” idea that there were certain times that men had to have sex is an old myth. Men never need to assault another being for biological reasons.

Nobody is ever dressed so sexy that they are asking for it.

Sexual assault is a crime of domination and violation, not sexual desire that can’t be stopped.

I think that raping someone should be thought of as just as horrible and wrong as slavery or cannibalism. And rape should never be tolerated. It is wrong to rape.

Why does anybody think it’s okay to do that to anyone else under any circumstances?

“Survival of the fittest” when misinterpreted could paint an image of procreation as the only meaningful act in life. Someone blinded in a domination mindset might think that the species survives through the sexual expression of man, so others should step aside or look the other way as a man does what he was put on the planet to do: spread his seed.

It seems nuts to me, but I’m trying to understand why the world is like this. Why is rape basically condoned in many cases? Why do so many men and women in this culture blame the victim in a rape crime?

Sex should always be consensual. Always. And never coerced. The trouble with this is that the forces of coercion are so deeply embedded in the fabric of life that it can be hard for individuals to be clear enough to consent to having sex. There is a lot of pressure to be sexual.

I want this culture to clear its vision to see that that all people are so much more than their bodies. There is someone to honor and appreciate in every body (including your own).

The following is an excerpt from the article ‘Survival of the Interesting’ by David Rothenberg, Parabola, Vol. 35:4. He doesn’t mention the culture’s propensity to rape, but I think it fits with the content.

The idea of survival of the fittest might inspire you to compete ever harder against all your friends and colleagues, or it may instill in you a vision of the world as a rat race from which you wish you could jump off. If this sounds like a picture of all life as some kind of free-market capitalist paradise, at least know that this is not the world as Darwin saw it. He knew that we don’t have a world designed perfectly, as even chance might design it. Instead we have a world of crazy beauty, improbable solutions to life’s greatest problems, a wild and wonderful mess.

Beauty perplexed Darwin his whole life. “The peacock’s tail!” he exclaimed. “There is something that really makes me sick.” How could evolution produce anything as outlandish as that?

Clearly, rape culture is not Darwin’s fault, but our tendency to oversimplify thoughts might be partly to blame for the perpetuation of a crime that has been committed over and over on those considered by rapists to be weaker or somehow deserving of violation and domination.

And someone might wonder if this is too intense of a subject to bring into a yoga class, but it might actually be a great place to do some healing around this issue. A friend pointed it out to me that the victim of a rape crime can experience a profound separation of body, mind and spirit, and yoga along with other help can be a way to invite healing. Also it’s a way to hold an important issue as a caring community, as well as raise awareness and support one another in building a more compassionate and caring culture.

When we come together and see that we agree on something like this it means something and builds strength of conviction.


About Brooks Hall

Brooks Hall is a Yogic Muse from Chicago, Illinois. In this capacity she teaches Yoga, writes about Yoga, and generally enjoys it. You can find her at:


62 Responses to “Is Rape Culture Darwin’s Fault?”

  1. Suri kate says:

    Jogijulian , dude this is beautiful , the world needs more of this ….your argument is just strong and coherent and i wish more people could realize that huge amonts of money are being invested in the deliberate manufacture of lies in order to confuse us about the validity and realness of science …behind this machination ….ofcourse a bunch of religious groups, oil and chemical industries , politicians etc etc

  2. Brooks Hall says:

    Dear John,
    Thanks for your response.
    Your comment is interesting because much of it is a criticism of what is said in the excerpt from an article in Parabola magazine.

    What you call “intellectual dishonesty on the part of Hall’s” is not about something I wrote.

    I cannot defend the excerpt, but I do find it beautiful. Refer to the full article in Parabola magazine for the context of the excerpt. (The exact issue is mentioned in the article.)

    It is also interesting that you wrote that might have been a “period of sickness” that would cause Darwin to experience awe and wonder at the miracle of nature which is how I see the comment about the peacock’s tail.

  3. Chuck says:

    I do not think that rape is done out of a belief but out of negative emotions. The goal is to hurt someone. It is all about the saying "Misery loves company." According to Jesus one should "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you." So the answer to rape and all acts of hurting others is individual conciousness.

    The higher it is in a society then the less rape there is. In fact you can say that people have violence and love in them. The more violence in them, the less love in them and this influences their actions. So doing yoga is not about a certain crime. It is about increasing consciousness and increasing the love to violence ratio in one. Note that I just made that up about love to violence ratio but I have seen this in my own life. I have been doing yoga since age 12.

  4. Chuck says:

    I re-tweeted this article to my 28,000 Twitter followers. I forgot to mention that if you look it up now, you see that evolution is not survival of the fittest but survival of the adequate. You do not need to be the strongest or fastest animal to survive. The animal only needs to be adequate to survive.

  5. Brooks Hall says:

    Thanks, Chuck! I appreciate your generous Twitter support, and the ideas in your earlier comment, too. Increase the love! And when we practice yoga we are way beyond adequate.

  6. dan says:

    Article on the “science” behind domestic violence, kind of epitomizes what can be so infuriating about this kind of research (from several angles/perspectives) (not exactly about rape, but relevant):

  7. […] Is Rape Culture Darwin’s Fault? […]

  8. Brooks Hall says:

    Yes, that article uses the concept of ‘evolution’ to legitimate violence against women, as well as supporting notions that women who are wealthy, smart and beautiful have higher “value” and that this “value” makes them vulnerable to attack.

    This is a quote from the article:

    “He predicts that domestic violence will be more likely when a man has a female partner of higher “mate value” – a woman who earns more, is more intelligent or is considered more physically attractive than him. He says men in such circumstances may resort to violence to deter the woman from straying, or else to reduce her own perception of her value by lowering her self-esteem.”

    Really? I think this article is simply rephrasing the language of oppression to keep women in fear. And it is especially insidious because it is under the label “science” which is associated with unbiased observations as earlier commenters have noted.

  9. […] is what I know: there is no excuse or reason pertaining to the victim. […]

  10. […] in some ways, I have three problems with it: 1. It identifies the problem to be all men, not the rape culture that we live in and constantly participate in. Women can have just as many of these red flags, and […]

  11. guest says:

    not just oversimplified, constantly misunderstood. with "survival of the fittest" Darwin meant "the one who is best adapted to their environment". that's all. not strongest, not prettiest, best adapted to the environment (a fact that can't be planned, either you have an adaptation or not. There is no "closed for construction" in evolution)