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Study finds a third of college men would rape if they could get away with it

In a small but disturbing survey conducted at the University of North Dakota, nearly a third of male college students said they would commit rape if they could get away with it — and if it wasn’t described as “rape.” ThinkProgress reports:

 According to the survey, which analyzed responses from 73 men attending the same college, 31.7 percent of participants said they would act on “intentions to force a woman to sexual intercourse” if they were confident they could get away with it. When asked whether they would act on “intentions to rape a woman” with the same assurances they wouldn’t face consequences, just 13.6 percent of participants agreed.

The study also looked at the men’s general attitudes towards women and found that, unsurprisingly, those who were willing to rape a woman were blatantly misogynistic, displaying open hostility and resentment for women. However, those who would commit rape but would not call it rape weren’t outwardly hostile but did hold “callous sexual attitudes” — a belief that women are objects and that sexual aggression is “an appropriate and accepted expression of masculinity.”

As the lead researcher says, “The No. 1 point is there are people that will say they would force a woman to have sex but would deny they would rape a woman.” While it’s unclear what we should do about the 13.6 fucking percent of respondents who are A-okay with being rapists, to reach the would-be predators who have managed to convince themselves that forcing people to have sex with you is just a normal part of “guys being guys,” education campaigns focused on defining consent and healthy sexual relationships could be promising. But, the researchers warn, since these men don’t see themselves as rapists, unless the programs can get real buy-in from the participants, they’ll “likely leave the men who could benefit most from these prevention efforts disengaged.”

Header image credit: Alex Garland—Demotix/Corbis

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like,, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

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