Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Root cause of false rape claims: the 'regret asymmetry' between men and women

Woman: "I was so not going to do that. I was going to make you wait like 40 days." 

Man: "I was going to make you wait, too. Then I realized … I'm a dude." 

It's dialogue from "That Awkward Moment," a bromance starring Zac Efron. Here, Zac's character has fallen for a girl played by Imogen Poots. They wind up in bed quickly after meeting. In the excerpted dialogue, she's expressing regret for hopping into bed so quickly; he's acknowledging that he shared her hesitation but opted to act in accordance with the expectations of his gender. That little snippet of dialogue goes to the heart of a lot of problems that arise between young men and women, and that's not just our opinion, it's a fact.

Women, more than men, regret hopping into bed with people they don't know well. It's the "regret asymmetry" that divides the sexes, and it's a root cause of unsatisfying sexual encounters, including a sizable percentage of false rape claims. The "regret asymmetry" ought to be taught in every school to every teenager so that they might think carefully about what is going on while in the throes of passion.

A study shows how common remorse is for women following one-night stands: "Overall women’s feelings were more negative than men’s [about one-night stand casual sex]. Eighty per cent of men had overall positive feelings about the experience compared to 54 per cent of women. . . . . The predominant negative feeling reported by women was regret at having been 'used'. Women were also more likely to feel that they had let themselves down and were worried about the potential damage to their reputation if other people found out. Women found the experience less sexually satisfying and, contrary to popular belief, they did not seem to view taking part in casual sex as a prelude to long-term relationships."

It's not just damage to reputation women fear, it's a fear of getting pregnant and having to tell mom and dad who don't know she's sexually active.

Another recent study has confirmed the regret asymmetry between men and women. Similarly, Amy Bonomi, a professor of human sexuality at OSU specializing in domestic violence and assault, said: "Women tend to feel bad after having a random hook up." Typically men are not upset by these occurrences. Bonomi attributed this situation to society's "gender double standard" that men are expected to be more sexually forward than women.

The regret asymmetry stems from societal expectations. Another study shows that women lie about having sex to be in sync with expected gender roles. When women believe they can lie and get away with it, they understate the number of their sexual partners. In contrast, when they were hooked up to a lie detector and thought they had to be truthful, they reported more sexual partners than when they felt no such compulsion to be honest. For men, the result was exactly the opposite: when men thought they could lie and get away with it, they reported more sexual partners than they reported when they thought they had to be truthful. Researcher Terri Fisher, an Ohio State University professor of psychology, explained: "Sexuality seemed to be the one area where people felt some concern if they didn't meet the stereotypes of a typical man or a typical woman."

It's really not some controversial theory. Even feminist gadfly Amanda Marcotte once wrote that "the idea that it's shameful to just have sex because you want to" is "the reason that you have false rape accusations in the first place." Marcotte noted that "women who aren't ashamed of having sexual adventures like group sex-even ones that go bad-don't use rape accusations to cover up their choices. It's the women who are afraid they'll be called sluts if it gets out that make up these rape stories."

A perceived need to cover up an illicit sexual encounter is a primary motivation for false rape claims. One of the common motives cited by experts for false rape claims is "remorse after an impulsive sexual fling . . . ." Until Proven Innocent: Political Correctness and the Shameful Injustices of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case, S. Taylor, K.C. Johnson at 375 (2007).

Amanda Hess similarly talked about women who make false claims to defend their "femininity." She says that adherence to expected gender roles is a cause of both rape and false rape claims:
Both rape and rape accusations are products of the roles assigned by rape culture. In the traditional seduction scenario, a woman is expected to not desire to have sex, and to only submit after the man has successfully coerced her into submission. When the preferred model for consensual sex looks a hell of a lot like rape, an array of fucked-up scenarios are inevitable: the woman never wanted to fuck the guy, refuses to submit, and is raped; the woman submits to the man's coercion in order to avoid other negative consequences (like being raped); the woman had desired the sex all along, but must defend her femininity by saying that she had been coerced into sex. Thankfully, a good deal of modern men and women reject these antiquated ideas, but they're far from being banished from the sexual landscape. . . . . 
Why is it important for teenagers to know about the regret asymmetry? Because forewarned is forearmed. Wouldn't it be good for a young guy to be aware that the girl he's trying to get into bed might not feel the same way the next morning after she's completely sober? Shouldn't girls be aware that guys often act in accordance with gender expectations, and that it's common for girls to feel worse about these sorts of encounters the next morning than they did at the time they agreed to hop into bed?

[EDIT: If you need a vivid example of what this post is trying to say, here's one. A girl sneaked her boyfriend into her bedroom. When her father caught them, she lied that she didn't know him, and the father shot the boy to death.]

How about we ditch all the "Tell Men Not to Rape" and "Tell Women Not to Make False Rape Claims" posters, and start getting serious about it. It's time to teach our sons and daughters how to have mature relationships without all the angry, politicized baggage that swirls around these issues.