Are per-incident rape-pregnancy rates higher than per-incident consensual pregnancy rates?

Abstract

Is a given instance of rape more likely to result in pregnancy than a given instance of consensual sex? This paper undertakes a review and critique of the literature on rape-pregnancy. Next, it presents our own estimation, from U.S. government data, of pregnancy rates for reproductive age victims of penile-vaginal rape. Using data on birth control usage from the Statistical Abstract of the United States, we then form an estimate of rapepregnancy rates adjusted for the substantial number of women in our sample who would likely have been protected by oral contraception or an IUD. Our analysis suggests that per-incident rape-pregnancy rates exceed per-incident consensual pregnancy rates by a sizable margin, even before adjusting for the use of relevant forms of birth control. Possible explanations for this phenomenon are discussed, as are its implications to ongoing debates over the ultimate causes of rape.

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Correspondence to Jonathan A. Gottschall.

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Jonathan Gottschall received his Ph.D. in English from Binghamton University and now teaches at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York. His research focuses on bringing a Darwinian perspective to literary analysis and his publications include articles placing events in the Homeric epics, including rape, in evolutionary context. Tiffani Gottschall received her Ph.D. in Economics from Binghamton University and now teaches at St. Lawrence University. Her research focuses on explaining fertility differentials between American Indians and other American demographic groups.

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Gottschall, J.A., Gottschall, T.A. Are per-incident rape-pregnancy rates higher than per-incident consensual pregnancy rates?. Hum Nat 14, 1–20 (2003). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12110-003-1014-0

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Key words

  • Evolution
  • Pregnancy
  • Rape