Despicable, Yes, but Not Inexplicable

From American Scientist:

Ape When A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion was published nearly a decade ago, a lot of people were angered by its claims. The authors, Randy Thornhill and Craig T. Palmer, contended that rapists were men with limited social skills or limited mating opportunities who were carrying out a Pleistocene-engineered program that dictated that any attempt at procreation was better than none at all. Scholars, including myself, heaped criticism on the book because almost nowhere in it did Thornhill and Palmer present any empirical data in support of their view. And many people took exception to the assertion that rape might be better considered an act of attempted reproduction than one of violence, as it is widely understood to be.

Sexual Coercion in Primates and Humans, a fine new volume edited by Martin N. Muller and Richard W. Wrangham, replaces hand-waving with hypothesis testing and should be much better received. The contributors’ focus is on sexual selection—in the form of observed patterns of sexual coercion in nonhuman primates—and its implications for the evolution of human behavior.

More here.