Description of the psychodynamics of rape

rapists and their psychology. It will incorporate a brief description of the psychodynamics of rape, including anger rape, power rape, and sadistic rape. Experts agree rape is not a sexually motivated crime. It is a crime of opportunity, or anger, or power, but the sex act itself usually does not motivate the rape. In fact, many rapists enjoy decent sexual relationships with their wives or partners (Birnbaum & Groth 5). Most experts define rape as any sexual act that both parties do not agree upon.

Many people believe that rape is a sexual act, but in reality, while sex is involved, there is much more to the act of rape than mere sex. As researcher H. Jean Birnbaum and A. Nicholas Groth note, “Rape is always a symptom of some psychological dysfunction, either temporary and transient or chronic and repetitive” (Birnbaum & Groth 5). Thus, understanding the psychological makeup of most rapists can help the psychologist understand the deviant behavior and the underlying causes of that behavior. Rapists often share many of the same characteristics. Researchers Birnbaum & Groth continue, “His [the rapists’] most prominent defect is the absence of any close, emotionally intimate relationship with other persons, male or female. He shows little capacity for warmth, trust, compassion, or empathy, and his relationships with others are devoid of mutuality, reciprocity, and a genuine sense of sharing” (Birnbaum & Groth 6). However, there are also many traits separating rapists into specific categories.

Several different personality types are associated with rape and rapists. One is the anger rapist who rapes because of outside stresses that drive them to angry, violent actions against others. Some researchers call this rapist the “displaced aggression” type of rapist, which my give the psychologist additional clues into his personality (Hollin 82). This type of rapist commits an act of rape out of rage and anger. Often, these types of assaults include physical violence and brutality toward the victim, especially if the victim attempts to fight off the attacker. Often, anger rapists commit rape as a way to ultimately humiliate the woman – they feel it is the worst thing they can do to a woman. They may also commit other degrading acts, such as urinating on the victim, or forcing oral or anal sex (Birnbaum & Groth 14). In addition, the rapist does not find sexual gratification in the act, rather they experience a release of their anger, but they may feel disgusted by their sexual actions. These men are often extremely angry with women for some psychological women, and so, they take all their anger on random women (“A Round-Up of Rapists”). These rapists can be especially dangerous, and they must come to grips with their own anger and reaction to it to come to grips with their violent natures.

Another common type of rapist is the power rapist. These rapists do not necessarily want to harm their victim physically, but they do want to dominate or possess her sexually. This type of rapist normally uses unwanted sex to cover up his own feelings of inadequacy, masking them with feelings of control, power, domination, and authority (Birnbaum & Groth 25). Thus, this rapist is partially interested in the sexual act itself, but for the feelings of power and control they have over their victim. For the most part, the most important part of the act is not the sex, but the domination and control over a “weaker” individual. This type of rapist may use physical aggression against their victim, but not as an act of rage, rather as an act of domination and control. Often, these rapists fantasize about sexual conquests and rapes, and they may force the victim into repeated sexual acts during the rape. They also may fantasize about their sexual prowess with the victim overpowering her fear of her attacker. Birnbaum and Groth write, “The characteristic scenario is one in which the victim initially resists the sexual advances of her assailant; he overpowers her and achieves sexual penetration; in spite of herself, the victim cannot resist her assailant’s sexual prowess and becomes sexually aroused and receptive to his embrace” (Groth 26). These rapists usually feel anxiety, excitement, and anticipate pleasure after the rape and before they plan their next attack. These rapists are often angry with themselves and see themselves as victims, which the therapist must address if the patients are to conquer their feelings of inadequacy and move on with their lives.

This type of rapist effectively blends power and anger into a personality that derives pleasure from the victim’s pain and torment. Experts Birnbaum and Groth note, “This offender finds the intentional maltreatment of his victim intensely gratifying and takes pleasure in her torment, anguish, distress, helplessness, and suffering. The assault usually involves bondage and torture and frequently has a bizarre or ritualistic quality to it” (Birnbaum & Groth 44). This type of rapist often does not even commit a sex act, for them, the violence and pain of another is enough to gratify them physically and emotionally (Hollin 82). Sometimes these types of rapists target prostitutes and often premeditate their rapes, unlike the anger rapist, who usually rapes during a fit of intense rage. These rapists may also murder in their frenzy of lust and aggression. This type of rapist also often collects souvenirs or mementos of his victims, such as photographs.

In conclusion, there are several different types of rapists. Rapists commit their crimes for a psychological reason or thrill, not because of a sexual need or attraction. Rape is a crime of violence and violation, and understanding the mind of the rapist can help professionals deal with and treat the problem of rape more effectively. In fact, rape is often a crime associated with stress on other levels, as the research has shown. Removing some or all of the stress may create a more tolerant and tolerable individual who can function normally in society without the need for aggressive behavior toward others.


Groth, A. Nicholas & Birnbaum, H, Jean. Men Who Rape: The Psychology of the Offender. New York: Plenum Press, 1979.

Hollin, Clive R. Psychology and Crime: An Introduction to Criminological Psychology. London: Routledge, 1989.

Round-Up of Rapists.” Psychology Today Nov.-Dec. 1992: 12+.

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