Adam Carolla, from the popular radio show Loveline, and in the Guiness Records for the most downloaded podcast of all time made the following claim (1 min mark):

rape is not a sexual crime, you understand. Its a violent crime, where you come at the end. But not sexual. It's brutally violent, but you orgasm. Often times on the victim and let me say this too. And don't laugh, lets just say Drew was going out to his car tonight. I came leaping out of the bushes, came and then beat the crap out of him. It is no ... violent, violent, not sexual. But you ejaculate. But, not sexual. Like many other things where you ejaculate that are not sexual.

He continues to make this claim, which may have come from the book Against Our Will.

The book, which is widely credited with changing public outlooks and attitudes about rape, promoted the concept that rape was not the victim's fault. Brownmiller described rape as "a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear." In short, Brownmiller asserts that "rape is a crime not of lust, but of violence and power."

The claim is widely repeated, on different rape support groups, and advocacy groups.

[Rape Myths] Rape is a crime of passion. - The notion that the rapist is controlled by overwhelming lust is far removed from the reality. Psychologists have found that the motivation behind sexual assault is most often the need to dominate and control, rather than the inability to control sexual urges. Rape is primarily an act of power and aggression, with the sexual aspects taking secondary role.

What percentage of rapists say their primary motivation was sexual release?

Note: This question is not about statutory rape. It is about forced sexual intercourse.

  • 13
    We have to be careful to consider different kinds of rape. While we tend to think of rape as 'the guy who leaps out of the bushes and forces himself on a girl', in fact most reported rapes are 'date rapes', where the rapist is known to the victim. Mar 8, 2013 at 14:17
  • 12
    I'm uncertain that this can be answered at all. It's unlikely an average rapist has enough power of introspection to objectively tell whether they did it for sex or power or more likely both - and you are discounting instinctual stuff like sexual selection strategies and counterstrategies which clearly have effect (see ducks for the most famous examples in biology) yet are on a wholly lower neural and psychological level than a person can evaluate or describe logically.
    – user5341
    Mar 8, 2013 at 15:06
  • 4
    Yet another and totally unrelated complication that in 2013, rape is as much a cultural construct as not, since the definition of what is rape widely varies between cultures (e.g. Western notion of spousal rape, western notion that if a partner is consenting but changes their mind mid-coitus being rape, western notion of statutory rape which includes sex between adult woman and 15 year old man, Scandinavian notion that having sex without a condom is rape even if fully consensual otherwise, etc....) - all of these would have been clearly considered NOT rape in a vast majority of human cultures.
    – user5341
    Mar 8, 2013 at 15:09
  • 8
    The title question presents a false choice. There is nothing preventing any particular rape from being about both. Any assault by violence or threat of violence can be assumed to have a power/control component to it, but these attackers pick a particular mode (as opposed to say, just pummeling the victim), and that choice comes from somewhere. Mar 8, 2013 at 17:22
  • 11
    Questions about motive are off-topic: see meta.skeptics.stackexchange.com/q/621/2703
    – ChrisW
    Mar 8, 2013 at 18:46

1 Answer 1


Groth (1979) originally identified four types of rapists, classifications that were expanded upon by Berger (2000): the power reassurance rapists (compensatory); power assertive rapists (power, impulsive); anger retaliation rapists (power, control); and anger/excitation rapists (sadistic) which is reported here. Research also shows that acquaintance rapists are characterized as coercive, less violent, and less opportunistic when compared to stranger rapists who are more hostile and use more expressive violence (i.e., inflicting pain or injury as the goal itself) toward women.

The most commonly cited motivational characteristics of sex offenders mentioned here for rape also reflect the same themes as above like that of compensation, impulsion, assertion, retaliation and excitation. Most modern conceptualizations of rape recognize that it involves both aggressive and sexual motives, but theorists generally emphasize one motive and minimize others. Previous research had not focused on rapists’ communication patterns, except for a study conducted by Darke in 1986 that focused only on verbal communication related to humiliation.

The caring/persuasion/reassurance theme appears to be consistent with behavioral characteristics of rapists in the 'power reassurance rapist' proposed by researchers Douglas & Olshaker in 1998 to be the most common type of rapist. Previous researchers have suggested that this type of rapist generally feels inadequate and compensates for these feelings of inadequacy by sexually assaulting women. Further, it seems that this type of rapist is constantly looking for reassurance of his own power and potency, and may apologize and express concern for his victim. However, this type of behavior serves the rapist's need for reassurance rather than expressing any genuine concern for his victim. Papers by Douglas & Olshaker, 1998 and Hazelwood & Burgess, 1987 provide more insight into this behavior.

The angry/demeaning/threatening theme was the next most common type of offender communication. However, some of the communication patterns seem to be consistent with the power exploitative rapist, as researchers suggest that this type of rapist is generally concerned with dominating and controlling his victim and using force, threats and humiliation to gain this submission. This theme is also consistent with the crime scene variables of aggression, antisocial behaviour, anger and vindictiveness identified by Knight et al. in 1998.

The characteristics of sexually nonsadistic rapist group per Massachusetts Treatment Centre Rapist Typology: Version 3 (MTC:R3) classification revealing their primary motivation of rape as sexual release is not exactly known. 'Sexual release' is not a major/minor motivation class for rape referring to studies such as 'Motivational factors in nonincarcerated sexually aggressive men and 'Motives and psychodynamics of self-reported, unincarcerated rapists.

Per a UN study on men and violence in Asia and the Pacific, 70 to 80% of men who indulged in rape reported that their common motivation was related to sexual entitlement which is the men's belief that they have the right to sex regardless of consent.

  • 1
    What's the evidence for your statement that "There are no authoritative studies to prove percentage"? I briefly read ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3777344 and didn't notice a sentence in there which supports that statement: could you add some direct quote to your answer?
    – ChrisW
    Jun 13, 2015 at 13:23
  • 4
    The second reference (Sexual Motivation in Women) is, ironically, irrelevant to the question, is it not? What's its connection, how does it help to answer the question?
    – ChrisW
    Jun 13, 2015 at 13:26
  • @ChrisW, it would be highly relevant for cases of female-perpetrated rape. Jun 15, 2015 at 10:55
  • 2
    @PointlessSpike Perhaps so if the study had included motivations of rapists; however "A cross-sectional sample of female participants aged 18 years and older were recruited nationally via online classified advertisements" which I suppose didn't include rapists.
    – ChrisW
    Jun 15, 2015 at 10:59

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .