Stephen J. Hucker, MB, BS, FRCP(C), FRCPsych
  Consultant Psychiatrist,
  Professor, Division of Forensic Psychiatry, University of Toronto

       Forensic Psychiatry. ca

Sexual Sadism: Sadistic Rape


Rape is a complex, multidetermined behaviour (Hucker & Stermac, 1992; Marshall & Barbaree, 1984,1990) and rapists are clearly not a homogeneous group (Prentky & Knight, 1991). Research suggests that most probably are not paraphilic. It has also shown that the degree of deviant arousal, as measured by phallometry, seems to be assocaited with the frequency and degree of violence in sexual assault (Abel et al, 1977, 1978). This suggests that the most violent and habitual rapists have deviant arousal patterns. and that many of these men prefer sexually aggressive stimuli. Preference for this type of sexual interaction has been referred to as the " preferential rape pattern" (Freund et al., 1983, 1984), "paraphilic coercive disorder" (Abel, 1989; APA, 1987) or "biastophilia" (Money, 1990).

Sadistic rapists tend to be sexually aroused by fantasies and urges of forcing themselves sexually on their victims. The sexual sadist is aroused by the use of gratuitous violence whereas the preferential rapist is thought not to use greater force than is necessary for victim compliance (Abel, 1989), though the offender's estimate may be highly inaccurate.

Preferential rape-proneness may involve coercing the victim into fellating the perpetrator or to submit to anal intercourse, behaviours that are typical of sexual sadism (Dietz et al., 1990). Preferential rapists and sexual sadists often target strangers (Dietz et al., 1990).

Interestingly, focussing on unknown victims is a reliable indicator of a courtship disorder phasing. Thus, predatory sadism has been viewed by some researchers as a possible overlap of a courtship disorder and sexual sadism (see Freund et al.Freund, Scher & Hucker, 1983, 1984).

In one particular study (Warren et al, 1992), 9 of a sample of 17 serial sexual murderers also showed an interest in voyeurism, telephone scatologia or exhibitionism. However, obscene telephone calls by sexual sadists not typical. . Similarly, "voyeurism" by sexual sadists may be more accurately described as the result of prowling by night in search of a victim to assault as opposed to non-contact voyeurism.

In phallometric assessment, the sadistic rapist also shows a high level of arousal to descriptions of physical, but non-sexual, assault on female victims (Abel, 1989).

Most researchers (Abel et al., 1988; Freund et al, 1983, 1984; Groth, 1979) have reported that only five to ten percent of rapists fulfil the DSM-IIIR (APA, 1987) criteria for sexual sadism, although a number of authors have reported prevalence estimates as high as forty-five percent (Fedora et al, 1992; Hucker et al., 1988). Such disparate estimates may reflect the fact that cases studied are derived from very different populations, namely, mental health patients versus correctional inmates, although it is also likely that different researchers have held varying conceptualizations of sexual sadism.

Early identification "predatory" sadism is often difficult in that some rapists may begin with apparently non-sexual crimes such as burglary during which a rape occurs (Revitch, 1978; Ressler, Burgess & Douglas, 1983) but may later develop clear cut patterns of predatory sadistic rape behaviour. Likewise, some predatory cases may be preceded initially by patterns of mildly sadistic behaviour (see Freund et al.) or the predatory pattern may have been present from the outset but denied or hidden by the rapist under interview.

Freund (1995) suggests that the term "dangerous" or "predatory" sadism be restricted to mean the "erotic drive to cause bodily harm or physical suffering to another organism," whereas the broader concept, involving the desire to humiliate and dominate a partner, can be referred to as "erotic hyperdominance". When one reviews the definition of sexual sadism in DSM-IV (APA, 1994) it is clear that Freund's categories are subsumed under the one term. DSM-IV suggests that some rapists are sexually aroused by forcing their victims to engage in intercourse but their arousal is neither increased nor inhibited by their victims' suffering.

As a group and in general, rapists do respond with greater arousal to non-sexual violence than do non-rapists (Barbaree et al., 1979; Quinsey, Lalumiere & Seto,1994), and violent rapists tend to respond more strongly to depictions of sexual violence than do comparatively less violent rapists (Quinsey et al., 1994).


Sheridan, P., & Hucker, S.J., (1994). Rape: Paraphilic, statutory, conquest & the sado-masochistic Paraphilias. In J. Krivacska & J. Money (Eds.). Handbook of Forensic Sexology. Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books.

Freund, K., Scher, H., & Hucker, S. J. (1984). The courtship disorders: A further investigation. Archives of Sexual Behaviour, 13, 133‑139.

Freund, K., Scher, H., & Hucker, S. J. (1983). The courtship disorders. Archives of Sexual Behaviour, 12, 769‑779.


© Stephen Hucker, MB,BS, FRCP(C), FRCPsych, 2004, 2005
This material is provided for personal use only. Any other use is strictly forbidden without the express written permission of the author

 

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