Rape Myths

By Gillian Greensite

(for a full explanation of these myths and facts, please visit CALCASA at:  www.calcasa.org/34.0.html)


THE MORE WE LEARN about rape, the more we realize how many of our attitudes about rape are based on myths rather than facts. Myths about rape are widespread and believed by men and women from all segments of society. How these myths originated and why they persist is connected to the history of patriarchy and sexism.

Myths about rape serve to direct attention away from masculine violence. They are similar to myths about other forms of oppression, such as racism, in that they encourage us to believe that how things are today is the natural order of things, that those who are raped either deserved their fate or enjoyed their fate, and that only certain types of people get raped, so most people can pretend it doesn’t concern them. The myths serve to minimize the seriousness of rape and, by focusing on particular women in particular circumstances, to shift the blame away from those who commit the crime. Blame is focused on the behavior of those who were raped or on particular men, targeted often because of their race or social class.


Myths keep us from understanding that rape is connected to our accepted social values of masculinity, femininity, and sexuality—that rape is common in everyday interactions. Myths keep us from understanding that we can change these circumstances, that rape is not inevitable

Myth:Men rape women because that is men’s nature and biological role.

 Fact:There are many societies in which men never rape women

Myth:Only certain types of women get raped. It could never happen to me.

Fact:Any woman can be raped.

Myth:Men rape women because they are sexually aroused or have been sexually deprived.

Fact:Men rape women to exert control and confirm their power.

Myth:Rapes are committed by strangers at night in dark alleys.

Fact:Most rapes are committed by someone the woman knows and at any time of the day or night. Women are raped most commonly in their own homes.

Myth:Most rapes are committed by black men raping white women.

Fact:Men who rape come from all races, all ethnicities, and all social classes.

Myth:Men who rape are “psychos.”

Fact:Men who rape are mostly ordinary, everyday guys.

Myth:Acquaintance rapes are not as serious as stranger rapes.

Fact:Acquaintance rape is as serious as rape by a stranger.

Myth:Women secretly want to be raped.

Fact:Women never, nor any other human being, desire to be raped.

Myth:Women provoke rape by the way they dress or the way they flirt.

Fact:Men rape women because they can get away with it. Women’s dress and behavior are not the cause.

Myth:Women lie about being raped or use it to get even with their boyfriends.

Fact:Women do not lie about being raped.

Myth:Men can never be raped.

Fact:Men can be and are sexually assaulted.

Myth:Women don’t rape.

Fact:Women are sometimes sexual aggressors.

Note: The myths and facts about men being raped and about women being rapists do not include reference to the sexual abuse and/or molestation of children, which is a distinct issue.