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Marriage may be made in heaven,
but the maintenance must be done on earth.

How Humans Establish Intimacy

On this page:
Biological Basis for Sex and Intimacy | Establishing Intimacy | The Bonding Process | Misinterpreting Sexual Signals | Breaking Off the Process | How NOT to Stop the Process | Motivation for Rape

The simple question of "how do rapes occur?" is almost impossible to accurately answer. Rapes can -- and do -- occur in many different ways. In comparison, however, the question "why do rapes occur?" makes the first query look like a kindergarten quiz.

There is no accurate answer.

But there are recurring human behavior patterns we can track and identify. It is interesting to note that, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, rapes are most frequent among acquaintances. The jump-out-of-the-bushes attacks aren't just not as common, but are in fact, only a minute number of the rapes that occur.

We take exception to the agenda driven idea that "all men are potential rapists." We also roll our eyes at the simplistic proclamation that "all rapes are about power and control" We have interviewed hundreds of women who were raped in their lives and gotten their stories. In an astounding number of " date rapes" it makes more sense to view the motives as instincts going out of control. And that means until a certain point the female was an active participant in the process.

Does this mean that she wasn't raped?

No, not at all. What it does mean is that there is something else happening. When we pull back from the crisis of rape and look at the normal human behavioral process that rape often perverts, we begin to see the issue in a different light -- and with altered understanding. This process is very normal and human. By understanding this  process, we can recognize not only when, where and why it goes wrong, but what it looks like when it starts going that way.

With this conscious knowledge, the woman can then remove herself from a situation that is becoming dangerously unstable. And in doing so easily prevent herself from being raped.

So let's give a different perspective on rape: Rape often is a parasite that hides within a normal human activity. An activity that both women and men actively participate in. In fact, this process is a species imperative. Rape's most repulsive aspect is that it is found within the very process we use to establish trust and intimacy with another human being. Despite all the cultural, societal and personal variations, this process is a human universal. To fully understand how rapes commonly occur we must expand our thinking about sex and its role in establishing human intimacy. When we look at the subject in that light, the significance and implications of both sex and rape are dramatically altered

Here is where things begin to get complicated though. Both young women and men are not consciously aware of the process. And yet, despite this, we have expectations on how this "unconscious script" is supposed to go. And in fact -- unless someone has been locked in an attic in the Antarctic his/her entire life -- this process has gone according to its 'script' many times before. That is to say: There are many steps in the process and before we ever get to the final stages, we have experienced the early stages many times before. We not only have an expectation of how it is supposed to work, but we also have expectations on how it is supposed to play out when it doesn't work. As such, often women's  reactions -- when this unconscious behavior goes awry -- can put them in greater danger. By the end of this page, you'll begin to understand what we mean by that statement.

So knowing that there is an underlying human process, can we say that all rapes are a perverting of this process? Of course not. With this understanding, however, you can seriously reduce your chances of being raped.

Biological Basis for Sex and Intimacy
Regardless of your religious, ethical or philosophical stand on sex, the simple truth is that it is a very natural and biological function. There also is significant evidence that it serves another important aspect in human behavior; It helps establish intimacy between couples.

Putting it on a purely biological level, sex is necessary for procreation.

Among many egg-laying animals, once the mating process ends, the male leaves or in some cases is driven from the female's territory. With some less complex species, the female will lay the eggs and depart. In other species, she will remain in the area guarding the eggs. What is important to notice, however, is that the young are capable of fending for themselves after they hatch. And the mother abandons them.

In more advanced species, the mother cares for and teaches the young until they are capable of fending for themselves. And in these circumstances any encroaching male will be driven off.

And in many larger and much more advanced species, the care and raising of the young is a joint effort. This occasionally is undertaken by other members of the herd or pack, but in certain species it is the parent's joint effort. These animals engage in what is called "bonded" behavior. Now whether this monogamy and joint effort lasts the season or for a lifetime depends on the species.

Due to an extended gestation period (nine months) and an even longer infancy and juvenile period when the child is unable to take care of himself, the human animal needs to have joint and extended parenting. As such, it is not inconceivable that sex might also have a secondary role among humans. And that would be to help establish pair bonding. What we commonly call "falling in love." When looked at from this perspective, many oddities that are unique to human sexuality begin to make more sense -- including the fact that humans are some of the few animals that engage in sexual contact out of "season." That is to say sex without the possibility of impregnation. So while there is the purely procreational aspect to sex, other motivations and behaviors are involved.

You cannot accurately look at the issue of sex without also looking at the end result, which is procreation and for humans raising those young. This is why there are so many religious and social restrictions and standards. Sex, while a short-term act, can -- and does-- have long-term repercussions. And that's what those social and religious standards about sex are designed to address. When we look at sex from the standpoint of serving the secondary purpose (that of establishing trust, intimacy and bonding with one another for a long-term commitment) it could be argued that religious restrictions are based on refining pre-existing behavioral codes to protect and care for the offspring that sex (before modern contraceptives) was likely to produce. Return to top of page

Establishing Intimacy
Sex is fun. Sex is exciting. Sex feels good. Those are the "bennies" that Mother Nature gave us.

If you watch wider human behavior, however, you will also begin to see that sex is an integral part of how we  "bond" to one another. Human are wired to seek intimacy. Most of us automatically establish bonds with others. For most people the idea of sharing our lives with a mate is a major motivating force for much of what we do.

And that brings us to the issue of both children and the long run. The bottom line is that raising children is hard work. In order for parents to endure the many years of joint effort it takes, they must be bonded to each other. Their commitment to each other must be greater than the trials and tribulations they will face in the years to come. Trust, commitment, responsibility, respect for self and mate, and a willingness to work together for the benefit of both are foundations for a working relationship.

This does not happen overnight, nor is it an automatic, first-time event. There are many "interviews," false starts and failed attempts before we find the "right" person. Many potential mates will be encountered, interviewed, tested, tried and rejected before we "settle down" with someone. This is commonly known as "dating." It is also known as "getting together" and "breaking up." This is what we were talking about when we said that humans have experience and expectations with the process even if we don't consciously understand the process.

This selection process is not a one-way street. It is a joint interview where both parties are inspecting the other for compatibility and the possibility of being an acceptable life mate. The purpose of the process is so that both individuals get what they want out of the relationship. It cannot be stressed enough that the goal of the bonding process is a win/win situation. Both parties share equally in the benefits. The process also helps establish trust and reliance between the two. That is one of the cornerstones of creating a mutually beneficial long-term relationship.

This is why this process is best understood as an interview. Both parties have the ability to slow and renegotiate the conditions at any time. They are checking the other's acceptability. And if the process fails, they abort the process and return to the "group" (dating pool). Both people have the ability and right to end the interview at any time if the other person does not "pass." What is important to realize is this interview process is indigenous to human beings. And it extends across all cultures on this planet.

It is our theory when this interview goes awry it often results in date rape. Return to top of page

The Bonding Process
The bonding process is described by Dr. Desmond Morris in his book Intimate Behavior. What follows is our interpretation of his works. However, we highly recommend you go the source for further information(1). Although Morris's works are a cornerstone of what is presented here, these conclusions are an amalgamation of findings and research into psychology, body language, communications and biology.

Restating the purpose, the bonding process is how humans interview each other and establish long lasting intimacy. It is a process of mutual consent, establishing trust and communications. If anywhere along the way one of the parties decides that the other has sent an unacceptable message (thereby failing the interview) he or she may decide to abort. This break can come at any time.

Ideally when this process works, it should go like this:

     Stage   Corresponding action    Key point

1) Eye to body

First look Someone catches your eye
2) Eye to eye Preening gestures Yes/no signal (given by the female)
3) Voice to voice Talking Verbal screening
4) Hand to hand
(or shoulder)
Initial physical contact Usually initiated by female
      To this point these behaviors occur publicly or in social settings
5) Arm to shoulder Bodies closer together Possible isolation
6) Arm to waist More intimate contact Likely while withdrawing from public
7) Mouth to mouth Kissing Less likely to be in public between an unbonded pair
8) Hand to head/face Probable isolation
9) Hand to body Sexual contact Isolation
10) Mouth to breast Foreplay Isolation
11) Hand to genitals Isolation
12) Intercourse Isolation
Repeat steps three through 12. In bonded pairs up to stage 8 often publicly displayed indicating bonding

(Return to Stopping the Process)

This is a process that humans unconsciously follow. It cannot be stressed enough that it is an act of mutual consent, participation and trust. Although apparently sexual, its real purpose is getting to know and establishing intimacy, trust and commitment with another person.

It should also be noticed that the woman controls the primary stages. It is at her initial signal of acceptance or interest that gives the male the "go ahead" to approach her. If the female has not sent the signal and the male approaches her anyway, he will probably be rebuffed. (It is not uncommon for socially inept men to misread the innocent actions of a woman as such a signal or to simply decide not to wait. This does result in a lot of unwanted attention).

Furthermore, it is the woman who usually initiates the first physical contact, thereby telling the man that she is sufficiently interested in pursuing this interview. If the male attempts to initiate it, he will often fail the interview and be perceived as too aggressive or grabby.

Initially isolation is an important issue in the process, however, after intimacy has been established. Behavior up to stage 8 is commonly displayed publicly to indicate an 'exclusive bonding.'  These are the most overtly displayed body language and positioning of the pair that serve as a clear indication of involvement with each other. In other words when you see this kind of behavior displayed, you know you are looking at a "couple." Both are "off the market." But you won't publicly see such behavior until the couple has gone through the primary cycle.(2).

It is the fact that isolation is so critical to this process that leaves women vulnerable to someone whose intention is to corrupt it. Return to top of page

Sexual Misinterpretation
Although sexual intercourse is part of the process, it is not the goal of the process. But the selfish often ignore that. To such people, sex is the only goal. In the same vein, the socially inept also can fail to understand that the interest must be mutual. A combination of such misunderstandings and ego can create a dangerous combination.

And that is where you will run into problems -- both with rape and sexual harassment.

During the initial stages of the bonding process, there is a combination of small grooming movements that are often called "preening gestures." These are a significant indicator of interest. When combined with patterns of eye movement, eye contact and facial expressions, they constitute the yes or no signal a woman sends to indicate she wishes to open communications with the male. And once communication is established, she will continue to send these signals to encourage him. The male will be sending similar signals.

Because these signals are a combination of several otherwise normal gestures and actions that are done within a very specific context, they are often a source of confusion. The problem is that these signs and combinations are subtle. A study on sexual harassment several years ago discovered 27 different gestures that women regularly make in the office that men tend to find sexually attractive. It isn't until you realize that these moves also are commonly used as female "preening" gestures that you can begin to see the roots of miscommunication. This is why many men defend their actions by saying the woman was coming on to them. He was misinterpreting normal grooming (or unconscious) actions as preening gestures.

And example is a woman brushing her hair off her forehead with her fingertips. Let's look how this can be used as a preening gesture. The signal for indicating that she is interested in the male would be a combination of this act, plus a particular pattern of eye movement and facial expression. An interested woman might brush her hair back and run her eyes up and down the male's body with a pleased expression on her face. Her hand might also linger longer than normal around her face or caress her cheek as she withdraws it. This would be a clear indication of interest on her part.

However, without those secondary actions, she's just getting the hair out of her face. That's all it means. It is a self-adjusting action, not a preening gesture.

Unfortunately, many socially inept males will ONLY see the hair brushed back and interpret it as a preening gesture. Having missed the lack of all the other signals, he will think he has been given the go-ahead. Or as is often the case, his interest is so great that he will ignore the lack of other signals and choose to believe that he can impress her anyway. In this case, he will intentionally misread her action as a go ahead signal.

This is just one example of many. A full list of behaviors, their implications and uses are beyond the scope of this Web page, but you can find references on the bibliography page. It is important to understand that a major part of the interview process to find an "acceptable" mate is that your understanding and use of body language is similar enough that you both feel comfortable.

Another important issue in the bonding process is that you proceed apace. In other words, both the female and male are on the same schedule during the process.And this holds true even if the goal of both parties is just sex. The procession of events MUST be acceptable to both parties. This synchronicity can quite literally be the difference between rape and tearing-each-other's-clothes-off- furniture-breaking-fun sex. With the first, you have only one person who is forcing the pace -- regardless of the other person's desires. In the other, both are active and willing participants.

Let's take a close look at that last sentence. It is when the male tries to force the process faster than his partner's desires/wishes/ comfort that you move from mutual benefit and into selfishness. And into the legal definition of rape. Return to top of page

Stopping the Process
Unfortunately this process designed to establish intimacy leaves women vulnerable to rape –- especially in the later stages.

This is because an inherent part of the process is for the pair to go off alone. Take a look at the table again and see how much occurs in isolation. Somewhere during the initial cycle, both will want to withdraw from the public (or the rest of the group) so this interview process can continue uninterrupted. That's right, we just said: You will find yourself willingly going off with an interviewee and away from the group. You both want to get away and find out more about each other. All during the process, there will be verbal communication (screening) by both parties, so you might not even notice this withdrawal. And the process can occur over time -- in some cases months. During this period, you could find yourself isolated with such a person while doing errands, riding together to a destination or working late. You may not have thought of it as withdrawing from the group, but you find yourself with someone in isolation

It is it important for women to realize that if the process begins to go awry: WITHDRAW FROM THIS ISOLATION!

Move to a public place or return to the social environment from which you withdrew. Do not try to alter, change or dictate his behavior! Do not stay there and ARGUE with him. Your immediate goal is to get out of isolation. Return to the safety of the group, where he must behave himself. This is the most critical step. Scream if you have to(3). But get out of there NOW!

It is important to realize that under normal circumstances the bonding process can be broken off at any time. However, the farther down the road you are the more critical it becomes to get out of an isolated position.

The reason is that a selfish person (or someone who has displayed many of the profiled behaviors of a potential rapist) can, and often will, decide to force the issue. Such a person is only focused on getting sex and personal gratification. If the woman tries to slow him down or stop the process without leaving (or even establishing distance) there is a very good chance that in his little besotted brain it will seem perfectly logical to try to continue the process by whatever means necessary.

And if you are sitting right there, it will be easy for him to do so.

This is why -- at the very least -- you need to create distance between you and him. In all honesty, withdrawing is better. It is difficult to be raped if you are not there. Return to top of page

How NOT to Stop the Process
There is a strong possibility that date rape most often occurs when the male attempts to force the process to its physical conclusion after the female has decided to abort. The male has failed the interview by being too heavy handed, too eager, too pushy or too whatever. Knowing about this process supports the idea that: "No means no, regardless how far along."

You do need to know, though, that being told he has "blown the interview" often produces an anger response.

And most of the time he is not alone. Many women react in anger when the process begins to go amiss. Since much of this process is unconscious, we often are at a loss when something goes wrong. We don’t know exactly what is wrong, but we know something isn’t right -- and frustration and anger are common results.

Now you have two pissed off people, who are not sure what is wrong and how to correct it. And each is convinced that the other person is out of line. And that is where things turn ugly because neither person really understands what the other is doing wrong. They just know something is wrong and they are pissed. This is where the comment we made earlier about how women's responses to the process going wrong can put them in danger. Instead of withdrawing from the situation, they stay there and try to regain control.

Advocates will often claim this is where the issue becomes about power and control. In light of this new information, they're half-right. Unfortunately, like everything else up to this point, it's a mutual process. At this point, women are commonly attempting to control the situation. Often they attempt to regulate his behavior or get the process back to their unconscious expectations. Now you have two angry people in an isolated situation where violence can be effectively used. And that is the recipe for disaster!

Don’t stay there and argue, punish him by leaving.

If you try to control his behavior at that moment, you are still in a range and position to be raped.

In these kinds of situations you "win" by not being raped. You show you are in control, by getting out of there -- by hook or crook if necessary. You don't try to "get him to behave" you get out of there. He's failed the interview/process and it's time for you to leave.

Return to top

1)Many of the television programs of Morris's works are regularly run on Discovery Channel, The Learning Channel, BBC and other stations. Also see the bibliography. . Return to text.

2) These obvious "tie signs" tend to be more prevalent among younger couples. Older, longer established couples tend to project more subtle and well developed signals that indicate a long-term bonded pair. For example, a long-time couple will usually have a well developed form of synchronized movement. They move as a team. To an experienced observer, these signs are just as obvious as the more blatant ones that younger couples project. To most people, however, they just register on the subconscious, and you "know" you're looking at a couple. Return to text

3) Although there's a myth that a screaming woman at a frat house party will be considered a joke, this is seldom the case. Screams usually attract both attention and intervention. Do not be afraid to create a socially unpleasant scene. Scream loud, long and, if you have the presence of mind to do so, yell, "No means no!" That removes any possibility that people will interpret it as fun and games. Return to text


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