Sociological Theory: Balance of Power
Sociological theory and feminist theory have much in common; in fact, many feminist theorists are sociologists. Sociologists believe that rape is an expression of power differentials in society (Martin, 2003). When men feel disempowered by society, by changing sex roles or by their jobs, overpowering women with the symbol of their masculinity (a penis) reinforces, for a moment, men’s control over the world.
Sociologists explore the ways people guard their interests in society. For example, the wealthy class in a society may fear the poorer classes, who are larger in number and envy the possessions of the upper class. Because women have been viewed as “possessions” of men throughout most of Western history, fear of the lower classes often manifested itself in a belief that lower-class males were “after our wives and daughters.” During the slavery period in the United States, for example, it was widely believed that, if given the chance, black males would rape white women, whereas white males did not find black women attractive. Yet the truth was just the opposite; rape of white women by black males was relatively rare, whereas many white slave masters routinely raped their black slaves. Once again, this supports the idea that rape is a reflection of power issues rather than just sexual issues.