Letters: Feb. 21, 2000

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As a psychotherapist who has treated both rape victims and rapists, I am grateful for Ehrenreich's Essay "How 'Natural' Is Rape?" We don't need any more ideas that give antisocial people excuses for their behavior. THOM RUTLEDGE Nashville, Tenn.

I heartily applaud Ehrenreich's retort to the ludicrous theory on rape. Sadly, however, some governments foster the rape-to-procreate mentality. In Ethiopia a rapist is not prosecuted if his victim "freely contracts marriage with the offender." And in Costa Rica a rapist who "declares his intention to marry the victim" is exempt from any punishment. SUSAN BUCHSBAUM New York City

Rape is learned behavior, as in "monkey see, monkey do." Isn't our entire history a series of wars and conquest by violence? Rape, like other forms of violence, has certainly been the norm. Indeed, how, when and why did men learn to take what they desired by force? And if violence among men is learned behavior, how can it be unlearned? ALFHILD ANDA New York City

The claim that rape is not a violent act but a natural one of procreation can come only from men. MAYA NAGEL Boise, Idaho

Ehrenreich's last sentence may, apparently unwittingly, have hit on the answer to the Darwinian question of rape. She wrote that men who can't distinguish between sex and rape don't deserve to live in the company of women. For the average male, rape is undoubtedly not the best way to propagate, but for those men who are so undesirable that no female will voluntarily mate with them--who don't deserve the company of women--rape is the only way to propagate. Such undesirable men who remain honorably chaste will certainly not pass on their seed. They and their genes will become extinct. So it should be no surprise if the honorably chaste become increasingly rare and rapists relatively more common. N.D. THALMANN Rayleigh, England


You were right to note that the fall of Helmut Kohl, former Chancellor and unifier of East and West Germany [WORLD, Jan. 31], has the appearance of a Greek tragedy, with ingredients of hate and misfortune. The hubris of the political establishment has been undone by questions about money. The situation [involving as much as $5 million in unreported campaign contributions] is delicate and uniquely political. Through the years, Germans have seen a change from a wheeling-and-dealing system to a more austere, Prussian-like government in Berlin. One must wonder whether the new government will ever achieve a firm moral position. The fallen lion will ever be easy prey for the hungry. REINHARD BEHNERT Bremen, Germany

Younger, promising politicians with absolutely clean records must play an important role in the recovery of Kohl's party, the Christian Democratic Union--people like Christian Wulff and Peter Muller. But why did you omit Annette Schawan? Also, you did not do justice to Wolfgang Schauble and Angela Merkel. They have both worked hard to weed out the dark jungle of bank accounts, to bring secrets to light and to report to the public in agonizing press conferences and countless embarrassing talk shows. HANS-GUNTER KRUPPA Osnabruck, Germany

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