Anti-ScienceSkepticism

Rapist Darren Sharper’s Magical Penis Monitoring Machine

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Sort of transcript:

Darren Sharper is a former NFL player for the New Orleans Saints who was recently found guilty of drugging, sexually assaulting, and raping women across several states. He’ll be going to prison for just 9 years thanks to a sweetheart deal prosecutors struck in part because the women he raped didn’t want to appear in court and have their identities revealed. How strange, I wonder why victims of rape wouldn’t want to have their names known? I’m sure no one would stalk, defame, and harass them until they commit suicide.

After Sharper does his time in prison, he’ll have to submit to some standards that are meant to make sure he doesn’t go around raping anyone else.

That means things like no more alcohol, no visiting bars, GPS tracking, a moratorium on online dating, and having a monitor attached to his penis to measure when he’s aroused.

Wait, what? Yeah, that last one is real. He may not have to do it, but part of his plea deal did include his willingness to submit to testing called a penile plethysmograph, a procedure currently done in Arizona in which a cuff is wrapped around his penis as he’s shown sexual images to see what arouses him. No one in authority has said what this could possibly be used for, but the assumption is that he’d be shown images of both consensual and nonconsensual sex to see what he reacts to.

In past cases, it’s been used to identify what arouses a sexual deviant in order to reduce the chances that he’ll reoffend. It’s not really clear how that would help Sharper, since he’d already have so many measures in place to make sure he can’t rape again.

What is clear is that this test is utter BS. Studies have shown that it’s incredibly easy for most men to cheat the test just by imagining something else as they look at the pictures. Baseball, I guess, or maybe in Sharper’s case, football.

Add to that the fact that desire and arousal and sexual assault are complicated. People don’t necessarily rape each other because they can’t control their sexual arousal, and also people don’t necessarily like doing the same things they like looking at.

Sharper’s plea deal also says he must submit to lie detector tests, meaning that there are two tests in his future that the science shows are worthless and that he could easily cheat if he wanted to. The point of these tests, really, seems to be to make the rest of us feel better about an admitted sexual predator being allowed back out into the population.

To really make a difference in that respect, Arizona should drop their bogus tests and instead support Senator Katie Hobbs’ legislation that would force officials in the state to count all the untested rape kits in their archives and prepare a report to Congress on what the hell they’re going to do about it.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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12 Comments

      1. Rebecca, if I remember correctly, wasn’t there a segment on the SGU a few years ago involving a magic electromagnetic cock ring or someshit like that? I guess you just have a peen-chant for these kinds of stories…

  1. While I understand that many legislators have a poor grasp on sexuality, I’m wondering which scientist thought the plethysmograph was a good idea.

    And Rebecca, I heard you on Ask Me Another last weekend. Rough round of questions. I was really hoping it would come down to you and the ghost girl. Really hoping.

    1. Here’s the thing about pethysmography: it does have predictive value. Statistical predictive value.

      If you divide against-minor sex offenders into groups that score high plethysmographic results versus low on children, the high group will have proportionally more offenders.

      Now, I imagine you can instantly see all the nightmare legal ramifications of using statistical evidence against an individual, which implies some serious limitations for law enforcement usage. But for pure science, there’s some use in being able to say “X correlates with Y”: Proxy measures, interventionist trial dependent variable, stuff like that.

  2. Rebecca Watson,

    I would love it if they were able to go back and examine those untested rape kits. A lot of scumbags have probably been able to walk free for years, or even decades becouse they didn’t get around to looking at them.

  3. The whole premise of this test seems so horribly fucked up, it’s vomit inducing. The underlying assumption seems to be that men rape because they’re aroused. Really, their penis swells and there’s just too littleblood left in their brains to tell them that this is wrong. Honestly, they can’t help themselves!
    It presupposes that the dominant factor about rape is sex and sexual gratification.
    It presupposes that an erect penis is part and parcel of rape. No rape without one.
    So much bullshit in such a little thing…

  4. Plethysmographs and Polygraphs have dismal histories, and the faith put in them by authorities who ought to know better is an ongoing scandal.

    I know there have been suggested reforms in photo line up techniques that reduce false positives. But will police use them? Nah!

    While keeping Sharper away from alcohol MIGHT have public safety benefits, it is the alcohol and drugs than he put into women that was the proximate danger.

    I’m trying to remember, but recently a rape kit backlog clear up in some state (not yet finished) had already resulted in something like 29 felony convictions, and hundreds of matches for MANY violent crimes.

    But buying police ‘E-Meter’ knockoffs is so much easier than paying skilled technicians real wages to do real work that might lead to real convictions.

    I wonder how many times Sharper and other high-profile types will turn up when the backlog of rape kits is ever cleared?

    1. Yes, given that most rapists are serial offenders and that there is a high correlation with other crimes of violence, those kits are a valuable resource. The reluctance of authorities to process them is a mystery.

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