From the Latin rapere which means "to seize or take by force," the origin of "rape" was war. It was used to describe acts such as looting, destruction and capture of citizens. Even today the act of rape is an acceptable wartime practice and the connotation remains. When men rape women, it indicates war, even in civilized society. Since one in four women will be raped in our country, I believe we have war simmering under the crust of our gender relationships.
Recently Christian Slater was arrested for grabbing the ass of a woman on the street and charged with sexual assault. The most common reaction to this event has been a collective rolling of the eyes. I heard one man say "If grabbing someone's butt is a crime, then half the men in every bar in America are criminals." And one woman said "If Christian Slater grabbed my butt, I'd be flattered! I'd brag to all my friends--Christian Slater grabbed my butt!"
Clearly we are missing the point. The consentual act of grabbing someone's butt is not a crime. That's what happens in every bar in America and that would be the case if the woman were flattered by the attention of a celebrity. But if she's not flattered by it--if she does not welcome his hand on her ass--then it's rape. Her body belongs to her, along with the right to decide who may touch it and where. When a man grabs her butt without making sure that the act is consentual or welcome, he takes that right from her. He seizes it, takes it by force.
Rape makes its first historical appearance in early religious texts. In Greek mythology we find the rape of women and of men with different values ascribed. The rape of Europa by Zeus is represented as an abduction followed by consensual lovemaking and it was not punished. The rape of Chrysippus by Laius (male rape) however is represented in darker terms. The act was known in antiquity as "the crime of Laius," a term which came to be applied to all male rape. Its punishment was so severe that it destroyed not only Laius himself, but also his son, Oedipus.
Until the late Middle Ages rape was seen as a crime against the male figure dominating the particular girl or woman. Thus the penalty for rape was often a fine payable to the father or the husband whose "goods" were damaged.
Rape in the course of warfare dates back to antiquity, ancient enough to have been mentioned in the Bible, which condones the abduction of women as war trophies. If rape and other forms of "minor" sexual assault (such as unwelcome ass-grabbing) are condoned in our society, then women become nothing more than trophies in the war to maintain patriarchal control.