Thursday, February 13, 2014

What is Rape Culture?

Image by CMCarterSS
I’m sure most of you have seen “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke. If not, it’s a music video with nearly naked women (or entirely naked, depending on what version you watch) in which Thicke sings about how sick he is of women who are “good girls” and so of course they say that they don’t want sex, when in actuality they do. He communicates this throughout the song in its chorus: “I know you want it.” This song was by far the biggest selling and most popular song worldwide in 2013. This song, and how popular it's become, acts as a nice summary of rape culture in our society. If a woman is saying that she doesn’t want sex, she can’t honestly mean it when she was dressed like that (which was referenced in the song). This is an example of rape culture, and the song’s popularity showcases its extreme prevalence in our society.

Rape culture is an age-old societal phenomenon in which rape is ignored or even encouraged, and it needs to stop. Rape culture is a topic encompassing quite a lot, but the main points addressed in this post are: our society normalizing rape behaviours/encouraging them, and the sexualization of women to the point that seeing a shoulder - a shoulder - is, in many places at least, much too distracting to boys, and so can’t be tolerated. Another age old topic closely related to rape culture is victim-blaming. Victim-blaming is when someone who has been subjected to some sort of assault (almost exclusively sexual) is then written off as the cause of their own assault. You hear victim blaming in phrases like: “She shouldn’t have been drinking” or “if she didn’t want it then she shouldn’t have been wearing such a short skirt.” People that actively participate in slut-shaming also make women wrong on a regular basis for showing what they consider too much skin (like said shoulder from earlier).

There are many people that believe that a very large portion of reported rapes are faked, when, in actuality, “between 6% and a maximum of 10% of rape cases may be false.” Another interesting (and possibly related) statistic is that about 97% of rapists are never jailed, and, last, but most certainly not least: approximately 300,000 women are raped every year in the USA alone. I would like you to take a bit to reconcile those facts. Finding it difficult? So did I. It doesn’t help to know how devastating a crime like this can be to the victim. A prime example of this is the Steubenville Rape. In this rape some of the Steubenville high school football team raped (repeatedly), video taped, and photographed a female classmate who was unconscious from drinking. These photos and videos were then uploaded to social media and sent to friends. When an investigation was launched, the school officials covered up the crime that their students committed. They did this to protect the boys, because they didn’t want their lives to be ruined by this mistake, when they have such bright futures. Many even ended up blaming the victim of this awful crime for doing this to the boys (hint: great example of victim blaming). Much to everyone’s chagrin (though to some more than others), this is anything but an isolated event. Things like this are happening all the time.

Now that we’ve established rape culture as a very real and prevalent thing, we need to understand something else: it needs to end. Now. Rape culture destroys lives, both of victims and, as much as I hate to say it, the perpetrators (very very occasionally). By teaching our children that women are to be seen as sex objects, well, it causes them to be seen as sex objects. While this has innumerable consequences, one of them is that they are then treated as sex objects. If that’s all a man knows a woman as, what possible reason is there for him to resist any and all impulses he has? Have you heard the whole argument protecting rapists that goes something like: “boys will be boys”? That we shouldn’t expect them to control their urges? That’s because we tell them that it’ll be okay, and that there won’t be any repercussions. Now, after having said this, please don’t think that I’m saying that what these people have done is in any way excusable or okay at all. All I’m saying is that if we continue to require our women to be attractive enough to pull a good husband (because everyone knows that that’s what it’s all about (other than the hokey-pokey), but then tell them that if they are too attractive, they’ll be assaulted, just doesn’t work. Especially when we then pardon her assaulters and then, when she needs it most, instead of consoling her, pile even more blame onto her.




Conclusion

Rape culture is existent throughout our culture, and enforced by all avenues of media, not the least of which is the internet. If people aren't educated about it and go perusing through the web, they might well believe articles blaming victims of rape. They then tell other people about it, and so on, and the vicious cycle continues. I will admit that rape and rape culture are in no way localized to only the internet, and that those are huge societal problems that need to be addressed on an equivalent scale, but such a large portion of everyday life and consequently rape culture takes place on the computer, making it crucial that one of the first things to understand this need for change be the internet.. Luckily I live in an environment where rape culture is known and acknowledged, but I constantly need reminders that this isn't the case everywhere, and that a vast majority of people don't know much (if anything) about it. I was once again violently reminded by some of the surprised comments, realizing that these are facts that nobody really knows about, presumably for the simple reason that they make people uncomfortable. I found the blogging experience to be interesting and inspiring. The idea that I put out my thoughts and ideas on whatever topic that pleases me for the whole world to see, and having other people read said thoughts and input their own in a vast collective of knowledge and ideas makes me think that some good change could actually come of it, which is simply amazing.

13 comments:

  1. I think that this is a very well-written article about a topic that is very important. One thing I would like to add, however, is the fact that a lot of rape culture ideas are perpetuated and emphasized through the internet. For instance, behind anonymity, someone can brag about sexually assaulting someone without fear of consequences. Also, the idea that women only exist for a man's pleasure shows up quite often. This can cause victim-blaming, as you said, but this gets much worse when it is online and anyone can harass the victim. As I said before, very good article, but I just wanted to add a couple of points to it.

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  2. Thank you so much! I, personally, have never been in a situation like the victims or girls in this (and I am SO thankful for that), but I know things like this happen all the time. You just have to open the newspaper or watch the news, or even walk down the high school halls sometimes. Obviously no one is getting raped in the hall ways but some girls get unwanted attention, some of which is completely not there fault. And then there is the issue with rape in the military... lets not even get started on that.
    Anyway I really like how easy to read and how moving this could be. It's really well written, and thanks for putting this out there.

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  3. this was a wonderfully written article, and you have put many excellent points out in the open.

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  4. This article is really well done and made very interesting points. I agree with everything that was said. Women are often treated as objects, someone there to look pretty, make you a sandwich, and then lay down with you at the end of the night. This piece really brought out how casually people take rape and how we need to change it in 2014.

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  5. This article is really well done and made some interesting points. I agreed with every point made in this piece. Often women are treated like objects who are just there to look pretty, make you a sandwich, and sleep with you and I find this article brought out valid points like this and how casual rape is taken today. Great piece

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  6. completely agree with this well-written article! I think the victims should never be blamed for something they didn't even want to happen in the first place!

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  7. Good Post rumpusatthedisco,
    I think it is very well written and I think you did a very good job of explaining what rape culture and victim-blaming are. I agree with the points that you made in this post about how women should not only be seen as sexual objects. Do you think that if we didn't have such sexual songs and movies, there would be as much rape as there is currently? I think that songs and movies glorifying sex and rape increase the amount of rapes that happen.
    -Annelise4494

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    1. Thanks for the addition. I agree with what you said, that media often portrays women as nothing but sex objects, which then "justifies" it when they're used as that. Here's a link to a short video talking about that: http://www.kidsinthehouse.com/video/violence-eroticism-and-advertising-industry
      Rumpusatthedisco

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  8. You reference a dichotomy for women that is just so frustrating to navigate. Your looks matter, because the world wants you to be beautiful and sexy and alluring, but if you are TOO sexy and alluring, you deserve to be treated as an object. What's a young woman to think? What is the message here for men? I'm so grateful you opened the door to this very necessary discussion! I think if more people understood rape culture, victim blaming, objectification, and hypersexualization in these terms we could do a better job of educating young people about consent, and what that really means. We shy away from a healthy discussion of sexuality too often because it makes us uncomfortable. That, combined with a good solid dose of media literacy, would do much to help end rape culture. Thanks for this!

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  9. Hello rumpusatthedisco,
    I found your post to be very helpful on explaining this issue. Like you I was also very surprised by some of the statistics you gave, for example how 97% of rapists are never jailed. That fact was very shocking because I would have never expected that. I agree with you that the victim should not be considered the one to blame usually. Do you think if authorities made the punishments of rape more severe (jailing the rapists, etc.) it would not happen as much? Thanks for sharing this very important issue with me.
    -PACO

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    1. Hey PACO, thanks for the comment. I don't really think that instituting more severe punishments would solve the problem because it's not that people aren't learning their lessons from their punishment, it's simply that they aren't being punished. I believe that what we need to do is stop teaching people that it's okay to do these things and have society start to understand what rape actually is.
      Rumpusatthedisco

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  10. On Twitter this week, follow #HarassmentIs for insight into the epidemic of street harassment and how it shapes our culture. Soraya Chemaly has written another amazing piece in which she states, "It is the normalization of gendered violence that manifests, on our streets every day, racist, sexist status quo ideas about rights, hierarchy and power." This absolutely contributes to rape culture, and we should raise our own awareness of the problem.

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  11. Your readers might be interested in FORCE . "FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture is a creative activist collaboration to upset the culture of rape and promote a culture of consent. We believe that a more difficult and honest conversation needs to happen in America to face the realities of sexual violence...To promote this needed conversation, we create art actions to generate media attention and get millions of people talking." There most recent project is the Monument Quilt at the National Mall in DC.

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