Feminism 101: Rape Culture

I feel the next step in the series after explaining the patriarchy is to go into how the patriarchy has established a society centered  around male sexual dominance. It’s easy to see how this all happened and you can look on from a macro and a micro perspective. We live in what is called a “Rape Culture,” which is a concept that links rape and sexual assault to our culture, which in turn normalizes, erases, trivializes and sometimes accepts rape as “just part of our lives.” AND THAT IS TOTAL MOTHERFUCKING BULLSHIT, especially if you are a woman, because that means you are a victim to rape culture pretty much all the fucking time, whether you are a victim of rape, sexual assault or not.

There are a metric buttload of ways rape culture oppresses women. This is a list of some of the common ways we see it every day.

Blaming the victim: From what I see and hear, this is the strongest evidence of rape culture because it shifts blame from the rapist to the victim by trying to tell us that the victim was somehow “asking for it.” Victims are asked things like “what were you wearing? Were you drinking? What were you doing alone at night?” and direct the attention away from the rapist and the crime and make the victim feel like the rape or sexual assault was her fault. I can’t stress how wrong this is. It should not matter how a woman is dressed, how she acts, what she eats or drinks, what time it is etc, because rape is rape whether it happened in a club,  in the middle of the day, at work. If a woman says no to sex, if she is unable to give consent, if she says yes and changes her mind and a person has sex with her anyway they’ve raped her.

Everyone should have at least heard about the Steubenville rape case in which a 16 year old woman was drunk at a party and was raped by 2 men and also photographed. The crime itself was horrific, however what happened after was disgusting. The photos and videos of the girl and the rape were sent around her school and were put online and people were commenting on how she deserves the rape, deserves degradation,  that she was a whore, and it goes on and on but no one would call out the rapists for what they had done. I could go into more detail of what happened in this environment but it gets more disturbing. And these are just comments from her peers. During the trial, news outlets would emphasize the rapists’ good grades and lament their promising futures, while casually mentioning that a 16 year old girl should not have been drinking that much. In the end, the rapists were convicted, but the victim still received blame for having “ruined their lives” while there was very little emphasis on how the victim’s life was changed.

Blaming the victim is such a huge deal because it says that rapists somehow can’t control themselves. You also have to realize that this holds women to unrealistic standards. Are women not supposed to drink, dress sexy, be out late, be alone, have male friends, be flirtatious for fear of being raped? And statistics show that these things don’t matter anyway because when we look at the numbers, women are raped everywhere, at any time, by anyone, regardless of circumstance.

It is never the victim’s fault. Period.

Sexual Objectification: This was addressed in the previous entry, but in the context of rape culture sexual objectification feeds into the idea that women are here for a man’s sexual pleasure and that a man is entitled to sex, regardless of what the woman wants. You see this a lot in advertisements, where there is a women in an object position with men ias sexually dominant and the woman is just letting it happen because, after all, she knows she’s just a vagina. An infamous example of sexual objectification in rape culture is this Dolce and Gabbana ad depicting a gang rape:

Street Harassment: Street harassment is when sexual comments, cat-calls, being followed, being groped, masturbated on, being touched and other inappropriate actions or words forced on women in an environment where the woman cannot act back. Rape cultures tells women to accept this harassment as a compliment, but there is nothing behind this behavior but power. Street harassment makes women feel vulnerable and insecure. Rape culture teaches women to react silently and to not take action against their harassers, but this only tells street harassers that it’s an okay behavior. This website is all about taking back that power and teaching women how to react so that it doesn’t happen anymore. There is also this bomb video: http://vimeo.com/67582924 (I can’t get the actual video on here for some reason.)

Rape Normalization: Rape normalization is the rationalization of rape because it happens so frequently. Heads-up: Every victim is different, every case is different. Rape is rape and it’s a big deal.

Rape Trivialization: This is when society tells people that rape isn’t that big of a deal. Fuck that, it is and you’re an asshole. A lot of this is directed at the victim also, which is so much bullshit.

So those are common examples of what rape culture tells us about our society and rape. It makes it so hard for victims to find justice and it allows rapists to get away with heinous crimes against women.

Recently in the news, there was an example of how rape culture is promoted by a corporation when a woman was raped during her internship with Disney World and the way that Disney reacted to the crime is a pretty solid example of how we as a society handle rape.

At this point, I’d also like to introduce the idea of Schrodinger’s Rapist. I recently heard about the term in this blog. It is a flawed theory, but in essentials it’s on point. It is about how, as a woman, every man that surrounds us is a potential rapist. It’s about how women live in fear of being raped (why else would I have been told to buy a gun/ carry mace when I felt I was being sexually harassed earlier this year?) As a woman, I can relate. I don’t know if the guy sitting across from me is going to be my rapist, be my next boyfriend or just be another person on the bus. I don’t know if the group of guys walking behind me are going to follow me to my door. If I’m at a party with my guy friends, I don’t know if they’re going to take it too far. Rape culture forces women to live in a constant state of fear that we’re taught to deal with so that we can get on with our lives, but the fear is always there.

If I were a guy, I would be fucking pissed about this. I would hate to live in a world where women are afraid of me simply because I am a man. I would be hurt that there is an assumption in society that I am unable to control myself, even though my behavior as been previously excused as “boys will be boys.”

If you’re angry at this assumption about you, work to change it. Part of this is easy as reading a woman’s body language before you approach her and not ignoring the negative signs. The bigger part of this is to never rape anyone and always have clear consent before engaging in any sexual behavior.

To advance from rape culture, in addition to teaching girls and women about protecting themselves, we also have to teach boys and men about consent and respect of boundaries. So far, this education has been heavily one-sided.

Feminism is about overcoming rape culture so that women can live life without fear of men and that victims of rape will be heard and their rapists brought to justice.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s