TW: rape, sexual assault
(Disclaimer: In general, I will discussing rape culture in terms of sexual assault against only females. All opinions are my own unless otherwise stated.)
After a lengthy and frustrating exchange with an anonymous twitter user about the prevalence of rape culture on college campuses, I thought having a discussion about this was important seeing as there are people out there who strongly believe that rape culture on college campuses does not exist. Through my own experiences, I have no choice but to disagree.
One difficult thing about rape culture is the lack of definitive definitions. Of course there are some out there but rape culture is a relative thing and in a lot of ways based on the environment. It is not something measured by statistics but rather experience. This is where we run into trouble with quantifying how prevalent rape culture is and when/where it is experienced. In my mind, college campuses are probably the number one place where rape culture is experienced (or at least where I have experienced it). Through this post, I will address general questions related to rape culture.
What is rape culture?
It was a term coined by second wave feminists in 1970s with the purpose of showing the prevalence of rape to the public and victim blaming. Today, it is used to describe a sub culture within our society, still with the purpose of having a way to portray the near epidemic of rape and sexual assault, victim blaming, the normality that rape and assault has become, the trivialization of victim’s experiences, as well as denial of widespread rape and the effects of sexual assault. Southern Connecticut State University (https://www.southernct.edu/sexual-misconduct/facts.html) provides and excellent list of examples of rape culture:
- Blaming the victim
- Trivializing sexual assault
- Sexually explicit jokes
- Tolerance of sexual harassment
- Inflating false rape report statistics
- Publicly scrutinizing a victim’s dress, mental state, motives, and history
- Gratuitous gendered violence in movies and television
- Defining “manhood” as dominant and sexually aggressive
- Defining “womanhood” as submissive and sexually passive
- Pressure on women to not appear “cold”
- Assuming only promiscuous women get raped
- Assuming that men don’t get raped or that only “weak” men get raped
- Refusing to take rape accusations seriously
Where does rape culture happen?
Rape culture can be a prevalent aspect of any small culture, such as college campuses, the work place, high schools, the military, etc. Another way to describe where rape culture can happen is anywhere that someone can be sexist or misogynistic towards women.
Why does rape culture happen?
Rape culture usually happens because, as stated above, people are sexist or ignorant due to lack of education on the topic (whether intentionally or unintentionally).
Why does rape culture matter?
Rape culture is often most detrimental to sexual assault or rape victims. A large aspect of rape culture is victim blaming which is exactly what it sounds like; blaming a victim for their own assault or rape. This makes it extremely difficult for victims to report an assault or come to terms with it. Either way, it can be extremely harmful to one’s mental health as well as societies view of victims and perpetrators (https://www.southernct.edu/sexual-misconduct/facts.html).
What is rape culture to me?
To me, rape culture is not being able to walk from my apartment to class without some guy slowing down as he drives past me. Rape culture is my friends and I joking when a guy whistles or yells at us from his car because it’s nothing out of the ordinary. Rape culture is me being scared for my own safety on the walk back to my apartment at night. Rape culture is texting my friends when I get home safe at night because there is a very real possibility that some day, I won’t. Rape culture is pulling up a friend’s contact on my late walks home so if something does happen it only takes a second to call them. Rape culture is that guy at a party trying to get me or my friends drunk so he can get laid. Rape culture is being told that cat-calling should be taken as a compliment. Rape culture is being told what I should or shouldn’t wear. Rape culture is being told if I have an issue with guys coming onto me, I should stop going out. Rape culture is men telling me that I should smile more. Rape culture is educating my brothers because they can be as ignorant and anyone else. Rape culture is the fear that my 15 year old sister will have to experience the same things I did because society hasn’t changed by the time it happens to her. Rape culture is having to write this to justify the fact that I’ve experienced rape culture.
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