WARNING! This article contains images and subject matter pertaining to sexual assault and rape.
The subject of ‘rape culture’ will be quite prominent in this blog in times to come. However, for those who are new to the subject or have only seen it flying around feminist blogs and hashtags on social media with no real understanding of it, I wanted to provide a definition, a few examples and why it’s a problem.
Normalizing and Trivializing Rape
A quick wiki search for ‘rape culture’ and it is defined “In feminist theory, rape culture is a concept in which rape is pervasive and normalized due to societal attitudes about gender and sexuality.” Notice how the first thing you are seeing is ‘feminist theory’? Beyond that simple definition the page is full of heavy sociological words spotted with terms like ‘radical feminism’ which is enough to make most people quickly click that little ‘x’ at the top of the tab assuming they now have all they need and want to know. I want to dive a little deeper than that, without throwing you into a deep dark pool of social theories.
A fantastic article from the Huffington Post defines rape culture as “a culture in which dominant cultural ideologies, media images, social practices, and societal institutions support and condone sexual abuse by normalizing, trivializing and eroticizing male violence against women and blaming victims for their own abuse”. As soon as I type this, I can feel the thoughts of doubt come in:
“How often does it really happen?”
“That must only happen in America.”
“I obviously don’t take part in that culture.”
Even those thoughts are part of rape culture. Advertising, movies, tv shows, music, music videos, social media, images, concepts, and even everyday conversation and vocabulary (such as, ‘X institution is raping me in the ass’ or ‘I raped that exam!’) that even I myself have been guilty of using before understanding this topic. I want to provide some examples of these, purely to show how much we turn our back and ignore the perpetuation of this culture.
Rape Culture in Advertising
I don’t think these need too much more explaining…
Rape – It’s hilarious!
Humor is the one example I come across the most. It sounds sick doesn’t it? It can only reinforce the values and norms of rape culture, especially when slogans are pasted over benign or even cute and positive images or teamed with other punchlines and laughter from tracks and a studio audience.
In my rummaging through the web on this subject I came across this video which cuts together a bunch of rapey jokes from current sitcoms. I can’t beg you enough to view this:
The internet, of course, is another such source for the apparent hilarity of rape. I constantly see memes on my newsfeed, in comments and on other sites that really boil my blood. Here are some of the more ‘popular’ ones:
Did you find any of these funny?
This deserves a whole post of it’s own, which it will get at a later date, however, I think it’s extremely important to note during the discussion on rape culture. Victim blaming can be defined as “putting blame for the occurrence of a traumatizing event on the survivor instead of blaming the perpetrator” (Humboldt State University: Stop Rape). Sounds simple enough right? I mean, who in their right mind would do that to something like rape? But how many times have you heard phrases like ‘She shouldn’t have been walking alone at that time of the night’, ‘She was drinking alcohol/on drugs/dancing suggestively/flirting/had a dress on that barely covered anything/was a stripper or sex worker, so what did she expect?’, ‘She lead him on’, or even, ‘boys will be boys’? Nothing, I shall repeat it again, NOTHING excuses rape, and perpetuating or ignoring these comments or behavior is not ok.
Humans are Smarter Than This, Right?
With the examples brought forward here, I can feel the me of a few years ago think ‘Yeah, but some of that stuff was funny, surely everyone knows what rape is and that it’s bad and that it’s never the victims fault right?’. Wrong. Check out these statistics from the National Community Attitudes Towards Violence Against Women (NCAS) – An Australian national survey conducted in 2013:
While overall the NCAS findings showed stability in many areas, some key attitudes regarding sexual violence had worsened since the survey was last run in 2009.
Fewer Australians agreed that women are more likely to be raped by someone they know than a stranger in 2013 (64%) than in 2009 (70%) and 1995 (76%). More of us agreed that rape results from men being unable to control their need for sex in 2013 (43%) than in 2009 (35%). Together these findings show a decline in community understandings of the nature and causes of sexual violence.
One in six in our community agreed with the deplorable notion that women say “no” when they mean “yes”. One in ten endorsed the view that if a woman doesn’t physically resist, even if protesting verbally, then it isn’t really rape. Slightly more (12%) agreed that if a woman goes to a room alone with a man at a party, it is her fault if she is raped.
Perhaps most concerning is that more than one in three (38%) Australians holds the attitude that a lot of times women who say they were raped had led the man on and later had regrets.
These results reveal a very poor understanding of sexual consent among a sizeable minority of the Australian community.
Younger people aged 16 to 25 generally had poorer attitudes about sexual assault. This is particularly alarming since this age group is also over-represented among both victims and perpetrators. With as many as one in five women experiencing sexual violence since the age of 15, there can be no doubt that Australia has a long way to go to overcome this problem.
This is far from all there is to be said about rape culture and the affect it has on our society, but I hope it has given a foundation to what it is, how to recognize it, and why it shouldn’t be ignored. Please look into some of the links above and for even more on this, here are some other articles I have gathered on the subject and think give wonderful insight to this issue; plus a couple more images, which can be seen and shared from my facebook page http://www.facebook.com/unicornclaws