Part 1: Rape Culture 101

By December 10, 2013Uncategorized
I met Toria, our guest blogger, via a podcast I recorded as a guest of Game On Girl. As part of that discussion we discussed “rape culture.” And that led to this series in which she helps us consider what rape culture is and what we can do about it. For a history of how we got here, check out this article. And now, Toria… 
“Rape culture.” These two words aren’t often thought of as going well together. Most people (sadly, not all) know that rape is a crime, and most associate culture with the arts, humanities, philosophy, and other intellectual and creative pursuits. Putting these two words together completely negates the positive connotation of culture. When you strip that away, what do you have? I will start to defining both “rape” and  “culture,” as “culture” has a huge number of definitions depending on whom you ask and which dictionary you use. I will use two dictionary definitions that apply directly to this discussion.
 
Rape:
the unlawful compelling of a person through physical force or duress (threats, violence, constraints, or other action brought to bear on someone to do something against their will or better judgment) to have sexual intercourse.
 
Culture:
development or improvement of the mind by education or training; the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group.
I want to emphasize two words in particular relating to the first definition of culture: “education” and “training.” These words are the very essence of rape culture.
Confused? “We are always taught that rape is bad,” you might be thinking, or “What does training have to do with rape? You can’t be trained to become a rapist.”
A couple of years ago, I would have agreed wholeheartedly with you. The problem is that neither statement is wholly true.
Before I go any further, I’m going to make a disclaimer: Anyone can rape, and anyone can be raped, regardless of sex or gender; however, statistics show that the majority of rapists are male and the majority of victims are female. This series has been written bearing that in mind, but please know that I acknowledge that men can also be victims and women can also be perpetrators. In addition, much of this piece will also apply to sexual assault and sexual abuse, and some sections can also apply to domestic violence.
A couple other quick definitions, just to differentiate between some common terms:
 
Sexual assault
is causing another person to engage in an unwanted sexual act by force or threat; groping, non-consensual kissing / touching of a sexual nature, etc. (This includes rape.) This is an umbrella term for most sex-related crimes, generally used for a one-time or short-term series of events.
 
Sexual abuse
involves anything that constitutes sexual assault, but is generally long-term or recurring. This type of sexual crime is more common in families and relationships than among individuals who are strangers to each other.
*   *   *
I have some questions for any men who are reading this series:
•       When was the last time you felt afraidwhile walking alone out in public, especially after dark?
•       Do you carry a weapon with you to keep yourself safe?
•       Has someone ever told you that you shouldn’t wear a particular article of clothing when you go out? Have you ever had to rethink an outfit because it would garner too much attention?
•       Has someone of the opposite sex ever followed you, cat-called you, or made you uncomfortable or afraid for your well-being?
Why do I ask? Because there are very few women who don’t become more wary when they are out alone at night, who haven’t considered carrying pepper-spray or held keys between each of their fingers like claws while walking to their cars, who haven’t had to re-evaluate their clothing choices because they might “send the wrong message,” and who haven’t had at least one guy make them fear for their lives. Because approximately one in five women (some studies even say one in four women) in the United States has reported being raped or sexually assaulted at least once in her life.
Why?
Because we live in what is known as a rape culture.Rape culture is best and most simply described as a system that benefits rapists more than it does their victims. It doesn’t make sense for criminals to receive more favorable treatment than the person they victimized, but it happens daily in a number of different ways through the media, our justice systems, our education systems, our governments, and individuals like you and me. It is my hope that by the end of this series, you will be able to see this when it happens, and that you will understand the implications.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: