What is Rape Culture?

Rape culture has become so prominent in our lives recently that we feel quite immune to its insanity. Story after story of sexual harassment, misconduct and/or rape breaks the news and most feel unaffected, some blame. What exactly is rape culture? Rape is defined as, “Unlawful sexual activity and usually sexual intercourse carried out forcibly or under threat of injury against the will usually of a female or with a person who is beneath a certain age or incapable of valid consent.” (Merriam Webster).

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Keywords in the definition, “Unlawful”, “forcibly”, “threat”, and “incapable of valid consent”. In summary, rape shouldn’t be taken lightly against anyone of any gender or sexual orientation, rape is recognized by law. Culture is defined as, “The act of developing the intellectual and moral faculties especially by education.” (Merriam Webster). Keywords in the definition, “developing”, “moral”, and “education”. Briefly, any kind of culture is a learned group of behaviors among common individuals. “Rape” and “culture” paired together means as a society, we are taught to accept rape as a part of our culture.

It’s going to happen and each incident might as well be brushed under the rug so to speak. Changing the wording or the way a person thinks about it doesn’t change the definition of the word. Another aspect of rape culture is victim blaming. Victim blaming is where the individual attacked is often blasted for what they did to cause this happen. Grande 2 How often are there debates on who was in the wrong? How often is this person being blamed a woman? “She was dressed like a slut…she shouldn’t have worn such revealing clothes…she was drunk, what did she expect?”. Victim blaming and slut-shaming against women go hand and hand together. Looking at a rape case without knowing what the victim was wearing or what they were doing to “ask for it”, and compared it to rape’s law definition, it would be a no-brainer. Rape is rape, period. So why is it such a controversy? Why is the rapist never blasted for what they did wrong? Most importantly, why are women not treated with credibility or reliability among rape cases? Victim-blaming marginalize each survivor and makes it harder for future victims to come forward and report their abuse. If the survivor knows that society blames her for the abuse, she will not feel safe coming forward.

This attitude also reinforces what the attackers want society to think; “It’s not my fault I did this, I am not accountable for these actions.”. Why is it so easy to believe the abuser? Why are excuses allowed? Accepted among our culture? Conferring from Ahmed’s A Feminist Army, “…the very judgment of willfulness is a crucial part of the disciplinary apparatus. It is this judgment that allows violence (even murder)…willing to obey would avoid the coss of not being willing…which is to say, she is willing not to have a will of her own.” (Ahmed, 2/8). Keywords from Ahmed; “judgment”, “willfulness”, “obey”, and “allows violence”. It is easy to believe the abuser, and it is easy to use excuses because the consequences of breaking the norm or speaking out against the abuser are much more than what the abuser would face if lawfully convicted. Excuses for rape culture are so common, our country’s leaders try to use them in a court of law. According to Wikipedia, “…rape conception happens between 25,000 and 32,000 times each year in the U.S….”. And for Grande 3 many of those women, extreme justification is used for their attacker’s protection. In many cases dating back to the 18th century, men would use the pregnacy to “prove” he did not rape her, for her pregnancy must mean she enjoyed it. Politicians, doctors, and pro-lifers have their own reasoning called Gift-From-God-Rape (an incredibly insinsitive title), which means that if she got pregnant while raped, it was meant to happen. The father can even sue for custody of the child even if he was convicted.

Although men can be and are raped, statistically women are more affected. 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives. Why are women raped more, and why are they blamed more? Gender plays a major role in rape culture. In Butler’s Introduction to Undoing Gender, she speaks of what is recognized as human, “If there are norms of recognition by which the “human” is constituted, and these norms encode operations of power, then it follows that the contest over the future of the “human” will be a contest over the power that works in and through such norms. That power emerges in language in a restrictive way or, indeed, in other modes of articulation as that which tries to stop the articulation as it nevertheless moves forward.” (Butler, 13). Keywords from Butler; “human”, “contest over the power”, “norms”, and “restrictive”. In connection to rape culture, there is a battle of power between the sexes, and the assailant men do what they can to restrict women’s power to keep the societal norms. Yet, women keep fighting back and because of today’s connectivity between us, people are talking more now about rape culture than they ever have in history, which is crucially important to correcting the norm of rape violence.

What does always seems to impress through all the chaos is how strong the female victims are, putting up with ruthless attacks from the world after suffering a traumatizing experience. In Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist Essays, she talks about a story of an eleven-year-old girl gang raped by eighteen men in her hometown in Clevland, Texas, and how the town’s main concern was that the men’s lives would never be the same, they might never be able to return to their normal lives. No one was talking about the girl, except for what was her fault. “There was discussion of how the eleven-year-old girl, the child, dressed like a twenty-year-old, implying there is a realm of possibility where a woman can “ask for it” and that it’s somehow understandable that eighteen men would rape a child.” (Gay, 129). Keywords from Gay; “discussion”, “dressed”, and “understandable”. Connecting to Butler on what makes us recognizable, in this rape case the little girl was recognized as a woman which allowed her rape. There is no benefit to this child by implying the way she dressed caused this, life introduces people to situations they are in no way prepared for. There is never a discussion of what to do if raped, let alone gang raped.

The eleven-year-old girl never got ‘the talk’ from her mom to prepare for this, no one thinks that there is a possibility of this trauma. Rape and gang rape are often uncomfortable subjects that are unknown to children and are often unspoken through all. Rape culture is taught indirectly, under certain circumstances rape can be brushed under the rug or made the victim’s fault. We have slut shamed and victim blamed so many men and women into believing that they’re responsible for their attack. The answer here is not telling women how to dress or behave properly in order to avoid getting raped. It is important to educate ourselves, our children, our friends, and our leaders about rape culture and the dangers of Grande 5 shaming. Teaching sexual education in schools could make all the difference in how we as a society view rape; this is not an uncomfortable subject for us, it is an uncomfortable and traumatizing subject for victims. We are already seeing a change in our culture due to a new space (social media) for victims to speak out and let us hear their voice. It’s essential to hear their voice to learn and make changes in rape culture.

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