Thursday, July 19, 2012

What is the Rape Culture?

Rape Culture is an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture. Rape culture is perpetuated through the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of women’s bodies, and the glamorization of sexual violence, thereby creating a society that disregards women’s rights and safety. 

Rape Culture affects every woman. The rape of one woman is a degradation, terror, and limitation to all women. Most women and girls limit their behavior because of the existence of rape. Most women and girls live in fear of rape. Men, in general, do not. That’s how rape functions as a powerful means by which the whole female population is held in a subordinate position to the whole male population, even though many men don’t rape, and many women are never victims of rape. This cycle of fear is the legacy of Rape Culture.

Examples of Rape Culture:

  • Blaming the victim (“She asked for it!”)
  • Trivializing sexual assault (“Boys will be boys!”)
  • 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 men to “score”
  • 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
  • Teaching women to avoid getting raped instead of teaching men not to rape

How can men and women combat Rape Culture?

  • Avoid using language that objectifies or degrades women
  • Speak out if you hear someone else making an offensive joke or trivializing rape
  • If a friend says she has been raped, take her seriously and be supportive
  • Think critically about the media’s messages about women, men, relationships, and violence
  • Be respectful of others’ physical space even in casual situations
  • Always communicate with sexual partners and do not assume consent
  • Define your own manhood or womanhood. Do not let stereotypes shape your actions.
  • Get involved! Join a student or community group working to end violence against women.”

From Marshall University’s Women’s Center

Two years ago I left Kotzebue for college in Portland, OR. My eyes were
opened to many concepts I had never heard of, one of which being rape culture.
I listened and learned in the setting of my small institution, tucked away in the
ravines and evergreen forests of the Northwest Pacific, far removed from my
hometown high above the arctic.

Last January I attended the Conference of Young Alaskans, hosted by
Institute of the North. I was on a committee aimed at addressing the social ills of
our hometowns and communities. It was during a long day of discussion, narrowing
our focuses to a few serious issues, that the concept of rape culture floated into
the room. My fellow delegates from northwest Alaska, communities like Nome and White Mountain, were confused. What is rape culture? 

It was then that I realized just how rampant rape culture is in our region
and how unaware we all are of it. I recalled every instant in high school when my
friends’ sexually charged jokes would go unnoticed and every time I, or another on
the cheerleading team, had called another girl “slut” like we had the right to judge
her sexuality. I was suddenly aware of how my everyday actions had contributed to
a culture that normalizes rape.

-Hannah Atkinson

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