Tag Archives: rape culture

What is ‘Rape Culture’?

‘Rape Culture’ is a term frequently used by feminist commentators and frequently misunderstood by those they are commenting for. Rape culture refers to the aspects of society that overtly or covertly encourage and perpetuate stereotypes about rape and the victims of sexual assault.

According to Marshall University:

“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.”

It manifests itself in obvious ways, the focus the media has on what the victim was wearing or where they were or even sympathy for the rapists who are caught as the conviction will ‘ruin their lives’; all of which we saw with the infamous Steubenville case and are classic examples of rape apologism.

Similar rhetoric was thrown around in the New Delhi bus rape. The lawyer that is defending the five men who brutally raped and beat a young woman in India, can get away with saying that “respected” women don’t get raped. They beat her  with a rusty iron bar to the point where they removed some of her intestines but questions were raised about why she was out so late or with a boyfriend.

njani Trivedi/Associated Press
Anjani Trivedi/Associated Press

Rape culture can also manifest itself in ways that seem innocuous such as the idea of the ‘friend-zone’ or ‘nice guy syndrome‘. Think about this story for a moment:

Girl has best friend who’s in love with her but she can’t see it. She’s attracted to men who are bad for her not the one who really loves her. He does everything for her and gets nothing in return. Either she sees the error of her ways and changes herself for him or he abandons their friendship completely so she’s exposed as stupid, vapid or shallow and he finds someone who really loves him.

You have probably heard this or a variant of it many, many times in films, television or books.

Then things like this surface on the internet:

Lets examine this for a second please. Yes, this is a comic that tells people that it is okay to rape their female friends who don’t want to sleep with them because it’s for their own good and they’re just too stupid to see it.

This breed of misogyny acts as though women have all the power. As though men follow us around waiting to have sex with us and we’re just holding them off because we’re cruel and vindictive and shallow. This is one of the most dangerous forms of misogyny there is and nearly everyone who believes it doesn’t even realise. This is what makes it so dangerous.

Acting as though women have all the power and making men in the wronged party  can be used to justify abuse or sexual violence towards women. In fact it has been, by a US Judge.

Cherice Moralez was 14 years old when she was raped by her 49 year-old teacher. Less than three years later she killed herself. The Montana judge, Justice G. Todd Baugh, said that Moralez was “older than her chronological age” and that she was “as much in control of the situation” as her rapist. The convicted teacher, Stacey Dean Rambold, was given just 30 days in prison.

In 2011, an 11 year old girl was brutally raped by up to 18 young men in Texas. The New York Times article on the case felt it needed to include that:

“she dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s. She would hang out with teenage boys at a playground”.

Two separate statements in the same article mentioned how the “community” had suffered but there was no discussion of how the victim had suffered. Questions were also raised about why had the victim’s mother not known where she was and why had she been there alone in the first place. It asks how these young men could”have been drawn into such an act?” This implies that it was somehow not their fault. The article quotes someone as saying that the rapists will “have to live with this for the rest of their lives” echoing what was heard at the Steubenville trial.

There is also the false assumption that women are raped for being sexually attractive rather than a violent act of punishment, of putting women ‘in their place’. EJ Graff discussed in her article on Prospect.org by portraying rape as a sexual act we’re putting the responsibility on women to protect their “purity” and not on the rapists themselves.

For example, according to the University of Suffolk 98% of rape cases of male-male rape the rapist is heterosexual. It’s not about sexual desire or gratification. It is about power and domination.

The lack of understanding or education on this subject can only lead to more stories like these.

Orla-Jo

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What We’re Talking About When We’re Talking About Feminism

Feminism is word that simply by existing can cause controversy. It is often implied that feminist issues are frivolous issues, that feminists are petty and mean-spirited or that feminists just care about abortion or sexual harassment. The mainstream media fosters this idea of feminism is narrow, reactionary and unnecessary.

But feminism is more than a narrowly interpreted idea of “women’s issues”.

Education is a feminist issue. Two thirds of the children in the world without access to education are girls.

Trans rights are a feminist issue. When someone is told that their gender identity lessens them as humans or limits their human rights, that is a feminist issue.

Poverty is a feminist issue. Women make up 70% of the world’s poor. Women work two thirds of the world’s working hours but receive only 10% of the world’s income and own less than 1% of the world’s property. Of the 150 major conflicts fought since War War Two, 130 of them were fought in the developing world.

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UN Photo/Martine Perret

Racism is a feminist issue. Stereotypes and discrimination of women of colour is a feminist issue. Native American women are nearly twice as likely to be sexually assaulted. Indigenous women in Canada are five times more likely to die as a result of violence.

The rights of the disabled are feminist issues. In Europe, Australia and North America, over half of disabled women will experience physical abuse.

War and conflict are feminist issues. Of the 27.4 million people displaced due to conflict in 1996; 80% of them were women and children. Wartime rape affects women of all ages. In the Democratic Republic of Congo 36 women are raped every day. During the Bosnian War between 20,000 and 50,000 women were raped.

Clinic Somalia UN
UN Photo/Stuart Price

Rape is held over the heads of women all over the world as a punishment for those who step out of line and is most definitely a feminist issue, even when the victims are men. In the United States someone is sexual assaulted every 2 minutes, 54% of rapes go unreported and 97% of rapists will receive no jail sentence.

Women between the ages of 15 and 44 years of age are globally more at risk from rape and domestic violence than they are from cancer, war, car accidents or malaria according to World Bank data.

There is a sentiment that feminism is unnecessary or that the term is outdated, that there is no need to actively promote the ‘feminine’ but rather support equality as a whole. But the idea that what is traditionally ‘feminine’ is lesser is still so pervasive in today’s culture that while it is socially acceptable for a women to behave and dress in ways considered traditionally masculine, the same cannot be said for men who wish to behave or dress in ways considered to be feminine. These bias are damaging to men as well. But more significantly they demonstrate that many advances that appear to have occurred in gender equality are based on the idea that women should behave or value things that are more traditionally masculine.

That is why feminism remains relevant.

Pibor South Suden UN
UN Photo

Orla-Jo