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Chances are, as feminists and other liberal-minded people, most of you have heard the phrase “rape culture.”
It’s used often in feminist circles, and it describes a very important social conditioning that we experience culturally.
But how many of you know what it actually looks like?
In reading through feminist forums and articles online, particularly in articles about rape or sexual assault, I notice that sometimes in the comments section, people make statements about how rape culture is just a phrase that’s made up to make men look bad or to make it seem like rape is something that happens far more often than it actually does.
And, given, after reading these comments, I could have easily dismissed them as just simply fodder written by online trolls and gone on with my day.
But it really got me thinking.
Perhaps some people truly don’t understand what rape culture is.
After all, if you’re hearing the phrase for the first time, it can be really confusing.
We understand the word “culture,” from a sociological or anthropological viewpoint, to be things that people commonly engage in together as a society (ranging from the arts to education to table manners), and we find it difficult to link the word “rape” in with that concept.
We know that at its core, our society is not something that outwardlypromotes rape, as the phrase could imply. That is, we don’t, after all, “commonly engage” in sexual violence “together as a society.”
To understand rape culture better, first we need to understand that it’s not necessarily a society or group of people that outwardly promotes rape(although it could be).
When we talk about rape culture, we’re discussing something more implicit than that. We’re talking about cultural practices (that, yes, we commonly engage in together as a society) that excuse or otherwise tolerate sexual violence.
We’re talking about the way that we collectively think about rape.
More often than not, it’s situations in which sexual assault, rape, and general violence are ignored, trivialized, normalized, or made into jokes.
And this happens a lot.
All the time.
And it’s dangerous in that it is counterproductive to eliminating sexual violence from society.
So what, exactly, does rape culture look like? How does it present itself?
Well, to see what I’m referring to, take a look at the examples below.
Because if we don’t understand the meaning behind the concept of rape culture, or if we have a skewed interpretation of the meaning in our minds, we may find it easy to deny its existence.
And you may think that some of these examples are isolated, one-off situations. But in reality, they’re part of a larger societal trend.
That is rape culture.
(Warning: These are not easy to digest, and as such, might make you uncomfortable. But seeing examples are necessary to comprehending fully what we mean when we talk about rape culture.)
Rape Culture Is…
1. A university in Canada that allows the following student orientation chant: “Y is for your sister. O is for oh-so-tight. U is for underage. N is for no consent. G is for grab that ass.”
2. Pop music that tells women “you know you want it” because of these “blurred lines” (of consent).
3. A judge who sentenced only 30 days in jail to a 50-year-old man who raped a 14-year-old girl (who later committed suicide), and defended that the girl was “older than her chronological age.”
4. Mothers who blame girls for posting sexy selfies and leading their sons into sin, instead of talking with their sons about their responsibility for their own sexual expression.
Because examples of rape culture are all around us. They permeate our society at individual, one-on-one levels, as well as in institutionalized, structured ways. That is, after all, exactly how oppression works.
I hope that after reading through the above examples, you have a clearer understanding of what is meant by the phrase “rape culture.” Moreover, I hope that you are more likely to believe in its existence – and to want to fight for its eradication.
Because now that you know what it is, you can work to find ways to prevent it.
What are some other examples of rape culture? Leave them in the comments.
Shannon Ridgway is a Contributing Writer to Everyday Feminism from the great flyover state of South Dakota (the one with the monument of presidential heads). In her free time, Shannon enjoys reading, writing, jamming out to ’80s music and Zumba, and she will go to great lengths to find the perfect enchilada. Follow her on Twitter@sridgway1980. Read her articles here.