Trigger warning/disclaimer: The following post discusses rape, it’s causes and it’s implications- do not read on if this is a sensitive topic for you. Whilst this post discusses rape by cis men against cis women, it is recognised and acknowledged that rape is a genderless crime which also affects cis men, trans people and gender non-conforming people. The City Girls Club is in no way attempting to erase this fact.
We are now, more so than ever, discussing the alarming effects of rape culture and the contribution that we as a society play in perpetuating this dangerous concept. However, it’s become apparent that there is still a misunderstanding on what rape culture is. Rape culture is often misunderstood and portrayed as something that Feminists made up, to create the illusion that all men are criminals and that rape occurs more often than it actually does… gag. Rape culture is something that very much exists, and is a cultural practice that we are exposed to so frequently, that many don’t even recognise it- and by many I mean men, the media, the justice system and those who are consumed with misogyny.
So… What Is Rape Culture?
To put it simply, rape culture is a sociological concept describing an environment in which sexual violence and assault against women is normalised and/or justified. Rape Culture is a form of social conditioning and a product of misogyny; it’s saying that men are going to rape regardless, therefore it’s a woman’s responsibility to make herself the least desirable victim so that another woman gets raped instead.
Rape culture is the trivialisation of sexually violent crimes against women. Rather than addressing the issue of rape and punishing rapists effectively, female victims are often blamed, ridiculed for their irresponsibly, and lectured about ways in which they could’ve prevented being a victim in the first place. Rape is a scary, genderless crime in which anyone can become victim; yet it is only women who are expected to take steps in order to prevent themselves from being sexually assaulted. Women are expected to limit their behaviour and live in fear of rape, rather than society tackling the issue of rapists and male entitlement.
What’s Caused Rape Culture?
Misogyny is so embedded in our society and culture that we don’t often see it; that’s why I often disagree with the textbook definition of misogyny, (the ingrained prejudice against women) and would rather acknowledge the definition highlighted by Professor Kate Manne: a form of internalised sexism, centred around controlling and punishing women who challenge male dominance. Misogyny is rewarding women who reinforce the status quo, and punishing those who don’t.
Sexually violent crimes against women is a significant product of misogyny; men are taught that they needn’t ask permission to access a woman’s body because as a man, it’s their right and they’re entitled to sex. Thus when such crimes take place, society uses the nature of masculinity as an excuse for why a man couldn’t even control his impulses if he tried, and in turn blame the victim for not taking precautions against men’s innate instincts.
What Does Rape Culture Look Like?
Rape culture comes in many forms of victim blaming, in which the behaviour of the perpetrator is justified and/or diminished. You can evidence rape culture in our language and the way we discuss sexually violent crimes and female victims:
“Maybe if she wore something different she wouldn’t have been a target“- Insinuating that it’s a woman clothing choice which determines whether or not a man is tempted to attack her.
“She was asking for it“- Using a woman’s behaviour or attitude as invitation to assault her, or blaming a woman’s sexual nature/promiscuity.
“Boys will be boys“- Taking the responsibility away from the perpetrator, using the nature of masculinity as an excuse for why men can’t gain control over the predatory behaviour that’s in their nature.
Rape culture also comes in the form of…
- Blaming women for taking/sending/posting provocative pictures.
- Blaming women for drinking/having their guard down.
- Calling women career destroyers, attention seekers or desperate for fame when calling out their abusers who have status.
- Labelling the nature of masculinity as innately ‘dominating’ and ‘sexually aggressive’, whilst femininity is naturally ‘submissive’.
- Pushing the flawed idea that false rape claims and reports are more common than they actually are, and all men are at risk of becoming victim to this.
- The media substituting the word rape for sex.
- Telling women that their assault likely didn’t happen if they are unable to provide evidence.
- Pressuring men to be sexually active in order for their masculinity to be validated.
- Society’s lack of understanding regarding sex, believing that it is something that happens to women that is inflicted by men.
- Society believing that women in heterosexual relationships become their partners property, i.e- men feeling entitled to have access to their partners body whenever they want because they’re in a relationship.
- Men being taught that if they ask for sex nicely, there’s no other reason why they should be turned down.
What Are The Effects Of Rape Culture?
Rape culture is not only damaging to the victims themselves but to society, our perception of sexual assault and our treatment towards survivors. A significant consequence is causing abuse victims to refrain from coming forward and pressing charges against the perpetrator out of fear of being discredited, blamed or even humiliated. Rapists are effectively getting away with their crimes and even when punished, their sentences are light and more of a slap on the wrist and don’t do it again. When there are no consequences, the crime continues but to a much larger scale.
Whilst rapists are likely to move on, it’s their victims who suffer the long term consequences such as; trauma, mental health struggles, acceptance of what happened and the belief that society doesn’t care. Many victims succumb to the idea that they’re to blame, and spend time wondering what they could’ve done differently to avoid what happened. It’s never a woman’s behaviour, attitude, or outfit that causes a man to rape her, yet society has manipulated women into believing so.
What Can We Do To Combat Rape Culture?
- Never assume that consent has been given, always check with your sexual partner.
- Listen to victims and reassure them that they are being heard and that it isn’t their fault.
- Re-define what masculinity and femininity means to you- don’t let stereotypes define who you are or who you should be.
- Volunteer within your community to help raise awareness and end violence against women.
- Be aware of the language you personally use and the language used by the media when discussing sexual assault victims.
- Avoid using language that objectifies and degrades women.
- Speak up if you overhear others trivialising rape or making offensive jokes.