Alie Benge · Sexuality

Revisiting 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.” – Marshall University’s Women’s Center website

At some point this week I would like you to look around and notice how many women you’re with. If there are more than 4 then it’s statistically likely that one of those women has been raped or abused either sexually, physically, or emotionally. That’s the statistic, but in my experience, it’s more common than that.

So if rape and abuse is so common among our friends why do we never hear about it? I think there are several reasons. Firstly, a lot of people don’t even realise they’ve been abused because, as a society, we do a pretty bad job of explaining to women how they should expect to be treated. The second reason is because of slut shaming and victim blaming. In a nutshell, both these attitudes tell women that if they have been raped it was their own fault.

Don’t believe it? I didn’t either at first. When I first read about victim blaming I thought it was the love child of feminism and a persecution complex, but the more I thought about it the more I noticed it. Have you ever heard of a woman being abused and asked yourself what she was wearing? Or whether she went to the guy’s apartment, or if she led him on? We seem to think that some women, judging by their behaviour or what they were wearing were ‘asking for it’. When we say this we are not teaching ‘don’t rape’, we’re teaching ‘don’t get raped’. You could be walking down a dark alley way in the middle of the night wearing nothing but a come hither smile. That still would not make you deserving of rape. Admittedly it’s not a good idea, and you’d be very cold, but it does not justify rape. Nothing does. No one is allowed to rape you or treat you with anything less than respect and dignity. No matter what you are wearing. No matter where you are. No matter how much you’ve had to drink.

Consensual sex is not sex with someone who is too drunk to object, nor is it convincing someone who is unwilling. It is not making someone too scared to say no. It is not making someone feel so guilty for saying no that they eventually agree. It is not hassling someone until they are so sick of arguing that they say yes to keep you quiet. Consent is not gained through persistence. Rape is not a misunderstanding, and it’s not an accident. It’s not something you can feel really bad about later and say ‘I didn’t know what I was doing’.

Rape culture is not only incredibly misogynistic, but it doesn’t give much credit to men. What we’re claiming is that men are completely unable to control themselves. Simply by observing a woman walking down a dark street with a short skirt, the man in question is reduced to a frothing animal with no choice but to rape the woman. He is removed from the responsibility of his actions because he was ‘invited’ or ‘tempted’. Guys deserve more credit here. They do have control over their actions and if they don’t want to rape someone, they have the ability to just not rape them. I mean how hard could it be?
Here’s my 1 step plan to not raping:

Step 1: Don’t rape.

Seems pretty simple to me.

Unfortunately porn has nurtured the dehumanisation of woman, rendering them an object and making their consent irrelevant. Rape is something that will always be a reality in any society, and no amount of campaigning will stamp it out. But it is a reasonable expectation of our generation, that we can blame rapists for rape. Not victims.

Rape culture tells me that I should feel flattered by comments yelled from car windows, or by the inevitable groping every time I go out. Sadly we get used to it. The first time I went clubbing I yelled at every guy who touched me. The first one who did it found his hand seized, a finger pointed, and me in his face, mouthing a very eloquent argument that he probably couldn’t hear over the music. His friends thought this was hilarious and proceeded to grope me every time I turned around, high fiving each other and laughing about how hilarious they were being. Many years later I was waiting at a Sydney bus stop with a homeless man yelling at me for ten minutes straight, until my bus arrived, the content of which is not public forum appropriate. I kept looking at the people around me expecting some of the guys to step up and say something, but no one did, even the guy sitting next to him in the bus shelter. Only stony, shame faced silence from the five or six men at the bus stop. Last year I was on a bus to uni when I felt something on my ribcage. I looked down to find the hand of the man behind going in for a sneaky grope. I shoved his hand off but I knew that if I was to turn around and yell at him for touching me, there was a chance no one would defend me, the man wouldn’t change, I’d probably get kicked off the bus. Why do I expect this reaction? Because we live in a rape culture. These experiences are not rare. Ask the girls around you. We’ve all got stories. Amirite, ladies?

Men, you might not have realised that this is a reality for women, which I believe is why feminism comes across as paranoid whining. But women shouldn’t be the feminists. Men should be. Not every man is the problem. Only a percentage of men in Western society treat women with less respect than they deserve, but another larger percentage is marked by their silence – the ones that didn’t defend me at the bus stop for example. Men need to be a strong voice against rape culture. Stand up for the women in your life and defend their right to respect and decency so maybe the next generation won’t have to campaign for their right to not be abused.

We often compare ourselves to the wrong end of the spectrum. We look to the worst horror stories of abuse and we think ‘my situation is nothing like that’. The Bible tells us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. We are sons and daughters of the most high God, we are loved and treasured by him. So we need to look at the other end of the spectrum. The one where are people are being treated with the dignity and respect that God meant for us. If you look at that end and can still say ‘my situation is nothing like that’ then something needs to change, and it’s not you.

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