So when I started this blog in September of last year, I told myself that this was going to be a fun, light-hearted eccentric collection of blogs. However, I will admit that this mantra did only last until October 14th when I wrote about the state of sex education in America.
Rape and rape culture was not something I thought I would be writing about but after a conversation with an acquaintance recently, I feel like I need to vent about this issue.
For those not familiar with the term ‘rape culture’, it was coined in the 1970s to describe a society in which rape has become ‘normalized’ due to overarching societal views on gender and sexuality.
So, to ensure I keep this blog civil and to a reasonable length, I’m going to present a number of claims that perpetuate the current rape culture and then tear them to pieces. Let’s begin:
“Look at what they were wearing”- this is an incredibly common ‘defence’ of rape. Essentially it argues that an individual’s choice of attire justifies that someone’s decision to rape that person. To follow that up, here is a quote from the acquaintance who ‘inspired’ this blog- “I would question the judgement of someone who likes skimpy clothes but not attractive sexual attention.” Here’s the thing- clothes do not have a connotation. There is no article of clothing that says ‘please make sexual advances towards me’. To focus on my acquaintance’s quote- why? People should be free to wear whatever they want without a) having to expect and prepare themselves for sexual attention and b) have people question why they are wearing that article of clothing- maybe they feel empowered by it? Maybe they like the way they look in it (you know, the reason we often buy clothes?). Clothes do not display any sort of message to the people around you.
“If they didn’t want it, they shouldn’t have been there”- This argument is commonly used to argue that a victim wouldn’t have been raped if they hadn’t gone to a certain location, such as a nightclub. Here’s the thing, there are very few inherently sexual locations- a brothel is an inherently sexual location; a nightclub isn’t. Just because someone goes to a nightclub doesn’t mean they should have to expect to have to fend off unwanted sexual advances. Sure, some people go to a nightclub to find a sexual partner but the majority don’t. The scary thing is that this argument in particular has transcended rape culture. Case and point, in my weekly roleplaying a while back, the characters were on at a beach party when the college students there decided that to hold an impromptu wet t-shirt thing. One character, who was not involved in the proceedings, wanted to steal a bucket so he could douse his unsuspecting friend in water. When confronted about this, he argued that his friend “shouldn’t have come to the beach if she didn’t want to get wet”. Again, you should be free to go wherever you want without having to wear about sexual advances being made at you.
Consent– In a recent appearance on It’s not you, it’s Men, model and professional Kanye disser, Amber Rose, had to explain consent to the two hosts, Tyrese and Rev Run. She frankly explained that it was not okay for people to grope her without her consent and that “no means no.” Consent is a BIG issue within rape culture, with some people inexplicably unable to grasp the concept of asking for permission to engage in sexual interaction. And so, here’s a quick run-down of the basics of consent:
- In this context, consent is an agreement between two (or more) parties to engage in sexual intercourse
- All parties should be aware of the situation and what that entails and should not be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Consent is not an all-access pass and so consent must be gained for any and all act undertaken by the parties.
- Consent applies to all sexual acts, penetrative or not
- As Amber Rose says, no means NO
- Consent is not contract or deal, it is an agreement- if you do not want to do a particular act or want to stop at any time, you can do that.
- Consent is not a presumed thing and must be explicitly got from all parties involved.
“People questioned my story when I reported that I had been raped”- this is a heart-breaking and systemic issue. Despite rape and sexual assault being legitimate crimes, victims are often treated with, let’s face it, doubt. This can range from questions about whether they were sure was rape all the way to actual officials such as police officers telling victims that it happened because of what they were wearing. This needs to change right now. Imagine the scandal that would break if someone reported a robbery and the first question the police asked was: “Now, are you sure you didn’t break your living room window and then just misplace your TV, laptop and jewellery?” and so rape and sexual assault should be dealt with without judging the victim. And the even worse fact is that the continuation of this systemic doubt of victims will allow the offender to get away. Victims are less likely to report their attack to the police if they believe that the police are simply going to question them about the entire thing with an air of doubt.
“People shamed me for coming forwards” -Please insert a loud groan/eye-roll combo here-. This. Shouldn’t. Happen. Taking the previous point into account, victims are incredibly brave to come forwards and report what happened to them. The last thing society should do is shame and attack the victim for it. Example: in 2012, a high school girl was repeatedly raped at a party in Steubenville, Ohio. Two high school football players, Ma’lik Richmond and Trent Mays, were arrested and tried for the crime. However, literally outside the court house, local news anchors were lamenting the loss of two great football stars and how their lives had been ruined. Yeah, their lives had been ruined but they had been ruined they labelled themselves the “rape crew” and filmed themselves raping an unconscious girl. Also, in the run up to the trial, the victim was blamed for ‘causing her own rape’ and bringing a negative light to Steubenville. In a similar case, blogger Jessi Vazquez was raped by her then-boyfriend, Vine personality Curtis Lepore. Lepore’s 6 million or so fans decided that the best response to this would be to attack Vazquez. While Lepore did take a plea deal in February of 2014, his deal meant he only pled guilty to felony assault and not rape and in February of 2015, Lepore’s charges were downgraded to misdemeanour assault. Even now, if something pops up about the case, Lepore will make smug tweets about how he essentially got away with rape.
So what can we do? Rape culture is rampant and widespread and I’m presuming that going by the number of people who read this blog and can happily identify the things that I am talking about, basically common knowledge. What needs to happen is an overhaul of the judicial system, the education system and society.
- The justice system needs to be more accepting of reported rapes. Don’t question whether the victim is mistaken or whether there was mitigating circumstances- do your job, get the full story and bring justice for that person. I’m not saying we should blindly believe every case that crops up but we should at least provide an impartial and open-mind to each report and provide a thorough and proper investigation to establish what needs to happen from there.
- The education system needs to a better job of teaching sex and socio-sexual education. Consent, rape culture and sex in society are all topics we need to discuss with our peers and knowledgably adults.
- Okay society here are your few things:
- If a rape case becomes public knowledge, do not shame and attack the victim.
- No-one is ever asking to be raped. Their clothes have never indicated this and where they were at the time has no bearing on this.
- Stop trying to sweep sex under the carpet. It is a natural thing that happens and hiding it makes issues concerning it a lot worse.
Rape culture is a thing that we as a society, regardless of gender, age, sexuality etc. need to deal with. The sooner we all admit that this is a thing, the soon we can begin to dismantle it.