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What is rape culture? There is no other way to begin discussing this major issue that has been plaguing our world. We must first look at the definition of rape culture. A rape culture is one in which the victims of such crimes are blamed for being victims. There are jokes made about rape, and news stories about rape just consisting of boys being boys. It includes “TV, music, advertising, legal jargon, laws, words and imagery” (FORCE: Upsetting the Culture of Rape 1) that make violence and the sexual coercion of women seem so natural and normal that people begin to believe that rape is just an inevitable fact of life. Women are sold by the media as objects of men’s desires. It is seen as just the way that things are, and people are led to believe that this is inevitable. People learn to believe that this way of thinking about women is the way that it always has been and the way that it will continue to be. They are made to think that there is no way to change what is happening or to prevent it in the future.
America’s rape culture can be seen everywhere. One article points out the discrepancies of people’s attitudes towards rape. Last December, there was a news focus on the horrendous gang rape and murder of a young woman in India. Millions of Americans expressed their outrage at such an event. There were numerous articles published which criticized both the Indian government and its rape culture. This was a major focus of newspapers around the country. They expressed their disgust at what happened and concern for getting justice for the victim’s family. Around the same time, an article was published about a sixteen year old girl who was raped while unconscious at a party in Steubenville. This story had not received nearly as much attention. It was hidden for almost a year and was not investigated or focused on as much. The American media has been much slower at showing its rape culture. There was not a long of discussion about punishing the perpetrators. Instead it focuses on placing the blame on so-called hero worship in a small town that is centered on football and the aspect of social media in this case. Why is this case not the center of attention? Maybe it is because America is trying to hide its rape culture from the public. Showing outrage at the rape and murder in India is what is deemed as acceptable and also shows the faults of other countries. Acknowledging that there is a rape culture in America? Blasphemy.
One recent story about rape culture was just published in the Orlando Sentinel. It is entitled “’Rapebait’ email shows ugly side of fraternity culture.” A fraternity member at Georgia Tech emailed his brothers a guide on seducing women. It described how, in order to pick up women, one must get them very drunk. The man included that they just had to keep buying them drinks. He went on to describe that after the women were drunk, the men had to hit the dance floor with them. His instructions included explicit details for grinding and groping. The instructions were concerned only with the men getting what they wanted, with complete disregard to the women who would be victims here. The member signed off the email with “In luring rapebait.” While he did say in the middle of his email that there was to be no raping, he then signed it off like this. What does that prove? It just shows that while the man was trying to keep his brothers from getting in trouble, he still sees women as so-called rapebait. They are merely objects for men to pursue and for them to get drunk. This entire ordeal just shows that rape culture is perpetuated across college campuses. Most rapes on college campuses are not reported, and those that are reported are never investigated as fully as they should be. Along with this, fraternity members are more “prone to sexual assault than other college men” (“‘Rapebait’ Email Shows Ugly Side of Fraternity Culture”). Fraternity members seem to think, more so than other men, that they are authorized to have women. Perhaps the frat lifestyle as a whole perpetuates this. Let’s get to a big question here: How could someone think that this email was acceptable? Let’s not only rape and assault women, let’s also teach others how to do it! The entire email simply shows how some men believe that they are entitled to women and that rape and assault isn’t wrong. This frat member told all of his brothers that the only foolproof and acceptable way to pick up women is to get them drunk so that they are less able to defend themselves. This is just one example of how rape culture is seen all over the world and continues to be seen on college campuses today. Another example of rape culture in the news is the recent article about Elizabeth Smart published on thinkprogress.org. Smart, a kidnapping and sexual assault victim, has turned the attention to education and rape culture. She pointed out that abstinence-only education, usually seen in more conservative places, is yet another way to place shame on rape victims. This education “ultimately makes rape victims feel worthless” (“How Elizabeth Smart Is Taking On Rape Culture”). Victims are made to believe that they are no longer clean. They are made to feel like lesser beings when the abstinence-only point of view is continuously enforced. Smart went on to explain that abstinence education is just one of the many ways that sexual assault victims can be shamed. There is not just one way that victims are exposed to shame. She gave the example of social media used to expose victims. This can be seen in the aforementioned Steubenville case. The rape was documented by people at the party who simply watched as it went on. They then also uploaded pictures to Twitter calling the victim a drunk slut and the like. This entire ordeal victim shames this girl by insinuating that it was her fault. The onlookers just stood by and thought it was funny, which is simply disgusting.
The article also discussed Smart’s transformation from victim to advocate. After being kidnapped and held captive for nine months, she has begun to use her experience to help others speak out. She has received a lot of publicity in the months preceding the release of her book about her story. This has allowed her to speak out about rape culture. The media has given her, and therefore rape culture, the attention that it deserves. She has been telling victims that it is okay to come forward about their assault. There is finally news about how victim blaming has become a national problem. After decades of ignoring this issue, Smart has used her past experiences to finally bring it to light. This issue should no longer be swept under the rug and ignored as it has been for many years. America needs to become aware of the growing problem that it has. Moreover, perpetrators of rape culture are not just men. Some women share the belief that women who dress too provocatively or drink alcohol are ‘asking for it.’ This was seen in an article published on Slate.com. While some of the ideas in the article do point out that they are not for victim-blaming, the article itself is titled “The Best Rape Prevention: Tell College Women to Stop Getting So Wasted.” That in itself is victim-blaming. Saying that the main reason women get raped is because they are drunk is avoiding the real issue. The real issue is that men use alcohol to take advantage of women. It is not the women to blame for drinking, it is the men for taking advantage of a woman who has been consuming alcohol. Some points of the article do have merit, such as that women, especially in college settings, should watch what and how much they drink. Then there are the abominable comments such as the author telling her son “not to be the drunken frat boy who finds himself accused of raping a drunken classmate” (“The Best Rape Prevention: Tell College Women to Stop Getting So Wasted”). What does that even mean? Don’t tell your son to not rape, tell him to not be accused of raping a drunk girl. Where is the logic in that? This article just goes to prove the point that men need to be taught not to rape. Blaming women for their actions is neither going to solve the problem nor help anyone. Telling women that their drinking is what caused them to be assaulted is an obvious perpetuation of victim-blaming.
There are a large number of instances of rape culture in the news. The infamous rape cases are still making their rounds as people try to wrap their heads around what is right and wrong. People need to learn that blaming the victims for their assaults is not acceptable. The perpetrators need to be held responsible for their actions and punished as such. These news stories show that rape culture exists not just in its victim blaming but in its ideas of making a joke out of women. Men are taught, as was seen in the frat email, that women are merely objects for them, in this case, to pick up at bars and parties.
Rape culture has been an issue that has been targeted for many years. In recent decades, there have been many attempts to explore and create ways to get rid of rape culture all together. One such talk was given in the fall of 1983 at the Midwest Regional Conference of the National Organization for Changing Men. The speech was given to a room full of about five hundred men with a few women here and there. The audience was primarily composed of “political men who say that they are antisexist” (“I Want a Twenty-Four-Hour Truce During Which There Is No Rape”). The speaker, Andrea Dworkin, asked the men why they as a general group were so slow to recognize that women are “human to precisely the degree and quality that you are” (“IWTFHTDWTINR”). She went on to discuss that women do not have the time to stop and teach men all that there is to know about women’s rights. They do not have the time to explain to men why rape and assault is wrong. Dworkin continues by saying that there is a very simple reason why this assault and rape is happening. Men are doing these things because of the kind and amount of power that men have over women.
When Dworkin talks about equality, she says that it is “a practice. It is an action. It is a way of life. It is a social practice. It is an economic practice” (“IWTFHTDWTINR”). It is something that should simply be done. It should be made to be a simple part of life that everyone participates in. Dworkin makes the point that it is ridiculous that women have to strive for equality. It should just be that men recognize that women are just as human as they are. There should be no confusion as to who is the better half of society. Men should not view women as lesser than they are simply for the reason of their gender. Equality should just be something that occurs naturally.
Dworkin’s speech was one that brought to light a multitude of issues. She concluded it by asking for a twenty-four hour truce during which there is no rape. On that day, we can begin the real practice of equality. Before that day where there is no rape, equality cannot exist. Having an entire section of the population constantly living in fear prevents equality from ever being achieved. It can be strived and hoped for, but there is no way to actually reach this state of being equal when rape exists. This day with no rape would allow both men and women to finally experience freedom. There would be freedom from fear and a general feeling of what actual equality is like. Dworkin challenged these men in the audience, the ones that so proudly claimed to be antisexists, to simply commit to this one day. Until this day happens, equality can be talked about and strived for, but it cannot exist. She discussed both the issues and the solution to rape culture in this talk that has been memorialized and repeated continuously over time.
Rape culture is the phenomena that should not be. A world with rape culture should not exist. One where women are constantly degraded, humiliated, and blamed for actions taken against them is one that needs to be combatted. The recent news stories, as well as those in the past, have brought to light the issues surrounding this culture. Rape culture is being perpetuated in colleges, in victim shaming, and in social media exposure. Something must be done to expand the idea that we must teach men not to rape instead of women not to get raped. This has to be a worldwide learning curve. Something that seems so simple, as Andrea Dworkin pointed out, is something that has taken the world so long to even begin to grasp. Hopefully the steps that we have taken to ending rape culture continue on as we keep combatting the ever-present threat of assault and blame.
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