Disclaimer: This is obviously a sensitive topic for most people, but this article is meant to discuss what it is and the arguments that are being raised around it. I just think this is worth digging into after seeing incredibly heated debates on Facebook.

Copyright: Jen Grantham (Rape Culture)
Creator: Jen Grantham | Credit: Getty Images | Copyright: Jen Grantham

Rape Culture. It's a real thing.

Admittedly, I didn't know where and how to start this article because there's just so many angles and points to talk about. Let me start with defining what rape culture is:
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. (Source)
Rape culture is a culture in which sexual violence is treated as the norm and victims are blamed for their own assaults. It's not just about sexual violence itself, but about cultural norms and institutions that protect rapists, promote impunity, shame victims, and demand that women make unreasonable sacrifices to avoid sexual assault. (Source)

Here are a few examples. Let's go through them one by one:

  • Victim blaming
    Anyone who's ever defended their actions by saying, "he/she was asking for it" is disturbed. This is the kind of behavior lots of perps use to 'justify' their actions, and to be clear, it applies to both men and women. Yeah, rape doesn't choose genders. 

  • Having the “boys will be boys” mentality
    This way of thinking is destructive and should be corrected. Are we supposed to normalize the idea that because boys/men are stereotypically seen as aggressive and have a devil-may-care attitude, acting on their lust however they please is acceptable?

  • Making sexually explicit jokes
    Sadly, this is usually passed off as 'friendly banter' or 'breaking the ice'. This is rude and disgusting. Period. 

  • Tolerance of sexual harassment
    Yes, tolerance is also just as bad as making sexual jokes or harassing somebody physically. If you see or hear someone being harassed (or initiating it), not speaking up is an act of tolerance. Just because it's not happening to you, it doesn't mean you shouldn't defend someone being harassed. Learn to speak up for others who can't. 

  • Publicly scrutinizing a victim’s dress, mental state, motives, and history
    This point's disgusting. Should the victim's past excuse a horrific act done to them? Should a woman's dress be an indication that they want to get raped? Judging only the victim and not examining the perpetrator's act itself is such a double-standard. 
  • Defining “manhood” as dominant and sexually aggressive
    Stereotypes are dangerous and need to stop. Not all men are domineering, violent, or 'alpha-males' (whatever they want to define it as). Is a soft-spoken man considered more feminine than their aggressive counterparts? This poses a problem because some people might interpret this as a green light for abuse.

  • Defining “womanhood” as submissive and sexually passive
    Limiting women (or other genders) inside a box or a bunch of adjectives is a terrible way to see humanity. We can't slap on stereotypes and assume everyone's the same! Women aren't weak, and they're not merely objects of lust. Submissiveness doesn't define someone's sexuality. 

Then, there are other points that really frustrate and anger me.

  1. Pressure on men to “score”
    All over the world, from movies to real-life interactions, men are often praised for 'getting it'. Countless movies include scenes like these and although they don't blatantly promote it, just publicizing that act where it's viewable by kids and teenagers is disappointing. Often, the repercussions aren't even as bad as they should be.

    This is crowd mentality or peer-pressure in full force. Imagine a guy wanting to fit in within his group that believes getting a 'taste' of someone they fancy will make them an alpha. We crave for acceptance so much that it often makes us look past morals in exchange, but it shouldn't be an excuse.

    This mentality has been around for so long and has been in the world's history for centuries. From patriarchal societies that treated women as objects for pleasure to the modern world thinking women are meant to serve men and beautify themselves for the male's pleasure - the pressure to give in to carnal desire is treated as a display of power.

    Everything's been about how a man who has 'a woman' or has had plenty of sexual encounters with women in the past is 'top dog' or like I said earlier, an 'alpha'. Even the concept of being a playboy seems appealing to young, impressionable men, and that's a huge thing we need to address.

  2. Pressure on women to not appear “cold”
    This irks me a lot. I once had someone tell me to 'loosen up' because his remark was 'just a joke' and that I was a 'kill joy'. No, I'm not stuck up just because I didn't smile or laugh at your sexual innuendoes.
    ...smiling signals friendliness and encourages positive interactions. People are drawn more to people who seem happy, even after controlling for perceived physical attractiveness. (Source)
    Women are expected to be gentle, soft, obliging, and submissive. It's been the norm for centuries and until now, repairing such a twisted tradition is a challenge. The term 'cold' applies to anything from not acknowledging someone to rejecting advances. That's a wide spectrum to cover.

    What bothers me more is the difference in interpretation that when women don't smile, they're a 'bitch', yet men who act cold & aloof are 'mysterious'. The double-standards are ridiculous.

  3. Assuming only promiscuous women get raped
    Here is an assumption that have spouted debates all over social media. Here's my take: regardless of what you're wearing, if someone sees you and is driven by lust, they'll make a move. 

    There have been news reports about a five-month old and one-year-old, a 16-year-old student in uniform, and a grandmother being sexually assaulted - and those are just a few cases. 

    This is also similar to the argument that only 'pretty people' get raped. NOT AT ALL. Like I said, if someone is driven by lust, regardless of who the victim is or what they look like or are wearing is in danger of getting assaulted. Promiscuity, while it can lend to elevating someone's desire, is not the root of the problem. Yes, it adds to the fire, but it's not the root. Don't get it twisted. 

  4. Assuming that men don’t get raped or that only “weak” men get raped
    What a sexist thing to say. Again, the act truly has more to do with the perp than the victim. Saying that only 'weak men' get assaulted is like saying only women can wear pink. Look, no matter what gender you are, rape is an unfortunate possibility and I am sorry if this has ever happened to you.

    These 'real men' (who are actually douchebags) need to keep their egos in check. A lot of them think that if a guy shows emotion, is gentle, or soft-spoken, that person's weak. What it is, is that they're reflecting their insecurities on others, and that's why they put up such a "masculine" facade. 

    Also, it's 2020. There shouldn't be "gender norms" anymore! Men sadly get raped too, and that doesn't say anything about them or who they are. Again, it's the perps enacting their lust. It's disappointing how male victims are shunned or laughed at just as strongly as how women are blamed it's their fault they got assaulted.

  5. Refusing to take rape accusations seriously
    Why on earth would you think someone would joke about getting raped?! For such a traumatic act, why would anyone sane want to pretend this happened to them? Regardless of anyone's past (or if they've 'cried wolf' multiple times), we should never let that get in the way of acting appropriately to reports.

    Sure, they could be falsely accusing someone over a feud or petty fight, but it's still worth looking into and investigating. The problem is, others don't even bother going over the details to see if the person is being truthful. This is not an issue about whether or not you believe someone's been violated - it's simply responding as you should to a possible rape crime.

    Those who brush off a report of rape are selfish monsters

  6. Teaching women to avoid getting raped instead of teaching men not to rape
    This last point has been the most argued issue on Facebook as far as I've seen. Saying, "instead of teaching our girls to avoid getting raped, teach our boys not to rape" is actually not going to solve the problem.

    Here's my explanation (before you react negatively): 

    • The word "instead" in that sentence gives the impression that one side is more right over the other. It attempts to cancel out the other statement which is also true.

    • The sentence would be better put as, "teach our girls to dress modestly and teach our boys that rape is bad".

    • It's an issue that can be solved when both sides take responsibility for their behavior. Anyone who supports the fact that "women who wear revealing clothes tempt men to rape" is just as one-sided as those who only believe that "men just don't know how to keep it in their pants regardless of how a woman dresses". You can't dismiss one side and only bat for the other. They work hand in hand.

    • If we were to look at the definition of "modesty":
    "...behavior, manner, or appearance intended to avoid impropriety or indecency." - Oxford Languages
    where impropriety means "a failure to observe standards or show due honesty or modesty; improper language, behavior, or character";

    where indecency (of behavior) means "offending against generally accepted standards of propriety or good taste; improper; vulgar: indecent jokes; indecent language; indecent behavior. not decent; unbecoming or unseemly: indecent haste";

    where decency means "behavior that conforms to accepted standards of morality or respectability"; and

    where respectability means "the state or quality of being proper, correct, and socially acceptable.
    "provincial notions of respectability".

    Sure, I understand you bought a nice mini dress that hugs your body nicely and highlights your assets - and by all means, go and wear it if you feel good and confident in it - but don't convince yourself that you won't turn heads. Yes, you may or may not be asking for the attention, but you will get it, unfortunately. Initial desire always comes from 'seeing something you like or are interested in', and that knowledge should help guide our actions and behavior.

    • Now for men, they should also be aware of their natural impulses and learn self-control. Just as much as women should think about how they affect others, men should also educate themselves as much as they can and hold themselves accountable. You may argue that it's "a natural thing for men to always get aroused", but if it violates another person's right or ruins their life, it's almost as if you're condoning their actions because it's "who they are". There should be nothing natural about rape. It's sick.

    •Saying that men can't help themselves because women make it harder to control their impulses has truth to it, but it's not the only truth. There's two sides here that need to work together to control impulses and check motivations.

    • If you say that women should be able to wear whatever they want and men just need to keep it in their pants, it is also true, but again, it's not the only "true side". This is why people get into endless debates because they always play for just one side while dismissing the other side. Listen to both sides, hear the truth in both, and act to change it. Let's help one another out here!

    • Avoidance isn't like stepping over a puddle to avoid getting your shoes soaked. It's taking precautions for a presumed possibility. It's also a two-way street. It applies to the attacker just as much as it concerns the victim.
    Avoid lustful advances through decent behavior & propriety, and avoid thinking lustfully by being aware of your limits, other people's rights, and steering clear of tempting situations.

(I need to reiterate that my 6th point was only meant to discuss the statement and not disregard, dismiss, or invalidate other instances where clothing, promiscuity, race, or gender don't apply.)

So, how can we combat rape culture and victim blaming? Here's a great list to start with, adapted from Marshall University:

  • Avoid using language that objectifies or degrades women
  • Speak out if you hear someone else making an offensive joke or trivializing rape
  • If a friend says they have been raped, take your friend seriously and be supportive
  • Think critically about the media’s messages about women, men, relationships, and violence
  • Be respectful of others’ physical space even in casual situations
  • Let survivors know that it is not their fault
  • Hold abusers accountable for their actions: do not let them make excuses like blaming the victim, alcohol, or drugs for their behavior
  • Define your own manhood or womanhood. Do not let stereotypes shape your actions.
  • Be an Active Bystander!

A note if you've read this far...

This article took a while to write yet I still feel like I could discuss this better. There are points I think I could've explained more and gave examples for, but I'm leaving it here for now.

Rape is a sensitive subject for many, and the last thing I want to do is hurt someone's feelings, trigger someone who's been traumatized from a horrific experience, or come out as someone who is also taking sides. I firmly believe that we should work together in making the world safer for anyone regardless of gender, race, or divisive labels.

I hope survivors of an ordeal such as this will stay strong and realize that their experience doesn't define their past, present, or future. We stand with you and will do what we can to stop this culture of abuse and lust.