Rape culture is a term that was coined by feminists in the United States in the 1970’s. It was designed to show the ways in which society blamed victims of sexual assault and normalized male sexual violence.
Many feminists have provided great definitions of what rape culture is and how it plays out everyday. Emilie Buchwald, author of Transforming a Rape Culture, describes that when society normalizes sexualized violence, it accepts and creates rape culture. In her book she defines rape culture as:
a complex set of beliefs that encourage male sexual aggression and supports violence against women. It is a society where violence is seen as sexy and sexuality as violent. In a rape culture, women perceive a continuum of threatened violence that ranges from sexual remarks to sexual touching to rape itself. A rape culture condones physical and emotional terrorism against women as the norm . . . In a rape culture both men and women assume that sexual violence is a fact of life, inevitable . . . However . . . much of what we accept as inevitable is in fact the expression of values and attitudes that can change.
The website Force: Upsetting the Rape Culture explains how rape culture is the images, language, laws and other everyday phenomena that we see and hear everyday that validate and perpetuate rape.
Rape culture includes jokes, TV, music, advertising, legal jargon, laws, words and imagery, that make violence against women and sexual coercion seem so normal that people believe that rape is inevitable. Rather than viewing the culture of rape as a problem to change, people in a rape culture think about the persistence of rape as “just the way things are.”
Melissa McEwan, the founder of the political and cultural group blog Shakesville, provides an extensive definition of rape culture that answers the questions What does Rape Culture look like and sound like and feel like? It is an excellent definition that provides various examples of Rape Culture, and it can be found here.
We need to notice this stuff, get outraged, and share our outrage with others. Staying aware of rape culture is painful work, but we can’t interrupt the culture of violence unless we are willing to see it for what it is.
- the way we condone sexual violence through everyday language
- the reality that only three in every 1,000 sexual assaults results in a conviction
- masses of women around the world saying “me too,” disclosing their personal experiences of sexual violence
- the existence of revenge porn
- “stealthing,”(an increasing pattern of men secretly removing their condoms during sex) being perceived as funny or anything other than a dangerous form of sexual assault
- the fact that there is a even a need for tech devices to prevent rape
- men being paid to teach other men how to sexually harass women
- survivors being blatantly disrespected and jailed to “ensure court testimony”
- Canada’s rape kit problem
- rape jokes at breast cancer awareness fundraisers (or anywhere…)
- despite being accused of running an abusive sex cult, illegally marrying a child, and sexually assaulting numerous women including underage girls, R Kelly remains one of the most successful R&B artists in history
- the pattern of normalizing and excusing violence against women in the entertainment industry
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