Article contains mature content. Please be advised when reading.
In the modern world, people have to deal with something called rape culture. It is seen everywhere in our daily lives. Rape culture has made sexual violence and silencing victims feel normal. It is not, and victims should not be silenced. Some cultural norms and institutions protect rapists, promote impunity, shame victims, and demand that women make unreasonable sacrifices to avoid sexual assault. Situations in which sexual assault is ignored, trivialized, normalized, or made into jokes feed into rape culture.
Today’s rape culture doesn’t just burden women; it is also a burden to men. Ignoring the fact that men can be victims of sexual assault and rape should not be accepted, there are no set rules that say that women are the victims and men are the abusers. Male victims are left without legal protection and social support. It is less likely that a man will speak up about their sexual assault experience because they will be regarded as weak. Rape and sexual assault is not a joke and should be taken seriously whether the victim is a woman or a man.
It is not just the legal system, either. Schools, universities, and the military routinely fail to address sexual assaults within their institutions. According to a report by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, the U.S. Military’s Department of Defense estimated 26,000 service members were raped or sexually assaulted in 2012 alone, and slightly more than half of those victims were men. However, fears of reprisal and stigma meant that only 2,558 victims even pursued justice by filing an unrestricted report, and only 302 of those cases proceeded to trial. Even so, the service members that did report being assaulted faced retaliation from superiors who had control over whether or not the cases could proceed. PBS reported the story of one soldier who was raped by a superior in Iraq, but was told that she would be charged with adultery if she pursued her complaint.
Rape culture allows rape to flourish. It also makes it hard to measure, which in itself makes rape more common than reported. Under reporting sexual assault makes it appear less of a big deal than what it is. Not confronting it and making the abuser pay for what they have done allows rape to continue. This also allows rapists and abusers to continue to get away with what they are doing to innocent people.
Stereotypes about what constitutes “real” rape affect the definitions used in data gathering if the crime is defined too narrowly, then some rapes wont show up in statistics. Victim blaming constraints women’s lives and limits their opportunities. When you blame a victim it puts a label on the woman disabling her from living a normal life. It polices their lives and makes them feel as if they aren’t really living anymore. When the burden of avoiding sexual assault is placed on women, that essentially grants sexual predators the power to set boundaries on women’s lives.
Some everyday examples of rape culture are dress codes, victim blaming, rape jokes, and objectifying women. School dress codes are centered around the idea that the natural female form is “distracting to males.” Why not teach boys how to respect women, instead of telling women how to dress? Automatically asking about what the woman was wearing or drinking is trying to make excuses for the abuser. Suffocating athletes who are charged with rape and calling their victims career-destroyers strips away the woman’s life and personality. It also makes her seem like a villain. Rape jokes are so much more common than we think. In 2013, students at Halifax’s Saint Mary’s University chanted a very crude phrase about raping underage girls. Unfortunately, the phrase is so disgusting that I cannot restate it in this article. Objectifying women is seen even more than rape jokes in our daily life. You often see it in pop music where the lyrics are crude and disrespectful towards women and it promotes rape culture. For example, in the song “Blurred Lines,” singer Robin Thicke says, “You know you want it” because of these “blurred lines” (of consent). Lyrics like these should not be accepted in the media no matter how good of a song it is. Some would argue that certain female rappers such as Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B have lyrics that are just as bad. The difference between these artists, is that the women are not stripping away the consent of the man. On the other hand, Robin Thicke is so clearly stripping away the possibility of consent. Both lyrics are very explicit, but the big difference is the presence of consent.
Rape culture has made sexual violence and silencing victims feel normal. It is not, and victims should not be silenced. No matter the gender, race, sexuality, age, etc. Being shut down for coming out about a horrible act that has happened to victims is unacceptable.