Marshall University’s Women’s Center defines Rape Culture as:
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.
Rape Culture affects every woman. The rape of one woman is a degradation, terror, and limitation to all women. Most women and girls limit their behavior because of the existence of rape. Most women and girls live in fear of rape. Men, in general, do not. That’s how rape functions as a powerful means by which the whole female population is held in a subordinate position to the whole male population, even though many men don’t rape, and many women are never victims of rape. This cycle of fear is the legacy of Rape Culture.
The book Transforming Rape Culture defines Rape Culture as:
A rape culture is a complex of beliefs that encourages 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 as death or taxes. This violence, however, is neither biologically nor divinely ordained. Much of what we accept as inevitable is in fact the expression of values and attitudes that can change.
Melissa McEwan of Shakesville helpfully gives an extensive (though not exhaustive) list of the ways Rape Culture manifests. Here’s an excerpt:
Rape culture is victim-blaming. Rape culture is a judge blaming a child for her own rape. Rape culture is a minister blaming his child victims. Rape culture is accusing a child of enjoying being held hostage, raped, and tortured. Rape culture is spending enormous amounts of time finding any reason at all that a victim can be blamed for hir own rape.
Rape culture is judges banning the use of the word rape in the courtroom. Rape culture is the media using euphemisms for sexual assault. Rape culture is stories about rape being featured in the Odd News.
Rape culture is tasking victims with the burden of rape prevention. Rape culture is encouraging women to take self-defense as though that is the only solution required to preventing rape. Rape culture is admonishing women to “learn common sense” or “be more responsible” or “be aware of barroom risks” or “avoid these places” or “don’t dress this way,” and failing to admonish men to not rape.
Rape culture is “nothing” being the most frequent answer to a question about what people have been formally taught about rape.
Rape culture is boys under 10 years old knowing how to rape.
Rape culture is the idea that only certain people rape—and only certain people get raped. Rape culture is ignoring that the thing about rapists is that they rape people. They rape people who are strong and people who are weak, people who are smart and people who are dumb, people who fight back and people who submit just to get it over with, people who are sluts and people who are prudes, people who rich and people who are poor, people who are tall and people who are short, people who are fat and people who are thin, people who are blind and people who are sighted, people who are deaf and people who can hear, people of every race and shape and size and ability and circumstance.
Rape Culture exists in the United States. It exists across the entire planet. Attitudes surrounding Rape Culture are on display innumerable times, every single day. David Edwards at Raw Story has written about yet another example of Rape Culture. A Florida man is defending his sexual assault of a 6-year-old girl by blaming her:
The Palm Beach Post reported that the girl told detectives that Andres Bartolome Juan grabbed her in her apartment’s laundry room on Jan. 31.
According to the police report, Juan shook the girl by both arms, and then he assaulted her twice.
The girl’s mother found her bicycle unattended and called out for her, interrupting the alleged attack. The mother said that her daughter ran out of the laundry room “with a panicked look on her face.”
The mother found Juan in the laundry room trying to escape through a back window, the police report said. The mother told detectives that Juan’s belt was unbuckled, and his pants were open.
The girl later told her mother that she had been touched inappropriately, but “was too scared to talk about the details.”
Detectives were able to identify Juan because he had once lived in the apartments. He was charged with two counts of sexual assault against a victim 12 years old or younger.
“I touched the little girl,” he reportedly admitted to detectives during an interview.
“It’s [the girl’s] fault this happened,” the suspect added while deputies were taking a DNA sample.
Juan was being held in the Palm Beach County Jail without bail.
This story is disgusting. Children are not physically or mentally capable of making informed decisions in matters concerning sex. There is a reason that the age of consent in the United States is 18. I don’t care what Juan says–It. Is. Not. Her. Fault (I’ll add that even if the girl were an adult woman, what he did still would have been sexual assault). He chose to sexually assault her. That decision was his and the blame is all on his shoulders. His victim-blaming is one of the many vile manifestations of Rape Culture.
A second example of Rape Culture comes in the comments section of that same Raw Story article. A commenter leaves this puke-inducing pile of shit:
Castrate the m.f.s.o.b.child abuser. He better not drop the soap in the shower once in jail.
Both sentences are an example of Rape Culture. The first sentence is an endorsement of retributive justice, akin to “an eye for an eye”. Answering sexual assault with sexual assault…meeting a violation of bodily autonomy with the violation of the bodily autonomy–this is not something any society, especially a civilized one should condone. How the hell can you condemn sexual assault and the violation of an individuals’ bodily autonomy while simultaneously expressing a desire to violate bodily autonomy and commit sexual assault? It doesn’t matter what the justification is. Sexual assault is wrong. Violation of bodily autonomy is wrong. Neither act becomes “right” simply because of state support. Endorsing sexual assault and violation of bodily autonomy is most certainly an example of Rape Culture, no matter what the justification is.
There is an additional problem with this idea of justice by castration. Being castrated won’t prevent Juan from sexually assaulting anyone. You don’t need a penis and testicles to sexually assault someone (just look at the New Delhi rape case where-in addition to penetrative rape-the attackers used a metal rod to rape the victim). The commenter displays an appalling ignorance of the realities of rape.
The second sentence of course, refers to prison rape which is a huge problem:
The well-being of our prisoners isn’t a topic that often garners much sympathy. Perhaps that is why few Americans know that rapes and sexual assaults of U.S.inmates have reached epidemic proportions.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics confirmed this human rights crisis last month. It says that nearly one in 10 prisoners report having been raped or sexually assaulted by other inmates, staff or both.
That’s why the release of a separate report by the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission, which was created by Congress in 2003, is so important. It challenges our society to take seriously a problem that has ruined many lives.
As the above article mentions, prison rape is not treated as a big deal. Far too many people dehumanize prisoners and think they don’t (or shouldn’t) have rights. The thing is, human rights exist for *all* people and that includes prisoners. Not just the “good” people. We can and should punish people who commit sexual assault and rape. But we shouldn’t adopt their tactics. We shouldn’t perpetuate the idea that rape and sexual assault are permissible under certain circumstances. When we do so, especially when we try to speak out against rape and sexual assault, we completely undermine ourselves. Even the most repellent human being still has rights. The minute we start deciding that some category of humans should be sexually assaulted or have their bodily integrity violated is the minute we start descending the dangerous slippery slope of “only some people have rights” (hell, some people have already begun their journey down that slippery slope. Just look at the existence of so-called “corrective rape“).