Turning Tables: an Analysis of Rape Culture Essay
A well-dressed man is walking down a street at night. A hooded figure approaches him and pushes him against the wall.
The attacker hits the man, steals his wallet and watch, and then he runs away. The following day the man reports the assault to the police station, where he is asked the following information: what was he wearing, had he been consuming alcohol, was he alone, was he aware that the neighborhood was a “bad” one, and had he given money to strangers or homeless people in the past. After reading such a story, people would think they have just read a joke.Nobody would ever blame the man for being robbed; nobody would ask the man about his outfit or his drinking habits. The same night a well-dressed woman is walking down a street. A hooded figure approaches her and pushes her against the wall. The aggressor hits her, rapes her, and then he flees.
The following day the woman reports the assault to the police station, where a police officer interrogates her, asking the following information: did she remember any details about the assailant, what was she wearing, had she been consuming alcohol, was she alone, and was she aware that the neighborhood was a “bad” one.The woman leaves the police station feeling violated and mistreated, but mostly feeling responsible for being raped. If only she had worn a less racy outfit. If only she had worn flats. If only she had looked down and walked quicker. After reading this, one involuntarily starts wondering whether she was wearing revealing clothes or whether she had not taken the appropriate precautions. She was probably being too sexual.
Perhaps one might event think she was “asking for it”.While this comparison is not particularly appropriate, it serves to show how victim blaming has become so ingrained in society that many people do not even realize they are doing it. This is only the tip of the iceberg that is rape culture, which can be demolished but requires awareness and targeted education. Although victim blaming in sexual assault has become an idea deeply ingrained in society, it can be stopped through the deconstruction of rape culture and sexual double standards.Historically rape has always been part of society, but it should no longer be accepted. Violence against women has always been commonplace, especially since women are specific targets to certain forms of violence such as incest, sexual harassment, beating, and rape.
Each form of violence reinforces the others, keeping women quiet and controlling them, and eventually producing a systematic and persuasive constraint on them (Mankiller). Many double standards are still prevalent in our society, especially sexual ones.Women have to follow a certain set of rules that differ from the rules men have to follow. The simplest way to show this is analyzing slurs directed to the two genders.
The words used to describe sexually promiscuous women are far more, and far more offensive, than those used to describe sexually promiscuous men. Slights addressed to sexually uninhibited men tend to be names of literary or historical figures, and are never degrading but actually dignifying, as they usually deliver a sense of authority and conquest (Tekanji).Unfortunately, there are still many problems and gaps both in the official law and in the way people, such as police officers, prosecutors, judges, health care providers, and social workers, act in regards to women who’ve experienced violence. “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 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. ” (Shakesville) One characteristic of rape culture is the fact that people consider rape as a fact of life, something inevitable they can do nothing about.
Another characteristic is the privileging of heterosexuality: since sexual acts between two adults of the same sex do not present gender-based dominant and submissive positions, they endanger the wrong biological theories that excuse the existence of rape culture, and so they are considered immoral and non-consensual practices, just as much as bestiality or pedophilia.There are thousands of examples of rape culture, and the following are just a few of them: blaming a girl for being raped; thinking only certain people get raped; believing sexual workers and wives cannot be raped; ignoring the fact that many women will be raped more than once in their life; the idea that there is only one way to react after a sexual assault; rape used as a weapon in wars and as an instrument to achieve genocide and oppression; thinking false reports are common; saying that non-physical assaults, such as catcalls, peeping tomming, verbally forward sexual comments by strangers, all have nothing to do with the iolence of rapes; lulling people into a sense of false security by telling them that only strangers could rape them, and ignoring the fact that it is much more likely for a woman to be raped my someone she knows in her own house; not admitting that the only thing all rape victims have in common is bad luck; objectifying women so that consent (or its absence) becomes irrelevant; hospitals that refuse to provide rape kits to victims; ignoring the need for a reform in men’s prisons, since the risk of being raped while serving time is enough of a deterrent to committing crimes, but only as long as the threat is actually true; one out of thirty-three men being raped in their life; parents, teachers, doctors, ministers, police officers, self-defense instructors, and soldiers raping people instead of defending them; a convicted rapist getting a standing ovation at Cannes followed by a cameo in a successful film; rape used as entertainment in movies and video games; rape jokes; people who object to rape culture being called over-sensitive.But most of all, teaching girls and women to be responsible, to avoid certain places, to be careful about what they wear, who they go out with, how much they drink , what kind of people they sleep with, who they give their number to, to take self-defense classes, to get a roommate, but not teaching men to not rape (Shakesville).
Although it can be safely said that victim blaming is mostly a result of rape culture, the reasons behind it may vary, and the following are some of the other motives.First, there is the Just-World theory. According to this theory, people, in order to be able to plan their lives, have a strong desire or need to believe that the world is a predictable, orderly, and just place where everyone gets what he or she deserves. While it would not seem so, this theory is actually part of the world we live in, and it can be found in fairy tales, comic books, and other narratives, where good people are rewarded and bad people are punished. In a study conducted in 1965 by Lerner, a social psychologist, subjects who were told that a friend had won the lottery usually thought that the friend worked harder than the other people who had lost the lottery.Lerner deducted that “the sight of an innocent person suffering without possibility of reward or compensation motivated people to devalue the attractiveness of the victim in order to bring about a more appropriate fit between her fate and her character” (Andre). There are various consequences to the Just-World theory: firstly, people who believe in a just world will eventually develop a lesser commitment to justice.
Furthermore, they are usually more religious, more conservative, more authoritarian, and more likely to have negative attitudes toward groups that are not privileged. In the end humans want to see their beliefs become true in their reality, and to achieve this consistency they will either try to change reality or their own opinions.Aside from the Just-World theory, there is another relevant occurrence that causes victim blaming: slut-shaming, which is “the idea of shaming and/or attacking a woman or a girl for being sexual, having one or more sexual partners, acknowledging sexual feelings, and/or acting on sexual feelings” (Tekanji). If the word “slut” was not used as an insult, it would simply indicate a woman who has had several sex partners. In societies where women can only have sex when married, taking part in sexual activities with more than one person would excuse the categorization of “slut”, while in other societies, such as the United States, where sex before marriage, for the most part, is not looked down upon anymore, women still have to follow certain rules, such as maintaining a certain attitude, and using sex as a way to express love for the partner.
As a result of slut-shaming, a girl that is being called a slut could continue to feel bad about sex into her womanhood, or she could feel pressured to never say no, or to engage in sexual acts with various partners, even if before the insults started she had not been sexually active, only because of her reputation. She could even shut down and never have a healthy sex life again (Tekanji). Since rape culture is so deeply embedded in society, some people are not even able to recognize it. They think they are being reasonable and logical, but they are simply the victims of the oppressive system that causes internalized sexism. One example that shows it very clearly is an article about a slutwalk held in Toronto in 2011.The journalist states that slutwalks are held for women’s rights to dress as prostitutes, that women know they attract a man’s attention if they dress provocatively and therefore they should avoid it, that women have no one to blame but themselves if they feel sexually threatened because they made the conscious choice of wearing a certain outfit, that for a man it is very confusing to see a woman wearing racy clothes and at the same time refusing to have sex with him, consequently he is partially excused for raping her, and that rape has existed for a long time and, just like any other crime, there is not much that can be done about it.
The journalist, a female, concludes by saying that women are adults and “they are also capable of assessing risks.And if they choose to ignore these risks, to feed into them, to put themselves further into danger – they are not being the most intelligent, capable adults they could. They are being, to some degree, irresponsible” (Fagan). This woman is obviously so absorbed by rape culture she is convinced that rapists actually have valid excuses behind their crimes. Most rape apologists tend to follow the same thought process. At first a detail about the victim is isolated: she was drunk, she was scantily dressed, she was wearing a lot of makeup, she went back to the attacker’s house to have drinks, or she was being irresponsible.
That detail is then used to show how the victim is not really innocent.Finally, the rape is invalidated and the importance of the sexual assault is denied, justifying these actions by using the detail about the victim (Hess). Another example that also shows the contradictory nature of victim blaming is the commentary to an article about the gang rape of a twelve-year-old girl in Tyler, Texas. Some of the comments assert the following: “It’s just destroyed our community.
These boys have to live with this for the rest of their lives! ” or “I only pray that this little girl will have better judgment next time and not go to a house where there are grown boys (who have one thing on their minds) and her only being twelve.She had no business being there in the first place” (Grimes). Basically rape apologists expect a twelve-year-old to know that all or any older boys will rape her if they get the chance, and if she does not know it at least she will learn her lesson after being gang raped. At the same time, people who know rapists tend to state that it is impossible that the person they know could have committed such a heinous crime, therefore the victim must be either mistaken, or lying. It is a contradiction that victim blamers have a blind spot for.
The last reason behind victim blaming is the fact that society has a sort of obsession with sex, everything one does is hyper sexualized.At the same time, most people know very little about it and they do not analyze it or look at it critically. Desires are rarely discussed without some kind of shaming, consent is belittled or it’s overlooked for fear of hurting feelings or for wanting to impress someone, safe sex practices are laughed at or completely ignored. When sex is used as a weapon, as a tool to silence people, or when it is simply not wanted, people’s brains are holding two conflicting views, and therefore a lot of people’s first reaction is to refuse to believe it and question the victim. The fundamental lack of understanding about sex really should be addressed in society, since most people still feel shame and guilt about their desires.Instead of sharing feelings and experiences, they silence others who speak out by asking what a victim did to deserve it, by slut-shaming or prude-shaming, thus legitimizing a horrible crime. In order to thoroughly comprehend the number of rape apologists, and to deconstruct rape myths, reading statistics and surveys can certainly help.
* seventy-six per cent of the boys and fifty-six per cent of the girls thought rape could be justified in some cases, in a survey of high school students; * eighty-seven per cent of the boys and seventy-nine per cent of the girls did not consider rape as such if it happened in a married couple (“Only,” Campus).In another survey, conducted in London, a high number of subjects admitted they would not report the rape, for various reasons, which is summed up well by this statement: “I would be afraid of being demoralized by the police and society during court proceedings, why bother when they are just going to get off the charges anyway? ” (“Wake,” Opinion). * fifty-five per cent would not report it because of embarrassment; * forty-one per cent would just want to forget about it; * thirty-eight per cent would want to avoid court; * thirty-one per cent would be afraid of what the assailant would do; * twenty-five per cent would not want their family to know about it (“Wake,” Opinion).
All those who continue to perpetrate the idea that only strangers in dark alleys will rape women should know that about seventy-three per cent of sexual assault were committed by someone known to the victim, and half of all rapes were reported to have happened within one mile of the victim’s home. Rape apologists who utter that women lie about rape should know that only two per cent of reported rapes are false, the same percentage as any other crime. People who think rape is triggered by incontrollable lust and that when men become sexually aroused they cannot control themselves should know that rape is caused by violence and need for domination, and also that men can perfectly control themselves when aroused.Finally, those who believe that physical attractiveness, clothes, and behavior are the reasons women get raped should know that the vulnerability and accessibility of the victim are the causes that allow rape to happen (“Rape,” Roger). After reading all this information one wonders what can be done to stop the vicious cycle of victim blaming. There are many solutions to this problem, but they can only be reached if more emphasis and resources are put into them.
Firstly, rape campaigns should stop focusing so much on women and on how they can prevent sexual attacks, and instead shift the emphasis to men taking responsibility for their behavior. Making women believe that behaving in a certain way will save them from any attacks only perpetuates a harmful stereotype.Rape campaigns should target men and young boys, teach them how to respect women, and, more importantly, to respect themselves. Moreover, rape campaigns should teach men what exactly rape is, since forty-eight per cent of eighteen to twenty-five year-old men would not consider it rape if a woman is too drunk to consent (“Don’t,” BWSS).
Secondly, parents should talk openly about sexuality with their kids, in order to explain to them that both boys and girls have sexual feelings and there is nothing wrong with that. Schools should teach about the risks of sexual labeling and the dangerous consequences that could ensue. Everyone should stop using negative sexual labels and insults, and should prevent others from doing so (Tekanji).Finally, although it might seem to go against everything that has been said so far, women should take self-defense classes, for three reasons: they actually work, they avoid the need for women to depend on men to be protected, and they allow women to have a fuller life since they help them protect themselves (Stone). Victim blaming and rape apologies can be brought to an end. It is merely a matter of better-targeted education and combined efforts of governments and social institutions, so that one day women who complain about rape jokes will not be told they have no sense of humor; men will not feel they have to conform to a certain type of (violent) masculinity; one of the first things girls will learn will not be to avoid walking alone at night; one of the first lessons taught to boys will be to respect girls and themselves.