what is rape culture?

Before I explain rape culture I have to tell you this story:

There is a married woman and her husband works long nights and doesn’t return until the early morning. When her husband is away the wife goes to this island, all dressed up, where she has affairs with random men. When these men get to close to her, like if they want to take their affair to the next level, she purposely gets in fights with them. Then she takes the ferry back home before her husband arrives. She’s also really drunk.

So one night she does her usual routine. She goes to the island, has sex with a guy and then acts like a jerk so they can break up. As she is on the way to the ferry she realizes she doesn’t have enough money to get back home. She needs to get home soon before her husband comes back. She asks the ferry captain to let her go on for free. She promises the next time she comes she’ll pay double the fare. But the ferry captain tells her no.

So the wife goes back to the guy she just broke up with. She’s really desperate. But of course they just got in a fight and he refuses to give her any money. She goes to a guy she was with last week, but he is still pretty pissed off and he won’t give her any money either.

She really has no other option. There is a bridge that will take her home. It’s really dark at night and she doesn’t want to walk home alone. But she takes the chance…but she is raped and killed by a group of thugs.

Who’s to blame for the wife being raped?

  • the husband
  • the wife
  • the ferry captain
  • ex number one
  • ex number two
  • the thugs

When my psychology teacher said this story the first time every single hand went up for the wife–including me. And everyone’s reason was the same: if she wasn’t slotting it up in the first place she wouldn’t have been raped.

So then my teacher changes the story a bit. What if she didn’t have a husband and she wasn’t having affairs with other men; she has a baby at home and the baby sitter has an emergency and had to leave. Would we still blame her?

Most of our answers changed, but they were still a few that blamed the wife. We did exercise in the social psychology chapter.

Basically the just world hypothesis is: Attribution error based on the assumption that bad things happen to bad people and good things happen to good people.

Of course the wife was raped! She was a bad person, she’s a lying slut, and she deserved it! If she were more careful this wouldn’t have happened, like not been drunk.

This makes no sense because, for a lack of a better term, a variety of people are raped. Rape victims range in age, sex/gender, race and class. And obviously not everyone who has even been raped has been drunk, or wearing shorts skirts, heels, or anything else that translates into “asking for it.”

What happens if you applied that logic to other crimes?

Your car got stolen? What were you thinking driving that in a neighborhood that is so shitty?

Your house was broke into? Well that’s what you get for not having a burglar alarm.

You were robbed? Well you were just asking for it, you dressed really flashy.

etc. etc. etc.

We blame the victim, so we can distance ourselves from the possibility of bad things ever happening to us. It can never happen to us because we’re smart, we follow the rules, we know better.

If you repeat this a million times it seems like simple logic. Our ideal society claims rape is bad, but in our real culture only 6% of rapists ever see a day in jail.

Rape myths permeate our society and it spreads more thanks to forces like misogyny, racism, ableism, classism etc etc.

Like I mentioned before, dressing like a “slut” isn’t a social norm, it isn’t socially acceptable. But slut shaming mostly applies to women. It is socially acceptable for a man to have more sexual partners and engage in casual sex. When women break this social scripts, they are called sluts, whores and promiscuous. Furthermore, women are expected to be pristine and virginal.

Next, you have to examine the stereotypes pushed as truth by the dominate culture. Men just can’t control themselves. If a man sees an attractive woman he’s going to look like this. The stereotype is that men always want sex. So if a man sees a woman dressed like a slut, who shouldn’t be dressed like one any way because it’s a breaking culture mores, of course he is going to sexual assault her.

When women are harassed on the streets, for some fucked up reason, it is supposed to be considered a compliment. Men feel entitled to approach you on the street, a bar,  or book store to invade your personal space. He just wants to talk to you. What is wrong with a random person you don’t even know you expressed no interest in comes up to you and asks you out?

Rape has nothing to do with sex. It’s about power and it’s about violence.

I’m going to abruptly end this here. Explaining rape culture in depth would take forever.

Common rape myths:

Myth: Rape is sex.

Fact: Rape is experienced by the victims as an act of violence. It is a life-threatening experience. One out of every eight adult women has been a victim of forcible rape. (National Victim Center and Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center, 1992) While sexual attraction may be influential, power, control and anger are the primary motives. Most rapists have access to a sexual partner. Gratification comes from gaining power and control and discharging anger. This gratification is only temporary, so the rapist seeks another victim.

Myth: Women incite men to rape.

Fact: Research has found that the vast majority of rapes are planned. Rape is the responsibility of the rapist alone. Women, children and men of every age, physical type and demeanor are raped. Opportunity is the most important factor determining when a given rapist will rape.

Myth: There is a “right way” to respond to a rape situation.

Fact:Since rape is life-threatening and each rapist has his own pattern, the best thing a victim can do is follow her instincts and observe any cues from the rapist. If the victim escapes alive she has done the right thing.

Myth:A victim should be discouraged from dwelling on the rape. She should “forget it”.

Fact: This advice generally comes from people who are more concerned with their own feelings than the victim’s. All victims should be offered the opportunity to talk about the assault with those personally close to them and knowledgeable professionals. Victims who are not allowed to talk about the rape have a much more difficult time recovering form it.

Mores facts about rape:

Approximately 2/3 of rapes were committed by someone known to the victim.1
73% of sexual assaults were perpetrated by a non-stranger.1
38% of rapists are a friend or acquaintance.1
28% are an intimate.1
7% are a relative.1


One response to this post.

  1. […] to the extent of the gender violence & the cultural acceptance of this violence & the rape culture in which we live, where girls’ & women’s bodies’ are expendable and are […]


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