Rape culture is a cancer in our society

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Rape culture is a cancer in our society

graphic by Steph Medina

graphic by Steph Medina

graphic by Steph Medina

Steph Medina, Staff Writer

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con·sent

/kənˈsent/

noun

  1. permission for something to happen or agreement to do something.

verb

  1. give permission for something to happen.

One of the major issues that we have as a society today is understanding what consent is. When we are young, we are taught “no means no.” But what happens if we can’t say no? What if we aren’t strong enough or brave enough to say no? What if you’re not conscious or physically able to say no? What if saying no could jeopardize your job or position, your safety or even your life? It’s not about saying no. It’s about saying yes.

Without explicit consent, nobody has the right to touch another person, sexually or otherwise. As a young woman, I shouldn’t have to say “no” in order to protect myself and my body. If I don’t give an explicit “yes,” then it is an implicit “no.”

For too long, it seems that sexual assault and sexual harassment has been a “taboo” subject. Victims are often shamed or not believed, and are sometimes even discouraged from telling their stories. The #MeToo movement has given sexual assault victims the opportunity and the platform to find the confidence to speak out about their experiences.

While this has helped bring light to the issue and give victims a voice more than ever before, there is still a problem with rape culture in our society.

The Women’s Center at Marshall University provides examples of rape culture:

  • Blaming the victim (“She asked for it!”)
  • Trivializing sexual assault (“Boys will be boys!”)
  • Sexually explicit jokes
  • Tolerance of sexual harassment
  • Inflating false rape report statistics
  • Publicly scrutinizing a victim’s dress, mental state, motives, and history
  • Gratuitous gendered violence in movies and television
  • Defining “manhood” as dominant and sexually aggressive
  • Defining “womanhood” as submissive and sexually passive
  • Pressure on men to “score”
  • Pressure on women to not appear “cold”
  • Assuming only promiscuous women get raped
  • Assuming that men don’t get raped or that only “weak” men get raped
  • Refusing to take rape accusations seriously
  • Teaching women to avoid getting raped instead of teaching men not to rape

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.”

And those values and attitudes must change.

Right now we have a culture that teaches women to avoid getting raped instead of teaching men not to rape. Young girls and women are taught to take measures to avoid making themselves a target. Some examples include:

  • hold keys between fingers to stab an attacker
  • never use phone when walking alone
  • when jogging alone, don’t wear headphones
  • share location with friends or family so they know your last location
  • be mindful of what you wear so that men don’t find it too provocative or “inviting”
  • don’t sit in the car in parking lots alone
  • when approaching your parked vehicle check the backseat

While these are good safety tips, why does the responsibility fall on ME to do these things in order to protect myself? Why don’t we live in a world where men are expected to respect women and their bodies and their boundaries?

I am also a survivor of sexual assault. I am not ashamed. I am a stronger person now because I rose above what happened to me at a young age. I refuse to let that define me. But I won’t be afraid to speak for others who might need a voice because they can’t find their own. That’s what the #MeToo movement is all about. We can change the culture in our society, but it will take all of us speaking out against language and attitudes that support, and even enable, rape culture.