Rape culture is an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture. This societal and institutional attitude enables sexual assault to be committed with more frequency and without consequence.
First use of the term dates back to the 1970s and was used by feminist scholars to describe American society. Before introducing this concept, Americans assumed rape and violence were rare.
Rape culture is a deeply ingrained societal issue that combines obvious problems with more subtle ones, like how women are taught to prevent rape more than men are taught not to rape.
Just because you’re not a rapist doesn’t mean you don’t contribute to rape culture!
Elements of rape culture
It’s hard to define all components of rape culture, but here are the most distinctive:
- Sexualisation and objectification
- Victim blaming
- Slut shaming
- Trivializing sexual assault and rape jokes
Effects on women
Common effects include the following:
- Fear of being alienated from their community if they do come forward with abuse
- Self-blame and guilt
- Depression and anxiety related to thinking less of themselves after being assaulted
- “Rape schedule” – conscious or unconscious placing of restrictions and alterations to their daily lifestyles and behaviours as a result of constant fear of sexual assault
Effects on men
- Forced adherence to hyper-masculinity
- Feelings of self-worthlessness, extreme anxiety and guilt, depression and suicidal thoughts after experiencing sexual assault
- Fear of being alienated from their community for coming forward with their experience of assault
- Being met with dismissal and rejection by authority figures when reporting an assault
What we can do
- Encourage boys and men to express emotions and unravel hyper-masculinity
Let’s make a generation of men who are not afraid to espress themselves and that will be less likely to be influenced by hyper-masculinity.
- Push back against sexual objectification
Speak up against cat-calls, never assume consent (and make sure it is enthusiastic and freely given!), and stand up for people who are being objectified.
- Rape prevention courses
Studies show that men can take a rape prevention class in college that affects them for years. The course teaches empathy and then how to intervene in dangerous situations, support a rape survivor, and even confront others who tell jokes about rape.
- Engage bystanders
Talk to people in your environment about rape culture, and speak up if you see anything suspicious happening.
- Change public perception of what’s acceptable
Several successful anti-rape campaigns all around the globe are working to dismantle rape culture – be an ally and do your part in changing society.