Rape culture– one of the ugliest and most sinister word combinations in the world. The term was first coined in the late 1970s and deals with the normalisation of sexual assault and rape within society.
Despite rape culture having existed for decades, it is not until recently that the term has started to appear more frequently in the media, raising awareness of the disturbingly distorted views many regrettably still seem to possess.
In recent years the rise of social media and networking websites have lead to a surge in information overload. Although this can be seen as a great tool, it is often abused by those believing that freedom of speech excuses their ignorance.
In November 2014, Kim Kardashian’s attempt to ‘break the internet’ with nude cover pictures for Paper Magazine saw a surge of people taking to Twitter and Facebook to express their feelings on the situation. This was a turning point, as it revealed just how many people are advocates of rape culture and how the media is, unwittingly perpetuating it.
[pullquote align=”right”]”A fundamental part of rape culture is rape jokes, and worryingly distorted perceptions of what is and is not acceptable.”[/pullquote]
Whilst some praised Kardashian for her promotion of self-love and confidence, others chose to tear her down in the most brutal way, stating that portraying herself in such a way means that sexual assault would be ‘deserved’ and rape a ‘merciful act.’ Such comments revealed one of the most disturbing facts of rape culture; victim blaming.
I scrolled through endless pages of tweets from both men and women attacking Kardashian’s motives in disgust, stating that nude women are ‘asking for it.’ As I searched at least one person who would stand up for the freedom of women to express their sexuality, but realised it was a losing battle.
It was unclear whether people were simply against Kardashian’s celebrity or whether as a society we’ve become so scared of women’s sexuality that we can’t allow it to be expressed.
A prominent part of victim blaming is the revolting notion that women’s clothing and appearance choices may somehow trick men into believing that they’re ‘up for it.’
Robin Thicke’s controversial worldwide hit single Blurred Lines focused on elements of rape culture with scantily-clad (naked in the explicit version) models strutting around whilst Thicke proclaims “You know you want it.” The lyrics dehumanised and degraded the women in the video.
A fundamental part of rape culture is rape jokes, and worryingly distorted perceptions of what is and is not acceptable.
Aged 14, I remember seeing girls being ‘jokily’ bent into sexual positions by boys too big to defend themselves from, masked behind the pathetic façade of ‘banter’. Despite none of these girls being attacked, it seemed too real to me that a lot of the boys naively believed that such a joke couldn’t possibly be harmful.
Equally how the girls going along with it all for a ‘joke’ couldn’t see how damaging such behaviour could be in the long run.
Alarmingly, 30 per cent of male university undergraduates who took part in a survey conducted by Dr. Margo Maine in 2000 said that they would rape if they thought they’d get away with it. I got detention for three weeks for telling a boy who ‘jokily’ told me he was going to rape me in science class to ‘fuck off.’
Despite feeling proud of my decision to stand up for myself, the boy in question received the same punishment as me.
Such injustice exists just as prominently all over the world. Rape culture possesses a multitude of crude and alarming little chapters, which are too often ignored and pushed away.
If we continue to see sexuality as violent and violence as sexual, we are moving towards an even darker future where rape jokes and victim blaming will be embedded in our culture to the point of non-recognition.
Regardless of gender or circumstance, rape culture is everyone’s issue and it needs addressing now.