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Rape Culture

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Time Magazine recently came out with their Person of the Year; the countless people who came forward with their stories of sexual harassment, assault or rape. Called “The Silence Breakers”, some of the many graced the cover with their bravery. Massive amounts of women, non-binaries and men, as well, but on a lesser scale, have come forward to the media with accusations of sexual assault, with the vast majority of whom are accusing men in positions of power. It seems that 2017 has been a year where the collective voices on sexual assault victims are finally being heard after too many years of forced cultural silence. This tsunami of sexual assault accusations and a slew of supporters of the accusers are shedding much needed light on the deep-set rape culture and internalized misogyny we have in America.  In my opinion, 2017 has been the first year to finally let the victims speak to the world and to have us listen to their stories.

Rape culture is the societal concept that normalizes and accepts rape and sexual assault due to commonly held views and judgement on gender, roles and sexuality. It is the accumulation of sexism and ignorance that causes a society to make the idea of rape and sexual assault so pervasive that it permits predatory behavior to be viewed as a part of accepted life. Rape culture is so clearly ingrained in our society that the President, himself, proudly spouts misogynistic rants that brag about sexually assaulting women and are brushed off as acceptable “locker room talk”.

To be absolutely clear before I continue, whether you are a woman, man, or non-binary, whether you have come forward with your story or not, and regardless of the ‘severity’ of your sexual assault experience, you are strong and brave and your story is completely valid in that you were deeply wronged and violated. However, in this article, I will be focusing more on the women who have come forward with their stories and the men whom they have accused as much of rape culture is a part of misogyny as well. The incidence of such behaviors have grown so widespread and thus have demonstrated the intertwining of sexism and rape culture.

A pillar of this rape culture is normalized behavior. Inappropriate and violating actions have been so common and tolerated by society that their impact has been downplayed and are not seen as what they truly are; violations and sexual harassment/assault. A prime example of this is catcalling, which happens constantly, especially in cities and to women and girls. It is everyday behavior to have a 20 year-old woman walking down the street and to hear whistles and hoots from men nearby. They may call out, “Ey sexy girl, where are you going alone?” and “Hey beautiful, why are you sad?” Or, while driving behind a girl a man can shout “Sexy!” and “Wanna come in my car?” These are real quotes and real instances that came directly from the @dearcatcallers Instagram page where one young woman documented instances of catcallers harassing her. It open’s one’s eyes on how common catcalling is and how many men see it as acceptable. This is sexualizing and demeaning to women and, even though this is, for the most part, unwanted and unwarranted objectification of women by men on the streets, it happens all of the time and it is brushed off as a part of life.

There is also the obligation to say “yes” when a woman is asked to go out on a date, or to go to a dance, or engage in sexual activity. I witnessed this, myself, with my friend who was going to a school dance. There was a rumor that a boy was going to ask her to the dance and hearing this, she told her family. The question of what she would do if he asked her came up and her parent said, “Well if he asks you, then you have to say yes!” Then the conversation turned to slow dancing and the girl asked what she should do if he asked her to slow dance with him. “He put himself out there and you went there with him; you can’t hurt his feelings by backing out!” Her parent said. Let me say this straight out: just because someone asks you to a dance or to go on a date, or anything of the sort, you do not have to say “yes”! It does not matter if they broke up with someone to be with you or if they offer you chocolate and flowers; it does not matter whether or not you know it will hurt their feelings. It does not matter if they paid for your meal. You have the right to say “no” no matter the circumstance.

Next there is victim blaming, which is a heartbreaking side effect of this massive movement of  the aforementioned “The Silence Breakers” and with most instances of girls, boys, and non-binaries coming out with their stories. As I am sure you have heard before, “What were you wearing?” is a question still asked to survivors. This question directly implies that the clothing the victim was wearing had to do with them being assaulted and that it was their conscious choice of what to wear on their own body that caused the incident. This is not only sexist and slut-shaming, but it is completely inaccurate as well. A victim of sexual assault could be wearing a turtleneck and baggy sweatpants, a t-shirt and jeans, a nightgown, or absolutely nothing, and they are still not in the wrong. Clothes do not assault or rape; sexual predators and rapists assault and rape. Revealing clothing is certainly not the cause nor the source of blame.

People who come forward are often criticized for how they acted in the situation and it is commonly said that the victim was “asking for it” with their “provocative behavior” or with the detectable “vibes” they were giving off to the assailant. This is so wrong and it, yet again, blames the victim for the actions of the perpetrator. Anything besides an enthusiastic ‘yes’ is a no and manipulating others to do something is not consent. Nothing a victim does or one’s “vibes” never constitutes a conscious action made by the victim to permit or encourage the predator to violate  the body and mind. In addition, survivors shouldn’t be shamed or guilted because they came out with their story. Words similar to “That’s too bad; he had his whole life ahead of him” or “She better feel bad for ruining his life by telling people about this.” are a few examples. These are statements sympathizing with a predator. Why is it the victim’s fault that the predators own, conscious decisions and actions led them to be publicly ostracized and/or imprisoned? Also, why should a victim feel badly about speaking out about the horrible thing that happened to them?

People seem to think that absence of a “no” means yes. To help explain consent in a way that everyone can understand, Planned Parenthood created an acronym F.R.I.E.S. First there is F: freely given. R stands for reversible. Next is I which stands for Informed. Lastly, E stands for enthusiastic and S stands for specific. Remember this and please share the necessity of consent.

To conclude my explanation of rape culture and identify the everyday instances of this deeply rooted problem, I asked if you have ever heard some “She’s crazy”, “They were asking for it”, “She’s just being a bitch and complaining about nothing”, “What were you wearing, though?” in connection to claims of sexual assault? Whether or not you have heard these statements yourself, these words are spoken to and often thought about survivors of sexual assault. All of these inferences have a few things in common: they blame the victim for the acts of the perpetrator, they normalize and downplay horror and the affects of sexual assault, and they promote shaming and victim blaming, while being examples of sexist remarks. Victims are often labeled as the one in the wrong and as the cause of the assault because of what they were wearing or “the vibes they gave of”‘ and these terms are most commonly used to describe women. Demeaning sexual assault survivors who are most commonly women, only further sexualizes them as objects and implies they are the cause of someone else violating them. This is wrong and dehumanizing.

It is a commonly held belief that it is okay to treat sexual assault survivors this way and that it is okay to treat women as sex objects who are “crazy” and a “bitch” when they object to the rape culture. I implore you to please mind what you say and to educate others on rape culture and how this habitual treatment of women and girls, as well as the public perspective on sexual assault and the survivors (male, female and non-binary alike) is wrong.  We need to stand with them instead of against them.

Visit RAINN.org  at (https://www.rainn.org/about-rainn) to learn about their anti-sexual violence organization and if you are ever put in a situation where you have been sexually assaulted, call their hotline: 800-656-4673.

 

 

 

Read Time‘s Article:

http://time.com/time-person-of-the-year-2017-silence-breakers/

 

Sources:

“Rape culture.” https://en.wikipedia.org, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rape_culture. Accessed 21 Dec. 2017.
“@dearcatcallers Instagram.” https://www.instagram.com, www.instagram.com/dearcatcallers/?hl=en.
Accessed 21 Dec. 2017.
https://www.bustle.com. www.bustle.com/articles/
178198-planned-parenthood-graphic-uses-fries-to-explain-consent-in-a-way-anyone-can-understand.
Accessed 21 Dec. 2017.
King, Kirsten. “What It Means When Women Say ‘Me Too.'” https://www.buzzfeed.com, www.buzzfeed.com/
kirstenking/what-it-means-when-women-say-me-too?utm_term=.ndjgOZVv1x#.soVBDXaeKq. Accessed 21
Dec. 2017.
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