This speech is going to address the causes and effects of Rape Culture. As a result, it is necessary to discuss many difficult and horrific situations that have occurred in real life, to real people. Rape Culture is an insidious disease that keeps spreading, and it is harmful to all genders. It is my belief that the seriousness and effects of this issue shows that the world needs to change in order to combat it. This includes offering better education about Rape Culture, re-examining the concept of masculinity, and above all else teaching men to not rape. However, first it is important to define Rape Culture.
Contrary to popular belief, Rape Culture is not a new phenomenon. The term itself was actually coined in the 1970s, according to the WAVAW (Women Against Violence Against Women) website. On that site, quoting the book “Transforming a Rape Culture” by Emilie Buchwald, Rape Culture is defined simply as: “A complex set of beliefs that encourage male sexual aggression and supports violence against women.” This includes victim blaming – i.e. blaming the victims of sexual assault rather than the one who assaulted them – the sexualization of violence against women, and the support of hyper-masculinity that is damaging to men as well as women. (wavaw.com).
For a real world example, take the recent incident involving several nude photographs of famous women being leaked on the internet. Many people expressed the view that it was the women’s fault that these nude pictures were leaked, citing the common staple of victim blaming: “If you didn’t want to be violated, why put yourself in that position?” This viewpoint is seriously flawed, and is part of what contributes to Rape Culture. (Reisenwitz, Kathy, The Huffington Post). Here’s an analogy: If people broke into our homes, smashed in the windows and stole from us, we would be scared and hurt and angry. We would report the theft to the police, but imagine for a moment if the police, instead of trying to help find whoever broke into your house, not only didn’t want to help, but told us that it was our fault it happened. If we didn’t want to get robbed, it’s our fault for not installing a security system, after all. This is but one example of how Rape Culture is present in our society, and why it has to change.
“Rape Culture exists because we don’t believe it does,” says news website “The Nation”. This is one of the truly sick aspects of it. For another real-world example, take the recent case in Steubenville, and the consequences as reported on thinkprogress.org. On the night of August 11th, 2012, a sixteen-year-old school girl went to a party. She, like many of the others at the party, drank alcohol. Over the course of the night, she was raped by two high school football players, who also took pictures of the act, and posted the pictures to social media. The victim in question – who, as a minor, was not supposed to have her name released – was passed out pretty much the entire time, and had no memory of the actual incidents. The rapists took advantage of a young, unconscious girl, and brutally violated her. However, when the case went to trial, the nationwide media did not side with the girl who had been so horrifically hurt. They sided with the rapists. For example, CNN emphasized the fact that the rapists had been football players and star students, outright declaring that they had had “promising futures” and that it was their lives – the lives of two rapists – that “had fallen apart”. The sixteen-year-old girl who was raped? It was emphasized that she was drunk, and implied or otherwise outright stated that the rape was her fault. (thinkprogress.org).
The solution to this is clear, though it will take time to implement. Our society as a whole needs to offer education about not only Rape Culture, but explicit consent as well. Society also needs to re-examine masculinity. As stated on “The Nation”, violent masculinity is often celebrated in our culture, and it is impressed on men from a young age to live up to one type of manliness. If they don’t live up to that hyper-masculinity, they are reviled, as it is perceived that they are acting like women. (thenation.com). Furthermore, society needs to address the fact that Rape Culture is very much a men’s issue. According to the article “A Gentleman’s Guide to Rape Culture” by Zaron Burnett, “Men are the primary agents and sustainers of Rape Culture.” He further points to a statistic that shows men commit 99% of reported rapes. (Burnett, Zaron).
This is not to say that men can’t be raped, or that women can’t be rapists, but the numbers don’t lie: it is men – fueled by this dangerous concept of masculinity – that perpetuate rape culture the most. If we address this, we can attempt the biggest solution: teaching men to not rape. This is helped along by educating about consent and rape culture, as well as violent masculinity. If we do this, we may be able to reduce rape, and save it’s victims more suffering. We may also help men who have been raised in a culture of toxic masculinity, and decrease violence against women overall. Thank you.