What is Rape Culture?
Rape culture promotes the idea that rape is a natural occurrence and that there is nothing wrong with it. Additionally, rape culture tends to suggest that it is the victim’s fault that they got raped, called victim-blaming and that rapists do not need to be held accountable for their actions. Most commonly, rape culture is prejudiced against women, who are usually the targets of rape or sexual harassment. Rape culture objectifies women, reducing them to sexual objects, and reinforces the thinking that men are entitled to whatever means they require for sexual gratification, even if it comes at the expense of women.
While rape culture may occur blatantly, such as a victim of rape being outwardly shamed, it more often takes place subtly in our everyday interactions. For example, some people have alleged that the lyrics of certain songs are actually promoting rape culture. Certain advertisements may also appear to suggest that rape is normal and a part of society. Additionally, some people have even stated that dress codes in schools play a part in promoting rape culture, especially when girls are made to feel ashamed of their bodies.
Examples of Rape Culture Today
In “U.O.E.N.O” by Rick Ross, the rapper mentions that he “Put molly all in her champagne”, “took her home and enjoyed that” and “she ain’t even know it”. Molly, slang for molecular, refers to the pure crystalline powder form of MDMA, the main ingredient in the drug Ecstasy. MDMA boosts the brain’s levels of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, which increases one’s levels of trust and closeness. Drugs are commonly used in rape culture to influence a victim so that they are unable to resist sexual advances. As such, the controversial lyrics of U.O.E.N.O suggest that the rapper drugged a woman’s drink so that he could bring her home and have sexual relations while she was too intoxicated to give consent – equating to rape.
Another song promoting the predatory use of substances is “Blame it on the Alcohol” by Jamie Foxx. In this song, a boy is on a date with a girl, and pushes her to stop acting as if “she don’t wanna seem like she easy”. The singer attempts to get the girl intoxicated enough on alcohol that she is unable to resist, promising that “just one more round and you’re down I’d know it”. He then proceeds to “blame it” on many different types of alcohol and their mind-altering qualities that make a person more susceptible to rape.
School Dress Codes
When sixteen-year-old Gabi Finlayson spotted a sleeveless dress on her trip to Paris, she thought it was the perfect outfit for her school dance. Instead, the moment she stepped into the school, she was made to cover up for the rest of the dance, because the dress purportedly violated the school’s dress code. Aware of her school’s conservative values, Finlayson had already tailored her dress to ensure it was long enough and met the two-inch shoulder strap width rule. However, school officials still thought that she was showing too much of her shoulders. Feeling embarrassed, Finlayson went to put on her winter coat as she did not want to argue, but both she and her mother felt that the school was unfairly targeting women in its strict dress code. Finlayson and her mother went to the news station with this debate, stating that instead of sexualizing girls’ shoulders and teaching girls that they should feel responsible for boys’ unclean thoughts, society should focus on teaching boys that girls are not merely sex objects for their own pleasure.
Another sixteen-year-old, Remy Altuna, was reprimanded by the assistant vice principal at her school for not wearing a bra. She had decided to forgo a bra as her shirt was low-cut and exposed most of her back. If she had worn a bra, it would have shown and she would have been in violation of the school’s dress code, which dictates that clothes must cover all parts of undergarments. Altuna took to Twitter to voice her dissatisfaction with her school’s attitude towards women’s outfits. She said that if the school was truly concerned about what other students thought of her outfit, then they should address those students and not her.
Teenagers are not the only ones being targeted by rape culture ideologies. Even twelve-year-old Reese Webster was called out in front of her whole class for wearing a denim skirt that, according to her teacher, made her look like she should “be clubbing”. Reese was pulled out of class and sent to the principal’s office, where she called her mother to bring a change of clothes. Her skirt was measured in front of the principal and found to be exactly five inches above the knee and thus not in violation of the school’s policies. However, Reese was too embarrassed by then to continue wearing the skirt and asked to change into her trousers. The principal explained that the reasoning behind this rule was that boys tended to get very distracted by girls and their appearance at that age.
The Dangers of Rape Culture
In all of these cases, a girl was made to feel like she had done something wrong for the sake of not being distracting to boys. Unfortunately, many similar incidents have happened, often causing girls to miss class time just because of the length of their clothes, which further reinforces the society’s attitude toward the importance of boys’ education over that of girls.
Arguably, women are harmed the most in rape culture. It promotes the traditional thinking that violence and aggression towards women are a normal part of male sexuality, and thus supports the idea that men can rape women to satisfy themselves and get away with it. Those who engage in rape culture may also convince themselves that a woman’s “no” towards a man’s sexual advances actually means “yes”, lending to the idea that a woman’s body speaks louder than her words.
In addition to the implications of rape culture towards women, enforcing this mindset is also harmful to men. It stereotypes men as being driven by their sexuality and unable to control their thoughts and actions. Men, especially young boys, are seen to be sexual predators and expected to be distracted if a woman is showing too much skin.
Diminishing Rape Culture
Rape culture seems to linger in society even in today’s age. However, we are also seeing progressive advancements made in recent times to undermine the dangerous thinking of rape culture.
After fifty students were sent home from San Benito High School in California for wearing off-the-shoulder tops, even more students showed up the next day wearing the same off-the-shoulder tops as a protest. Some male classmates took part as well, sporting women’s tops to stand in solidarity with their classmates who got sent home for dress code violations. As one supporter explained, he believed that women should be able to dress as they please without being objectified and “treated as if they have no personal sovereignty”.
In this turned-around situation, the very boys that society is trying to protect its girls against demonstrated that they were more mature than grown-ups deemed them to be. This begs the question: are the elders’ rules reflective of the boys in society, or of themselves?